Serum Ferritin and GGT — Two Potent Health Indicators You Need to Know

20/09/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

While many health screens and lab tests are overrated or unnecessary, there are a few that are vitally important, such as vitamin D. I recommend checking your vitamin D level at least twice a year.

Two other really important tests are serum ferritin (which measures stored iron) and gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase or sometimes called gamma-glutamyltransferase (GGT; a liver enzyme correlated with iron toxicity, disease risk and all-cause mortality). By monitoring your serum ferritin and GGT levels and taking steps to lower them if they’re too high, you can avoid serious health problems.

For adults, I strongly recommend getting a serum ferritin test and GGT on an annual basis. When it comes to iron overload, I believe it can be every bit as dangerous to your health as vitamin D deficiency. In this interview, Gerry Koenig,1 former chairman of the Iron Disorders Institute and the Hemochromatosis Foundation, explains the value of these two tests.

Iron Overload Is More Common Than Iron Deficiency

Iron is one of the most common nutritional supplements. Not only can you get it as an isolated supplement, but it’s also added to most multivitamins. Many processed foods are also fortified with iron. While iron is necessary for biological function, when you get too much, it can do tremendous harm.

Unfortunately, the first thing people think about when they hear “iron” is anemia, or iron deficiency, not realizing that iron overload is actually a more common problem, and far more dangerous. Many doctors don’t understand or appreciate the importance of checking for iron overload.

Virtually all adult men and postmenopausal women are at risk for iron overload due to inefficient iron excretion, since they do not lose blood on a regular basis. Blood loss is the primary way to lower excess iron, as the body has no active excretion mechanisms. Another common cause of excess iron is the regular consumption of alcohol, which will increase the absorption of any iron in your diet.

For instance, if you drink wine with your steak, you will likely absorb more iron than you need. There’s also an inherited disease, hemochromatosis, which causes your body to accumulate excessive and dangerously damaging levels of iron.

If left untreated, high iron can contribute to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases and many other health problems, including gouty arthritis. In one small study,2 100 percent of the patients achieved marked reduction in attacks or complete remission after phlebotomy was used to remove iron and maintain an iron level at near-iron deficiency — “the lowest body iron store compatible with normal erythropoiesis and therefore absence of anemia.”

Iron causes all this harm by catalyzing a reaction within the inner mitochondrial membrane. When iron reacts with hydrogen peroxide, hydroxyl free radicals are formed. These are among the most damaging free radicals known, causing severe mitochondrial dysfunction, which in turn is at the heart of most chronic degenerative diseases.

GGT Is a Potent Predictor of Mortality

GGT is a liver enzyme involved in glutathione metabolism and the transport of amino acids and peptides. Not only will the GGT test tell you if you have liver damage, it can also be used as a screening marker for excess free iron and is a great indicator of your sudden cardiac death risk.

In recent years, scientists have discovered GGT is highly interactive with iron, and when both your serum ferritin and GGT are high, you are at significantly increased risk of chronic health problems, because then you have a combination of free iron, which is highly toxic, and iron storage to keep that toxicity going.3

“Recently, [GGT] was proven by the life insurance industry as the single measure that is most predictive of early mortality,”4,5 Koenig says. “In other epidemiological studies, it’s linked to pretty much every cause of death,6 because it provides those free radicals and hydroxyl radicals …

I believe that … people born after World War II are now at greater risk because of the environmental toxicants we face … Basically, reduction in glutathione levels — your body’s most important antioxidant — is indicated by an increase in GGT …

[G]lyphosate, excess iron, all of the substances in the environment — whether you take it in as food or it’s in the air — that utilize your body’s toxic waste disposal system in some way [will] reduce your antioxidants, whether it’s vitamin D, cholesterol, vitamin E or vitamin A. A reduction of those makes you more vulnerable to disease, particularly chronic disease and autoimmune diseases across the board.”

Ideal GGT and Iron Levels

As with many other lab tests, the “normal” ranges for GGT and serum ferritin are far from ideal.7 If you’re in the “normal” range, you’re virtually guaranteed to develop some sort of health problem. Based on Gerry’s recommendation I had my GGT tested last month and it was 17, which is healthy especially since my ferritin level is 37. You really need both tests to confirm lack of iron toxicity as he explains in the full interview.

Ideal GGT Level, units per liter (U/L) Average level, above which your risk for chronic disease increases significantly “Normal” GGT Level8

Men: Men

Ideal GGT Level, units per liter (U/L): Less than 16 U/L

Average level, above which your risk for chronic disease increases significantly: 25 U/L

“Normal” GGT Level: Up to 70 U/L

Women: Women

Ideal GGT Level, units per liter (U/L): Less than 9 U/L

Average level, above which your risk for chronic disease increases significantly: 18 U/L

“Normal” GGT Level: Up to 45 U/L

According to Koenig, women with a GGT above 30 U/L have a higher risk of cancer and autoimmune disease. Interestingly, while for most other tests the range between what’s healthy and what’s risky tends to be quite broad, in the case of GGT, the range between health and disease is in the single digits.

“Part of it is dependent on body weight,” Koenig says. “Strangely enough, the most recent indications are that people who are too thin (whatever their level of GGT is), it could be harmful if [their GGT is] relatively high.9 For instance, for a thin woman with a GGT … in the range of the second quartile, which is going to be generally 14 to 18 today it can be dangerous if she’s expecting to have children and has a very low BMI.”10

When it comes to serum ferritin, a level of 200 to 300 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) falls within the normal range for women and men respectively, which is FAR too high for optimal health. An ideal level for adult men and non-menstruating women is somewhere between 30 and 60 ng/mL.

You do not want to be below 20 ng/mL or above 80 ng/mL. The most commonly used threshold for iron deficiency in clinical studies is 12 to 15 ng/mL.11 Maintaining a healthy iron level is also important during pregnancy. Having a level of 60 or 70 ng/mL is associated with greater odds of poor pregnancy outcomes.12 That said, iron deficiency during pregnancy is equally problematic, so make sure you get tested.

Last but not least, since the ferritin and GGT are interactive, low GGT tends to be protective against higher ferritin. So, if your GGT is low, you’re largely protected even if your ferritin is a bit higher than ideal. Still, it would be wise to take steps to lower your ferritin to a more ideal level nonetheless. On the other hand, even if your ferritin is low, having an elevated GGT levels is cause for concern, and needs to be addressed.

When Might a Transferrin Saturation Test Be Useful?

If you are thin, with a body mass index (BMI) below 22 or 23, Koenig suggests getting a transferrin test as well, which gives you a percentage saturation level. A level of 25 to 35 percent is typically considered healthy. In the 1970s, the transferrin saturation test was used as a marker for early death. Having a transferrin saturation percentage of over 55 indicated a 60 percent increased risk for premature death.

At that time, an estimated 2.6 percent of the U.S. population had transferrin saturation percentages that high. Today, it’s down to half of that, in large part because of the increase in obesity, which “dilutes” your saturation percentage, and the transferrin test is no longer used as a marker for early death. However, if you are very thin, it can still be a useful test.

“Anything between 25 and 35 is safe. If you’re unusually thin, I would get that test because there you could have unsuspectingly high transferrin saturation, particularly if you’re malnourished … Anorexia nervosa has severe effects on the brain when you’re that thin and your BMI is at 14 or 15,” Koenig says.

Why Excess Iron Is so Dangerous

Your body creates energy by passing the electrons from carbs and fats you eat as fuel to oxygen through the electron transport chain in your mitochondria to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Ninety-five percent of the time, the oxygen is converted to water. But 0.5 to 5 percent of the time, reactive oxygen species (ROS) are created. ROS are not all bad as they are important biological signaling molecules, but excessive ROS leads to mitochondrial damage and dysfunction.

Iron can react with hydrogen peroxide in the inner mitochondrial membrane. This is a normal part of cellular aerobic respiration. But when you have excessive iron, it catalyzes the formation of excessive hydroxyl free radicals from the peroxide, which decimate your mitochondrial DNA, mitochondrial electron transport proteins and cellular membranes. This is how iron overload accelerates chronic disease.

If you eat excessive net carbs (total carbs minus fiber) the situation is further exacerbated, as burning carbs as your primary fuel can add another 30 to 40 percent more ROS on top of the hydroxyl free radicals generated by the presence of high iron.

Unfortunately, most people reading this are burning carbs as their primary fuel. If you struggle with any kind of chronic health problem and have high iron and eat a standard American diet that is high in net carbs, normalizing your iron level (explained below) and implementing a ketogenic diet as described in my book, “Fat for Fuel,” can go a long way toward improving your health.

Taking extra antioxidants to suppress ROS generated by high iron alone or in combination with a high-sugar diet is inadvisable, as ROS also act as important signaling molecules. They’re not all bad. They cause harm only when produced in excess.

Your best bet is to lower the production of ROS. One of the easiest and most effective ways to do that is to eat a diet high in healthy fats, adequate in protein and low in net carbs. Eating healthy fats can make a bigger difference than you might think, especially if you have high iron.

How to Lower Your Iron

The good news is it’s easy to lower your iron level if it’s too high. One of the easiest ways is simply to donate blood two or three times a year. If you have severe overload you may need to do more regular phlebotomies. Two years ago, my ferritin was 150 ng/mL. I implemented self-phlebotomy where I would take out anywhere from 2 to 6 ounces of blood every few weeks, which brought me below 100 ng/mL.

I stopped the phlebotomy when I started a comprehensive detoxification strategy involving near and far infrared sauna, and interestingly, despite the fact I was no longer removing blood, my ferritin continued to drop over the next nine months. Now, it’s down to 37 — far lower than I was ever able to get down to with therapeutic phlebotomies, and as I mentioned earlier I have a healthy GGT level of 17.

As it turns out, an effective detoxification program can lower iron as well. While this was a surprise to me, Koenig confirms that this has indeed been documented by Dr. F.S. Facchini in some of his research on iron. While I’ve long recommended donating blood as the solution to iron overload, I now believe a balanced approach using phlebotomy, detoxification and reducing dietary iron, especially meat, is the best way to go about it.

Keep in mind that trying to control high iron through your diet alone can be risky, as you will also forgo many valuable nutrients. That said, to avoid maximizing iron absorption, avoid eating iron-rich foods in combination with vitamin C-rich foods or beverages, as the vitamin C will increase iron absorption. If needed, you could also take a curcumin supplement. Curcumin acts as a potent chelator of iron and can be a useful supplement if your iron is elevated.

How to Lower Your GGT

GGT is inversely related to glutathione, a potent antioxidant produced in your body. As your GGT level rises, your glutathione goes down. This is part of the equation explaining how elevated GGT harms your health. By elevating your glutathione level, you will therefore lower your GGT. The amino acid cysteine, found in whey protein, poultry and eggs, plays an important role in your body’s production of glutathione.

Red meat, which does not contain cysteine, will tend to raise GGT, as will alcohol, so both should be avoided.13 Research also suggests eating at least 10 servings of fruits and vegetables rich in in vitamin C, fiber, beta-carotene, anthocyanins and folate per week can help reduce GGT.14,15 Examples include carrots, romaine lettuce, spinach, sweet potatoes, apricots and tomatoes.

Also, be aware that certain medications can raise your GGT. If this is the case, please confer with your doctor to determine whether you might be able to stop the medication or switch to something else, and avoid over-the-counter medicines, including ibuprofen and aspirin, both of which can damage your liver.

General detoxification is another important component if your GGT is high, as your liver’s job is to remove toxins from your body. The fact that your GGT is elevated means your liver is under stress.

The Protein-Iron-GGT Connection

I personally typically eat only 2 to 4 ounces of meat per week Americans tend to overeat meat in general, and most of it is dangerous CAFO meat loaded with toxins. Additionally, while the meat supplies you with more iron than you likely need, excess protein can also cause problems. Another little-known fact is that giving iron to a person who is malnourished and cannot process protein properly can be extremely dangerous. Koenig explains:

“I’ve been studying malnutrition for several years now, mainly kwashiorkor (also known as protein-calorie malnutrition), which is a typical malnutrition disease, along with marasmus in developing countries. There you have a situation where the children, particularly in kwashiorkor, cannot synthesize important proteins because of essential amino acid deficiencies … 

[When] giving iron too early in a recovering child with kwashiorkor, or an adult for that matter, the measure that skyrockets early on, in that particular case, happens to be GGT.

High amounts of free iron [are dangerous] because they don’t have the proteins to safely contain that iron into either transferrin, which is the protein that protects the body from the iron in the bloodstream, or ceruloplasmin, which is necessary for copper transport. To get iron safely into the brain, it needs to be complexed with ceruloplasmin. Those can’t be synthesized in a malnourished person. [So, giving] iron to a malnourished person is highly toxic.”

African and Chinese Research Confirm GGT’s Relation to Chronic Disease

Koenig recently found a few African studies showing the importance of GGT. In the 1990s, when GGT was tested broadly in the U.S. as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III (NHANES III, 1988 to 1994), results revealed that African-Americans had higher levels of both serum ferritin and GGT than Caucasians and Hispanics.

“Back then, those measurements were compared to measurements in Zimbabwe. In [Zimbabweans] who were not exposed to spraying for mosquitoes … the [ferritin and GGT measurements] were roughly half.

They had obviously been on a native diet … But I found, through several papers recently submitted in South Africa, that those measurements now are very high. They’re catching up and probably surpassing the American Blacks’ measurements, and they’re suffering the [same] chronic diseases …”

More recent studies from South Africa depict increasing GGT levels are associated with insulin resistance and cardiometabolic disease risk.16 Moreover, a recent Chinese study showed that while having a GGT level above the midpoint raised the risk of chronic kidney disease, when combined with high serum ferritin, that risk increased nearly fivefold.17 Other common diseases associated with high iron and GGT include diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Blood Donations Lead to Radical Reduction in Disease

A number of epidemiological studies have also documented a significant reduction in chronic diseases among those who donate blood two or three times a year — findings that support the notion that iron overload is prevalent, and contributes to chronic disease. In some, heart disease and cancer were reduced by as much as 50 percent, Koenig notes.

Unfortunately, many doctors are still unaware of the importance of checking for iron overload (based on ideal levels and not what’s considered normal), and may overlook the GGT test as well.

“One of the reasons it’s difficult to get doctors to order GGT tests is they’re discouraged because they know some prescription drugs increase [GGT]. Although the overall effect may be protective, it’s not a happy situation to see a measure of disease increase just by taking a drug. There’s resistance in that area of getting tested. But it’s a pretty simple test. It would be recommended. And blood donation basically keeps one healthy,” Koenig says.

In summary, if you’re concerned about maintaining your health and preventing chronic disease, I would strongly encourage you to get a ferritin and a GGT test regularly, and if needed, implement the strategies discussed above to get them into their optimal ranges.

Serum ferritin and GGT are markers for iron toxicity, which is a major mostly unrecognized contributor to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and many other chronic diseases. High iron even increases your risk of infections. As noted by Koenig, you really don’t want to check into a hospital with high iron, as your risk of contracting a hospital-acquired infection will be that much greater. The good news is, it’s so easy to turn around, thereby dramatically reducing your risk.

More Information

To learn more, I recommend visiting HealtheIron.com, where you can also order your serum ferritin and GGT tests or either of their special FeGGT-LifePRO™ test panels. If either serum ferritin or GGT is elevated, you need to take action. The treatment couldn’t be simpler. Unless you’re a menstruating woman, simply donate blood two to three times a year. If you do not qualify to donate blood, ask your doctor to write you a prescription for therapeutic phlebotomy.

High Cost of Corn and Saving Prairies

19/09/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

Take a drive through the U.S. Midwest and you can’t miss the seemingly endless fields of corn. Depending on the season, the corn may be tall and green or dry and brown, or even already plowed, leaving vast swatches of barren soil exposed. None of the scenarios would appear particularly noteworthy to the average passerby, and certainly not cause for alarm.

However, if you dig a bit deeper into the reality of not just the U.S. Corn Belt, but also the massive amounts of corn being grown around the globe, a darker picture begins to emerge. Gone are the days of small-town farmers growing just enough corn to feed locals and, perhaps, their livestock over the winter.

In the 21st century, the two major consumers of corn are industrial in nature: concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and ethanol. There’s now so much corn grown in the U.S. that the Corn Belt (typically said to include corn grown across Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri and parts of Nebraska and Kansas) can be seen from space, courtesy of satellite chlorophyll-sensors.1

There’s a tendency to think of corn as natural and even all-American, but as its true environmental costs become clear — growing corn is not only chemical-intensive but also requires significant amounts of water and land, leading to air pollution, water scarcity and more — accountability is becoming more important.

Where in the Supply Chain Is Corn Causing the Most Environmental Harm?

A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences tackled the monumental task of figuring out which U.S. counties produced the most corn as well as where that corn ended up downstream, right down to the various supply chains and industries.2 “Think of the new research as a computer model of the United States of Corn,” Bloomberg reported, continuing:3

“The general problem that the researchers took on — prompted by a collaboration with the nongovernmental organization the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) — is that some 75 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions and water use of economic production is bound up in an enormous, poorly documented network of supply chains.

Given the importance of corn to both the meat and ethanol industries, and the importance of the meat and ethanol industries to American consumers, they focused on that specific network.”

Kansas City, Missouri-based beef processor National Beef fared the worst in terms of irrigated water usage, coming in at 11.7 cubic meters per bushel of corn in their supply chain. Minnesota-based Cargill, for comparison, used 5.7 cubic meters to Virginia-based Smithfield’s 1.3. Flint Hills Resources, the fifth largest ethanol producer in the U.S., headquartered in Wichita, Kansas, used 1.4 cubic meters of irrigated water per bushel while South Dakota-based biofuel company POET came in at 0.2.

As for greenhouse gas emitted per bushel of corn in each company’s supply chain, Cargill came in at 11.6 CO2-equivalent, kg, the highest of the group, followed by POET at 10.7, National Beef at 10.4 and Smithfield Foods at 10.2.4 As Bloomberg noted, the hope is that by exposing this information it will drive (or force) companies to adopt more sustainable models:5

“With localized information about where corn comes from, and where it ends up being eaten by cattle, swine, or fowl, or cooked into auto fuel, companies can better understand where in their supply chains the most carbon is burned, the most water is used, and where the landscape is most transformed.”

Industrial Agriculture Rivals Deforestation in Environmental Destruction

Carbon erosion from the land and into the water and air is creating a very unstable environment. While removal of forests that cannot only sustain but also regenerate our soils and solidify this fragile carbon balance is a major part of the problem, so too, is industrial agriculture, including the removal of grasslands to plant more corn.

Previous estimates suggest that one-third of the surplus carbon dioxide in the atmosphere stems from poor land management processes that contribute to the loss of carbon, as carbon dioxide, from farmlands.6

A recent study also revealed “hotspots of soil carbon loss, often associated with major cropping regions and degraded grazing lands” in the U.S. and suggested that such regions should be “targets for soil carbon restoration efforts.”7 Specifically, while deforestation is said to have resulted in 127 billion tons of carbon lost from the soil, the study found industrial agriculture has led to losses of 121 billion tons.

Soil scientist and study author Jonathan Sanderman, with the Woods Hole Research Center in Falmouth, Massachusetts, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, “It’s alarming how much carbon has been lost from the soil. Small changes to the amount of carbon in the soil can have really big consequences for how much carbon is accumulating in the atmosphere.”8

Regenerative agriculture, including converting cornfields back to grasslands and saving natural grasslands that exist, is key to fixing the problem. This type of land management system promotes the reduction of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) by sequestering it back into the soil where it can do a lot of good. Once in the earth, the CO2 can be safely stored for hundreds of years and actually adds to the soil’s fertility.

Corn Ethanol Is Not Carbon Neutral

The use of biofuels like ethanol in the U.S. has expanded over the last decade under the assumption that they’re better for the environment than gasoline. But plowing under grasslands to plant more corn for ethanol is one of the worst choices that could be made for the environment. Unbeknownst to many, biofuels such as corn ethanol are not carbon neutral. In fact, they’re associated with a net increase in carbon dioxide emissions; they’re even worse than gasoline when the water needed to grow corn is taken into account.

Research shows, instead, that ethanol-producing (i.e., corn) crops only offset 37 percent of carbon dioxide emissions produced by burning biofuels.9 Meanwhile, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), more than 8 million acres of grassland and wetlands have been converted to corn from 2008 to 2011, which released at least 80 million tons of carbon a year.10

Further, since the U.S. government began requiring ethanol in fuel in 2007, more than 1.2 million acres of grassland have been lost to corn (and soy) crops.11 Grasslands, which have vast underground root systems, play a major role in storing carbon. It’s estimated that one-third of the world’s carbon stocks are held via these complex root system, which is nearly as much as is stored by forests.

Every time an acre of grassland is plowed, 60 tons of carbon dioxide are released into the environment.12 On the other hand, leaving grasslands as is and adding in compost has the potential to significantly increase carbon sequestration. In short, this “green energy” program is backfiring, because there’s nothing “green” about planting an absolutely unnecessary surplus of corn, especially when natural prairies are being sacrificed.

US Prairies Must Be Protected

It’s now common knowledge that deforestation leading to the tragic loss of vast swatches of rainforest is devastating the environment. Lesser known is the fact that U.S. prairies are as equally diverse and important to the ecosystem as rainforests; they’re also similarly threatened. Since the early 1800s, grasslands in North America have decreased by 79 percent — and in some areas by 99.9 percent.13 A report by the U.S. Geological Survey explained, in part, why this is so tragic:14

“Grasslands rank among the most biologically productive of all communities. Their high productivity stems from high retention of nutrients, efficient biological recycling, and a structure that provides for a vast array of animal and plant life …

Grasslands also contribute immense value to watersheds and provide forage and habitat for large numbers of domestic and wild animals. Nevertheless, current levels of erosion in North America exceed the prairie soil’s capacity to tolerate sediment and nutrient loss, thus threatening a resource essential to sustain future generations.”

The first taste of disaster derived from losing prairies occurred in the 1930s, when farmers rapidly plowed up the grasslands of the southern Plains and planted wheat in its place. With millions of acres of plowed fields and a chronic drought, winds picked up the soil creating thick clouds of dust called “black blizzards,” which covered the region in an unprecedented yearslong “storm.” It seems no lesson was ultimately learned, as grasslands are still disappearing at alarming rates.

According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), nearly 2 million acres of federally protected grasslands and wetlands in North Dakota were taken out of the conservation program between 2007 and 2015.15

As Undark put it, “It’s easy to view North Dakota’s unending flatness as boring, empty, untamed. There’s a long tradition of seeing the prairie — this vast stretch of fertile, grass-dominated land — as negative space with no purpose other than to be transformed into something with purpose.”16 But, in reality, it’s the expansion of cropland at the expense of the prairies that’s ultimately threatening the Earth. Undark continued:

“Perhaps paradoxically, the expansion of cropland ‘may actually be undermining the very agricultural productivity it seeks to gain,’ write the authors of the Environmental Review Letters study.

Compared to cropland, grasslands ‘harbor significantly greater plant, microbial, and animal diversity, and generate higher levels of nearly all agriculturally vital ecosystem services, including pest suppression and pollination.’ To break prairie, then, is to dismantle the very supply chain that underpins American agricultural abundance.”

Support Grass Fed Farming and Regenerative Agriculture

Perhaps you can’t do anything about how large-scale industrial farms continue to plow up valuable grasslands, but you can make a difference for yourself, your family and community that might have residual effects. Ideally, support farmers who are using diverse cropping methods, such as planting of cover crops, raising animals on pasture and other methods of regenerative agriculture.

Buying grass fed or pastured animal products, such as beef, bison, chicken, milk and eggs, is an excellent start. The American Grassfed Association (AGA) introduced much-needed grass fed standards and certification for American-grown grass fed dairy,17 which will allow for greater transparency and conformity.18 The standard is intended to ensure the humane treatment of animals and meet consumer expectations about grass fed dairy, while being feasible for small farmers to achieve.

An AGA logo on a product lets you know the animals were fed a lifetime diet of 100 percent forage, were raised on pasture (not in confinement) and were not treated with hormones or antibiotics.19 I strongly encourage you to seek out AGA certified dairy products as they become available. In the Midwest, the Kalona SuperNatural brand is the first dairy brand to become AGA-certified. Besides that, you can also:

  • Grow your own organic vegetables.
  • Try composting. Save those kitchen scraps, from egg shells and lemon rinds to coffee filters, and use them to feed your vegetable garden and flower beds.
  • Consider raising your own backyard chickens.
  • Convert your lawn back to a natural prairie or other natural space depending on your area.

How University Foundations Circumvent Conflict of Interest Disclosure Rules and Hide Corporate Ties to Faculty

19/09/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

In the last few years, freedom of information act (FOIA) requests have revealed a loophole that allows corporations to hide funds given to university-based researchers and academics, thereby also hiding their behind-the-scenes collaborations to promote corporate viewpoints while maintaining an air of independence. A recent defamation suit offers an intriguing opportunity to shed even more light on this, what appears to be, common practice.

FOIA Documents Revealed Professor’s Big Ag Links

Kevin Folta — a plant scientist and professor at the University of Florida and an outspoken advocate of genetic engineering — became a posterchild for this kind of disclosure avoidance when, two years ago, a FOIA request by the California-based activist group US Right to Know (USRTK) produced correspondence revealing Folta had instructed Monsanto on how to avoid disclosing funding his work by depositing the money into the university’s SHARE (Special Help for Agricultural Research and Education) contribution account.

As noted by Folta in his proposal to Monsanto,1 “a SHARE contribution … is not subject to IDC and is not in a conflict-of-interest account. In other words, SHARE contributions are not publicly noted. This eliminates the potential concern of the funding organization influencing the message.” Put another way, by making a SHARE contribution, the link between Folta and Monsanto would remain hidden, and his public promotion of biotech would not be tainted by obvious suspicions of conflicts of interest.

This is one of the biggest scams going. Universities have very strict conflict of interest rules in place, all of which are effectively circumvented by giving the funds as a grant to the University of Florida Foundation, which operates as a separate, non-public entity. The foundation then issues the money to individual researchers’ programs. Yet, even though the money can be easily earmarked for a specific individual or program, financial contributions to the foundation do not need to be publicly disclosed.

While this loophole is news for many, evidence suggests researchers and academics have routinely used it to avoid conflicts of interest disclosure rules. Bruce Chassy was caught doing the same thing. An investigation by Chicago WBEZ news discovered Monsanto paid the now retired University of Illinois’ professor more than $57,000 over two years for travel, writing and speaking expenses, yet Chassy never disclosed his financial ties to the company on state and university conflict of interest disclosure forms.2

This is a Flash-based audio and may not be playable on mobile devices.

How Universities Incentivize Nondisclosure of Conflicts of Interest

Nondisclosure of conflicts of interest are in some ways actually incentivized at universities. Most donations to university foundations are granted a waiver for indirect costs (IDCs).

As explained by the National Science Foundation, IDCs are “costs which are not readily identifiable with a particular cost objective (e.g., direct organizational activity or project), but nevertheless are necessary for the general operation of an organization.”3 Examples of such overhead costs include salaries for accountants and miscellaneous personnel, rent, utilities, computers and software, just to name a few.

This was the case for both Chassy and Folta. By being granted a waiver for IDCs, the burden of these costs is shifted to the students of the university and taxpayers by way of tuition and government funding. So, corporations are essentially piggybacking on students and taxpayers by getting waivers of IDC while simultaneously keeping their funding hidden. Papers have been written about how this system impacts taxpayer funded research (research funded by government grants). 

As noted by the Sponsored Research Administration4 at Florida State University, “It is important to remember that the inclusion of these charges results in the support of research efforts across the campus. To request waivers of negotiated and allowable charges means a decreased SRAD [Sponsored Research and Development Trust Fund] pool and a corresponding reduction in the research and creative activities that the university stimulates and supports.”

In their paper, “The Economics of University Indirect Cost Reimbursement in Federal Research Grants,” Roger Noll and William Rogerson write:5

“The federal government has been the most important source of funds for academic research since the 1950s. Nearly a third of this support takes the form of indirect cost recovery (overhead). Long a source of conflict between universities and the government, in recent years the indirect cost controversy has escalated, with most research universities intensively investigated for alleged abuses …

[B]oth universities and the federal government would be better off if the existing indirect cost reimbursement system were replaced by a system of fixed reimbursement rates that were not related to a university’s actual indirect costs.”

Paid Academics Become Part of Industry-Controlled PR Arm

Folta publicly stated he had “no formal connection to Monsanto”6 and denied ever accepting payments from Big Ag, including Monsanto.7 The FOIA request and subsequent publication of the correspondence between Folta and Monsanto created an abrupt end to Folta’s status as an independent expert on genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The documents clearly show Monsanto paid Folta to travel around the country to speak about the merits of GMOs. As Folta himself put it: “I’m glad to sign on to whatever you like, or write whatever you like.”.8

At the time, Gary Ruskin, executive director of USRTK told Nature,9 “I think it’s important for professors who take money from industry to disclose it. And if they’re not disclosing it, that’s a problem. And if they say they aren’t taking money, and they are, then that’s a problem.”

The documents also revealed the biotechnology PR firm Ketchum drafted answers directed to Folta on the GMO Answers website. While Folta claimed he typically ignored the prewritten answers, it shows that paid academics and researchers are part of a tightly controlled PR arm of the industry.

Once the $25,000 unrestricted grant from Monsanto (funneled through the University Foundation to avoid disclosure) became publicly known, the money was reallocated to a local food pantry. Folta claims he “talked to Monsanto about returning the money,” but that the company was “totally against it” because “it looks like an admission of guilt.”10 The ironic part is that by re-donating the money to a food pantry, they confirm that the money was indeed earmarked for Folta and no one else.

Folta Files Defamation Suit Against New York Times

The New York Times (NYT) was among the first to report Folta’s conflicts of interest.11 Now, Folta has filed a defamation suit12 against the paper and journalist Eric Lipton, who wrote the article. In his suit, Folta claims his “academic reputation was unfairly tarnished, his health harmed and his personal safety jeopardized” by Lipton’s “scandalous” article. According to the Cornell Alliance for Science: 13

“Folta … contends that Lipton and the NYT intentionally ‘misrepresented him as a covertly paid operative’ of Monsanto in order to further their own ‘anti-GMO agenda.’ The NYT article had identified him, for example, as an ‘aggressive biotech proponent with financial ties to Monsanto,’ a claim Folta strongly refutes.

Folta … told the Alliance for Science that he filed the lawsuit both to stop the ‘spiral of silence’ that such reporting creates among other academics and also to regain his reputation.

‘When you’re portrayed as trading lobbying for grant money, that’s the kiss of death … You realize that you’re the walking dead in your career.’ Folta said other scientists have told him they are now reluctant to speak up publicly on the controversy around GMOs because they feared the harm that could come to them from similar adverse coverage.”

The NYT has vowed to “defend the lawsuit vigorously,” adding that, “Our story was carefully researched and the documents underlying the story were posted online to give readers the opportunity to see for themselves the research we developed and relied upon.” It is seriously unlikely that Folta can prevail against the NYT’s legal team and deep pockets, especially considering some of the arguments brought forth in his suit. Take paragraph 40, for example, which reads:14

“The Defendants deliberately chose the caption “if you spend enough time with skunks, you start to smell like one” to insinuate that Dr. Folta is a “skunk.” This was offensive, malicious, and reckless.”

The lawsuit also addresses Folta’s upset at being blocked by Lipton on Twitter. Paragraph 136 of Folta’s suit reads:

“In order to cause even more mental harm to Dr. Folta, Defendant Lipton then blocked Dr. Folta from viewing Lipton’s malicious tweets, so that Dr. Folta was not even able to see what defamatory and harmful words Lipton was publishing next, even though it was, in fact, Lipton who was targeting Dr. Folta, and never vice versa.”

The Real Story — University Foundations Serve to Hide Conflicts of Interest

I think it’s important to realize that the real story here is the fact that money laundering is occurring through universities, and how it’s occurring. In order to clamp down on undisclosed conflicts of interest, this loophole really needs to be fully exposed — and closed. NYT lawyers have a unique opportunity to do just that here, were they to insist on calling in the administrators, internal managers and accountants of the SHARE program for deposition.

I don’t think Folta realizes that by suing the NYT, he opens the door for them to blow this whole nondisclosure sham wide-open. All they have to do is ask the administrators if it’s routine to accept corporate grants and earmark them for specific individuals or projects — in other words, is the program being routinely used to hide corporate conflict of interest connections? Remember, professors are in fact incentivized to hide corporate conflicts of interest and to bypass IDC recovery, shifting those costs onto students and taxpayers instead.

Were the NYT to do so, it could turn into a truly huge story with massive ramifications. It could go a very long way toward forcing greater transparency. When corporate funding of university professors remains undisclosed, it not only deceives the public, it also undermines education.

The fact that the University of Florida Foundation deleted a number of its “honor roll donors” for 2013/201415 — right around the same time that the NYT revealed Folta’s industry connections — only adds to suspicions that corporate funding is in fact being hidden through its SHARE program.

The following are screenshots of deleted donors, captured when the initial FOIA responses were received, in anticipation that they might be removed (a hunch over at USRTK that turned out to be correct). Deleted donors include BASF, Bayer, Syngenta, Pioneer, Monsanto and Dow Chemical. “Gold” donors, such as Monsanto and BASF, have donated more than $1 million. “Diamond” donors such as Syngenta have donated in excess of $10 million.

These screenshots are the only public evidence remaining that these donations were made; these webpages are not even available using Wayback Machine. So, just how much of these millions of dollars were in fact earmarked and funneled to specific faculty members to avoid public scrutiny?

It’s also worth noting the following quote on the very last screen shot: “The Foundation … also serves as fiduciary, taking care of the gift assets to ensure they are used in accordance with our donors’ wishes” — yet another glaring piece of evidence suggesting that donations are earmarked for certain individuals and can thus be “laundered” through the Foundation without having to be publicly disclosed.

ufl search results basf
uf search results bayer
uf search results syngenta
uf search results pioneer
uf search results dow chemical
uf search results monsanto
About University of Florida Foundation

USRTK Sues University of Florida

In a separate twist, USRTK is suing the University of Florida for failure to provide all the emails required by freedom-of-information law.16,17 In a July 11 press release, USRTK explains its lawsuit is aimed to:18

” … [C]ompel the University of Florida to comply with public records requests about the university’s relationship with agrichemical companies that produce genetically engineered seeds and pesticides. ‘We are conducting an investigation of the food and agrichemical industries, their front groups and public relations operatives, their ties to universities, and the health risks of their products, said Gary Ruskin, co-director of U.S. Right to Know.

‘The public has a right to know if and when taxpayer-funded universities and academics are collaborating with corporations to promote their products and viewpoints.'”

The NYT article that gave rise to Folta’s defamation suit was in large part based on the records obtained by USRTK from the University of Florida. But Folta was only one of dozens of individuals for whom the USRTK sought correspondence, to assess hidden ties between the university and the agrichemical industry.

One of them is Jack M. Payne, senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources at the University of Florida. USRTK specifically requested correspondence sent between Payne and employees of the University of Florida Foundation. 

In mid-December 2015, the university handed over 42 pages, but refused to release any remaining documents. Considering the University Foundation deleted stellar donors from their site only makes obtaining correspondence with Foundation employees all the more pertinent.

Yet, even though emails were sent to and from a university email address, the University of Florida claims the emails did not involve official university business and therefore shouldn’t be made public. Apparently, the University of Florida is none too fond of transparency in general.

According to USRTK, “Professor Payne is not an employee of the Foundation, and email communications sent or received by him in the course of official business are public records,” adding that even if the court were to find some of the emails could be exempt, “the proper procedure would be to require Defendant to furnish the documents to the Court for an in camera inspection.”

College Foundation Caught Misspending Funds

There are more reasons than one for wanting to avoid public scrutiny of Foundation funds. A 2015 article19 by Columbia Journalism Review revealed the case of Robert Breuder, president of DuPage College. Breuder was found to have expensed hunting excursions, expensive wines, dinners and other frivolous, personal expenses to the College of DuPage Foundation, the mission of which is to raise funds for student scholarships.

The Chicago Tribune requested documents related to Breuder’s spending under the state public-records law, but was told such records were unavailable. It wasn’t until the Tribune filed a lawsuit to compel disclosure that Breuder’s misspending came to light. A refrain common to many college and university foundations is noted in this article:

“In its answer to the Tribune’s complaint, the college … denies that the foundation is a public body or a subsidiary of one. It denies that the foundation is contracted with a public body to perform public functions on the college’s behalf. And, thus, it denies that the foundation is subject to the public-records law.”

The Tribune, meanwhile, argued “the college is using its foundation, housed on campus and staffed by college employees, ‘as an artifice to circumvent’ the law: ‘The foundation is mostly or entirely under the control of [the college, which] has been using the existence of the foundation as an excuse or a subterfuge to shield its financial records and expenditures from public view.'”

Watchdog Journalism Is a Vital Public Service

Jake Griffin, assistant managing editor for watchdog reporting at the Daily Herald said: “What good does it serve to keep the activities of the foundation free of public scrutiny and oversight, especially considering [that it’s] using the auspices of the college as the means for generating funding?”

As suggested by Columbia Journalism Review, journalists play a vital role when it comes to keeping public organizations honest and the public informed. Folta may blame the NYT for the unraveling of his career and health, but the evidence shows he was collaborating with industry and denied it.

It if weren’t for Lipton and other journalists, he’d still be pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes. Even though Folta still maintains he had no financial ties to Monsanto, the evidence shows he did, so it would appear he’s suing the NYT to intimidate journalists from exposing these undisclosed conflicts of interest.

Last year, David Cuillier, director of the University of Arizona School of Journalism said,20 “I think there are a ton of flags that need to be raised when it comes to university foundations. I think it’s one of the most underreported scams in America. It’s total slush fund … What a great way to hide money for a university.”

Indeed. It appears it has been a marvelous way to throw a veil over potential funding bias, educational bias and all sorts of conflicts of interest. The fact that this is now coming to light is good news for everyone except those trying to hide their wrongdoings. And, if we’re lucky, NYT attorneys will depose the University of Florida Foundation’s administrators and accountants, to give us all a clearer picture of the full extent of this scam.

Our Bodies Are Becoming Plastic

19/09/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

It was a sad day in October 2015 when researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) announced they had detected plastic litter on the surface of Arctic waters.1 Greenland sharks and seabirds living in the area were already known to be eating the debris,2 but the appearance of 31 pieces of floating debris in an otherwise largely pristine environment painted a disturbing picture of pollution problems that will only get worse if the amounts of litter entering the oceans aren’t reduced.

With plastics now entering the farthest reaches of the globe, what does that mean for the environments where these pollutants are known to accumulate? Mismanaged waste is particularly problematic in China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines, which together make up the top five countries for plastic pollution.3 In the U.S., one of the top waste-generating countries, littering is a major issue, especially in the form of single-use plastics, like soda bottles, drinking straws and potato chip bags.

According to environmental advocacy group Ocean Conservancy, some plastic products persist for so long, even in salty ocean water, that they’ll still be recognizable after 400 years.4 However, an equally alarming problem is the plastics that do get broken down into tiny pieces. Microplastic particles, which are less than 5 millimeters long, are literally clouding the oceans in spots.

Carried along with the ocean’s currents, swirling gyres of “plastic smog”5 now cover about 40 percent of the world’s ocean surfaces.6 They’re being eaten by fish and other marine life — that is well-known. But only recently did researchers take the logical next step to determine that it’s not only marine life ingesting plastic — you probably are too.

94 Percent of US Tap Water Contains Plastic Fibers

Research commissioned by media outlet Orb revealed alarming data about plastic pollution in tap water, with 83 percent of samples tested worldwide coming back as contaminated. In the U.S., 94 percent of tap water samples were found to contain plastic — the most out of all the locations tested. According to Orb:7

“Fibers in tap water … are both a discovery and a marker — a visceral sign of how far plastic has penetrated human life and human anatomy. We can’t see the long-chain molecules of pollutants like polyfluoroalkyl chemicals, even if they do reside in more than 98 percent of the population. But when fibers are filtered in a laboratory and enlarged by a microscope, the contamination becomes real.

The first studies into the health effects of microscopic plastics on humans are only just now beginning; there’s no telling if or when governments might establish a ‘safe’ threshold for plastic in water and food. Even farther away are studies of human exposure to nanoscale plastic particles, plastic measured in the millionths of a millimeter.”

Orb found, for example, 16 fibers in tap water taken at the visitor’s center in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., along with fibers in samples taken from Trump Tower in New York. Plastic fibers were also found in water taken from Indonesia, India, Ecuador, Uganda, England and Lebanon.

Where Are the Primary Sources of Microplastic?

Orb noted six primary sources of “invisible plastics,”8 one of which is synthetic microfibers from synthetic clothing like fleece, acrylic and polyester. Microfibers from clothing are released during washing, to the tune of 1 million tons a year. It’s unknown what the environmental effects of microfiber pollution may be, but their irregular shape may make them harder for marine life to excrete than other microplastics (like microbeads).

According to the Mermaids (Mitigation of Microplastics Impact Caused by Textile Washing Processes) project, whose goal is to cut microfiber shedding during washing by 70 percent, the apparel industry has been slow to respond in taking steps to stop microfiber pollution.9

A Mermaids report suggested special coatings may help to stop the loss of microfibers during washing, as well as recommended laundry detergents be reformulated to minimize fiber shedding. However, as it stands Orb estimated that more than half of the microfibers released during the wash are missed by water treatment plants and end up in the environment.

Microbeads — those tiny plastic pellets you may have seen in your face wash or hand soap — are another primary source. Microbeads are so small they get flushed right down the bathroom drain and travel through wastewater treatment plants easily, because the filters used are too small to catch them. Research has only begun to reveal the extent of environmental pollution that microbeads have caused.

In a 2012 survey of the Great Lakes, it was found that the area has “some of the highest concentrations of microplastic found in the environment, and microbeads were prevalent.”10 One-third of the fish caught in the English Channel also contain microbeads, as do 83 percent of scampi sold in the U.K. 11 Bans on microbeads have taken place in the U.S. and Canada, but not yet in the EU. Orb estimated that more than 8 trillion microbeads ended up in U.S. waterways in 2015. Other sources noted in Orb’s report include:12

  • Tire dust, which contains styrene butadiene rubber. According to Orbit, “Cars and trucks emit more than 20 grams of tire dust for every 100 kilometers they drive.”13
  • Paints: Microplastics are distributed in paint dust, which comes from house paint, ship paint, road markings and more.
  • Secondary microplastics: Single-use plastics like forks, bags, straws and takeout containers also litter the environment, with 8 million tons washing into waterways each year. Eventually, these items get broken down into microplastics.
  • Airborne plastic fibers: This is a new area of research, but it’s thought that your limbs brushing against each other may be enough to release synthetic fibers into the air, which can be inhaled as well as float down to further contaminate the environment. In Paris, airborne microplastics have been found to fall to the ground at rates of up to 10 tons a year.14

Toxic Microplastics May Be Transferred to Farmland

Much of the research on microplastic pollution focuses on marine environments, but the toxic bits are also likely accumulating on land. According to research published in Science of the Total Environment, “Annual plastic release to land is estimated at four to 23 times that released to oceans.”15 The use of sewage sludge, or biosolids, as fertilizer may be particularly problematic. It’s basically made up of whatever’s left over after sewage is treated and processed.

Writing in Environmental Science & Technology, researchers reported that in Europe and North America, about 50 percent of sewage sludge is used for agricultural purposes. Using data from farm areas, population and sewage sludge usage, along with microplastic emission estimates, they found that between 125 and 850 tons of microplastics per million inhabitants may be added to European agricultural soils each year.

When factoring in the range of sludge application rates, and assuming data from certain other countries with similar plastics usage are comparable, the study found a “total yearly input of 63,000 to 430,000 and 44,000 to 300,000 tons of microplastics to European and North American farmlands, respectively …

This would be an alarmingly high input,” the researchers noted. “Comprehensively, this exceeds the total accumulated burden of 93,000 to 236,000 tons MPs [microplastics] currently estimated to be present in surface water in the global oceans.”16 In a related publication, the researchers called for an urgent investigation to “safeguard food production,” considering the finding that large quantities of microplastics are likely being transferred to agricultural land via sewage sludge.17,18

Plastic Particles Smell Like Food to Fish

It’s long been known that fish are eating plastic debris, but a disturbing study revealed this isn’t occurring by happenstance. Instead, fish may be actively seeking out plastic particles in the ocean to eat, mistaking them for food because of their odor. When microplastics exist in the ocean, they form a biological covering made of algae and other materials that smell like the food the fish would normally eat.19

The study is the first to reveal not only that anchovy use odors to forage, but also that the odor of microplastic in the ocean induces foraging behaviors in schools of the fish. The Center for Biological Diversity noted that fish in the North Pacific are known to ingest 12,000 to 24,000 tons of plastic every year and, in a study of fish markets in California and Indonesia, one-quarter of the fish were found to have plastics in their guts.20

Plastics and other man-made debris was also found in 33 percent of shellfish sampled.21 The Orb report even reported that plastic particles less than 50 nanometers long have been shown to collect in plankton, potentially blocking their gastrointestinal tract, as well as accumulating in the many creatures that depend on plankton as a food source. It’s yet another route of plastics exposures to humans, because if the fish are eating plastic, so, too, are the creatures that end up eating the fish.

What effects this will ultimately have on human health remains unknown, but chemical contamination is a real concern. Once in the water, microplastics easily absorb endocrine-disrupting and cancer-causing chemicals like PCBs. Plastics may concentrate such toxins at levels 100,000 to 1 million times higher than the levels found in seawater.22 It’s even possible that plastic particles may end up in places in your body other than your gut. Orb reported:23

“If plastic fibers are in your water, experts say they’re surely in your food as well — baby formula, pasta, soups, and sauces, whether from the kitchen or the grocery. Plastic fibers may leaven your pizza crust, and a forthcoming study says it’s likely in the craft beer you’ll drink to chase the pepperoni down. It gets worse.

Plastic is all but indestructible, meaning plastic waste doesn’t biodegrade; rather, it only breaks down into smaller pieces of itself, even down to particles in nanometer scale — one-one thousandth of one-one thousandth of a millimeter. Studies show particles of that size can migrate through the intestinal wall and travel to the lymph nodes and other bodily organs.”

Become Part of the Solution Instead of Part of the Problem

On a global scale, a variety of endeavors are underway to try to curb plastic waste and pollution. From turning plastic waste into liquid fuel to creating synthetic fibers that don’t shed (or even fashioning clothing out of spider silk), enterprising entrepreneurs are seeking ways to keep plastics out of the environment. Some manufacturers are also looking to create packaging materials that, unlike most packaging currently on the market, can easily be recycled.24

You can also take a stand on an individual level and make a conscious choice to use less plastic. Considering the extensiveness of its use and the way it persists in the environment, plastic has the potential to be the worst environmental disaster of all time. To become part of the solution instead of part of the problem, Orb recommends taking the following steps:25

Avoid plastic bags (including for snacks and food storage)

Avoid disposable straws (reusable straws made from stainless steel, bamboo and even glass are widely available)

Wash synthetic clothes less frequently and when you do use a gentle cycle to reduce the number of fibers released; consider using products that catch laundry fibers in your washing machine

Choose a nonplastic toothbrush made from bamboo, flax or even recycled dollar bills

Avoid disposable plastic bottles; bring your own reusable bottle instead

When washing out paint brushes, capture rinse water in a jar and dispose of it at your local landfill in designated spots for paint (don’t let it go down the drain).

You can also make your own milk paint in lieu of plastic-based latex and acrylics — to do so “add lemon juice to skim milk and filter out the curd, add natural pigment to what is left.”26

Top Foods to Help Lower Blood Pressure

18/09/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

You’ve heard it before — what you eat has a direct impact on your health, and the quality of your health naturally affects how you feel. Your blood pressure readings aren’t just one isolated aspect of health but are intrinsically tied to many other functions of your body. That said, there are foods to stay away from and foods you should begin eating more of to optimize how well your blood is pumped through your body.

Vegetables are on the short list of foods you should be eating more of to naturally lower your blood pressure. But certain fruits, in moderation, including nuts and seeds, also have a place in lowering your risk for not just high blood pressure, but many related illnesses such as kidney disease, heart disease, stroke and several forms of dementia.

DASH, Mediterranean and PAMM Diets: Do They Work to Combat Hypertension?

The DASH diet, or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension,1 consists largely of fresh vegetables, fruits, lean protein, whole grains, low-fat dairy and very low sodium content. It’s often believed that it’s the low-sodium aspect of the diet that’s so important, but this diet may work for some primarily because it’s low in sugar/fructose. The same holds true for reducing your intake of processed foods, which you’ll do if you follow the diet, as processed foods are top sources of both heavily processed salt and sugar/fructose.

There are, however, healthier eating plans than the DASH diet, particularly since whole grains and low-fat dairy are not foods I recommend eating. As for the Mediterranean Diet, this “diet” has been around for centuries.

Because the Mediterranean region is known for their rich olives and olive oil, fresh vegetables, fruits, seafood and, infrequently, red meat, people living there are known to be some of the healthiest, longest-living people in the world. Most of the diet’s health benefits are likely due to it being low in sugars, moderate in protein and high in fresh fruits and vegetables, along with healthy fats.

Dr. Stephen Sinatra’s PAMM, or Pan-Asian Modified Mediterranean, diet is another slant on the Mediterranean diet, which highlights the crucial nature of eating a “high-fiber, healthy-fat, Mediterranean-type, heart-healthy diet,” emphasizing healthy fats and vegetables while minimizing synthetic fats.2 One of the diet’s hallmarks is eating the last meal of the day as the lightest, with seaweed included as a heart-healthy option. Sinatra advises an increase in:

  • Asparagus, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and spinach as “slow-burning, low-glycemic index vegetables; low lipid and insulin-spiking allicin veggies onions and garlic; and fresh herbs like thyme, basil and rosemary
  • Fatty fish, principally certified wild-caught Alaskan salmon, and the essential fatty acids (EFAs) from other wild-caught fish such as mackerel, herring, anchovies and sardines
  • Healthy oils, including avocado, sesame, olive, walnut and flax oils
  • Nuts and seeds like almonds, chestnuts, walnuts and flaxseed
  • Fruits such as blueberries, apricots, apples, peaches, plums, strawberries, cherries and pears (fruit should be eaten in moderation to avoid consuming too much sugar)

The absence of processed foods in all of these diets is key to optimizing your blood pressure and overall health. Ideally, you should focus on eating foods that are very close to the earth, without special processing methods, such as chemicals being added for longer shelf life, necessary.

Arugula: Great for Your Heart and Blood Pressure

Potassium, calcium and magnesium are the “big three” common denominators in a diet that naturally combats high blood pressure, and there are many foods you can eat that will take the stress out of how to do it right, including arugula. Arugula is an often-neglected salad green.

It’s too bad, because the easy-to-grow veggie is one of the most advantageous in the entire garden and is especially good for your arteries. It’s high in potassium, calcium and magnesium, and all three are helpful because they help relax your blood vessels, which reduces blood pressure levels.

According to Livestrong,3 arugula doesn’t have the most potassium compared to other vegetables, but it does help your body absorb it. There’s 150 milligrams (mg) in a two-cup serving, or about 3 percent of the 4,700 mg recommended for adults.4 Regarding the calcium and magnesium content, the same serving size of arugula provides 6 percent and 5 percent, respectively, of the recommended daily values based on a 2,000-calorie diet.

The same nutrients in arugula also decrease your risk of a stroke and heart attack, while folate assists in optimal amino acid metabolism, because a shortage in your system can promote unwanted homocysteine levels in your blood, which elevates your heart disease risk. As a crucifer vegetable, arugula helps protect against cancer, courtesy of its glucosinolate compound, containing sulfur, which also gives it a far-from-bland, peppery flavor. As Livestrong notes:

“When you chew arugula, its glucosinolates are broken down into indoles, isothiocyanates and other biologically active compounds … The compounds derived from glucosinolates may help your body get rid of carcinogens before they have a chance to damage your DNA, and they may also affect hormone activity in ways that impede the development of hormone-related cancers.

Although research is ongoing, some epidemiological studies have shown that diets rich in cruciferous vegetables may specifically help reduce the risk of colorectal and lung cancers.”5

An important vitamin in arugula is folate (the natural form of folic acid, which is synthetic6), aka vitamin B9, noted for its role in preventing birth defects. Eating arugula can also help you lose weight, as it’s low in calories and provides good amounts of vitamins A, C, K and calcium and a number of valuable phytonutrients.

In fact, on the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index, or ANDI, which ranks foods by their nutrient density, arugula scores just over 600, making it one of the top 10; that’s 30 percent more nutrient dense than cabbage and 50 percent more than cauliflower.7

More Excellent Foods for Your Arteries

Beets

Beets, sometimes known as beetroot, and beet juice have emerged as a trendy health phenomenon, especially by athletes, as the compounds they contain increase stamina and muscle strength. Beets and beet juice also help lower blood pressure, even comparable to blood pressure medicine, due to the presence of the nitrate NO3, which in your body is converted to bioactive nitrite (NO2) and nitric oxide (NO), which in turn dilates your blood vessels.

Researchers also found that the nitrates in beetroot juice lowered research participants’ blood pressure within just 24 hours.8 Due to the high sugar content of beetroot juice, I wouldn’t recommend this for a long-term solution.

Fermenting beets is another way to enjoy them, and they’re extremely healthy, as the nutrients they contain become more bioavailable and provide beneficial bacteria and enzymes. Although beets have the highest sugar content of all vegetables, most people can safely eat beet roots a few times a week.

Coriander

Coriander seeds come from the herb known as cilantro. Coriander has been shown in studies to reduce blood pressure,9 which is due to an interaction between calcium ions and cholinergic, a neurotransmitter in your nervous system, which is another way your blood vessels may become more relaxed. Grinding the seeds to toss into your smoothies is an excellent way to get more of their nutrients.

Pistachios

Eating pistachios, especially those in raw form, is another delicious way to decrease blood pressure by reducing peripheral vascular resistance, or blood vessel tightening, and your heart rate. One study10 showed that a single serving of pistachios every day helps reduce systolic blood pressure. You can incorporate pistachios into your diet by adding them to pesto sauces and salads or by eating them plain as a snack.

Olive oil

Olive oil (first cold-pressed and organic) contains inflammation-fighting polyphenols with numerous compounds to lower your blood pressure naturally. Olive oil is a great alternative to canola oil, bottled salad dressing and other vegetable oils, but don’t cook with olive oil, because it has a low smoke point and is easily damaged by the heat.

Flaxseed

According to the American Heart Association, flaxseed can be eaten to help lower blood pressure in people with hypertension. One study revealed that when people added 30 grams of milled flaxseed to their diet every day for six months, both their systolic and diastolic blood pressure dropped significantly. Scientists noted that lowered blood pressure levels from eating flaxseed could cut the number of strokes in half and result in 30 percent fewer heart attacks.11

Celery

Celery contains high amounts of potassium and is a rich source of such flavonoids as zeaxanthin and lutein, along with beta-carotene, which studies have shown lowers inflammation as well as your risk of heart disease. Once again, blood vessel-relaxing blood compounds, in this case 3-n-butylphthalide (which gives celery its fresh, earthy scent), have been shown to reduce blood pressure levels.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes may help relieve hypertension, in part due to potassium but also because of lycopene.12 However, be aware that tomatoes are high in lectins, which means they should be eaten sparingly and, when you do eat them, cook them first (as an added bonus, cooking tomatoes increases the beneficial lycopene that can be absorbed by your body).

The Importance of Healthy Eating for Optimal Blood Pressure Levels

It may sound like a broken record, but eating right to help optimize your blood pressure levels, and thereby lowering your risk of kidney disease, heart disease, stroke, dementia and other serious problems, is extremely important. If you haven’t been eating the best diet, don’t worry, it’s not too late to start. On that note, what you don’t eat is just as important as what you do eat, and I recommend avoiding the following foods notorious for causing blood pressure levels to rise:13

  • Sugar, processed fructose and processed foods, grains
  • Read labels and avoid partially hydrogenated oils (synthetic trans fats), found in many processed foods, including packaged cookies, crackers, chips and other snacks
  • Omega-6 oils, especially those in vegetable oils such as corn, canola, soy and safflower oils

Instead, focus on eating real food. You’ll want to swap nonfiber carbs for healthy fats such as avocados, butter made from raw, grass fed organic milk, organic pastured egg yolks, coconuts and coconut oil, raw nuts such as pecans and macadamia, grass fed meats and pasture raised poultry. To learn more about healthy eating, please see my optimal nutrition plan.

Again, one of the most important things to remember about maintaining your health is that what’s going on in one area of your body is more than a little apt to influence other areas of your body. That’s why eating foods that are good for your heart and your blood pressure go hand in hand. It’s not an exaggeration to say that you are what you eat. Making heart-healthy foods a bigger part of your life on a daily basis will impact not only your blood pressure readings, but the way you feel and what you’re able to do, longer.

Multiday Fasting Gaining Popularity as a Powerful Biohack for Health and Longevity

18/09/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

One lifestyle factor that appears to be driving not only obesity but also many chronic disease processes is the fact that we avoid ever going without food for very long. Our ancestors didn’t have access to food 24/7, and biologically your body simply isn’t designed to run optimally when continuously fed. If you eat throughout the day and never skip a meal, your body adapts to burning sugar as its primary fuel, which down-regulates enzymes that utilize and burn stored fat.

If you struggle to lose weight, this may well be a significant part of the problem — your body has simply lost the metabolic flexibility to burn fat for fuel. To correct this, you need to reduce net carbs and, ideally, the frequency of your meals. Fasting is one of the oldest dietary interventions in the world, and modern science confirms it can have a profoundly beneficial influence on your health. As noted by Fitness and Power:1

“An increasing number of researchers are saying that the intermittent fasting method is a sure-fire way for people to shred the excess fat. A study published in 2015 in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that intermittent fasting gives a safe rate weight loss of 0.5 to 1.7 lbs/week, along with decreasing the overall body fat percentage.”

Research has also confirmed that many important biological repair and rejuvenation processes take place in the absence of food, and this is another reason why all-day grazing triggers disease. In a nutshell, your body was designed to a) run on healthy fat as its primary fuel, and b) cycle through periods of feast and famine. Today, most people do the opposite.

Intermittent Fasting Versus Longer Fasts

Intermittent fasting is an umbrella term that covers many different meal timing schedules. As a general rule, it involves cutting calories in whole or in part, either a couple of days a week, every other day or even daily.2 The key is the cycling of feasting/feeding and famine/fasting. By mimicking the eating habits of our ancestors, who did not have access to food around the clock, you restore your body to a more natural state that allows a whole host of biochemical benefits to occur. 

“Peak fasting” involves fasting anywhere from 14 to 21 hours each day and eating all of your meals within the remaining window of three to 10 hours. Obviously, to make this schedule work, you need to skip at least one main meal. One of the easiest ways to ease into it is to gradually push back the time you eat breakfast until you eliminate it completely and simply have lunch, then dinner.

Just be sure to eat your dinner at least three hours before bedtime. When you’re sleeping, your body needs the least amount of energy, and if you feed it at a time when energy is not needed, your mitochondria end up creating excessive amounts of damaging free radicals. Avoiding late-night eating is a simple way to protect your mitochondrial function and prevent cellular damage from occurring.

Once you’re used to intermittent fasting, you may want to consider longer fasts, where the only thing you consume is water and mineral supplements. I had previously been opposed to multiday water fasting if one was already at an ideal body weight. What I failed to realize is that longer fasts provide “metabolic magic” that really cannot occur even with intermittent daily fasting.

Multiday fasting is basically akin to “taking out the trash.” It allows your body to upregulate autophagy and mitophagy to remove damaged senescent cells in your body, including premalignant cells. I believe it can be a great way to significantly reduce your risk for cancer. It’s also an extremely effective way to shed excess weight and extend your life span.

Silicon Valley Embraces Multiday Fasting

More and more people are now starting to recognize the health benefits of fasting. The strategy has quickly become popular with Silicon Valley executives, who recognize it as biohacking, opposed to mere dieting.3,4 The Guardian writes:5

“Over the last eight months [Phil Libin] the former CEO of Evernote and current CEO of AI studio All Turtles has shunned food for stretches of between two and eight days, interspersed with similar periods of eating. He’s lost almost 90 lbs and describes getting into fasting as ‘transformative.’

‘There’s a mild euphoria. I’m in a much better mood, my focus is better, and there’s a constant supply of energy. I just feel a lot healthier. It’s helping me be a better CEO,’ he said … ‘Getting into fasting is definitely one of the top two or three most important things I’ve done in my life.’ Libin is one of a growing number of Silicon Valley types experimenting with extended periods of fasting, claiming benefits including weight loss, fewer mood swings and improved productivity.”

Another staunch advocate of multiday water fasts is Geoffrey Woo, CEO of the biohacking company HVMN (pronounced “human”). He told The Guardian: “Ketones are a super-fuel for the brain. So a lot of the subjective benefits to fasting, including mental clarity, are down to the rise in ketones in the system.”

Why Fasting Bolsters Brain Power: Mark Mattson

Contrary to popular belief, going without food for several days does not progressively deteriorate mental and physical functioning. As noted by Woo, whose experience I too can vouch for, right around the three-day mark your hunger significantly decreases and mental clarity increases, thanks to rising ketone levels. In the video above, Mark Mattson, chief of the laboratory of neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging and a professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University, explains this process.

Breaking Down Myths About Fasting

Last fall I interviewed Dr. Jason Fung, a Canadian nephrologist (kidney specialist) and author of “The Complete Guide to Fasting.” Fung is a proponent of extended water fasts, especially for patients who are obese and/or Type 2 diabetic. Fung’s book provides easy-to-follow basic guidelines for fasting, and reviews some of the most common myths and fears that keep many from implementing a fasting regimen.

One common myth is that multiday fasting will lead to muscle loss. The book clearly describes the process of protein catabolism, explaining how your body actually downregulates protein catabolism and upregulates growth hormones in response to fasting. As noted by Fung:

“If you follow the biochemistry, your body stores energy as glycogen in the liver, which is links or chains of sugar, and then it stores [it as] body fat. During fasting, you start by burning off all the glycogen in the liver, which is all the sugar. There’s a point there where some of the excess amino acids in your body need to get burnt as well.

That’s where people say, ‘That’s where you’re burning muscle.’ That’s not actually what happens. The body never upregulates its protein catabolism. Never is it burning muscle; there’s a normal turnover that goes on. There is a certain amount of protein that you need for a regular turnover. When you start fasting, that starts to go down and then fat oxidation goes way up. In essence, what you’ve done is you switched over from burning sugar to burning fat.

Once you start burning fat, there’s almost an unlimited amount of calories there. You could go for days and days. What’s interesting is that if you take a pound of fat, that’s roughly 3,500 calories. If you eat somewhere around 1,800 to 2,000 calories a day, it takes two full days of fasting to burn a single pound of fat, which is very surprising to people.

If you’re trying to lose 100 pounds, you could theoretically go 200 days of fasting just to burn all that fat … People worry about fasting for 24 hours. I’m like, ‘You could go 200 days.’ Then it’s like, ‘OK. Maybe it’s OK to go 24 hours without eating.'”

The Man Who Fasted for 382 Days

It has been my observation that most people fear fasting, thinking they will be unable to tolerate the suffering, but as Fung says, an obese individual could theoretically go without food for months without starving to death. The 1965 medical case of a 27-year-old man who fasted for 382 days is a powerful case in point.6,7 When he started, he weighed 456 pounds. At the end, he’d lost just over 275 pounds, and five years after breaking his fast, he’d gained back a mere 11 pounds.

Please understand, I am not recommending months- or yearlong fasts. This man was under strict medical surveillance, and you should be too if you’re planning on fasting for an extended period of time. He took multivitamins and potassium daily, and I recommend taking a high-quality multimineral supplement any time you do a water-only fast. What’s so interesting about this case is that it clearly demonstrates that extreme fasting can be safely done.

Provided you’re not anorexic, old and frail, pregnant or have some other serious health issue, fasting for three to seven days is not going to kill you. This case also demonstrates that loss of muscle mass is an overrated concern. ABC Science, which reported the case, notes:8

“After two or three days of fasting, you get your energy from two different sources simultaneously. A very small part of your energy comes from breaking down your muscles — but you can avoid this by doing some resistance training … The majority of your energy comes from breaking down fat.

But very soon, you move into getting all your energy from the breakdown of fat. The fat molecules break down into two separate chemicals — glycerol (which can be converted into glucose) and free fatty acids (which can be converted into other chemicals called ketones). Your body, including your brain, can run on this glucose and ketones until you finally run out of fat.”

Why Fasting Improves Rather Than Depletes Energy

Another major concern is that fasting will leave you physically drained and lethargic. While you may certainly feel less than optimal during the first few days the first time you do it, fasting actually tends to have the complete converse effect on energy levels. As explained by Fung:

“[A]fter four days of fasting, the basal metabolic rate is actually 10 percent higher than when you started. The body has not shut down at all. In fact, what it’s done is it switched fuel sources. It switched from burning food to burning [body] fat. Once it’s burning [body] fat, it’s like, ‘Hey, there’s plenty of this stuff.'”

In other words, if you’re overweight and lethargic, fasting helps unlock energy already lodged in your body that you previously had no access to. Fasting forces your body to start accessing those stores of energy, and once that happens, your body suddenly has a near unlimited supply of energy! Insulin plays a role here as well. Insulin is the primary hormone that tells your body whether to store energy or burn it.

When you eat, you’re taking calories in and insulin goes up. Higher levels of insulin signal your body to store energy. When insulin falls, it tells your body to release energy, i.e., the energy stored in your fat cells. This is why it’s so difficult to lose weight when you’re insulin resistant.

Fasting also helps improve other biochemical systems in your body. There’s interplay of hormonal systems like the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), AMPK, leptin and IGF-1 — all of which are optimized in the right direction when fasting. It also improves your mitochondrial function, allowing your mitochondria to regenerate.

How to Ease Into Multiday Fasting

While the idea of fasting for several days may seem daunting, there are ways to ease into it that will minimize any discomfort. The way I graduated into four-day fasting was by increasing my intermittent daily fasting from 16 hours (which I did for 18 months) to 21 hours, leaving only a three-hour window in which I ate all my food for the day. After two months of that, I did a four-day fast where my only sustenance was water and a multimineral supplement.

I don’t think you need to do intermittent fasting for 18 months before trying water-only fasts, but doing it for a few months would radically decrease any negative side effects. I experienced no hunger pains whatsoever, which I find fascinating as most people who fast are really hungry by the second day. I believe getting used to 21-hour daily fasting had a lot to do with that.

So, if you want to try a multiday fast, consider extending your intermittent fasting first, then work your way into 24-, 48-, 72-hour and even longer fasts. And remember, you are in complete control and can break your fast any time you want.

In fact, one of the major benefits of extended fasting is an increased sense of self control and freedom. Once you finally understand that you can easily go for days without food, you’re no longer a victim of your surroundings. If you’re traveling and cannot find healthy food, you don’t have to resort to junk food. You can simply go without. If you’re in a disaster situation, you can rest easier knowing you can handle a temporary food shortage without losing your mind.

After four days of water fasting, I’d lost 10 pounds, primarily from cleaning out my colon and expelling water attached to glycogen, i.e., “water weight.” At the end, my ketones were 5.1 and my blood sugar 45, which is double the ketone/glucose index threshold Dr. Thomas Seyfried says is necessary to treat cancer. After the fast came the feast. Upon breaking my fast, I had 130 grams of net carbs with sweet potatoes and fruits and extra protein.

Variations of Fasting

You also have a number of other options that can help ease you into an extended water-only fast. The following are some of the most common variations:

Water plus noncaloric beverages. A slight variation on the water fast is to include other noncaloric beverages, such as herbal tea and coffee (without milk, sugar or other sweetener, including artificial non-caloric sweeteners).

Bone broth variation. Another variation Fung often recommends for longer fasts is to allow the use of bone broth. In addition to healthy fats, bone broth also contains lots of protein, so it’s not really a true fast. Still, in his clinical experience, many who take bone broth in addition to water, tea and coffee experience good results.

Fat fasting. Here, you allow healthy fats during the fast in addition to water and/or noncaloric beverages. While you probably would not eat a stick of butter, you could have bulletproof coffee (black coffee with butter, coconut oil or MCT oil), for example. Alternatively, you could add the fat to your tea.

Dietary fat produces a very minor insulin response, and since you’re keeping your insulin levels low, you’re still getting most of the benefits of fasting even though you’re consuming plenty of calories. Adding healthy fats such as butter, coconut oil, MCT oil and avocado can make the fasting experience a lot easier.

My personal assistant, who tried a water-only fast, complained of severe fatigue three days in. While this is a normal response in the initial stages, I made her a “fat-bomb drink” with some coconut oil, MCT C8 oil, butter and a little stevia, which perked her right back up.  

The key is to avoid protein as it activates mTOR, and may actually be more metabolically damaging than excess carbs. While the level of protein at which you’ll counteract the benefits of fasting varies from person to person, you’ll likely see results as long as you stay below 10 or 20 grams of protein per day.

Important Contraindications and Cautionary Advice

While most people would likely benefit from water fasting, there are several absolute contraindications. If any of the following apply to you, you should NOT do extended types of fasting:

  • Underweight, defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 18.5 or less.
  • Malnourished (in which case you need to eat healthier, more nutritious food).
  • Children should not fast for longer than 24 hours, as they need nutrients for continued growth. If your child needs to lose weight, a far safer and more appropriate approach is to cut out refined sugars and grains. Fasting is risky for children as it cuts out ALL nutrients, including those they need a steady supply of.
  • Pregnant and/or breast-feeding women. The mother needs a steady supply of nutrients in order to assure the baby’s healthy growth and development, so fasting during pregnancy or while breast-feeding is simply too risky for the child.

I would also caution you to avoid fasting if you struggle with an eating disorder such as anorexia, even if you are not clinically underweight. In addition to that, use caution if you’re on medication, as some may need to be taken with food. This includes metformin, aspirin and any other drugs that might cause stomach upset or stomach ulcers. Risks are especially high if you’re on diabetic medication.

If you take the same dose of medication but don’t eat, you run the risk of having very low blood sugars (hypoglycemia), which can be very dangerous. So, if you’re on diabetic drugs, you must adjust your medication before you fast. If your doctor is adverse toward or unfamiliar with fasting, you’d be wise to find one that has some experience in this area so that they can guide you on how to do this safely.

Multiday Fasting Is a Powerful Biohack for Health and Longevity

I will be interviewing experts on fasting in the future to go into more detail of all the benefits provided by extended water fasts, but until then, I would encourage you to increase your daily intermittent fasting toward the 18- to 21-hour range, which will enable you to transition into more extended fasts without significant struggle. If you are on medication or have a chronic health condition, work with your doctor to make sure you don’t complicate your situation.

For example, you need to make sure you’re taking a high-quality multimineral supplement daily. Ideally, educate yourself about the process before you get started. Fung’s book, “The Complete Guide to Fasting,”9 is an excellent resource. Also, before you jump into dayslong water-only fasting, start with intermittent fasting. I believe it will significantly ease the process and raise your chances of success.

Eat Your Fiber — Soluble and Insoluble

18/09/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola
What constitutes soluble as opposed to insoluble fiber is something not everyone is clear on, especially in regard to their importance. In discussing fiber, there are two types: soluble and insoluble. Most consider fiber a tool to aid i…

How Body Voltage Dictates Health and Disease

17/09/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

Your body runs on bioelectricity, and having a deeper understanding of how it works can be quite helpful when it comes to optimizing your health. Natural health pioneer Dr. Jerry Tennant has written an excellent book on this topic called “Healing Is Voltage: The Handbook.”

The Electric Brain

Trained as an ophthalmologist, Tennant transitioned into natural health as a result of being forced to solve his own health challenges. After doing laser eye surgery on a patient with leukemia, Tennant ended up developing encephalitis. He believes the virus, which is not killed by laser, traveled from the patient’s cornea, through the mask, up through his nose into his brain. He was forced to quit work in November 1995, and spent the next seven years bedridden, without hope for recovery.

“I went to the best doctors I could find in New York, Boston and so forth. They all said, ‘Well, sorry. You have three viruses in your brain. We don’t know what to do about it. Don’t call us. We’ll call you.’ I had two or three hours a day in which I could understand the newspaper. Then like a light switch, it would go off and I couldn’t understand it anymore. During those two or three hours that I could think, I realized I had to figure out how to get myself well, because no one else was going to do it.

I had the idea that if I could figure out how to make one cell work, I could make them all work, because although they look different, they really all have the same component parts. They just have different software. I began to read cellular biology books … One of the things that resonated with me was that … cells must run at a pH between 7.35 and 7.45. I didn’t really know what that meant, except it was something about acid-base balance.

I began to try to understand pH. I began to realize that pH is the name given to voltage in a liquid. If you think about the voltage that runs electric lights or a computer, that’s called conductive electricity. That means electrons are moving along copper wires. But in a liquid, you have a different situation. A liquid can either be an electron donor or an electron stealer.

By convention, if the liquid … is an electron stealer, you put a plus sign in front of the voltage. If it’s an electron donor, you put a minus sign in front of it. You take a sophisticated volt meter called a pH meter and put it in the liquid. It will actually read out in voltage; minus 400 millivolts of electron donor is the same thing as pH of 14. Plus 400 millivolts of electron stealer is the same as a pH of zero. Of course, if it’s neutral, it’s a pH of 7.”

Healing Requires Double the Voltage

A pH meter can give you a reading of either pH or millivolts. It’s actually easier to understand what’s going on if you use millivolts. A pH of 7.35 equates to -20 millivolts of electron donor. A pH of 7.45 is -25 millivolts of electron donor. Cells are designed to run in an environment of -20 to -25 millivolts.

People get confused because if you measure across a cell membrane you get about minus 90 millivolts. But the environment is designed to be -20 to -25 millivolts.

“That was a critical piece of my understanding to begin to understand how to get myself well,” Tennant says (who, by the way, turned 77 this past June and still enjoys healthy mental faculties and goes to work every day). To repair and heal, on the other hand, cells need an environment of -50 millivolts. In other words, you need double the normal voltage to repair or replace damaged cells.

“Dr. Hiroki Nakatani in Japan was the first person to use modern electronics to measure acupuncture meridians. He published his work in 1951. Dr. Reinhard Voll in Germany did similar work and published it in 1952. I was able to get Nakatani’s rather rudimentary device (an ohmmeter) and found that my brain was running somewhere between 2 and 4 millivolts, instead of the 25 that it needed to run and the 50 it needed to repair.

Now, it was obvious why it didn’t work,” he says. “Understanding that my brain didn’t have enough voltage to work correctly, that was really what started me on the journey of trying to figure out how to get things to work again.”

Chronic Disease Is the Result of Failure to Make Functional Cells

First, he came across work by a Russian doctor named Alexander Karasev, who had identified a waveform that can transfer electrons to cell membranes. He was able to acquire a SCENAR device developed by Karasev and began to treat himself with it. Years later, he developed his own Biomodulator device.1

“As I began to recognize that the body had to have energy, the other big change in my paradigm was when I finally understood that the body is constantly wearing itself out and having to make new cells. You get new cones in the macula of your eye every 48 hours. The lining of the gut is replaced every three days. The skin that you and I are sitting in today is only 6 weeks old. Your liver’s 8 weeks old. Your nervous system’s 8 months old.

One of the things I began to realize then is that chronic disease only occurs when you lose the ability to make new cells that work. [By extension], if you say that you must have a cell that works, that cell must contain functional mitochondria. But the mitochondria are not going to work if the cell membranes don’t work.

It’s the total unit that you have to have working. It’s sort of like having a brand-new car. If it doesn’t have a transmission, even though you’ve got the rest of it there, it’s not going to work. You have to have the whole thing … Cells actually have four battery packs. The mitochondria are only one of those battery packs. You want them all to be functional.”

In a nutshell, inadequate voltage is a characteristic of all chronic disease. Either you do not have the necessary voltage to run the cells, or the higher voltage needed to make new cells. So, to heal, you need the proper voltage. You also need all of the necessary raw materials (nutrients) required to make new cells and address any toxins that might damage cells as fast as you make them.

Body Electric — The Human Battery System

According to Tennant, there are four major battery systems in the human body that make cells work. The largest is your muscle battery. Your muscles are piezoelectric, which means that when you engage your muscles, electrons are emitted. In a way, your muscles act like rechargeable batteries, so while they emit electrons, they also store them.

To recharge the “battery pack” in your muscles, all you need to do is move and exercise. In summary, the four battery systems found in the human body are as follows. All of these battery systems must be functional for cells to work correctly:

1. Muscle battery pack — Your muscles are stacked one on top of the other in a specific order (much like batteries in a flashlight) to form a power pack. Each organ has its own battery pack, which is a stack of muscle batteries. According to Tennant, each stack of muscle batteries corresponds to an acupuncture meridian.

The muscle batteries are surrounded by fascia, which acts as a semiconductor — an arranged metabolic molecule designed to move electrons at the speed of light, but only in one direction. Together, the muscle stack and the surrounding fascia serve as the wiring system for your body, carrying the voltage from the muscle battery inside, out through the fascia and to the appropriate organ.

2. Cell membrane capacitor — Cell membranes are composed of fats called phospholipids, shaped like a circle with two “legs.” The circle is an electron conductor and the legs are insulators. They’re stacked together so that you have two conductors separated by an insulator, which is the definition of a capacitor.

The difference between a capacitor and a regular battery is when a capacitor discharges, it discharges all of its charge whereas a battery discharges slowly. So, each cell membrane acts like a small battery (capacitor), which is continuously fed electrons from the muscle battery packs.

3. ADP/ATP battery — Inside each cell is yet another rechargeable battery system called adenosine diphosphate/adenosine triphosphate (ADP/ATP). When this battery is charged up, it’s called ATP. When the battery’s discharged, it’s called ADP. Because it’s a rechargeable battery system, there’s a type of battery charger inside of the cell as well. We call that Krebs cycle, or the citric acid cycle.

The citric acid cycle prefers fatty acids. When sufficient oxygen is available, for every unit of fatty acid you put into the citric acid cycle, you get enough electrons to charge up 38 ATP batteries. If oxygen is unavailable, for every unit of fatty acids you put into the citric acid cycle you only get enough electrons to charge up two of those batteries.

Hence, when oxygen drops, this ADP/ATP battery system becomes very inefficient. “It’s like a car that goes from 38 miles a gallon to 2 miles a gallon,” Tennant says.

4. The DNA battery — Lastly, there’s DNA. The DNA molecule measures 34 by 21 angstroms per double helix cycle.2 The ratio of these numbers is very close to phi and is known as the golden section or golden mean. “Anytime you have something that’s a golden mean and expose it to scalar energy … scalar energy implodes into the center and becomes the power supply for DNA,” Tennant says.

Fifth Energy System — Structured Water

A fifth system that holds and delivers energy is structured water — negatively charged water found in your cells and extracellular tissues. Typical tap water is H2O, but this fourth phase is actually H3O2. It’s more viscous, more ordered and more alkaline than regular water, and the refractive index (optical property) of this water is about 10 percent higher than ordinary water. Its density is also about 10 percent higher and, as mentioned, it has a negative charge (negative electrical potential).

This may provide the answer as to why human cells are negatively charged. Tennant does not go into structured water here, but it’s a whole additional component that also plays an important role in health and disease. In summary, the way you recharge this structured water is through sunlight. Sun exposure structures the water in your body, which provides greater energy. To learn more about this, please review “Water Supports Health in Ways You May Never Have Suspected.”

What Cells Require for Proper Function

As mentioned, chronic disease is characterized by low voltage. The obvious question then becomes, why won’t the battery packs hold a charge? Here, a number of factors can come into play. Among the most important are:

Thyroid hormones — The thyroid hormone T3 controls the voltage of cell membranes while T2 controls the voltage of the mitochondria. Hence, you need adequate T3 and T2 for things to work. “What I find is that basic to all chronic diseases is that you have to make sure you get the thyroid piece right, because if you don’t, then nothing else tends to work correctly,” Tennant says.

“One of the problems is doctors are trained to look at thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and sometimes T4. But TSH and T4 could be normal, but if you don’t have the cofactors that it takes to convert T4 to T3, you’re still hypothyroid at the cell level.”

Dental infections — As mentioned, voltage runs from the muscle battery out through the fascia to the organs. On the way, each muscle battery pack or meridian runs through a specific tooth. There are acupuncture meridian charts showing which meridian corresponds to which tooth.

According to Tennant, teeth act like circuit breakers, so if you have an infection in a tooth, it will lower the voltage, eventually turning the voltage off in that circuit. When that happens, the organs powered by that particular circuit will begin to malfunction.

Scars — According to Tennant, scars can significantly inhibit or drain voltage. To treat scars, Tennant uses essential oils in combination with his proprietary device called the Biomodulator/Biotransducer. “Just put the Biotransducer over [the scar] until you feel the magnetic fields go away. That opens up the scar and now the voltage goes through it,” he says. “It takes about three minutes and works great.”

Emotions Create Distorted Magnetic Fields That Lower Voltage

Another really important factor that lowers your body voltage are stuck, negative emotions. Your body actually stores emotions as magnetic fields. Tennant explains:

“If you put a magnetic field in one of the body’s circuits, it simply blocks the flow of electrons. So, what we found is that one of the most important things that start chronic disease is actually emotions. You can identify these emotional magnetic fields in a variety of different ways.

Work by Eileen McKusick and others have shown we’re all surrounded by this magnetic field. It goes out about 5 feet … [One of the things McKusick taught is you can take a tuning fork, strike it and you’ll hear it hum.

As you move it through the field, when it hits one of these areas of emotional distortion, its pitch goes deeper. You can actually hear it. If you can put a pendulum right where you find it, you’ll see the pendulum spins counter-clockwise if there’s an emotional distortion there. It spins clockwise if there isn’t.”

To erase the aberrant magnetic fields caused by negative emotions, Tennant applies a stronger magnetic field using his Biomodulator, which not only can transfer electrons but also put out a variety of waveforms, including scalar energy.

Treating Macular Degeneration

Today, Tennant no longer practices general ophthalmology. The only eye problems he treats are macular degeneration and glaucoma, using voltage-based techniques. The macula is on the stomach meridian. “The reason people get macular degeneration is that they lose the minus 50 millivolts they need to make new cells every 48 hours,” he says. “As those cells wear out, they can’t get replacements.”

To address it, you need to determine why there’s deficient voltage in the stomach meridian. You also need to make sure you’re giving your body all the materials needed to replace those macular cells. Nerve cells are 50 percent cholesterol by weight, so it’s nearly impossible to reverse macular degeneration if you’re on a statin drug, as you will not have enough cholesterol in your system.

Other important nutrients are animal-based omega-3 fats and fulvic acid, typically sold as “fulvic trace minerals,” which provides vitamins, minerals and amino acids.

“Fulvic acid is a primary control of cell membranes because it’s one of the few substances that can be either plus or minus, as it needs to be,” Tennant explains. “When we take that, it provides the things we need. Of course, there’s research coming out now that shows not only does it correct mineral deficiencies, but it begins to help with the way our intestinal cells interlock, and so on.

Also, fulvic acid is a great way to get rid of heavy metals because [it goes] inside the cell, grabs the metal, pulls it out, hands it off to the humic, which then takes it out of your body. In intravenous chelation, the chelating materials can only get to extracellular things, because they won’t go inside the cells where almost all the metals reside.”

Astaxanthin, a potent antioxidant, can also be quite beneficial. Since the macula replaces itself every 48 hours, people with dry macular degeneration may start noticing results in as little as three or four days, provided you’ve addressed the nutritional component as well. In many cases, Tennant has been able to restore vision to within the normal reading range.

Wet macular degeneration is more difficult, as the bleeding causes scarring and new cells cannot eliminate the scar. In these cases, the goal is to stabilize the disease and prevent further deterioration.

Treating Glaucoma

To treat glaucoma, you have to treat the liver/gallbladder circuit, as the optic nerve is on the liver/gallbladder meridian. “The optic nerve replaces itself every eight months if it has the 50 millivolts to do it,” he says. “What you’ll find in every glaucoma patient is that the polarity in the liver meridian has dropped down past zero, so it’s an electron stealer instead of an electron donor.”

You also need to treat the sympathetic system, which controls lymphatics, because the outflow channel of your eye is part of the lymphatic system. So, “to fix glaucoma, you look at both the sympathetic and parasympathetic and figure out why that’s not balanced, and then you fix the liver/gallbladder circuit,” Tennant says. Since it takes eight months to replace the optic nerve, it takes longer to notice results when treating glaucoma. Also, you’re also more likely to merely stabilize the disease than reverse it.

More Information

If you’ve enjoyed this conversation, I would strongly encourage you to join us at the ACIM conference in Orlando, Florida, November 2 through 4. The event is being held at the Florida Conference and Hotel Center. Both Tennant and I, along with many other outstanding speakers, like Steven Sinatra, Jonathon Wright and Lee Cowden, all of whom I have previously interviewed, will be there. You can see the rest of the amazing speakers on the ACIM event page.

If you are a physician and are interested in learning about how you can use the ketogenic diet and other therapies for cancer, heart disease, Lyme and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, please be sure and come. If you are a patient, there will be a separate and less expensive track on the same date and location. However, you will need to come back to this page at a later date, as the registration page for the event is still unavailable. 

To learn more about how body voltage dictates health and disease, be sure to pick up a copy of Tennant’s book, “Healing Is Voltage: The Handbook.” You can also learn more on his website, TennantInstitute.com. There you’ll also find contact information for his Dallas-based clinic.

“Again, you have to do everything it takes to make new cells work. The voltage piece is basic. If you don’t do that, then nothing works. Even if you eat a perfect diet but don’t have voltage in the digestive system, you’re still starving to death. You have to have the voltage. You have to have the nutrition. You have to deal with the toxins. You have to do all of those,” Tennant says.

Why Does Your Stomach Growl When You Are Hungry?

16/09/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

Your body lets you know every day, in a variety of ways, that it is alive and well. One such way is the familiar growl of your stomach, which, to most of us, signals hunger.

But, are all those rumbles and noises actually coming from your stomach? Are they really a sign you need to eat? The answer to both questions is a resounding “No.” I’ll take this opportunity to remind you about what’s really going on when you feel and hear a rumble in your belly.

Is All That Noise Coming From Your Stomach?

You may not realize stomach growling actually originates as muscular activity in both your stomach and your small intestine. To better understand what causes it, let’s take a closer look at how your body digests the foods and beverages you consume. As you probably know, one of the primary components of your digestive system is a long hollow tube called the esophagus, which runs from the back of your mouth all the way to your anus.

Your esophagus connects with all of your various organs along your gastrointestinal tract, such as your gallbladder, liver, pancreas and stomach, as well as your small and large intestines (also referred to as your bowels).

The walls of your esophagus are primarily composed of layers of smooth muscle, which are squeezed and contracted as a means of digesting and propelling food through your body. This process is called peristalsis. As peristalsis does its work, the food and beverages you consume are steadily being moved along from your stomach to your anus.

Along the way, they are being mixed with a variety of digestive juices. These juices help your body transform liquids and solids into a gooey mixture known as chyme. Now, this is where the growling noises factor into the process.

The funny noises and rumbling sounds you experience are not hunger pangs; they are caused by pockets of trapped air and gasses that are compressed as your body churns food particles and chyme through your digestive system. Typically, stomach growling is no cause for concern. About stomach growling, the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders says:1

“Whether audible or not, bowel sounds in the absence of other significant symptoms are normal phenomena of no medical significance. Their harm is embarrassment, a social, rather than a medical affliction.”

Why Does My Body Growl Within Hours of Eating?

You may be surprised to know that growling sounds can happen at any time — not just when you’re hungry or when your digestive system is relatively empty. Sometimes the noises are less noticeable because the presence of food in your body can help somewhat to muffle their sound, as well as lessen their intensity.

Because digestion is an ongoing process, your stomach sends signals to your brain approximately two hours after you eat to start up the peristalsis contractions again. As reported by Scientific American, professor Mark Andrews, a specialist in physiology and biophysics at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, explains what happens next, noting that these contractions generally subside after you eat: 2

  • Receptors in the walls of your stomach sense the absence of food, triggering electrical activity in the form of a reflex generation of waves known as migrating myoelectric complexes (MMCs)
  • Hunger contractions result as MMCs travel from the lower region of your stomach, through your small intestine and into your colon
  • This process not only cleans up any bacteria, food or mucus that may have been missed earlier, but also initiates the process to make you hungry for your next meal
  • Those contractions, which may continue for 10 to 20 minutes and repeat every one to two hours until your next meal, produce vibrations and the rumbling noise commonly associated with stomach growling

Hyperactive Bowel Sounds Could Signal a Need for Medical Attention

If you have ever experienced diarrhea, you are already familiar with what is meant by hyperactive bowel sounds. As a refresher, hyperactive bowel sounds are characterized by the combination of:

  • Peristalsis of your intestines
  • Higher levels of fluid and gas
  • Amplified sounds of watery stools

Various malabsorption states can also result in exaggerated bowel sounds. Two of the main ones that receive considerable attention are:3

Lactose intolerance: This condition is characterized by your body’s lack of a sufficient level of the enzyme needed to digest lactose in your small intestine. As such, milk sugar will reach your colon intact where it will be fermented by colon bacteria. Those microbes release hydrogen and other products that attract fluids and stimulate gut contractions, which will intensify any abdominal sounds.

Celiac disease: This illness results from your body’s inability to process gluten, which is a major protein found in barley, rye and wheat. Primarily characterized by inflammation of the mucosa in your small intestines, celiac disease also causes your intestinal villi to atrophy.

Villi are the finger-like projections lining the walls of your small intestine that help your body absorb nutrients. When your villi flatten, you may suffer from serious nutritional deficiencies due to malabsorption. Diarrhea and muscle wasting are other possible side effects of celiac disease.

A Bowel Obstruction Is Not Only Noisy but Can Also Be Life-Threatening

According to Healthline,4 a very serious instance involving hyperactive bowel sounds takes place when you have an intestinal obstruction. Obstructions can be partial or total, preventing the passage of food and liquids.

They are characterized by increased contractions that attempt to force air, liquids and solids through a narrowing of your intestine. As such, obstructions produce unusually loud, often high-pitched, sounds. Those sounds are caused by the buildup of food, fluids, gas and gastric acids behind the site of the blockage.

Most obstructions are characterized by symptoms such as abdominal swelling, constipation, nausea and vomiting. Intestinal blockages are considered to be an emergency situation because your intestine could rupture under such intense pressure, causing harmful bacteria and waste products to leak into your abdominal cavity. Given that it is a life-threatening illness that cannot be prevented, immediate diagnosis and treatment of an intestinal blockage is crucial to your survival.

Should You Be Concerned if Your Intestines Are Totally Silent?

There are a few situations in which it is normal for your intestines to be quiet, including:

  • During sleep
  • At certain times of the day
  • Following abdominal surgery

That said, a complete absence of intestinal sounds that occurs during an attack of severe abdominal pain could be an indication of a serious intra-abdominal event.5 If so, you should treat it as an emergency — one that may require surgery — and get to your nearest hospital immediately.

How to Tell if Your Body’s Growling Noises Are Normal

Unless the sounds your stomach and small intestine are making are accompanied by diarrhea, abdominal pain or other symptoms, they are probably normal.

That said, it is also important to note stomach rumbling is different from, and unrelated to, other gassy phenomena such as belching, bloating and flatulence. While any, or all, of these may occur in the same person, they are causally unrelated. If you feel your bowel sounds are abnormally loud or if they are causing you anxiety or embarrassment, be sure to discuss your concerns with your doctor.

Optimize Your Gut Microbiome to Prevent Intestinal Problems

While there is nothing you can or need to do to curtail your body’s digestive noises, you can take proactive steps to prevent a more serious intestinal issue. By far, your best defense against intestinal problems is to optimize your gut microbiome. One of the best and least expensive ways to do so is to begin by eliminating sugar and processed foods from your diet, while adding a variety of fermented foods.

The beneficial bacteria in fermented foods will aid your digestion and provide detoxification support. Consuming a variety of fermented foods and beverages is important because each food will inoculate your gut with a mix of different microorganisms. As such, your digestive tract will be stronger and more resilient against bacteria and other toxic invaders.

Fortunately, with a little time and effort, you can cultivate fermented foods at home. While there are several options, two of the easiest and most popular types are:

For step-by-step instructions on how to ferment vegetables, check out my video below. While you can purchase these items in a grocery store, you will get a higher-quality product by culturing your own. Making your fermented foods and beverages at home also gives you total control and knowledge of the ingredients contained in each one.

Probiotics Support the Growth of Your Gut’s ‘Good Bacteria’

If, for whatever reason, fermented foods are not an option for you, consider taking a daily probiotic supplement. Probiotics are supplements designed to increase your beneficial bacteria, the largest concentration of which is found in your gut. By supporting the health-promoting bacteria in your body, probiotics help keep harmful microbes in check.

If you recently have taken or currently are taking an antibiotic, be sure to also take a probiotic to repopulate your gut with healthy bacteria. This is necessary because most antibiotics kill not only the target organism that might be causing your infection (which is a good thing), but also your beneficial bacteria.

Keep in mind that many prescribed antibiotics are unnecessary and may inflict more harm than good. As such, I recommend you carefully weigh your options before taking them.

Given the risks of antibiotic resistance, be selective and, if possible, restrict antibiotic use to only the medical situations that mandate the use of them. Learn more about the value and use of probiotics through my interview with Greg Leyer, chief scientific officer of UAS Laboratories, a probiotic-dedicated manufacturer.

Take One Step Today to Address Your Digestive Health

For sure, your body will continue to make growling noises. Whenever you feel and hear that familiar rumble, let it remind you that you have a human form that is intricately made and wonderfully complex. Unless the growling sounds are bothersome, or accompanied by abdominal pain or other alarming symptoms, there is little cause for concern. As always, your best defense against more serious digestive issues is to act now to proactively maintain your health.

The Importance of Omega-3 Testing

16/09/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

Mounting research drives home the importance of animal-based omega-3 fats for heart health. After reviewing this topic carefully, I am convinced that maintaining a healthy level of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) may be one of the most important food priorities.

DHA and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are long-chained omega-3 fats (22 and 20 carbons respectively) found in fatty fish like wild-caught Alaskan salmon, sardines, anchovies and certain other sea creatures, including krill. The featured video by AkerBioMarine is part of a campaign to raise awareness about the importance of measuring your omega-3 level. Indeed, along with vitamin D, I believe measuring your omega-3 level is a truly vital health test that should be done on an annual basis.

Like vitamin D, being deficient in omega-3 will leave you vulnerable to all sorts of chronic disease. Optimizing your omega-3 is a truly foundational component of good health. Unfortunately, many still do not even realize such a test exists. It does, but first, let’s review why animal-based omega-3 fats are so important for health in the first place.

Plant- Versus Marine-Based Omega-3

Omega-3 fats can be obtained from both marine animal and plant sources, but they are not interchangeable. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an 18-carbon omega-3 fat found in plants like flax and chia seed does readily convert to DHA. Typically, just 1 to 3 percent of ALA is converted to DHA, which is nowhere near the amount you need for brain and heart health. Some studies have found the conversion rate to be as 0.1 to 0.5 percent.1

And, while plant-based omega-3 fats are important for health, the animal-based DHA is the one most strongly associated with heart health and other important health benefits. EPA and DHA are both considered “essential” fats as your body cannot make them, and hence you must get them from your diet. Omega-3 ALA on the other hand is quite ubiquitous in the diet and therefore there is no real need to supplement.

DHA and EPA Protect Your Heart Health

Research suggests eating fatty fish and other omega-3 rich foods may lower your risk of a fatal heart attack by 10 percent.2,3,4 Taken after a heart attack, omega-3 fats can also significantly improve your odds of survival. In one large trial, heart attack survivors who took 1 gram of omega-3 fat every day for three years had a 50 percent reduced chance of sudden cardiac death.5

As noted in the featured video, exercise is not enough to protect your heart. You also need to be mindful of your omega-3 level. Animal-based omega-3 fats, especially DHA, protect and support your cardiovascular health by:

  • Lowering blood pressure and counteracting or preventing cardiac arrhythmia
  • Improving endothelial function (which helps promote growth of new blood vessels)
  • Lowering triglyceride concentrations and preventing fatty deposits and fibrosis of the inner layer of your arteries
  • Helping prevent thrombosis (a blood clot within a blood vessel)
  • Counteracting inflammation

DHA and EPA are also important for digestion, muscle activity, blood clotting, visual acuity, memory and learning, basic cell division, function of cell receptors and more. Importantly, animal-based DHA and EPA:

  • Are structural elements, not just a source of energy. DHA is particularly vital, as it is a component of every cell in your body. There are specific transporters for long-chained omega-3s in your blood-brain barrier, the placenta (in pregnant women) and likely also in your liver, which transport these molecules in a very precise way into the cell membranes where they belong
  • Regulate communication within the cell and between cells
  • Play a role in helping your body properly utilize sunlight
  • Have a profoundly important influence on mitochondrial health

Get Tested Today

In terms of how much omega-3 fat you need, the best way to determine your required dose is to measure your omega-3 level with an omega-3 index test. This test has consistently been found to provide the most accurate measurement of the omega-3 level in your body. Ideally, your index should be above 8 percent. If you’re below 8 percent, increase your omega-3 intake and retest until you find the dosage that allows you to reach and maintain an ideal level. Ideally, you’ll want to wait three to six months between each test.

Rather than depending on recommended dosages, getting your level tested is really the only way to ensure sufficiency, because requirements for omega-3 will vary depending on your lifestyle; your intake of fatty fish, for example, and your level of physical activity. Athletes tend to burn off their omega-3 quite rapidly, as the DHA gets burned as fuel rather than being used as a structural component of their cell membranes. Hence, they will need higher dosages.

GrassrootsHealth has created a convenient and cost-effective combination test kit that measures both your vitamin D and omega-3 index. This third-party test kit is part of its consumer-sponsored research project. By gathering information on the population’s vitamin D and omega-3 levels, we will better understand how these nutrients impact health. The data (which will not include any identifying personal information) will also allow researchers to study the links between these two nutrients.

vitamin d and omega-3 testing kit

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Ideal Omega-3 Sources

Seafood is your best source of long-chained omega-3 fats. However, it’s important to realize that all fish do not contain these fats. Tilapia, for example, contains no EPA or DHA. The fish needs to be harvested from cold water, as this is what triggers the production of omega-3 fats in the fish. Some of your best options for clean fats are wild-caught Alaskan salmon, sardines and anchovies.

An excellent alternative, if you do not want to eat fatty fish, is to take a krill oil supplement. I firmly believe krill oil is superior to fish oil. Although both contain EPA and DHA,  krill oil is bound to phospholipids, which allows the EPA and DHA to travel more efficiently through your bloodstream. Hence, it’s more bioavailable. This means you need far less of it than fish oil, as confirmed by a 2011 study published in the journal Lipids.6

Researchers gave subjects less than 63 percent as much krill-based EPA/DHA as the fish oil group, yet both groups showed equivalent blood levels, meaning the krill was more potent. Phospholipids are also a principal compound in high-density lipoproteins (HDL), which you want more of, and by allowing your cells to maintain structural integrity, phospholipids help your cells function properly.

Meanwhile, fish oil is bound to triglycerides and methyl esters, which must be broken down in your gut to its base fatty acids of DHA and EPA. About 80 to 85 percent is simply eliminated in your intestine. Krill oil also contains natural astaxanthin, which prevents rancidity of these highly perishable oils. Regular fish oil does not contain this antioxidant, and is therefore far more prone to oxidation.

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Algae — A Vegan Source of DHA

Not surprisingly, vegans will typically have half the omega-3 level of people who allow themselves some marine fats,7 and this can have serious health implications. If you’re die-hard vegan and refuse to eat seafood, algal oil, made from algae, is a vegan-friendly option.

Most recently, a 2014 scientific review8 concluded algal oil can be an effective alternative source of DHA for vegetarians and vegans, noting that many studies have found ALA from nut and seed oils are not converted to DHA at all, and therefore cannot be relied on. An earlier study, published in 2008, found that algal oil and oil from salmon appeared to be bioequivalent: 9

“We compared the nutritional availability of … DHA from algal-oil capsules to that from assayed cooked salmon in 32 healthy men and women, ages 20 to 65 years, in a randomized, open-label, parallel-group study. In this two-week study comparing 600 mg DHA/day from algal-oil capsules to that from assayed portions of cooked salmon, mean change from baseline in plasma phospholipids and erythrocyte DHA levels was analyzed and DHA levels were compared …

DHA levels increased by approximately 80 percent in plasma phospholipids and by approximately 25 percent in erythrocytes in both groups. Changes in DHA levels in plasma phospholipids and erythrocytes were similar between groups …

These results indicate that algal-oil DHA capsules and cooked salmon appear to be bioequivalent in providing DHA to plasma and red blood cells and, accordingly, that algal-oil DHA capsules represent a safe and convenient source of non-fish-derived DHA.”

Omega-3 Requirements Increase During Pregnancy

There is no set recommended standard dose of omega-3 fats, but some health organizations recommend a daily dose of 250 to 500 mg of EPA and DHA for healthy adults. If you’re pregnant or breast-feeding, your body will likely require additional omega-3. I know from experience that eating a can of sardines and salmon roe for a few months put my omega-3 Index at 10, which is very healthy.

The American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada recommend pregnant and lactating women (along with all adults) consume at least 500 mg of omega-3s, including EPA and DHA, daily. The European Commission recommends pregnant and lactating women consume a minimum of 200 mg of DHA, in particular, per day.10 Again, if you’re pregnant or planning a pregnancy, now is the time to get your level checked to make sure you’re not deficient.

More than 90 percent of the omega-3 fat found in brain tissue is DHA, making it very important for your child’s brain development. Studies have shown omega-3 fats lowers the risk for learning disorders, behavioral disorders,11,12,13ADHD,14autism and dyslexia.15 Omega-3s are also needed for proper eye development,16 and for the prevention of premature delivery. Low levels of DHA may increase the risk for a reduction in cognitive processing speed and poor eye hand coordination by age four.17

Other Health Benefits of Animal-Based Omega-3

Aside from heart and brain health, omega-3 fats are also important for:

Healthy, strong bones, reducing your risk of osteoporosis18

Mood regulation

Reducing your risk of Parkinson’s disease

Reducing your risk of death from ALL causes

Lowering your risk for lupus19

Reducing your risk of kidney disease20

Reducing your risk of Alzheimer’s disease

Delaying progression to psychosis among patients at high risk for schizophrenia

Protecting against osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis (RA)21,22,23

Protecting against metabolic syndrome,24 including obesity, fatty liver,25 insulin resistance26 and Type 2 diabetes

Improving in premenstrual syndrome (PMS), dysmenorrhea27 and reducing menstrual pain28,29

Lowering your risk for neurological/cognitive dysfunction, including memory loss and brain aging

Reducing your risk of Crohn’s disease

Reducing your risk of colon cancer.30 Colon cancer patients who consumed a minimum of 0.3 grams of omega-3 from fish each day also reduced their risk of dying over the next decade by 41 percent31

Building healthy muscle mass, including people suffering from cancer who may experience cachexia.32

In one study involving patients with advanced malignancy, those taking fish oil were able to gain weight. The length of time patients took the supplement was also a factor; the longer they took it, the better the results

Reducing your risk of autoimmune disorders such as lupus and nephropathy

Setting the Record Straight on Plant- and Marine-Based Omega-3s

To recap, it’s important to realize that you cannot trade animal-based omega-3 for plant-based omega-3. Even if you take large amounts of plant-based omega-3 it simply will not provide you with the raw materials you need for a healthy body and brain. It doesn’t work because your body cannot convert enough ALA into DHA and EPA.

So, if you’re vegan, you simply must figure out a way to compensate for the lack of marine animal fats in your diet. Keep in mind that while studies suggest algae appears to be an effective alternative, the only way to verify this is to get your omega-3 level tested. Pregnant women are also urged to test their vitamin D and omega-3, as these two nutrients are vital for healthy fetal development and can rather dramatically reduce your risk of pregnancy and delivery complications.

I firmly believe an omega-3 index test is one of the most important annual health screens that everyone needs. Please note I make no revenue from these tests. I merely supply them as a convenience for my readers. It’ the same price whether you buy it from me or directly from GrassrootsHealth.33

How to Grow Cauliflower

15/09/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

Cauliflower, which like broccoli is a member of the cruciferous family, contains an impressive array of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other phytochemicals. It’s a good source of vitamin K, protein, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, magnesium, phosphorus, fiber, vitamin B6, folate, pantothenic acid, potassium and manganese.

Cauliflower is also packed with natural antioxidants such as vitamin C, beta-carotene, kaempferol, quercetin, rutin, cinnamic acid and others. Antioxidants are nature’s way of providing your cells with adequate defense against attack by excessive amounts of reactive oxygen species. As long as you have these important micronutrients, your body will be better equipped to resist damage caused by everyday exposures to pollutants, chronic stress and more.

Without an adequate supply of antioxidants to help squelch excess free radicals you raise your risk of oxidative stress, which leads to accelerated tissue and organ damage. Adding to cauliflower’s appeal is its versatility. You can eat it raw, add it to salads or use it in your cooking. Cauliflower can even be seasoned and mashed as an alternative to potatoes.

Top Health Benefits of Cauliflower

Because of its beneficial effects on numerous aspects of health, cauliflower can easily be described as a superfood. Some of its most valuable health benefits include:

Fighting cancer1,2,3

Cauliflower contains the cancer-fighting compounds sulforaphane and isothiocyanates, the former of which has been shown to kill cancer stem cell responsible for metastasis or spread of cancer.

Boosting heart health4

Sulforaphane in cauliflower also helps improve blood pressure and kidney function. Scientists believe sulforaphane’s benefits are related to improved DNA methylation, which is crucial for normal cellular function and proper gene expression, especially in the easily damaged inner lining of the arteries (endothelium).

Lowering inflammation5

Chronic inflammation is a hallmark of most disease. Cauliflower contains anti-inflammatory nutrients to help keep inflammation in check, including indole-3-carbinol, an anti-inflammatory compound that may operate at the genetic level to help prevent the inflammatory responses at its foundational level.

Boosting brain health6

Cauliflower is a good source of choline, a B vitamin known for its role in brain development. It also helps improve cognitive function, learning and memory. It may even diminish age-related memory decline and your brain’s vulnerability to toxins during childhood, as well as conferring protection later in life.

Supporting detoxification7

Cauliflower helps your body’s ability to detoxify in several ways. It contains antioxidants that support Phase 1 detoxification along with sulfur-containing nutrients important for Phase 2 detox activities. The glucosinolates in cauliflower also activate detoxification enzymes.

Aiding digestion

Cauliflower is an important source of dietary fiber for digestive health. But that’s not all. According to the World’s Healthiest Foods:8

“Researchers have determined that the sulforaphane made from a glucosinolate in cauliflower (glucoraphanin) can help protect the lining of your stomach. Sulforaphane provides you with this health benefit by preventing bacterial overgrowth of Helicobacter pylori in your stomach or too much clinging by this bacterium to your stomach wall.”

Cauliflower — A Cold Season Crop

Cauliflower tends to require a little more care and attention than some other vegetables, but with some preplanning, it’s an excellent cool weather crop. Attempts to grow cauliflower in temperatures above 80 degrees F will usually fail. You can start your seeds in late summer, however, if you plant them indoors in a cool spot. As long as your local temperature does not fall below 20 degrees F, you can grow cauliflower over winter and harvest in the spring.

Cauliflower is also finicky when it comes to soil quality. It requires high-nutrient soil and must be well watered throughout the growing season. There are a number of different varieties to choose from, depending on your local climate and desired maturity rate, including the following:9

  • Early-season varieties such as Snow Crown, Denali and Panther, which mature in about 70 to 80 days. The heads of these varieties tend to be smaller, less dense and less sweet, however
  • Mid-season varieties, which need more than 80 days to mature, include Candid Charm, Skywalker, Graffiti (a purple-colored variety) and Orange Burst (an orange-colored variety that contains higher amounts of vitamin A)

Start From Seed

To identify the recommended planting dates for climactic zone, check out Mother Earth News’ vegetable garden planner.10 As a general rule, you’ll want to start your seeds four to six weeks before the last frost date. Cauliflower will grow best if started in seed trays with seed compost rather than regular multipurpose compost.

Sow one or two seeds per cell at a depth of about one-half inch. If both seeds germinate, select the most robust seedling and snip off the weaker one with a pair of shears. Avoid pulling it out as this may damage the roots of the remaining plant.

Gently wet the seed tray and place it in a greenhouse, cold frame or windowsill until the seeds germinate, which takes about four weeks. Keep the seeds moist but avoid overwatering, as when the plant is forced to search for water, it forces a more robust root system. Excessive heat in combination with insufficient light will result in tall “leggy” seedlings, so make sure there’s plenty of light without cooking the plants. Quick Crop offers the following suggestion:11

“If you are starting them off on a windowsill make sure they get as much daylight as possible. You can make a makeshift light box by placing a sheet of reflective tinfoil on the room side of the seedling tray. This will reflect daylight onto the darker side of the plant. If the plants are on a heat bench or in a propagator and they are looking spindly, turn the heat down and try to give them as much light as possible.”

Planting Guidelines

Before transplanting the seedlings into your garden, harden them off for seven to 10 days by placing them outdoors, starting with a couple of hours and slowly increasing the time each day. Once they’re ready to be transplanted, keep the following guidelines in mind:

Transplant on an overcast day

Ideally, transplant your cauliflower on an overcast day or in the evening to prevent wilting.

Plant and row spacing

Space each plant about 20 to 25 inches apart, with the same amount of distance between rows. Placing them too close together will result in smaller heads, so avoid the temptation to crowd them together.

Soil considerations

Cauliflower requires soil rich in nitrogen and potassium with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Prepare your bed by mixing in a generous amount of organic compost. Soil should also be well compacted, so it’s best to prepare your planting bed a few weeks or months in advance. Alternatively, be sure to tamp the soil down firmly with your boot around the plant’s roots.

Watering

An hour before transplanting, water the plant trays. Water again once they’re in the ground but avoid soaking. Mulch will slow down evaporation and protect against heat. Make sure the plants stay moist throughout the growing season. Bitter cauliflower is a sign of insufficient watering. Creating a small dam around the plant will help prevent water runoff.

Pest prevention

Use a featherweight row cover to protect the plants from pests.

Fertilizer recommendations

Every two weeks, apply a natural high-nitrogen fertilizer such as liquid seaweed feed (best), fish emulsion, compost tea or a combination of seaweed and chicken manure pellets. If you notice browning of the heads or if the plant develops distorted leaf tips, the plant is likely lacking in boron.

Apply a foliar feed like liquid seaweed extract once every two weeks until the symptoms clear up. Planting a fall cover crop of vetch or clover will help enrich the soil with boron for the next season.

Blanching

If you’re growing a regular white variety, once the flower heads reach a size of about 2 inches, be sure to provide some shade if you want to avoid yellowing of the heads. Rodale’s Organic Life provides the following suggestion:12

“Prepare plants for blanching on a sunny afternoon when the plants are totally dry, because damp heads are more susceptible to rot. Just bend some of the plants’ own leaves over the head and tuck them in on the opposite side, or secure the leaves at the top with soft twine, rubber bands, or plastic tape. Use enough leaves to keep out light and moisture, but allow room for air circulation and for the heads to grow.”

Pest Control

Common pests that like to attack cauliflower include:

Cabbage root fly: Eggs are laid at the base of the seedling and the subsequent maggots burrow down and eat the roots. Symptoms include wilt, interrupted growth and a bluish tint to the leaves. The best way to avoid them is to use a micromesh row cover to prevent the flies from laying eggs on the plant.

Make sure the netting is properly sealed all-around the plant. Alternatively, use cabbage collars, which cover the soil around the base of the plant. Another alternative is to introduce more nematodes into your garden, as they feast on the cabbage root fly’s larvae.

Cabbage white caterpillars: These caterpillars will kill your cauliflower plant within days, so look for yellow eggs underneath the leaves, and if you find them, simply brush them off. A row cover will prevent the butterfly from laying its eggs as well.

Cabbage whitefly: While this aphid is less destructive than other pests, they can cause your plant to mold. Check the underside of the leaves and pick off any white insects. Also remove any leaves that turn yellow as they could harbor aphid eggs. The sticky substance left by the whitefly can be safely washed off with a strong blast of water.

Clubroot: Clubroot cysts can survive in soil for up to nine years, so if your garden ever gets infested, know your efforts to grow cauliflower or any other cabbage family member may be thwarted for some time. Typically, clubroot will be introduced via infected transplants or by tracking in infected soil from another area.

Symptoms include poor growth and leaves that wilt and turn reddish-purple. The roots will have foul-smelling swollen deformed growths attached to them. Advanced infestation will cause the roots to dissolve into a slimy pulp.

To minimize spread, burn the affected roots; do not use them in compost. If you know you have an infestation, add lime to the soil the year before you’re planning to plant any cabbage family variety as clubroot thrives in acidic soil conditions. Using a raised bed can minimize the risk as well by preventing over-wetting.

Harvesting and Storage

Your cauliflower is ready for harvest once the heads reach a size of 6 to 12 inches in diameter. Be sure to harvest while the heads are tight and unopened. Using a sharp knife, cut the stem just below the head, leaving a few leaves as protection for the curds. Should your crop get hit by a heavy frost, harvest the frozen heads and cook them immediately. They’ll be inedible if you allow the heads to thaw and refreeze.

Cauliflower is best used right away, but can stay fresh for a few weeks if refrigerated. Another alternative, if you need to store the cauliflower for a longer period of time, is to uproot the whole plant and hang it upside down in a cool, dry place. This way, the cauliflower will stay fresh for up to one month without refrigeration.

How to Boost Sulforaphane Content

Like broccoli, cauliflower contains sulforaphane, which is easily lost through improper cooking. Boiling or blanching cauliflower causes the greatest loss of antioxidants,13 so your best bet appears to be steaming. Unfortunately, while research has identified the ideal steaming times for broccoli, the same has not been identified for cauliflower specifically.

Moreover, research14 reveals different varieties of cauliflower respond differently to various levels of heat and cooking times. In one study, blanching purple cauliflower at 70 degrees F significantly increased sulforaphane content compared to 50 degrees F, while immersion time had no significant influence. In Roman cauliflower, on the other hand, both temperature and immersion time played a role.  

Research15 shows steaming broccoli for three to four minutes is ideal, so I’d suggest using this as a general starting guideline for cauliflower as well. You can also boost the sulforaphane content of your cauliflower (as well as broccoli and other members of the cabbage family) by eating it with a myrosinase-containing food.16 Foods containing this important enzyme include:

Following the Advice of Ancient Philosophers Can Make You Happier

14/09/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

For many, happiness is elusive at best and at times near impossible. There’s always something (or someone) pushing our buttons, making us feel less than joyful. According to Barbara Fredrickson, a psychologist and positive-emotions researcher, most Americans have two positive experiences for every negative one.

While that sounds good and well, this 2-to-1 positivity ratio is barely enough to get by. To flourish emotionally, Fredrickson’s research1 shows you need a 3-to-1 ratio. That is, you need to have three positive emotions for every negative emotion. Only 20 percent of Americans achieve this critical ratio, which means 80 percent do not. Even worse, more recent research suggests nearly 25 percent of people experience no life enjoyment at all!2

The good news is, happiness can be learned. Part of the equation is training yourself to view life’s events from a different perspective. Inconveniences and more serious troubles are unavoidable facts of life. What many fail to realize is that these events do not automatically bar you from being happy — unless you let them, that is.

Make Happiness-Boosting Rituals Part of Your Daily Routine

As noted by Eric Barker in a recent Time article:3

“… [Y]ou’ve probably read a zillion articles about happiness online and you’re not a zillion times happier. What gives? Reading ain’t the same as doing. You wouldn’t expect to read some martial arts books and then go kick ass like Bruce Lee, would you? All behavior, all changes, must be trained.

The ancient Stoics knew this. They didn’t write stuff just to be read. They created rituals — exercises — to be performed to train your mind to respond properly to life so you could live it well … And what’s fascinating is that modern scientific research agrees with a surprising amount of what these guys were talking about 2000 years ago.”

Disappointment, especially if you’re constantly struggling with things “not going your way,” can be a major source of stress, and centenarians — those who have crossed the threshold of 100 years of age — overwhelmingly cite stress as the most important thing to avoid. This does not mean they were blessed with carefree lives. “Avoidance” here really refers to the ability to manage your stress so that it doesn’t end up wearing you down over time.

Rather than dwelling on negative events, most centenarians figured out how to let things go, and you can do that too. The key, as Barker notes, is consistently training yourself to let go of the negativity. This isn’t something you do once and you’re done. It’s something you do each and every day, or however often you’re triggered. One foundational principle is the realization that the way you feel about an event has everything to do with your perception of it.

Perception Is Everything

Wisdom of the ancients dictate that events are neither good nor bad in and of themselves. It is your belief about the event that upsets you, not the fact that it happened. Ryan Holiday, author of several books, including “The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living,” offers the following clarification:4

“Shakespeare and the Stoics are saying that the world around us is indifferent, it is objective. The Stoics are saying, ‘This happened to me,’ is not the same as, ‘This happened to me and that’s bad.’ They’re saying if you stop at the first part, you will be much more resilient and much more able to make some good out of anything that happens.”

Cognitive behavioral therapy is an adaptation of this philosophy and teaches you that the negative feelings you experience in response to life events are in fact rooted in your beliefs, most of which are either irrational or flawed.

While seeking the aid of a qualified mental health professional is certainly recommended if you suffer from depression or other mental health issues, for the run-of-the-mill upsets of daily life, you can raise your happiness level by shifting your focus from ruminations about what caused the situation to what your beliefs about it are.

Next, ask yourself whether you’re actually thinking rationally about the issue. Is it true that you can never find another partner after a breakup, or is meeting someone else within the realm of possibility? Is your life really over because you lost your job, or is it possible you might find a job that suits you better or pays more?

Follow Your Own Advice

Another potent technique you can use to increase your positive-to-negative-emotion ratio is to ask yourself, “What would I recommend if this happened to someone else?” and then follow your own advice. Barker highlights this technique with the following example:

“Traffic is terrible. Your friend is driving. He leans on the horn, punches the steering wheel, and shouts at the other drivers. You’re like, ‘Jeez, calm down. Why you getting so worked up? Chill.’ The next day traffic is terrible but you’re driving. So, of course, you lean on the horn, punch the steering wheel, and shout at the other drivers.

See the problem here, Sherlock? We all do it. But there’s a lesson to be learned that the Stoics knew a few millennia ago. When something bad happens, ask yourself, ‘What would I recommend if this happened to someone else?’ And then do that. You’ll probably be more rational. And it’s harder to ignore the advice — because it’s your own.”

Dan Ariely, a professor at Duke University and author of “Predictably Irrational,” explains that the reason this technique — which he calls “taking the outside perspective” — works so well is because when we make recommendations to others, we don’t take our own current state of mind and emotions into account.

We’re distanced emotionally from an event that happens to someone else, and that distance allows us to make saner, more reasonable decisions. By pretending we’re giving advice to someone other than ourselves allows us to, temporarily at least, distance ourselves from emotions that cloud our judgment.

Discipline of Assent

Most of us have habits that contribute to our misery more than our happiness. Maybe you drink a bit too much, or eat things you know you’ll regret later. The problem is, habits are really hard to break. Few have the iron willpower needed to change a bad habit overnight. So, what can you do? Here, the ancient philosophers suggested simply postpone your decision to act. As Epictetus said:

“Don’t let the force of an impression when it first hits you knock you off your feet; just say to it, ‘Hold on a moment; let me see who you are and what you represent. Let me put you to the test.'”

According to Barker:

“[M]odern research into breaking bad habits says the same thing. First catch yourself in the act, and then postpone: Those in the postponement condition actually ate significantly less than those in the self-denial condition. The result suggests that telling yourself I can have this later operates in the mind a bit like having it now.

It satisfies the craving to some degree — and can be even more effective at suppressing the appetite than actually eating the treat. It takes willpower to turn down dessert, but apparently it’s less stressful on the mind to say Later rather than Never. In the long run, you end up wanting less and also consuming less.”

Once you’ve learned to postpone, the next step is to replace your bad habit with something healthier or more constructive. Trying to eliminate the habit simply will not work. Instead, when your cue to eat/drink/smoke/chew your nails or whatever bad habit you may be struggling with arises, insert a new routine in place of your old one.

Addressing Wants and Desires

One of the greatest contributors to unhappiness is our wants and desires — regardless of whether they’re able to be fulfilled or not, because as soon as you get the thing you desire, another, newer, better thing will come along, fueling your desire to acquire yet again. Fulfilling desires is a never-ending cycle. Here, the old adage to “be grateful for what you have” is part of the prescription. Barker cites “The Daily Stoic,” which says:

“Here’s a lesson to test your mind’s mettle: take part of a week in which you have only the most meager and cheap food, dress in shabby clothes, and ask yourself if this is really the worst that you feared.” To which Barker adds, “And research shows doing that really works. But it ain’t any kind of fun.

Luckily, there is a less painful way to get similar results. What’s something you used to relish that you now take for granted? Did that first morning cup of coffee used to be a wonderful moment — and now it’s just something you hastily gulp down? Well, skip it for three days …

When I spoke to Harvard professor Mike Norton he said this is how you can regain appreciation for the things that you’ve taken for granted. Make them a treat … Deprive yourself a bit — then savor the hell out it. This is how you can stop wanting and start enjoying what you have.”

Those Who Feel They Have Enough Are Usually Happier

Some even claim that the key to happiness is learning to appreciate “enough,” and embracing a more minimalist lifestyle. The average credit card debt for Americans who carry a balance is $16,000,5 and 38 percent of U.S. households carry some amount of credit card debt. The total outstanding consumer debt in the U.S. in 2016 alone was a staggering $3.4 trillion.

Meanwhile, financial hardship and work stress are two significant contributors to depression and anxiety. The answer is pretty self-evident: Buy less. Many who have adopted the minimalist lifestyle claim they’ve been able to significantly reduce the amount of time they have to work to pay their bills, freeing up time for volunteer work, creative pursuits and taking care of their personal health, thereby dramatically raising their level of happiness and life satisfaction.

The key here is deciding what “enough” is. Consumption itself is not the problem; unchecked compulsory shopping is. It’s like being on a hamster wheel — you keep shopping, thinking happiness and life satisfaction will come with it.

Yet it never does. Many times, accumulation of material goods is a symptom that you may be trying to fill a void in your life. Yet that void can never be filled by material things. More often than not, the void is silently asking for more love, connection and experiences that bring purpose and passionate engagement.

The Importance of Gratitude

The philosophers of old placed great emphasis on gratitude as a way of cultivating happiness and inner peace. Today, thousands of years later, the benefits of a thankful attitude have been firmly established through scientific study.

People who are thankful for what they have are better able to cope with stress, have more positive emotions and less anxiety, sleep better6 and have better heart health.7 Studies have also shown that gratitude can produce measurable effects on a number of systems in your body, including:

Mood neurotransmitters (serotonin and norepinephrine)

Inflammatory and immune systems (cytokines)

Reproductive hormones (testosterone)

Stress hormones (cortisol)

Social bonding hormones (oxytocin)

Blood pressure and cardiac and EEG rhythms

Cognitive and pleasure related neurotransmitters (dopamine)

Blood sugar

A team of researchers at UCLA showed that people with a deep sense of happiness and well-being had lower levels of inflammatory gene expression and stronger antiviral and antibody responses.8 This falls into the realm of epigenetics — changing the way your genes function by turning them off and on.

Part of your longevity may depend on the DNA you were born with, but an even larger part depends on epigenetics, over which you have more control. Indeed, research suggests your thoughts, feelings, emotions, diet and other lifestyle factors exert epigenetic influences every minute of every day, playing a central role in aging and disease.9

How to Cultivate Gratitude

Even if you don’t often feel gratitude right now, know it can be cultivated and strengthened with practice. One way to harness the positive power of gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal where you write down what you’re grateful for each day. This can be done in a paper journal, or you can download a Gratitude Journal app from iTunes.10

Avoiding getting sucked into bad news is the other side of this equation. You may have to limit your media exposure from time to time if you find it difficult to maintain a positive outlook in the face of worldly horrors. Other ways to cultivate gratitude include writing thank you notes, remembering to say “please” and “thank you,” nonverbal actions such as smiling and giving hugs, and expressing thanks through prayer or mindfulness meditation.

The Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) is another helpful tool. EFT is a form of psychological acupressure based on the energy meridians used in acupuncture. It’s an effective way to quickly restore your inner balance and healing and helps rid your mind of negative thoughts and emotions. In the video below, EFT practitioner Julie Schiffman demonstrates how to tap for gratitude.

Reflect on Each Day

The ancient philosophers also prescribed morning and evening rituals aimed at guiding and improving your mental and emotional state. A beneficial morning ritual will help set the tone for your day, while the evening ritual allows you time to reflect on the day’s events. The philosopher Seneca wrote about his evening review ritual as follows:

“When the light has been removed and my wife has fallen silent, aware of this habit that’s now mine, I examine my entire day and go back over what I’ve done and said, hiding nothing from myself, passing nothing by. For why should I fear any consequence from my mistakes, when I’m able to say, ‘See that you don’t do it again, but now I forgive you.'”

Other Habits That Promote Happiness

In order to be happier, you might think the first step would be to eliminate negative experiences in your life, but often these are beyond your control. Instead, focus on increasingyour positive experiences. This is something that virtually everyone can do. Even ordinary moments can be a source of great pleasure.

In many ways happiness is a choice, and you can create it and nourish it by implementing certain routines and daily practices. In fact, happy people tend to have habits that set them apart from their unhappy peers, such as letting go of grudges, treating people with kindness, dreaming big, not sweating the small stuff and much more. The following list includes “prescriptions” from psychologists that are known to boost your level of happiness.11

Make happiness your goal

The first step toward greater happiness is to choose it. You need to believe that happiness is possible, and that you deserve it. (Hint: You do. Everyone does!) Research shows that the mere intention to become happier actually makes a big difference.12

Identify what makes you happy

If it’s been awhile since you’ve felt truly happy, you may have forgotten what it is that gets you there. Take time to reflect on what gives you joy, and not just the obvious, like your family, but also little things, hobbies and interests.

Make happiness a priority

Make a point to schedule your weeks around events (or ordinary activities) that make you feel happy and alive.

Savor pleasant moments

People who take the time to savor pleasant moments report higher levels of happiness, regardless of where the day takes them.13 If you don’t already do this, keeping a daily diary of pleasant moments and whether or not you truly savored them, might help.

You might be surprised at how much happiness is to be had in your everyday life. Try appreciating the scent of your coffee, relishing in the feeling of your soft bed, or enjoying the sunrise before you start your day.

Ditch joyless distractions

There’s only so much time in a day, so be sure to protect your attention and time from unnecessary and unproductive distractions. This includes texts, tweets and emails, which take you away from the true pleasures in life. If necessary, turn off social media completely.

Think keeping tabs on your Facebook friends equates to happiness? Think again. Research suggests the more time people spend on Facebook, the more their moment-to-moment happiness declines and the less satisfied with life they become.14

Let every thought be a positive thought

Simply thinking about something positive, and smiling as a result, can make you happier and more upbeat. A genuine smile includes the facial muscles around your eyes, and can actually prompt brain changes linked to improved mood.

Prioritize experiences over things

Research suggests experiences make us happier than possessions; the “newness” of possessions wears off, as does the joy they bring you, but experiences improve your sense of vitality and “being alive,” both during the experience and when you reflect back on it.

Have a backup plan for bad days

When you’re having a bad day and your mood is sinking, have a plan in place to lift it back up. This could be calling a close friend, watching a comedy or going out for a jog — whatever works best for you

Identify your sense of purpose

Happiness isn’t about pleasure alone; it’s also about having a sense of purpose. The term “eudaimonic well-being” originated with Aristotle, and describes the form of happiness that comes from activities that bring you a greater sense of purpose, life meaning or self-actualization. This could be your career, or it could be gleaned from volunteering or even taking a cooking class.

Socialize — Even with strangers 

Having meaningful social relationships is important for happiness, but even people who engage in “social snacking” report greater happiness. Social snacking describes the little ways you connect with others, including strangers, on a daily basis.

In general, the more you mingle and chat with the people around you, the more cheerful and brighter your mood is likely to be. To learn more about the benefits of striking up casual conversations wherever you happen to be, see my previous article, “How to Talk to Strangers.”

Get away

Taking time away from the daily grind is important for helping you recharge. And while even a weekend getaway can give you a boost, a longer trip is better to help you create meaningful memories. These memories can be tapped into later to help boost your happiness. Experts recommend a two-week vacation, ideally, even if it’s to a locale close to home.

Spend more time outdoors

Exposure to bright outdoor light is crucial for a positive mood, in part because regular exposure to sunlight will helps to enhance your mood and energy through the release of endorphins.15 Getting sun exposure outdoors will also help you optimize your vitamin D levels. Vitamin D deficiency has long been associated with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), as well as more chronic depression.

In Japan, the practice known as “forest bathing” has been part of the national health program since 1982, and the benefits of this kind of ecotherapy are now starting to become more widely recognized in the U.S.16 The aim is to slow down and unplug from the daily stresses by reconnecting with nature.

Estimates suggest the average American spends anywhere between 80 and 99 percent of their life indoors — a lifestyle trend that has led to what some now refer to as “nature deficit disorder.”17 Spending more time in nature can go a long way toward increasing your sense of well-being and satisfaction.

Practice kindness

When people make a point to conduct three to five acts of kindness a week, something magical happens. They become happier. Simple kind acts — a compliment, letting someone ahead of you in line, paying for someone’s coffee — are contagious and tend to make all of those involved feel good.

Vegetarians Twice as Likely To Be Depressed

14/09/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

Your diet plays an intricate role in your mood. While excess sugar has been linked to depression, certain foods, like dark leafy greens, mushrooms and turmeric, are linked to positive emotions. In the longer term, what you eat, or don’t eat, may also affect your mood by altering your body’s levels of certain vitamins, minerals and fatty acids involved in brain health and mood.

While many people choose to eat a vegetarian or vegan diet for health reasons, this is an important factor to consider, as research suggests doing so may be associated with depression.

In fact, in a study of 9,700 vegetarians (including a small number of vegan) men, vegetarians were nearly twice as likely to suffer from depression as meat eaters, even after adjusting for variables like job status, family history and number of children.1 The study couldn’t show causation, but it did have a number of theories for why the association may exist.

Why Might Being Vegetarian Increase Depression Risk?

The association may exist because people with depression may be more likely to change their dietary preferences, or it could be related to higher blood levels of phytoestrogens, particularly among those who eat a lot of soy, or even pesticides, a consequence of consuming a lot of nonorganic produce, the researchers said. But, more likely, it has to do with nutrient levels. Vegetarians tend to have lower intakes of omega-3 fats, vitamin B12 and folate, which could affect depression risk as follows:

Omega-3 Fats

Many Americans’ diets are lacking in healthy fats, including the animal-based omega-3 fats EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Although omega-3s are most well known for their role in heart health, they also play an integral role in brain health and mental health.

The 2001 book, “The Omega-3 Connection: The Groundbreaking Anti-depression Diet and Brain Program,” by Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Andrew Stoll, was among the first works to bring attention to, and support the use of, omega-3 fats for depression.

There is no set recommended standard dose of omega-3 fats, but some health organizations recommend a daily dose of 250 to 500 milligrams (mg) of EPA and DHA for healthy adults. If you suffer from depression, higher doses may be called for.

In one study, an omega-3 supplement with a dose range of 200 to 2,200 mg of EPA per day was effective against primary depression.2 Good dietary sources of animal-based omega-3s include anchovies, sardines, mackerel, herring and wild-caught Alaskan salmon.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 has made headlines for its powerful role in preventing cognitive decline and more serious dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease. Mental fogginess and problems with memory are actually two of the top warning signs that you have vitamin B12 deficiency, indicating its importance for brain health.

However, anxiousness and depression may also occur alongside a B12 deficiency because it depresses the brain chemical serotonin, a neurotransmitter linked to your brain’s pleasure centers, and dopamine, the mood regulator registering memory and mood.

Vegetarians and vegans are especially susceptible to B12 deficiency because it’s derived from animal products like beef, seafood, eggs and dairy products. Vegans are urged to augment their B12 intake by stocking up on nutritional yeast, coconut oil and fortified coconut milk, but even still a strict vegan or even vegetarian diet is not recommended.

Folate

Folate helps your body produce mood-regulating neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine. One 2012 study found people who consumed the most folate had a lower risk of depression than those who ate the least.3 Another study revealed that when stroke survivors took a daily supplement of B vitamins, including folic acid (synthetic folate), vitamin B6 and vitamin B12, their risk of depression was significantly reduced.4

This is one deficiency that should be easy for vegetarians and vegans to correct, as folate is found in dark leafy greens like spinach, avocados and other fresh vegetables.

Increased Consumption of Omega-6 Fats May Also Play a Role

According to the featured study, vegetarians are also known to have a higher intake of omega-6 fats, which are also associated with a greater risk of depression. A major source of omega-6 fats for many vegetarians is vegetable oil, which is linked to a host of health problems, including heart attack.

These omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, when taken in large amounts, cannot be burned for fuel. Instead, they’re incorporated into cellular and mitochondrial membranes where they are highly susceptible to oxidative damage, which damages the metabolic machinery. Worse, most of these vegetable oils are highly processed and grown as GMO crops, loaded with toxic herbicide residues like Roundup.

While your body does need some omega-6, most get far too much of it compared to omega-3, and this lopsided ratio can also have adverse health consequences. Further, when heated, vegetable oils tend to oxidize. According to Dr. Fred Kummerow,5 who researched lipids and heart disease for eight decades before he died a few months ago at 102 years old, oxidized cholesterol is the real culprit that causes heart disease.

By triggering inflammation, they also trigger heart problems as well as, likely, depression. While other factors may also be involved, inflammation can have a profound impact on your mental health. As noted in one 2012 study in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology:6

“Elevated biomarkers of inflammation, including inflammatory cytokines and acute-phase proteins, have been found in depressed patients, and administration of inflammatory stimuli has been associated with the development of depressive symptoms.

Data also have demonstrated that inflammatory cytokines can interact with multiple pathways known to be involved in the development of depression, including monoamine metabolism, neuroendocrine function, synaptic plasticity, and neurocircuits relevant to mood regulation …

Psychosocial stress, diet, obesity, a leaky gut and an imbalance between regulatory and pro-inflammatory T cells also contribute to inflammation and may serve as a focus for preventative strategies relevant to both the development of depression and its recurrence.”

Be Wary of Eating a Diet Too High in Grains and Beans, Devoid of Animal Products

Eating a plant-based diet can certainly be healthy, especially if it’s properly balanced with healthy fats. However, the absence of all animal-based foods can take a toll over time, as certain nutrients cannot be obtained from the plant kingdom — carnosine, carnitine, taurine, vitamin B12 and animal-based omega-3 fats to name just a handful.

As noted by Dr. Steven Gundry, author of “The Plant Paradox” (who was a vegetarian himself for 15 years, during which he said he was “never sicker”), many vegetarians and vegans run into health issues because are not vegetable eaters but rather grain and bean eaters, and grains and beans are very high in inflammatory lectins — plant proteins that cause harm through molecular mimicry.

Surprisingly, lectins such as wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), found in wheat, and galactans, found in beans, even promote fat storage — despite their source being the plant kingdom. Even more surprising, considering the heart health claims allowed for whole wheat, WGA is one of the most efficient ways to induce heart disease in experimental animals.7

I’m not opposed to vegetarianism. I eat very small amounts of animal protein; mostly fish. Occasionally, I’ll have some organic American grass fed certified meat. But meats are not a cornerstone staple in my diet, and I believe most people could benefit from lowering their meat consumption. I don’t believe it should be entirely excluded, however, because animal foods do contain very valuable nutrients your body needs for optimal health. Organic pastured eggs and raw butter are additional source of incredibly healthy nutrients.

If you’re leading a vegetarian or vegan diet for ethical reasons, consider that organic grass fed animals serve a very important role in regenerative agriculture and are an ethical choice, as they’re not abused or mistreated. If, however, you choose to remain strictly vegetarian or vegan, be mindful of the nutrients you may need to supplement in your diet, as well as how to avoid the complications associated with an all-plant diet weighted toward grains and legumes loaded with autoimmune-stimulating lectins.

Can an Online Test Tell You if You’re Depressed?

In related news, if you do a Google search for information about depression on a mobile device, you’ll notice a screening questionnaire called PHQ-9 pop up in the search results. If you click on “check if you’re clinically depressed,” it will take you to a self-assessment that’s supposed to tell you if you’re depressed or not. It sounds like it would be a useful tool, but remember we’ve seen these types of screenings in the past.

WebMD‘s online depression screening was sponsored by drugmaker Eli Lilly, maker of the antidepressant Cymbalta, and directed users to discuss treatment with their doctors. In the case of Google, they recently partnered with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

As noted by PsychCentral, nearly 75 percent of NAMI’s funding comes from drug companies8 and, while it bills itself as a patient advocacy group, it’s actually more of a front group for the pharmaceutical industry. So be very wary of taking advice about your mental health from an online assessment, especially one put out by Google, which is in the business of capturing user data and has repeatedly been caught infringing on privacy rights.

That being said, when depression goes untreated, it can be both debilitating and life threatening. Depression may interfere with personal and work relationships, reduce work or academic performance and may affect your physical health as well. Depression reduces your ability to care for yourself properly and make adequate decisions about your health, including nutrition and sleep. Imbalances in nutrition, weight fluctuations and poor sleep habits may lead to compromised immune function as well.

It’s estimated that half of people with depression do not get treatment,9 so this is an important step if you or a loved one is struggling. However, be sure the treatment you seek is appropriate for you — many can be helped without the use of antidepressants. Yoga, exercise and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are examples of some non-drug-based treatments that have been proven effective at reducing symptoms of depression. Addressing your diet, as mentioned, is also important.

Be Sure to Address Your Diet for Better Mental Health

Men consuming more than 67 grams of sugar per day were 23 percent more likely to develop anxiety or depression over the course of five years than those whose sugar consumption was less than 40 grams per day, for instance, so limiting sugar is one strategy.10 This will help you support your gut health, another important factor for mental health. Eating fermented foods regularly, or taking a probiotic supplement can also help toward this end.

Consider a small study involving adults diagnosed with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and depression that found the probiotic Bifidobacterium longum provided depression relief. At six weeks, 64 percent of the treatment group had reduced depression scores compared to 32 percent of the control group that received a placebo.11

Further, you needn’t wait to find out if the featured study’s finding — that a vegetarian diet increases depression risk — is, indeed, a causative one. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, be sure you make a point to increase the animal-based omega-3s, folate and vitamin B12 in your diet to protect your mental and overall health.

Tangerine Oil: A Citrusy Essential Oil With Well-Rounded Uses

14/09/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

What Is Tangerine Oil?

Tangerine (Citrus tangerina) belongs to the mandarin orange family, both of which are members of the citrus family. They have very similar taste and properties — two reasons why is often mistaken for the other. But horticulturists can easily distinguish one from another. Compared to mandarin’s light colored skin, tangerine’s skin has a darker reddish-orange hue. And while mandarin skin has a smooth texture, tangerine has a thick, bumpy skin.1

Tangerine oil comes from the fruit’s outer peel and has a warm, fresh and citrusy aroma. Because of its sweet, tangy scent and calming effect, it’s a perfect fit for any early morning ritual.

Uses of Tangerine Oil

Tangerine oil is known for its antifungal and antiseptic properties, making it a popular ingredient in skin care formulas. It’s a great remedy for acne and skin impurities. Tangerine essential oil also works for hair because of its antiseptic properties and helps treat dandruff, dry scalp and other scalp infections.

It also has cytophylactic properties and aids in restoring damaged tissues in the body. It helps reduce the appearance of scars and stretch marks.2 Because of its zesty aroma, tangerine oil is also used in lotions and perfumes.

Composition of Tangerine Oil

The main chemical components of tangerine oil are a-pinene, myrcene, limonene, y-terpinene, citronellal, linalool, neral, neryl acetate, geranul acetate, geraniol, thymol and carvone.3

Benefits of Tangerine Oil

Tangerine oil is more than just a simple essential oil. It has a wide array of health benefits, such as:

Calming effect — It works as a relaxing agent by soothing agitated nerves. It also reduces tension as well as emotional imbalances. It also works as a sedative by relieving anxiety, depression and nervousness. It also promotes healthy sleep.

Blood purifier — The depurative property of the oil helps purify the blood by aiding in the excretion of toxic compounds such as uric acid, excessive salt and pollutants. Toxins are released from the body through sweat, urination and excretion.4

Controls spasms — It has a strong antispasmodic property and acts as a relaxant to relieve the muscles and nerves from spasm.

Weight loss — When applied topically as a massage oil, it helps fight against cellulite. A flavonoid in it, Nobiletin,5 also helps speed up your metabolism when used as a tonic. Additionally, tangerine oil helps with the circulation and balance of digestive juices in the stomach.6

How to Make Tangerine Oil

Tangerine oil is extracted from the rind of the fruit. It’s cold pressed, which is a common method of extraction for citrus oils. The extract has yellow-orange color and emits a zesty, sweet scent.

How Does Tangerine Oil Work?

There are several ways to use this amazing oil. It can be used in cooking, for bathing and as diffuser. It can be ingested, applied topically or mixed with food. I recommend these following applications to maximize the use of tangerine oil:

It can be used in cleaning the house. Take a few drops and mix it with water. Apply the solution to a cleaning rag and use it to wipe surfaces and nooks. With its antiseptic property, it helps disinfect and clean the house.

By applying directly to a wound, tangerine oil helps kill the bacteria and disinfects the affected area. It also reduces the swelling and redness of the wound.

It can be added to a carrier oil and used as a massage oil. Mix it with a light carrier oil such as jojoba oil or coconut oil. The recommended ratio is one drop of tangerine essential oil to every 5 ml of preferred carrier oil.7

To prevent stretch marks, mix 1-2 drops of tangerine essential oil with 1-2 drops of lavender oil and a teaspoon of preferred carrier oil and rub it on the affected area.8

Simply add a drop of tangerine essential oil in a glass of water and drink it for an additional boost.

Rub the essential oil onto a candle before lighting for aromatherapy use.9

Is Tangerine Oil Safe?

Tangerine oil is known for its phototoxicity, but it is generally safe because it’s nontoxic, nonirritant and nonsensitizing. It’s safe to use topically during pregnancy because it helps prevent stretch marks. However, I believe it’s always best to consult your health care physician when using this oil because it might trigger skin discomfort, especially in people with sensitive skin.

Side Effects of Tangerine Oil

Most citrus oils are known to be phototoxic and that includes tangerine essential oil. It is best to practice caution when exposing to sunlight, real or artificial, within 72 hours after the application. The oil contains some chemical components that react when exposed to UV rays, causing inflammation, blisters and burning of the skin.

Following the Advice of Ancient Philosophers Can Make You Happier

14/09/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

For many, happiness is elusive at best and at times near impossible. There’s always something (or someone) pushing our buttons, making us feel less than joyful. According to Barbara Fredrickson, a psychologist and positive-emotions researcher, most Americans have two positive experiences for every negative one.

While that sounds good and well, this 2-to-1 positivity ratio is barely enough to get by. To flourish emotionally, Fredrickson’s research1 shows you need a 3-to-1 ratio. That is, you need to have three positive emotions for every negative emotion. Only 20 percent of Americans achieve this critical ratio, which means 80 percent do not. Even worse, more recent research suggests nearly 25 percent of people experience no life enjoyment at all!2

The good news is, happiness can be learned. Part of the equation is training yourself to view life’s events from a different perspective. Inconveniences and more serious troubles are unavoidable facts of life. What many fail to realize is that these events do not automatically bar you from being happy — unless you let them, that is.

Make Happiness-Boosting Rituals Part of Your Daily Routine

As noted by Eric Barker in a recent Time article:3

“… [Y]ou’ve probably read a zillion articles about happiness online and you’re not a zillion times happier. What gives? Reading ain’t the same as doing. You wouldn’t expect to read some martial arts books and then go kick ass like Bruce Lee, would you? All behavior, all changes, must be trained.

The ancient Stoics knew this. They didn’t write stuff just to be read. They created rituals — exercises — to be performed to train your mind to respond properly to life so you could live it well … And what’s fascinating is that modern scientific research agrees with a surprising amount of what these guys were talking about 2000 years ago.”

Disappointment, especially if you’re constantly struggling with things “not going your way,” can be a major source of stress, and centenarians — those who have crossed the threshold of 100 years of age — overwhelmingly cite stress as the most important thing to avoid. This does not mean they were blessed with carefree lives. “Avoidance” here really refers to the ability to manage your stress so that it doesn’t end up wearing you down over time.

Rather than dwelling on negative events, most centenarians figured out how to let things go, and you can do that too. The key, as Barker notes, is consistently training yourself to let go of the negativity. This isn’t something you do once and you’re done. It’s something you do each and every day, or however often you’re triggered. One foundational principle is the realization that the way you feel about an event has everything to do with your perception of it.

Perception Is Everything

Wisdom of the ancients dictate that events are neither good nor bad in and of themselves. It is your belief about the event that upsets you, not the fact that it happened. Ryan Holiday, author of several books, including “The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living,” offers the following clarification:4

“Shakespeare and the Stoics are saying that the world around us is indifferent, it is objective. The Stoics are saying, ‘This happened to me,’ is not the same as, ‘This happened to me and that’s bad.’ They’re saying if you stop at the first part, you will be much more resilient and much more able to make some good out of anything that happens.”

Cognitive behavioral therapy is an adaptation of this philosophy and teaches you that the negative feelings you experience in response to life events are in fact rooted in your beliefs, most of which are either irrational or flawed.

While seeking the aid of a qualified mental health professional is certainly recommended if you suffer from depression or other mental health issues, for the run-of-the-mill upsets of daily life, you can raise your happiness level by shifting your focus from ruminations about what caused the situation to what your beliefs about it are.

Next, ask yourself whether you’re actually thinking rationally about the issue. Is it true that you can never find another partner after a breakup, or is meeting someone else within the realm of possibility? Is your life really over because you lost your job, or is it possible you might find a job that suits you better or pays more?

Follow Your Own Advice

Another potent technique you can use to increase your positive-to-negative-emotion ratio is to ask yourself, “What would I recommend if this happened to someone else?” and then follow your own advice. Barker highlights this technique with the following example:

“Traffic is terrible. Your friend is driving. He leans on the horn, punches the steering wheel, and shouts at the other drivers. You’re like, ‘Jeez, calm down. Why you getting so worked up? Chill.’ The next day traffic is terrible but you’re driving. So, of course, you lean on the horn, punch the steering wheel, and shout at the other drivers.

See the problem here, Sherlock? We all do it. But there’s a lesson to be learned that the Stoics knew a few millennia ago. When something bad happens, ask yourself, ‘What would I recommend if this happened to someone else?’ And then do that. You’ll probably be more rational. And it’s harder to ignore the advice — because it’s your own.”

Dan Ariely, a professor at Duke University and author of “Predictably Irrational,” explains that the reason this technique — which he calls “taking the outside perspective” — works so well is because when we make recommendations to others, we don’t take our own current state of mind and emotions into account.

We’re distanced emotionally from an event that happens to someone else, and that distance allows us to make saner, more reasonable decisions. By pretending we’re giving advice to someone other than ourselves allows us to, temporarily at least, distance ourselves from emotions that cloud our judgment.

Discipline of Assent

Most of us have habits that contribute to our misery more than our happiness. Maybe you drink a bit too much, or eat things you know you’ll regret later. The problem is, habits are really hard to break. Few have the iron willpower needed to change a bad habit overnight. So, what can you do? Here, the ancient philosophers suggested simply postpone your decision to act. As Epictetus said:

“Don’t let the force of an impression when it first hits you knock you off your feet; just say to it, ‘Hold on a moment; let me see who you are and what you represent. Let me put you to the test.'”

According to Barker:

“[M]odern research into breaking bad habits says the same thing. First catch yourself in the act, and then postpone: Those in the postponement condition actually ate significantly less than those in the self-denial condition. The result suggests that telling yourself I can have this later operates in the mind a bit like having it now.

It satisfies the craving to some degree — and can be even more effective at suppressing the appetite than actually eating the treat. It takes willpower to turn down dessert, but apparently it’s less stressful on the mind to say Later rather than Never. In the long run, you end up wanting less and also consuming less.”

Once you’ve learned to postpone, the next step is to replace your bad habit with something healthier or more constructive. Trying to eliminate the habit simply will not work. Instead, when your cue to eat/drink/smoke/chew your nails or whatever bad habit you may be struggling with arises, insert a new routine in place of your old one.

Addressing Wants and Desires

One of the greatest contributors to unhappiness is our wants and desires — regardless of whether they’re able to be fulfilled or not, because as soon as you get the thing you desire, another, newer, better thing will come along, fueling your desire to acquire yet again. Fulfilling desires is a never-ending cycle. Here, the old adage to “be grateful for what you have” is part of the prescription. Barker cites “The Daily Stoic,” which says:

“Here’s a lesson to test your mind’s mettle: take part of a week in which you have only the most meager and cheap food, dress in shabby clothes, and ask yourself if this is really the worst that you feared.” To which Barker adds, “And research shows doing that really works. But it ain’t any kind of fun.

Luckily, there is a less painful way to get similar results. What’s something you used to relish that you now take for granted? Did that first morning cup of coffee used to be a wonderful moment — and now it’s just something you hastily gulp down? Well, skip it for three days …

When I spoke to Harvard professor Mike Norton he said this is how you can regain appreciation for the things that you’ve taken for granted. Make them a treat … Deprive yourself a bit — then savor the hell out it. This is how you can stop wanting and start enjoying what you have.”

Those Who Feel They Have Enough Are Usually Happier

Some even claim that the key to happiness is learning to appreciate “enough,” and embracing a more minimalist lifestyle. The average credit card debt for Americans who carry a balance is $16,000,5 and 38 percent of U.S. households carry some amount of credit card debt. The total outstanding consumer debt in the U.S. in 2016 alone was a staggering $3.4 trillion.

Meanwhile, financial hardship and work stress are two significant contributors to depression and anxiety. The answer is pretty self-evident: Buy less. Many who have adopted the minimalist lifestyle claim they’ve been able to significantly reduce the amount of time they have to work to pay their bills, freeing up time for volunteer work, creative pursuits and taking care of their personal health, thereby dramatically raising their level of happiness and life satisfaction.

The key here is deciding what “enough” is. Consumption itself is not the problem; unchecked compulsory shopping is. It’s like being on a hamster wheel — you keep shopping, thinking happiness and life satisfaction will come with it.

Yet it never does. Many times, accumulation of material goods is a symptom that you may be trying to fill a void in your life. Yet that void can never be filled by material things. More often than not, the void is silently asking for more love, connection and experiences that bring purpose and passionate engagement.

The Importance of Gratitude

The philosophers of old placed great emphasis on gratitude as a way of cultivating happiness and inner peace. Today, thousands of years later, the benefits of a thankful attitude have been firmly established through scientific study.

People who are thankful for what they have are better able to cope with stress, have more positive emotions and less anxiety, sleep better6 and have better heart health.7 Studies have also shown that gratitude can produce measurable effects on a number of systems in your body, including:

Mood neurotransmitters (serotonin and norepinephrine)

Inflammatory and immune systems (cytokines)

Reproductive hormones (testosterone)

Stress hormones (cortisol)

Social bonding hormones (oxytocin)

Blood pressure and cardiac and EEG rhythms

Cognitive and pleasure related neurotransmitters (dopamine)

Blood sugar

A team of researchers at UCLA showed that people with a deep sense of happiness and well-being had lower levels of inflammatory gene expression and stronger antiviral and antibody responses.8 This falls into the realm of epigenetics — changing the way your genes function by turning them off and on.

Part of your longevity may depend on the DNA you were born with, but an even larger part depends on epigenetics, over which you have more control. Indeed, research suggests your thoughts, feelings, emotions, diet and other lifestyle factors exert epigenetic influences every minute of every day, playing a central role in aging and disease.9

How to Cultivate Gratitude

Even if you don’t often feel gratitude right now, know it can be cultivated and strengthened with practice. One way to harness the positive power of gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal where you write down what you’re grateful for each day. This can be done in a paper journal, or you can download a Gratitude Journal app from iTunes.10

Avoiding getting sucked into bad news is the other side of this equation. You may have to limit your media exposure from time to time if you find it difficult to maintain a positive outlook in the face of worldly horrors. Other ways to cultivate gratitude include writing thank you notes, remembering to say “please” and “thank you,” nonverbal actions such as smiling and giving hugs, and expressing thanks through prayer or mindfulness meditation.

The Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) is another helpful tool. EFT is a form of psychological acupressure based on the energy meridians used in acupuncture. It’s an effective way to quickly restore your inner balance and healing and helps rid your mind of negative thoughts and emotions. In the video below, EFT practitioner Julie Schiffman demonstrates how to tap for gratitude.

Reflect on Each Day

The ancient philosophers also prescribed morning and evening rituals aimed at guiding and improving your mental and emotional state. A beneficial morning ritual will help set the tone for your day, while the evening ritual allows you time to reflect on the day’s events. The philosopher Seneca wrote about his evening review ritual as follows:

“When the light has been removed and my wife has fallen silent, aware of this habit that’s now mine, I examine my entire day and go back over what I’ve done and said, hiding nothing from myself, passing nothing by. For why should I fear any consequence from my mistakes, when I’m able to say, ‘See that you don’t do it again, but now I forgive you.'”

Other Habits That Promote Happiness

In order to be happier, you might think the first step would be to eliminate negative experiences in your life, but often these are beyond your control. Instead, focus on increasingyour positive experiences. This is something that virtually everyone can do. Even ordinary moments can be a source of great pleasure.

In many ways happiness is a choice, and you can create it and nourish it by implementing certain routines and daily practices. In fact, happy people tend to have habits that set them apart from their unhappy peers, such as letting go of grudges, treating people with kindness, dreaming big, not sweating the small stuff and much more. The following list includes “prescriptions” from psychologists that are known to boost your level of happiness.11

Make happiness your goal

The first step toward greater happiness is to choose it. You need to believe that happiness is possible, and that you deserve it. (Hint: You do. Everyone does!) Research shows that the mere intention to become happier actually makes a big difference.12

Identify what makes you happy

If it’s been awhile since you’ve felt truly happy, you may have forgotten what it is that gets you there. Take time to reflect on what gives you joy, and not just the obvious, like your family, but also little things, hobbies and interests.

Make happiness a priority

Make a point to schedule your weeks around events (or ordinary activities) that make you feel happy and alive.

Savor pleasant moments

People who take the time to savor pleasant moments report higher levels of happiness, regardless of where the day takes them.13 If you don’t already do this, keeping a daily diary of pleasant moments and whether or not you truly savored them, might help.

You might be surprised at how much happiness is to be had in your everyday life. Try appreciating the scent of your coffee, relishing in the feeling of your soft bed, or enjoying the sunrise before you start your day.

Ditch joyless distractions

There’s only so much time in a day, so be sure to protect your attention and time from unnecessary and unproductive distractions. This includes texts, tweets and emails, which take you away from the true pleasures in life. If necessary, turn off social media completely.

Think keeping tabs on your Facebook friends equates to happiness? Think again. Research suggests the more time people spend on Facebook, the more their moment-to-moment happiness declines and the less satisfied with life they become.14

Let every thought be a positive thought

Simply thinking about something positive, and smiling as a result, can make you happier and more upbeat. A genuine smile includes the facial muscles around your eyes, and can actually prompt brain changes linked to improved mood.

Prioritize experiences over things

Research suggests experiences make us happier than possessions; the “newness” of possessions wears off, as does the joy they bring you, but experiences improve your sense of vitality and “being alive,” both during the experience and when you reflect back on it.

Have a backup plan for bad days

When you’re having a bad day and your mood is sinking, have a plan in place to lift it back up. This could be calling a close friend, watching a comedy or going out for a jog — whatever works best for you

Identify your sense of purpose

Happiness isn’t about pleasure alone; it’s also about having a sense of purpose. The term “eudaimonic well-being” originated with Aristotle, and describes the form of happiness that comes from activities that bring you a greater sense of purpose, life meaning or self-actualization. This could be your career, or it could be gleaned from volunteering or even taking a cooking class.

Socialize — Even with strangers 

Having meaningful social relationships is important for happiness, but even people who engage in “social snacking” report greater happiness. Social snacking describes the little ways you connect with others, including strangers, on a daily basis.

In general, the more you mingle and chat with the people around you, the more cheerful and brighter your mood is likely to be. To learn more about the benefits of striking up casual conversations wherever you happen to be, see my previous article, “How to Talk to Strangers.”

Get away

Taking time away from the daily grind is important for helping you recharge. And while even a weekend getaway can give you a boost, a longer trip is better to help you create meaningful memories. These memories can be tapped into later to help boost your happiness. Experts recommend a two-week vacation, ideally, even if it’s to a locale close to home.

Spend more time outdoors

Exposure to bright outdoor light is crucial for a positive mood, in part because regular exposure to sunlight will helps to enhance your mood and energy through the release of endorphins.15 Getting sun exposure outdoors will also help you optimize your vitamin D levels. Vitamin D deficiency has long been associated with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), as well as more chronic depression.

In Japan, the practice known as “forest bathing” has been part of the national health program since 1982, and the benefits of this kind of ecotherapy are now starting to become more widely recognized in the U.S.16 The aim is to slow down and unplug from the daily stresses by reconnecting with nature.

Estimates suggest the average American spends anywhere between 80 and 99 percent of their life indoors — a lifestyle trend that has led to what some now refer to as “nature deficit disorder.”17 Spending more time in nature can go a long way toward increasing your sense of well-being and satisfaction.

Practice kindness

When people make a point to conduct three to five acts of kindness a week, something magical happens. They become happier. Simple kind acts — a compliment, letting someone ahead of you in line, paying for someone’s coffee — are contagious and tend to make all of those involved feel good.

Vegetarians Twice as Likely To Be Depressed

14/09/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

Your diet plays an intricate role in your mood. While excess sugar has been linked to depression, certain foods, like dark leafy greens, mushrooms and turmeric, are linked to positive emotions. In the longer term, what you eat, or don’t eat, may also affect your mood by altering your body’s levels of certain vitamins, minerals and fatty acids involved in brain health and mood.

While many people choose to eat a vegetarian or vegan diet for health reasons, this is an important factor to consider, as research suggests doing so may be associated with depression.

In fact, in a study of 9,700 vegetarians (including a small number of vegan) men, vegetarians were nearly twice as likely to suffer from depression as meat eaters, even after adjusting for variables like job status, family history and number of children.1 The study couldn’t show causation, but it did have a number of theories for why the association may exist.

Why Might Being Vegetarian Increase Depression Risk?

The association may exist because people with depression may be more likely to change their dietary preferences, or it could be related to higher blood levels of phytoestrogens, particularly among those who eat a lot of soy, or even pesticides, a consequence of consuming a lot of nonorganic produce, the researchers said. But, more likely, it has to do with nutrient levels. Vegetarians tend to have lower intakes of omega-3 fats, vitamin B12 and folate, which could affect depression risk as follows:

Omega-3 Fats

Many Americans’ diets are lacking in healthy fats, including the animal-based omega-3 fats EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Although omega-3s are most well known for their role in heart health, they also play an integral role in brain health and mental health.

The 2001 book, “The Omega-3 Connection: The Groundbreaking Anti-depression Diet and Brain Program,” by Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Andrew Stoll, was among the first works to bring attention to, and support the use of, omega-3 fats for depression.

There is no set recommended standard dose of omega-3 fats, but some health organizations recommend a daily dose of 250 to 500 milligrams (mg) of EPA and DHA for healthy adults. If you suffer from depression, higher doses may be called for.

In one study, an omega-3 supplement with a dose range of 200 to 2,200 mg of EPA per day was effective against primary depression.2 Good dietary sources of animal-based omega-3s include anchovies, sardines, mackerel, herring and wild-caught Alaskan salmon.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 has made headlines for its powerful role in preventing cognitive decline and more serious dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease. Mental fogginess and problems with memory are actually two of the top warning signs that you have vitamin B12 deficiency, indicating its importance for brain health.

However, anxiousness and depression may also occur alongside a B12 deficiency because it depresses the brain chemical serotonin, a neurotransmitter linked to your brain’s pleasure centers, and dopamine, the mood regulator registering memory and mood.

Vegetarians and vegans are especially susceptible to B12 deficiency because it’s derived from animal products like beef, seafood, eggs and dairy products. Vegans are urged to augment their B12 intake by stocking up on nutritional yeast, coconut oil and fortified coconut milk, but even still a strict vegan or even vegetarian diet is not recommended.

Folate

Folate helps your body produce mood-regulating neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine. One 2012 study found people who consumed the most folate had a lower risk of depression than those who ate the least.3 Another study revealed that when stroke survivors took a daily supplement of B vitamins, including folic acid (synthetic folate), vitamin B6 and vitamin B12, their risk of depression was significantly reduced.4

This is one deficiency that should be easy for vegetarians and vegans to correct, as folate is found in dark leafy greens like spinach, avocados and other fresh vegetables.

Increased Consumption of Omega-6 Fats May Also Play a Role

According to the featured study, vegetarians are also known to have a higher intake of omega-6 fats, which are also associated with a greater risk of depression. A major source of omega-6 fats for many vegetarians is vegetable oil, which is linked to a host of health problems, including heart attack.

These omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, when taken in large amounts, cannot be burned for fuel. Instead, they’re incorporated into cellular and mitochondrial membranes where they are highly susceptible to oxidative damage, which damages the metabolic machinery. Worse, most of these vegetable oils are highly processed and grown as GMO crops, loaded with toxic herbicide residues like Roundup.

While your body does need some omega-6, most get far too much of it compared to omega-3, and this lopsided ratio can also have adverse health consequences. Further, when heated, vegetable oils tend to oxidize. According to Dr. Fred Kummerow,5 who researched lipids and heart disease for eight decades before he died a few months ago at 102 years old, oxidized cholesterol is the real culprit that causes heart disease.

By triggering inflammation, they also trigger heart problems as well as, likely, depression. While other factors may also be involved, inflammation can have a profound impact on your mental health. As noted in one 2012 study in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology:6

“Elevated biomarkers of inflammation, including inflammatory cytokines and acute-phase proteins, have been found in depressed patients, and administration of inflammatory stimuli has been associated with the development of depressive symptoms.

Data also have demonstrated that inflammatory cytokines can interact with multiple pathways known to be involved in the development of depression, including monoamine metabolism, neuroendocrine function, synaptic plasticity, and neurocircuits relevant to mood regulation …

Psychosocial stress, diet, obesity, a leaky gut and an imbalance between regulatory and pro-inflammatory T cells also contribute to inflammation and may serve as a focus for preventative strategies relevant to both the development of depression and its recurrence.”

Be Wary of Eating a Diet Too High in Grains and Beans, Devoid of Animal Products

Eating a plant-based diet can certainly be healthy, especially if it’s properly balanced with healthy fats. However, the absence of all animal-based foods can take a toll over time, as certain nutrients cannot be obtained from the plant kingdom — carnosine, carnitine, taurine, vitamin B12 and animal-based omega-3 fats to name just a handful.

As noted by Dr. Steven Gundry, author of “The Plant Paradox” (who was a vegetarian himself for 15 years, during which he said he was “never sicker”), many vegetarians and vegans run into health issues because are not vegetable eaters but rather grain and bean eaters, and grains and beans are very high in inflammatory lectins — plant proteins that cause harm through molecular mimicry.

Surprisingly, lectins such as wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), found in wheat, and galactans, found in beans, even promote fat storage — despite their source being the plant kingdom. Even more surprising, considering the heart health claims allowed for whole wheat, WGA is one of the most efficient ways to induce heart disease in experimental animals.7

I’m not opposed to vegetarianism. I eat very small amounts of animal protein; mostly fish. Occasionally, I’ll have some organic American grass fed certified meat. But meats are not a cornerstone staple in my diet, and I believe most people could benefit from lowering their meat consumption. I don’t believe it should be entirely excluded, however, because animal foods do contain very valuable nutrients your body needs for optimal health. Organic pastured eggs and raw butter are additional source of incredibly healthy nutrients.

If you’re leading a vegetarian or vegan diet for ethical reasons, consider that organic grass fed animals serve a very important role in regenerative agriculture and are an ethical choice, as they’re not abused or mistreated. If, however, you choose to remain strictly vegetarian or vegan, be mindful of the nutrients you may need to supplement in your diet, as well as how to avoid the complications associated with an all-plant diet weighted toward grains and legumes loaded with autoimmune-stimulating lectins.

Can an Online Test Tell You if You’re Depressed?

In related news, if you do a Google search for information about depression on a mobile device, you’ll notice a screening questionnaire called PHQ-9 pop up in the search results. If you click on “check if you’re clinically depressed,” it will take you to a self-assessment that’s supposed to tell you if you’re depressed or not. It sounds like it would be a useful tool, but remember we’ve seen these types of screenings in the past.

WebMD‘s online depression screening was sponsored by drugmaker Eli Lilly, maker of the antidepressant Cymbalta, and directed users to discuss treatment with their doctors. In the case of Google, they recently partnered with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

As noted by PsychCentral, nearly 75 percent of NAMI’s funding comes from drug companies8 and, while it bills itself as a patient advocacy group, it’s actually more of a front group for the pharmaceutical industry. So be very wary of taking advice about your mental health from an online assessment, especially one put out by Google, which is in the business of capturing user data and has repeatedly been caught infringing on privacy rights.

That being said, when depression goes untreated, it can be both debilitating and life threatening. Depression may interfere with personal and work relationships, reduce work or academic performance and may affect your physical health as well. Depression reduces your ability to care for yourself properly and make adequate decisions about your health, including nutrition and sleep. Imbalances in nutrition, weight fluctuations and poor sleep habits may lead to compromised immune function as well.

It’s estimated that half of people with depression do not get treatment,9 so this is an important step if you or a loved one is struggling. However, be sure the treatment you seek is appropriate for you — many can be helped without the use of antidepressants. Yoga, exercise and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are examples of some non-drug-based treatments that have been proven effective at reducing symptoms of depression. Addressing your diet, as mentioned, is also important.

Be Sure to Address Your Diet for Better Mental Health

Men consuming more than 67 grams of sugar per day were 23 percent more likely to develop anxiety or depression over the course of five years than those whose sugar consumption was less than 40 grams per day, for instance, so limiting sugar is one strategy.10 This will help you support your gut health, another important factor for mental health. Eating fermented foods regularly, or taking a probiotic supplement can also help toward this end.

Consider a small study involving adults diagnosed with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and depression that found the probiotic Bifidobacterium longum provided depression relief. At six weeks, 64 percent of the treatment group had reduced depression scores compared to 32 percent of the control group that received a placebo.11

Further, you needn’t wait to find out if the featured study’s finding — that a vegetarian diet increases depression risk — is, indeed, a causative one. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, be sure you make a point to increase the animal-based omega-3s, folate and vitamin B12 in your diet to protect your mental and overall health.

Tangerine Oil: A Citrusy Essential Oil With Well-Rounded Uses

14/09/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

What Is Tangerine Oil?

Tangerine (Citrus tangerina) belongs to the mandarin orange family, both of which are members of the citrus family. They have very similar taste and properties — two reasons why is often mistaken for the other. But horticulturists can easily distinguish one from another. Compared to mandarin’s light colored skin, tangerine’s skin has a darker reddish-orange hue. And while mandarin skin has a smooth texture, tangerine has a thick, bumpy skin.1

Tangerine oil comes from the fruit’s outer peel and has a warm, fresh and citrusy aroma. Because of its sweet, tangy scent and calming effect, it’s a perfect fit for any early morning ritual.

Uses of Tangerine Oil

Tangerine oil is known for its antifungal and antiseptic properties, making it a popular ingredient in skin care formulas. It’s a great remedy for acne and skin impurities. Tangerine essential oil also works for hair because of its antiseptic properties and helps treat dandruff, dry scalp and other scalp infections.

It also has cytophylactic properties and aids in restoring damaged tissues in the body. It helps reduce the appearance of scars and stretch marks.2 Because of its zesty aroma, tangerine oil is also used in lotions and perfumes.

Composition of Tangerine Oil

The main chemical components of tangerine oil are a-pinene, myrcene, limonene, y-terpinene, citronellal, linalool, neral, neryl acetate, geranul acetate, geraniol, thymol and carvone.3

Benefits of Tangerine Oil

Tangerine oil is more than just a simple essential oil. It has a wide array of health benefits, such as:

Calming effect — It works as a relaxing agent by soothing agitated nerves. It also reduces tension as well as emotional imbalances. It also works as a sedative by relieving anxiety, depression and nervousness. It also promotes healthy sleep.

Blood purifier — The depurative property of the oil helps purify the blood by aiding in the excretion of toxic compounds such as uric acid, excessive salt and pollutants. Toxins are released from the body through sweat, urination and excretion.4

Controls spasms — It has a strong antispasmodic property and acts as a relaxant to relieve the muscles and nerves from spasm.

Weight loss — When applied topically as a massage oil, it helps fight against cellulite. A flavonoid in it, Nobiletin,5 also helps speed up your metabolism when used as a tonic. Additionally, tangerine oil helps with the circulation and balance of digestive juices in the stomach.6

How to Make Tangerine Oil

Tangerine oil is extracted from the rind of the fruit. It’s cold pressed, which is a common method of extraction for citrus oils. The extract has yellow-orange color and emits a zesty, sweet scent.

How Does Tangerine Oil Work?

There are several ways to use this amazing oil. It can be used in cooking, for bathing and as diffuser. It can be ingested, applied topically or mixed with food. I recommend these following applications to maximize the use of tangerine oil:

It can be used in cleaning the house. Take a few drops and mix it with water. Apply the solution to a cleaning rag and use it to wipe surfaces and nooks. With its antiseptic property, it helps disinfect and clean the house.

By applying directly to a wound, tangerine oil helps kill the bacteria and disinfects the affected area. It also reduces the swelling and redness of the wound.

It can be added to a carrier oil and used as a massage oil. Mix it with a light carrier oil such as jojoba oil or coconut oil. The recommended ratio is one drop of tangerine essential oil to every 5 ml of preferred carrier oil.7

To prevent stretch marks, mix 1-2 drops of tangerine essential oil with 1-2 drops of lavender oil and a teaspoon of preferred carrier oil and rub it on the affected area.8

Simply add a drop of tangerine essential oil in a glass of water and drink it for an additional boost.

Rub the essential oil onto a candle before lighting for aromatherapy use.9

Is Tangerine Oil Safe?

Tangerine oil is known for its phototoxicity, but it is generally safe because it’s nontoxic, nonirritant and nonsensitizing. It’s safe to use topically during pregnancy because it helps prevent stretch marks. However, I believe it’s always best to consult your health care physician when using this oil because it might trigger skin discomfort, especially in people with sensitive skin.

Side Effects of Tangerine Oil

Most citrus oils are known to be phototoxic and that includes tangerine essential oil. It is best to practice caution when exposing to sunlight, real or artificial, within 72 hours after the application. The oil contains some chemical components that react when exposed to UV rays, causing inflammation, blisters and burning of the skin.

The Hidden Health Hazards After Flooding

13/09/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

Across the world, countries have experienced significant changes in weather patterns in the past decades.1 Recently, the southern U.S. coastline was again hit with category 4 hurricane winds, dumping over 50 inches of rain on Texas.2 People in Louisiana are still digging themselves out of the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and experts expect Houston may experience the same long-term consequences that have affected the residents of New Orleans.

Meteorologists are calling the flooding and storms that hit Texas “like no other.”3 However, scientists did expect the storm,4 and expect even more over the coming years. In fact, the National Weather Service records Hurricane Harvey as the 25th 500-year flood to occur in the U.S. since 2010. The amount of rain that fell was in a class by itself. Only tropical storm Amelia was close, dropping 48 inches over Texas’ Guadalupe River basin in 1978.

While scientists did predict a storm would hit the coast of Texas, the scale of the storm appeared to take the city by surprise. Warmer ocean temperatures created more energy for the storm to tap,5 as a hurricane converts ocean warmth into rain.6 Houston’s infrastructure could not deal with the magnitude of the storm. City planners had made changes that reduced the ability of the land to drain.7 City officials also didn’t expect the storm to reign as much destruction as it did.

As Hurricane Harvey was due to make landfall, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued this statement, which was then contradicted by local officials,8 “Even if an evacuation order hasn’t been issued by your local official, if you’re in an area between Corpus Christi and Houston, you need to strongly consider evacuating.”

While not as many were able to evacuate as would have been optimal, Houston and surrounding cities will still face decades of rebuilding to regain previous manufacturing ability and reclaim land and structures from Mother Nature. In the interim, residents are facing short-term and long-term problems in much the same way residents of other areas hard hit by hurricanes and massive amounts of water damage, such as Red Hook, New York, after Hurricane Sandy and Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina.

Houston Evacuees First Seeking Shelter and Health Care

Meteorologists first noticed the development of tropical storm Harvey on August 17, 2017.9 The storm was downgraded to a tropical depression August 19, but it then regenerated and quickly gained strength before making landfall the following week. Before rescuers picked through debris, the death count from the storm had reached 45. Nearly 1,800 fatalities were attributed to Hurricane Katrina.10 Experts believe the number of deaths in Houston won’t be as high.

The majority of those who die during the immediate flooding drown.11 Just 2 feet of rapidly moving water can sweep away an SUV weighing up to 6,000 pounds.12 Many underestimate the power of water. If 6 inches of water is moving quickly, it can easily knock over an adult.

However, deaths attributed to the storm are only the first casualties to be counted. In the coming weeks, months and years it will be necessary for the cities flooded by Hurricane Harvey to address structural damages. In the immediate time period this includes finding adequate shelter for the inhabitants of the 48,700 homes that sustained flood damage.13 Vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, those who are chronically or mentally ill and the homeless, are especially at risk during a storm and in the aftermath.

Getting people out of harm’s way is the first goal for rescuers. However, as people begin entering shelters, rescuers also have to address their physical needs, as well as mental concerns that result from overwhelming stress and anxiety.

Respiratory and gastrointestinal problems occur from exposure during heavy rain, as people try to salvage food and water or are exposed to airborne toxins. Others with pre-existing conditions need immediate care to avoid a life-threatening situation, such as those who have kidney disease, heart disease or diabetes.14

Floodwaters also affect wild animals that may be attempting to flee the rising water, such as snakes that are flooded out of their homes, increasing the potential for snakebites.15 floodwaters contain more than rain, debris and unexpected wild animals. Flooded sewer systems spill out, increasing the risks of infections. Following Hurricane Katrina, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 30 cases of MRSA, a staphylococcus bacterium resistant to antibiotics, in the evacuees from New Orleans sent to Dallas.

Severe flooding also knocks over power lines, causing power outages and risks from live wires. Homeowners who use portable power generators may be at risk from breathing carbon monoxide gasses.

A review of natural disasters found that 83 percent of deaths from carbon monoxide gas could be attributed to operating portable generators for temporary power.16 Damage to the Texas community may reach or exceed $160 billion for cleanup, equal to the combined cost of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, and leave the fourth largest city in the U.S. uninhabitable for weeks.17

Infections After Flooding Driven by Several Factors

Once the initial days of rescue and relocation are underway, experts recognize there may be a growing concern for individuals who suffer from infections. The factors affecting risk associated with mass flooding are many. Crammed together in tight-quartered shelters, the potential for the spread of respiratory infection rises dramatically.18 Coupled with the inevitable poor sanitation from lack of a clean water supply, individuals are also at risk for contracting gastrointestinal viruses that also spread quickly.

The uncertainty of what happens next takes a significant mental toll on everyone, negatively impacting the immune system and increasing the risk of further infection and physical sickness, as well as rising numbers suffering from situational anxiety and depression.

Although the risk of infection rises, access to medical care, clean food and water and prescription medications decline. Thomas Tighe, president and chief executive of the medical nonprofit Direct Relief, believes a lot was learned from the medical care needed after Hurricane Katrina and in the 12 years since.19

In those years, medications have been stockpiled along the Texas coast and other areas prone to hurricanes. Several consumer pharmacies in Houston have stayed open despite the storm, operating on portable generators to help distribute needed medications and antibiotics.

Standing water is a prime target for mosquitoes to lay eggs and explode the local population. During the flood, containers that are often breeding grounds for mosquitoes are washed away. After the water recedes, the mosquito population recovers rapidly, and the number of diseases they carry may more than double in areas in the path of the hurricane. Following Hurricane Katrina, experts noted an increase in the spread of arboviruses commonly passed by mosquitoes, such as West Nile virus and dengue.20

Forget Tetanus as Bacterial Infection Is More Likely

Texas health officials are recommending people get a tetanus shot to protect against the disease if they should get a cut.21 These suggestions are based on the idea that contact with flood water will increase your risk of contracting the potentially life-threatening illness. However, more health experts call this an “old wives’ tale … a myth.”22

Michael Osterholm, Ph.D., director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, is concerned that authorities in the affected areas may recommend mass tetanus vaccinations. The CDC agrees, stating,23 “Exposure to floodwaters does not increase the risk of tetanus and tetanus immunization campaigns are not needed.”

The perception that a tetanus shot is needed after a flood is widespread. Following Hurricane Andrew 25 years ago, the health care system was swamped with the demand for tetanus shots.24 The CDC and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration do recommend people involved in the cleanup process after a flood are up to date with their tetanus shots to prevent the disease if they suffer a puncture wound wading through floodwaters and removing sharp-edged debris.

The disease is also known by the common name, lockjaw. Caused by the bacterium Clostridium tetani, it produces a toxin in your body that affects your nervous system to trigger stiffening of your muscles and severe breathing difficulties that may be fatal.25 While there is treatment available, it is not uniformly effective, and the fatality rate is close to 20 percent.26 However, the rate of infection in the U.S. is extremely low, with just an average of 30 reported cases each year.

The most common ways of contracting tetanus are through puncture wounds, exposure to saliva or feces from an infected animal or person, and burns or wounds with necrotic (dead) areas.27 Symptoms of fever, diarrhea and headache start seven to 10 days after you are exposed to the bacterium.

Toxic Fumes Flood Houston After Water Damages Petrol Plants

Workers and residents in Houston are also contending with toxic fumes that have been released from local petrol refineries forced to shut down quickly due to flooding and power outages.28 Residents in the industrial fence-line communities first reported foul fumes within hours of the flooding, with some residents experiencing headaches, sore throat and itchy eyes. Though these are much the same symptoms of allergic reactions, the source of the irritant is not harmless like pollen, but has long-term effects on your health.

The smells are concentrated over East End Houston, but the chemicals may travel in the wind over longer distances in lower concentrations than the human nose can detect. Bryan Parras, an activist with the grassroots environmental justice group TEJAS, suspects the source of the chemical smells to be from numerous refineries in the Houston area as they are shutting down, causing an abnormal event.29 According to a report issued by the Environmental Integrity Project that evaluated emissions from refineries:30

“Because pollution released during upsets is almost never monitored, reports are based on estimates that can understate actual releases by an order of magnitude or more. The short-term impact of these events can also be substantial.

Upsets or sudden shutdowns can release large plumes of sulfur dioxide or toxic chemicals in just a few hours, exposing downwind communities to peak levels of pollution that are much more likely to trigger asthma attacks and other respiratory systems. The working class and minority populations typical of neighborhoods near refineries and chemical plants bear the brunt of this pollution.”

Shell and Mobile oil companies have shut down their refineries in Houston and the Corpus Cristi area, among others, amounting to a nearly 1 million barrels per day loss.31 Even if the damage from flooding is controlled rapidly, the refineries won’t be able to open quickly, leaving thousands out of work and driving gas prices up at the pump.

Long-Term Consequences of Flooding Not Immediately Apparent

As difficult and heartbreaking as most of the immediate effects are, the long-term devastation from mold will be experienced by home and business owners for decades. Mold is a toxic hurricane holdover. Mary Hayden of the National Center for Atmospheric Research notes that evacuees may not be able to return to their homes for up to three weeks.32 During that time, waterlogged homes will bake in the sun, giving mold ample time to grow in most of the walls and homeowners’ belongings.

Mold growth after Hurricane Katrina was implicated in the deaths of four Southern University at New Orleans professors, who all worked in the same building damaged by the storm and died within a few months of each other.33

The economic loss and water damage from mold can be severe. In the Houston area, nearly 20 trillion gallons of water poured over the city as just the past month President Trump nullified requirements put in place by the previous administration to build infrastructure projects that would be able to withstand rising sea levels.34 The same infrastructure and topography that has kept the water from draining quickly creates a prolonged period for fungal growth that will be felt for decades.

Dangers of Consistent Mold Exposure

The dangers of mold exposure are varied and may place your health in jeopardy. Former actress Suzanne Somers knows firsthand the health effects that may impact your life and potentially ruin your health.

In this short video Somers describes her journey into and recovery from illnesses that resulted from toxic mold growing in a house they rented after their home burned down. Somers’ health effects resulted from the mold settling into her intestines, leading to a misdiagnosis of cancer, and in her husband, symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), all mold has the potential to cause ill health.35 Following Hurricane Katrina, researchers evaluated toxic levels in areas that required cleanup, determining that those cleaning and repairing flood damaged homes really must wear respirators to protect their health.36

Your health effects will depend upon your exposure, the type of fungus, toxins produced by the fungus and your current health. That said, some of the more common health problems associated with mold exposure include:37,38

Muscle and joint pain Headaches Anxiety
Depression Memory loss Visual disturbance
Immune disturbances Fatigue GI problems
Respiratory problems Shortness of breath Vascular fragility resulting in hemorrhage
Diarrhea Liver damage Bleeding from the lungs
Loss of coordination Kidney toxicity Photosensitivity
Immunosuppression Skin rashes Infertility
Nosebleeds Nasal and sinus congestion Upper respiratory infections

Addressing Mold-Related Disease

Unfortunately, there is no precise formula for rebuilding perfect health after being damaged by mold or its toxins. No one set of interventions will work for everyone. Diagnosis begins with a series of diagnostic blood tests that are readily available by commercial labs such as LabCorp and Quest.

You will find more information about these tests in my previous article on strategies to identify inflammation caused by mold exposure, featuring an interview with Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker, medical director for the Center for Research on Biotoxin Associated Illnesses. I also discuss helpful tests and diagnostic tools in “Mold: The Common Toxin That Can Be Far More Damaging Than Heavy Metals.”

The results of these tests will guide the treatment, which will ultimately depend on the type of mold you were exposed to, length of exposure, your overall health, medications, allergies, genetics and other factors. Your best approach is to find a well-informed physician with expertise in environmental medicine. Together you can devise an appropriate treatment plan. Jack Dwayne Thrasher, Ph.D., another mold expert, lists physicians with experience in treating mold-associated disease on DrThrasher.org.

That said, here’s a sampling of treatments found to be helpful. It’s also well worth noting that some of the most commonly used conventional treatments for mold-related symptoms — steroids, antibiotics and antifungal drugs — are typically ill advised and can make the situation far worse rather than better. For this reason, should you suspect mold as a culprit, make sure you find a doctor who is well-versed in mold treatment.

Avoid all sugars and other mold-sensitive foods39

Eliminating sugars, grain-based foods, anything made from refined white flour, packed and processed foods of all kinds, simple carbohydrates, milk and most fruit, will help starve the mold, as fungi thrive on a diet high in fructose, sucrose (table sugar), lactose (milk sugar) and other sugars.

Other foods to be avoided due to their high rate of mold contamination include alcohol, peanuts, cottonseed oil, corn, most grains (especially wheat, rye, barley, sorghum) and hard cheeses.

Pancreatic enzymes

The late Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez,40 featured in Somer’s book, “TOX-SICK,” treated mold exposure using pancreatic enzymes, taken away from meals. The reason for this is because pancreatic enzymes eat debris, and mold qualifies as a food source for these enzymes.

Taken in conjunction with food, the enzymes help digest your food. But when taken an hour before or after your meal, the enzymes start looking for something to digest, and will gobble up any mold it comes across. It’s not a quick fix, but over time will help rid your body of mold lodged in your gastrointestinal tract.

Fermented foods and/or a high-quality probiotic

Probably the most important supplement for recovering from mold-induced illness is a good probiotic. Your gastrointestinal tract is your first line of defense against mold and its toxins, and having a GI tract populated with beneficial flora is crucial for optimal immune function. Probiotics help repopulate your GI tract with these beneficial bacteria.

The “good” bacteria help keep the “bad” bacteria (and other organisms like mold and yeast) in check. This is why antibiotics are so counterproductive if you have a fungal infection. Without the proper microflora, fungi and their toxins can break through the walls of your intestinal tract and enter your bloodstream.

When your bowel is toxic, the rest of your body soon follows. Sensing this toxicity, your immune system reacts with a vengeance, trying desperately to overcome this perceived assault, which results in systemic inflammation. And when your blood is full of toxins, your organs responsible for cleansing it (liver, kidneys, skin, lymph) become overloaded and multisystem health problems can occur, which is what many people experience after mold poisoning.

Cholestyramine (CSM)

CSM is a rarely used cholesterol drug that binds very effectively to small, negatively charged molecules with anion rings. When CSM binds to the toxin, it prevents it from being reabsorbed.

This treatment is part of a more comprehensive treatment devised by Shoemaker, who claims 75 percent of patients experience a 75 percent reduction of mold-toxicity symptoms with cholestyramine alone (less if there is ongoing mold exposure). Bentonite clay is another binder that can help eliminate toxins of different kinds.

Organic coffee enemas

Coffee enemas help detoxify your liver. Please note, however that conventional coffee should NOT be used for enemas. The coffee MUST be organic, naturally caffeinated coffee, and were you to do this at home, you’d also want to use unbleached filters to avoid introducing toxins into your colon.

You can also find organic coffees online that are specifically processed for use as enemas. Most of these you simply boil and strain rather than putting through a coffee maker.

Herbal remedies

A study published in the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry found extract of artichoke leaf was toxic to many types of fungi, including both molds and yeasts. Other helpful antifungal herbal remedies include berberine, oregano and garlic.41

Cholesterol Isn’t the Problem in Heart Disease; Inflammation Is

13/09/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in nearly every cell of your body and is essential to good health. Your body uses it to make hormones, protect your cell membranes, digest food and manufacture vitamin D after exposure to the sun. Your liver manufactures most of the cholesterol your body requires from nutrients extracted from your food.

Animals use cholesterol in much the same way. This means the meats from beef, pork or chicken have similar levels of cholesterol. Even fat cells in animal meat have the same amount of cholesterol as other cells. All meat averages 25 milligrams of cholesterol per ounce.1 Dietary cholesterol is absorbed at different rates, between 20 and 60 percent, depending upon the individual.2

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans3 addressed past vilification of dietary cholesterol, announcing4 “cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.” These same guidelines also advise limiting sugar to no more than 10 percent of your diet,5 which is approximately 50 grams of sugar, or 200 calories, in a diet consuming 2,000 calories each day. This level is still far higher than what is healthy as net carbohydrates are a prime factor in the development of inflammation.

Recently published research from a clinical trial sponsored by Novartis Pharmaceuticals demonstrates a reduction in recurring heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular deaths in participants who took a targeted anti-inflammatory medication that did not lower cholesterol levels.6

Although the results of the study were encouraging as they scientifically demonstrate the association between inflammation and cardiac disease, I do not recommend using a pharmaceutical intervention to achieve what lifestyle choices can easily accomplish.

Lowering Inflammation Helps Lower Cardiac Risk

This study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital was the culmination of a nearly 25-year cardiovascular research work. The trial was designed to test if reducing the amount of inflammation in the body would also reduce the risk of a recurrent heart attack or stroke. The researchers enrolled 10,000 people who had previously had a heart attack and had persistently elevated levels of C-reactive proteins, a strong biomarker of inflammation.

The participants were split into four groups, all of which received aggressive standard health care. Three groups were administered the drug canakinumab at various levels and the fourth placebo group received no drug. The drug, currently priced at $200,000 a year by Novartis Pharmaceuticals, demonstrated an ability to reduce inflammation with a reduced risk of cardiac events and reduced the need for interventional procedures, such as bypass surgery or angioplasty.7

The hypothesis of whether an intervention that reduces inflammation could potentially reduce your risk of a recurrent heart attack was tested using a medication already approved for use to target the immune system without affecting your lipid level.8 While the drug demonstrated a reduced risk in some patients, one of the side effects was a higher risk of fatal infection.

Once the researchers identified the results as they related to cardiac health, they also did an investigative analysis and found participants taking the medication had a reduced risk of lung cancer rates and deaths.9 The lead researcher in this study is also involved in another evaluating the effectiveness of low dose methotrexate —  an inexpensive common cancer and rheumatoid arthritis drug — in cardiovascular disease. These results are due to be completed in two to three years.10

Though there may be positive effects using methotrexate, it must be noted this drug also comes with a laundry list of side effects, including intestinal bleeding, sepsis, reduced blood platelets and liver damage.11 The idea that inflammation is important in the development of disease and in the importance of cardiac health is not new, but it has now found an avenue for exploration in the pharmaceutical industry.

Inflammation Linked to Cardiac Disease, Cancer and Other Health Conditions

Studies such as these confirm the hypothesis that inflammation is one of the major underlying factors behind cardiac disease, cancer, diabetes and many other conditions. Chronic pain, peripheral neuropathy and migraines are also rooted in the inflammatory process in your body. Unfortunately, while many are suffering from these types of conditions, understanding how to eliminate the inflammation is not generally understood. Many physicians simply turn to pharmaceuticals that carry a significant number of side effects.

The source of inflammation in your body is usually driven by your lifestyle choices, especially those that affect your intestinal tract. Interestingly, the surface of your gut may cover two tennis courts when laid out flat. This is an amazing amount of surface area that resides in your abdomen and is responsible for protecting your health. The degree of permeability, or how much your intestines will allow through breaks in the cell wall, is dependent on a variety of factors, including the food you eat and the stress you’re under.

This disruption in the interconnections between the cells in your intestines may result in small holes that allow food particles and bacteria to enter your blood stream and trigger an immune response, also called leaky gut syndrome. This is a serious problem that triggers inflammation in your body and increases your potential risk for illness. With repeated damage to the microvilli of your intestinal walls, they begin to lose the ability to do their job.

This impairs your ability to digest food properly or absorb nutrients. One of the food groups that factor into the development of leaky guy syndrome is grains. Although advertising often touts the health benefits of eating whole grains, a growing body of scientific evidence demonstrates that whole grains, lectins and legumes are responsible for the development of leaky gut syndrome and the resulting inflammation.

Drugs Are Not the Answer

In many cases your physician has an insufficient understanding of the dangers of using pharmaceutical interventions to treat inflammation and disease. They often prescribe a quick pill, possibly believing patients may be more willing to take a pill than to change their eating habits or lifestyle choices. Unfortunately, each of those prescriptions come with side effects, some of which are more dangerous than the original condition they were intended to treat.

This was amply demonstrated in the featured study where one of the side effects from the medication tested was a higher risk of death due to infection. Side effects from other anti-inflammatory medications have resulted in the medication being pulled from use, such as Vioxx, taken off the market after it was found the drug increased the risk of heart attack and stroke. Statins are another medication prescribed with the mistaken idea that reducing your cholesterol levels will reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.12

Dr. Dwight Lundell, former chief of staff and chief of surgery at Banner Heart Hospital in Arizona, took a stand against statin medications, believing they were doing cardiology patients more harm than good.13

This goes against years of physicians prescribing medications to lower cholesterol and strongly recommending diets that severely restrict any fat intake. Practicing physicians have been bombarded with pharmaceutically sponsored literature and seminars insisting heart disease is the result of one factor — elevated cholesterol levels.

This has led to large numbers of individuals experiencing the side effects of statins, as these drugs reduce your ability to absorb CoQ10, necessary for energy production in every cell in your body. The drug also reduces your ability to absorb vitamin K2, stimulating atherosclerosis and heart failure.14 Studies have also linked the use of statin drugs to cancer,15,16 diabetes,17 neurodegenerative disease,18 musculoskeletal disorders19 and cataracts.20

Statins not only have dangerous side effects, but they are not effective against preventing heart disease. You may assume falling cholesterol levels are proof you’re getting healthier, but you would be wrong.

Cholesterol Is Not the Enemy

The Minnesota Coronary Experiment was a study performed between 1968 and 1973 that examined the relationship between diet and heart health.21 The researchers used a double-blind randomized trial to evaluate the effect of vegetable oil versus saturated fats in coronary heart disease and death.

The results were left unpublished until 2016, when they appeared in the BMJ. An analysis of the collected data revealed lowering your cholesterol levels through dietary intervention did not reduce your risk of death from coronary heart disease. The researchers concluded:22

“Available evidence from randomized controlled trials shows that replacement of saturated fat in the diet with linoleic acid effectively lowers serum cholesterol but does not support the hypothesis that this translates to a lower risk of death from coronary heart disease or all causes.

Findings from the Minnesota Coronary Experiment add to growing evidence that incomplete publication has contributed to overestimation of the benefits of replacing saturated fat with vegetable oils rich in linoleic acid.”

The researchers found that for every 30-point drop in total cholesterol, there was a 22 percent increase in the risk of death from cardiac disease. On autopsy, the group eating vegetable oil and the group eating saturated fat had the same amount of atherosclerotic plaques in their arteries, but the group eating saturated fat experienced nearly half the number of heart attacks as the group eating vegetable oil.

After scientists recommended Americans stop eating meat, eggs and saturated fats, intake of sugar and other carbohydrates spiked. In response, the obesity rate in the country exploded, as did the number of people who suffer from diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke. Over 50 years of research point to another culprit in the advancement of disease, and it isn’t cholesterol.

Instead, cholesterol is a response mechanism activated by your body when a blood vessel is injured through an inflammatory process.23 Once the lesion occurs, your body sends cholesterol to cover the area and prevent further damage, much like a scab after you cut your skin.

Beverly Teter, lipid biochemist at the University of Maryland, has spent years studying how different types of fat in your food affects your long-term health. Over the years she has found that people with higher levels of cholesterol live longer. She has a personal story that bears witness to this belief:24

“I come from a family that has, my mother’s side, had naturally high cholesterol. Her cholesterol was between 380 and 420 when I started watching her medical records, and she died at 97. So I don’t think that cholesterol was too bad for her.”

It is the inflammatory process in your body that first triggers an injury to your arterial walls. No matter how low your cholesterol numbers go, your body will still use the cholesterol it has to repair the arterial wall. On the other hand, cholesterol plays other protective roles against respiratory and gastrointestinal problems and in the production of vitamin D.

However, without inflammation, your arterial walls do not become injured and there are no atherosclerotic plaques laid down that may eventually block the artery. Statins work to lower your total cholesterol number, but cannot stop the injuries to your arteries from inflammation. So, this artificial reduction in total cholesterol has little to do with your overall risk of cardiac disease.

Better Assessment of Heart Disease Risk Found in Evaluating Other Tests and Cholesterol Ratios

As you evaluate your risk of cardiovascular disease, there are specific ratios and blood level values that will tell you much more than your total cholesterol number. The size of your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, for example, is more important than your overall total LDL level. Large particle LDLs are not harmful to your health while the smaller, denser LDL particles may create problems as they squeeze through the lining of your arteries, oxidize and trigger inflammation.

An NMR LipoProfile that measures the size of your LDL particles is a better assessment of your risk of heart disease than total cholesterol or total LDL. The following tests will also give you a better assessment of your potential risk for heart attack or coronary artery disease:

HS-CRP. High sensitivity C Reactive Protein is one of the best overall measures of inflammation. Since we now understand that inflammation, not cholesterol, is the primary cause of heart disease, this would be an excellent screening test. The lower the number the better. Ideally your level should be below 0.7. Mine typically ranges from <0.2 to 0.3.

Cholesterol ratios: Your HDL/cholesterol ratio and triglyceride/HDL ratio is a strong indicator of your risk. For your HDL/cholesterol ratio divide your HDL by your total cholesterol and multiply by 100. That percentage should ideally be above 24 percent. For your triglyceride/HDL ratio divide your triglyceride total by your HDL and multiply by 100. The ideal percentage is below 2 percent.

Fasting insulin level. Sugar and carbohydrates increase inflammation. Once eaten, these chemicals trigger a release of insulin, promoting the accumulation of fat and creation of triglycerides, making it more difficult for you to lose weight or maintain your normal weight. Excess fat around your midsection is one of the major contributors to heart disease.25

Your fasting insulin level can be determined by a simple, inexpensive blood test. A normal fasting blood insulin level is below 5 microunits per milliliter (mcU/ml), but ideally, you’ll want it below 3 mcU/ml. If your insulin level is higher than 3 to 5, the most effective way to optimize it is to reduce net carbs.

Fasting blood sugar level. Studies have demonstrated people with higher fasting blood sugar levels have a higher risk of having coronary heart disease.26 In fact, when your fasting blood sugar is between 100 and 125 mg/dl, your risk of coronary artery disease increases to 300 percent more than those whose level is below 79 mg/dl.

Iron level. Iron creates an environment for oxidative stress, so excess iron may increase your inflammation and increase your risk of heart disease. An ideal iron level for adult men and non-menstruating women is between 40 and 60 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml). You do not want to be below 20 ng/ml or above 80 ng/ml.

Magnesium Plays Substantial Role in Reducing Inflammation

Magnesium is vital for your optimal health, biological function and mitochondrial health. There are more than 3,750 magnesium-binding sites on human proteins and more than 500 enzymes in your body rely on magnesium to function properly. Low levels of magnesium are associated with migraines, anxiety, depression, fibromyalgia, cardiovascular disease and death from all causes.

Low levels of magnesium are a culprit in the development of inflammation and may play a role in hardening of your arteries as they inhibit the deposit of lipids on your arterials walls and plaque formation.27 Use of the mineral also has significantly positive effects when administered intravenously (IV) as soon as possible after a heart attack.28 In a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, IV magnesium or normal saline was administered to 2,000 patients within 24 hours of their heart attack.

Those who received the magnesium experienced 24 percent fewer deaths and within the following five years, the death rate was also 21 percent lower than those not treated with magnesium. IV magnesium has been used to treat patients with congestive heart failure and arrhythmias.29 Low levels have been found to be an important predictor of sudden cardiac death30 and IV magnesium has been used to treat the onset of atrial fibrillation. 31

The use of magnesium during an immediate cardiac event demonstrates the significant health benefits of the mineral. However, ensuring an adequate level of magnesium on a daily basis may help to prevent these cardiac events as the mineral is also closely associated with reducing the inflammatory response. A recent study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition32 determined there was an inverse relationship between levels of magnesium in the body of participants and the level of c-reactive proteins.

The researchers concluded the beneficial effect of magnesium intake on chronic diseases could potentially be explained by the effect the mineral has on inhibiting inflammation.33

Many researchers and physicians believe recent studies demonstrate chronic low-grade inflammation is linked to heart attacks, strokes, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and Type 2 diabetes.34 Following the release of another study demonstrating the role inflammation plays in chronic disease,35 Dr. Carolyn Dean, magnesium expert and author of “The Magnesium Miracle,” stated:36

“Cholesterol is not the cause of heart disease and the decades-long attempt to treat this condition with statin drugs has failed, because the true cause is inflammation.”

Dean went on to comment on another study that demonstrated magnesium deficiency contributes to an exaggerated response to oxidative stress and inflammation, saying:37

“This study shows that at the cellular level, magnesium reduces inflammation. In the animal model used, magnesium deficiency is created when an inflammatory condition is produced. Increasing magnesium intake decreases the inflammation.

With magnesium being actively required by 600 to 700 enzyme systems in the human body, internal functions that reduce inflammation with the help of magnesium are being newly discovered every year. For example, magnesium has been found to be a natural calcium channel blocker, which is crucial because calcium in excess is one of the most pro-inflammatory substances in the body.”

Natural Methods to Reduce Inflammation

There are multiple factors that affect the inflammatory process in your body. Some of the more significant include:

Hyperinsulinemia: An excess of insulin in your blood triggered by a diet high in net carbohydrates increases your level of inflammation. What you eat tends to be the deal-breaker in how much insulin your body secretes. However, there are other factors that contribute to your insulin levels, such as smoking, sleep quality and level of vitamin D.

You can read more about how to reduce your insulin and fasting blood sugar levels to reduce inflammation in my previous article, “Insulin, Not Cholesterol, Is the True Culprit in Heart Disease.”

Unbalanced fatty acids: Your body needs a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fats. Unfortunately, most diets have an overabundance of omega-6 fats leading to greater amounts of inflammation. Strive for a 1-to-1 ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats to reduce inflammation and your risk of heart disease.

High iron stores: Ensure your ferritin blood levels are below 80 ng/ml. If they are elevated this can increase your level of inflammation. The simplest and most efficient way to lower your iron level if elevated is to donate blood. If you can’t donate, then therapeutic phlebotomy will effectively eliminate the excess iron. Heavy metal detoxification will also naturally reduce high iron.

Leaky gut: Food particles and bacteria leaking from your intestines increase your level of inflammation and your risk of heart disease. By eliminating grains, sugars and lectin-rich legumes, while adding fermented foods, you may heal your gut and reduce your level of inflammation.

Inadequate levels of magnesium: A century ago your diet provided nearly 500 mg of magnesium per day. Today, courtesy of nutrient-depleted soil you may be getting only 150 mg per day. Dean suggests using your intestinal reaction as a marker for your ideal dose of supplementation.

Your body flushes excess magnesium through your stool, so you may determine your own individual needs using magnesium citrate. Start by taking 200 mg of oral magnesium citrate each day, gradually increasing this dose until you develop slightly loose stools.

I now believe many may benefit from as much as 1 to 2 grams of magnesium per day, although you’d need to gradually work your way up to that amount and pay attention to your body’s response, especially if you use magnesium citrate, which causes loose stools.

My personal preference for magnesium supplementation is magnesium threonate as it appears to more efficiently penetrate cell membranes, including your mitochondria. It penetrates your blood-brain barrier and may help improve memory and it may be a good alternative to reduce migraine headaches.

Google Apocalypse Looms Large

13/09/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

I’ve written about the dangers of monopolies within the drug and agricultural industries on numerous occasions, but Google is perhaps one of the greatest  monopolies that ever existed on the planet. The reason why I’ve decided to address Google here is because the technology giant is injecting itself ever deeper into our day-to-day lives, from childhood education to patented meat substitutes1,2 and health care, and with its internet monopoly and personal information tracking and sharing,

Google poses a very unique threat. Anyone concerned about their health and food and their ability to obtain truthful information about both needs to understand the role Google plays, and whose side Google is really on.

Starting with the issue of health care, the company recently partnered with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and is getting deeper into the drug promotion business with its launch of a depression self-assessment quiz.3,4 Just like WebMD before it, this test funnels you toward a drug solution. No matter how you answered WebMD’s questions, you were diagnosed as being at risk for major depression and urged to discuss treatment with your doctor.

That test, it turns out, was sponsored by drugmaker Eli Lilly, maker of the antidepressant Cymbalta. Now, any time you use the search term “clinical depression” in the Google mobile search engine, you will find a link to a page to “check if you’re clinically depressed.” The quiz is part of the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHG-9), “a clinically validated screening questionnaire” according to MedicalXpress.5

Beware of ‘Patient’s Rights Groups’ Working on Behalf of Drug Makers

While it may seem like an altruistic ideal to raise awareness about mental illness, the “stop the stigma” campaign is actually funded and driven by the drug industry itself, under the guise of various front groups, of which NAMI is one. As noted by PsychCentral, nearly 75 percent of the organization’s funding comes from drug companies.6 Evidence also shows that drug companies have instructed NAMI to “resist state efforts to limit access to mental health drugs” and “how to advocate forcefully for issues that affect industry profits.”

As noted by CCHR International,7 the “next time you see an ad promoting ‘stop the stigma’ see it for what it is, a pharmaceutical marketing campaign.” While CCHR was started by the Church of Scientology, which does not believe in conventional psychiatry to begin with, the group has some valid points. What they forgot or failed to include is the fact that the insurance industry has also played a significant role in creating the trend of over-prescriptions by favoring reimbursement for drug treatment over other forms of treatment.

The article goes on to discuss how the drug industry created “patient’s rights groups” for the mentally ill. In reality, these so-called advocacy groups are part of the drug industry’s marketing and lobbying machine. According to CCHR, front groups like NAMI and Children and Adults With Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) “have consistently lobbied for legislation that benefits the mental health and pharmaceutical industries which fund them, and not patients they claim to represent,” adding:

“A patients’ rights group for the mentally ill would never endorse something as absurd and obviously dangerous as giving electroshock to pregnant women, nor condone schools being able to require children to take a psychiatric drug as a condition of attending school.

Furthermore, they would never be opposed to the FDA actually doing its job and finally issuing long overdue warnings that antidepressants can cause children to commit suicide, or issue warnings that ADHD drugs have serious and even deadly side effects. Yet these are just some of the actions condoned and promoted by these so-called patients’ rights groups.

To put it simply, these groups are not what they appear to be. Yet their influence over legislation, lobbying, drug regulation (or lack thereof), and public relations campaigns is substantial and effects the entire nation,” CCHR warns. “[T]hese groups … frenetically lobby Congress and state governments to channel billions more taxpayers’ dollars into mental health programs that benefit the industry that funds them — not the patients they claim to represent.”

Tech-Driven Mental Health Diagnostics

In 2015, Google hired former National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) director8 Dr. Tom Insel as senior researcher for the Google Life Sciences (GLS) unit.9 (GLS was later rebranded as Verily, partially owned by Alphabet, the parent company that now also owns Google.) At the time, Insel told The Register his job at GLS would entail identifying technology to “help with earlier detection, better prevention and more effective management of serious health conditions.”

Insel served as director for NIMH between 2002 and 2015.10 In 2010, Insel — who led efforts to tighten ethics rules — got caught up in a conflicts of interest scandal and was accused of having a longstanding “quid pro quo” relationship with Charles B. Nemeroff, a psychiatrist and researcher at Emory University found guilty of failing to disclose pharmaceutical funds totaling $1.2 million.11 According to The Chronicle of Higher Education:12

“In 2003, the journal Nature toughened its policies for author disclosures after Dr. Nemeroff used an article in Nature Neuroscience to praise treatments for depression in which he had an unreported financial interest. In 2004, Emory issued a report citing him for multiple “serious” violations of its conflict-of-interest policies for protecting patients.

He quit as editor of the journal Neuropsychopharmacology in 2006 after he was reported to have endorsed an implantable device for treating depression without disclosing payments from its manufacturer. And he finally left Emory … after U.S. Senate investigators found he received $2.8 million from GlaxoSmithKline and other pharmaceutical companies between 2000 and 2007 and failed to disclose at least $1.2 million of it.”

Insel initially denied the charge outright,13 but weeks later expressed regret in a letter to Sen. Charles Grassley, admitting that helping Nemeroff get a job at the University of Miami was inappropriate.14 In May of this year, Insel left Verily (formerly GLS) to join another technology startup called Mindstrong. Interestingly, Mindstrong is doing more or less exactly what Verily is doing — creating smartphone and computer app technologies to diagnose and treat mental health disorders. According to Wired:15

“[A]combination of your medical records … and how you use your gadgets … could be a Big Data bonanza for predicting and treating health issues … In fact, mood is one of the things that Verily’s $100 million Baseline study will track among its 10,000 eventual participants. At Mindstrong, one of the first tests of the concept will be a study of how 600 people use their mobile phones, attempting to correlate keyboard use patterns with outcomes like depression, psychosis, or mania.”

Goopocalypse Underway

goopocalypse

I don’t know about you, but the idea that your electronic medical records might eventually be linked to your use of the internet and social media to assess your risk of mental health problems and/or other health issues does not make me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Google has repeatedly been caught infringing on privacy rights and misrepresenting the type and amount of data it collects on its users.

It’s now become clear that Google catches every single thing you do online if you’re using a Google-based feature. It’s also clear that capturing user data is Google’s primary business.16 The fact that it provides services while doing so is really beside the point and serves as a convenient distraction from the fact that obnoxious privacy violations are taking place. As reported by Gawker:17

“Every word of every email sent through Gmail and every click made on a Chrome browser is watched by the company. ‘We don’t need you to type at all,’ [Google co-founder Eric] Schmidt once said. ‘We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about.'”

Today’s youth, and their parents, need to be particularly vigilant and aware of what Google is doing. Over the past five years, Google has taken over classrooms across the U.S. As noted by The New York Times,18 more than 30 million American children now use Google-based education apps such as Gmail, Google docs, Google classroom apps and Google-powered Chromebooks.

Once out of school, these youngsters are encouraged to convert their school accounts into personal accounts, allowing Google to build exceptionally powerful personality profiles of them as they grow into young adults. If these profiles are used for marketing purposes only, that would be bad enough. But what if they’re used for other types of profiling? Google’s data harvesting is particularly concerning in light of its military connections.19

A recent Activist Post article reveals how YouTube is censoring Ron Paul, former congressman and 2011 Republican GOP presidential candidate, for promoting peace.20 Paul has also been a tireless defender of health freedom throughout his long career. In other words, Google is now actively controlling the public narrative — also known as social engineering — and, as noted in the article:

“When standing up against an illegal war with a message of peace and liberty becomes a censorable ‘offense’ it’s time to start paying attention … Make no mistake, what we are witnessing on YouTube and Facebook right now is a move to silence the peaceful opposition …

[T]his crackdown is also coinciding with a massive push by the mainstream media to stoke divide among the people … [D]ivisive identity politics are shoved down the collective throats of the masses in order to create an atmosphere so divided that people never look up at who’s controlling them. Disagreeing with the status quo is the new hate speech — speak out and you will be mowed down.”

Google’s catchphrase used to be “Don’t be evil,” but that’s exactly what it is. When Google became Alphabet, it dropped the “don’t be evil” slogan for a more comprehensive motto, which begins with doing “the right thing — follow the law, act honorably, and treat each other with respect.”21 Yet the company continues to act as if it’s above the law and really struggles when it comes to doing what’s right. In fact, Google seems to think its actions are righteous and justifiable simply by the fact that they’re doing them.

Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

All of this brings us to the issue of monopolization and the corruption that inevitably follows. At this point, I cannot think of any company operating in breach of antitrust rules as blatantly as Google. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and this adage certainly fits when describing Google. As reported by The Washington Post:22

“Google has established a pattern of lobbying and threatening to acquire power. It has reached a dangerous point … The moment where it no longer wants to allow dissent … Once you reach a pinnacle of power, you start to believe that any threats to your authority are themselves villainous and that you are entitled to shut down dissent. As Lord Acton famously said, ‘Despotic power is always accompanied by corruption of morality.’ Those with too much power cannot help but be evil.


Google, the company dedicated to free expression, has chosen to silence opposition, apparently without any sense of irony… [I]n recent years, Google has become greedy about owning not just search capacities, video and maps, but also the shape of public discourse. As the Wall Street Journal recently reported, Google has recruited and cultivated law professors who support its views.”

According to a recent Campaign for Accountability (CfA) report,23 Google has paid academics in both the U.S. and Europe millions of dollars to influence public opinion and policymakers alike.24,25

This includes funding research papers “that appear to support the technology company’s business interests and defend against regulatory challenges such as antitrust and anti-piracy.” Some of these academics have not declared the source of their funding, even though payments have reached as high as $400,000. As noted by The Times:26

On one occasion Eric Schmidt, Google’s former chief executive, cited a Google-funded author in written answers to Congress to back his claim that his company was not a monopoly — without mentioning that it had paid for the paper …”

Europe Fines Google Nearly $3 Billion for Antitrust Violations 

Power can be assessed by looking at lobbying expenditures and, so far this year, Google is leading the pack when it comes to corporate spending on lobbying — efforts primarily aimed at eliminating competitors and gaining power over others. Google also appears to take full advantage of its power over organizations that it helps fund.

A recent example of this was when the Open Markets team at the New America think tank published a statement praising the EU’s decision to levy a $2.7 billion fine against Google for antitrust violations. In summary, Google gave preference to its own shopping subsidiaries over competitors in its search results, which the EU deemed to be a violation of antitrust rules (see the featured video above).

The Open Markets team also called on the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, Department of Justice (DOJ) and state attorneys general to apply American monopoly law to Google’s business in the U.S. Google’s response to the Open Markets statement was swift, and within three days, the New America think tank — which has received more than $21 million from Google over the years — ousted the entire Open Markets team.27

Zephyr Teachout, associate professor of law at Fordham University, writes in her Washington Post article, “Google Is Coming After Critics in Academia and Journalism. It’s Time to Stop Them:”‘ 28

“The imperial overreach of Google in trying to shut down a group of five researchers proves the point that the initial release from Open Markets was trying to make: When companies get too much power, they become a threat to democratic free speech and to the liberty of citizens at large

Google is forming into a government of itself, and it seems incapable of even seeing its own overreach. We, as citizens, must respond in two ways. First, support the brave researchers and journalists who stand up to overreaching power; and second, support traditional antimonopoly laws that will allow us to have great, innovative companies — but not allow them to govern us.

Google’s actions forced the Open Markets team to leave New America. But, thankfully, it did not succeed in silencing them entirely. Open Markets will continue on as a separate organization, which I will chair. Their work exposing corporate monopolies and advocating for regulation is more important than ever. Google shows us why.”

New America Faces Backlash

The fact that New America was coddling Google and doing the company’s bidding did not go unnoticed, however, and Anne-Marie Slaughter, president of the Google-funded think tank is now accused of jeopardizing New America’s reputation with her decision to kick Open Markets out.

Scholars affiliated with New America have also been “quietly comparing notes on past instances in which they contend she placed donors’ interests over ideology.” According to The New York Times,29 Slaughter has “pledged to re-examine her group’s policies for dealing with donors while defending the organization’s intellectual integrity.” Whatever might come of that “re-examination” remains to be seen.

Antitrust Revival

Former business journalist Barry Lynn, director of Open Markets, who spent over a decade with the New America Foundation before being ousted by Slaughter, has been a longtime advocate against monopolies such as Google, and his work is now gaining traction in what some have called an “antitrust revival.”30 As noted by The Daily Beast:31

“For years, Lynn has been warning about the pernicious effect monopolies have on all facets of American life: from the food one eats, to the financial system one uses, to the forms of communications on which one depends. And for years, his work has been restricted to the usual confines of advocacy and academia …

On [July 24, 2017], that changed. [Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)] … outlined an agenda that put heavy emphasis on cracking down on corporate monopolies.

The topic occupies the first four pages of a 10-page document and includes placing new standards on the consolidation of corporate power, giving new tools to regulators to confirm and review mergers, and creating a new consumer competition advocate to tackle ‘anti-competitive behavior.’ Lynn, who estimates that he has been working on this stuff for 15 years, called the new agenda ‘fantastic.'”

Monopolies Threaten Public Liberties and Democracy

In a recent interview by The Verge,32 Lynn discusses his plans to continue fighting monopolies in America. Open Markets still has most of its funders and the organization is “already up and running” as an independent institution. They also have new funding sources lined up. When asked why it’s so important to dialogue about monopoly power, Lynn replies:

“[M]onopolies are a threat to our democracy and to our basic liberties and to our communities. Monopolization, this concentration of wealth and power, is a threat to everything that is America … So, Open Markets is built to fight the environment of law and regulation that currently promotes unrestrained monopoly.America today has a monopoly problem.

We’re seeing basically a second wave of consolidation and monopolization because of the digital revolution. These companies are just as bad as Newscorp or Walmart or Citibank was in 2005. Google, Facebook, and Amazon: the danger they pose is on a vastly different level.The first issue is consumer protection and potential consumer harm. We created antitrust laws originally to protect our liberties, often as producers of stuff …  

My liberty to bring my wheat, my ideas, the product of my labor to market. That’s liberty. The second purpose was to protect our democracy against huge concentrations of wealth and power. To protect our democratic institutions. And the third purpose [was] to protect your community.

If I’m living out in Peoria, do I want the city of Peoria to be run by a couple corporations based on Wall Street, or do I want it to be run by the citizens of Peoria? So you use anti-monopoly law to ensure that.”

Tech Monopolies Merge to Create Ultimate AI World

Last year, The Register33 published an article pointing out the revolving door between Google and EU policy advisers; 16 Google employees have joined the government ranks in the EU while 64 policy advisers left to join Google. We see this revolving door phenomenon so often these days, it’s become quite cliché. Unfortunately, it is highly effective, which is why industry abuses it. Google is running such a clear monopoly, it’s quite astounding the U.S. has not nailed it on antitrust charges similar to those raised in the EU.

Then again, Music Technology Policy published a long article34 last year describing how Google managed to install one of its own lawyers in the DOJ antitrust division, thereby protecting its own interests. These revolving doors between government and corporations exist for a reason, and it is not to benefit the public in any way.

As we look to the future, we also have Google’s sights on artificial intelligence (AI) to contend with. Already, two large monopolies have joined forces to bring about the ultimate AI world. As reported by The New York Times,35 Amazon and Microsoft are now working together, merging their voice-controlled digital assistants — Alexa and Cortana — in order to enlarge the capabilities of both by building on each other’s strengths and abilities.

“In an interview … [Amazon CEO Jeff] Bezos predicted that over time people would turn to different digital assistants … the same way they turn to one friend for advice about hiking and another for restaurant recommendations. ‘I want them to have access to as many of those A.I.s as possible.’ Mr. Bezos said.”36

Ultimately, the goal is to create self-learning AIs capable of imitating human thought processes. Meanwhile, Vanity Fair reports that Elon Musk is raising a “billion-dollar crusade” to prevent the AI apocalypse, calling for regulations on the technology “before it’s too late.” According to Musk, AIs are improving at a far greater pace than most people realize, and there’s no telling what they might ultimately be used for. Vanity Fair writes:37

“In a startling public reproach to his friends and fellow techies, Musk warned that they could be creating the means of their own destruction. He told Bloomberg’s Ashlee Vance … that he was afraid that his friend Larry Page, a co-founder of Google and now the C.E.O. of its parent company, Alphabet, could have perfectly good intentions but still ‘produce something evil by accident’ — including, possibly, ‘a fleet of artificial intelligence-enhanced robots capable of destroying mankind.’

It’s in Larry Page’s blood and Google’s DNA to believe that A.I. is the company’s inevitable destiny — think of that destiny as you will. (‘If evil A.I. lights up,’ Ashlee Vance told me, ‘it will light up first at Google.’)”

Take Action — Here’s What You Can Do

As you can see, Google (or more accurately, Alphabet, the rebranded parent company that houses all of the various divisions) is turning into a gigantic octopus-like super entity, the tentacles of which reach into government, food production, health care, education, military applications and the creation of AIs that may run more or less independently.

A key component of many of these enterprises is data — your personal usage data; the tracking of every webpage you’ve ever visited and every single thought you’ve ever written on a Google-enabled device, along with geo tracking tracing your every move.

Ultimately, what can be done with that kind of information, besides personalized advertising? How might it be used in combination with military AI-equipped robots? How might it be used to influence your health care decisions? How might it be used to influence your lifestyle decisions? How might (or is) it used to shape politics and society at large?

Today, being a conscious consumer includes making wise, informed decisions about technology. Anyone who has spent even a small amount of time pondering the ramifications of Google’s ever-growing monopoly over our day-to-day lives is likely to shudder at the possibilities and agree that we cannot allow this to continue. To be part of the solution, I encourage you to take the following actions:

  1. Sign the “Don’t be evil” petition created by Citizens Against Monopoly
  2. Avoid any and all Google products. If you have a Gmail account, close it and open an account with a non-Google affiliated email service. Stop using Google docs. Digital Trends recently published an article suggesting a number of alternatives.38 If you’re a high school student, do not convert the Google accounts you created as a student into personal accounts
  3. Don’t use Google search engine. So far, one of the best alternatives I’ve found is DuckDuckGo.39 It is now my primary search engine and I avoid Gmail and all of Google products whenever possible