Chia Is Easy to Grow


By Dr. Mercola

If you were alive in the 1970s and 80s, you undoubtedly remember the "chia pet" craze. Cultivating one of these characters was easily accomplished by applying moistened chia seeds to a grooved terra cotta figurine and watering them daily until they sprouted. Because chia seeds become gel-like when wet, they adhered to the pottery in such a way as to create tuffs of green sprouts that mimicked fur, hair and beards.

While the market for those terra cotta creations has waned, the interest in chia seeds and chia sprouts has experienced explosive growth. Part of the reason is chia's nutritional profile. Chia seeds are high in antioxidants, fiber, omega-3 fats and other beneficial nutrients. If you've never considered growing chia, perhaps you may reconsider after learning more about this superb superfood.

What Is Chia?

Chia seeds are harvested from the plant Salvia hispanica, a flowering plant that is a member of the mint (Lamiaceae) family. Chia is native to central and southern Mexico and parts of Central America. Due to its popularity, it is now grown commercially in several countries around the world, including Argentina, Australia, Bolivia and the U.S.1

Chia's tiny oval seeds boast a shiny, mottled seed coat that can be black, brown, gray or white. The plant itself is an annual herb characterized by dark-green leaves that are wrinkled and deeply lobed. When mature, numerous purple and white, somewhat self-pollinating flowers, emerge from a central spike.

The History of Chia

According to Britannica.com, chia was:2

  • Widely used in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica for medicinal and religious purposes, as well as a major food source for indigenous peoples
  • Roasted in seed form and ground into flour by the Aztecs, who also ate chia seeds whole
  • Overtaken by barley and wheat when Spanish conquerors introduced those and other grains to the "new world"

Chia's production as a food crop dropped off until the late 20th century. Its use, some assert, was somewhat revived due to the popularity of the chia pet in the late 1970s and '80s. At that time, chia began to make a comeback as an alternative crop and health food. Today, chia is well-regarded for its nutritional profile, including its rich stores of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids and dietary fiber, among other benefits.

Tips on Growing Chia

Chia is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 8 to 11.3 It is characterized as a desert plant that grows well in sandy loam soils. Chia plants need moisture during the growth cycle but can cope with moderate drought once established. The plant resists insect pests and diseases, perhaps in part due to the natural repellant properties of chia leaves. Chia's pest and disease resistance make it highly desirable for organic production.

Given proper conditions and ample space to grow, chia is one of the easiest herbs to grow. If you are interested in growing a full plant from which you can harvest chia seeds, you can either make space in your garden or plant chia in containers. Another option is to sprout chia, which I will address later in this article. Gardening experts provide the following helpful information on how to plant chia:4,5

Due to chia's frost intolerance, you'll want to plant your seeds early in the spring

Choose a sunny, well-drained area of your garden

Rather than dig a hole, you can simply rake and loosen the soil bed and lightly sprinkle a small amount of seeds over the area

After applying the seeds, gently press them into the soil or scatter a small amount of soil over them

Water the area well and continue to water your chia seeds whenever the soil is dry to the touch, until the plants are well-established

Thin the plants when seedlings appear to maintain proper spacing

As an alternative to direct sowing in the ground, SF Gate suggests you can start chia indoors in March or April. Under proper conditions, the seeds will germinate in three to 14 days. Plant your chia seeds indoors by:6

  • Scattering a small amount of chia seeds on top of a moist paper towel or over a seed-starting mix
  • Watering the seeds immediately and keeping them moist and warm
  • Exposing them to six to eight hours of bright light every day
  • Waiting until the seedlings are at least 6 inches tall — or roughly four to six weeks after germination — before plucking them out individually and transplanting them into your garden or containers

When transferring your seedlings to the garden, be sure to maintain 12 to 18 inches of spacing on all sides. When transplanting them into containers, start with a large pot to ensure it will accommodate future growth as the plant matures. Chia plants can easily grow 3 to 5 feet tall and about 18 inches wide. Flowers will generally appear about four months after germination. Your plants must flower if you want to harvest chia seeds.

Harvesting Chia Seeds

The key to harvesting7,8 chia seeds is to wait for the flower spikes to fully develop. Chia flowers will attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden. After they are pollinated, the flowers die back and tiny seeds develop. You can encourage bloom production by deadheading the flowers.

The best time to begin collecting individual flower heads is after most of the petals have fallen off. You can place harvested flower spikes on a drying rack or inside an open paper bag so air will circulate in a manner that will dry the flowers.

Once the flowers are completely dry, you can crush the spikes by hand, which will reveal the seeds. You'll want to separate the dry plant material from the seeds. Maintain the seeds in dry form until ready for use. As soon as you rinse chia seeds, they will begin to absorb water, which means you'll need to use them right away. If you do not harvest the seeds and they are allowed to spill out on the ground, you can expect sparrows and other seed-eating birds to devour them.

Chia Seeds Contain Healthy Fats, Fiber and Protein

While you may be aware that chia seeds are nutritious, you may not know about the specific attributes known to make them so beneficial. For starters, a 1-ounce serving (about 2 tablespoons) of chia seeds contains 138 calories, 5 grams (g) of protein, 10 g of fiber and 9 g of fat.9 Chia seeds are good for you because they:10,11

Boast very high levels of antioxidants

Are rich in omega-3 fatty acids — even more so than flaxseed — and unlike flaxseed, chia can be stored long-term without fear of rancidity

Can be eaten whole and are easily digestible and bioavailable when consumed whole

Possess 18 percent of your recommended dietary allowance of calcium (in a 1-ounce serving)

Contain vitamins A, B, C and E

Are a good source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc

In addition, chia seeds are naturally gluten-free and were included in my list of 10 Superfoods for Digestive Health.

Popular Uses for Chia Seeds

Eaten dry, chia seeds provide a nice crunch and a slightly nutty flavor. If you're looking for ways to use chia seeds that stretch beyond applying them to a piece of "chia pet" pottery, you may be interested to use chia seeds or sprouts in:12

Baked goods

Breading

Jams

Juices

Mousses

Puddings

Salads and salad dressing

Sandwiches

Smoothies

Thickeners

Yogurt

Water

Other options include using chia in its gelatinous form as an energy gel, especially if you add the seeds to coconut water, or in recipes as a substitute for eggs. If you're looking for a refreshing dessert that is also healthy, try this Guilt-Free Chia Seed Pudding recipe.

Cautions About Eating Chia Seeds

Below are several cautions that you should consider before adding chia seeds to your diet:13,14

Similar to all grains and seeds, chia seeds contain phytates, also known as phytic acid, which are considered antinutrients. These compounds are known to block the absorption of certain minerals and other nutrients, which is why you'll want to limit your consumption. Also, to reduce phytates, consider soaking chia seeds prior to eating them.

Given their high fiber content and ability to expand as a gel when added to liquid, chia seeds are said to have the effect of suppressing your appetite. If you have digestive issues, check with your doctor before consuming chia seeds.

To prevent digestive upset, due to the high fiber content, limit your intake of chia seeds to 1 to 2 ounces a day. In addition, since they are able to absorb up to 12 times their volume when introduced to water, you'll want to stay well hydrated when consuming whole chia seeds.

Chia seeds can increase the effect of certain medications, particularly those used to treat high blood pressure and other heart conditions, as well as diabetes. If you take medication of any kind, check with your doctor before adding chia to your diet.

Avoid chia if you have a known allergy to nuts, seeds, mint or other members of the mint family, such as basil, lavender or oregano.

If you have a history of dysphagia or esophageal restrictions be aware of the potential danger of chia seeds, especially in dry form. In one instance, a 39-year-old man required emergency medical assistance to dislodge a gel-like ball of chia seeds that created an esophageal obstruction.15

Try Growing Chia Sprouts

Sprouts offer some of the highest levels of nutrition available, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and enzymes that help protect your body against free radical damage. Many of the benefits of sprouts relate to the fact that, in their initial phase of growth, the plants contain concentrated amounts of nutrients. Chia seeds are no exception, and you can easily grow chia sprouts at home. Sprouts are a fantastic option if you live in an apartment or condo where space is limited. Preparedness Mama explains how to sprout chia seeds:16

Equipment:

  • 1 Tablespoon of chia seeds (will yield 2 cups of sprouts)
  • Recycled clamshell container or glass baking dish with a lid to retain moisture
  • Shallow terra cotta dish to fit inside the above container
  • Spray bottle filled with filtered water

Procedure:

  1. Soak the terra cotta dish in water for a few minutes to moisten it
  2. Sprinkle a small amount of chia seeds onto the terra cotta dish (You can adjust the amount after you have tried this a few times)
  3. Add one-quarter inch of filtered water into the bottom of the clamshell or baking dish and set the terra cotta dish on top of the water
  4. Lightly spritz the seeds with water to moisten them thoroughly; do not overly soak them or they will turn to gel
  5. Close the lid to trap moisture and place the sprouting chamber on your kitchen counter; sprouts will be ready in about four to seven days

Whether you decide to grow chia plants or plan to enjoy chia sprouts, chia is a quick-and-easy source of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, among other beneficial nutrients. I highly recommend chia.




Your How-To Guide for Growing Astragalus


By Dr. Mercola

Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus), a member of the pea family, is an adaptogenic herb with a long history of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine as an immune strengthening tonic, where it goes by the name of Huang Qi and Hwanqqi. Another English name for this shrub is milkvetch.

Adaptogenic herbs help your body adapt to physical, emotional or mental stress. The immune boosting, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties of astragalus also lowers your risk for infections and other diseases. The most important part of the plant is its root, which has a distinct yellow color. For medical use, the root is made into powder, herbal decoctions, tea, capsules and ointments. The raw root can also be used in cooking.

Astragalus oil, which you can make yourself, also has both therapeutic and cosmetic uses. Taken internally, astragalus oil helps boost your immune response by promoting the production of antibodies. It also helps maintain your digestive health and can help alleviate ulcers by promoting the healthy balance of gastric juices and gastric acid in your stomach.

As most adaptogens, astragalus has a rather long list of potential uses. Products containing astragalus have been shown useful in the treatment of chronic weakness and fatigue, bloating, heart failure, night sweats, nephritis, urinary tract infections, allergies, and cold and flu prevention. To take full advantage of this medicinal plant, why not consider growing some in your backyard?1,2,3

Astragalus Growing and Harvesting Guide

Astragalus is a perennial plant with hairy stems that can grow up to 4 feet tall, producing small yellow flowers that eventually turn into egg-shaped beans. Flowering season runs from midsummer through late fall. It grows well in zones 6 through 11. Seeds will germinate in three to 10 days following a three-week-long cold period. However, seed germination rate tends to be low, and should you store seeds, be sure to use them within two years. After that, they may no longer germinate at all.

Once your seeds have been cold stratified, rub the seed on fine sandpaper to rough up the outer shell. Just don’t rub too hard, as you don’t want to damage the inside. This procedure may seem onerous, but will help accelerate and improve germination. Next, soak the seeds in water for a few hours or overnight. Now, the seeds are ready for planting. Start out by planting the seeds in a small pot or starter tray, using high quality seed starting mix.

Press the seeds about one-quarter inch to 1 inch into the soil and cover. Keep soil moist but not soggy until seeds start to sprout. Keep the pots on a window sill or in an area that receives morning sun. Once the seedlings have grown a few inches tall, transfer them to larger pots or straight into your garden, provided there’s no risk of frost.

Contrary to many other plants, astragalus prefers dry, sandy soil, and needs partial shade to full sun. Ideal pH is around 7. If you plant more than one, space them at least 15 feet apart. Since sandy soils tend to dry out quickly, you may need to water more regularly than other plants until it’s established.

Whether you’re growing it in a pot or in the ground, make sure the root ball stays moist. This is particularly important during the summer. Mulching around it will help retain water by slowing down evaporation. Every few months, apply compost or rotted manure around the plant. Avoid all synthetic, inorganic fertilizers and pesticides if you intend to use the root medicinally. Keep in mind that astragalus has a tendency to get invasive if it’s in an ideal spot, so prune annually to maintain the desired shape and size.

The medicinal root can be harvested after two to three years. Two years is generally considered the minimum, or else the rootstock will not be adequately large to make something out of. To harvest the root, use a garden fork or needle-nose spade to loosen the soil around the plant to where you can pull up the taproot.

How to Make Astragalus Oil

Once you’ve harvested the root, there are a variety of ways you can use it. As mentioned earlier, you can make your own astragalus oil for topical or internal use. Here’s how:

Materials

  • Astragalus root
  • Carrier oil (serves as your base; popular choices include sweet almond, coconut oil and olive oil)
  • Spoon for mixing
  • Unbleached cheesecloth, muslin or fine gauze
  • Double boiler or a crockpot
  • Glass jar for storage

Procedure

  1. Combine the root and the oil in the double boiler. The ideal ratio would be 1 cup of carrier oil to every 1/4 ounce of astragalus
  2. Heat slowly over low heat (140 degrees Fahrenheit) for six to eight hours.
  3. When done, strain the mixture and transfer it to a glass jar or container of your choice

How to Make Astragalus Tincture

Another alternative is to make a tincture, which can be taken internally as needed. Heather Harris with The Homesteading Hippy provides a simple 1-to-5 tincture recipe on her site, summarized here. She suggests placing the tincture in capsules if you don’t like the flavor. For more details and dosage suggestions, see thehomesteadinghippy.com.4

  • Pour 10 grams of shredded astragalus root into a large bottle or jar
  • Add 50 milliliters (ml) — 3.38 tablespoons — of 80 proof vodka (if using smaller amounts, use 1 gram of astragalus root for every 5 ml of vodka)
  • Cap the bottle or jar and let the herbs soak for 30 days
  • After 30 days, strain out the root and store the tincture in a glass eyedropper bottle. Stored tightly capped in a cool, dark place, the tincture’s shelf life will be several years

How to Make Astragalus Tea

For an immune-boosting beverage, try making an astragalus tea, made from either fresh or dried root. A simple recipe by Leaf.tv is as follows:5

  • In a pot, add 4 ounces of fresh astragalus root, or 3 to 5 tablespoons of dried root, to 1 quart of water
  • Boil the root for three to four minutes
  • Strain to remove root and debris
  • Serve hot or cold

Astragalus Immune-Boosting Soup Recipe

Last but not least, fresh astragalus root can also be used in your cooking. Chicken soup is known to help speed up the recovery process when you’re sick. By incorporating the astragalus herb, you’re giving it an added medicinal kick. Here’s a sample recipe from homemadechinesesoups.com.6

Ingredients

  • 1 free-range organic chicken thigh
  • 4 slices of astragalus root
  • 8 red dates
  • 1 tablespoon goji berries
  • 500 ml water (17 ounces or a little over a pint)

Procedure (for double-boiling jar)

  1. Wash and clean the chicken thigh. Trim away excess fat and skin.
  2. Parboil the chicken thigh.
  3. Soak the astragalus, red dates and goji berries for a short while.
  4. Cut the red dates into halves and remove the seeds.
  5. Place all the ingredients into the double-boiling jar.
  6. Pour enough cold water into the jar to cover the ingredients.
  7. Place the jar into a deep pot and fill the pot with water until the jar is half submerged.
  8. Bring the pot of water to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about one hour.
  9. Add salt to taste before serving.



Suicide Is on the Rise — Know the Warning Signs, and How to Help


By Dr. Mercola

The recent suicides of fashion designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef and TV personality Anthony Bourdain,1 which occurred within days of each other, have reignited a much-needed public discussion about suicide, mental illness and its treatment. As noted by Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), depression “is not a condition that is related to success or failure. No one is immune.”2

Statistics also reveal suicide rates have risen sharply across the U.S. since the early 2000s, prompting health authorities to call for “a comprehensive approach to addressing depression.”3

However, while a number of headlines scream for new drug treatment,4 I believe we’ll get nowhere fast unless we start to address mental health from a more holistic perspective. It seems quite clear that antidepressants, in addition to not working very well (or in some cases at all), are actually part of the problem thanks to their side effects.

Meanwhile, nutritional deficiencies, a decline in social interaction brought about by increasing reliance on social media and technology, excessive exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs), lack of sleep, “lack of life purpose” or spiritual connection and chronic, unresolved stress are just some of the factors that can contribute to depression, none of which can be addressed by new or more drugs. Specific medical conditions, such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and stroke are also linked to a higher risk of major depressive disorder.

Spade’s Suicide Took Those Closest to Her by Surprise

According to Spade’s husband and business partner, Andy Spade, Kate had struggled with depression and anxiety for several years, and was taking medication for these issues.5,6 The couple separated 10 months ago but lived within blocks of each other, met on a daily basis and had “never even discussed divorce,” according to Andy, who stressed she did not have an alcohol problem or business-related struggles.

Her father, Frank Brosnahan, also confirmed she’d been “taking pills,” which he’d “advised her not to take.”7 Both her husband and father spoke to her the night before her apparent suicide, saying she sounded happy and that there was no indication that she was thinking about taking her own life.8 Both say her suicide was a complete shock.

The same appears to be true for Bourdain, who spent the last five years enthralling viewers with his passion for food and travel in his award-winning series “Parts Unknown.” His body was discovered by Eric Ripert, a French chef and close friend, in his hotel room. Bourdain was in France, working on an upcoming episode.

Overwhelmingly, the sentiment is that he was a passionate and generous individual, a master of his craft and staunch defender of marginalized populations, especially restaurant workers, in the middle of doing something he loved. In fact, some of the last words Bourdain said to his friend Michael Ruhlman was that “love abounds.” “The last I knew, he was in love. He was happy,” Ruhlman said, who was “stunned” by the news.9 His girlfriend Asia Argento appeared equally shocked.

Suicide Statistics

Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the U.S. affecting more than 16 million Americans,10 and the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide.11,12 Globally, rates of depression increased by 18 percent between 2005 and 2015.13 In the U.S., suicide rates have steadily risen since 2000, primarily in more rural areas14,15,16 — a trend blamed on the effects of social isolation, economic pressures, opioid addiction and limited access to mental health care.

Depression can be a terminal illness if a person continually attempts, and eventually is successful at taking their own life. Tragically, suicide has risen sharply among children and teens. This simply must speak to some deeper societal problems at work, although antidepressants may play a role in some of these cases as well.

Many antidepressants are known to increase the risk of suicide in children, teens and young adults,17 yet despite such warnings, these drugs are still often prescribed for younger people. According to the most recent statistics:18,19,20,21,22

  • Between 1999 and 2016, suicide increased by 28 percent across most American demographics; in 25 states, the suicide rate rose by more than 30 percent
  • Between 2008 and 2015, the number of children hospitalized for either thinking about suicide or attempting suicide doubled
  • Among young girls (aged 10 to 19), the suicide rate rose by 70 percent between 2010 and 2016  
  • In 2016, nearly 45,000 Americans committed suicide, making suicide the 10th most common cause of death that year
  • Along with drug overdoses and Alzheimer’s disease, suicide is one of three leading causes of death that are on the rise

Know the 12 Warning Signs of Suicide, and How to Help

While some are better at keeping their depression and any thoughts of suicide well hidden, even from the ones they love, it’s important for everyone to recognize the warning signs, and what they can do to help. According to the CDC, the 12 warning signs that someone may be contemplating or getting close to suicide are:23

  • Feeling like a burden
  • Being isolated
  • Increased anxiety
  • Feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Increased substance use
  • Looking for a way to access lethal means
  • Increased anger or rage
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Expressing hopelessness
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Talking or posting about wanting to die
  • Making plans for suicide

If you notice one or more of these signs, take the following five steps to help. For more information about how to prevent suicide, see bethe1to.com.

  1. Ask how they are feeling and if they are considering ending their life, or if they have a plan to do so
  2. Don’t let them be alone and do your best to keep them safe
  3. Make yourself available to them
  4. Reach out to them daily and help them connect to others
  5. Follow up

If you live in the U.S. and are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text 741-741 for the Crisis Text Line.24 If you are in danger of acting on suicidal thoughts, call 911 for immediate assistance.

Depression Is Not the Sole Cause of Suicide

An important, yet frequently overlooked contributor to depression and other neuropsychiatric disorders is EMF exposure. In 2016, Martin Pall, Ph.D., wrote a magnificent and comprehensive review on this that is available for free online.25 He reviews how regular exposure to low intensity microwaves, like those from your cellphone and Wi-Fi, impact your nervous system. There are even two U.S. government reports that detail this.

It’s also important to realize that depression or other mental illness is not the sole cause of suicide. More than half of those who commit suicide do not have a known mental health condition, according to CDC data. As noted by Julie Beck in her thoughtful article, “When Will People Get Better at Talking About Suicide,”26 published by The Atlantic, “The traumas and losses of people’s lives and the ways they respond to them are infinitely varied and context-dependent. And that makes suicide hard to talk about.”

And yet we must, if we are to save each other from needless tragedy. According to the CDC, contributing factors to suicide in 2015 included the following:27

  • Relationship problems (42 percent)
  • A crisis in the past or upcoming two weeks (29 percent)
  • Substance abuse (28 percent)
  • A physical health problem (22 percent)
  • Work or financial problem (16 percent)
  • Criminal or legal problem (9 percent)
  • Loss of housing (4 percent)

Antidepressants Are Not a Satisfactory Answer

According to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, 11 percent of Americans over the age of 12 are on antidepressant drugs. Among women in their 40 and 50s, 1 in 4 is on antidepressants,28 the side effects of which run the gamut from loss of libido to emotional flatness, restlessness, sleep disturbances, brain damage, and suicidal and/or homicidal ideation.

Antidepressants can also harm your immune system, and raise your risk of Type 2 diabetes by two to three times in high-risk groups.29 These side effects are all the more significant by the fact that there is very little evidence to suggest antidepressants benefit people with mild to moderate depression. In fact, researchers have found they work no better than a placebo in 80 percent of cases.30,31

What’s worse, long-term use of antidepressants may also cause you to develop bipolar disorder or other types of psychoses,32,33 which means you’ll need to graduate to a new or additional medication, often an antipsychotic drug that blocks dopamine receptors in your brain.

There are safer, and in many cases better, alternatives. Many of the basics have been covered in a variety of previous articles on depression and its treatment. In the following sections, you’ll find summary compilations of lifestyle strategies and nutritional interventions that have been shown to be beneficial. Also know that while these lists are extensive, they’re not exhaustive.

Key Dietary Considerations and Helpful Nutritional Supplements

Eat a healthy whole food diet and avoid processed foods and junk food

One of the first steps in addressing problems like anxiety and depression is to clean up your diet and address your gut health. Otherwise, you’ll have virtually no chance of getting healthy emotionally and mentally.

Foods have an immense impact on your mood and ability to cope and be happy, and eating whole foods as described in my nutrition plan will support your mental health. Avoiding sugar and grains, which processed foods are loaded with, will also help normalize your insulin and leptin levels, which is another powerful tool in addressing depression.

Go gluten-free

The gluten level in our grains is much higher today than it ever was before, thanks to various breeding techniques, and gluten can produce depression if you’re sensitive to it. In such a case, the key is to remove gluten from your diet entirely.

Optimize your omega-3 level

Animal-based omega-3 fats are really important for optimal brain function and psychological health. If you haven't read Dr. Andrew L. Stoll's book, “The Omega-3 Connection,” on this subject, I highly recommend it. He is an enlightened Harvard psychiatrist who has written an outstanding book on the topic of treating depression with omega-3.

Optimize your vitamin D level

Making sure you’re getting enough sunlight exposure to have a healthy vitamin D level is also a crucial factor in treating depression or keeping it at bay. Vitamin D deficiency is actually more the norm than the exception, and has previously been implicated in both psychiatric and neurological disorders. One previous study found that people with the lowest levels of vitamin D were 11 times more prone to be depressed than those who had normal levels.

Balance your gut microbiome

Unbalanced gut flora has also been identified as a significant contributing factor to depression, so be sure to optimize your gut health, either by regularly eating traditionally fermented foods or taking a high-quality probiotic.

St. John’s wort

St. John’s wort is commonly used for the treatment of depression. It is available in tablets, capsules and liquid form. Research suggests it exerts its antidepressant action by inhibiting the reuptake of the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine.

Numerous double-blind, placebo-controlled studies have examined the effectiveness of St. John’s wort for the treatment of mild to moderate major depression, and most have found the herb more effective than a placebo. It can be at least as effective as paroxetine (Paxil) in the treatment of moderate to severe depression in the short term.

S-Adenosylmethionine (SAMe)

SAMe is an amino acid derivative that occurs naturally in all cells. It plays a role in many biological reactions by transferring its methyl group to DNA, proteins, phospholipids and biogenic amines. Several scientific studies indicate that SAMe may be useful in the treatment of depression.

5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)

5-HTP is another natural alternative to traditional antidepressants. When your body sets about manufacturing serotonin, it first makes 5-HTP, so taking 5-HTP as a supplement helps raise your serotonin levels. Downstream, it also boosts production of melatonin, so taking it shortly before bedtime can help improve your sleep.

B vitamins, including B1, B2, B6, B8, B9 and B12

B vitamins play a role in the production of certain neurotransmitters that are important for mood regulation and other brain functions. Folic acid (vitamin B9) deficiency has been noted among people with depression, as has pyridoxine (B6) deficiency. Pyridoxine is the cofactor for enzymes that convert L-tryptophan to serotonin.

There’s also evidence that people with depression respond better to treatment if they have higher levels of vitamin B12, while high doses of niacin (vitamin B3) are particularly important for schizophrenic patients. It turns out that pellagra, a disorder caused by niacin deficiency, produces the same psychiatric symptoms, such as irrational anger, feelings of persecution, mania and dementia, found in many schizophrenic patients.

One 2017 study34,35,36 found high doses of vitamins B6, B8 (inositol) and B12 in combination were very effective for improving schizophrenic symptoms — more so than standard drug treatments alone, and particularly when implemented early on.

Low doses were ineffective. Aside from schizophrenia, researchers have found niacin can be successfully used in the treatment of general psychosis, anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. B12 deficiency can also trigger mania, psychosis and paranoid delusions.37,38

One of the reasons for B vitamins’ effect on a wide range of mood disorders and neurological and psychiatric conditions relates to the fact that these vitamins have a direct impact on the methylation cycle, and are required for the production and function of neurotransmitters and the maintenance of myelin, the fatty sheath surrounding your nerve cells.

Without this protective coating, nerve signals become slow and sporadic, which can lead to motor function problems, cognitive losses and changes in mood.

B8 also aids in cell communication, allowing your cells to properly interpret chemical messages and respond accordingly.39 Meanwhile, B6, folate and B12 (in combination with S-adenosylmethionine or SAMe) regulate the synthesis and breakdown of brain chemicals involved in mood control, including serotonin, melatonin and dopamine. Hence, a deficiency in one or more of these B vitamins can also play a role in depression.

Address hormonal imbalances

Perimenopause and other hormonal imbalances are frequently misdiagnosed as depression. Women are now entering perimenopause at younger ages these days; some even before the age of 40, and this phase can last for years. Women who have never had PMS may suddenly experience rather severe symptoms, feeling depressed, moody and irritable.

An antidepressant is not going to solve the problem in this case. Rather, you need to balance your hormones. Basics include a nutritious diet and detoxification to ensure proper liver function. Milk thistle or bupleurum are herbs that can help with this.

Other herbs like dong quai and black cohosh may be helpful against menopausal and PMS symptoms. Bioidentical hormones such as progesterone are another option that may or may not be necessary depending on your situation. Once you hit on the right combination, symptoms will typically recede within two menstrual cycles.

Lifestyle Strategies That Help Combat Anxiety and Depression Without Drugs

Exercise regularly

Exercise, including strength training, is clearly one of the best-kept secrets for depression. In one study, which involved adults diagnosed with mild to moderate depression, researchers looked at exercise alone to treat the condition and found:

  • After 12 weeks, depressive symptoms were cut almost in half in those who participated in 30-minute aerobic exercise sessions, three to five times a week
  • Those who exercised at low-intensity for three and five days a week showed a 30 percent reduction in symptoms
  • Participants who did stretching and flexibility exercises 15 to 20 minutes three days a week averaged a 29 percent decline in depressive symptoms

Address stress and unresolved emotional conflicts

Like so many other families, I have been personally affected by depression. My mother suffered from this problem for a time, and actually made several unsuccessful suicide attempts that really devastated me. This occurred just as I was making the transition into energy medicine, so initially she was treated with medications.

However, the medications and inpatient care were a terrible failure. Ultimately, it was energetic techniques that helped her fully recover from her depression.

Learning how to use an energy psychology tool like the Emotional Freedom Techniques can make an enormous difference if you suffer from depression or any other kind of emotional dysfunction. This energy psychology tool is one of the most powerful methods I know of, and is a crucial element of any successful treatment program. In the video below, EFT practitioner Julie Schiffman demonstrates how to use this technique for depression.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT helps you change how you think about things and has been used successfully to treat depression.40 In fact, several clinical studies have demonstrated that CBT is as effective as antidepressant medication. Within 20 sessions of individual therapy, approximately 75 percent of patients experience a significant decrease in their symptoms.

Unlike more traditional forms of therapy, CBT focuses on “here and now” problems and difficulties, and is a recommended treatment for depression triggered by the stress of moving from one culture and country to another.41 In this case, the therapy assumes mood is related to the pattern of thought. CBT attempts to change mood and reverse depression by directing thought patterns.

Light Therapy

For years, light therapy has been used to treat seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression caused by short winter days and extended darkness. A lack of exposure to sunlight is responsible for the secretion of the hormone melatonin, which can trigger a dispirited mood and a lethargic condition.

Light therapy helps to regulate the body’s internal clock in the same way that sunlight does. Light therapy is an effective treatment for seasonal affective disorder, and may reduce symptoms of nonseasonal and major depression as well.

Minimize EMF exposure

Excessive free radicals triggered by low-frequency microwave exposure from wireless technologies have been linked to anxiety and depression, so take precautions to minimize unnecessary exposure. For example, avoid carrying your cellphone on your body, and never sleep with it next to your head or beneath your pillow. Also do not allow your children to sleep with their phones. To learn more, see “The Real Dangers of Electronic Devices and EMFs.”

Massage

One of the best-known benefits of massage therapy is its ability to enhance feelings of well-being. Massage therapy lowers levels of stress hormone cortisol by an average of 30 percent, while increasing serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters that help reduce depression.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese treatment in which needles are inserted at specific points in the body. A review of eight controlled trials supported the theory that acupuncture can significantly reduce the severity of depression.

Yoga

Yoga is an ancient system of relaxation, exercise and healing with origins in Indian philosophy, and has been shown to alter your brain chemistry. Some yoga positions are effective in stimulating the release of endorphins and reducing the level of stress hormone cortisol.

Several human studies support the use of yoga for depression, and yoga postures have been specifically shown to increase levels of the neurotransmitter gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA), which may alleviate depression. In one study,42,43 researchers studied the effect of Iyengar yoga classes on participants diagnosed with major depressive disorder who were either not taking medication or had been on the same medication for three months.44

One group was assigned to take a 90-minute yoga class three times a week, plus participate in a 30-minute session at home four times a week. The second group participated in two 90-minute classes and three 30-minute at home sessions.

After three months both groups experienced a reduction in symptoms by at least 50 percent, with no differences in compliance.45 The group who participated seven days a week experienced the greatest reduction in symptoms.

Other research has linked these improvements to changes in GABA, an amino acid that acts as a neurotransmitter in your central nervous system. GABA is responsible for blocking nerve impulses, telling the adjoining nerve cells not to “fire” or send an impulse. Without GABA your nerve cells would fire frequently and easily, triggering anxiety disorders, seizures and conditions such as addiction, headache and cognitive impairments.46

Biofeedback and progressive muscle relaxation

Biofeedback and progressive muscle relaxation may help to reduce stress levels and therefore a primary environmental trigger for depression. In biofeedback, electrical sensors attached to your skin allow you to monitor your biological changes, such as heart rate, and this feedback can help you achieve a deeper state of relaxation. It can also teach you to control your heart rate, blood pressure and muscle tension through your mind.

Biofeedback is commonly used in the treatment of stress related conditions such as migraine and tension headaches, fibromyalgia, depression and anxiety. Progressive muscle relaxation may achieve the same level of stress reduction through tensing and relaxing all the major muscle groups from head to toe, thereby helping you to recognize muscle tension.

Visualization

Visualization and guided imagery have been used for decades by elite athletes prior to an event, successful business people and cancer patients — all to achieve better results through convincing your mind you have already achieved successful results.47,48 Similar success has been found in people with depression.49

Spend time in nature and/or listen to nature sounds

Both have been shown to alleviate anxiety and depression. To learn more, see “Nature Heals,” and “Science Reveals Why Nature Sounds and Deep Breathing Are so Relaxing.”




Here's How Alcohol Can Increase Your Risk for Alzheimer's


By Dr. Mercola

Drinking alcohol has been found to have both a protective and damaging effect on the brain, depending on which study you read and how much alcohol is consumed. The jury is still out on whether light or moderate consumption may be good for your brain, but it's becoming increasingly clear that heavy drinking is not. Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago even revealed how alcohol may increase your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, by disrupting the way amyloid beta is cleared.

Amyloid beta is a protein implicated in Alzheimer's disease that can clump together in the brain, building up into groups of clumps or a sticky plaque that may disrupt cell-to-cell signaling.1 The study, published in the Journal of Neuroinflammation,2 reveals that binge drinking or heavy alcohol consumption may make it more likely that the brain will accumulate these damaging proteins, contributing to the development of Alzheimer's disease.

Alcohol May Disrupt Your Brain's Ability to Clear Harmful Amyloid Beta

The study focused on rat microglial cells, which are immune system cells in the brain and spinal cord that actively work to clear amyloid beta in a process known as phagocytosis. Researchers exposed the microglial cells to alcohol (in a level comparable to that found in people who drink heavily or binge drink), inflammatory cytokines or a combination of alcohol and cytokines for 24 hours.

The expression of over 300 genes was altered following exposure to alcohol, while exposure to cytokines resulted in changes in more than 3,000 genes and the combined alcohol and cytokines exposure caused changes in over 3,500 genes. Many of the altered genes were involved in phagocytosis and inflammation.3 Notably, microglial phagocytosis was also affected by alcohol, decreasing by about 15 percent after one hour of exposure.

Although the tests were performed in isolated rat cells, which means real-life alcohol consumption in humans may lead to a different result, they suggest that alcohol may hinder the microglia's ability to clear amyloid beta, thereby increasing the risk of Alzheimer's. Speaking with Newsweek, the study's lead author, Douglas Feinstein, professor of anesthesiology in the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, suggested people at risk of developing Alzheimer's may want to be especially careful with alcohol consumption:4

"There is a large literature supporting the idea that low amounts of alcohol can be beneficial; not only peripherally but in the brain. However, it might be prudent that if someone is at risk to develop AD [Alzheimer's disease], they should consider to reduce their alcohol intake; and certainly avoid binge or heavy drinking."

Alcohol Linked to Dementia, Including Alcoholic Dementia

Drinking heavily is known to harm your brain and can lead to alcohol-related brain damage known as alcoholic dementia. The white matter in your brain is considered the "wiring" of your brain's communication system and is known to decline in quality with age and heavy alcohol consumption. While not a true dementia like Alzheimer's disease, the symptoms, such as problems with decision-making, slower reasoning and changes in behavior, can be similar.

However, unlike Alzheimer's, if you stop drinking alcohol it's possible to recover, fully or partially, from alcoholic dementia. That being said, heavy drinking or engaging in binge drinking is also linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, according to two reviews conducted by Alzheimer's Disease International and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).5

The Alzheimer's Society explained, "People who drink heavily over a long period of time are more likely to have a reduced volume of the brain's white matter, which helps to transmit signals between different brain regions.

This can lead to issues with the way the brain functions. Long-term heavy alcohol consumption can also result in a lack of vitamin thiamine B1 and Korsakoff's Syndrome, a memory disorder affecting short-term memory."6 It's also been suggested that alcohol may add to the cognitive burden seen in dementia via neuroinflammation.7

NAD and Niacin (Vitamin B3) Are Important if You Have Alcoholism, May Help With Alzheimer's

People with chronic alcoholism are at risk for niacin deficiency, both due to a reduction in dietary intake of niacin and interfering with the conversion of tryptophan to nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) (the dietary precursor of which is niacin).8 It's also thought that people with lower NAD levels naturally may be at increased risk of addiction, including to alcohol. NAD is also known to be depleted in Alzheimer's disease. Small doses of NAD (not time released) can be incredibly helpful when provided while weaning off alcohol.

The treatment helps to curb cravings for alcohol, detox the body, flushes alcohol (or other drugs) out of the system and relieves withdrawal symptoms. As a potent antioxidant, NAD helps to create energy in cells' mitochondria as well as increases the synthesis of neurotransmitters in the brain.9 What's more, it's being considered as an important therapeutic strategy to help maintain optimal function in the brain and possibly even treat Alzheimer's disease. According to a review in Current Opinion in Psychiatry:10

"Perturbations in the physiological homoeostatic state of the brain during the ageing process can lead to impaired cellular function, and ultimately leads to loss of brain integrity and accelerates cognitive and memory decline.

Increased oxidative stress has been shown to impair normal cellular bioenergetics and enhance the depletion of the essential nucleotides NAD+ and ATP. NAD+ and its precursors have been shown to improve cellular homoeostasis based on association with dietary requirements, and treatment and management of several inflammatory and metabolic diseases in vivo.

Cellular NAD+ pools have been shown to be reduced in the ageing brain, and treatment with NAD+ precursors has been hypothesized to restore these levels and attenuate disruption in cellular bioenergetics."

NAC May Help You Cut Back on Alcohol, Prevent Alzheimer's

If you're a social drinker who perhaps could benefit from cutting back on your drinking, also consider N-acetyl cysteine (NAC). NAC is a form of the amino acid cysteine and is known to help increase glutathione and reduce the acetaldehyde toxicity11 that causes many hangover symptoms. In addition, NAC is known to reduce alcohol consumption and withdrawal symptoms in rodents and cut down cravings in humans.

In a study of people who averaged one drink a week (or binge drinking 0.3 days a month), NAC increased the likelihood of alcohol abstinence and reduced drinks per week and drinking days per week.12 Meanwhile, if you are planning to have a drink, try taking NAC (at least 200 milligrams) 30 minutes before to help lessen the alcohol's toxic effects.

NAC is a powerful antioxidant known to directly target free radicals, especially oxygen radicals, which is important since oxidative damage is believed to be involved in Alzheimer's disease. NAC, in turn, may decrease levels of oxidative damage by protecting mitochondrial function, and in so doing reduce Alzheimer's risk, especially when combined with lipoic acid (LA). As noted in a review published in Cell Journal:13

"Combination of both LA and NAC maximizes this protective effect suggesting that this may prevent mitochondrial decay associated with aging and age-related disorders such as AD. Antioxidant therapies based on LA and NAC seem promising since they can act on mitochondria, one key source of oxidative stress in aging and neurodegeneration."

As for whether or not alcohol can be good for your brain, there is some research showing that light-to-moderate drinking may have neuroprotective effects. For instance, consumption of up to three servings of wine daily is associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer's disease in elderly people without the apolipoprotein E4 (APoE4) gene, the gene thought to be most strongly associated with Alzheimer's disease.14

However, as James A. Hendrix, Alzheimer's Association director of global science initiatives, told Newsweek, "no one should start drinking alcohol as a means of lowering dementia risk."15

More Tips for Cutting Back on Drinking

If you believe you have an alcohol use disorder (alcoholism), seek professional help. If you drink excessively on occasion and would like to cut back, you can try keeping track of how much you drink and setting limits on how much (or little) to consume. You should also avoid places, activities and even people who may tempt you to drink and seek out new positive hobbies and friendships to replace them.16

Exercise is also essential. When you drink, it chemically alters your brain to release dopamine, a chemical your brain associates with rewarding behaviors. When you exercise, this same reward chemical is released, which means you can get a similar "buzz" from working out that you can get from alcohol. In one study, hamsters that ran the most consumed less alcohol, while less active hamsters had greater cravings for and consumption of alcohol.17

In addition, exercise may help to mitigate some of the risks of alcohol consumption. Longtime drinkers who exercise regularly have less damaged white matter in their brains compared to those who rarely or never exercise.18 As a bonus, exercise may also reduce declines in cognitive performance attributed to aging as well as protect against changes related to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.19

Key Strategies for Alzheimer's Prevention

Avoiding excess alcohol consumption is important in Alzheimer's prevention, but it's far from the only tool at your disposal. Dr. Dale Bredesen's (director of neurodegenerative disease research at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Medicine, and author of "The End of Alzheimer's: The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline") ReCODE protocol actually evaluates 150 factors, including biochemistry, genetics and historical imaging, known to contribute to Alzheimer's disease.

This identifies your disease subtype or combination of subtypes so an effective treatment protocol can be devised. Prevention is far better than treatment, however, and for this it's important to focus on a diet that powers your brain and body with healthy fats, not net carbs (total carbohydrates minus fiber), i.e., a ketogenic diet. the ketogenic diet will help you optimize your health by converting from burning carbohydrates for energy to burning fat as your primary source of fuel.

You can learn more about this approach to improving your mitochondrial function, which is also at the heart of Alzheimer's disease, in my book, "Fat for Fuel." One of the most common side effects of being a sugar-burner is that you end up with insulin and leptin resistance, which it at the root of most chronic disease. Keep in mind that adopting the ketogenic diet along with intermittent fasting may further boost your results, especially if you have the ApoE4 gene.




The Wasabi You're Eating May Not Be Real Wasabi


Wasabi (Wasabia japonica) is a member of the Brassicaceae family, commonly called the mustard family. It is native to Japan, where it thrives in cool mountain streams with lots of shade and running water. It is prized for its stem which grows to around 2 to 4 inches in diameter and 6 to 12 inches in length, and this is where the actual wasabi condiment comes from.1 Due to its very specific growing conditions, experts consider wasabi to be one of the hardest plants on the planet to cultivate.2

The history of wasabi goes back to prehistoric Japan. There’s archaeological evidence suggesting that during 14,000 B.C. to 400 B.C., the Japanese already utilized wasabi — not for culinary purposes, but for medicinal applications. It is believed that Utogi, a village up north in the Abe River, Shizuoka Prefecture, is the birthplace of wasabi.3

You may have tasted wasabi before, and so may be familiar with its spicy flavor and very strong aroma that you won't find anywhere else. But chances are that the wasabi you've eaten is just an imitation composed of horseradish, mustard powder and food coloring.4

Real wasabi, on the other hand, is still hot and doesn't leave a burning aftertaste. It's so fresh that you'll need to serve it right before eating, because it will lose its iconic flavor within 15 minutes.5 You'll also be surprised to know that real wasabi contains plenty of nutrients essential for optimal health, such as:6

Nutrient

Unit

Value (Per 100 Grams

Energy

kcal

109

Protein

g

4.8

Total fat content

g

0.63

Carbohydrate, by differenc

g

23.54

Fiber, total dietary

g

7.8

Calcium

mg

128

Iron

mg

1.03

Magnesium

mg

69

Phosphorus

mg

80

Potassium

mg

568

Sodium

mg

17

Zinc

mg

1.62

Vitamin C

mg

41.9

Vitamin A

mg

35

Even if It's Just a Condiment, Wasabi Offers Strong Health Benefits

Wasabi is abundant in a unique antioxidant called isothiocyanates that provides a wide array of health benefits, which also happens to be the reason for wasabi's unique flavor and aroma. Below are the different health benefits that authentic wasabi can provide you:

May help lower the risk of cancer: Adding wasabi to your diet may help lower your risk for certain types of cancer thanks to its isothiocyanates. In one study, the 6-MITC [6-(methylsulfinyl)hexyl isothiocyanate] and I7557 [6-methylsulfonyl)hexyl isothiocyanate] compounds in wasabi have been shown to inhibit the growth of pancreatic cancer cells.7

In another study, 6-MITC has been shown to suppress the growth of not only breast cancer, but skin cancer as well.8 Research on this powerful plant is still ongoing, but these findings show great promise already. Remember if you want to reap the benefits of these anticancer antioxidants, use authentic wasabi only, not commercially produced varieties.

Helps improve cardiovascular health: Wasabi's isothiocyanates may help prevent platelet aggregation.9 Essentially, platelet aggregation is the clumping together of red blood cells, which can eventually lead to blood clots. These clots are the main sources of stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.10 By adding wasabi to your diet, you may be able to lower your risk of developing these life-threatening conditions.

Helps fight inflammation: The 6-MSITC in wasabi may help manage inflammation by inhibiting the production of several inflammatory markers, namely cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) and cytokines.11

Fights bacteria throughout your body: Wasabi may be a potent antibacterial agent. In a study published in the International Journal of Food Microbiology, wasabi has been found to be effective against Helicobacter pylori. The roots were found to be the strongest, but the other parts of the plant have been found to help kill the bacteria as well.12

In another study published in the journal Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry, the stem of the wasabi plant was found to have strong antibacterial properties against E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus. For the methodology, an extract was taken from the roots and placed on the bacteria, which the researchers studied and recorded.13

Helps improve digestive health: Wasabi contains fiber, which is known to help control your blood sugar by slowing your stomach's digestion of carbohydrates. Fiber may help you maintain your weight too, as it makes you feel full longer, thereby reducing your cravings for snacks. It's also good for your intestine, as it may reduce your risk of diverticulitis, an inflammation of polyps in your intestine, by as much as 40 percent.14

It's Possible to Grow Wasabi in Your Own Home – But It Can Be Challenging

According to Real Wasabi, an American company that specializes in mountain-grown wasabi, certain conditions are required to grow high-quality wasabi:15

"Wasabi prefers cool, shady conditions and will sometimes thrive if left undisturbed in misty mountain stream beds. It generally requires a climate with an air temperature between 8 degrees Celsius (46 degrees Fahrenheit) and 20 degrees Celsius (70 degrees Fahrenheit), and prefers high humidity in summer. Since it is quite intolerant of direct sunlight, wasabi is typically grown under shade cloth or beneath a natural forest canopy."

Due to the very specific environment needed to grow wasabi, the U.S. has very few locations that can grow wasabi naturally. Only the Pacific Northwest states have been able to successfully cultivate it, namely Oregon, Idaho and Washington, due to their abundance in naturally flowing mountain streams.16 The mountainous regions of North Carolina have been proven to be effective as well.17

Wasabi grows very slowly, and can take up to three years to fully mature. In the right conditions, the long stems (petioles) of the plant should emerge from the (rhizomes) stem, growing around 12 to 18 inches long. Once the plant reaches up to 2 feet in height and width, it enters the next phase where the rhizome produces the nutrients and flavor it is renowned for.

It is possible to grow wasabi on your own if you live near a mountain stream with lots of shade, but keep in mind that the plant could be susceptible to disease and other outside factors that you won't be able to control.18 You can try growing wasabi in the comfort of your own backyard by using the seedling box method. Here are some useful pointers from a Pacific Northwest Extension publication entitled "Growing Wasabi in the Pacific Northwest," by Carol Miles and Catherine Chadwick:19

"The seedling box method utilizes planting boxes that are approximately 4 inches deep with bottom drainage holes. A 1.5-inch layer of a well-draining germination or rooting medium such as a vermiculite perlite-peat mix will work as a base. Wasabi seeds should be sown approximately 2 inches apart in the planting box and covered with 0.5 inches of the germination mix (Suzuki, 1968).

An unheated greenhouse is the best place to keep the boxes, which must be watered so the seeds stay moist. However, it is important not to saturate the potting mix. The seeds should germinate in 20 days."

Wasabi plants are prone to sunburn, so protect them by using a black shade cloth. If you can invest in a small misting or micro-irrigation system, that will help keep the soil moist consistently and make your life easier. The plants require running water, and a micro-immigration system mimics Mother Nature's running streams. Plant the seeds from September through October so they will germinate before winter begins.20

Selecting the Best Wasabi and Properly Storing It

If you can’t grow your own wasabi, you can purchase from companies that specialize in cultivating certified organic and mountain-grown wasabi. When selecting wasabi, choose the ones that have fresh, unshriveled roots. When looking at wasabi leaves, use the same principle as you would in purchasing salad greens — they must not be soggy and they must have a uniform color.21

To store wasabi properly, wrap the roots in damp towels and refrigerate them when not in use. To maintain the freshness, rinse them in cold water every other day and remove any spoiled roots. If done correctly, your wasabi can last up to 30 days.22

Other Ways to Enjoy Wasabi, Aside From Sushi

For maximum flavor and freshness, wasabi is best prepared right before you serve your meals. To do this, peel the root with a knife, then grate it using circular motions with a metal grater. By grating the wasabi, you're causing the compounds in the plant to become volatile, thus resulting in the iconic wasabi zing.23 Aside from using it for sushi, you can use grated wasabi in the following ways and with these foods:24

Add to noodle soups

A condiment for grilled meats and vegetables

Add to marinades, dips and salad dressings

Toss with roasted vegetables

Try This Healthy Wasabi Recipe: Grilled Salmon With Wasabi-Ginger Mayonnaise

This recipe comes from FineCooking.com, but I've tweaked some of the ingredients to come up with what I believe is a healthier meal.

Grilled Salmon With Wasabi-Ginger Mayonnaise

Ingredients:

1 1/2 limes

1/2 cup organic mayonnaise

1 1/2 tablespoon wasabi paste (or more, depending on your preference)

2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger

1/4 teaspoon Himalayan salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 6-ounce skinless wild Alaskan salmon fillets

Coconut oil for the grill

Procedure:

1. Prepare a medium-hot grill fire.

2. Cut the half lime into four wedges and set aside. Finely grate the zest from the whole lime. Cut the zested lime in half and squeeze the juice from one half into a small bowl (save the other half for another use). In a medium bowl, combine 1 teaspoon of the lime juice with the lime zest, mayonnaise, wasabi paste, ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Stir to combine. Taste and add more wasabi paste if you’d like a zippier flavor.

3. Run your finger along each salmon fillet to feel for tiny bones; use tweezers or needle-nose pliers to pull out any that you find. Season the fillets lightly with salt and pepper. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the mayonnaise mixture onto the salmon fillets and refrigerate the rest. With your hands, spread the mayonnaise in a thin layer over all sides of the fillets.

4. When the grill is ready, oil the grill grate using tongs and a paper towel dipped in oil. Grill the salmon until crisp for about four minutes. Turn and continue to grill until the salmon is just cooked through for another three to six minutes. Serve the salmon topped with a dollop of mayonnaise and a lime wedge on the side. Pass the remaining mayonnaise at the table.

There's no doubt that grilling is a big part of U.S. culture, but there's growing evidence that this method can cause you to ingest cancer-causing chemicals like heterocyclic amines (HCAs), advanced glycation end products (AGEs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).  Following the steps below will help you lower your chances of ingesting these carcinogens that may form during grilling:

Make sure that you grill the fish under indirect heat so it will not burn right away. I highly recommend using a grilling basket for the fish to flip it easier and prevent it from sticking to the main grill.25

If any char marks remain, remove them before eating. When cleaning, use a nylon-bristle brush or balls of aluminum foil instead of brush wires, which may stick to your grill and injure your mouth and throat the next time you use your grill.

Make sure your salmon was caught in the wild, or comes from a reputable organic provider. Wild-caught Alaskan salmon is abundant in omega-3 fatty acids that provide a wide array of health benefits, such as helping fight inflammation. Eating wild-caught fish will also help you avoid ingesting pollutants commonly found in commercially grown fish.

Make Your Own Wasabi Massage Oil to Help Promote Healthy Skin

Aside from just being a popular condiment, you can use wasabi to create your own massage oil that can help improve blood circulation, soothe stiff muscles and make your skin feel alive. Below is the list of ingredients you'll need:26,27

Wasabi Massage Oil

Ingredients:

1/4 cup coconut oil

1/2 teaspoon wasabi paste

1/4 cup sesame oil

5 drops vitamin E oil

Procedure:

1. Combine the coconut and sesame oil in a small pan and place under a very low flame, until it is warm (it's very important that you do not let the oils reach their smoking point).

2. Turn off the stove immediately and add in the wasabi paste.

3. Cover and let the mixture cool completely.

4. Add the vitamin E oil.

5. Apply to your desired body part and massage.

Note: Do not put the massage oil on cuts, scrapes or burns as the wasabi can sting.

Despite the Promising Benefits of Wasabi, Too Much of It May Not Be Good You

Wasabi is most likely safe to eat. There are no serious side effects reported, but this area still lacks extensive studies, so caution is advised. Those who are allergic to this plant should avoid it to prevent severe reactions. People with blood disorders should exercise care, as wasabi may exacerbate your condition. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should also avoid wasabi, as there’s lack of scientific evidence regarding its safety for this specific group.28

Remember to Use Only Real Wasabi

Again, real wasabi paste is made from the fresh wasabi plant only. The ones that are sold as "wasabi" in supermarkets and restaurants are made of horseradish and artificial flavoring that only mimic real wasabi, so don't settle for those imitations. Real wasabi is more expensive than imitation wasabi, but I believe that the health benefits it provides are worth the extra cost.




Removing Your Tonsils Is a Bad Idea


By Dr. Mercola

A tonsillectomy is the surgical removal of your tonsils, two oval shaped pads of tissue located on each side of the back of your throat.1 Although the number of tonsillectomies has declined drastically in the last 30 years, the surgery continues to be one of the most commonly performed on children,2 with more than 530,000 done each year on children under 15 in the U.S.3

Administration of the guidelines for the surgery differ between countries. For instance, England's National Health Service (NHS) has classified the surgery as "of limited benefit,"4 with some commissioners unwilling to pay for surgery unless a child has had eight cases of tonsillitis documented by a physician visit in one year, strongly adhering to the letter of the Paradise Criteria for Tonsillectomy.5

This has resulted in a significant drop of routine tonsillectomies, with an increase in emergency admissions to the hospital for tonsillitis. While it may appear as if children are suffering more bad sore throats and infections in their tonsils, recent research finds the tonsillectomy childhood rite of passage may come with an associated long-term risk.6,7

Risks Associated With Tonsillectomy Years After Surgery

Not all scientists agree with the guidelines for tonsillectomies, believing reducing the criteria could result in a reduction in hospital admissions and overall associated health costs.8,9 Now, a recent first-of-a-kind published study demonstrates early removal of tonsillar and adenoid tissue, which often shrinks in adulthood, may have long-term respiratory system effects.10 The study was a collaborative effort between Copenhagen Evolutionary Medicine, University of Melbourne and Yale University.

The team analyzed data from just under 1.2 million children born between 1979 and 1999 in Denmark.11 They looked at the first 10 years of the children's lives to determine if they underwent a tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy and then followed their health up to age 30.12 Of the participants, 17,400 had adenoidectomies, 11,830 had tonsillectomies and 31,377 had a combined adenotonsillectomy, where both the tonsils and adenoids were removed.

The researchers found the risk of preventing a sore throat from tonsillitis nearly vanished by age 40, but the surgery increases the lifetime risk of developing other serious respiratory conditions.13 Sean Byars, Ph.D., who led the research from the University of Melbourne, explained, "We calculated disease risks depending on whether adenoids, tonsils or both were removed in the first nine years of life because this is when these tissues are most active in the developing immune system."

Although these tissues shrink by adulthood and were historically presumed redundant, it is now recognized they are strategically positioned in an arrangement known as Waldeyer's ring. Waldeyer's tonsillar ring tissue includes lymphoid tissue from the nasopharynx, tonsils and base of the tongue.14 The tissue acts as the first line of defense in recognizing bacteria and viruses and begins the immune response to clear the body of foreign invaders.

The analysis of the data revealed tonsillectomies were associated with an increased absolute and relative risk for diseases of the upper respiratory tract, including asthma, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) and influenza. Removal of the adenoids was linked with more than a double relative risk of COPD and nearly double the relative risk of upper respiratory tract diseases. The researchers concluded it is important to consider long term risk associated with these surgeries,15 and wrote:16

"Our observed results show increased risks for long-term diseases after surgery support delaying tonsil and adenoid removal if possible, which could aid normal immune system development in childhood and reduce these possible later-life disease risks.

Given the tonsils and adenoids are part of the lymphatic system and play a key role both in normal development of the immune system and in pathogen screening during childhood in early life, it is not surprising that their removal may impair pathogen detection and increase risk of later respiratory and infectious diseases."

Why Do Doctors Recommend Having Your Tonsils or Adenoids Removed?

Tonsillectomies are recommended for treatment of recurring, chronic or severe tonsillitis or complications resulting from enlarged tonsils, such as difficulty breathing at night.17 Rare diseases of the tonsils or bleeding tonsils may also result in a recommendation for tonsillectomy. According to the Paradise Criteria for Tonsillectomy, the minimum frequency must be seven episodes in the previous year or at least five in the previous two years.18

Tonsillitis often presents with a sore throat and includes a temperature greater than 100.9 degrees Fahrenheit with cervical adenopathy. These are tender lymph nodes along the neck greater than 2 centimeters in size. Children often present with tonsillar exudate, or a white film covering the tonsils, culturing positive for group a beta hemolytic streptococcus.

The initial treatment is antibiotics administered for the streptococcal infection.19 However, with recurring tonsillitis a tonsillectomy and potentially adenoidectomy would be recommended. Complications from enlarged tonsils can include difficulty swallowing, disrupted breathing during sleep and difficulty breathing.

As with other surgeries, a tonsillectomy comes with risks, including reactions to anesthetics, swelling, bleeding during surgery or bleeding during healing and infection.20 Since surgery leaves an open wound in the throat, it is often difficult for children to swallow fluids, sometimes leading to dehydration. Recovery usually takes 10 days and often includes pain in the throat and sometimes the ears, jaw or neck. Complications requiring emergency care include bleeding, fever, dehydration or breathing problems.

In one study, 8 percent of nearly 140,000 children ages 1 to 18 revisited the hospital within 30 days of having a tonsillectomy.21 The revisit rate varied between hospitals. It was as high as 12.6 percent in some and as low as 3 percent in others. Bleeding was the most common reason, followed by vomiting and dehydration, pain and infection. Children older than 10 were at a higher risk of returning to the hospital with bleeding, while having a lower risk of vomiting and dehydration.

Adult Tonsillectomy Surgery Holds Greater Risk

Researchers demonstrated the increased risk for chronic respiratory conditions likely formed from tonsillectomies performed prior to full development of the immune system. However, the adult procedure carries different risks. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association-Otolaryngology looked at the mortality, complications and reoperation rate in adult tonsillectomy.22

The researchers looked at health records of nearly 6,000 adult patients who underwent a tonsillectomy, evaluating mortality, complications and reoperation in a 30-day postoperative period. In most cases patients had a primary diagnosis of chronic tonsillitis and or adenoiditis. The most common complication following the surgery was pneumonia, urinary tract infections and superficial site infections. Patients who required a second operation were more likely to be male and to have postoperative complications.

However, results of a second study we're nearly as positive.23 Researchers from Penn State University found 20 percent of adults who had a tonsillectomy experienced complications, finding a rate significantly higher than previously published. The team also discovered the complications substantially increase health care expenditures for the patients.

This team analyzed data from over 36,000 adult tonsillectomy patients, finding complications included bleeding, pain, dehydration, blood transfusion, dislocation of cervical vertebra and fever.24 After one week, 15 percent suffered at least one possible complication. This rose to 20 percent by week two and four. The researchers found 10 percent visited an emergency room after discharge and nearly 1.5 percent were readmitted to the hospital within two weeks after the procedure.

On average, an adult tonsillectomy without complications costs $3,830, as compared to a surgery with hemorrhage, costing $6,388. Dennis Scanlon, Ph.D., professor of health policy and administration at Penn State University, commented on the results of the study, saying:25

"Our results highlight the challenges patients face when making informed decisions about medical and surgical treatments, as well as the excess costs and harm incurred due to complications. Patients expect to compare the risks and benefits of treatment options, but as our study shows, credible patient-centered information is often lacking, even for a common procedure that has been in practice for many, many years.

The availability of important risk and benefit information should be expedited, and providers need to be trained to engage patients in how to use this information to make informed choices."

Tonsillotomy Is an Alternative Surgical Option

A tonsillotomy, or partial removal of the tonsils, may be an alternative surgical option for both children and adults. Tonsillotomy has provided favorable outcomes in children presenting with obstructive sleep apnea as it is associated with a lower incidence of postoperative bleeding, higher parent satisfaction and faster recovery time than a total tonsillectomy.26 Research has also demonstrated comparable results to a total tonsillectomy in the improvement of obstructive sleep apnea symptoms in children.

In a second study27 with 43 participating children between the ages of 2 and 9, a randomized trial compared the clinical effects of a standard tonsillectomy against a tonsillotomy using a CO2 laser. During follow-up, both patient groups found comparable relief from sleep apnea and tonsillar hypertrophy at three months and two years.

Tonsillotomy caused no measurable bleeding during the surgical procedure, and postoperative pain and distress were less pronounced than in the tonsillectomy procedure group. These results were replicated in another study group of children ages four to five.28

In a recent study evaluating the differences between tonsillotomy and tonsillectomy in adults suffering from tonsil-related health conditions,29 researchers concluded the evidence suggested equal efficacy between both procedures. Adult patients had a preference for the tonsillotomy as there was reduced pain, a reduction in analgesic use, higher patient satisfaction, lower operation time and a reduction in postoperative complications.




Even Small Mixtures of Chemicals Damage Your Liver


By Dr. Mercola

Consuming what has been called "safe" levels of chemicals in combination at low doses has concerned scientists for decades. While many chemicals are thought to be safe at very low doses tested in isolation, what happens when you ingest a little bit of a lot of different chemicals over time?

When regulators consider consumer risk, they evaluate a compound's safety using laboratory animals and exposing them to an individual chemical in progressively smaller amounts until the chemical no longer demonstrates the ability to trigger negative health effects, including cancers. They use this amount to determine some small fraction they "believe" is potentially safe for people.

However, the assumption that toxicity is dose-dependent is not always true, especially for chemicals that mimic hormones.1 And, regulators are not required to test mixtures of these chemicals to determine what the outcome would be under real-world conditions.

Over your lifetime, you may be exposed to nearly 80,000 man-made chemicals present in your food, water, air and personal care products.2 It only makes health sense to evaluate the effect this chemical soup, ingested or absorbed nearly every day, has on your health. A recent study has found that when even small amounts of chemicals from food, pharmaceuticals and personal care products are combined in your body, you may experience liver damage.3

So-Called 'Safe' Levels of Chemical Mixtures Demonstrate Liver Damage

Outside of a laboratory you are never subjected to just a single stressor or single chemical.4 Recent research has demonstrated low levels of chemicals, considered safe by regulators, are actually toxic when present in the body in mixture. The experiment was designed to evaluate real life situations in a general population exposed to combinations at low doses from environmental sources, food, pharmaceuticals and personal care products.5

Using four groups of Sprague-Dawley rats, the researchers administered a mix of chemicals in their drinking water for a period of six months. The control group received water, which was free from additional chemicals. Of the three treatment groups, the low-dose group received 25 percent of the European Union (EU) acceptable daily intake, the medium dose received exactly the acceptable daily intake defined by the EU, while the high-dose group received five times the acceptable daily intake.6

After six months, the researchers evaluated body weight and biochemistry markers, finding the animal's weight increased above 10 percent in all male groups relative to the controls.7 Modest increases were found in the females who received medium and high doses of the chemicals. Additionally, the researchers found adverse effects in liver testing, especially at the low-dose level and primarily in males.

Overall, the results suggest exposure to low doses may induce liver damage as a result of the combination of different toxic mechanisms. The results of this study support previous research demonstrating the effects of chemical cocktails, even at low levels,8 on the liver,9 and their potential for triggering cancer.10

Do You Consume These Chemicals?

The chemicals tested by the researchers included some that may not sound familiar. As you read through the list, it will become clear it is very difficult, if not impossible to avoid consuming these chemicals. Others included in the study were glyphosate, a commonly used herbicide on genetically modified crops, BPA found in plastic products, the artificial sweetener aspartame, and ethylparaben and butylparaben, which are preservatives used by food, pharmaceutical and personal care manufacturers.

Carbaryl

This is a manmade pesticide commonly used to control aphids, fire ants, fleas, ticks and spiders. It is sold under the brand name Sevin by Bayer and brief exposure may result in weakness, dizziness and sweating. Pinpoint pupils, lack of coordination, muscle twitching and slurred speech have also been reported.11

Dimethoate

An insecticide used to kill mites and insects systemically and on contact, it is used on aphids, thrips and whiteflies on crops such as apples, corn, grapefruit, lemons, pears, pecans and tomatoes, as well as other vegetables.12

Methomyl

Used as a pesticide since 1968 on field crops such as lettuce, and on oranges, it is extremely toxic when ingested and has been restricted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It may only be used under direct supervision of trained and certified applicators.13

Methyl parathion

A restricted-use organophosphate pesticide, it is used to control insects by contact or by respiratory action. It is readily absorbed through the skin, and accidental skin contact or inhalation have caused human fatalities.14

Triadimefon

This is a fungicide for agricultural use and seed treatment for barley, corn, cotton, oats, rye, sorghum and wheat. Trade names include Amiral, Bay MEB 6447 and Bayleton.15

Sodium benzoate

This is a preservative commonly found in foods, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.16

Folate May Help Mitigate Pesticide Damage

While it is challenging to eliminate exposure to a chemical mix, there are steps you may consider to help protect your liver and support function. One of those steps is increasing your intake of folate. In one study involving 83 patients with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), researchers found levels of folate and vitamin B12 were inversely related to the development of fibrosis or the formation of scar tissue. According to the researchers:17

"Our study demonstrated a statistically significant correlation between low levels of folate and vitamin B12 with the histological severity of NASH. These findings could have diagnostic and therapeutic implications for patient management and follow up."

Past research has identified an association between low levels of vitamins and chronic liver disease, but this is the first to find an association between folate and vitamin B12 level to NASH severity. Recognized as the most prevalent liver disease worldwide, the condition places a dramatic burden on society. The researchers believe low levels of folate and vitamin B12 may be used as an independent predictor and could have practical implications for assessment and prognosis.18

Another study based in China suggests a folate-deficient diet may increase your risk of liver cancer.19 Lead authors from the U.S. National Cancer Institute and National Institutes of Health found evidence folate deficiency is associated with liver damage and liver cancer.20

The researchers recruited 412 patients who tested positive for Hepatitis B and were at higher risk for liver damage. Folate levels were measured in the participants at the start of the study. Participants were then followed for four years. During the study period, 20 cases of liver cancer were diagnosed.

When data was compared, higher red blood cell folate levels were associated with a 67 percent lower risk of liver cancer.21 The researchers stated more research is required to support the observations, but they concluded the study suggested increased folate in humans could be inversely associated with the development of liver damage and hepatocarcinoma. The researchers found folate appeared to offer the liver some degree of protection against damage.

Folate Is Not Folic Acid

If you're not sure what the difference between folate and folic acid is, you're likely in good company. Many professionals and health practitioners frequently mix up the two as the terms are often used interchangeably. Although some argue they are essentially the same, important distinctions between the two compounds are obvious in the way your body metabolizes and utilizes the vitamin.22

Both of these nutrients are a variety of vitamin B9, but they are not the same chemical structure. Prenatal vitamins and many processed foods are fortified with folic acid to help prevent birth defects associated with a deficiency during fetal development. Deficiency in folate during the first trimester is a major risk factor for neural tube defects such as spina bifida, anencephaly and exencephaly. However, folate and folic acid are not interchangeable.

Your body stores approximately 10 to 30 milligrams of folate at a time, nearly 50 percent of which is in the liver. The other half is stored in blood and tissue. However, while most associate deficiency with pregnancy, other health problems may occur with a folate deficiency, including elevated blood concentrations of homocysteine, cancer and depression.23

Folate is the natural form of vitamin B9 found in foods and once referred to as folacin. The word was derived from the Latin "folium," meaning leaf. Green leafy vegetables are abundant sources of folate.

Folic acid, on the other hand, is a manufactured vitamin and is the form added to some supplements and foods. While folic acid is readily absorbed, this synthetic form is not converted in the intestines as is folate. Instead, it is converted in the liver. This means folic acid can reach saturation more quickly, which may result in overexposure if you're taking supplements. The best way to get enough vitamin B9 is to eat foods rich in folate, such as asparagus, avocados, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and spinach.24

Milk Thistle Helps Prevent Liver Damage

The milk thistle herb has been used for thousands of years to support liver, kidney and gallbladder health. It contains the flavonoid silymarin, thought to be responsible for the beneficial effects attributed to milk thistle, including liver protection and antioxidant, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. The herb is native to the Mediterranean and is regarded as a weed in some areas of the world. When the leaves are crushed, they release a milky sap, which is where the herb gets its characteristic name.

Silymarin is actually a group of compounds working together to provide multiple health benefits, protecting the liver as an antifibrotic by preventing tissue scarring. The compounds are also believed to act as a toxin blockade agent by inhibiting the binding of toxins to liver cell membrane receptors. It has been used to treat alcoholic liver disease, acute and chronic viral hepatitis and toxin-induced liver diseases.

The herb suppresses cellular inflammation through the expression of genes associated with cellular stress, specifically endoplasmic reticulum stress. The anti-inflammatory effects may be accomplished in part using a two-phase process similar to those used by other beneficial natural compounds, like curcumin (found in turmeric) and EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate, a component of green tea).25

A study26 revealed the first-phase cellular response to silymarin in cells is a rapid increase in expression of genes associated with cellular stress, specifically endoplasmic reticulum stress. In severe cases, such stress may lead to cell death, which can be beneficial in some cases (such as cancer). The second phase involves a longer suppression of gene expression associated with inflammation. Along with inhibiting inflammatory signaling pathways, silymarin also:27

Activated AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK): AMPK is an enzyme inside your body's cells. It's sometimes called a "metabolic master switch" because it plays an important role in regulating metabolism.28 According to the Natural Medicine Journal:29

"AMPK induces a cascade of events within cells that are all involved in maintaining energy homeostasis. . . . AMPK regulates an array of biological activities that normalize lipid, glucose, and energy imbalances.

Metabolic syndrome occurs when these AMPK-regulated pathways are turned off, triggering a syndrome that includes hyperglycemia, diabetes, lipid abnormalities, and energy imbalances … In other words, activating AMPK can produce the same benefits as exercise, dieting, and weight loss — the lifestyle modifications considered beneficial for a range of maladies."

Inhibited mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR): When the mTOR pathway is overactivated it may increase your risk of cancer.30 The power of this pathway has only relatively recently been appreciated and is critical to cell growth, proliferation and survival.31 Many new cancer drugs are being targeted to use this pathway.

N-acetylcysteine Supplement Supports Your Liver Health

N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is a precursor needed for glutathione biosynthesis. This incredibly useful supplement has many benefits relating to its ability to boost production of glutathione, an antioxidant used to reduce free radical damage and which plays a role in the detoxification of heavy metals and other harmful substances.

The most common use of NAC is for liver support. In one study, the researchers suggest NAC may be a better alternative for supporting the liver in those with hepatitis C and for those with other chronic liver diseases than the antioxidant resveratrol.32 According to the authors,33 "Taking all these data together, abundant evidence suggests that antioxidants can effectively attenuate the oxidative and nitrosative stress in liver injury, ultimately improving inflammation and fibrosis progression."

Alcohol and acetaminophen are two common compounds metabolized through the liver and associated with liver damage. NAC supplementation has been effective in minimizing damage associated with alcohol consumption when taken prior to alcohol ingestion.34 Increasing glutathione reduces acetaldehyde toxicity triggering many hangover symptoms. NAC is also used as an antidote for acetaminophen toxicity, which also causes liver damage by depleting glutathione.35

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is a common liver problem triggered by oxidative stress. In a study published in Hepatitis Monthly,36 researchers evaluated 30 patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver steatosis, giving half of the group NAC and the other half vitamin C. Liver function and other measurements were taken initially and at one, two and three months. The researchers found NAC improved liver function in the patients in their study.

Seek Out Whole, Organically Grown Foods and Safe Personal Care Products

The sad fact is most of the foods and personal care products found on grocery store shelves are loaded with chemicals known to cause liver damage and other health conditions. The best way you have to prevent damage is to — as much as possible — avoid the chemicals in the first place. The first tangible step you can consider to overhaul your diet and lifestyle is to go organic.

Organic products are available in close to 20,000 natural food stores and nearly 75 percent of traditional grocery stores in the U.S. Polling data37 shows the No. 1 reason people purchase organic products is to avoid pesticides, and it is a primary reason why eating organic foods and using organic products is so important for your health and the environment. To read more about how to eat organic and what it means for your health, see my previous article "Go Organic."

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the average American woman uses 12 personal care products and/or cosmetics in a day,38 containing 168 different chemicals. Although men use fewer products, on average they are still exposed to nearly 85 chemicals daily from their personal hygiene routine. Clearly, this vast chemical exposure is not insignificant, especially as you consider it occurs virtually daily over your lifetime.

You may evaluate the products you're currently using, or find EWG's safe list of products by checking the EWG Skin Deep Cosmetic Database.39 Additionally, I suggest reading my previous article, "7 Domestic Factors That Can Make or Break Your Health," to discover areas where you can reduce your chemical exposure and healthier options you can use at home, including making your own effective and easy to use cleaning products with ingredients you likely already have in your kitchen.




Chemotherapy Is Losing Its Luster


By Dr. Mercola

Surgery, drugs and radiation — aka the “cut, poison, burn” strategy — are typically the only solutions offered by most conventional oncologists to treat cancer, and upon receiving a cancer diagnosis most people are willing to do just about anything to get better. Unfortunately, the standard of care for cancer is not necessarily the most effective.

Research dating back over a decade suggests many women with breast cancer can opt for gentler versions of chemotherapy, or skip it altogether, without harming their chances of recovery. One 2007 study found some breast cancer patients had better outcomes when given Taxotere, a milder chemotherapy drug than Adriamycin, which had been the standard for decades.1

Another suggested the Oncotype DX test2,3 may be able to help determine whether a breast cancer patient might benefit from chemo by measuring the activity of 21 genes involved in cancer recurrence. At the time, Dr. Eric Winer of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston said,4 “We are backing off on chemotherapy and using chemotherapy more selectively." Now, a number of additional studies have come to the same conclusion: Many breast cancer patients do not need chemotherapy, and have better outcomes without it.

Many Cancer Patients Fare Better Without Chemo

According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), many cancer patients are being overtreated to their detriment; an estimated 70 percent of women with early stage breast cancer probably do not need chemotherapy, and fare just as well without it.5 As reported by NPR:6

“One dramatic example revealed at the [2018 ASCO] meeting relates to the most common form of breast cancer, known as hormone-positive, HER-2 negative disease. For many women who have this diagnosis, but for whom the disease has not spread to lymph nodes, a new study7,8 finds that anti-hormone treatment after surgery is enough, and women won't benefit from rounds of toxic and uncomfortable chemotherapy.

Treatment of breast cancer for this large group of women will become easier. And for the many women who already choose not to undertake chemotherapy, they can be reassured that it's the right call. Likewise, researchers from France presented evidence that people with severe colon cancer don't benefit from a common treatment, which involves heated chemotherapy administered at the time of surgery.

This treatment has been in use for 15 years, without good evidence that it actually works … The study9 of 265 patients found that it didn't work … The study is ‘an excellent example of how less is more,’ when it comes to certain cancer treatments, says Dr. Andrew Epstein, an oncologist from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center who spoke on behalf of ASCO.”

Genetic Testing Allows for Safer Treatment Protocols

In the case of breast cancer, ASCO confirms that the 21-gene test, which assesses your risk of cancer recurrence, is a valuable tool that helps spare women from unnecessary treatment. It’s been estimated that about half of all women diagnosed with breast cancer worldwide have HER2-negative cancer, meaning it is a node-negative, hormone-receptor positive type of cancer, which is typically treated with a combination of estrogen-blocking drugs and chemo.

According to ASCO’s findings, women with estrogen-sensitive breast cancer that test negative for HER2, and whose tumors are smaller than 5 centimeters, have not spread to the lymph nodes, and have an Oncotype DX score between 11 and 25 (out of a max score of 100), can forgo the chemo. 

For this study, more than 10,000 breast cancer patients were followed for an average of nine years. Just over 6,700 of them had Oncotype DX scores between 11 and 25, which is considered an intermediate risk. Half of this group received hormone therapy alone, while the other half received hormone therapy in conjunction with chemo.

At the end of the study, 83.3 percent of those who received hormone therapy alone had not developed a recurrence. Among the dual-treatment group, that percentage was 84.3 percent — a not statistically significant difference.

The survival rate was also near identical — 93.9 percent among those receiving hormone therapy alone versus 93.8 percent for those receiving both hormone therapy and chemo. According to Dr. Jeffrey Abrams, associate director of the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program:10

“These findings, showing no benefit from receiving chemotherapy plus hormone therapy for most patients in this intermediate-risk group, will go a long way to support oncologists and patients in decisions about the best course of treatment.”

Chemotherapy Takes a Toll on Long-Term Health

Previously, patients with this intermediate score have typically been treated with chemotherapy as a preventive measure, which often has devastating side effects, including hair loss, fatigue, cognitive decline, osteoporosis and heart problems, just to name a few. Numerous studies in both mice and human subjects have also shown that common chemotherapy drugs can foster tumor microenvironments for metastasis to occur later.

As just one example, a 2009 study11 found that long-term use of the breast cancer drug Tamoxifen — commonly prescribed for the prevention of estrogen-sensitive breast cancer — may actually increase your risk of developing a more aggressive, difficult-to-treat tumor fourfold. In other words, the very drug that’s supposed to help you can later harm you.

The side effects of chemo can also last a decade or more after treatment has ended. One 2006 study12 found that cancer patients who received chemotherapy had lower metabolism in a key region of the brain's frontal cortex, which translates into poorer memory. Scientists also noticed jumps in blood flow to the cerebellum and frontal cortex, a sign the brains of women who had chemo worked harder to perform normally than did healthy patients.

What's more, chemotherapy patients who underwent both hormone therapy and chemo also experienced an 8 percent drop in the resting metabolism in the basal ganglia. All of these effects — which explain the “chemo brain” or mental fog so often reported by those receiving chemo — were found to linger for at least 10 years post-treatment.

New Trend: More Cancer Patients Forgo Chemo Despite Lack of Change in Practice Guidelines

The good news is increasing numbers of cancer patients are now electing not to use chemo. A recent survey13 published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found the overall use of chemo declined from 34.5 to 21.3 percent between 2013 and 2015. More specifically, for node-negative cancers, usage declined from 26.6 to 14.1 percent, and for node-positive cancers, it declined from 81.1 to 64.2 percent. Use of Oncotype DX testing is thought to be responsible for about one-third of this decline in chemotherapy use.

According to the authors, “Patients’ report of oncologists’ recommendations for chemotherapy declined from 44.9 percent to 31.6 percent … Oncologists were much more likely to order RS [the 21-gene recurrence score] if patient preferences were discordant with their recommendations, and they adjusted recommendations based on patient preferences and RS results.”

To me, this is good news as it appears that more people are starting to take control of their own cancer treatment and care, which is encouraging. As noted by the authors of this survey, all of this happened in the absence of any substantial changes in practice guidelines. Overall, years of research supports the sanity of this trend.

Chemotherapy — Not Nearly as Effective as Most People Think

Despite its reputation as the gold-standard in cancer treatment, a meta-review14 published in 2004 showed chemotherapy has an average five-year survival success rate of just over 2 percent for all cancers — hardly the kind of success rate you’d expect from “gold standard,” evidence-based medicine. According to the authors:

“The overall contribution of curative and adjuvant cytotoxic chemotherapy to 5-year survival in adults was estimated to be 2.3 percent in Australia and 2.1 percent in the USA. As the 5-year relative survival rate for cancer in Australia is now over 60 percent, it is clear that cytotoxic chemotherapy only makes a minor contribution to cancer survival.

To justify the continued funding and availability of drugs used in cytotoxic chemotherapy, a rigorous evaluation of the cost-effectiveness and impact on quality of life is urgently required.”

Chemo Hastens Death When Given to Severely Ill Patients

Fast-forward 14 years, and the research still shows the same thing — chemotherapy is often contraindicated and hardly a reliable cure. Instead, it often does more harm than good when administered across the board. Another study,15 the National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death (NCEPOD), published in 2008, found more than 4 in 10 patients who received chemotherapy toward the end of life experienced potentially fatal effects.

Moreover, after reviewing data from over 600 cancer patients who died within 30 days of receiving treatment, it was found that chemotherapy hastened or caused death in 27 percent of those cases. As noted in a commentary on these findings, published in the BMJ that same year:16

“The … NCEPOD has reported that chemotherapy has probably hastened or caused death in over a quarter of patients who died within 30 days of receiving treatment. They suggest therefore, that greater caution be used in prescribing chemotherapy in very sick patients …

The reality is that patients receiving chemotherapy have been deemed to be fit by their oncologist. Currently, this is assessed, in the main, by performance status. However, although simple to use, it is recognized to be subjective and therefore determination of “fitness” and the selection of patients for chemotherapy is sub-optimal.

There is increasing evidence that the presence of a systemic inflammatory response, as evidenced by elevated concentrations of C- reactive protein and hypoalbuminaemia, are useful prognostic factors in patients with advanced cancer, independent of stage or treatment …

[E]levated C-reactive protein and hypoalbuminaemia may be combined in a simple, objective scoring tool, the Glasgow Prognostic score (GPS) … [W]e believe that the use of simple objective prognostic tools, such as the GPS, will improve the selection of patients for chemotherapy and reduce the number of chemotherapy associated deaths.”

Surgery Lowers Survival in Those With Advanced Kidney Cancer

Yet another study presented at the 2018 ASCO meeting showed patients with advanced kidney cancer do not need surgery. The French study,17 which looked at the outcomes of 450 patients, found “the surgery was pointless,” as the removal of the diseased kidney did not improve outcomes compared to those receiving chemotherapy alone.

In fact, those who received the chemo drug Sunitinib alone had a median survival of 18.4 months, while those who received both chemo and surgery had a median survival of just 13.9 months. According to lead study author Arnaud Méjean, a urologist at Hôpital Européen Georges-Pompidou—Paris Descartes University,18 “When medical treatment is required, cytoreductive nephrectomy should no longer be considered the standard of care for these patients with synchronous metastatic disease.”

Indeed, as noted by NPR,19 “There may be many other cancer treatments that are unneeded and possibly even harmful. Many longtime medical practices are based on tradition and thin evidence.”

Your Lifestyle Significantly Impacts Your Cancer Risk

As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and this certainly holds true for cancer. Optimizing your body’s ability to burn fat as its primary fuel by eating a cyclical ketogenic diet and/or fasting is a foundational aspect of both cancer prevention and treatment.

To learn more, please review “Metabolically Supported Therapies for the Improvement of Cancer Treatment,” in which Travis Christofferson and Dr. Abdul Slocum discuss how nutritional ketosis and fasting can radically improve treatment outcomes and minimize the need for chemo, even in advanced-stage and hard to treat cancer cases.

Detoxification is another crucial component, as most of us are inundated with thousands of toxins each day, many of which have carcinogenic potential. One of the simplest and perhaps safest ways is to use a low EMF, infrared sauna coupled with a near-infrared light, as your skin is a major organ of elimination.

Optimizing your vitamin D is another essential step, both for prevention and as an adjunct to treatment. For example, in a study20 published in 2010, data collected over a decade from more than 67,000 women showed that women in sunny climates with high vitamin D levels were at a significantly reduced risk of breast cancer. Other lifestyle strategies that will help minimize your cancer risk include the following:

Control your insulin level by limiting your intake of processed foods and sugars, especially fructose, as much as possible. This is one of the most powerful ways to reduce your cancer risk. By avoiding processed foods, you’ll also minimize your exposure to pesticides, herbicides, genetically engineered ingredients and factory farmed foods. Ideally, choose organic or biodynamic locally grown whole foods whenever possible.

Switch over to a cyclical ketogenic diet and then intermittent feasting and fasting. You'll find the exact steps detailed in my book, "Fat for Fuel."

Make sure your vitamin D and omega-3 levels are both optimized. For health and disease prevention, aim for a vitamin D level between 60 and 80 ng/mL and an omega-3 index of at least 8 percent.

Exercise. One of the primary reasons exercise works is that it drives your insulin levels down. Also make sure to get more movement into your waking hours. Simply sitting less can make a profound difference in your health.

Minimize your exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF), including both wireless technologies and household wiring. To learn more, see “The Real Dangers of Electronic Devices and EMFs,” and “The Harmful Effects of EMFs Explained.”

Have a tool to permanently erase the neurological short-circuiting that can activate cancer genes. My particular favorite tool for this purpose is the Emotional Freedom Techniques.

Get seven to nine hours of high-quality sleep each night.

Reduce your exposure to environmental toxins like pesticides, household chemical cleaners, synthetic air fresheners and air pollution.

Boil, poach or steam your foods, rather than frying or charbroiling them to avoid the creation of acrylamide, a known carcinogen. Avoid all processed meats for the same reason.

Breastfeed exclusively for up to six months. Research shows this too will reduce your breast cancer risk.

Blood Tests That Help Reveal Your Cancer Risk

While a healthy diet and lifestyle are recommended for everyone, a number of standard blood tests can help you determine your cancer risk, thereby putting you on notice that more radical lifestyle intervention may be prudent. Dr. Leigh Erin Connealy, whom I’ve interviewed on this topic, details these tests in her book, "The Cancer Revolution: A Groundbreaking Program to Reverse and Prevent Cancer." 

One such test is the high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (CRP) test, also mentioned above, which is a nonspecific marker for inflammation. “It doesn’t tell me where the cancer is, but it tells me something is brewing,” Connealy says. Ideally, you’ll want your C-reactive protein to be below 1. Other valuable blood tests include:

The hemoglobin A1C test, which reflects your blood sugar over the past 90 days. The reason for this test is because high blood sugar is a cancer-friendly environment

A cancer profile test (fasting blood and urine) from American Metabolic Laboratories, which checks for:

Quantitative human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG)

Phosphohexose isomerase (PHI), the enzyme of hypoxia or low oxygen, which allows cancer to thrive

Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA), a stress hormone

Thyroid hormones, as low thyroid levels may predispose you to cancer

Gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT), a liver marker and a sensitive screening tool for inflammation

Arachidonyl-2-chloroethylamide (ACEA), a nonspecific marker for many cancers

ONCOblot, which can identify up to 33 tissue types of cancer and has a 95 percent accuracy rate. It measures the ENOX2 protein

Circulating tumor cell test by the Research Genetic Cancer Center (RGCC). The vast majority of people die not from the tumor itself but from circulating cancer stem cells, which allow the cancer to metastasize and spread throughout the body. This test is used after cancer treatment, to determine whether or not you might need to continue an anticancer program. Connealy explains:

“Even if you have surgery, chemo or radiation, it will not eradicate or eliminate circulating tumor cells … The biggest cause of reoccurrence is the circulating tumor cells and stem cells … Anybody who’s had cancer must have their circulating tumor cells [or] stem cells checked quantitatively.

RGCC is not the only lab that does it, but … they’re in 13 countries [and] have the highest laboratory international certification you can have. It is, to me, probably the most accurate …” 

Treatment Alternatives: Cryotherapy, IPT Chemo and Hyperthermic Therapy

It’s important to realize that chemotherapy drugs are, by their very nature, extremely toxic and typically do not work with your body to modulate and normalize its response to allow the cancer to resolve normally and they do absolutely nothing to address the cause of the cancer. Natural approaches, on the other hand, do not have the types of fatal side effects common with cancer drugs because they work by optimizing your body's own natural healing capacities.

Fortunately, there are natural approaches that rival and/or exceed the limited effectiveness of conventional therapies, without the risks. In her book, Connealy discusses the use of a number of alternative treatment methods, such as cryotherapy, which is where you freeze the cancer cells. Cryotherapy typically works well for breast cancer. Connealy has treated 9-centimeter breast tumors with cryotherapy in combination with a cocktail of low-dose chemo and hypodermic mistletoe, successfully eliminating the tumor in a single month.

In patients with cancer in multiple locations, she will often use insulin potentiation therapy with low-dose chemotherapy. Connealy has done a great job of compiling a variety of valuable resources into her book, “The Cancer Revolution,” and if you or someone you love is faced with cancer, it’s definitely worth reading.

As for finding an open-minded oncologist or doctor willing to implement these kinds of integrative methods, an organization called The Best Answer for Cancer is a helpful resource that lists qualified physicians. You can find more information at www.bestanswerforcancer.org/. It's a hybrid nonprofit that services both integrative physicians and patients with cancer and other chronic disease.




Polluting Pigs Part III


By Dr. Mercola

North Carolina is the second largest pork producer in the U.S. and home to more than 2,500 pig CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations).1 The estimated 9 million pigs living in the state produce copious amounts of waste — up to 10 times the amount of an average human2 — for which there is no easy, nor environmentally friendly, disposal solution. Whereas a small farm can use the waste produced by its animals as fertilizer, the massive amounts of waste produced on CAFOs becomes a toxic liability.

Nonetheless, it's typically stored in "lagoons," where the waste can leach into groundwater and wells, run off into waterways and cause all sort of environmental problems. The liquefied waste from the lagoons is then sprayed onto nearby fields. North Carolina alone has an estimated 4,500 active lagoons and 1,700 inactive lagoons,3 and tests have revealed they contain far higher levels of pollutants than the industrial farms are reporting.

North Carolina CAFOs Not Reporting True Levels of Toxic Pollutants in Waste Lagoons

Inspectors with North Carolina's department of environmental quality (DEQ) tested 55 waste lagoons at 35 CAFOs, which revealed vastly different levels of pollutants than were reported by the CAFOs' own tests just one month prior.

In a letter to one CAFO, the DEQ stated, "The results show a significant difference in the PAN [peroxyacetyl nitrate] concentrations as well as other macro and micro nutrients that put into question the validity of the March 17th sampling results. It is unlikely that a lagoon make-up will change significantly in a month without a significant operations event occurring like a lagoon sludge clean out."4

Among the disparities were levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and heavy metals, including zinc and copper. In one case, zinc levels were more than 100,000 percent higher in the DEQ's tests compared to what the CAFOs reported.

Speaking to The Guardian, Devon Hall, co-founder of Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help (REACH), an anti-hog-CAFO group, said, "This manipulation of data is an insult to the community members suffering from the industry's continued use of the lagoon and spray field system … We demand real enforcement. The response to this slap in the face should be more than a slap on the wrist."5

CAFO map

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North Carolina regulators have since launched an investigation into the underreporting of toxins, including "additional evaluation of historic data" at the CAFOs. Curiously, in their certified letter to one of the CAFOs where discrepancies were reported, the DEQ also apologized for the "short notice" provided by their staff regarding the collection of samples.6

Unfortunately, even as CAFOs have polluted waterways and endangered residents' health, they've been allowed to flourish in the state, despite it being a hurricane-prone area.

Waste stored in open-air lagoons may be breached by floodwaters from hurricanes. This has occurred in North Carolina repeatedly: in 1996 following Hurricane Fran; in 1998 following Hurricane Bonnie; in 1999 following Hurricane Floyd; and in 2016 following Hurricane Matthew. In 1997, following manure spills that proved to be disastrous, North Carolina implemented a ban on the construction of new CAFOs, but the ban expired in 1997 (and loopholes allowed some CAFOs to be built even during the ban).7

Pig Fecal Matter Regularly Spattered on Neighbors' Homes

CAFOs throughout the U.S. have been battling a slew of lawsuits from neighbors whose lives have been ruined by the industrial farming facilities. In North Carolina alone, The Guardian reported, pig farms "produce around 10bn [billion] gallons of feces a year, which is more than the volume of waste flushed down toilets by the human population of Germany."8

Says Elsie Herring, who lives in eastern North Carolina next to a field regularly sprayed with CAFO pig manure, "You stand outside and it feels like it's raining but then you realize it isn't rain. It's animal waste. It takes your breath away. You start gagging, coughing, your pulse increases. All you can do is run for cover."9 In April 2018, a federal jury ruled in the favor of North Carolina residents who live near the Kinlaw hog farm, a 14,000-animal facility, in Bladen County.

They were awarded a collective $750,000 in compensation plus another $50 million in damages as part of a nuisance lawsuit against Murphy Brown LLC, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pork producer. The suit claimed the operations and manure lagoons were harming residents' health and lowering property values. According to one of the attorneys on the case, Michael Kaeske, bacteria from swine digestive systems were found coating the exterior surfaces of all 10 of the plaintiffs' homes.10 The lawsuit stated:11

"Specifically, these homes have tested positive for the DNA fingerprint of pig intestinal bacteria on their surfaces — they literally have pig feces on their walls. Which means that what the families have been saying for so many years, is true — they have been assaulted by the particles of a foul, disgusting and germ-ridden odor. Which the multinational company refuses to correct even as it receives the economic benefits of record exports and profits."

The favorable verdict gave hope to the many other communities rallying against the damages caused by industrial agriculture, particularly since Smithfield and other meat producers wield incredible lobbying power, making nuisance lawsuits historically difficult to win. Unfortunately, about a week after the ruling, a federal judge called upon a North Carolina law that limits punitive damages to no more than three times the amount of compensatory damages or $250,000, whichever is greater.

As a result, damages in the suit were reduced to $3.25 million, which means the plaintiffs, who were set to receive $5 million in compensatory damages, will each receive $325,000 instead — hardly enough to compensate them for the damages and allow them to relocate. Murphy Brown is also appealing the Kinlaw case, and only time will tell whether the company will ultimately be held responsible. This suit is only the first of 26 nuisance lawsuits filed against Murphy Brown; the next went on trial in June 2018.12

Duplin County, North Carolina, Has 38 Pigs Per Person

Certain areas of North Carolina are so densely populated with pig CAFOs that pigs in the areas outnumber people. CAFOs, with their environmental hazards and noxious odors, are also often disproportionately placed in areas with larger African-American, Latino and Native American populations.

Such is the case in Duplin County, which has 2.3 million pigs in CAFOs (along with 16.2 million poultry). With a human population numbering around 60,000, this works out to 38 pigs for each person.13 A study by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill revealed, in fact, that pig CAFOs are much more likely to affect African-American, Latinos and native Americans, noting:14

"The proportions of Blacks, Hispanics and American Indians living within 3 miles of an industrial hog operation are 1.54, 1.39 and 2.18 times higher, respectively, than the proportion of non-Hispanic Whites. In census blocks with 80 or more percent people of color, the proportion of the population living within 3 miles of an industrial hog operation is 2.14 times higher than in blocks with no people of color. This excess increases to 3.30 times higher with adjustment for rurality."

Previous research has also revealed that pig CAFOs in North Carolina are far less likely to appear in white communities, especially those low in poverty. "This spatial pattern is generally recognized as environmental racism," the researchers wrote.15

What Makes Pig CAFOs Such Bad Neighbors?

CAFOs pose environmental hazards in a number of ways, starting with water pollution. The excess of nutrients that runs off or leaches from CAFO waste lagoons lead to algae overgrowth in waterways, depleting the water of oxygen and killing fish and other marine life in expansive dead zones.

This, combined with the excess fertilizers applied to monocrops like corn and soy, which are also used for CAFO animal feed, sends a steady stream of nitrogen and phosphorus to both surface and groundwater, spreading potentially disease-causing organisms and unsustainable amounts of nutrients along the way.

The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico is the largest recorded dead zone in the world, beginning at the Mississippi River delta and spanning more than 8,700 square miles — and industrial agricultural pollution is primarily to blame. Drinking water can also be affected.

In North Carolina, the Neuse and Cape Fear Rivers, which provide drinking water for 40 percent of the state's residents, have been named among the most endangered rivers in the U.S. because of the many CAFOs in the rivers' floodplains.16 Air quality is also an issue. Ammonia, which is formed when microbes digest nitrogen in manure, has a pungent odor and can lead to chemical burns, cough and chronic lung disease. Other toxic compounds commonly released by CAFOs include:17

  • Hydrogen sulfide, which has a rotten egg odor and can cause inflammation of eye and respiratory tract membranes, loss of olfactory neurons and even death
  • Methane, an odorless but highly flammable greenhouse gas
  • Particulate matter, including particles from feed, bedding, dry manure, soil, animal dander and feathers, which can cause chronic bronchitis and respiratory symptoms, declines in lung function and organic dust toxic syndrome, a severe flu-like illness

Beyond pollution, CAFOs pose serious threats of spreading diseases to humans. For instance, a pig virus, the porcine deltacoronavirus (PDCoV), first identified in Hong Kong in 2012, has recently been shown to have the potential to leap to humans. The sometimes-fatal virus causes diarrhea and vomiting in pigs, and researchers revealed it has the potential to be transmitted between species, including to humans.18

"We're very concerned about emerging coronaviruses and worry about the harm they can do to animals and their potential to jump to humans," senior study author Linda Saif, an investigator in Ohio State's Food Animal Health Research Program at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC), said in a press release.19 Antibiotic-resistant disease can also be spread via CAFOs.

In 2015, research published in Clinical Infectious Diseases revealed that current workers at pig farms are six times more likely to carry multidrug-resistant MRSA than those without exposure to CAFO pigs.20 Aerosolized MRSA has even been detected in the air inside and downwind of a pig CAFO, as well as in animal feed.21 Needless to say, living near a CAFO has turned many people's "American dream" into a nightmare.

What's the Best Way to Fight Back Against CAFOs?

People in rural communities often feel helpless against the giant multinational corporations ruining their lives. It's a good sign that some residents have been awarded damages for their CAFO-caused hardships, but the amounts are unlikely to prompt change within the industry. And, ultimately, this is what's needed to stop the environmental destruction that's occurring at the hands of CAFOs.

The solution lies in changing agricultural practices from industrial to regenerative. Choosing grass fed products like grass fed beef and bison over those raised in CAFOs is a solution that we can all take part in. Look for pastured pork, free-range poultry and other animal products raised naturally in concert with the environment and actively avoid those raised on CAFOs.

The vast majority of animal products sold in U.S. grocery stores come from CAFOs, which is why sourcing your food from a small local farmer, farmers market or food co-op is one of the best decisions you can make — not only for your own health but for that of the environment and the people forced to live near CAFOs. Ultimately, if a sizeable minority of people begin to boycott CAFO products, they may be forced to change their ways.




GMO Rice Approved


By Dr. Mercola

Genetically engineered (GE) Golden Rice has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), making the U.S. the fourth country to give the GE food the green light, after Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Golden Rice is genetically engineered to contain extra genes that produce a precursor to vitamin A, beta-carotene.

The rice, which has been making headlines for nearly two decades, was widely touted as a solution to vitamin A deficiency, which affects 250 million preschool-aged children worldwide.1 As the leading cause of preventable blindness in children, it's estimated that up to 500,000 children become blind each year due to vitamin A deficiency, and half of them die within a year of losing their sight.2

A form of rice that could potentially alleviate this devastating micronutrient deficiency, especially in low-income countries in Africa and South-East Asia does, indeed, sound like a panacea. However, despite its recent FDA approval, there remain many doubts surrounding Golden Rice, including its usefulness, practicality and effectiveness for its intended purpose: relieving vitamin A deficiency.

FDA Says Golden Rice Is Safe, but Can't Make a Nutrient Claim

The FDA based their decision to approve Golden Rice on data supplied by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the current makers of Golden Rice, who they have also tasked with ensuring the product’s safety in the future: “It is IRRI’s continuing responsibility to ensure that foods marketed by the firm are safe, wholesome, and in compliance with all applicable legal and regulatory requirements."3

While IRRI does not intend to grow or market Golden Rice in the U.S. at this time, it sought approval because it's expected that the product may be imported into the U.S., perhaps in other food products intended for animals or people.

While accepting IRRI's conclusion that Golden Rice is safe, they noted that its beta-carotene content is "too low to warrant a nutrient content claim." Health Canada similarly wrote that even if all rice and rice products in the country were replaced with Golden Rice, it would result in only a very small (0.8 percent to 8 percent) increase in beta-carotene intake daily.4

The FDA’s approval could influence other countries considering the GE rice, as Futurism reported, “The U.S. is part of an international body that forms recommendations about food safety that other countries can adopt if they lack their own version of the FDA."5

Notably, IRRI is awaiting approval in the Philippines and Bangladesh, where the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) and Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) are currently working on developing high-yielding local rice varieties with the beta-carotene producing Golden Rice trait.6

The GR2E Golden Rice is the first to receive regulatory approval for use in food. The first Golden Rice (GR1) failed, as it contained too little beta-carotene to even make a dent in vitamin A deficiency.7 The next version (GR2) was developed by biotech giant Syngenta, and the latest version, GR2E, contains three added genes.

"Two specify enzymes in the β-carotene biosynthesis pathway, and are taken from bacteria and maize," Independent Science News reported. "The third specifies a (nonantibiotic) selectable marker protein used in the modification process."8

However, there are concerns that even the GR2E rice may contain only negligible quantities of beta-carotene. The FDA reported that the beta-carotene contained only 0.50 to 2.35 ug/g of beta-carotene, compared to say, the 111 ug/g found in spinach, although sometimes higher levels have been reported. As noted by Independent Science News:9

"FDA notes the mean value of beta-carotene for GR2E is 1.26ug/g. This is, paradoxically, less beta-carotene than the 1.6ug/g measured for the original iteration of Golden Rice … Greenpeace once calculated that such low levels would necessitate a person to eat 3.75 kg of Golden Rice per day to receive an adequate amount of beta-carotene."

What's more, research has shown that whatever beta-carotene content there is in Golden Rice at harvest will rapidly degrade in storage. Research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry revealed that after three weeks of storage Golden Rice retained only 60 percent of its beta-carotene and this dropped to 13 percent after 10 weeks.10,11

Problems With Golden Rice Have Been Apparent From the Start

There are fundamental flaws that make Golden Rice highly questionable, starting with its intended population's ability to convert the beta-carotene to vitamin A. A 2009 study found Golden Rice is an effective source of vitamin A, because it "is effectively converted to vitamin A" in healthy adult volunteers,12 but those who could theoretically be helped by the additional beta-carotene in Golden Rice are, for the most part, not healthy adults, nor would they have regular access to key nutrients needed to absorb vitamin A, like fat.

Some experts also argue that seeking to replace one micronutrient at a time is not the best strategy to bring health to malnourished people, who need access to all essential nutrients found in whole foods. Further, if you did want to replace one nutrient at a time, including vitamin A, inexpensive vitamin A supplements are widely available and can be dispensed to the people who need them far more easily than Golden Rice.

In fact, they're already being used, with promising results, according to WHO, which notes, "For deficient children, the periodic supply of high-dose vitamin A in swift, simple, low-cost, high-benefit interventions has … produced remarkable results, reducing mortality by 23 percent overall and by up to 50 percent for acute measles sufferers."13

IRRI is currently working on developing GE rice varieties that contain additional iron and zinc, along with beta-carotene, but so far Golden Rice has also been plagued by growing problems, making the crop highly unattractive to farmers. For instance, Indian researchers looking to create a form of Golden Rice that could be grown in India introduced the engineered DNA to a high-yielding variety called Swarna.

The resulting "GR2-R1" crop was "dwarf with pale green leaves and drastically reduced panicle [flower cluster] size, grain number and yield as compared to the recurrent parent, Swarna."14 Yields of the GE "Golden Rice Swarma" were just one-third that of the non-GE variety, and root and shoot defects were apparent. "The plants also flowered later, were half the height and half as fertile," The Cornucopia Institute reported."15

Is Golden Rice Safe?

Speaking to The Cornucopia Institute, Jonathan Latham, executive director of the Bioscience Resource Project, said Golden Rice transgenes caused "metabolic meltdown" in native rice plants and exemplify to perfection the classic criticisms of genetic engineering that "introduced DNA will disrupt native gene sequences and, second, that unpredictable disruption of normal metabolism may result from introducing new functions."16

Indeed, it's possible that GE Golden Rice could contaminate non-GE rice and non-GE rice imports. And although the FDA went along with IRRI's safety assessments of Golden Rice, Independent Science News points out that the "biosafety of Golden Rice GR2E is contested":17

"Testbiotech and other researchers have pointed out that key human safety and efficacy studies are lacking, especially for target populations … Specific health concerns include unintended nutritional effects of carotenoid biosynthesis or its degradation products and because certain components of the carotenoid pathway can be toxic."

Meanwhile, in New Zealand, consumer group GE-Free New Zealand said there was a "total absence of data" regarding the safety of GE rice and considered taking legal action against Food Standards Australia New Zealand and the Minister for Food Safety over the approval of Golden Rice.18 Greenpeace further noted "next to nothing is known about how this GE rice interacts with the environment."19

WHO's Plan to Fight Vitamin A Deficiency Doesn't Include GE Rice

While IRRI continues to seek approval worldwide for Golden Rice, WHO has already implemented a campaign featuring a variety of non-GMO methods for combating vitamin A deficiency. This includes:20

  • Promoting breastfeeding as the best way to protect babies from vitamin A deficiency, since breastmilk is a natural source of vitamin A
  • Fortifying foods with vitamin A in certain areas, such as Guatemala, has helped to maintain vitamin A status for high-risk groups and needy families
  • Promoting home gardens for rural families, including in Africa and Southeast Asia. According to WHO, "[G]rowing fruits and vegetables in home gardens complements dietary diversification and fortification and contributes to better lifelong health."

Even IRRI states that Golden Rice is only intended to be a "complementary, food-based solution to existing nutritional interventions, such as diet diversification and oral supplementation." It only provides, even according to IRRI data, 30 to 50 percent of the average requirement of vitamin A for women and children.21 In short, it can't solve vitamin A deficiency on its own, even under the best circumstances, so why create a GE food for this purpose?

It's ironic, too, because beta-carotene-rich foods already exist in nature, and they naturally contain other essential nutrients as well. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is among those that have dumped millions of dollars toward the development of Golden Rice, which stands to make the biotech industry even richer, especially if it paves the way for the approval of even more GE crops globally.

Instead of devoting millions to Golden Rice, which is questionable in its safety and may not even work to alleviate vitamin A deficiency, why not work to improve access to real sources of beta-carotene and other nutrients, including animal products like eggs, cheese and meat, and vegetables such as dark leafy greens and sweet potatoes?

Perhaps it's revealing that the Philippines has yet to approve Golden Rice, with some residents preferring to solve vitamin A deficiency without GMOs. Cris Panerio, a member of a Philippines farmers' network that oppose the approval, said in a media release:22

"We … question why the International Rice Research Institute is seeking safety approval from Canada, Australia, and the U.S. while farmers and consumers in Asia who plant and eat rice as a staple are left in the dark … Promoting readily available, diverse, and safe Vitamin A food sources from sustainable and ecological farming is the long term solution to combat malnutrition, ensure food security and health, not genetically modified crops like Golden Rice."




Monsanto, You Can Run But You Can’t Hide


By Dr. Mercola

May 29, 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) approved (with conditions) the merger of Monsanto and Bayer.1,2 The decision came on the heels of the European Union's (EU) approval in March. Bayer's takeover of Monsanto — the largest all-cash buyout on record3,4,5 — means just three companies now dominate the global seed and pesticide market.6

In addition to the Bayer-Monsanto merger, the DOJ has also approved the merger of Dow and DuPont, and the Federal Trade Commission recently approved ChemChina's acquisition of Syngenta. Together, these three merged behemoths — Bayer, ChemChina and DowDuPont — will control 61 percent of the global seed market.

The same trio, plus BASF, will also control 70 percent of the pesticide market.7 Of these, Bayer will hold the largest share — about a quarter of the seed and pesticide markets combined. In 2011, Monsanto had 26 percent of the global seed market and Bayer had 3 percent. Bayer sold 17 percent of the total agrochemicals; Monsanto had 7 percent of the chemical market.8

As a condition of the DOJ's approval, Bayer will sell some of its assets to BASF, including its soybean, cottonseed and glufosinate weed killer businesses, which overlap with Monsanto's and were antitrust sticking points. So, the first week of June marked the end of the Monsanto name,9 but that doesn't mean the company, its products and everything associated with either, are going away. As noted by Forbes,10 "its history, products and culture will linger. Bayer can't change Monsanto's history."

Bayer Will Face Same Resistance as Monsanto

According to a Bayer June 4 statement,11 Monsanto's product line will keep their original brand names in the Bayer portfolio, but the Monsanto name is being retired. The merged entity will retain the Bayer name. Cultural integration is predicted to be a challenge for the new, now much larger Bayer. Bayer also has a shadowy past of its own that is in need of rehabilitation.

"Yes, Bayer introduced the world to Aspirin and Phenobarbital. But it also trademarked Heroin and, when it was IG Farben during World War II, used concentration camp prisoners as slave laborers and drug testers with disastrous results," Forbes writes,12 adding: "Even with that context, there are two special challenges to onboarding leaders from Monsanto into Bayer:

1) Monsanto's history as a private company and 2) the "toxicity" of the Monsanto brand earned by its manufacture and marketing of DDT, PCBs, Agent Orange, recombinant bovine growth hormones, genetically modified crops and seed patenting model and enforcement …

There's every reason to expect Monsanto's people to be more results-oriented and less caring, more hierarchical and more driven by authority than Bayer's people. These are non-trivial cultural hurdles to overcome."

Adrian Bebb, a Friends of the Earth Europe food and farming campaigner commented on the merger, telling The Guardian:13

"Bayer will become Monsanto in all but name unless it takes drastic measures to distance itself from the U.S. chemical giant's controversial past. If it continues to peddle dangerous pesticides and unwanted GMOs then it will quickly find itself dealing with the same global resistance that Monsanto did."

What Kind of Food System Do You Want?

"The merger of corporate giants Monsanto and Bayer begs a vital question — what kind of agriculture do we really want?" John Vidal writes in a recent op-ed for The Guardian.14 As the world's now largest seed and pesticide company, Bayer will have a direct impact on a majority of farmers in the U.S., EU and Great Britain.

Needless to say, the company will also wield tremendous power over what ends up on the plates of consumers. "It will be able to influence what and how most of the world's food is grown, affecting the price and the method it is grown by," Vidal writes. In stark contrast to Bayer and other biotech companies, which sells patented seeds at a premium and disallows seed sharing, Debal Deb, an Indian plant researcher, focuses on cultivating as wide a variety of crops as possible, and gives the seeds away for free.

Deb currently grows 1,340 different varieties of traditional Indian rice on donated land in West Bengal. Seeds from these crops are then distributed to more than 7,000 farmers across the country, with one condition: They must grow them and give some of the resulting seed away to others. As described by Vidal:

"This seed-sharing of 'landraces,' or local varieties, is not philanthropy but the extension of an age-old system of mutualized farming that has provided social stability and dietary diversity for millions of people. By continually selecting, crossbreeding and then exchanging their seed, farmers have developed varieties for their aroma, taste, color, medicinal properties and resistance to pests, drought and flood."

A Return to Agricultural Roots Can Save Us

This inherent wisdom of these ancient practices cannot be underestimated or overstated. While multinationals like Bayer want you to believe they are the saviors of mankind and that without them we would all starve, the converse is actually true. While monoculture has only been around for a few decades, ramifications of the dramatic loss of diversity is already apparent. The entire ecosystem suffers and, as a result, healthy crops are more difficult to grow and sustain.

Multinational seed companies insist consolidation is the best way to ensure the continual development of successful seed varieties, but what we really need is an explosion of diversity — that's how the best seeds are brought to the fore. Best of all, no genetic tinkering in the lab is necessary. There's absolutely no need to swap genes between animal- and plant kingdoms to "improve" on nature.

Rather than spawning innovation, consolidation actually promotes lower quality products as there's less incentive for innovation when there's less competition. Less competition also has a tendency to drive prices skyward.

As just one example, the price of a bag of seed corn has risen from $80 to $300 over the past decade alone — a price hike attributed to the consolidation of seed companies and reduced competition. The good news is farmers around the world are starting to pay attention to these facts, and are pushing back. As noted by Vidal:

"Nearly 10 million of the poorest farmers now use the system of rice intensification, which has been proven to increase rice, wheat, potato and other yields dramatically by stimulating the roots of crops. Agro-forestry techniques that grow trees and shrubs among crops is proving more productive, as is land restoration. Farmers' groups in India and across Latin America are developing their own seed companies in order to avoid the new corporate monopolies."

Your Support Is Needed Now

oraganic consumer association check

In response to the Monsanto-Bayer merger, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) has launched a boycott against Bayer, highlighting the fact that ditching the Monsanto name is not going to get them off the hook. You can follow the campaign and get the latest news updates on Facebook.15

OCA also needs your financial support to step up the campaign against Monsanto-Bayer through public education, litigation, funding of U.S. Right to Know (USRTK) and funding the new comprehensive Ramazzini Institute study on the hazards of glyphosate. You'll learn more about these action items in the section below.

By making a donation today, you are supporting all of this crucially important work. OCA is a tax-exempt nonprofit organization, and charitable donations are tax deductible to the full extent allowed by law. Please consider making a donation today. You can make an electronic payment by clicking the donate now button below, or mail a check to:

Organic Consumers Association
6771 South Silver Hill Drive
Finland, MN 55603

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Monsanto, You Can Run but You Cannot Hide

While Bayer defends the safety of Roundup and its active ingredient, glyphosate, just as vigorously as Monsanto has in the past, mounting independent research suggests it may be one of the most hazardous farming chemicals out there. Together with the nonprofit organization Beyond Pesticides, OCA filed a lawsuit16 against Monsanto on behalf of the general public in April 2017, charging Monsanto with deceptive labeling, marketing and sale of Roundup.

According to the complaint, Monsanto "actively advertises and promotes its Roundup products as targeting an enzyme 'found in plants but not in people or pets.' These claims are false, misleading and deceptive." The fact of the matter is the enzyme glyphosate targets is indeed found in both animals and humans, as it is found in our gut bacteria. Studies also suggest glyphosate may be carcinogenic, and may affect the cardiovascular, endocrine, nervous and reproductive systems in both animals and humans.

"No reasonable consumer seeing these representations would expect that Roundup targets a bacterial enzyme that is found in humans and animals and that affects their immune health," the complaint states, adding "Monsanto affirmatively states that the enzyme targeted by glyphosate is not found in people and pets, and fails to disclose to consumers the material information that the enzyme targeted by glyphosate, and the shikimate pathway it's designed to inhibit, are found in people and pets."

Monsanto filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, but on March 31, 2018, U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly denied the motion,17 ruling18 that enough evidence had been presented to support the allegation that Monsanto's labeling is misleading consumers. This is a significant "win" and, with your help, OCA will continue to keep the pressure on through that legal channel.

Help OCA Support Global Glyphosate Study

OCA is also sponsoring a global glyphosate study by the world-renowned Ramazzini Institute in Italy. Stage 1 will investigate the chemical's carcinogenicity and chronic toxicity potential.

Already, the pilot phase19 has revealed that daily ingestion of glyphosate at the acceptable daily dietary exposure level set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) alters sexual development in rats, produces changes in the intestinal microbiome, and exhibits genotoxic effects. In response to the results, OCA director Ronnie Cummins said:20

"For years, the U.S. EPA has dismissed consumer concerns about glyphosate-based weed killers in their drinking water and their food, claiming that exposure to the chemical at low levels is harmless. This new pilot study confirms what many responsible scientists have been saying all along: There is no such thing as 'safe' levels when it comes to glyphosate, especially when it comes to children.

In fact, the EPA established what it calls 'safe' levels without having any scientific evidence to back up its claim because, until now, there have been no comprehensive publicly available peer-reviewed studies of the potential health impact of glyphosate exposure at or lower than the EPA's guidelines.

This new study confirms that consumers should be alarmed when products such as Ben & Jerry's ice cream test positive for glyphosate at any level — despite corporations' claims that these levels are 'harmless.'"

Your Donation Will Also Support USRTK and Regeneration International

In addition to the continued financial support provided to the Ramazzini Institute's glyphosate study, OCA is also dedicated to continue its support of the USRTK's work21 — a nonprofit organization that has proven exceptionally capable of pursuing and extricating the truth by making full use of freedom of information act (FOIA) requests and other legal means.

For example, internal emails obtained via FOIA requests filed by USRTK correspondent and director of research Carey Gillam, revealed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found glyphosate residues in all foods sampled to date. In a June 5, 2018 update, OCA writes:22

"It's the FDA's job to conduct residue testing on food. It's the responsibility of the EPA to regulate pesticide residues on food. It stands to reason then that the two taxpayer-funded agencies would communicate closely with each other on any food testing involving glyphosate or any other pesticide. That's why USRTK has filed a series of FOIA requests with both agencies …

The FDA has produced at least some of the documents requested by USRTK. But the EPA …  has failed to produce documents requested in a July 2016 FOIA request, and also had failed to respond to a February 2017 request for related industry communications.

That failure led Gillam and USRTK to sue the EPA last month.23 If the public already knows that FDA tests found glyphosate, and USRTK already has related FDA documents, why bother suing the EPA for that agency's related communications?

'When you use FOIA, it's like getting pieces of a puzzle,' said Gillam, explaining that the FDA and other federal agencies routinely redact, or black out, large sections of the documents they turn over. 'To put that puzzle together, to get the whole picture, often requires requesting records from multiple sources. We still may not get everything, as it seems the agencies are increasingly embracing secrecy, but it's our responsibility to try to get to the truth.'"

In addition to exposing the dark side of chemical agriculture, OCA will also continue to promote the alternative through its sister organization Regeneration International,24 which provides educational services and resources about regenerative farming practices and techniques.

Regeneration International also provides farmer training through its partnership with Via Organica and its teaching farm, the Main Street Project's regenerative poultry project, described in "Changing the World — One Chicken at a Time." None of these projects can proceed without your support, however. So, please, consider making a generous donation to OCA today.

>>>>> Click Here <<<<<




Green Tea Boosts Heart and Brain Health


By Dr. Mercola

High quality teas — green tea in particular — contain polyphenol antioxidants recognized for their disease prevention and antiaging properties. Polyphenols can account for up to 30 percent of the dry leaf weight of green tea. Within the group of polyphenols are flavonoids, which contain catechins.

One of the most powerful catechins is epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), found in green tea. EGCG has been shown to positively impact a number of illnesses and conditions, including obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Tea Helps Lower Blood Pressure and Protects Your Heart

Previous research1,2 has shown long-term tea intake can improve your blood pressure readings. One systematic review of 25 randomized controlled trials found those who regularly drank either green or black tea for 12 weeks had an average of 2.6 mm Hg lower systolic blood pressure and 2.2 mm Hg lower diastolic pressure compared to those who did not drink tea.

Green tea provided the best results, followed by black tea. According to the authors, this reduction “would be expected to reduce stroke risk by 8 percent, coronary artery disease mortality by 5 percent and all-cause mortality by 4 percent at a population level … These are profound effects and must be considered seriously in terms of the potential for dietary modification to modulate the risk of CVD [cardiovascular disease].”

While unable to determine exactly how much tea you need to drink to receive these benefits, a number of previous studies have suggested the ideal amount lies around three to four cups of tea per day.3 For example, one 2007 study4 found “clear evidence” showing that three or more cups of tea — in this case black tea — reduced the risk of heart disease.

Similarly, drinking three to four cups of green tea daily has been shown to promote heart and cardiovascular health,5 and to aid in the prevention of arteriosclerosis, cerebral thrombus, heart attack and stroke, courtesy of its ability to relax blood vessels, improve blood flow and protect against blood clots.6

EGCG Helps Prevent Plaque in Both Arteries and Brain

More recent research supports these earlier findings. Researchers at the University of Leeds and Lancaster University say the EGCG in green tea can help prevent heart disease by dissolving arterial plaque.7,8 (Other recent research9 has found this compound also has the ability to inhibit amyloid beta plaque formation in the brain, associated with Alzheimer’s disease.)

According to these findings, EGCG actually alters the structure of amyloid fibrils formed by apolipoprotein A-1 (apoA-I) — the main protein component of high-density lipoprotein shown to accumulate in atherosclerotic plaques — when heparin (a naturally occurring anticoagulant produced by certain cells) is present. As reported by New Atlas:10

“[ApoA-I] is fundamental to the development of amyloid deposits seen in both Alzheimer's and atherosclerosis. The hypothesis in this new study is that EGCG can effectively alter the form of these amyloid fibrils, making them less toxic.

‘The health benefits of green tea have been widely promoted and it has been known for some time that EGCG can alter the structures of amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease,’ says one of the researchers on the project, David Middleton. ‘Our results show that this intriguing compound might also be effective against the types of plaques which can cause heart attacks and strokes.’"

Unfortunately, the EGCG concentrations required to achieve the results found in this study are so high, you couldn’t possibly get that amount from drinking green tea alone. However, the researchers believe the compound could eventually be used to make new drugs treatments. In light of such plans, it’s worth remembering that too much of a good thing can be problematic. As noted in a scientific review published in 2010:11

“… [T]here is emerging evidence that high doses of tea polyphenols may have adverse side effects. Given that the results of scientific studies on dietary components, including tea polyphenols, are often translated into dietary supplements, understanding the potential toxicities of the tea polyphenols is critical to understanding their potential usefulness …”

Other Health Benefits of Green Tea

Green tea has also been found to have a number of other health benefits, courtesy of EGCG and other beneficial plant compounds. For example, studies have linked green tea consumption to:

Lower risk of cancer

Green tea polyphenols act on molecular pathways to shut down the production and spread of tumor cells, and discourage the growth of blood vessels that feed the tumors.12 In addition to acting as an antiangiogenic and antitumor agent, EGCG has also been shown to modulate tumor cell response to chemotherapy.13

Improved weight loss

One 2010 study14 evaluating EGCG’s potential in weight loss found a 300 milligram (mg) dose per day increased fat oxidation by 33 percent during the first two hours directly after eating. A cup of green tea will give you anywhere from 20 to 35 mg of EGCG, so to reach 300 mg by drinking green tea, you’d have to consume about six cups.

Importantly, in those given twice that dose (600 mg/day), this fat oxidation effect was only 20 percent, so more is not necessarily better. EGCG may also aid weight loss by inhibiting fat cell development and increasing fat excretion.

Lower risk of Type 2 diabetes

One animal study15 found that EGCG was as effective as the diabetic drug Avandia in moderately diabetic mice, suggesting green tea, or a high quality green tea extract, could be helpful for the prevention and/or treatment of diabetes.

Enhanced brain function and prevention of age-associated brain degeneration

As mentioned earlier, EGCG appears to decrease the production of beta-amyloid, which can overaccumulate in your brain, resulting in nerve damage and memory loss over time.16 In one 2005 study,17 researchers injected pure EGCG into mice genetically programmed to develop Alz­heimer’s; the results showed a decrease of as much as 54 percent in the plaque associated with Alzheimer’s.

Reduced pain and inflammation related to rheumatoid arthritis18

Protection against glaucoma and other eye diseases

In one study,19 scientists analyzed eye tissue from rats that drank green tea and found that eye tissues such as the lens and retina had in fact absorbed green tea catechins. The retina absorbed the highest levels of gallocatechin, while the aqueous humor (the fluid in the chambers of your eye) soaked up the highest amounts of EGCG.

According to the authors, oxidative stress causes biological disturbances such as DNA damage and activation of proteolytic enzymes that can lead to tissue cell damage or dysfunction and, eventually, ophthalmic diseases.

Treatment of genital and anal warts

A botanical ointment containing green tea extract was found to be an effective treatment for external genital and anal warts, according to the results of one 2008 study.20 Genital and anal warts are caused by certain strains of human papillomavirus, and there has been a lack of effective, well tolerated treatments.

The researchers assigned over 500 adults with up to 30 warts to receive either an ointment containing sinecatechins, or a placebo. In the sinecatechins groups, warts cleared completely in roughly 57 percent of patients, compared to just 34 percent of subjects in the control group.

Reduced risk of autoimmune diseases21

One caveat: Those with Th2-dominant autoimmune disorders (such as asthma and allergies, many cancers, ulcerative colitis, lupus and many viral infections) may be wise to avoid concentrated green tea products as it may upregulate Th2.

Those with Th1-dominant conditions (such as multiple sclerosis, Hashimoto’s, psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis), on the other hand, may benefit, as green tea inhibits Th1. To learn more about this, see this “Green Tea Health Risks” article by Precision Nutrition.22

Improved exercise performance

In one study,23 mice given green tea extract for 10 weeks improved their endurance exercise performance by as much as 24 percent.  

Improved digestion24

Healthier gums25

Green Tea Is Part of a Healthy Diet

While some of the studies used far higher amounts of EGCG than you’d be able to comfortably get from drinking tea, if you enjoy it, a few cups a day could certainly be a healthy addition to your diet. Just be sure to drink your green tea “straight.” Adding milk and/or sugar will counter many of the benefits of the tea. One exception is lemon juice.

Research26 suggests you can actually increase the benefits of green tea by adding vitamin C — such as a squirt of lemon juice — as the ascorbic acid boosts the amount of catechins available for your body to absorb. In fact, citrus juice increased available catechin levels more than fivefold, causing 80 percent of tea's catechins to remain bioavailable.

Green tea is the least processed kind of tea, so it also contains the highest amounts of EGCG of all tea varieties — provided the tea has not been oxidized, which is a common problem. The easiest sign to look for when evaluating a green tea’s quality is its color.

If your green tea is brown rather than green, it’s likely been oxidized, which can damage or destroy many of its most valuable compounds. Besides being an excellent source of antioxidants, green tea is also packed with vitamins A, D, E, C, B, B5, H and K, manganese and other beneficial minerals such as zinc, chromium and selenium.

Matcha Tea and Tulsi — Two Superior Tea Choices

My personal favorite is Matcha green tea. It has a wonderful flavor and superior nutrient content, as it has not been damaged through processing. It contains the entire ground tea leaf, and can contain over 100 times the EGCG provided from regular brewed green tea.

The best Matcha green tea comes from Japan and is steamed rather than roasted or pan-fried. As a result, Matcha green tea retains all the nutrient-rich value possible from the tea leaf. The tea leaves are ground into powder, which you stir directly into hot water, resulting in a bright green beverage.

A cold version option that is perfect for summer is to make Matcha lemonade. Simply dissolve the powder in hot water; chill, then add lemon or lime juice. A small amount of stevia can be added for sweetness. Serve with ice. Matcha powder can also be added to juices, yogurt and smoothies. For a number of different recipes, see “How to Make Matcha Tea Smoothies” by Natural Holistic Health.27 As an added boon, the chlorophyll in Matcha acts as a natural detoxifier.

Another delicious, healthy option is Indian Tulsi tea, which contains hundreds of beneficial phytochemicals. Working together, these compounds possess potential antioxidant, adaptogenic and immune-enhancing properties that can fight stress and help promote your general health in multiple ways, including:

  • Bolstering your immune system
  • Providing you with a calming effect and relief from occasional stress
  • Promoting healthy metabolism
  • Helping maintain optimal blood sugar levels
  • Supporting normal cholesterol levels



Weekly Health Quiz: Firefighters, Energy and Exercise


1 Which of the following has recently been found to play an important role in cancer treatment by influencing the patient's response to anticancer drugs?

  • The patient's overall nutritional status
  • The patient's intake of specific fats
  • The patient's intake of specific antioxidants
  • The makeup of the patient's gut microbiome

    Targeting the gut microbiome could be a real game-changer in the fight against cancer, as the presence of certain gut bacteria appears to boost the patient's response to anticancer drugs. Learn more.

2 Which of the following strategies is the LEAST likely to prevent cervical cancer caused by HPV infection?

  • Getting vaccinated against HPV

    According to a 2012 systematic review of Gardasil pre- and post-licensure trials, there's no convincing evidence to suggest the HPV vaccines have prevented a single case of cervical cancer. Using condoms, getting regular PAP smears and promptly treating HPV infection can more effectively prevent cervical cancer. Learn more.

  • Getting regular PAP smears
  • Using condoms during sex
  • Promptly treating HPV infection

3 Which of the following is believed to be the greatest occupational health risk firefighters face?

  • Burn fatality
  • Lung disease
  • Stroke
  • Cancer

    About half of U.S. firefighters believe cancer is the greatest occupational health risk they face; California female firefighters aged 40 to 50 are six times more likely to develop breast cancer than the national average. Learn more.

4 Which of the following requires the most energy out of all your internal organs, and is therefore more susceptible to age-related diseases?

  • Heart
  • Lungs
  • Eyes
  • Brain

    Your brain, which consumes up to 20 percent of the energy used by your entire body, is particularly susceptible to impaired energy production due to faulty mitochondria, and researchers now suggest this is what makes the human brain susceptible to age-related diseases in the first place. Learn more.

5 Exercise tools like foam rollers, massage sticks and resistance bands are useful for:

  • Reducing blood flow to aching muscles
  • Increasing tension in your fascia
  • Improving your range of motion

    Among their many benefits, exercise tools such as foam rollers are useful for releasing tension points, improving range of motion and supporting muscle recovery. Learn more.

  • Treating low-back pain

6 Having cornered 90 percent of the internet search market, Google has a clear monopoly. Which of the following web search engines is Google's closest competitor?

  • Bing

    Google monopolizes several different markets, including search and advertising. Bing, its closest web search competitor, has just 2 percent of the market; Google has 90 percent. Learn more.

  • Yahoo! Search
  • Ask
  • Dogpile

7 "Autophagy" refers to your body's natural process of:

  • Digesting and cleaning out damaged cells

    Autophagy refers to a "self-eating" process in which your body digests damaged cells. It's a cleaning-out process that encourages the proliferation of new, healthy cells, and therefore plays an important role in health and longevity. Learn more.

  • Programmed cell suicide
  • Reduction in inflammation secondary to cytokine decrease
  • Activation of mitochondria



Latest Research on Best Cooking Oils


By Dr. Mercola

You may have wondered about many of the recommendations you see regarding cooking oils, such as what types are healthiest and how they should and should not be used. There's peanut oil, safflower oil, coconut, avocado, grapeseed and olive oils, and plenty more. So which one's best?

It's probably fair to say that most recipes today calling for some type of oil for cooking usually suggest "vegetable" oil or canola oil. But a recent study1 in Australia found that vegetable oils, which are extracted from seeds, are at the bottom of the barrel, so to speak, because of how they behave in two areas:

  • Instability when heated
  • The production of harmful compounds when heated

Here's how the study was carried out: 10 of Australia's most popular cooking oils were heated in different ways, then returned to room temperature before being stored for later chemical analyzation. The oils tested were:

Extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)

Virgin olive oil

Olive oil

Sunflower oil

Peanut oil

Coconut oil

Avocado oil

Grapeseed oil

Rice bran oil

Canola oil

The researchers made interesting observations of the oils, especially in light of other studies that have taken place in recent years. In fact, some of the results were surprising and contradictory to other studies. One finding was that EVOO was rated the best cooking oil for both oxidative stability and lack of harmful compounds produced when heated.

But coconut oil, deemed to be the next safest for cooking at high temperatures, failed when levels of naturally occurring antioxidants were compared. Smoke point, by the way, is the temperature at which it exceeds safety by releasing free radicals that react with oxygen to form harmful compounds that can harm your cells and even your DNA, according to the Health Science Academy.2

Avocado oil didn't rate as high as one might expect, given other studies, such as one noted by the Healthy Home Economist, which notes that avocado oil has a higher smoke point of 480 degrees Fahrenheit (F) for unrefined and 520 degrees Fahrenheit when refined. In fact, Healthy Home Economist states, "No other oil ranks higher including ghee, tallow and lard, making avocado an excellent choice for high heat cooking and frying."3

However, the Australian study disagrees, as it found that smoke point was actually not useful in gauging a cooking oil's suitability for heating and, in fact, those with the highest smoke points tended to produce higher levels of harmful compounds after heating. "4

Interesting Conclusions From Australian Study

To that end, each of the top 10 oils used Down Under underwent two types of testing in scientifically accredited laboratories in Australia to determine the oxidative stability of the oils when they're heated:

  • The first gradually heated 8.5 ounces (250 millimeters (ml)) of each oil from 77 degrees F to 464 degrees F, with samples of each being collected at different levels of heat.
  • In the second trial, 3 liters (100 ounces) of each oil were heated in a deep fryer for six hours at 356 degrees F.

Please note that when oils are heated, the rate at which they react with oxygen increases and the oil breaks down, a process known as oxidation. As one study explained, the longer an oil resists oxidation, the healthier it is to eat the food the oil has been heated with.5

However, according to the researchers involved in the featured study, contrary to conventional wisdom, a cooking oil's smoke point is a "very poor marker" of its safety and stability. Typically, the more saturated fat and monounsaturated fat in an oil, the better its oxidative stability. In fact, according to Diet v.s. disease:

"Data from this study showed that coconut oil had the highest oxidative stability. This is due to its extremely high saturated fat content (about 92 percent), which makes it solid at room temperature …"6

Additionally:

"If a high smoke point did accurately represent an oil's stability at high heat, the seed oils would produce the lowest levels of polar compounds after cooking, not the highest."7

Peanut oil came in second on the oxidative stability scale, with extra-virgin olive oil, virgin olive oil and olive oil filling the next three slots. Canola oil came in just ahead of avocado oil, with rice bran (allegedly an industrial fat used for cooking at Chipotle8), grapeseed and sunflower oils coming in dead last.

Polar Compounds and Antioxidant Levels of Cooking Oils

Scientists observed the production rate of harmful polar compounds such as lipid peroxides and aldehydes, produced when an oil breaks down in the heating process.9 Both are linked to serious diseases, including neurodegenerative, age-related, carcinogenic and hypertension-associated illnesses.

In the end, the study concluded that EVOO won the most-stable-oil-when-heated competition, followed closely by coconut oil, and EVOO came out on top in terms of harmful polar compounds produced. EVOO had the lowest amount of harmful polar compounds after heating, followed closely by coconut oil. However, the study authors mentioned that:

"The experiments were carried out without food being cooked. While cooking, the water and steam which comes from the food being cooked aids the process of hydrolysis. The absence of food in these trials may have allowed for a greater impact of oil oxidation when compared with other deterioration reactions."10

Scientists also reported a big difference between virgin and extra virgin olive oils: All three grades contained many more antioxidants compared with the other oils, with EVOO being highest and having 18 times more than canola oil and 700 times more than coconut oil. EVOO, compared to virgin olive oil and the refined version, differs widely.

It's a far superior choice and contains many more positive attributes due to the way it's extracted and produced. Diet v.s. disease contends that "The antioxidant content of extra-virgin olive oil was overwhelmingly greater than all the seed oils, avocado oil and coconut oil combined."11 However, keep in mind that coconut oil does have other beneficial qualities, like being a good source of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs).

Olive Oil: A Bona Fide Superfood

Olive oil has been used for several applications for thousands of years, including purification and ceremonial rites and symbolic references such as purity and abundance. Olive oil was a popular trade commodity that, when prepared and cooled properly, could be stored for years, according to early Hebrew and Greek manuscripts.

Olive oil has been used for lamp oil and topically to soothe dry skin. It's still drizzled on raw vegetables, i.e., salads, and breads with cheese and herbs, such as bruschetta. However, using it for frying was not customary among early cultures. Faye Levy, author of "1,000 Jewish Recipes" states:

"The French chefs I studied with in Paris preferred delicate olive oil and reserved it mainly as a 'finishing' oil for drizzling over cooked dishes at the last minute … If you have a really good olive oil, it's best to use it in a dish where the oil's taste is noticeable, such as a dip or salad …

Even a modest amount of a fruity, somewhat pungent olive oil will provide plenty of flavor. Because the flavor of extra-virgin olive oil is finest when the oil is heated gently or not at all, it's a good idea to reserve your best bottles of olive oil for adding to dishes at the last moment."12

Unfortunately, producing extra-virgin olive oil has become a big business, which has led to fraud the world over. Even olive oils labeled "extra virgin" may have been tampered with and adulterated by being diluted with inferior oils, such as some of the seed oils previously mentioned. Taste and smell are two of the best ways to determine authenticity.

Why Olive Oil Is So Good for You

Olive Central, a "portal for the South African olive industry," observes that extra-virgin olive oil has a number of health benefits and lists five main reasons why it's a bona fide superfood:

  • Oleocanthal — This phenolic compound has reportedly shown several ways in which it reduces diseases affecting joints, neurodegeneration and certain cancers. It may inhibit the COX1 and COX2 enzymes that cause inflammation and prevent Alzheimer's disease by helping clear beta-amyloid plaques from your brain.13
  • Antioxidants — These can help prevent cell damage caused by oxidants, protect your body from damage caused by free radicals that can cause serious diseases, including cancer, and reduce your risk of heart disease.
  • Monounsaturated fatty acids — These fatty acids are "good" fats found to protect against disease by increasing your cell membranes' elasticity, which reduces your risk of heart disease, diabetes, atherosclerosis and colon cancer, and may benefit insulin levels.14
  • Vitamin K — A fat-soluble vitamin recognized for its role in blood clotting, this vitamin helps build strong bones and may help prevent heart disease. One tablespoon of EVOO contains about 10 percent of the reference daily intake (RDI) recommended for adults.
  • Vitamin E — Vitamin E, aka tocopherol, is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays an important role in protecting against skin and eye problems, cancer and diabetes, as well as neurological diseases like Alzheimer's. Often included in skin creams, it helps promote healing and reduces scarring.15

Cooking Oil: What to Use, What to Avoid

When it comes to cooking foods with oil, one of the things to watch for is oils that are hydrogenated or interesterified (a fat where the triglyceride molecule is engineered to change the melting point of the oil). One thing untested in the Australian study was something Americans use often: organic, grass fed butter, which is among the best fats to cook with. Ghee, another delicious alternative, has been used for cooking for eons and is another good choice.

Perhaps the information unmasking margarine as an artery-clogging substitute is old news, but just in case, avoid margarine along with refined cooking oils and vegetable oil, and avoid vegetable shortening, as well. Polyunsaturated fats may be the worst, as the omega-6 fatty acids are more prone to damage — one reason to stay away from corn oils, soybean oil, safflower, cottonseed oil and canola oils, too.

Coconut oil has much more going for it than the Australian study revealed. Fifty percent of its fat content is lauric acid, which your body converts into monolaurin, which contains powerful antiviral, antibacterial and antiparasitical properties.

Multiple studies point to coconut oil and avocado oil as far superior to olive oil for heating food due to the smoke point, but some of the most prominent entities people turn to for information regarding their health have not yet gotten the memo regarding healthy fats; some may in fact be ignoring the newest studies.16

It's worth mentioning, too, that the Australian study was carried out by researchers with Modern Olives Laboratory Services, which provides services for the olive oil industry. While there's no doubt that olive oil is good for your health, its suitability as a cooking oil deserves further study.




What Can Apple Cider Vinegar Do for You?


By Dr. Mercola

If you have a bottle of apple cider vinegar in your pantry, you very likely know how valuable this particular staple is to your health. If you are not yet familiar with the many beneficial uses of this versatile and economical home remedy, you may be interested to know it has been used successfully to treat conditions ranging from blood sugar and weight loss to acid reflux and upset stomach. Check out these nine reasons why you should keep a bottle of apple cider vinegar on hand.

How Is Apple Cider Vinegar Made?

Apple cider vinegar is an enzyme- and probiotic-rich fermented food. As the name suggests, it is made from apples, which are allowed to ferment. Making unpasteurized apple cider vinegar follows a process similar to the one used for making other homemade fermented brews, such as kombucha. Below is a high-level overview of a more detailed "how to" process for making homemade apple cider vinegar.1

In the first step of the process, sugar is dissolved in filtered water that is then poured over a variety of coarsely chopped apples. This mixture is allowed to set at room temperature for one to two weeks until bubbles begin to appear as the sugar ferments into alcohol. (Because the sugars are digested through the fermentation process, apple cider vinegar contains very little sugar and carbohydrates, making it a very attractive food from a dietary standpoint.) 

During the second step of the process, the apples are strained out and the liquid is maintained, again at room temperature, for an additional three to four weeks. At this time, the alcohol is transforming into vinegar through the action of the acetic acid bacteria — this particular acid gives vinegar its distinctive sour tang. As the bacteria do their job, a small amount of sediment will appear on the bottom of the container and the "mother" culture will form on top, which is a colony of beneficial bacteria.

In fact, you can quickly recognize organic, raw, unfiltered, unprocessed apple cider vinegar by the distinctive presence of the mother. It appears as dark, strand-like chains of cloudy bacterial foam that are actually protein enzyme molecules and probiotic bacteria. Mother can only exist in vinegar that is not pasteurized or filtered, which means you will not find it in most types of vinegar sold at the grocery store.

Nutritional Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar

While at least one source2 suggests apple cider vinegar may contain the same nutrient levels as apples, such as vitamin C, B vitamins, magnesium and potassium, there is little evidence to support this assertion, particularly for pasteurized varieties. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Nutrient Database3 entry for apple cider vinegar is virtually blank and features data for calories per serving and sodium only.

Some assert unpasteurized, unfiltered varieties of apple cider vinegar, such as you'd make at home, do retain some of the beneficial nutrients present in apples. Even so, it's the acetic acid4 — a powerful antimicrobial — and to a lesser extent, the malic acid in apple cider vinegar that act on your body in powerful, health-benefiting ways.

Apple cider vinegar also contains citric, formic, lactic and succinic acids, as well as antioxidants such as caffeic acid, catechin, chlorogenic acid, epicatechin and gallic acid, which fight free radicals that cause oxidative stress and promote inflammation. Following are nine suggested benefits of apple cider vinegar.5,6

Aids in Weight Loss

Research published in the journal Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry in 2009 indicates apple cider vinegar can help you lose weight and shed body fat.7 In this study, 144 obese Japanese adults consumed either 1 tablespoon of vinegar, 2 tablespoons of vinegar or a placebo drink every day for 12 weeks. Other than restricted alcohol consumption, the participants were free to maintain their usual diet and activity levels.

As shown in the table below, consumption of 1 to 2 tablespoons of vinegar added to a beverage yielded a positive effect on weight loss and the three other measures of health that were tracked. Consuming 2 tablespoons of vinegar produced the most benefits.

Vinegar (1 tablespoon) Vinegar (2 tablespoons) Placebo

WEIGHT CHANGE

-2.6 pounds

-3.7 pounds

+0.9 pounds

DECREASE IN BODY FAT PERCENTAGE

0.7%

0.9%

DECREASE IN WAIST CIRCUMFERENCE

0.5 inches

0.75 inches

DECREASE IN TRIGLYCERIDES

26%

26%

The study authors concluded, "[D]aily intake of vinegar might be useful in the prevention of metabolic syndrome by reducing obesity."8 The weight loss is thought to be influenced by the acetic acid in vinegar, which is believed to suppress your appetite and increase your metabolism, as well as reduce water retention.9 Scientists also theorize apple cider vinegar interferes with your body's digestion of starch, resulting in fewer calories entering your bloodstream.

Banishes Bad Breath

If you are looking to boost your oral hygiene but proper brushing is not doing enough to help you control bad breath, my first recommendation would be to take a closer look at your diet and digestion. If you are eating particularly fragrant (or downright smelly) foods, coupled with infrequent bowel movements, you will most likely suffer from bad breath. One option is to remove foods such as garlic and onions from your diet to see if that makes a difference, but this means missing out on their many health benefits.

You can increase the frequency of your bowel movements by increasing your intake of fiber-rich foods. In addition, you may want to reduce your intake of sugar and starchy carbohydrates, which slow down your system. As a secondary measure, you may be able to fight bad breath by adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to an 8-ounce glass of water and using it as a gargle after brushing.

Be sure to rinse your mouth with plain water after gargling to remove any remaining acid from your teeth, mainly because acid that sits on your teeth will damage your tooth enamel. When done properly, a daily gargle with apple cider vinegar may help kill odor-causing bacteria, reduce unpleasant tastes, prevent dry mouth and eliminate nasty tongue coatings.10

Calms Acid Reflux

Contrary to what you may believe, heartburn is often caused by too little, not too much, stomach acid. A lack of stomach acid has the effect of slowing digestion. In the presence of too little acid, food and gasses put pressure on your stomach, sometimes causing your stomach contents and some stomach acid to creep back up your esophagus.

If this happens to you on a regular basis, you may want to sip a glass of warm water containing 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar about 30 minutes prior to eating. (Some folks add a dab of raw honey to make the vinegary taste more tolerable.) By introducing apple cider vinegar, which has a pH similar to stomach acid, you ensure your stomach will have sufficient amounts of acid to promote proper digestion, thereby preventing heartburn.

Clears a Stuffy Nose

At the first sign of a cold, seasonal allergy or sinus infection, reach for apple cider vinegar because it is well-known for its ability to reduce congestion and thin mucus. The thinning of mucus promotes drainage and enables your body to expel bacteria and other infection-causing germs. The presence of acetic acid, which contains antimicrobial properties, has been shown to have the potential to prevent bacteria growth.11 Two options for using apple cider vinegar to clear a stuffy nose are:12

  • Tonic for internal use: Add one-eighth to one-fourth cup of apple cider vinegar to 16 ounces of filtered water. Stir, and sip the tonic throughout the day. Alternately, you can quickly drink down up to 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in 8 ounces of water daily until your symptoms improve.
  • Nasal rinse solution: Add one-half to 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to 6 to 8 ounces of warm filtered water. Stir well. Introduce the liquid into your sinuses once or twice daily using a neti pot or sinus rinse bottle until your condition improves.

Halts Hiccups

For some people, hiccups seem to respond to the sour taste of apple cider vinegar. You can either take 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar alone or mix it with 6 to 8 ounces of filtered water and drink it down quickly. Some suggest drinking from the opposite side of the glass boosts the hiccup-stopping power of apple cider vinegar.

Helps Lower Blood Sugar

According to CNN Health,13 there is substantial evidence suggesting the consumption of vinegar, including apple cider vinegar, can help keep your blood sugar under control. As you probably know, blood sugar regulation is an important factor in reducing your risk of diabetes and heart disease, among other conditions. Professor Carol Johnston, Ph.D., associate director of Arizona State University's nutrition program, has been studying the effects of vinegar for more than 10 years and suggests it can be useful to control blood sugar spikes for prediabetics and Type 2 diabetics.

Johnston asserts even healthy control subjects have benefited from consuming vinegar. "Vinegar had an impact in all groups, but the most significant impact was in the prediabetic group," she said. "In prediabetics, it was too good to be true; [blood sugar] fell a good bit and stayed that way. It may be this is the group that could benefit the most."14 According to Johnston, the acetic acid in vinegar "appears to interfere with enzymes that break down starch molecules."15

The good news is this antiglycemic response can be induced by all types of vinegar, including apple cider vinegar, because it is the acetic acid not the vinegar type that produces the results. Johnston added, "Basically, what acetic acid is doing is blocking the absorption of starch. If my study subjects eat a starch and add vinegar, glucose will go down. But if they drink sugar water and add vinegar, nothing happens. [Vinegar] only helps if you are consuming a starch."16

Pacifies an Upset Stomach

Similar to its soothing effects on heartburn, apple cider vinegar is said to be useful to pacify an upset stomach. The best remedy for an upset stomach is to add 1 to 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to an 8-ounce glass of filtered water and sip it. Apple cider vinegar is said to help relieve an upset stomach because:17,18

  • The enzymes produced during the fermentation process for apple cider vinegar support proper digestion by contributing to the breakdown and assimilation of foods
  • Its acidic nature helps to replenish low stomach acid levels so your body maintains a proper pH, which is important for mineral processing and the effectiveness of enzymes, among other benefits
  • The acetic acid it contains provides relief from bloating and gas because it helps your body absorb minerals, digest protein without waste and mobilize calcium, among other activities
  • The malic acid found in it is said to have antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties, which help your body address bowel irregularities
  • Pectin residues in raw, unprocessed apple cider vinegar are believed to soothe intestinal spasms

Relaxes Restless Legs

If you regularly experience leg cramps, which can be so painful, especially at night, it may be a sign your body is either not metabolizing minerals such as calcium, magnesium or potassium well or is losing certain minerals due to a pH imbalance. Contrary to popular opinion, muscle cramps are not an automatic sign you are deficient in a particular mineral. Often, you can relieve cramping simply by drinking apple cider vinegar because it will help regulate your body's pH. When your body's pH is properly balanced, it will be able to effectively metabolize and distribute vital minerals.

Once your body's pH is balanced, your body will have what it needs to properly metabolize important minerals like calcium, magnesium and potassium and the cramps will disappear. Similarly, you can use apple cider vinegar to help resolve eye twitches and other types of nerve pain. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to an 8-ounce glass of filtered water and drink at the first sign of cramping, twitching or nerve pain.

Soothes a Sore Throat

Most sore throats are caused by allergies and viruses, and sometimes by bacteria. Although apple cider vinegar won't cure a sore throat, it can be used to shorten its duration and relieve related tenderness and irritation. At the first sign of a sore throat, you can gargle with warm water mixed with apple cider vinegar. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to 8 ounces of warm water and consider adding 1 teaspoon of raw honey and/or a squeeze of lemon and a dash of cayenne pepper to the drink.19

Another wonderful option for staving off sore throats is to treat each of your ears with a small amount of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide while lying on your side. Upon pouring the solution into your ear canal, you will hear and feel the bubbling and sense a slight stinging in your ear canal. Wait 5 to 10 minutes until most of the bubbling subsides, then drain the fluid onto a tissue. Turn over and repeat the process with the other ear. Do not use this technique if you believe you have an ear infection and the ear drum may have ruptured or opened.

Even More Uses for Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar has also been said to:

  • Clear acne
  • Fade bruises
  • Remove warts
  • Treat dandruff
  • Whiten teeth (but be aware that straight apple cider vinegar could damage your tooth enamel due to its acidity)

Beyond that, you may find it useful as a household cleaner or a fruit and veggie wash. Some use it as a weed killer. It is also known to neutralize household odors. For even more uses and tips, check out my infographic on The Many Uses of Apple Cider Vinegar.


 
     
 

 
     
 

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