Natural Health Blog & News
Your entire body takes direction from your hormones. Hormones are secreted by your endocrine system and are responsible for telling your organs what to do and when to do it.1 They are essentially chemical messengers that travel throughout your bloodstream, working slowly over time to affect processes like growth and development, metabolism and reproduction.
Sometimes, these chemical messengers may get out of balance, and this leads to chronic disorders such as Type 2 diabetes, weak bones and infertility.2 Hormones may be secreted by your adrenal glands, endocrine-related organs, hypothalamus, sex glands and other organs.3
Progesterone is important to fertility and supporting a pregnancy. It’s a steroid hormone secreted by the corpus luteum and then by the placenta if you become pregnant.4 In some cases, when couples suffer from infertility, they choose in vitro fertilization (IVF).
This is a complex series of procedures in which eggs are retrieved from the ovaries, fertilized by sperm in a lab and then transferred into the uterus.5 One full cycle can take up to three weeks6 and cost $12,000.7 In response to her struggles with infertility, Amy Galliher-Beckley, Ph.D.,8 co-founded MFB Fertility and the progesterone test Proov.9
Each of your bodily systems maintains a balance to help you maintain optimal health. Your reproductive system is no different. For a woman, there are several hormones affecting a complex system to mature an egg follicle and release an egg where it travels to the uterus. If fertilized, the egg must implant into the uterus, called the endometrium, where it begins to develop into a baby.
These events are controlled by hormones secreted from several sources in the body. The ovaries produce the eggs and are the main source of estrogen. The adrenal glands sit on top of each kidney and also make a small amount. Estrogen plays a role in physical changes during puberty; it also controls the menstrual cycle, protects bone health and affects your mood.10
The second hormone essential to fertility is progesterone, a steroid hormone that is first secreted by the corpus luteum. After the egg is released, the corpus luteum is left attached to the ovary, which functions as a temporary gland.11 These two hormones are controlled by the release of other hormones.
During the menstrual cycle gonadotropin-releasing hormone is secreted from the hypothalamus, triggering the secretion of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) from the pituitary gland.12 This begins follicle development and triggers a rise in estrogen.
Luteinizing hormone (LH), also secreted by the pituitary gland, supports the maturation of the follicle and a trigger to cause the egg to be released. When estrogen levels get sufficiently high it signals a sudden release of LH, around mid-cycle, which triggers a set of events that ultimately release the mature egg from the follicle.13
Once released, the empty follicle becomes the corpus luteum, which produces progesterone. The release of progesterone triggers the uterus to develop a highly vascularized bed suitable for implantation of a fertilized egg.
Without fertilization, the corpus luteum begins to degenerate, the secretion of progesterone drops off and menstruation occurs. If pregnancy occurs then the corpus luteum produces progesterone for the first 10 weeks until production is taken over by the placenta.14,15
As Beckley explains in her interview with Forbes magazine,16 her test is not about getting pregnant, but rather staying pregnant. Progesterone not only prepares the uterus for the egg to implant; it also protects the endometrium from degeneration and menstruation. While the body is producing high levels of progesterone during a pregnancy, a second egg will not mature.17
In order to maintain a pregnancy, the corpus luteum must continue to secrete progesterone. This maintains the blood vessels in the endometrium to feed the growing baby. It is in these early weeks that women with low levels of progesterone may have difficulty, both conceiving and developing the right environment for a fertilized egg to grow.
Some women who do get pregnant are at a high risk for miscarriage.18 The test Beckley developed comes with sticks used in much the same way ovulation and pregnancy tests are used. These sticks measure the amount of progesterone metabolites excreted in the urine. To date, this is the first at-home, over-the-counter test used to evaluate a woman's ability to produce progesterone.19 Beckley explains:20
"Low progesterone is the number one cause of unexplained infertility. Women who go through IVF protocols all are offered progesterone. If you are not going through IVF, most doctors don't talk about progesterone, they don't offer progesterone, they don't test for progesterone. When your progesterone crashes too quickly, it is called a luteal phase defect."
The luteal phase in a woman's cycle begins after ovulation and represents the second half of the menstrual cycle. The luteal phase is named after the corpus luteum. Luteal Phase Defect (LPD) results in an abnormal endometrial growth that may not support a pregnancy.21,22
While researchers struggle to identify the underlying dysfunction and efficacy of LPD in supporting fertility, experts report women undergoing IVF always have LPD present.23 LPD is marked with a luteal phase less than 11 days. However, not all physicians believe the condition exists; reliable tests are lacking.24
Beckley developed the Proov urine test to help women identify a reduction in progesterone during their cycle. According to Beckley,25 her test gives women more knowledge about how their body works and provides a foundation for asking their infertility doctors better questions.
The test measures the presence of metabolites in the urine that should increase and remain elevated after ovulation. It may be used to confirm ovulation and confirm levels of progesterone afterward. A single negative test before ovulation followed by a single positive test will confirm ovulation for women trying to get pregnant.26
For women trying to conceive, the test is recommended four days after peak fertility and then for continued testing 10 days past ovulation.27 When questions arise about levels of progesterone to maintain a pregnancy, they recommend testing six days after peak fertility and as needed during the pregnancy since the test should remain positive.
Although LPD has a significant impact on a woman's ability to carry a pregnancy, it is the subject of debate.28 In some cases, the ovaries release enough progesterone but the uterine lining does not respond.29 LPD has been linked to other health conditions, including:30
High levels of exercise
High levels of prolactinemia (the hormone responsible for breast milk)
In some circumstances, when these conditions are treated, the LPD resolves.31 Later in life, if levels of progesterone decline, a woman’s period may become irregular, heavier and longer,32 increasing her chance of experiencing anemia, depending on the amount and length of her period.33
Variations in hormone levels after menopause may also influence cognition and mood.34 In a study of 643 healthy postmenopausal women, researchers found that while estrogen had little effect on tests of executive function or global cognition, progesterone concentrations were associated with verbal memory. The researchers suggest this positive association merits additional study.
Bioidentical progesterone, also known as micronized progesterone in the oral form, has been successful in helping relieve hot flashes and night sweats during menopause. Dr. Jerilynn Prior from the University of British Columbia Vancouver presented her study at an endocrine society meeting during which she compared the use of progesterone to placebo.35
The study assigned 114 postmenopausal women into one of two groups, a placebo group and another who took 300 mg of micronized oral progesterone daily. To be eligible for the study, the women had to be off hormone therapy for at least six months.36
At the end of the 12-week study, researchers found that the group taking micronized progesterone demonstrated a 56% decrease in a score reflecting the number and intensity of symptoms, while the women taking the placebo reported a 28% decrease.37
As is borne out by the number of women struggling with hormonal imbalances as they age and those requiring fertility assistance to become pregnant after 40,38 Beckley is vocal about the difficulty women may have supporting a pregnancy after she turns 40.39
Beckley says,40 “The closer a woman gets to menopause, the least likely her body is going to be able to support a pregnancy.” Much of this is related to the imbalance of hormones required to successfully support a pregnancy that occurs as women age.
Her research in designing the progesterone urine test led Beckley to believe 30% to 40% of women who undergo IVF treatment to become pregnant ultimately do not need IVF.41 Instead, they may require progesterone to develop a healthy endometrial lining and support early pregnancy.
Couples experience infertility for a number of reasons. In a study42 released in 2017, researchers evaluated 38 years of information and found sperm counts declined significantly between 1973 and 2011. The sperm counts declined 52% to 59% in men located in North America, Europe and Australia.
The Australian Department of Health reports 1 in every 6 Australian couples suffers from fertility problems, which they attribute to the decision to have children later in life as well as declining sperm count. Quality and lifestyle factors such as smoking, not eating healthfully, consuming excessive amounts of alcohol and not having a healthy BMI also affect fertility.43
In May 2019, the Pew Research Center reported that for the fourth year in a row, key fertility indicators for U.S. couples declined, reaching a record low.44 Two of the three indicators used to determine fertility reflected a decline in numbers.
The total fertility rate, or the estimation of the number of children a woman would have in her lifetime, was 1.73 children in 2018. This was lower than the estimate of 1.74 from the mid-1970s.45
Research suggests men’s fertility is affected by environmental toxins and chemicals you may find in your own home, which I discuss in a past article, “50 Percent Fertility Reduction Because of These Household Chemicals.”
Additionally, as described in the past article, “Birth Rate Reaches Record Low as Premature Deliveries Rise,” statistics from the CDC show the number of new births was down 2% in 2018 as compared to 2017, but the number of premature births was rising. Infertility and pregnancy are complex conditions that likely need a comprehensive approach to experience a successful outcome.
Hidden within your cellphone’s manual is a little-known warning that advises you to keep the device at a certain distance from your body — typically 5 to 15 millimeters — to ensure you don’t exceed the federal safety limit for radiofrequency (RF) exposure.
In the real world, however, most people carry their phones close to their body, usually in a pocket. Many women tuck their phone right into their bra, which may be the absolute worst place for a woman to put it, as it could raise their risk of both heart problems and breast tumors, two leading risks of death for women.
Now, cellphone testing by the Chicago Tribune1 reveals several popular cellphones emit far higher levels of RF radiation than legally permitted, which has not only reignited discussions about safety but also led to the launch of at least one class-action lawsuit.
The safe distance (listed in your cellphone manual) is based on your phone’s specific absorption rate (SAR). SAR is a measure of how much RF energy your body will absorb from the device when held at a specific distance from your body, typically ranging from 5 to 15 mm, depending on the manufacturer.
Put another way, it’s a measure of the degree to which your device will heat body tissue, which we now know is not the primary way that cellphones damage your body.
However, even though heat generated from your phone does not really damage your body, the SAR could be a good surrogate marker for the actual microwave radiofrequency exposure that does indeed cause cellular damage, as it is the microwaves that heat your tissue. So, typically, the lower SAR rating, the safer your phone, but not for the reasons they are telling you.
The SAR limit set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)2 is currently the only standard set to protect public health, so the fact that even these lenient standards are being exceeded is concerning.
In the U.S. and Canada, the SAR limit for mobile devices used by the public is 1.6 W/kg per 1 gram of head tissue. To understand why and how SAR underestimates radiation absorption and health risks, see “Exposure Limits: The Underestimation of Absorbed Cellphone Radiation, Especially in Children,”3,4 published in the journal Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine in 2012.
As mentioned, recent independent SAR testing paid for by the Chicago Tribune5 reveals several popular cellphones emit far higher levels of RF radiation than legally permitted. One bestselling cellphone, the iPhone 7, emitted more than double the legal SAR limit. As reported by the Chicago Tribune:6
“The Federal Communications Commission, which is responsible for regulating phones, states on its website that if a cellphone has been approved for sale, the device ‘will never exceed’ the maximum allowable exposure limit. But this phone, in an independent lab inspection, had done exactly that.”
In all, Chicago Tribune tested 11 cellphone models from four manufacturers. Because of the surprisingly high level of radiation obtained from the first iPhone 7 tested, four iPhone 7s were tested, using a standard test and a modified test based on manufacturers feedback. While results varied from one device to another, all four exceeded the FCC’s limit.
At a distance of 5 mm from your body (the distance used by Apple), the iPhone 7 was found to emit anywhere between 2.5 and 3.46 W/kg, which is 1.6 to 2.2 times the legal limit.
At a distance of 2 mm from the body — which mimics carrying your phone in your pocket — the results ranged from 3.5 W/kg on the low end to 4.69 W/kg on the high end, which are 2.2 to 2.9 times above the legal limit.
The three Samsung Galaxy smartphones tested, Galaxy S9, S8 and J3, were all within the legal limit at 10 to 15 mm from the body (the distance used by Samsung), but RF radiation levels skyrocketed at 2 mm from the body, raising serious questions about the safety of keeping a Galaxy phone in your pocket.
The Galaxy S9 came in at 3.8 W/kg at 2 mm from the body, while the S8 registered a whopping 8.22 W/kg (more than five times the legal limit) and J3 registered 6.55 W/kg. Based on these test results, the FCC has vowed to conduct its own testing in the near future, the Chicago Tribune reports. FCC spokesman Neil Grace told the Tribune:7
“We take seriously any claims on non-compliance with the RF (radiofrequency) exposure standards and will be obtaining and testing the subject phones for compliance with FCC rules.”
How could these cellphones exceed the legal limit by such a significant margin? Part of the problem, the Tribune explains, is that manufacturers need only get a passing grade for a single cellphone in order to allow them to put millions on the market. They’re also allowed to select their own testing lab, which could give rise to discrepancies.
As noted by the Tribune, Apple disputed the results, saying the lab used by the Tribune “had not tested the phones the same way they do,” although the company did not specify what the problem was.
Motorola also disputed the results obtained for its Moto e5 Play, saying the Tribune’s test might not have triggered the phone’s proximity sensors — sensors that are supposed to detect when the device is in close proximity to your body and lower the phone’s power output accordingly. The Tribune writes:
“Motorola … would not answer questions about its power sensors. ‘Our power management techniques and expertise provide Motorola with a significant competitive advantage in the marketplace, and are therefore highly confidential,’ the company’s statement said.
‘The Chicago Tribune’s third-party lab was not privy to the proprietary techniques from Motorola necessary to elicit accurate results’ … When the Tribune asked Motorola to explain how it tests its phones, the company declined. It also would not share its lab reports.”
While the Tribune’s lab had conducted the testing according to FCC standards, the feedback from Motorola led the Tribune to retest the Apple and Motorola phones using a modified test “aimed at activating sensors that would reduce power.”
And, while the modified testing did allow some cellphone models to pass — suggesting proximity sensors in some phones may not work properly under certain conditions — the iPhone 7 still failed to meet the FCC standard. The Tribune writes:8
“When informed of the new results, Apple officials declined to be interviewed and requested the Tribune put its questions in writing. The newspaper did, submitting three dozen, but Apple did not answer any of them.”
Another problem is that SAR testing companies are allowed to position the cellphone as far as 25 mm (0.98 inches, or nearly 1 inch) away from the body to meet the FCC standard. Today, few people consistently keep their phone at least a quarter of an inch to an inch away from their body, which means overexposure is chronic.
In 2012, the Government Accountability Office stated that because cellphone radiation is not measured under real-world conditions, against the body, the FCC should reassess its limits and testing requirements. In August 2019, the FCC finally announced that “the existing standard sufficiently protects the public and should remain in place,” the Tribune writes.9
Clearly, the Tribune’s independent testing suggests otherwise. As the Tribune points out, 68% of American teenagers take their cellphones to bed with them and 29% sleep with them,10 often next to or under their pillow. Children are also exposed to RF starting in utero. Never before has an entire generation been exposed to this amount of RF from cradle to grave. The Chicago Tribune writes:11
“When cellphones hit the market in the 1980s, authorities focused on setting an exposure limit to address only the heating risks of cellphones. Scientists found that animals showed adverse effects when exposed to enough radiofrequency radiation to raise their body temperature by 1 degree Celsius.
Authorities used this finding to help calculate a safety limit for humans, building in a 50-fold safety factor. The final rule, adopted by the FCC in 1996, stated that cellphone users cannot potentially absorb more than 1.6 watts per kilogram averaged over one gram of tissue.
To demonstrate compliance, phone makers were told to conduct two tests: when the devices were held against the head and when held up to an inch from the body.
These testing methods didn’t address the anatomy of children and that of other vulnerable populations, such as pregnant women, said Joel Moskowitz, a cellphone expert at the University of California at Berkeley. ‘It was like one-size-fits-all.’ Plus, he said, ‘I don’t think anyone anticipated the smartphone and how it would become so integral to our lives.’”
In the wake of the Tribune’s report, the class-action law firm Fegan Scott has announced it will launch an investigation.12 In a BusinessWire press release,13 managing partner Beth Fegan stated:
“This could be the Chernobyl of the cellphone industry, cover-up and all. If we found that produce sold in grocery stores contained twice the levels of pesticides as the law allows, we would be up in arms, demanding the products be pulled from the shelf — this is no different.
In this case, we know the cellphone radiation is dangerous, but the terrifying part is that we don't know how dangerous, especially to kids' brain development.
The fact that the Chicago Tribune can convene a group of experts and develop such convincing findings shows that the phone manufacturers may be intentionally hiding what they know about radiation output.”
According to MacRumors,14 Fegan Scott has not provided any additional information about its investigation or what kind of legal action it might pursue. Those wanting to learn more about the investigation and/or to receive updates are urged to email email@example.com.
That said, at least one class-action lawsuit has already been filed.15 August 23, 2019, a dozen individuals filed a class action complaint16 against Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics America Inc., saying excessive RF radiation has placed them at increased risk for cancer, cellular stress, genetic damage, learning and memory deficits and neurological disorders.
As noted by Tech Wellness,17 the lawsuit stresses that while the cellphone industry used to warn against holding your cellphone against your body, people are now encouraged to carry their phones in their pockets rather than a bag.
Tech Wellness also notes that,18 “Both Samsung and Apple have commercials showing people lying in bed with their phones and Samsung shows a pregnant woman holding the phone to her belly,” which presents the false perception that these devices are safe even when in direct contact with the body.
Indeed, there’s plenty of scientific evidence showing there’s cause for concern and prudence. Among the more damning studies are two government-funded animal studies19 that reveal GSM and CDMA radiation has carcinogenic potential.
The finalized report20 of these two studies — conducted by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), an interagency research program under the auspices of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences — was released November 1, 2018.
While the preliminary report released in February 2018 significantly downplayed the findings,21 subsequent peer review upgraded the findings of risk. The NTP rates cancer risk based on four categories of evidence: “clear evidence” (highest), “some evidence,” “equivocal evidence,” and “no evidence” (lowest). According to the NTP’s final report, the two studies, done on mice and rats of both sexes, found:22
While the NTP insists the exposure — nine hours a day for two years, which is the lifetime of a rodent — is far more extensive than that of heavy cellphone users, I would disagree, seeing how many have their cellphones turned on and near their body 24/7. As mentioned, many teens are literally sleeping with their phone beneath their pillow.
Corroborating evidence was also published by the Ramazzini Institute just one month after the NTP released its preliminary report in February 2018. The Ramazzini study23 reproduces and clearly supports the NTP’s findings, showing a clear link between cellphone radiation and Schwann cell tumors (schwannomas)24,25,26 — but at a much lower power level than that used by NTP.
While NTP used RF levels comparable to what’s emitted by 2G and 3G cellphones (near-field exposure), Ramazzini simulated exposure to cellphone towers (far-field exposure). Ramazzini’s rats were exposed to 1.8 GHz GSM radiation at electric field strengths of 5, 25 and 50 volts per meter27 for 19 hours a day, starting at birth until the rats died either from age or illness.
To facilitate comparison, the researchers converted their measurements to watts per kilogram of body weight (W/kg), which is what the NTP used. Overall, the radiation dose administered in the Ramazzini study was up to 1,000 times lower than the NTP’s — and below the U.S. limits set by the FCC — yet the results are strikingly similar.
As in the NTP studies, exposed male rats developed statistically higher rates of heart schwannomas than unexposed rats. They also found some evidence, although weaker, that RF exposure increased rates of glial tumors in the brains of female rats.
In my view, the fact that popular cellphones are exceeding the legal limit of RF is a significant health concern, as the primary hazard of cellphone radiation is not brain cancer but systemic cellular and mitochondrial damage,28,29,30,31 which can contribute to any number of health problems and chronic diseases.
Cellphone radiation has also been shown to have a significant impact on neurological and mental health,32 contributing to and/or worsening anxiety, depression and dementia, for example, and all of these conditions are rampant and growing more prevalent.
Research also suggests excessive EMF exposure is contributing to reproductive problems. For example, researchers have found prenatal exposure to power-frequency fields can nearly triple a pregnant woman’s risk of miscarriage.33 Studies have also shown cellphone radiation can reduce sperm motility and viability.34,35
It’s really important to realize that the harms of cellphone radiation are not related to the heating of tissue. Rather, it causes a cascade of molecular events that end up causing severe oxidative damage. This mechanism of harm is reviewed in more detail in my interview with professor Martin Pall below.
The planned implementation of 5G is bound to further magnify the health risks associated with cellphones and other wireless devices. A call for a moratorium on 5G was issued in September 2017 by more than 180 scientists and doctors from 35 countries,36,37 “until potential hazards for human health and the environment have been fully investigated by scientists independent from industry.”
The moratorium points out that “RF-EMF has been proven to be harmful for humans and the environment,” and that “5G will substantially increase exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) on top of the 2G, 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi, etc. for telecommunications already in place.”
Despite that, and an appeal for protection from nonionizing EMF exposure by more than 230 international EMF scientists to the United Nations in 2015,38 the U.S. and many other countries are still moving ahead without any health or environmental impact studies.
At a February 6, 2019, senate commerce hearing (above), the FCC admitted that no 5G safety studies have been conducted or funded by the agency or the telecom industry, and that none are planned.39,40
The added concern 5G brings is the addition of the millimeter wave (MMW). This bandwidth, which runs from 30 gigahertz (GHz) to 300GHz,41 is known to penetrate up to 2 millimeters into human skin tissue,42,43 causing a burning sensation.
Research has shown sweat ducts in human skin act as receptors or antennae for 5G radiation, drawing the radiation into your body,44,45,46,47,48 thereby causing a rise in temperature. This in part helps explain the painful effect. As noted by Dr. Yael Stein — who has studied 5G MMW technology and its interaction with the human body — in a 2016 letter to the Federal Communications Commission:49
“Potentially, if 5G Wi-Fi is spread in the public domain we may expect more of the health effects currently seen with RF/ microwave frequencies including many more cases of hypersensitivity (EHS), as well as many new complaints of physical pain and a yet unknown variety of neurologic disturbances.
It will be possible to show a causal relationship between G5 technology and these specific health effects. The affected individuals may be eligible for compensation.”
Aside from pain,50 MMW has also been linked to eye damage,51,52,53 heightened stress through its impact on heart rate variability,54,55,56 arrhythmias,57,58 suppressed immune function59 and increased antibiotic resistance in bacteria.60
If Stein is right about being able to demonstrate a causal relationship between 5G and certain health effects, then the class action against Apple and Samsung will be just the beginning of a flood of lawsuits.
Beyond its health ramifications, a global 5G network will also threaten our ability to predict weather, which will put civilians at risk and jeopardize the Navy.61 According to a recent paper62 in the journal Nature, widespread 5G coverage will prevent satellites from detecting changes in water vapor, which is how meteorologists predict weather changes and storms. Time will tell if that will be yet another avenue for legal action.
Clearly, a key take-home message from the Tribune’s testing is that you should never carry your phone in your pocket unless it’s in airplane mode. Carrying it on your body while it’s on is a surefire way to ensure overexposure, and this appears to be true for many different models.
The radiation may even differ from one phone to the next, of the same model, so even if your model happened to rate well at the 2-mm distance in this particular test, it’s not a guarantee your individual phone will not overexpose you.
I am currently writing a book on EMF dangers, called “EMF’d,” which will be a comprehensive resource on current technologies and should be published in February 2020. In the meantime, to learn more about 5G and help educate others, you can download a two-page 5G fact sheet63 from the Environmental Health Trust.
On their website, you can also access a long list of published scientific studies showing cause for concern.64 To reduce your EMF exposure, read through the suggestions listed in “A Film About the Impending 5G Apocalypse.” In that article, you’ll also find well-done documentary detailing the many concerns associated with this next-gen technology.
According to the CDC, 6 in 10 U.S. adults now have chronic health conditions like cancer, heart disease, diabetes and stroke, while 4 in 10 have two or more of these diseases.1 The triggers for many of these conditions are lifestyle choices including smoking and excessive alcohol use.
Big Soda companies, intent on protecting their profits, have been promoting the message that the obesity epidemic is being driven by a lack of activity as opposed to indulging in sugar-based foods and beverages. However, there is overwhelming scientific evidence that you can’t out-exercise your diet.2
Unfortunately, many of the no-sugar options contain aspartame, an artificial sweetener with several known health problems. This is believed to introduce great risk, as recent research3 data show an association between drinking any artificially sweetened drinks and rising rates of mortality.
The new study involved a population-based cohort of 521,330 people from 10 European countries. The researchers’ objective was to analyze any association between sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened drinks and mortality.4 They engaged participants from an ongoing study recruited between January 1, 1992, and December 31, 2000.
Any participants who had cancer, stroke or diabetes were excluded, as were those who did not include follow-up information. The number of participants was then reduced to 451,743, of which 71.1% were women.5
The results showed there was a higher all-cause mortality in those who drank two or more glasses each day of soft drinks, whether they were sugar-sweetened or artificially-sweetened. There was an association between artificially sweetened soft drinks and death from circulatory disease, as well as a link between sugar-sweetened soft drinks and death from digestive diseases.6
The authors concluded the results were important enough that public health campaigns should be initiated to warn consumers to limit consumption.7 While results of the study were significant, it’s important to know one measured glass in the study was equivalent to 250 ml (8.4 ounces),8,9 which is less than the standard 330 ml per can (11.3 ounces).10
In other words, the results were based on less than what most people drink with each serving. The results from this study suggest policies aimed at cutting sugar consumption may have disastrous consequences when producers and manufacturers reformulate their products to use artificial sweetener.
Recent studies show similar results. To determine whether soft drink consumption was a marker or an indication for an overall unhealthy lifestyle, researchers eliminated “confounding” factors — conditions that could influence or change the results. Chief researcher Neil Murphy from the World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer said in an interview with The Washington Post:11
“In our study, high soft drinks consumers had a higher body mass index (BMI) and were also more likely to be current tobacco smokers. We made statistical adjustments in our analyses for BMI, smoking habits and other mortality risk factors which may have biased our results, and the positive associations remained.”
The researchers found there were similar associations in participants who were smokers and nonsmokers as well as those who were lean or obese. Sarah Reinhardt from the Union of Concerned Scientists commented:12
“The results of this study are significant. It reinforces a fact that won’t surprise anyone in the nutrition field: Processed foods loaded with artificial ingredients will never be the magic bullet to better health, no matter how low they are in sugar. Our bodies are smarter than that.”
According to the CDC, the percentage of children and adolescents who are obese has more than tripled since the 1970s. Data from 2016 show nearly 20% of school-aged children and young adults are obese.13
The prevalence for adult obesity in 2016 was 39.8%; this leads to conditions including heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.14 One of the risks associated with artificial sweeteners is obesity.15,16
One of the most commonly used artificial sweeteners is aspartame, also marketed under the brand names NutraSweet, Equal and Sugar Twin. Relatively new on the market, and chemically closely related to aspartame,17 is Neotame,18 made by NutraSweet.
Researchers have made the link between the rise in the number of people who are obese with the widespread use of artificial sweeteners. In one review published in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, researchers reviewed the epidemiological and experimental studies of the effect aspartame has on weight.19
They found evidence suggesting artificial sweeteners do not activate the reward pathway in the same way natural sweeteners do. In addition, artificial sweeteners appeared to encourage sugar cravings and dependence, thereby training flavor preferences.20
Knowledge that artificial sweeteners are associated with weight gain has been documented since the 1980s. During the San Antonio Heart Study involving 4,000 adults, researchers found that those using artificial sweeteners had a BMI greater than that of nonusers, leading researchers to consider whether artificial sweeteners were actually fueling the obesity epidemic.21
In a second study in 1986 examining 78,694 women ages 50 to 69, researchers found that artificial sweetener use increased participants’ weight, and consumption decreased with age. Those who used artificial sweeteners were more likely to gain weight regardless of how much they weighed initially. The results were not explained by differences in food patterns.22
Despite increasing evidence that aspartame has negative health effects, its use has continued. In one study23 researchers asked healthy adults to consume a high-aspartame diet for eight days followed by a low-aspartame diet for eight days, with a two-week washout between.
During the high-aspartame, eight-day period individuals suffered from depression, poor mood and headache. They also performed worse on spatial orientation tests, indicating aspartame had a significant effect on neurobehavioral health.24
Researchers have also reported that aspartame may trigger insomnia and seizures linked to changes in concentrations of catecholamine in the brain.25 Another study26 was designed to evaluate whether people with mood disorders are more vulnerable to the effects of aspartame.
Researchers included 40 people with a diagnosis of unipolar depression and another 40 without any history of psychiatric disorders. The study was halted by the Institutional Review Board after just 13 had completed the study, because they experienced severe reactions.
While investigating the effects of aspartame on oxidative stress in an animal model, researchers observed that animals who were fed aspartame underwent neurological oxidative stress. They theorized this may have been related to free radicals from the methanol released during aspartame metabolism.27
Unfortunately, many who struggle with their weight may choose foods with artificial sweeteners over sugar believing it’s the healthier choice. In one study28 published in Nature, scientists reported that they found that artificial sweeteners such as aspartame may lead to glucose intolerance by altering gut microbiota. Their results indicated artificial sweeteners trigger dysbiosis and metabolic abnormalities.
In another animal study,29 mice that were fed aspartame-laced drinking water developed symptoms of metabolic syndrome. The researchers found that a metabolite of aspartame, called phenylalanine, blocked the activity of a gut enzyme known as alkaline phosphatase.30
This enzyme31 was previously found to prevent the development of metabolic syndrome. Each of the mice fed aspartame had measurably higher blood sugar and raised levels of TNF-alpha, an inflammatory protein, suggesting a systemic inflammatory response to aspartame.32
In a 2014 animal study,33 researchers found gut microbiota explanations for the negative effect aspartame has on insulin tolerance and the influence it has on gut microbial composition. Fecal analyses showed aspartame increased abundance of Enterobacteriaceae and Clostridium leptum.
Although the animals eating aspartame ate fewer calories, they experienced elevated fasting blood sugar levels. Aspartame influences changes to gut microbiota, insulin resistance and food cravings. Each of these is related to weight gain and the development of circulatory conditions.
In what amounts to efforts to protect profits while ignoring the health damage their products inflict on consumers, the American Beverage Association (ABA) is pushing back hard.34 Spokesperson for the ABA, William Dermody, told FOX Business:35
"Soft drinks are safe to consume as part of a balanced diet and the authors of this study acknowledge their research does not indicate otherwise. America’s Beverage Companies are committed to innovation and working to reduce the sugar people get from beverages by introducing more options than ever before with less sugar and zero sugar."
The ABA is a group that lobbies on behalf of beverage producers. Dermody says more than half of all drinks purchased don’t contain sugar. He also said,36 “No one should overconsume sugar and we stand by the safety and quality of our products.”
The ABA released similar statements in 2011 and 2013 when other research regarding low-calorie artificial sweeteners was published and could not be quashed. In 201137 they reiterated their stance on low-calorie sweeteners as beneficial, and included what they depicted as support from health organizations:
"What we know for certain is that low-calorie sweeteners can help reduce calories and sugar intake and aid in maintaining a healthy weight — positions supported by health organizations including the American Diabetes Association and the American Dietetic Association."
In 201338 the organization decided a press release was necessary to address what they called an opinion piece published in Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism,39 which included charts, a glossary and 54 citations to past published studies. The ABA said:40
“This is an opinion piece not a scientific study. Low-calorie sweeteners are some of the most studied and reviewed ingredients in the food supply today. They are safe and an effective tool in weight loss and weight management, according to decades of scientific research and regulatory agencies around the globe.”
U.S. Right to Know, a nonprofit research group,41 summarized some of the ABA’S past work, writing42 that the ABA defends the use of flame retardant chemicals in soda, claiming water is polluted as well. They’ve downplayed the risks associated with benzene after it was discovered in soft drinks and refer to content raising questions about artificial sweeteners as “internet myths.”
If their core consumers become ill and diseased, companies manufacturing diet soda drinks must expand their customer base. They’ve chosen direct advertising to teenagers using some of the same strategies as vape manufacturers.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association put out a joint statement in April 2019 calling for a public policy to reduce the risk that sugary drinks pose to the health of children and adolescents.43
In the statement, the authors concluded that consuming added sugars, in particular those added to beverages, is a significant health risk, and encouraged pediatricians to counsel families to decrease consumption of sugary drinks and increase their intake of water.44
Many of the published recommendations indicated a lack of support in nutrition and prevention guidelines from local, state and federal government. The team recommended policies at all levels to reduce sugar consumption. They also recommended that federal and state governments support efforts to decrease the marketing of sugary drinks to children and adolescents.45
The group recommended that federal nutrition programs work to promote the purchase of healthy foods and beverages and to ensure that children have access to credible nutrition information. Importantly, the group made a notable argument regarding the contribution that hospitals and doctors have made toward poor nutrition.
Seeing your physician drink a Coke, for instance, or being able to purchase one at the hospital reinforces the idea that the habit is safe and normal.46 Referencing a 2012 Federal Trade Commission Report,47 the policy statement drew a comparison to tobacco companies that directed their marketing efforts at children and adolescents:48
“Similar to tobacco companies, sugary drink manufacturers aim to appeal to children and adolescents by associating their product with celebrity, glamour, and coolness.
Despite the existence of the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, an industry-initiated, self-regulatory body designed to limit marketing of unhealthful food and beverage products to children younger than 12 years, children and adolescents are frequently exposed to sugary drink advertisements.
In 2009, carbonated beverage companies reported $395 million in youth-directed expenditures, approximately 97% of which were directed at teenagers.”
While the advertising for clean, pure water may not be as enticing, the health benefits are life-giving. If you enjoy flavored water, make your own by adding a slice of lemon or lime. Carry your own water in a glass bottle and avoid the multiple problems associated with plastic containers.
The first statin (lovastatin) was approved for use in the U.S. in 1987.1 Fast forward to 2020, just over three decades later, and it’s estimated that total sales for statin drugs will reach $1 trillion.2 Their usage statistics are staggering. Among U.S. adults aged 40 to 59, lipid-lowering drugs such as statins are the second most commonly prescribed drug, being taken by 13.9% of this population.
When you tailor this to adults aged 60 to 79, lipid-lowering drugs become the most common prescription, being used by 45% of Americans and 34.3% of Canadians in the same age range.3
The drugs were once only offered to people at high risk of heart disease, but in 2013, a joint task force of the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association released new guidelines, which increased the number of adults eligible for statin therapy by 12.8 million people — mostly older adults without heart disease.4
Statins are effective at lowering cholesterol, but whether this is the panacea for helping you avoid heart disease and extend your lifespan is up for debate and a question worthy of closer scrutiny. The pharmaceutical industry is quick to try to discredit any negative press toward the drugs, including, as explained in the video above, an ABC News in Australia segment that revealed the questionable effectiveness of the drugs.
Maryanne Demasi, Ph.D., a former medical scientist with the University of Adelaide, was a reporter for ABC News in Australia. In 2013, she was featured in a two-part series, with the first investigating the science behind the persistent claim that saturated fat causes heart disease by raising cholesterol. The second part focused on cholesterol drug wars and questioned the overprescription of statins and industry influence in statin trials.
Worthy of attention, the authors of the 2013 cholesterol guidelines declared conflicts of interest that should have removed them from either writing or voting on the guidelines, but didn't. Of the 15 panelists who authored the cholesterol guidelines, six revealed ties to drug companies that produced cholesterol-lowering medications. Of the 10 expert reviewers for the guidelines, five listed relationships with drug makers.5
One of the criteria for people to take statin drugs was based on an algorithm that uses your age, gender, blood pressure, total cholesterol, high density lipoproteins (HDL), race and history of diabetes to predict the likelihood you'll experience a heart attack in the coming 10 years.
At the time, the recommendation was that those with a risk profile over 7.5% should take statins and those with a profile near 5% should discuss their options with their physician.6 Studies looking into the tool’s accuracy, however, suggested the tool overestimated the number of people who would have a cardiovascular event “substantially.”7
Part of the statin debate also rests on a statistical tool called relative risk reduction (RRR) to amplify what amounts to trivial benefits. Writing in the journal Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology, researchers explained:8
“Our opinion is that although statins are effective at reducing cholesterol levels, they have failed to substantially improve cardiovascular outcomes.
We have described the deceptive approach statin advocates have deployed to create the appearance that cholesterol reduction results in an impressive reduction in cardiovascular disease outcomes through their use of a statistical tool called relative risk reduction (RRR), a method which amplifies the trivial beneficial effects of statins.”
After Demasi’s series aired, it was met with an outpouring of support from viewers, only to be quickly overcome with complaints from health organizations and drug companies, which orchestrated a campaign to discredit the segment. News commentators suggested “people will die” if they watch the program and a Sydney cardiologist went so far as to state, “ABC has blood on its hands,” Demasi said in the video above.
A study published in the Medical Journal of Australia also suggested that the ABC News program led to a reduction in statin usage that could result in up to 2,900 preventable vascular events.9 A gag order was issued, which meant Demasi and colleagues were unable to defend themselves or the program, and ABC ultimately capitulated to the scrutiny and pulled the program.
A similar smear campaign was launched in France against a cardiologist who questioned the value of statins in his book. In this case, researchers looked into what actually happens when statin use is discontinued, concluding, “it is not evidence based to claim that statin discontinuation increases mortality or saves lives” and:10
“On the contrary, one might even conclude that statin discontinuation could save lives. One possible explanation of this apparently paradoxical finding is that statin discontinuers, in the same time they stop statin therapy, likely try to adopt a healthy lifestyle.”
Demasi also explains how the U.K.-based Cholesterol Treatment Trialists’ (CTT) Collaboration is holding all the raw data on statin side effects, then publishing meta-analyses promoting their use. Although they claim to be independent, they’ve received millions in funding from the pharmaceutical industry.
Dr. Malcolm Kendrick, a general practitioner in Cheshire, England, is the author of three books. I’ve previously interviewed him about “Doctoring Data: How to Sort Out Medical Advice From Medical Nonsense” and his latest book is “A Statin Nation: Damaging Millions in a Brave New Post-Health World,” which addresses the challenges with this conventional approach to heart disease prevention. Regarding CTT, he explained:
“They’ve got all the data … from the statin trials. They hold it. They won’t let anyone else look at it, ever. They keep producing these meta-analyses showing how wonderful statins are and that they don’t have adverse effects, and we’re supposed to believe them.
Although they run a clinical trials unit, last time I looked, they earned well over $400 million in funding from pharmaceutical companies almost entirely — those companies that produce cholesterol-lowering agents … [W]e have a completely biased organization paid hundreds of millions to hold all the data, and then tell us, ‘No one else can look at it. By the way, you should believe everything we say.’
… [H]ow on Earth can this be allowed to happen? … [S]omehow, these people have got themselves such a standing and status that we’re supposed to go, ‘Well, you said it. It must be right.’ This is ridiculous.”
The lack of transparency is clearly not in the public’s best interest. Demasi suggests looking to what happened with Tamiflu to learn a lesson, referring to the fact that drug makers hid a significant amount of negative data from the public.
Demasi, unfortunately, is not alone in being targeted for speaking out against the medical orthodoxy of using statins as a primary means of prevention against heart disease.
Others, like Dr. Antti Heikkilä in Finland, have also been persecuted for using other tools. In Heikkilä’s case, he’s been using low-carb, high healthy-fat and ketogenic diets to treat and prevent chronic diseases among his patients, with many able to manage their conditions without drugs — and facing attacks on his reputation as a result.11
As Demasi wrote in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, we’re in the midst of a statin war, and it’s the public who is suffering as a result:12
“A bitter dispute has erupted among doctors over suggestions that statins should be prescribed to millions of healthy people at low risk of heart disease. There are concerns that the benefits have been exaggerated and the risks have been underplayed. Also, the raw data on the efficacy and safety of statins are being kept secret and have not been subjected to scrutiny by other scientists.
This lack of transparency has led to an erosion of public confidence. Doctors and patients are being misled about the true benefits and harms of statins, and it is now a matter of urgency that the raw data from the clinical trials are released.”
More than half of statin users stop using the drugs within a year, with 62% citing side effects as the reason.13 Fatigue, nausea, joint and muscle pain and increases in blood sugar have all been associated with statin drug use. Statins have also been shown to increase your risk of diabetes via a number of different mechanisms.
Researchers with the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands analyzed data from more than 9,500 patients. Those who had ever used statins had a 38% higher risk of Type 2 diabetes, with the risk being higher in those with impaired glucose homeostasis and those who were overweight or obese.14
Further, the World Health Organization (WHO) Foundation Collaborating Centre for International Drug Monitoring receives safety reports associated with statin medications and has noted a disproportionately high number of patients with upper motor neuron lesions among those taking statin medications.15
Statins also deplete your body of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), which accounts for many of their devastating results. CoQ10 is used for energy production by every cell in your body. Its reduced form, ubiquinol, is a critical component of cellular respiration and production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is a coenzyme used as an energy carrier in every cell of your body.
The depletion of CoQ10 caused by statins can actually increase your risk of acute heart failure. While this can be somewhat offset by taking a Coenzyme Q10 supplement (if you're over 40, I would recommend taking ubiquinol instead of CoQ10), statins still come with a risk of other serious side effects, including:
Statins also inhibit the synthesis of vitamin K2, which can make your heart health worse instead of better, and reduce ketone production. Ketones are crucial nutrients to feed your mitochondria and are important regulators of metabolic health and longevity.
There is far more that goes into your risk of heart disease than your cholesterol levels. The suggestions that follow can help you lower your insulin resistance and restore your insulin sensitivity, among other heart-protective mechanisms:
Avoid environmental pollutants and toxins, including smoking, vaping, heavy metals, herbicides and pesticides, especially glyphosate.
Minimize your exposure to electromagnetic fields and wireless radiation from cellphones, Wi-Fi, routers, smart meters and more, as this kind of radiation has been shown to cause serious free radical damage and mitochondrial dysfunction.
Eat an unprocessed whole food-based diet low in net carbs and high in healthy fats. A ketogenic diet — which is very low in net carbohydrates and high in healthy fats — is key for boosting mitochondrial function.
When your body is able to burn fat for fuel, your liver creates water-soluble fats called ketones that burn far more efficiently than carbs, thereby creating fewer reactive oxygen species and secondary free radicals. Ketones also decrease inflammation and improve glucose metabolism.20
Eat nitrate-rich foods to help normalize your blood pressure. Good sources include arugula, cilantro, rhubarb, butter leaf lettuce, mesclun mixed greens, beet greens, fresh beet juice, kvass (fermented beet juice) and fermented beet powder.
Get plenty of nonexercise movement each day; walk more and incorporate higher intensity exercise as your health allows.
Intermittently fast. After you've become accustomed to intermittently fasting for 16 to 18 hours, you can try a stricter fast once or twice a week, when you eat a 300- to 800-calorie meal loaded with detox supporting nutrients, followed by a 24-hour fast. So, in essence, you're then only eating one 300- to 800-calorie meal in 42 hours.
If you have heart disease, consider enhanced external counterpulsation (EECP). To find a provider, see EECP.com.21
If you have heart disease, you may also consider taking g-strophanthin, an adrenal hormone that helps create more parasympathetic nervous system neurotransmitters, thereby supporting your parasympathetic nervous system. It also helps flush out lactic acid. Strophanthus is the name of the plant, the active ingredient of which is called g-strophanthin in Europe, and ouabain in the U.S.
Get sensible sun exposure to optimize your vitamin D status and/or take an oral vitamin D3 supplement with magnesium and vitamin K2.
Implement heart-based wellness practices such as connecting with loved ones and practicing gratitude.
When you think about curbing pollution, taking aim at the clothes in your closet is probably not high up on the list. But the textiles industry is one of the most polluting on the planet. New trends and “ultrafast fashion” has clothing entering popular clothing stores on a weekly or even daily basis.
As a result, Americans have increased how much clothing they buy, with the average person bringing home more than 65 articles of clothing in 2016, according to the “Toxic Textiles” report by Green America.1 Where clothing was once valued for durability and practicality, we’re living in an age where people feel pressured to keep up with clothing trends, at the expense of quality and the environment. Green America noted:2
“[S]ocial media has led to a new trend of ultra-fast fashion — where companies are able to design, manufacture, and sell hundreds of products mere weeks after the initial conception of design, thanks to a large network of local and international factories.
Some ultra-fast fashion companies, such as Fashion Nova, release 600 new items a week — and sell out most of them too. We’ve entered an age where clothing is made to be worn and subsequently discarded, where ‘good-enough’ is the metric for the quality of our clothes.”
The textile industry is an often-overlooked contributor to pollution that is destroying the planet. Green America released some sobering statistics, including that textile manufacturing causes about 20% of industrial water pollution and emits 10% of global carbon emissions.
Textile production also uses 43 million tons of chemicals annually,3 and this doesn’t even include the pesticides used to grow cotton (glyphosate, the most used agricultural chemical, is an herbicide used to grow cotton that’s linked to cancer and found in cotton textiles).
Chemicals are used at multiple stages of production when it comes to turning raw materials into clothing and include azo-aniline dyes, which may cause skin reactions ranging from mild to severe.
Even more concerning, azo dyes may release aromatic amines, which are carcinogenic.4 If you're sensitive, such dyes may leave your skin red, itchy and dry, especially where the fabric rubs on your skin, such as at your waist, neck, armpits and thighs.
Formaldehyde resins are also used in clothing to cut down on wrinkling and mildew. Not only is formaldehyde a known carcinogen, but the resins have been linked to eczema and may cause your skin to become flaky or erupt in a rash.5
Brominated flame retardants, used to stop clothes from burning (although this is questionable), may be found in children’s clothing. These chemicals are neurotoxic endocrine disrupters that may also cause cancer. Polyflourinated chemicals (PFCs), used widely in uniforms and outdoor clothing to create stain-repellant and water-resistant fabrics, are carcinogenic, build up in your body and are toxic to the environment.
The chemicals may be mostly washed out, but some can linger in the clothing as you wear it. Some clothing is treated with additional chemicals for water-resistant, wrinkle- and stain-protection as well. However, workers are exposed to the chemicals during manufacturing and when they’re rinsed off the fabrics (a process that uses copious amounts of water), they end up in waterways. Green America explained:6
“Once released into the water, chemicals can also affect the community, through exposure to water sources, but also due to the leaching of chemicals into the soil, which affects the local agricultural system. The chemicals that are commonly used in the manufacturing process pose a variety of health and environmental risks.
There isn’t a lot of transparency about what specific chemicals are used in the manufacturing process, which is especially concerning when it comes to the workers who are directly exposed to the chemicals, sometimes without adequate safety protection.”
While Americans add dozens of new articles of clothing to their collections annually, they also get rid of others, tossing 70 pounds of clothing and other textiles each year.7 According to the U.S. EPA, textiles made up 6.1% of municipal solid waste in 2015. Only 15.3%, or 2.5 million tons, was recycled while landfills received 10.5 million tons of textiles in 2015, accounting for 7.6% of all municipal solid waste landfills.8
Even when clothing is recycled, Green America notes that “less than 1% of the resources required to make clothing is recaptured and reused to create new clothing.”9 When you donate clothes, it’s also not a sustainable solution.
The fact is, the sheer volume of clothes being donated far outpaces the demand. Charities sell only a fraction of the clothing they receive in donations, and the majority ends up getting sold to textile “recyclers.”
These “recyclers” may sell some of the clothing at that point, but most of it may end up being exported to other countries. There, it will either be sold, made into rags, processed into industrial uses or end up in landfills.
“Although 35% of our clothes are technically being diverted from American landfills, they may end up in a landfill in another country. This means that two of the most environmentally destructive aspects of the apparel production system — the manufacture of textiles and the disposal of unwanted clothing — is happening disproportionately in other, oftentimes developing, countries,” Green America noted.10
“Furthermore, countries that traditionally have imported second-hand clothing are reducing the amount they are importing.”11
Green America evaluated 14 U.S. apparel companies that are widely available in malls and shopping centers. This includes Target, Nike, Gap, Walmart, The Children’s Place, Carter’s, J. Crew and others. They evaluated each company’s social and environmental practices to create a scorecard, considering such factors as chemical management, factory safety, water management and waste and recycling.
While some of the companies had policies in place for some of the benchmarks measured, including sharing progress toward the benchmarks, most of the companies were lacking. While some stated they had policies in place to manage environmental or labor issues, most did not give details about the policy or reveal measurements to achieve the goal.
“While none of the major brands are true leaders in the field, Green America identified the following companies as having better environmental and labor practices — Target, VF, Nike — and several companies that were clearly laggards — Carter’s, J.Crew, Forever 21,” Green America explained.12 They added:13
“It’s important to note that even if a company has some policies in place to address sustainability within its current supply chain, it does not negate the sheer volume of resources used and lost annually to manufacture new clothes. Furthermore, there is still, unfortunately, no way for us to shop our way to sustainability.”
Cotton is a primary player in the textile industry, accounting for 27% of production.14 It’s often viewed as a natural option, but conventional cotton is a resource heavy crop.
Green America noted that 200,000 tons of pesticides and 8 million tons of fertilizers are used for cotton crops annually, while it takes 2,700 liters of water to grow enough cotton to make a T-shirt (and this doesn’t account for the water used for dyeing and finishing).15
Even organic cotton isn’t perfect, unless it’s certified by GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standards), as it still requires chemical processing in order to become a textile. However, organic cotton certified by GOTS restricts the chemicals that can be used during manufacturing, making them preferable options.
Other materials have problems of their own, including rayon/viscose, wood pulp converted to textiles — which is contributing to deforestation — and polyester, which is made from petroleum, which does not biodegrade and is made with the heavy metal antimony, a possible carcinogen.16
Keep in mind that just because you have a textile that someone tells you is organic doesn’t mean it’s an organic textile. A GOTS-certified textile, on the other hand, is tracked through every single step of the process, from farm to packaging.
Even hang tags have to comply with recycling standards. In other words, for a textile to be certified GOTS, each and every step of the supply chain must be certified to GOTS standards, not just one or two of the steps.
The organic clothing industry is still rather small, and it’s not always easy to find sustainably grown organic clothing. Dirt Shirt will eventually expand to provide GOTS-certified underwear and other types of clothing, in addition to T-shirts.
At present, I’ve chosen to carry SITO (Soil Integrity for Textiles Organically) brand socks and underwear, as SITO supports our global mission for improving fabric production and putting an end to fast fashion. To learn more about our Dirt Shirt and SITO brand products, see the video above — 100% of the profits from every Dirt Shirt sold on our site will support the regenerative agricultural movement.
The Mercola-RESET Biodynamic Organic Project is currently working with 55 certified organic farmers in India, with a mission of converting them to biodynamic and planting biodynamic cotton on 110 acres of land this season. Biodynamic farming is organic by nature, but it goes even further, operating on the premise that the farm be entirely self-sustaining.
In the U.S., biodynamic farms use the USDA organic standard as a foundation but have additional requirements, encompassing the principles of regenerative agriculture and more. For instance, biodynamic farms must produce at least 50% of their own organic animal feed, and 100% of the farm must be biodynamic (on the contrary, an organic farmer may raise only one crop as organic). In addition:17
Biodynamic farming brings animals and plants together to form a living web of life, a self-sustaining ecosystem that benefits the surrounding community. RESET (Regenerate, Environment, Society, Economy, Textiles) will pay all organic biodynamic farmers in our project a 25% premium over conventional cotton prices, which will be paid directly to the farmers.
Biodynamic farming is urgently needed in the textile industry to offset the polluting practices of conventional cotton growing. When shopping for clothing, make sure it’s organic, biodynamic and/or GOTS-certified. However, ultimately the best choice for the environment is to purchase less clothing overall.
When you do purchase clothing, choose high-quality pieces and use them until they wear out. If you no longer need an item, try to give it to a friend or family member who can use it. Also, choose to buy or swap used clothing items online or via thrift stores, and opt out of the fast-fashion mindset of buying excessive amounts of low-quality, “throwaway” clothes.
“It’s clear that continuing with business as usual is unsustainable — for people, for planet, and, in the long run, for profits,”18 Green America stated. You can be a model for change by choosing your clothing with a purpose and suggesting your friends and family do the same.
The pharmaceutical industry is now the most distrusted and poorly regarded industry in the U.S. This according to the latest Gallup Poll1 published September 3, 2019, which assesses Americans' views of 25 industry sectors on an annual basis. A mere 27% have a "totally positive" view of the drug industry, while 58% have a "totally negative" view; 15% are neutral.
It's an unexpected turn of events, surely, as signs of growing distrust have become more readily evident. Big Pharma distrust was also blamed for "fueling the anti-vaxxer movement and playing a role in the measles outbreak" in an April 2019 article in USA Today.2
Quoted in the article, vaccine profiteer and patent holder3 Dr. Paul Offit also capitalizes on the recent revelation that the FBI now views conspiracy theories as a "significant domestic terrorism threat."4
"'In order to believe vaccines are hurting you means your doctor is lying to you,' Offit says. To believe that, 'on some level you have to be a conspiracy theorist' who believes the industry is 'directing the government and the health care industry to lie about vaccines.'"5
In other words, if you have doubts about vaccine safety and would like to see more evidence, you're a conspiracy theorist, placing you in the category of a domestic terrorist threat. At least that's what Offit would like you to think. The fact is, lies are being told about vaccines.
As just one example, and an egregious one, in a January 2019 interview with CBS News,6 Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), flat-out denied that vaccines can cause injury or death. That is not only misinformation, it's an outright lie.
Since 1988, the federally operated vaccine injury compensation program (VICP) created under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 has paid out about $4 billion in awards to vaccine injured victims, and that's just 31% of the petitions filed for compensation.7
Misinformation about the safety of vaccines is being pushed front and center, and evidence of harm is not only being swept under the proverbial rug, those sharing that information are vilified, harassed and threatened in not entirely subtle ways.
There is a revolving door between people who work for U.S. federal health agencies and then go to work for the pharmaceutical industry and the other way around.8,9
This means that Big Pharma, which over the past decade has spent $2.5 billion lobbying the federal government, is having a tremendous influence on vaccine regulation, policymaking and law.10 These are not theories. They're provable facts.
Yet in recent times, we've seen vicious public attacks against anyone who questions vaccine safety, policy and law, or vaccine science. There have been extreme calls for public shaming, identification, criminal prosecution, quarantine and imprisonment of those criticizing vaccine safety and/or refusing to get government recommended vaccines.
One doctor who develops vaccines and lobbies for "no exceptions" forced vaccination laws has referred to parents of vaccine injured children as a "hate group," and one prominent newspaper suggested vaccine critics should be physically harmed.11,12,13, 14
Most providers of vaccine information on the internet are also now being censored by Google and other platforms, effectively preventing people from finding what could be life-saving information15 that, indeed, most are never given by their pediatrician.
The withholding of information about potentially life-threatening side effects and long-term injury is unlikely to be maliciously intended, but when a child is injured, parents will surely feel like they were lied to all the same.
That children suffer brain injury, long-term health effects and death is a reality, not a conspiracy theory.
In the emotional video above, Rachel Ortiz testifies in opposition of Maine's bill LD 79816 (which would remove religious and philosophical vaccine exemptions) and in support of LD 98717 (which would expand medical vaccine exemptions), sharing the story of how a routine childhood vaccination caused irreversible brain damage to her son.
One of the things you typically hear from parents sharing their stories of how a vaccine injured their child is the tremendous weight of guilt. They trusted the doctors, who didn't warn them there were risks, and their ignorance injured (or worse, killed) their beloved child. A 2015 article by Yahoo Parenting featured Susan Lawson and her daughter Julia:18
"When … Lawson … hears parents declaring, unequivocally, that everyone should vaccinate their children because it's perfectly safe, she says it feels 'like a punch in the gut.'
That's because she's seen another side of the story: Her daughter Julia, now 9, was left with permanent brain damage — an injury acknowledged by a federal court payout — after receiving her MMRV (measles-mumps-rubella-varicella) shot when she was a year old.
Lawson, a veterinarian who had the utmost faith in medicine, had never before questioned vaccinations, and had always inoculated Julia right on schedule. But now she began to wonder. Hospital doctors dismissed any thought of a connection.
But when Lawson asked a pediatrician about it, she was told it could be a possibility. Every family featured in this story received a payment by the United States Court of Federal Claims, which concluded that their rare injuries were caused by the vaccines.
'I felt shocked, bewildered, and guilty,' Lawson recalls. 'We were trying to protect her, and instead I destroyed her. The guilt is huge.'"
However, firsthand testimony and billions in VICP payouts aren't the only evidence available that vaccines are causing debilitating harm and not just temporary soreness at the injection site. There are scientific studies raising red flags as well. For example, a pilot case-control study19 published in Frontiers in Psychiatry in January 2017 found that:
"Subjects with newly diagnosed AN [anorexia nervosa] were more likely than controls to have had any vaccination in the previous 3 months [hazard ratio 1.80, 95% confidence interval 1.21–2.68].
Influenza vaccinations during the prior 3, 6, and 12 months were also associated with incident diagnoses of AN, OCD [obsessive compulsive disorder], and an anxiety disorder. Several other associations were also significant … (hepatitis A with OCD and AN; hepatitis B with AN; and meningitis with AN and chronic tic disorder).
This pilot epidemiologic analysis implies that the onset of some neuro-psychiatric disorders may be temporally related to prior vaccinations in a subset of individuals. These findings warrant further investigation …"
Another example is "Deaths Reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, United States, 1997-2013,"20 published in 2015. In this report, it's stated that of the 1,469 child death reports, 79.4% had received one or more vaccines on the same day they died.
The most common cause of death, based on autopsy records, was sudden infant death syndrome, accounting for 44% of cases, followed by asphyxia (6%), septicemia (4.9%) and pneumonia (4.6%). In adults, the vaccine associated with the greatest number of deaths was inactivated influenza vaccine, which featured in 51.4% of adult deaths reported to VAERS.
Despite these shocking findings, the report concludes that "No concerning pattern was noted among death reports submitted to VAERS during 1997-2013." How can the fact that 79.4% of infant deaths occur on the same day that they're vaccinated be a pattern of no concern? It's those kinds of illogical conclusions that give rise to suspicions of conspiracy, because little else makes sense.
Even some of our health officials have at times been pressed enough to let the truth slip out. In a BMJ response21 to "Measles: Europe Sees Record Number of Cases and 37 Deaths so Far This Year,"22 published in 2018, U.K. editor of AgeofAutism.com, John Stone, cites papers highlighting the questionable safety of vaccines.
Included in his citations are three Cochrane reviews, one of which concluded "The design and reporting of safety outcomes in MMR vaccine studies, both pre- and post-marketing, are largely inadequate," and "The evidence of adverse events following immunization with MMR cannot be separated from its role in preventing the target diseases."23
In his response, Stone also points out that the question of whether vaccines can cause autism has been acknowledged in the affirmative by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) on various occasions. He writes:24
"The HHS HRSA told journalists Sharyl Attkisson and David Kirby on separate occasions: 'The government has never compensated, nor has it ever been ordered to compensate, any case based on a determination that autism was actually caused by vaccines.
We have compensated cases in which children exhibited an encephalopathy, or general brain disease. Encephalopathy may be accompanied by a medical progression of an array of symptoms including autistic behavior, autism, or seizures.'
And CDC director Julie Gerberding admitted to CNN following the Hannah Poling settlement:25 'Now, we all know that vaccines can occasionally cause fevers in kids. So if a child was immunized, got a fever, had other complications from the vaccines.
And if you're predisposed with the mitochondrial disorder, it can certainly set off some damage. Some of the symptoms can be symptoms that have characteristics of autism…'
An investigation into U.S. vaccine injury court in 2011 found 83 cases of compensated vaccine injury in which autism is mentioned, but which because they are sealed cannot be used as precedents."
While working for CBS News in 2008, Attkisson also interviewed Dr. Bernadine Healy, "the most well-known medical voice yet to counter the government" on the claim that vaccines cannot cause autism.26
Healy, a former head of the National Institutes of Health, claimed that once she began looking at the vaccine-autism question, "she found credible published, peer-reviewed scientific studies that support the idea of an association," Atkisson writes, adding:27
"She dug a little deeper and was surprised to find that the government has not embarked upon some of the most basic research that could help answer the question of a link.
The more she dug, she says, the more she came to believe the government and medical establishment were intentionally avoiding the question because they were afraid of the answer … Healy says the government has a long way to go to even do basic research that could get at the heart of what she believes is an open question.
For example: why in the past decade hasn't the government compared the autism/ADD rate of unvaccinated children with that of vaccinated children? If the rate is the same, it tends to point away from vaccines. If the rate is markedly lower in unvaccinated children, it tends to point toward vaccines.
The government has a dataset of unvaccinated children available. It has published more than one survey of parents of undervaccinated and unvaccinated children (to find out why the parents are choosing not to vaccinate).
It would seem simple to use those same families to measure their rate of autism/ADD. Also, why hasn't the government used vaccine court as a resource to ask the autism/vaccine question?
There, nearly 5,000 families have self-selected as believing their children's autism was caused by vaccines. Many have expressed willingness to let their children's medical records be released and studied; but nobody in the government has been interested."
Two other examples of published studies that put a dent in the armored wall of denial that vaccines can cause harm are:
• A 2006 study in the journal Pediatrics, which found 18% of toddlers experienced an adverse event following their first dose of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. Of those, high fever occurred in 6%.
The authors concluded that "Vaccination-associated adverse events occur in ∼1 of every 6 toddlers receiving measles-mumps-rubella vaccine dose 1, with high fever occurring in 1 of 20."
• Similarly, a 2010 paper28 in Pediatrics "assessed seizures and fever visits among children aged 12 to 23 months after MMRV [mumps-measles-rubella-varicella] and separate MMR + varicella vaccines" and "compared seizure risk after MMRV vaccine to that after MMR + varicella vaccines." The authors reported that:
"Seizure and fever significantly clustered 7 to 10 days after vaccination with all measles-containing vaccines but not after varicella vaccination alone. Seizure risk during days 7 to 10 was higher after MMRV than after MMR + varicella vaccination (relative risk: 1.98…) …
Vaccination with MMRV results in 1 additional febrile seizure for every 2,300 doses given instead of separate MMR + varicella vaccines. Providers who recommend MMRV should communicate to parents that it increases the risk of fever and seizure over that already associated with measles-containing vaccines."
While Californians have already been stripped of their religious and philosophical vaccine exemptions, matters are about to get even more serious with the expected implementation of SB 27629 and SB 714.30
SB 276 — which California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law31 September 9, 2019 — will further limit parents' ability to get a medical exemption for their child by requiring all medical vaccine exemptions written by doctors to be approved by a state health official,32 and SB 714 places new restrictions on which physicians are eligible to issue medical exemptions.
Specifically, any doctor who has faced disciplinary action in the past will not be allowed to issue medical exemptions, and any exemption written by an ineligible doctor would be rendered null and void with the enactment of this law. As reported by the Los Angeles Times on September 6, 2019:33
"[T]he governor will sign SB 276 once the Legislature passes SB 714 … [Orange County pediatrician Bob] Sears, who is currently subject to a 35-month probation order issued by the medical board in a vaccine case that did not involve school medical exemptions, expressed disbelief over the amendments …
'[This bill would] mean that any exemption written by a doctor who has been disciplined by the board for any reason, even one unrelated to vaccination, will be subject to revocation,' Sears said.
'So the hundreds of patients I've written exemptions for over the past four years after having a severe vaccine reaction will lose their exemptions. This seems like a broad overreach from a government that is supposed to protect its medically fragile children.'"
The new amendments also narrow the scope of medical conditions that qualify for an exemption, limiting exemptions to those having suffered severe anaphylaxis, encephalopathy (coma), one rare immunodeficiency disorder, and in the case of the rotavirus vaccine only, cases of intussusception (twisted bowel).
Under the revised law, doctors issuing medical exemptions will be monitored, and they will no longer be allowed to charge for the service of issuing a medical exemption. In other words, any doctor who writes a medical exemption must do so for free. As reported by PR Newswire on June 18, 2019:34
"Attorney Leigh Dundas believes the amendments go too far, and that no licensed physician will remain willing to author a valid exemption under the new statutory framework.
'Any American, let alone a licensed professional, who is told they will have to work for free, told they will be monitored and tracked for doing their work — and further told a simple accusation will make them guilty until proven innocent — would quit their job,' Dundas said. 'SB 276 bill targets the very professionals who save our children's lives.'"
Dundas' prediction appears to have come true already. According to Advocates for Physicians' Rights, pediatricians in California have already stopped issuing medical exemptions en masse. The group claims to have called 882 California doctors asking to receive "a medical exemption for a child who suffered an anaphylactic reaction after [his] 12-month shots."35
They were repeatedly told the doctor was not issuing medical exemptions for any reason — and requires a complete vaccination history for all patients. A video featuring several of these calls was posted on the organization's Facebook page on August 30, 2019.36
If this accurately mirrors the current state of affairs in California, this means children who have already suffered a severe and potentially life-threatening vaccine reaction not only may have a very difficult time finding a doctor who will write them a medical vaccine exemption, they also may not be able to get basic health checkups and medical attention unless fully vaccinated. This could well turn into a life-threatening Catch-22 for many families.
Remember, this is not about protecting the public from measles. It's about enforcing a full vaccination schedule from cradle to grave, one slippery-sloped step at a time. Eventually, you won't be able to go to school or work in a public building without every single vaccine recommended on the adult schedule. It's just a matter of time.
Driving this agenda are millions of dollars of donations. The palms of California lawmakers were greased in 2015,37 which led to the revocation of the religious and philosophical belief exemption.
So far in 2019, health and pharmaceutical lobbyists have doled out $155,174,705 to push their various agendas forward,38 and one of those agendas is a mandatory cradle to grave vaccination schedule for everyone.
It stands to reason that people have different biological weaknesses, and the push for a one-size-fits-all regimen means a lot of children will be sacrificed "for the greater good." But how can a public health program simply slaughter the vulnerable rather than taking measures to protect everyone?
"Public health" by definition includes everyone. Yet when it comes to vaccination, this inclusivity and right of everyone to pursue optimal health doesn't seem to apply anymore. It's imperative that we continue to fight for the right to life and health of all children, not just those who can survive vaccination.
1 Which of the following nutritional supplements has a proven track record as a powerful antiviral, significantly reducing your risk of common cold, influenza and several other viral illnesses?
2 Which of the following have been identified as driving forces behind the opioid epidemic?
3 According to a systematic review of statin trials, statin drugs prolong life by an average of:
4 Positional vertigo occurs when:
5 Recent research shows untrained individuals in their 70s and 80s:
6 The benefits of geothermal greenhouses include
7 Autophagy refers to the biological process in which:
The death toll from the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, included 343 firefighters and paramedics among the 2,7531 who were exposed to 10 million tons of material released in a caustic dust cloud as the twin towers were reduced to rubble.2
Since then, more than 150 have died. Of the nearly 400,000 who are eligible for the World Trade Center Health Program set up specifically to treat the physical and mental health challenges caused by exposure,3 72,000 are enrolled and 8,000 have been diagnosed with cancer.4
First responders were exposed to toxins, the result of exposure to dust containing chemicals in asbestos, glass fibers, lead and cement.5 Seventeen years later the WTC Health Program addresses care for those suffering from respiratory problems, malignant cancers, digestive problems and reproductive problems associated with the exposure.6
Utility workers, medical examiners, bus drivers and others were also affected.7 Researchers from New York University School of Medicine8 undertook an analysis to determine if there were indications that some first responders may have greater risk than others.9
The team believes their experiment is the first to suggest compounds present in first responders could prevent disease. They measured metabolites, which are chemicals the body makes as it breaks down fat, protein and carbohydrates. Metabolites are natural byproducts that result from the breakdown of these macronutrients.10
The study specifically linked 30 metabolites to first responders who had a lower incidence of obstructive airway disease. Conversely, they found those who had lower levels also had an increased risk of developing pulmonary disease.11
In a press release12 the researchers announced they had analyzed blood samples from 14,000 first responders and their lung function tests. Firefighters are a unique population since pre-exposure lung function testing was available for many of the first responders.13
Lung function testing has been done every year since 9/11. The study found specific chemicals were predictive of disease with a 93.3% accuracy. The two groups of metabolites most associated with lung injury were amino acids and lipids.14
The researchers were unsure of the biological function of the amino acids in relationship to lung injury. Increased concentration supported the hypothesis some firefighters had higher protein intakes and also enjoyed a lower risk of lung injury. However, they also felt it was unlikely that protein deficiency was an issue in active firefighters.
A number of lipid metabolites were found in higher quantities in those who were without lung injury. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)15 in particular acts as a precursor for reducing your inflammatory response and immune response to any injury. This effect may have helped reduce damage in first responders triggered by exposure to toxins.
Lead investigator George Crowley discussed the importance this data could have on prevention. He also shared potential recommendations for first responders participating in disaster relief and suggested that physicians analyze their patients’ blood and use the results to help guide treatment.16
The same team published findings in the journal Chest17 showing heart disease risk factors may also predict persistent lung damage in 9/11 first responders.18
The data demonstrated that traits of metabolic syndrome were a stronger predictor of lung dysfunction than tobacco smoking or the amount of exposure that emergency personnel were subjected to at the site of the attack.
The symptoms of metabolic syndrome include high blood pressure, abdominal obesity and high blood triglycerides.19 Dr. Anna Nolan, a senior study contributor from NYU School of Medicine, said,20 “A third of the population in most Western countries has abdominal obesity, insulin resistance and issues with high lipids.”
The researchers also noted the syndrome is linked to an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease. The combination of particulate matter and metabolic syndrome was interesting to the researchers since issues with air pollution and particulate matter are becoming more common.21
The team analyzed data from firefighters enrolled in the WTC Health Program and found that the 1,208 people who developed lung injury by 2017 were more likely to be overweight or obese and to have metabolic syndrome.22 The data indicate that obesity is a greater risk factor than high blood sugar and insulin resistance.
Dr. Anne Dixon from the University of Vermont Medical Center was not involved in the study, but said she found the results highly important because it shows “a clear link” between metabolic syndrome and an increased risk of pulmonary disease.23
Past research24 has also demonstrated omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce bacterial infections in the lungs of those who suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Research from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry demonstrated that derivatives of omega-3 are effective in clearing non-typeable Haemophilus influenzae that may become problematic in those with COPD. Lung infections may put lives at risk in those who suffer from obstructive airway disease, such as first responders who are exposed to multiple toxins.
Richard Phipps, Ph.D., was part of the team who found that omega-3 provides precursors to help shut down excessive inflammation in the lungs. Using mice, the data show that unlike drugs used in the study, omega-3 helps reduce inflammation without stopping the animals’ capacity to clear bacteria. It may have even sped up the process of clearing bacteria overall.25
Your omega-3 levels may also affect your mitochondrial function, or dysfunction. Mitochondrial disease26 is a group of conditions attributed to the dysfunction of mitochondria rendering organelles unable to effectively generate energy. Some of the more profound effects become evident in the brain and muscle, including the heart.
Other organs affected include the liver, eyes and kidneys. Omega-3 fats are among the more promising nutritional components researchers have found that play a crucial role in the management of mitochondrial dysfunction.27 Your mitochondria are important in energy production and calcium signaling, as well as apoptosis and autophagy.28
In one animal study, the oral administration of omega-3 fats demonstrated a positive effect on mitochondrial function and neuroprotection.29 Giving omega-3 fats to cells in a lab setting demonstrated the ability to induce metabolic genes and metabolic rate, increasing mitochondrial content compared with control cells.30
One of the signs of advancing age is remodeling of the cell membranes in the heart.31 One impact on this remodeling is mitochondrial function, which plays a role in sustaining energy production. Some of the changes that occur during aging predispose heart cells to ischemic injury and cell death.
Changes in the mitochondrial membrane are exacerbated by the presence of omega-6 polyunsaturated fats. This has a significant consequence on the efficiency of cell function. Researchers have found that dietary changes involving increased amounts of omega-3 fats help with metabolic issues that affect aging and facilitate mitochondrial energy production.32
The featured study points to just one of the benefits of maintaining optimal levels of omega-3 fats. Unfortunately, while most people get more than enough omega-6 from vegetable oils, salad dressings, mayonnaise and nuts,33 they don’t get enough omega-3.
Technically, omega-3 fats are found in plant and animal sources, but as I discuss below, animal sources are the most bioavailable to your body. Maintaining optimal levels of omega-3 is also associated with a reduction in levels of obesity34,35 and in the prevention of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, autoimmune diseases,36 nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and Alzheimer's disease.37
Knowing your omega-3 level helps determine the amount of change needed to get your levels in the low risk category. William Harris, Ph.D., developed the omega-3 index, a blood test that measures the amount of omega-3 in your red blood cells. This reflects the amount in the rest of your body and is not influenced by recent meals.
The test has been used to evaluate data,38 the results of which demonstrate a healthy range of omega-3 measured in blood cells is from 8% to 12%.39,40 GrassrootsHealth, an independent research organization with whom we partner, offers an omega-3 and vitamin D at home test kit.
The results are completely private and require no doctor or lab visit. Once your sample and questionnaire are mailed, your results are usually ready within 10 to 20 days after the lab receives your sample. I offer this test kit simply as a convenience and courtesy as I don't benefit or participate in the test in anyway.
Once you have your results, you have access to knowing how much omega-3 you need to reach a low level of risk. You may use this free calculator41 to help.
Although your body needs both plant and animal sources of omega-3 fats, they are not interchangeable. Plant-based omega-3 provides alpha linoleic acid (ALA), which your body inefficiently converts to EPA and poorly converts to DHA.42 Plant-based sources of omega-3 include flaxseed, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and chia seeds. These help to boost your overall ALA intake.43
Fish and marine oil supplements are a direct source of EPA and DHA.44 EPA and DHA are essential in digestion, blood clotting, memory, learning and functions of cell receptors. You must get these from your diet.45 You may choose to increase your intake of wild-caught Alaskan salmon, mackerel, anchovies and herring to do so.
However, if these are not available, choose to use a krill oil supplement rather than fish oil. Since fatty acids are insoluble in water they need to be packaged in a type of lipoprotein to be transported within your blood. An unprocessed fish oil supplement is bound in triglycerides while krill oil is mostly bound in phospholipids.46
It’s the phospholipids in krill oil that make this form of omega-3 supplement easily bioavailable in the first 72 hours.47 As you consume fish oil, the liver must attach it to a phosphatidylcholine while krill already contains this substance — yet another reason krill oil demonstrates more efficient cellular uptake.48
In addition to these advantages, fish oil has a higher likelihood of oxidative damage, making it less stable than most other supplements.49 In testing 54 of the best-selling supplements,50 one lab found 59.2% of the products had levels of omega-3 that varied by more than 10% of what was labeled on the bottle.
The testing also revealed 92.5% had measurable amounts of mercury, known to damage the nervous system, digestive tract and immune system, as well as on the lungs, skin and kidneys.51
Native to Japan, ashitaba (Angelica keiskei koidzumi1) is a bitter leafy herb of the Angelica genus, closely related to the carrot. It's also known as "tomorrow's leaf," due to its rapid growth and regenerative abilities. It's a fast grower and new leaves rapidly sprout when picked.
The plant is well-known in China and Japan, having been part of the diet since ancient times. There, it has also been used medicinally for hundreds of years, as a general health promoter and antiaging remedy.2
The first reference to ashitaba is found in the Chinese Compendium of Materia Medica, compiled by Li Shizhen, a famous acupuncture physician and pharmacologist, between 1552 and 1578.3 According to a 2013 investigation,4 ashitaba "might be a useful agent in preventing deficit of learning and memory caused by AD [Alzheimer's disease] and aging."
A more recent review,5 published February 2019 in Nature Communications, highlights the mechanism behind ashitaba's antiaging benefits. Turns out it's a potent inducer of autophagy. The term autophagy means "self-eating," and refers to the processes by which your body cleans out debris and toxins and recycles damaged cell components. As explained in the introduction:6
"This facilitates the supply of recycled components for biosynthesis and thus contributes to cytoplasmic renewal and consequent cellular rejuvenation.
Conversely, impairment or dysregulation of autophagic function results in age-related pathologies. Altogether, autophagy is largely associated with cytoprotection and overall health."
As noted by the authors, the aging process is one of the most expedient approaches to tackling chronic disease, since cellular aging is a core feature. By delaying the cellular degeneration associated with aging, you can stay healthier longer.
Healthy and efficient autophagy is an important part of this process, as without it, your body cannot effectively regenerate itself. As noted by the authors, "impairment or dysregulation of autophagic function results in age-related pathologies."
Flavonoids in general are well-known for their anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic, antineurodegenerative and cytoprotective properties. In the case of ashitaba, one of its key flavonoids is 4,4′-dimethoxychalcone (DMC) which, according to this paper is "a natural autophagy inducer with phylogenetically conserved anti-ageing properties." They also point out that:7
"… [A]dministration of DMC promotes cytoprotection and autophagy across species and … autophagy induction is required for the beneficial effects of this compound.
Autophagy activation by DMC depends on specific GATA transcription factors, but not on the TORC1 kinase, a major regulatory instance of autophagy. This suggests synergistic potential with other anti-ageing interventions that do rely on TORC1 signaling."
The paper sought to identify natural compounds with antiaging properties. To that end, they screened 180 different plant flavonoids "for their ability to counteract age-related cellular demise." Using three different assays, "DMC emerged as a top cytoprotective hit," the authors say.8 DMC even outperformed resveratrol. Results showed DMC treatment:9
To assess DMC's antiaging ability, they tested it on nematodes and fruit flies. Chronic treatment prolonged the median life span of both of these multicellular organisms by approximately 20%, and this effect was independent of their diet (both food composition and amount).
DMC also protected against liver damage caused by excess alcohol consumption in animals, and inhibited the proliferation of certain human cancer cells, specifically osteosarcoma, cervical carcinoma and neuroblastoma cells.
Importantly, DMC was found to induce "autophagic flux in all model systems tested from yeast to mammals." In other words, it has the ability to induce autophagy across species, and a crucial component of this antiaging effect is its ability to induce autophagy. In the Discussion section of the paper, the authors summarize the importance of their findings:11
"While the beneficial effects of certain behavioral and dietary strategies (especially calorie restriction) are uncontestable, most individuals have difficulties to strictly and permanently adhere to them.
This has encouraged the search for potential pharmacological alternatives. The present work identifies the flavonoid 4,4′-dimethoxychalcone (DMC) as an anti-ageing compound with cardioprotective effects in mice and the potential to promote longevity across species …
To our knowledge, there is no natural source of DMC known to date. Intriguingly, we could detect DMC in the stipes and leaves (but not in the roots) of the chalcone-rich plant Angelica keiskei koidzumi (commonly known under the Japanese name of Ashitaba), to which longevity- and health-promoting effects are attributed in Asian folk medicine. This fuels the expectation that DMC may be therapeutically applicable in humans."
Lead researcher Frank Madeo, professor at the University of Graz's Institute of Molecular Biosciences in Austria, told Times of Malta,12 "It is always nice to find a scientific rationale for traditional medical folk tales."
Traditional uses for ashitaba have encompassed a variety of ailments, including but not limited to fever, arthritis, indigestion and hepatitis.13 Modern science now supports many of its traditional uses, and then some. For example, studies on ashitaba and its components show it may be useful for the prevention and/or treatment of:14,15,16
Studies have also confirmed ashitaba is nontoxic and generally well-tolerated,42 including by those with metabolic syndrome.43
As mentioned, ashitaba is a rapid grower that is easy to care for. While it can be tricky to find in U.S. nurseries, if you're lucky enough to find one, you can grow it as a perennial in hardiness zones 7 through 10, as well as coastal regions near the ocean. Here are a few general guidelines for growing,44 harvesting and using45 ashitaba:
Fresh raw leaves can be treated like any other leafy green vegetable, so try adding some to salads, soups or smoothies. Start with a small amount, as ashitaba tends to be rather bitter. To make tea, gently crush a small handful of leaves into a pot of water and boil for 15 minutes. To make capsules, grind the dried leaves and stems into a powder first.
I have often written about the many benefits of resveratrol, which is a phytonutrient belonging to a class of polyphenolic stilbene compounds found in some plants. This naturally occurring substance, also known as 3,4',5-trihydroxystilbene, functions an as antiantioxidant, providing neuroprotection against many neurodegenerative illnesses such as Alzheimer's disease and stroke.
Yet that is hardly the limit of resveratrol's other valuable actions. Unlike many other antiantioxidants, resveratrol crosses the blood-brain barrier which separates the brain's blood from the extracellular fluid in the central nervous system.
This ability means resveratrol can increase cerebral blood flow and thus likely protect against stroke and vascular dementia,1 depression,2 brain inflammation,3 plaque buildup associated with Alzheimer's disease4 bacteria and fungi,5 and may even improve learning, mood and memory.6
Recently, another apparent resveratrol benefit was confirmed by researchers –– resveratrol's ability to improves blood sugar in those with Type 2 diabetes mellitus.7 After just eight weeks of resveratrol supplementation, subjects' fasting blood sugar decreased, their high density lipoprotein increased and their insulin levels improved.8 Clearly this is a valuable nutrient with many benefits. I take it myself.
In a recent study in the journal Phytotherapy Research, 71 overweight patients with Type 2 diabetes (T2DM) and a body mass index between 25 and 30 either received 1,000 mg/day trans-resveratrol or methyl cellulose, used as a placebo, for eight weeks. Their lipid and glycemic profiles were measured before and after the study.
Even though subjects did not change in the size, shape or composition of their bodies during the study –– called anthropometric measurements –– here is what the researchers found:9
"In adjusted model (age, sex, and baseline body mass index), resveratrol decreased fasting blood sugar (-7.97±13.6 mg/dL, p=0.05) and increased high density lipoprotein (3.62±8.75 mg/dL, p=0.01) levels compared with placebo.
Moreover, the mean difference in insulin levels reached significance (-0.97±1.91, μIU/mL, p= 0.02) ... It was found that 8-week resveratrol supplementation produced useful effects on some cardio-metabolic parameters in patients with T2DM."
Another study with similar, encouraging results put 56 subjects who had both T2DM and coronary heart disease (CHD) on either resveratrol or placebo for only four weeks. The researchers said:10
"Resveratrol reduced fasting glucose, insulin and insulin resistance and significantly increased insulin sensitivity when compared with the placebo. Resveratrol also significantly increased HDL-cholesterol levels and significantly decreased the total-/HDL-cholesterol ratio when compared with the placebo.
Additionally, resveratrol caused a significant increase in total antioxidant capacity (TAC) and a significant reduction in malondialdehyde (MDA) levels when compared with the placebo.
Four-week supplementation of resveratrol in patients with T2DM and CHD had beneficial effects on glycemic control, HDL-cholesterol levels, the total-/HDL-cholesterol ratio, TAC and MDA levels. Resveratrol also upregulated PPAR-γ and SIRT1 in the PBMCs of T2DM patients with CHD."
Certainly, selling synthetic antidiabetic agents is a lucrative enterprise for the drug industry. But phytonutrients such as resveratrol and other natural treatments are clearly preferable for those with diabetes because they lack the many side effects of these prescription drugs and are also often more affordable. So when a natural substance like resveratrol can help prevent diabetic side effects, as a recent issue of the journal Current Diabetes Reviews suggests, it is good news.
The journal researchers report that resveratrol and several other phytonutrients may hold great promise in addressing diabetic side effects and that more research is should be conducted:11
"Most of the reported findings focus on one aspect of several biochemical processes e.g. enhancement of glucose utilization, anti-oxidation, induction of insulin production, antiglycation etc. An in-depth study of phytonutrients with respect to functional, immunological as well as biochemical factors suggesting their efficacy, as well as safety in the management of diabetes, is rarely reported …
Our study thus highlights the abundance of clinical evidence of the efficiency of phytonutrients, and at the same time, the scarcity of clinically approved and marketed phytonutrients, as drugs, for the management of diabetes and related complications."
The researchers are right. Natural treatments for diabetes complications are urgently needed. Deaths from diabetes complications and chronic respiratory diseases are only preceded by deaths from cardiovascular diseases and cancer in the developed world.12 Resveratrol's antidiabetic properties as well as its potential antiaging effects, which I have written about before, were noted in the journal Cell.13
Many natural substances have strong scientific indications of their ability to reduce the risk of cancer, but resveratrol may be one of the most impressive. In the United States National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health, which maintains what is known as the "Pubmed" database, in 2019 there were 3,362 references for resveratrol as it relates to general cancer,14 546 to breast cancer,15 263 to colon cancer,16 249 to prostate cancer,17 230 to lung cancer18 and 106 to ovarian cancer.19
In 2018, researchers at the University of Geneva in Switzerland discovered that resveratrol could actually prevent lung cancer in some mice given lung cancer producing carcinogens.20
"We tried to prevent lung cancer induced by a carcinogen found in cigarette smoke by using resveratrol ... in a mouse model," said Muriel Cuendet, associate professor in the University of Geneva's School of Pharmaceutical Sciences. A 45 percent decrease in tumor formation per mouse in the treated mice was seen, suggesting that, "resveratrol could therefore play a preventive role against lung cancer."
The University of Geneva researchers surmised that the chemoprevention mechanism seen with resveratrol was likely related to the process by which cells program their own death and from which cancer cells escape, a mechanism called apoptosis.
Imagine a natural substance that not only can prevent the risk of cancer, but minimize some of the notorious side effects of cancer treatments. Again, there is evidence favoring the benefits of resveratrol. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy, two common treatments for cancer, are often associated with depression, fatigue, anorexia, neuropathic pain and sleep disorders — and resveratrol may help. Researchers in a 2011 study in the journal Experimental Biology and Medicine wrote:21
"During the past decade, increasing evidence has shown that the dysregulation of inflammatory pathways contributes to the expression of these symptoms. Cancer patients have been found to have higher levels of proinflammatory cytokines such as interleukin-6. The nuclear factor (NF)-κB is a major mediator of inflammatory pathways.
Therefore, anti-inflammatory agents that can modulate the NF-κB activation and inflammatory pathways may have potential in improving cancer-related symptoms in patients.
Because of their multitargeting properties, low cost, low toxicity and immediate availability, natural agents have gained considerable attention for prevention and treatment of cancer-related symptoms. How NF-κB and inflammatory pathways contribute to cancer-related symptoms is the focus of this review.
We will also discuss how nutritional agents such as curcumin, genistein, resveratrol, epigallocatechin gallate and lycopene can modulate inflammatory pathways and thereby reduce cancer-related symptoms in patients."
Chemotherapy can cause ovarian aging, early menopause and, in young women, infertility –– terrible side effects on top of the cancer itself. Yet, some research shows that resveratrol can reverse some of these deleterious effects.22 This is what researchers wrote in the journal Aging:
"We demonstrated that resveratrol (30 mg/kg/d) relieved oogonial stem cells loss and showed an attenuating effect on Bu/Cy-induced oxidative apoptosis in mouse ovaries, which may be attributed to the attenuation of oxidative levels in ovaries.
Additionally, we also showed that Res exerted a dose-dependent effect on oogonial stem cells and attenuated H2O2-induced cytotoxicity and oxidative stress injury by activating Nrf2 in vitro. Therefore, resveratrol could be of a potential therapeutic drug used to prevent chemotherapy-induced ovarian aging."
In 2018, researchers found other cancer-related resveratrol benefits. "Pancreatic cancer (PC) is one of the top five leading causes of cancer-related deaths," wrote researchers in the journal Cell Proliferation, yet "chemotherapeutic drugs can barely reach the tumour due to lack of blood supply."
While the preferred chemotherapy drug is gemcitabine, resistance, both intrinsic and acquired, often occurs, even when little of the drug reaches the pancreatic tumor write the researchers. Resveratrol proves useful here too.23
Resveratrol enhances chemotherapy by suppressing the gemcitabine-induced "stemness" –– cancer cells that proliferate, differentiate, self-renew and resist anticancer therapies24 –– write the Cell Proliferation researchers:25
"A previous study reported that resveratrol enhanced the sensitivity of PC cells to gemcitabine via activating the AMPK signalling pathway. Moreover, a study performed in nude mice determined the effect of resveratrol plus gemcitabine in vivo.
According to that study, resveratrol potentiated the effect of gemcitabine on tumour growth. In our present study, we found that resveratrol enhanced the sensitivity of PC cells to gemcitabine via down‐regulating SREBP1 expression.
Meanwhile, down-regulation of SREBP1 by resveratrol overcame the stemness induced by gemcitabine in both PC cell lines and the KPC mouse model.
Overall, our data provide evidence that resveratrol enhances sensitivity to gemcitabine and reverses the stemness induced by gemcitabine via down‐regulating SREBP1 expression. These findings suggest that resveratrol is a potent chemotherapy sensitizer and that SREBP1 is a notable target for cancer treatment."
Cleary, with its cancer-related properties and its recently confirmed ability to improve blood sugar, resveratrol is a valuable, natural substance with myriad wonderful uses.
Your thyroid, one of your most important endocrine glands, greatly influences almost every cell in your body. Aside from regulating your metabolism by releasing the necessary hormones, the thyroid is also important for the growth and development in children, as well as nearly every physiological process in your body.1
When your thyroid levels are out of balance, so are you. Too much (hyperthyroidism2) or too little (hypothyroidism3) hormone secretion can spell trouble for your overall health.
A 2018 study noted that 0.3% to 3.7% of the general U.S. population suffer from hypothyroidism, although it could be as high as 15% if you count a type of "subclinical" hypothyroidism. On the flip side, 0.5% of the population have hyperthyroidism.4
Poor thyroid function has been linked to health conditions such as fibromyalgia,5 irritable bowel disease,6 vitiligo,7 gum disease,8 infertility in women9 and autoimmune diseases,10 which is why it's imperative to learn how your thyroid works and what can cause it to go off-kilter.
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland found inside your neck, right under your larynx or voice box. It has two lobes on each side of the windpipe that are connected by a tissue called the isthmus.11 A normal thyroid gland weighs somewhere between 20 and 60 grams (0.7 to 2.1 ounces).12
Your thyroid is responsible for producing the master metabolism hormones that control every function in your body. It produces two hormones:13
Hormones secreted by your thyroid interact with your mitochondria, causing "an increase in nutrient breakdown and production of ATP."14 The fact that these hormones play important roles throughout your body explains why a less-than-optimal thyroid status is associated with many widespread symptoms and diseases.
Almost 90% of the hormone produced by your thyroid is in the form of T4, the inactive form.15 Your liver then converts the T4 into T3, the active form, through deiodination.16
If everything is working properly, you will make what you need and have the correct amounts of thyroid hormones, which control the metabolism of every cell in your body.17 If your T3 is inadequate, either by scarce production or by not converting properly from T4, your whole system suffers. T3 is critically important because it plays a role in burning fat in your body. In one study, researchers noted that when they increased T3 levels in participants, weight loss occurred.18
Your thyroid hormone levels can be disrupted by various risk factors. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases outlines the following possible factors for both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism:19,20
Age (more common among people 60 years old and above)
Age (more common among people 60 years old and above)
History of thyroid problems, such as goiter, and thyroid surgery
Have a disease such as Type 1 diabetes, pernicious anemia or primary adrenal insufficiency
History of radiation treatment to thyroid, neck or chest
Eating foods with large amounts of iodine, or drinking medicine that contains iodine
Pregnant in the past six months
Pregnant in the past six months
Have a disease such as Turner syndrome, Type 1 diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and pernicious anemia
Hypothyroidism occurs when your thyroid produces too little thyroid hormone, a condition often linked to iodine deficiency.21 Dr. David Brownstein, a board-certified holistic practitioner who has been working with iodine for the past two decades, claims that over 95% of the patients in his clinic are iodine-deficient, as stated in his book "The Soy Deception."22
In addition, a study published in 2012 estimates that 4.3% to 8.5% of the population has subclinical hypothyroidism,23 a condition wherein you seemingly have normal thyroid levels but "serum thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels are mildly elevated."24
However, only a marginal percentage of people with subclinical hypothyroidism are being treated. The reason behind this is the interpretation of lab tests, particularly TSH. Most physicians believe that if your TSH value is within the "normal" range, your thyroid is fine and you don't need treatment.
But as the saying goes, the devil is in the details. If your doctor suspects that the TSH levels may be slightly elevated even if the tests don't indicate such, treatment may be started early to help prevent the subclinical condition from becoming overt.25
Identifying hypothyroidism and its cause can be tricky. Many of the symptoms of hypothyroidism are vague and may be confused with other disorders. Physicians often miss a thyroid problem since they rely on just a few traditional tests, leaving other clues undetected.
The most sensitive way to find out is to simply pay attention to signals from your body. According to InformedHealth.org, people with a sluggish thyroid usually experience diverse indicators, such as:26
Any of the mentioned symptoms can be suggestive of an underactive thyroid. The more of these symptoms you have, the higher the likelihood that you have hypothyroidism. Furthermore, the Mayo Clinic notes that if the disease is left untreated, it may lead to more health complications, such as:27
The more vigilant you are in assessing your own symptoms and risk factors and presenting the complete picture to your physician, the easier it will be for you to get the proper treatment.
Thyroxine or T4 is a hormone made by the thyroid gland and converted into T3 through deiodination. Many of your cells and tissues depend on these hormones to work properly.29
An overactive thyroid secretes too much T4 or T3 (sometimes both),30 causing some of your body functions to accelerate. This condition is hyperthyroidism, wherein your thyroid overproduces hormones. According to a 2016 study published in The Lancet, women are more susceptible to this condition.31 Hyperthyroidism may manifest in different ways, according to the Lancet study:32
Some of these symptoms may be unnoticeable, depending on factors such as your age and underlying cause. A study in the American Family Physician explains that elderly patients may have hyperthyroidism, but diagnosing may be harder because symptoms are less apparent, which may lead to complications.34 Untreated hyperthyroidism can lead to heart problems like atrial fibrillation, cardiomyopathy, angina and heart failure.35
There are several ways to diagnose an underactive or hyperactive thyroid. The following laboratory tests are what most professionals use to get the real score of your thyroid health:
Other tests that may help with your diagnosis are a thyroid scintigraphy,41 fine-needle aspiration42 and thyroid ultrasound.43 But these are specialized tests that your physician will use only in a small number of cases or in special situations.
The American Cancer Society predicts that around 52,070 new cases and 2,170 deaths from thyroid cancer will occur in the United States alone in 2019.44 Thyroid cancer is classified into five different types: papillary, follicular, Hürthle cell (these three are called the differentiated thyroid cancers), medullary and anaplastic.45
Just like with any type of cancer, early intervention may heighten your chances of remission and recovery. This is why you should always be on the lookout for symptoms. Below is a list of potential warning signs of thyroid cancer, according to a 2015 study:46
In addition, there are certain risk factors that may predispose you to this disease. These include:
These are some key contributing factors that can ruin your healthy thyroid function:
1. Gluten — Gluten is a notorious culprit of thyroid dysfunction, as it can cause inflammation and autoimmune responses in many people, and can be responsible for Hashimoto's thyroiditis.52
Gluten sensitivity can cause your gastrointestinal system to malfunction, so foods you eat aren't completely digested, which may lead to leaky gut syndrome, allowing bacteria and other toxins to enter your bloodstream.53 This connection becomes more apparent as one study highlights a connection between autoimmune thyroiditis and celiac disease,54 a gluten-related autoimmune condition that damages your small intestines.55
Chris Kresser, an integrative medicine practitioner, recommends The Gluten-Free Challenge. This involves completely removing gluten from your diet for at least 30 days, and then adding it back right after. He explains:56
"If symptoms improve during the elimination period, and return when gluten is reintroduced, a diagnosis of non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) can be made."
2. Soy — As I've mentioned so many times before, soy is not the wholesome health food the agricultural and food companies have led you to believe. There are studies explaining the danger of soy foods such as their antinutrients,57 impact on digestive health58 and goitrogens that affect thyroid function.59
Properly or traditionally fermented, organic and unprocessed soy products such as natto, miso, and tempeh are fine — it's the unfermented soy products you should stay away from, like soy "meat," soy milk and soy cheese. To know more about soy, read "Soy — Health Food or Not?"
3. Bromine — Bromine is a common endocrine disruptor60 found in fire retardants. Evidence shows that this compound may affect proper thyroid function, as well as hormone transport.61
When you ingest or absorb bromine, it displaces iodine, and this iodine deficiency leads to an increased risk for cancer of the breast, thyroid gland, ovary and prostate cancers that we see at alarmingly high rates today. This phenomenon is significant enough to have been given its own name: the Bromide Dominance Theory.62
In addition, when food becomes contaminated with bromine, it may cause nausea and vomiting.63 Bromine can be found regularly in a number of places, including:
To achieve the best thyroid health possible, proper lifestyle changes are needed. I strongly recommend that you avoid products and environments that can expose you to bromine.
4. Stress and adrenal function — Stress is one of the worst thyroid offenders. Your thyroid function is intimately tied to your adrenal function, which is affected by how you handle stress.70
Many of us are almost always under chronic stress, which results in increased adrenal stress hormones71 and cortisol levels — and elevated cortisol has a negative impact on thyroid function.72 Thyroid hormone levels drop during stressful times, and affect the function of the HPT axis.73
When stress becomes chronic, the flood of stress chemicals — adrenaline and cortisol — produced by your adrenal glands interfere with your thyroid hormones, causing a whole gamut of health-related issues like obesity,74 high blood pressure75 and high LDL cholesterol.76 It also affects your glucose metabolism.77
For tips to better manage stress, I recommend you read my article "How Stress Affects Your Body, and Simple Techniques to Reduce Stress and Develop Greater Resilience."
Iodine is perhaps the biggest piece of the puzzle when it comes to thyroid hormones. It's an important nutrient found in every organ and tissue. It's essential for healthy thyroid function and efficient metabolism,78 and evidence shows that low iodine levels relate to numerous diseases, including cancer.79
Iodine is a potent antibacterial80 and antiviral81 agent. It has other significant roles in your body, namely to maintain proper metabolic function, develop brain and cognitive function in children and strengthen your immune system.82 Though thyroid health is often associate with iodine, deficiency in this nutrient can affect human biology in several ways. Some noteworthy examples include:
The Total Diet Study, performed by the FDA, reported an iodine intake of 621 micrograms for 2-year-olds between 1974 and 1982, compared with 373 micrograms between 1982 and 1991.86 One probable reason for the reduced iodine intake through the years is its disappearance from our food supply because of iodine-deficient soil.87
Exposure to toxic compounds I've mentioned before — brominated products, fire retardants and other toxins — has dramatically increased as well. Here are more factors contributing to falling iodine levels:
Sadly, up to 30% of the population worldwide could be at risk for iodine deficiency.92 In fact, iodine deficiency is one of the three most common nutritional deficiencies, along with iron93 and vitamin D.94 Here are some helpful strategies to increase your iodine levels naturally:
If you suspect that you are iodine-deficient, I strongly encourage you to visit your health care provider to undergo iodine testing. You can also get an affordable prescription for SSKI (super-saturated potassium iodine), which you apply on your skin once a day.
If when you touch something with slightly wet fingertips and you see a yellowish stain, it means the iodine is coming out of your skin, indicating that your body has enough supply of iodine inside. Read more about it in this article, "Iodine Supplements May Be Too Much of a Good Thing."
Here are simple ways that you can take in order to improve the performance of your thyroid:
Do you love hosting backyard parties during summer? If so, this easy and healthy fruit pizza recipe should pique your interest. It’s a refreshing summer snack (or dessert) that can be enjoyed by adults and kids alike, and it makes use of the best produce this season has to offer.
This fruit pizza is a better alternative to snacks containing sugars and other additives, or conventional pizzas loaded with unhealthy toppings and oozing with grease. It also allows you to save time and money by encouraging you to use ingredients you may already have at home.
Just like an ordinary pizza, this healthy fruit pizza recipe is served on a crust with cheese. What sets this recipe apart are the ingredients you’ll be using, as they’re healthier compared to toppings found in typical pizzas. If you want to make a delicious fruit pizza to share this summer, try this recipe adapted from Low Carb Yum:
Cream cheese fruit pizza recipe
For cauliflower crust:
To make the fruit pizza crust:
To make the topping:
This recipe serves 12 people.
This fruit pizza can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. Just like with savory pizzas, there are countless variations you can make for this recipe. If you don’t have strawberries and blueberries, you can use other berries like blackberries or raspberries. Bananas, pineapples and kiwifruit are great choices, too.
To ensure your fruit pizza is both tasty and nutrient-rich, take note of the following tips:
When buying fruits for the topping or cauliflower for the pizza crust, buy organic fruits and vegetables from a farmer you trust or from farmers markets near you to mitigate your exposure to health-damaging pesticides, herbicides and insecticides.
If you’re planning a delicious picnic with your friends and family this summer, surprise them with this easy and yummy fruit pizza. It’s a healthy and refreshing alternative to this popular snack.
Siim Land,1 a sociocultural anthropologist, entrepreneur and high-performance coach, is also the author of an excellent book, "Metabolic Autophagy: Practice Intermittent Fasting and Resistance Training to Build Muscle and Promote Longevity (Metabolic Autophagy Diet Book 1)."
I met Land at Dave Asprey's 2019 Upgrade Labs' event, formally known as the Bulletproof Conference, and was impressed with his depth of knowledge. "Metabolic Autophagy" is a marvelous companion book to "Fat for Fuel: A Revolutionary Diet to Combat Cancer, Boost Brain Power, and Increase Your Energy."
That said, it's still a great standalone, as it goes into great detail and provides specific protocols for you to follow. Importantly, it clears up one of the primary confusions about autophagy. A common fallacy is that since autophagy is a good thing, you should activate it continuously. This simply isn't true, and could backfire rather severely, especially if you're older.
One way to remain in autophagy is to minimize protein, and if you're on a chronic low-protein diet, you never really activate anabolism, the building of muscle tissue. Land does a magnificent job of clearing up that confusion and giving very specific cycling protocols to help make sure you're maintaining your muscle mass and getting the full benefits of autophagy.
Land's interest in autophagy began in high school, when he began doing intermittent fasting. One of his primary aims was to improve his body composition in the easiest way possible.
"At first, I didn't delve into the longevity aspect of it, but after a while, it kind of just emerged — this idea of autophagy and stem cells," he says. "I went down the rabbit hole and started to realize that it's a very critical part of antiaging, as well as just general homeostasis of your cellular functioning.
The reason I started writing the book was because there were a lot of misconceptions about autophagy and fasting. 'It's the best thing. You want to have it all the time.' But coming from this background of doing some amateur bodybuilding, I realized it doesn't actually make sense to chronically activate autophagy.
You don't want to be in this fasted, ketosis state all the time. I wanted to refute some of the misconceptions about it, especially [issues relating to] protein and mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) and anabolism, because those are important aspects of healthy aging, like having more muscle."
For those who have not studied biochemistry and are unfamiliar with molecular biology, Land does a terrific job of breaking it down to the basics. Reading his book can save you hundreds of hours of reading intense molecular biology literature.
In brief, autophagy translates into "self-eating." It refers to the biological process in which your cellular parts are recycled. "Simplistically put, it's a recycling mechanism that prevents the accumulation of old and worn-out organelles, whether that be broken-down mitochondria, reactive oxygen species [or] inflammatory cytokines," Land explains.
"Autophagy is this process that your body goes through when it wants to or when it needs to repair and heal itself. It has a critical role in many of the diseases that we suffer from. Conditions like insulin resistance [and] liver disease can benefit from autophagy.
Even Alzheimer's and heart failure — they're kind of connected with the processes of autophagy. Deficient autophagy has been shown to be very causative for those things and promotes these diseases."
Autophagy gets activated during nutrient starvation and energy deprivation. Whenever your body is deficient in critical nutrients such as amino acids, proteins, carbide, glucose or carbon, just to name a few, autophagy is activated, allowing your body to recycle these components.
Other downstream pathways also come into play to support this rejuvenating process, such as sirtuins, AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and forkhead box (FOX) proteins. "All of them have been found to be the central components of longevity when it comes to things like caloric restriction and exercise," Land says.
"In mice … blocking autophagy while being on caloric restriction doesn't promote [increased] lifespan, whereas when they have autophagy activated, then they will live longer when put on caloric restriction. Caloric restriction is one of the few known ways of promoting lifespan and one of the most effective ways.
Actually, the focus shouldn't be on caloric restriction. The focus should be on autophagy, because if you won't get autophagy even when you're storing, then you won't see those desired benefits. That's one of the critical components."
The problem with calorie restriction is that it's enormously difficult to do, and compliance is low. The good news is that calorie restriction is not necessary. You can get the same results through intermittent fasting and regular fasting. Calorie restriction also has drawbacks, such as malnutrition, frailty, loss of muscle mass and bone density, for example, which are side stepped when intermittently fasting.
"Intermittent fasting is literally like biohacking caloric restriction, because you mimic most of the benefits of caloric restriction. You will get more autophagy from intermittent fasting because you're in a fasted state and you don't necessarily need to restrict your calories, restrict your protein or become malnourished to gain those benefits."
Like me, Land uses a restricted eating window, eating all of his meals within four-hours every day. I use a four- to five-hour window. Importantly, this is not the same as calorie restriction. You're not restricting the amounts of calories you consume; you're simply restricting the time in which you eat them, and by so doing, you're able to activate autophagy.
As explained by Land, even small amounts of food will inhibit autophagy. "Eating a bagel is going to stop autophagy. That's literally the breakfast of most people in the world," he says. "They're immediately inhibiting the benefits of caloric restriction and the benefits of intermittent fasting if they break autophagy immediately in the morning."
The key is to maintain a close-to-zero-calorie state that isn't going to raise your insulin and put you in an anabolic state (which is a fed state). In other words, the fasted state is what allows your body to remain in autophagy. Granted, there are degrees of inhibition depending on the type of nutrients you eat. Land explains:
"The nutrient status is being constantly monitored by fuel censors like mTOR, the main growth pathway. The opposite of that is AMPK. These two are like the yin and yang of your metabolism. They're constantly monitoring what kind of fuel is burning through your bloodstream.
Based upon that information, they're going to decide whether they're going to grow or whether they're going to activate autophagy to recycle themselves. Throughout the entire day, those fuel sensors are balancing each other out, so they can't coexist a lot.
Whenever you eat the bagel, the bagel is going to raise insulin levels and activate mTOR and it will put you in the feasted state, which will inhibit autophagy.
But at the same time, if you eat something more along the lines of a ketogenic meal, then that's going to have a significantly lower anabolic response because it doesn't raise insulin and it doesn't have extra amino acids.
So, there's definitely degrees [of autophagy inhibition], with high amounts of carbs and high amounts of protein being more anabolic and more mTOR-stimulating. Things like low-carb, moderate-protein and higher fat, those would be more AMPK-stimulating, [thus] they are able to maintain autophagy for longer or much more easily."
Of course, the length of your fast will also have an effect. For instance, after a 24- or 48-hour fast, your AMPK will be much higher and mTOR significantly suppressed — far more so than after a 16-hour fast. In this case, your buffer zone is greater, meaning certain foods will not have as great an impact on autophagy.
"In that case, taking collagen protein or something that doesn't have the anabolic amino acids … wouldn't interfere with autophagy that much, as long as you stay within a certain threshold of calories," Land says.
Land, who has the physique of a well-trained gymnast, is a sterling role model for how a well-planned program that cycles through autophagy and anabolism can transform your body. His own program typically consists of 20 hours of fasting per day and eating all of his meals within four hours.
When breaking his fast sooner, say after 16 or 18 hours instead of 20, he does it by drinking bone broth or something similar. This breaks the fast, yet doesn't do it completely. "I'll still maintain the semi-fasted state until I have the rest of the calories," he says. He also dispels concerns about losing muscle mass through fasting.
"The truth is you won't be losing muscle when you are fasting as long as you're in ketosis and you're keto-adapted, because your body will become very efficient at using ketones and fat for fuel, and then it becomes much more muscle-preserving.
But at the same time, if you're trying to build muscle, then having some source of amino acids circulating in the bloodstream during exercise or during resistance training will help to maintain more muscle and also help to recover faster.
For that, whenever I'm doing like a heavier resistance training or workout or doing some gymnastic rings or something like that, then I'll have a little bit of protein powder or some collagen protein during the workout to shield any potential negative side effects of working out in a fasted state …
… because at that point, I don't care if I stop autophagy because I've already been fasting for 18 to 20 hours. Having the protein shake isn't going to be interfering with my goals. It's going to actually build [muscle]."
There are two distinct metabolic pathways you can activate: autophagy (catabolism, the breakdown or repair of your tissues) and mTOR (anabolism, which is the rebuilding process). The mTOR pathway is essentially a protein sensing pathway, and is activated by protein and insulin.
I used to be overly concerned about activating mTOR, thinking it was probably best to avoid activating it as much as possible, as mTOR is a major driver of chronic disease and aging. This isn't completely true and Land's book does an excellent job of clearing up this common misconception.
As with autophagy, you don't want mTOR chronically activated, but you do want to cyclically activate it on a regular basis. Now, if you're doing a two-day fast, that's not the time to do heavy resistance training, because that would result in trying to activate anabolism and autophagy at the same time. It's like pressing the brake and accelerator on your car simultaneously, which isn't a good idea. So, when fasting, remember why you're doing it. Land explains:
"You can't really build muscle doing extended fasts. The goal of any prolonged fast is to go into deeper autophagy and essentially promote cellular clearance [and] heal yourself.
At that point, I don't see a point in trying to have a heavy resistance training workout, because first of all, you don't have enough energy to actually reach your personal record. Secondly, your body doesn't respond to it as beneficially. You may potentially just put additional stress on your body.
What I like to do on these longer fasts is some easier workouts with body weight or resistance bands just to stimulate the muscle. That would just signal the body that it still needs to preserve more lean tissue. If I were to do a heavy workout and then not eat anything afterwards either, I'll set myself up for failure. That's going to inevitably lead to more muscle catabolism.
You shouldn't think of trying to catch two rabbits at the same time. You'd want to focus on one thing at a time: either deeper autophagy or trying to build lean tissue with the deactivation of mTOR. It's supposed to be cyclical, punctuated almost. If you're trying to do both at the same time, then you end up not getting the benefits of either."
When it comes to muscle building, the timing of anabolism activation can make a big difference. To optimize muscle building, you want to do heavy resistance training while in a fasted state and then refeed directly afterward. As noted by Land, working out fasted might slightly reduce your maximum performance, but you don't need to work out at your personal max to improve strength and muscle development.
"The key is to do it consistently, and send the right signal to your body on a daily basis, within this 24-hour period," he says. "It's smarter to backload most of your calories into the post-workout scenario because, in that case, you can get away with mild caloric restriction and still be able to build muscle.
If you were to eat all of your calories before the workout, and then not eat anything after the workout, then it's harder to maintain more muscle in a caloric deficit. You may be able to do it without a caloric surplus, but staying in a caloric surplus all the time isn't going to be good …
By back loading [i.e., eating after your workout] … you still gain the anabolic response from resistance training and still recover adequately despite having worked out in a fasted state and despite eating only within a few hours of the day."
That said, there may be some benefit to eating a small amount of protein right before your workout. From this discussion in Land's book, I started eating two raw eggs before my workout.
"For the goal of muscle growth and muscle preservation, it's definitely a good idea to have some amino acids and some protein in the system while you are working out. It doesn't have to be a lot. You probably can get away even with even just 10 grams of protein. That's going to be enough and it won't spike insulin. It won't kick you out of a fasted state completely," Land says.
Land also does a fine job defining hormesis in his book. It's an important concept that can be summarized as "Whatever doesn't kill you is going to make you stronger." It's a biological strategy that allows your body to adapt to environmental stressors, be it calorie restriction, starvation, cold or heat, for example.
Hormesis also produces effects similar to that of autophagy because it's stimulated by similar pathways, including AMPK, FOXO proteins and sirtuins. Intermittent fasting, for example, is a mild stressor that activates hormesis. High-intensity exercise is another, more intense activator.
"Those hormetic stressors, they kind of carry over to different areas of stress exposure. Like if I'm able to fast, then I at least notice that I'm also able to endure more cold and heat, or have more endurance … Other ways of activating hormesis is doing saunas and combining that with cold [exposure] like an ice bath or ice plunge."
In our interview, we also discuss other benefits of near-infrared saunas and heat-shock proteins, which are a corollary to autophagy. In summary, a primary function of heat-shock proteins is to properly refold misfolded proteins, which is one of the reasons why sauna therapy is so beneficial for overall health. Heat also stimulates autophagy.
We also discuss the importance of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+), a coenzyme found in all cells that is required for biological processes, including energy homeostasis. During our youth, NAD supplementation is a nonissue, but with age, your NAD level starts to decline.
One of the greatest consumers of the NAD+ molecule is poly-ADP ribose polymerase (PARP), a DNA repair enzyme. I'm currently researching this issue, and it appears the dose in NAD augmentation therapy is highly dependent on your age.
For people under the age of 30 or 40, it's likely a nonissue unless you have a chronic health issue. Once you're in your 40s, however, NAD augmentation becomes an important strategy.
The good news is there are many ways to boost NAD naturally, such as exercise, which dramatically increases a rate-limiting enzyme for NAD called nicotinamide phosphoribosyltransferase or NAMPT. Fasting will also increase NAD, which is yet another of its benefits.
The problem most people face is that they stop or radically reduce their exercising when they get older. The frailty associated with old age is in part because nicotinamide builds up and is not converted back to NAD. Nicotinamide also inhibits sirtuins, important longevity proteins. Once you stop getting the benefits of sirtuins and NAD, longevity suffers.
"All these pathways are very context-dependent," Land notes. "What's the optimal amount of autophagy? Or what's the optimal amount of NAD+? It depends upon your age. It depends upon your medical condition and physical conditions as well. I can get away with probably a little bit more fasting compared to someone who is very old.
Because the older the person, they're experiencing more anabolic resistance as well, so it's harder for them to maintain muscle. They shouldn't fast that long. They would actually benefit from increased protein intake and definitely maintaining resistance training to promote anabolism and make sure they don't lose muscle …"
This is an important point that Land expounds upon in his book. Protein levels, specifically, change with age, and maintaining muscle will require different strategies depending on your age. Along with decreasing NAD levels, you'll also see a reduction in growth hormone with age, and your ability to synthesize protein and build tissue goes down.
"To compensate for that, you just need to increase your protein intake a little bit to have a bigger bank of amino acids to pull from, making sure that the stimulus for muscle hypertrophy and muscle growth is still there in the example of lifting weights and doing resistance training.
That's a very important part of avoiding the negative side effects of aging, such as muscle loss, because if you lose your muscle, then you also become more predisposed to all the other diseases, like diabetes. You're predisposed to insulin resistance and even Alzheimer's …
Muscle mass is like a huge pension fund for healthy aging, because with more muscle, you're more insulin-sensitive. You have bigger glycogen stores. You can get away with eating more calories. You essentially have a bigger protection against all different diseases.
You also don't need to restrict yourself that much when it comes to fasting and calories, because muscle mass helps you to live longer. It seems like one of the predictors of all-cause mortality is the amount of muscle mass. That's being used more and more in research and other research as well."
Land also recommends cycling the amounts of protein you consume. For instance, on a fasting day, protein intake can be low, because you don't need it for muscle recovery, whereas higher protein intake will benefit you the most on days you're doing strength training.
Land recommends a protein intake of 0.6 grams per pound of lean body mass on the low end and 0.8 to 1.0 gram per pound of lean body weight on the high end. To calculate your lean body mass, determine your percentage of body fat and deduct that from your total weight. So, if you have 20% body fat, then your lean mass would be 80% of your total weight. Then multiply that by, say, 0.8 grams to calculate your protein requirement.
In closing, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Land's book, "Metabolic Autophagy: Practice Intermittent Fasting and Resistance Training to Build Muscle and Promote Longevity (Metabolic Autophagy Diet Book 1)." You can also find a wealth of information on Land's YouTube channel and website, SiimLand.com.
We discuss a lot more than I've summarized here, so for more information, please listen to the interview in its entirety. Toward the end, we review the benefits of KAATSU training, for example, also referred to as blood flow restriction training, which allows you to boost muscle growth using far less weight. Another topic we delve into is the importance of sleep, and the negative side effects of sleep deprivation.
The take-home message of this interview though, is the importance of time-restricted eating. Even if you eat high-quality food, if you're grazing for 16 hours a day, you're sabotaging your health. A related point is to eat your last meal at least three of four hours before bed. Land recommends four hours. I typically try to aim for five hours.
Time-restricted eating may even allow you to get away with a diet that isn't entirely ideal, as it blocks many of the harmful effects of a poor diet, likely because you're regularly activating autophagy.
"Time-restricted eating and intermittent fasting is definitely one of the most important, most effective ways of promoting healthy aging and longevity, as well as improving body composition," Land says.
"You shouldn't worry about restricting your protein, et cetera, if you're doing some form of fasting, because you're already suppressing the anabolic pathways area to approaching overconsumption whether you're in a fasted state, so you don't have to worry about it because you're doing it more diligently and you're getting a bigger effect from that."
Psyllium husk comes from the Plantago ovata plant, which is home to nearly 15,000 tiny seeds.1 This plant is commonly found in India, although it is also grown in many other countries around the world.2 It's been hailed as a fiber source that may aid people dealing with multiple health problems. This page will help you learn about psyllium husk's uses and benefits, and how much of it you should be taking.
Psyllium husk, a soluble fiber sometimes called ispaghula,3 is typically used as a bulk-forming laxative.4 It tends to absorb water and once it does, it swells and develops into a gelatin-like mass that may assist with moving waste through your intestinal tract,5 provide water to stools and promote smoother bowel movements.6
Whole psyllium husk is available as a powder or as a wafer, although you can also find capsules, granules and even liquids containing it.7 However, I encourage you to purchase organic psyllium husk only, as most psyllium crops are sprayed with harmful pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers.
By purchasing organic psyllium husk, you can ensure that there's a lower risk of these substances entering the body and causing further harm. Organic psyllium husk may also be a better option compared to fiber supplements,8 some of which tend to utilize synthetic or semi-synthetic ingredients, such as methylcellulose9 and calcium polycarbophil.10
Psyllium husk's health benefits can be attributed to its dietary fiber content.11 As a soluble fiber, psyllium husk acts as a prebiotic12 that facilitates the nourishment of beneficial bacteria in your gut and helps improve immune function.13
People with Type 2 diabetes and those who are at risk of getting this disease may benefit from psyllium husk because of its potential to improve glycemic control.14 Studies suggest that it can assist with decreasing glycemic responses to meals15 and lowering insulin and blood sugar levels.16,17
Psyllium husk is also said to help people maintain a healthy weight18,19,20 since it can absorb liquid in the body21 and induce a feeling of satiety.22 These effects may be linked to psyllium husk's tendency to be water-soluble and viscous.23
Some studies also revealed that psyllium husk may be helpful in optimizing cholesterol ratios24,25 and in promoting bile acid synthesis.26 This may pave the way for improved heart health, as psyllium husk was also found to be helpful in lowering the risk for cardiovascular disease27 by decreasing blood pressure levels28 and improving good cholesterol levels.29 Lastly, some researchers have discovered that psyllium husk may be beneficial for people with:
Psyllium husk has been primarily utilized as a bulk laxative that soaks up water,32 softens hard stool33 and enables smoother bowel movements.34 Psyllium husk can also assist in promoting regular bowel movements35 and in counteracting constipation36 and diarrhea.37,38
Ideally, people must strive to get a minimum of 50 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories consumed. Organic whole husk psyllium can provide as much as 18 grams of fiber, if taken three times a day, helping raise your overall fiber intake.
According to some studies, psyllium husk can lead to positive effects when it comes to:
Since psyllium husk was touted as a notable source of dietary fiber, other studies have proven that this nutrient can assist in reducing the risk for:
While most people who take psyllium husk may tolerate it well,46 there are some who experience minor side effects. For starters, psyllium husk powder can lead to gas or abdominal cramps. There is also a threat of choking linked to psyllium husk powder, and people may experience chest pains, vomiting and swallowing or breathing difficulties.
This is why WebMD advises that psyllium husk powder should be taken alongside a full glass of high-quality filtered water or other liquid so it doesn't amass in the throat and trigger instances of choking.
Serious allergic reactions to psyllium husk are rare. However, if indicators of a serious allergic reaction appear such as rashes, itching or swelling of the face, tongue or throat, severe dizziness, or trouble breathing, seek medical attention immediately.47
If you belong to any of these groups and plan to take psyllium husk, talk to your doctor so you're properly guided regarding the proper way to take it and know the ideal amount needed for your health status:
Also, if you fall under these categories you should avoid taking psyllium husk:50
As the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center highlights, If you're taking any of these medicines you should avoid using psyllium husk supplements (or even powder), unless your doctor has given you permission to do so:52
Always be careful of the type of psyllium husk that you buy, since there are products that might look harmless and effective, but can cause health risks. If you don't have access to any variation of psyllium husk, Healthy Eating SF Gate notes that these substitutes can be helpful:53
Aside from these substitutes for psyllium husk powder, I also recommend naturally increasing your fiber intake through your diet. Monash University highlights some of the best prebiotic-rich (and ultimately, fiber-rich) foods you can consume:64
Psyllium husk, especially the organic variety, has proven its worth in delivering important health benefits. Taking organic psyllium husk is one of the most crucial ways to raise your dietary fiber intake, probably even more so than other foods. The studies mentioned above have also verified that psyllium husk does exert some positive effects toward certain conditions.
Just remember that 100% organic psyllium husk is the most ideal type of psyllium husk to purchase, given its low risk of being sprayed with harmful pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers. If you want to take this therapeutically, though, consult a doctor or health professional first to determine the psyllium husk dosage that's optimal for your condition.
Q: What is psyllium husk powder?
A: Psyllium husk powder comes from the psyllium husk, which is derived from the seeds of a plant called Plantago ovata. The plant is most common in India66 and produces nearly 15,000 tiny seeds.67
Q: What is psyllium husk good for?
A: Psyllium husk is a good source of dietary fiber68 and can be beneficial for improving overall health and body function because it may:
• Act as a prebiotic that nourishes beneficial bacteria69,70
• Help lower risk for health problems like colorectal cancer,71 gallstones72 and even stroke73
• Address symptoms linked to irritable bowel syndrome74
• Promote healthy glycemic control among people with diabetes75,76,77,78
• Help with weight maintenance79 and weight loss80,81
• Aid with optimizing cholesterol ratios82,83 and promoting better heart health84,85,86
Q: Is psyllium husk gluten free?
A: According to authors of this 2017 article published in the Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, psyllium husk is gluten-free and may be helpful for people with celiac disease who want to increase their fiber intake.87
Q: What are the uses of psyllium husk?
A: Psyllium husk acts as a laxative88 that softens stool and helps promote more regular bowel movements.89 It may be used to help address constipation,90 diarrhea91 and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).92 It also helps lower the risk of developing gallstones.93
Q: How can you take psyllium husk?
A: Psyllium husk powder should be taken with a full glass of high-quality filtered water to prevent choking.94
Q: When is it best to take psyllium husk?
A: I recommend taking psyllium before or during mealtimes, along with liquids such as water.
Genetically modified seeds, the weed killer Roundup (glyphosate), and other dangerous agro chemicals and pesticides have hijacked our food system. This chemically-based method of industrial agriculture has irrevocably damaged the soil. It kills the microorganisms that provide the nutrients needed for plant growth and nutrition, depleting the soil minerals that enrich our food.
Because of soil depletion, fruits and vegetables grown decades ago were much richer in vitamins and minerals than those grown today;1 each successive generation of pesticide-resistant, gene-altered fruits and vegetables now is less nutritious than the one before.
That is why I highly recommend starting your own garden to supply fresh, organic foods to your family and avoid these destructive agricultural practices. I recently saw a documentary, “Nebraska Retiree Uses Earth's Heat to Grow Oranges in Snow,”2 about a former wheat farmer who is perfecting the art of indoor gardening in dramatic ways.
Russ Finch, a retired wheat farmer and postal worker who resides in Alliance, Nebraska, has used his aptitude for physics to solve two major agricultural hurdles: how to grow year-round produce in cold climates that can hover under zero degrees and how to do so economically.
After retirement, Finch heard about the possibilities of geothermal energy. Despite encountering skepticism from University of Nebraska scientists about his idea to grow citrus fruit in the coldest of climates, Finch proceeded. This is how Grower Talks describes his initial project.3
"So he constructed a 70-ft.-long greenhouse with a 4-ft.-deep pit. The pit allowed Russ to experiment not only with off-season plants, but trees, planting them directly into the ground. A 10-in. wheel blower was used to circulate the air through seven 6-in. tubes, with a total length of 1,050 ft.
It’s a completely closed-loop system, continuously recycling the same air. Using low-grade geothermal energy (referred to as geo air) alone, Russ was able to successfully maintain a consistent heat of 52F from one end of the greenhouse to the other without any back-up heat.
During the day, the internal heat increased due to the prolific, bright sunlight that the high altitudes of Nebraska is known for. The roof is slanted to the south, taking advantage of the solar rays to increase the temperature from 52F to the mid-70s (at times 80s) during the sunnier winter days. Russ was able to achieve his ideal temperature."
The warm air, obtained from perforated plastic tubing that is buried underground, is all that’s used for heat for the greenhouse — no propane or electric heaters. “All we try to do is keep it above 28 degrees in the winter,” said Finch. "The only heat source is the Earth’s heat, at 52 degrees at 8 foot deep."4 The heat is then returned to the ground to heat the structure during the cooler evenings.5
Finch's geothermal energy-based farming has been fruitful, pun intended. The greenhouse includes 20 citrus trees with 13 varieties of fruits, along with cacti, orchids, nine varieties of grapes, figs, avocados, ivy, tomatoes, garden plants and flowers.6 One 24-year-old tree will grow to be 100 years old or more, says Finch.7
Each tree is capable of producing as much as 125 pounds of fruit every year which Finch sells at local farmers markets.8 The year-round growing and low transportation costs help the marketability of the products says Finch –– and "locally grown" can be just as much of a sales point as "organic." Finch sells Valencia oranges, the fruit from which most juice comes. The temperatures are so salutatory, you could probably grow bananas too, he muses.9
Yet the energy costs associated with running the geothermal greenhouse are surprisingly low –– less than a dollar a day. A geothermal greenhouse Finch designed for a local high school in Alliance has used an average of 96 cents a day in energy costs for the last several years.10
Nor are construction costs high. "It only took two of us a few hours to put up the frame," says Finch. Despite how cost prohibitive farming can be with huge economic barriers, "young people could get into this for less than the price of a tractor," he says.11
Finch also sells the greenhouse "kits" that can be installed in increments of 6 feet by fitting the pieces into sections. A farmer or rancher with a backhoe and construction skills, "can put one up for about $23,000,” says Finch.
Herbicides like Roundup and pesticides which include the notorious chlorpyrifos, atrazine and neonicotinoids, have endangered much of the U.S. food system, polluted our water systems and contributed to resistant pathogens.
The so-called Dirty Dozen with the highest pesticide concentrations include strawberries, apples, nectarines, peaches, celery, grapes, cherries, spinach, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, cherry tomatoes and cucumbers. Human consumption of pesticides has been linked to cancer risks, fertility problems and other health concerns.
Fortunately, there are safe, effective and natural alternatives for almost any pest problem that an individual gardener might come across. For example, a mashed garlic paste combined with a little cayenne pepper or horseradish made into a homemade garden spray will discourage most pests.
Add a small amount to a gallon jug of water and let it sit for a day or two, shaking it occasionally. The only caution is you should spray a small amount onto a few leaves first as a "test" to make sure the formula is not so strong that it burns leaves or stems.
In the documentary, Finch has some intriguing pest control methods of his own. This is how the Star Herald describes them.12
"Insect pests such as white flies or aphids sometimes show up, but he keeps them in check with a horticultural oil spray that works by smothering the insects or their eggs or disrupting the way they feed. He began using the oil after trying for several years to control the bugs with poison.
'The bugs got immune to it," he said. With the new method, "You can spray a berry and eat it, because it’s just mineral oil.'"
Because Finch's greenhouses rely on geothermal heat in winter, they need to be at least 54 feet long for maximum efficiency. "That kind of rules it out for a city lot,” he says. “Most all of them are going to farms and ranches."13
But a hydroponic farm (sometimes called a container farm) in Robbinsville Township, New Jersey, is also thinking outside of the agricultural box –– growing high quality local herbs and greens in an urbanized setting with a small footprint.14
The crops, which are grown in assembled containers from the umbrella organization Freight Farms, are high quality local herbs and greens grown on a small footprint that can be sold to restaurants which support farm-to-table produce.
Basil, mint and kale tend to be the most popular crops followed by spinach. The crops are generally kept at 75 degrees during the day and 65 degrees at night and can be maintained by one person for as little as 25 hours a week. Customers also come directly to the Robbinsville township hydroponic farm to purchase greens.
Cannabis farming is another agriculture sector benefiting from out-of-the-box thinking. At one operation, the Los Sueños Farms outside of Pueblo, Colorado, some plants are grown outside, some in greenhouses and some in greenhouses with no walls to allow solar maximization while permitting fresh air to circulate and prevent too much heat from accumulating. The choice of under what conditions to grow them depends on their genetic expression.
For outdoor plants, drones with different lenses hover over the plants, reporting their respiration rate, any insects or disease risks and plants that might be struggling for one reason or another to the growers. Humidity and lighting are computer controlled for indoor plants and an advanced drip watering system with an emitter every 12 inches provides pressure compensated irrigation and the ability to provide specific nutrients.
The 36-acre farm, which consists of four separate farms, processes 40,000 pounds of "biomass" each harvest. While the machinery does not require human labor, a quality control person inspects the product as it comes out of the twister to make sure all stems have been removed at their base.
If you live near local farmers markets, you are fortunate –– but many are forced to rely on grocery stores for their fruits and vegetables. That is why Russ Finch's geothermal energy greenhouses are such encouraging news.