Birthday Candles Increase Bacterial Count on Cake

12/08/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

Like the rest of your body, the health of your mouth is dependent on the foods you eat. However, failing to develop the habit of brushing your teeth will also increase your risk of heart disease.1 Advanced gum disease may actually increase your risk of a fatal heart attack 10 times. Poor oral health also increases your risk of Type 2 diabetes by up to 700 percent, and to systemic inflammation that is linked to a number of different types of health conditions.

Unbalanced microflora in your mouth is also responsible for tooth decay. These bacteria then enter your bloodstream, increasing your levels of C-reactive protein that have an inflammatory effect on your whole body. Your oral health and hygiene help to prevent cavities and have an effect on your gut microbiome. You affect your oral microbiome with your oral hygiene habits, foods you eat and drinking fluoridated water or using fluoridated toothpaste.

By avoiding sugars and processed foods, you reduce the proliferation of bad bacteria. Proper brushing and flossing and regular cleanings with a mercury-free dentist will help ensure your teeth and gums stay healthy naturally. It’s also worth noting that while probiotics do not have a direct effect on your oral microbiome, addressing your gut flora can indeed make a big difference in your oral health.

However, the addition of bacteria from someone else’s mouth is not the type of probiotic supplementation that creates a healthy gut microbiome. Recent research found blowing on your food, or birthday cake, may increase the bacteria on the food by up to 1,400 percent.2

Blowing on Food Transfers Bacteria

Paul Dawson, Ph.D., food science professor at Clemson University, said his teenage daughter gave him the idea for a study that demonstrated large numbers of bacteria are transferred when you blow on food, such as when you blow out birthday candles.3 This is not his first study evaluating food safety, as he routinely conducts food analyses with his students at the university.

Dawson and his students simplified the study parameters by using a cake shaped Styrofoam piece, covered in foil and then frosted. The students and professor first ate pizza to simulate being at a birthday party and then placed candles in the fake cake and blew them out. Once all the students had a chance to blow out candles on their own fake cake, the frosting was retrieved, diluted in sterile water and spread on agar plates to encourage bacterial growth.

Not all of the bacteria from your mouth will grow on agar plates, but this classic method of measuring bacterial growth gave a baseline for comparison with previous studies.4 Dawson and his students found a lot of bacteria on the frosting from each of them. What surprised them was the variation between students and from blow to blow. On average, each time the candles were blown out the amount of bacteria increased 14 times.

However, in one case it increased the amount of bacteria 120 times.5 Why some people transfer more bacteria than others remains unclear. While this transfer of bacteria may sound gross, it’s typically harmless, and is highly unlikely to make you sick. If birthday cakes contributed significantly to spreading diseases, the practice would have become obsolete.

As noted by Dawson, “It’s not a big health concern in my perspective. In reality if you did this 100,000 times, then the chance of getting sick would probably be very minimal.” After all, a single French kiss can exchange as many as 80 million bacteria between mouths.6 That said, if you’re sick, it’s a good idea to refrain not only from French kissing but also from blowing out cake candles.

Contaminated Cake Unlikely to Spread Disease

Since the study was published, Dawson has heard from several people interested in how they may be able to protect their cakes from bacterial spray when the candles are blown out. There is even a current patent for a sanitary birthday cake cover and candle system7 to protect birthday cake consumers from extra bacteria.

However, most cakes won’t give you a cold and there are other ways you exchange bacteria with your family members you don’t find disgusting, such as drinking from someone’s cup or kissing. Moreover, it’s actually pretty difficult to catch a cold from saliva unless the individual has such a bad cough that viruses from the respiratory tract make it to the mouth.

Professor Emeritus Ron Eccles, former director of the Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University, commented on the ability to get a cold from saliva, saying, “The virus travels in the mucus from the respiratory system.

Unless you have a bad cough, and some of the respiratory mucus has made its way into your saliva, the cold virus will not be transmitted by kissing.” And, unless you are coughing or sneezing, and blowing candles at the same time, it’s highly unlikely you’ll get a cold from the bacteria that makes it to your birthday cake.

What’s in Your Mouth?

There are an estimated 300 different species of bacteria living in your mouth at any given time.8 Scientific photographer Steve Gschmeissner swabbed the inside of several mouths and took pictures of the bacteria under an electron microscope, demonstrating the incredible variety and scope of bacteria that live in the human mouth.

Bacteria may be found growing inside your cheeks, under your gums and on your teeth and tongue. Some of the bacteria are harmless and others help control the bacteria that causes tooth decay, the major contributors to which are Lactobacillus and Streptococcus mutans.9 Although part of the normal flora growing in your mouth, when it grows out of control and gains access to your teeth, it may lead to cavities.

Eating foods high in sugars creates a sticky film over your teeth, providing an ideal environment for bacteria in your mouth to adhere to teeth, grow quickly and cause damage.10 Even foods you may normally think of as healthy, such as raisins, are innately sticky and high in fructose, providing bacteria the nutrients they need to thrive.

The bacteria start the process by digesting sugars, producing lactic acid that lowers the pH of the mouth and encourages demineralization of the enamel covering your teeth. The bacteria also produce plaque that allows the bacteria to adhere to the teeth even longer.11 Bacteria then collect in the fissures in your teeth and a cavity begins to grow.

Poor oral health, including gum disease and multiple untreated cavities, are related to endocarditis, cardiovascular disease and premature birth or low birth weight babies.12,13 Chronic periodontitis may also lead to kidney disease and a loss of structural support for your teeth.14

Periodontal Disease and Cavities Are Dangerous to Your Health

Although you don’t want to eliminate the bacteria living in your mouth, as they serve a purpose, you do want to reduce your risk for periodontal disease and cavities. Periodontal disease may range from simple inflammation of your gums to a serious infection that affects your gums and bone that support your teeth.15 Plaque and bacteria on your teeth lead to inflammation of your gums, also called gingivitis. When left untreated it can result in periodontitis, the more severe form of periodontal disease.

In this case, pockets form around the tooth, allowing more bacteria to enter and your gum line often recedes. As this progresses, you may lose support for your teeth in your gums and bone. Tooth decay is the No. 1 chronic health problem in children.16 It is infectious, progressive and painful, and may be irreversible when left untreated. By third grade, over 70 percent of children in California have had dental caries, or cavities.

Severe dental disease may require emergency room treatment as cavities may lead to an abscess.17 These are pockets of pus that may develop in the tooth or gum that lead to pain, pressure, foul taste in your mouth and fever.18 Sometimes the pain stops when the infection destroys the pulp and nerve in your tooth, but it has not disappeared. Left untreated, an abscess may lead to sepsis as the infection travels through the rest of your body, and eventually to death.

Importance of a Healthy Oral Microbiome

Dr. Gerry Curatola, founder of Rejuvenation Dentistry, has over 30 years’ experience in biological dentistry. In this interview, he discusses the importance of your oral microbiome to your overall health, not the least of which is preventing cavities and periodontal disease.

Achieving good oral health is really about a balanced oral microbiome and not about killing the bacteria in your mouth. In other words, it’s about working with your body to achieve good health and not about following advertising that promises fresh breath after using antimicrobial agents and alcohol-based mouthwashes.

Your oral microbiome is related to your gut microbiome, but each is unique unto itself. As your mouth is the entry point to your gut, it has a protective element to defend your body from viruses and bacteria in your environment trying to gain access. Your oral bacteria also work with your saliva to begin the process of digestion. Curatola says:

“When we look at the oral microbiome, it’s an essential component of the salivary immune system; it aids in digestion, and it even makes vitamins. We are looking at ways to promote oral microbiome homeostasis. When we do that, we see amazing things happen, so amazing that you might not get the flu this winter … [I]mmune competence is a very important first line of defense, and that immune competence starts in the mouth.”

Interestingly, probiotics do not work in the mouth, so it’s not as simple as adding more beneficial microbes. As an initial step, you need to stop killing microbes in your mouth and encourage the balance of bacteria by reducing the nutrients that promote overgrowth. Curatola explains:

“Pathogens are now being recognized as resident microbes that are out of balance. When they’re under attack, they hunker down, they flick a switch … What we’re recognizing is that the same bacteria that keep us alive can have a pathogenic expression when disturbed. I have been kind of tooting the horn about getting out of the ‘pesticide business.’ I’m also speaking about natural pesticides.

Not just triclosan, clorhexidine and those synthetic types, but also tea tree oil, tulsi oil, oregano oil and other antimicrobial oils that, albeit they’re herbal, they have a potent disturbing effect on the oral microbiome.

In the mouth, you don’t want to have a ‘scorched earth policy’ or nuking all the bacteria and hoping the good bugs come back. What we found in our research is that good bugs basically have a harder chance of setting up a healthy-balanced microbiome when you disturb them, denature them or dehydrate them with alcohol-based products.”

Improve Your Oral Health Naturally

I used to be severely challenged with plaque — so much so I required very frequent visits to the dental hygienist just to keep up with it. Once I started adding fermented vegetables regularly to my diet, however, the plaque buildup was dramatically reduced.

In addition to an alkalizing, antioxidant-rich and anti-inflammatory diet, Curatola recommends eliminating detergent-based products such as toothpaste and antibacterial and alcohol- and fluoride-based mouthwashes. Again, it’s important to remember that your mouth is an organ that protects your body from dangerous infections and disease — provided it’s nourished enough to do its job. The following links can also help you find a mercury-free, biological dentist who can help you optimize your oral health:

Consumers for Dental Choice

Holistic Dental Association

Talk International

International Academy of Biological Dentistry & Medicine (IABDM)

Dental Amalgam Mercury Solutions (DAMS). Email them at: dams@usfamily.net or call 651-644-4572 for an information packet

Huggins Applied Healing. You’ll need to fill out a form and they will connect with you to find a suitable dentist in your area

‘What the Health’ — Where This Vegan PR Film Went Wrong

12/08/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

According to the sugar industry, sugar is harmless and may even be an important part of a healthy diet. Industry recommendations suggest getting 25 percent of your daily calories from sugar. This, despite research1 showing people who get 25 percent or more of their calories from sugar triple their risk of death from heart disease compared to those who get 7 percent or less of their calories from the sweet stuff.

The sugar industry promotes the myth that saturated fat is to blame for weight gain and ill health, not sugar, along with the thoroughly debunked energy balance theory. Fortunately, some great books have now been written exposing the history and extent of the cover-ups. Two examples are science journalist Gary Taubes’ book, “The Case Against Sugar,” and Marion Nestle’s “Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning).”

Which brings us to the topic of today’s article: The documentary “What the Health,”2 which is currently one of the most viewed documentaries on Netflix. Sadly, this film nonchalantly ignores the accumulated evidence against sugar in a misguided effort to promote vegan ideology.

What the Health?

Funded through an Indiegogo campaign,3 this film is supposed to “expose collusion and corruption in government and big business” that is keeping us sick. In reality, it’s a call to veganism, but some of the arguments are so flawed, it might as well be considered a freebie to the sugar industry.

While I agree in principle with recommendations to avoid all processed foods and meats raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), there are nuances with regard to meat consumption that I believe are vitally important if you’re interested in optimal health.

According to the film, the focus on sugar as a contributor to obesity, diabetes and ill health has steered people away from the real culprits, which they claim are meat and animal fat. Again, while I often warn against excessive consumption of animal protein, important details are overlooked in this film. Worse, the suggestion that sugar isn’t a problem is counterproductive to the point of rendering the film useless and laughable in terms of helping people take control of their health and well-being.

As far as I can tell, most if not all of the medical experts4,5,6,7,8,9 featured in the film are vegans and promote veganism to their patients, although they’re not introduced as such. The directors, Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn, and the executive producer Joaquin Phoenix are also vegan. As a result, the film presents a profoundly unbalanced view of what makes for an optimal diet. Some of the views presented are so demonstrably wrong, I found it difficult to watch.

Sugar Versus Fat — The Devil’s in the Details

For example, Dr. Neal Barnard, adjunct associate professor of medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences and president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, claims that diabetes is not caused by a high-carb, high-sugar diet. In his view, diabetes is caused by fat buildup caused by a meat-based diet. To treat diabetes, Barnard recommends a low-fat vegetarian diet, free of any and all animal products, without any restrictions on carbohydrates.10

While a high-vegetable diet is certainly beneficial, the low-fat, unrestricted-carb recommendation is upside-down and backward. Time and again, low-carb, high-fat diets have proven superior for controlling insulin resistance, which is the hallmark of obesity and metabolic dysfunction. Yet the film completely ignores the low-carb approach.

According to Barnard, the sugar in the cookie is what lures you in, but it’s the butter in the cookie that makes you fat. I believe it must be pointed out that unless you’re baking homemade cookies, cookies are not made with butter. Most cookies sold in grocery stores are made with processed vegetable oils, harmful fats that indeed damage your health and contribute to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and chronic ill health. But to vilify ALL fats is a fatal error.

Animal fats from organic, grass fed animals fall into the category of healthy fats, while processed vegetable oils are in the harmful category. Since most cookies are made with vegetable oil, as opposed to real butter, the fat in cookies is indeed part of the problem. But this harmful fat cannot be compared to saturated animal fat such as real butter from organic, grass fed animals, which has many important health benefits.

You also cannot overlook the influence of the sugar in the cookie. When it comes to processed foods in general, the combination of sugar and harmful vegetable oils is a lethal combination.

Why Does Sugar Get a Free Pass?

Dr. Garth Davis, a weight loss surgeon and author of “Proteinaholic,”11 is another vegan doctor who ignores the overwhelming evidence against sugar. “Sugar is not great,” he says, but it “does not cause inflammation … The focus on sugar has taken the focus off meat, dairy [and] eggs …” He goes so far as to say, “carbs cannot make you fat, in and of themselves.”

Sugar doesn’t cause inflammation? Carbs are incapable of making you fat? I’m at a loss to explain how any rational unbiased health professional  could still hold, let alone promote these views unless they have some hidden agenda or ulterior motive. The medical literature is filled with evidence showing processed sugar is one of the most inflammatory foods there is.12 It’s not the only one, but to give it a free pass is profoundly ignorant considering the evidence.

Excessive sugar clearly promotes insulin resistance, and insulin resistance is the fire that feeds chronic inflammation. Insulin resistance also promotes obesity, and fiber-free carbohydrates clearly are the primary culprit when it comes to packing on pounds, with processed fructose being readily converted to body fat.

Is Eating Meat a Healthy Choice?

An estimated 16 million Americans are vegans, which is typically considered a healthy and environmentally sound choice. However, there are drawbacks of strict veganism that need careful consideration. Mara Kahn’s book, “Vegan Betrayal: Love, Lies, and Hunger in a Plants-Only World,” reveals many oft-ignored facts about this strictly plant-based diet. Part of the confusion is that many vegans appear quite healthy in the earlier stages.

This isn’t so surprising when you consider the fact that many switch from processed foods to a mostly raw plant-based diet. The influx of live foods will undoubtedly improve your health. In the long term, however, the absence of all animal-based foods can take a toll, as certain nutrients cannot be obtained from the plant kingdom.

Carnosine, carnitine, taurine, vitamin B12 and long-chained omega-3 fats are just a few examples. As noted by Dr. Steven Gundry, author of “The Plant Paradox,” in which he explains the detrimental health impacts of plant-based lectins, his vegan patients tend to be some of the unhealthiest of all. The reason for this is because most vegans 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.13

As chairman of cardiothoracic surgery at Loma Linda University School of Medicine — a Seventh Day Adventist institution — Gundry also ate a vegetarian diet for about 15 years, and had “never been sicker” in his life. Despite running 30 miles a week and spending an hour in the gym each day, he was severely overweight, had high blood pressure and prediabetes.

Does this mean it’s impossible to be healthy on a vegan diet? Absolutely not. But it does mean vegans need to be more mindful of how to avoid the complications associated with an all-plant diet, especially if it’s weighted toward grains and legumes loaded with autoimmune-stimulating lectins.

Ethical Protein

There’s evidence showing animal proteins contribute to aging, and vegan Seventh Day Adventists are among the longest living humans on the planet. However, if you’re going to live on plants alone, you need to figure out how you’re going to obtain animal-based nutrients. In my view, there’s strong support for including small amounts of healthy animal protein in your diet.

Most Americans eat far more protein than required for optimal health, and this excess can trigger ill health by activating the mTOR pathway, which plays an important role in cancer and aging. Replacing carbs with protein is an unwise choice, as high-protein diets tend to have poor health outcomes in the long term. Net carbs need to be replaced with healthy fat, and protein needs to be restricted to what your body needs for growth and repair, which is actually far less than you might think.

Estimates suggest you only need about one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body mass. Quality is also a determining factor when it comes to the benefits and drawbacks of animal protein. Meat, dairy and eggs from CAFOs are best avoided altogether. Organically-raised, pastured or grass fed animals, on the other hand, offer superior nutrition — and as just mentioned, you don’t need very much.

Moreover, surveys show people convert to veganism primarily for ethical reasons, but veganism is not the only ethical diet out there. In fact, organic grass fed animals serve a very important role in regenerative agriculture.

Such animals not only contribute to environmental regeneration and ecological balance, but they’re also a very ethical choice in terms of eating, as they’re not abused or maltreated. They live their life as nature intended, roaming freely, eating a species-appropriate diet that supports their health and well-being. And then, at the species-appropriate time, they are humanely slaughtered for food.

What’s Wrong With CAFO Beef?

There are many troubling practices in mainstream beef production, where animals are raised in CAFOs. For starters, feed additives have a number of problematic aspects, and can contaminate both the food and the environment. Antibiotics are routinely given to factory farmed animals to prevent disease and promote rapid growth, and this is a major driving factor behind antibiotic-resistant disease. Very rarely are antibiotics administered to organic grass fed animals.

Moreover, there’s a great deal of research taking place all over the world to determine the best ways to regenerate the environment, and cattle are a key ingredient. According to Richard Teague, Ph.D., who’s been researching the impacts of cattle grazing for decades, careful management of the animals’ movements is essential. Densely congregated animals that are moved frequently is optimal.

The goal is to mimic the environmental impact that would be had by herds of wild animals. When you do that, it has dramatically positive impacts for the soil health, the water, the production of the water, and even for climate change. Most people believe that grazing is a negative, but that’s not true. Grazing is actually essential to balanced ecosystem functioning.

It stimulates plant growth, and helps press the seeds into the ground. The cattle also deposit urine and dung onto the land, which act as fertilizer. In this way, grazing herds accelerate the building of fertile topsoil. They also affect the water cycle because for every one percentage of organic matter in topsoil, 27,000 additional gallons of water is maintained in that water per acre.

Researchers have even found that when you have an intact ecosystem, which includes grazing animals, the soil microbes process large amounts of methane. According to Nicolette Hahn Niman, an environmental lawyer, sustainable rancher and author, Australian researchers found the total methane emitted from cattle in a well-managed system was fully offset by the soil microbes.

Is Eating Fish, Dairy and Eggs Safe and Healthy?

While the film starts out with a valid premise — the idea that processed meats are bad for your health, as the film progresses, more and more foods are tossed into the proverbial dustbin, until the entire animal food spectrum is covered.

According to this film, anything that comes from the animal kingdom promotes obesity, diabetes and chronic ill health. Not a single animal food gets a qualitative or quantitative pass. Personally, I believe most food groups have their problems these days. The key is to understand how quality and quantity influences your health.

Clearly, most fish are  contaminated with toxins these days, but if you choose wisely, the benefits of fish can still outweigh the hazards. To avoid environmental toxins, select wild-caught fish that are low on the food chain (farmed fish actually contain higher levels of toxins than most wild-caught fish). To get the most nutritional benefits, choose cold water, fatty fish such as sardines, anchovies and herring. These are high in long-chained omega-3 fats, which are actually structural elements that make up your cells.

The same thing goes for dairy and eggs. Quality and quantity are key considerations. CAFO milk and eggs have few redeeming qualities and are best avoided. Organic, pastured and grass fed milk and eggs, on the other hand, have a number of benefits. Cholesterol, for example, far from being a villain, plays a key role in regulating protein pathways involved in cell signaling and is needed within your cell membranes.

Your body is composed of trillions of cells that need to communicate with each other. Cholesterol is one of the molecules that allow these communications to take place. For example, cholesterol is the precursor to bile acids, so without sufficient amounts of cholesterol, your digestive system can be adversely affected.

It also plays an essential role in your brain, which contains about 25 percent of the cholesterol in your body. It is critical for synapse formation, i.e., the connections between your neurons, which allow you to think, learn new things, and form memories.

‘What the Health’ Falls Short By Regurgitating Old Health Fallacies

“What the Health” is a success in terms of promoting veganism. Sadly, it relies on outworn myths to deliver its hidden message and ulterior motivations. While the filmmakers and featured experts are all vegan, this is not expressed, leaving the average viewer to conclude that simply by following the trail of evidence, the filmmaker eventually reached the conclusion that a strict plant-based diet is the sanest, safest, healthiest alternative.

In reality, the film was undoubtedly created with the intention to promote the vegan lifestyle right from the start. That’s fine, as this is the U.S. and there are still First Amendment freedom of speech privileges.

What disturbs me is that they chose to promote the dangerous position that sugar and net carbs have no bearing on health, and that it’s all about animal foods — meats, saturated fats and cholesterol. In summary, the film presents a flat out wrong picture of what’s causing obesity, diabetes and related diseases. This is an absolute travesty, as it’s taken decades to turn the tide against these fallacies.

Your body is designed to have the metabolic flexibility to use both fat and glucose for fuel — not just one or the other. The reason conventional dietary advice has failed so miserably is because eating a high-carb diet for a long period of time results in the loss of this metabolic flexibility, making you unable to effectively burn fat for fuel.

None of this is addressed in this film, which instead reverts back to demonizing all dietary fats while giving sugar, of all things, a free pass. Additionally, the dangers of lectins from many “healthy” plants is completely ignored.

Eat Your Veggies, But Beware of False Sugar Claims

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 another source of incredibly healthy nutrients.

If ethics and animal welfare are your concerns, I would encourage you to investigate and educate yourself on humanely-raised animal foods. Yes, the animal will die in the end, but there’s a tremendous difference between the life of an animal raised in a CAFO and one raised on pasture that is allowed to live a full, healthy and stress-free life. There’s also a big difference in the way they’re slaughtered.

At the end of the day, it is ultimately your responsibility to choose for yourself and your children between the life of an animal somewhere — even if only a few rodents caught in a harvester — or your own health. A balance must be struck between optimizing your health and causing the least amount of unnecessary suffering.

Opportunities to Learn More

If you’re interested in learning more about how to use a ketogenic (high-fat, low-carb, moderate-protein) diet to optimize health and prevent disease, be sure to attend the ACIM conference in Orlando, Florida, November 2 through 4 at the wonderful Florida Conference and Hotel Center.

Birthday Candles Increase Bacterial Count on Cake

12/08/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

Like the rest of your body, the health of your mouth is dependent on the foods you eat. However, failing to develop the habit of brushing your teeth will also increase your risk of heart disease.1 Advanced gum disease may actually increase your risk of a fatal heart attack 10 times. Poor oral health also increases your risk of Type 2 diabetes by up to 700 percent, and to systemic inflammation that is linked to a number of different types of health conditions.

Unbalanced microflora in your mouth is also responsible for tooth decay. These bacteria then enter your bloodstream, increasing your levels of C-reactive protein that have an inflammatory effect on your whole body. Your oral health and hygiene help to prevent cavities and have an effect on your gut microbiome. You affect your oral microbiome with your oral hygiene habits, foods you eat and drinking fluoridated water or using fluoridated toothpaste.

By avoiding sugars and processed foods, you reduce the proliferation of bad bacteria. Proper brushing and flossing and regular cleanings with a mercury-free dentist will help ensure your teeth and gums stay healthy naturally. It’s also worth noting that while probiotics do not have a direct effect on your oral microbiome, addressing your gut flora can indeed make a big difference in your oral health.

However, the addition of bacteria from someone else’s mouth is not the type of probiotic supplementation that creates a healthy gut microbiome. Recent research found blowing on your food, or birthday cake, may increase the bacteria on the food by up to 1,400 percent.2

Blowing on Food Transfers Bacteria

Paul Dawson, Ph.D., food science professor at Clemson University, said his teenage daughter gave him the idea for a study that demonstrated large numbers of bacteria are transferred when you blow on food, such as when you blow out birthday candles.3 This is not his first study evaluating food safety, as he routinely conducts food analyses with his students at the university.

Dawson and his students simplified the study parameters by using a cake shaped Styrofoam piece, covered in foil and then frosted. The students and professor first ate pizza to simulate being at a birthday party and then placed candles in the fake cake and blew them out. Once all the students had a chance to blow out candles on their own fake cake, the frosting was retrieved, diluted in sterile water and spread on agar plates to encourage bacterial growth.

Not all of the bacteria from your mouth will grow on agar plates, but this classic method of measuring bacterial growth gave a baseline for comparison with previous studies.4 Dawson and his students found a lot of bacteria on the frosting from each of them. What surprised them was the variation between students and from blow to blow. On average, each time the candles were blown out the amount of bacteria increased 14 times.

However, in one case it increased the amount of bacteria 120 times.5 Why some people transfer more bacteria than others remains unclear. While this transfer of bacteria may sound gross, it’s typically harmless, and is highly unlikely to make you sick. If birthday cakes contributed significantly to spreading diseases, the practice would have become obsolete.

As noted by Dawson, “It’s not a big health concern in my perspective. In reality if you did this 100,000 times, then the chance of getting sick would probably be very minimal.” After all, a single French kiss can exchange as many as 80 million bacteria between mouths.6 That said, if you’re sick, it’s a good idea to refrain not only from French kissing but also from blowing out cake candles.

Contaminated Cake Unlikely to Spread Disease

Since the study was published, Dawson has heard from several people interested in how they may be able to protect their cakes from bacterial spray when the candles are blown out. There is even a current patent for a sanitary birthday cake cover and candle system7 to protect birthday cake consumers from extra bacteria.

However, most cakes won’t give you a cold and there are other ways you exchange bacteria with your family members you don’t find disgusting, such as drinking from someone’s cup or kissing. Moreover, it’s actually pretty difficult to catch a cold from saliva unless the individual has such a bad cough that viruses from the respiratory tract make it to the mouth.

Professor Emeritus Ron Eccles, former director of the Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University, commented on the ability to get a cold from saliva, saying, “The virus travels in the mucus from the respiratory system.

Unless you have a bad cough, and some of the respiratory mucus has made its way into your saliva, the cold virus will not be transmitted by kissing.” And, unless you are coughing or sneezing, and blowing candles at the same time, it’s highly unlikely you’ll get a cold from the bacteria that makes it to your birthday cake.

What’s in Your Mouth?

There are an estimated 300 different species of bacteria living in your mouth at any given time.8 Scientific photographer Steve Gschmeissner swabbed the inside of several mouths and took pictures of the bacteria under an electron microscope, demonstrating the incredible variety and scope of bacteria that live in the human mouth.

Bacteria may be found growing inside your cheeks, under your gums and on your teeth and tongue. Some of the bacteria are harmless and others help control the bacteria that causes tooth decay, the major contributors to which are Lactobacillus and Streptococcus mutans.9 Although part of the normal flora growing in your mouth, when it grows out of control and gains access to your teeth, it may lead to cavities.

Eating foods high in sugars creates a sticky film over your teeth, providing an ideal environment for bacteria in your mouth to adhere to teeth, grow quickly and cause damage.10 Even foods you may normally think of as healthy, such as raisins, are innately sticky and high in fructose, providing bacteria the nutrients they need to thrive.

The bacteria start the process by digesting sugars, producing lactic acid that lowers the pH of the mouth and encourages demineralization of the enamel covering your teeth. The bacteria also produce plaque that allows the bacteria to adhere to the teeth even longer.11 Bacteria then collect in the fissures in your teeth and a cavity begins to grow.

Poor oral health, including gum disease and multiple untreated cavities, are related to endocarditis, cardiovascular disease and premature birth or low birth weight babies.12,13 Chronic periodontitis may also lead to kidney disease and a loss of structural support for your teeth.14

Periodontal Disease and Cavities Are Dangerous to Your Health

Although you don’t want to eliminate the bacteria living in your mouth, as they serve a purpose, you do want to reduce your risk for periodontal disease and cavities. Periodontal disease may range from simple inflammation of your gums to a serious infection that affects your gums and bone that support your teeth.15 Plaque and bacteria on your teeth lead to inflammation of your gums, also called gingivitis. When left untreated it can result in periodontitis, the more severe form of periodontal disease.

In this case, pockets form around the tooth, allowing more bacteria to enter and your gum line often recedes. As this progresses, you may lose support for your teeth in your gums and bone. Tooth decay is the No. 1 chronic health problem in children.16 It is infectious, progressive and painful, and may be irreversible when left untreated. By third grade, over 70 percent of children in California have had dental caries, or cavities.

Severe dental disease may require emergency room treatment as cavities may lead to an abscess.17 These are pockets of pus that may develop in the tooth or gum that lead to pain, pressure, foul taste in your mouth and fever.18 Sometimes the pain stops when the infection destroys the pulp and nerve in your tooth, but it has not disappeared. Left untreated, an abscess may lead to sepsis as the infection travels through the rest of your body, and eventually to death.

Importance of a Healthy Oral Microbiome

Dr. Gerry Curatola, founder of Rejuvenation Dentistry, has over 30 years’ experience in biological dentistry. In this interview, he discusses the importance of your oral microbiome to your overall health, not the least of which is preventing cavities and periodontal disease.

Achieving good oral health is really about a balanced oral microbiome and not about killing the bacteria in your mouth. In other words, it’s about working with your body to achieve good health and not about following advertising that promises fresh breath after using antimicrobial agents and alcohol-based mouthwashes.

Your oral microbiome is related to your gut microbiome, but each is unique unto itself. As your mouth is the entry point to your gut, it has a protective element to defend your body from viruses and bacteria in your environment trying to gain access. Your oral bacteria also work with your saliva to begin the process of digestion. Curatola says:

“When we look at the oral microbiome, it’s an essential component of the salivary immune system; it aids in digestion, and it even makes vitamins. We are looking at ways to promote oral microbiome homeostasis. When we do that, we see amazing things happen, so amazing that you might not get the flu this winter … [I]mmune competence is a very important first line of defense, and that immune competence starts in the mouth.”

Interestingly, probiotics do not work in the mouth, so it’s not as simple as adding more beneficial microbes. As an initial step, you need to stop killing microbes in your mouth and encourage the balance of bacteria by reducing the nutrients that promote overgrowth. Curatola explains:

“Pathogens are now being recognized as resident microbes that are out of balance. When they’re under attack, they hunker down, they flick a switch … What we’re recognizing is that the same bacteria that keep us alive can have a pathogenic expression when disturbed. I have been kind of tooting the horn about getting out of the ‘pesticide business.’ I’m also speaking about natural pesticides.

Not just triclosan, clorhexidine and those synthetic types, but also tea tree oil, tulsi oil, oregano oil and other antimicrobial oils that, albeit they’re herbal, they have a potent disturbing effect on the oral microbiome.

In the mouth, you don’t want to have a ‘scorched earth policy’ or nuking all the bacteria and hoping the good bugs come back. What we found in our research is that good bugs basically have a harder chance of setting up a healthy-balanced microbiome when you disturb them, denature them or dehydrate them with alcohol-based products.”

Improve Your Oral Health Naturally

I used to be severely challenged with plaque — so much so I required very frequent visits to the dental hygienist just to keep up with it. Once I started adding fermented vegetables regularly to my diet, however, the plaque buildup was dramatically reduced.

In addition to an alkalizing, antioxidant-rich and anti-inflammatory diet, Curatola recommends eliminating detergent-based products such as toothpaste and antibacterial and alcohol- and fluoride-based mouthwashes. Again, it’s important to remember that your mouth is an organ that protects your body from dangerous infections and disease — provided it’s nourished enough to do its job. The following links can also help you find a mercury-free, biological dentist who can help you optimize your oral health:

Consumers for Dental Choice

Holistic Dental Association

Talk International

International Academy of Biological Dentistry & Medicine (IABDM)

Dental Amalgam Mercury Solutions (DAMS). Email them at: dams@usfamily.net or call 651-644-4572 for an information packet

Huggins Applied Healing. You’ll need to fill out a form and they will connect with you to find a suitable dentist in your area

‘What the Health’ — Where This Vegan PR Film Went Wrong

12/08/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

According to the sugar industry, sugar is harmless and may even be an important part of a healthy diet. Industry recommendations suggest getting 25 percent of your daily calories from sugar. This, despite research1 showing people who get 25 percent or more of their calories from sugar triple their risk of death from heart disease compared to those who get 7 percent or less of their calories from the sweet stuff.

The sugar industry promotes the myth that saturated fat is to blame for weight gain and ill health, not sugar, along with the thoroughly debunked energy balance theory. Fortunately, some great books have now been written exposing the history and extent of the cover-ups. Two examples are science journalist Gary Taubes’ book, “The Case Against Sugar,” and Marion Nestle’s “Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning).”

Which brings us to the topic of today’s article: The documentary “What the Health,”2 which is currently one of the most viewed documentaries on Netflix. Sadly, this film nonchalantly ignores the accumulated evidence against sugar in a misguided effort to promote vegan ideology.

What the Health?

Funded through an Indiegogo campaign,3 this film is supposed to “expose collusion and corruption in government and big business” that is keeping us sick. In reality, it’s a call to veganism, but some of the arguments are so flawed, it might as well be considered a freebie to the sugar industry.

While I agree in principle with recommendations to avoid all processed foods and meats raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), there are nuances with regard to meat consumption that I believe are vitally important if you’re interested in optimal health.

According to the film, the focus on sugar as a contributor to obesity, diabetes and ill health has steered people away from the real culprits, which they claim are meat and animal fat. Again, while I often warn against excessive consumption of animal protein, important details are overlooked in this film. Worse, the suggestion that sugar isn’t a problem is counterproductive to the point of rendering the film useless and laughable in terms of helping people take control of their health and well-being.

As far as I can tell, most if not all of the medical experts4,5,6,7,8,9 featured in the film are vegans and promote veganism to their patients, although they’re not introduced as such. The directors, Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn, and the executive producer Joaquin Phoenix are also vegan. As a result, the film presents a profoundly unbalanced view of what makes for an optimal diet. Some of the views presented are so demonstrably wrong, I found it difficult to watch.

Sugar Versus Fat — The Devil’s in the Details

For example, Dr. Neal Barnard, adjunct associate professor of medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences and president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, claims that diabetes is not caused by a high-carb, high-sugar diet. In his view, diabetes is caused by fat buildup caused by a meat-based diet. To treat diabetes, Barnard recommends a low-fat vegetarian diet, free of any and all animal products, without any restrictions on carbohydrates.10

While a high-vegetable diet is certainly beneficial, the low-fat, unrestricted-carb recommendation is upside-down and backward. Time and again, low-carb, high-fat diets have proven superior for controlling insulin resistance, which is the hallmark of obesity and metabolic dysfunction. Yet the film completely ignores the low-carb approach.

According to Barnard, the sugar in the cookie is what lures you in, but it’s the butter in the cookie that makes you fat. I believe it must be pointed out that unless you’re baking homemade cookies, cookies are not made with butter. Most cookies sold in grocery stores are made with processed vegetable oils, harmful fats that indeed damage your health and contribute to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and chronic ill health. But to vilify ALL fats is a fatal error.

Animal fats from organic, grass fed animals fall into the category of healthy fats, while processed vegetable oils are in the harmful category. Since most cookies are made with vegetable oil, as opposed to real butter, the fat in cookies is indeed part of the problem. But this harmful fat cannot be compared to saturated animal fat such as real butter from organic, grass fed animals, which has many important health benefits.

You also cannot overlook the influence of the sugar in the cookie. When it comes to processed foods in general, the combination of sugar and harmful vegetable oils is a lethal combination.

Why Does Sugar Get a Free Pass?

Dr. Garth Davis, a weight loss surgeon and author of “Proteinaholic,”11 is another vegan doctor who ignores the overwhelming evidence against sugar. “Sugar is not great,” he says, but it “does not cause inflammation … The focus on sugar has taken the focus off meat, dairy [and] eggs …” He goes so far as to say, “carbs cannot make you fat, in and of themselves.”

Sugar doesn’t cause inflammation? Carbs are incapable of making you fat? I’m at a loss to explain how any rational unbiased health professional  could still hold, let alone promote these views unless they have some hidden agenda or ulterior motive. The medical literature is filled with evidence showing processed sugar is one of the most inflammatory foods there is.12 It’s not the only one, but to give it a free pass is profoundly ignorant considering the evidence.

Excessive sugar clearly promotes insulin resistance, and insulin resistance is the fire that feeds chronic inflammation. Insulin resistance also promotes obesity, and fiber-free carbohydrates clearly are the primary culprit when it comes to packing on pounds, with processed fructose being readily converted to body fat.

Is Eating Meat a Healthy Choice?

An estimated 16 million Americans are vegans, which is typically considered a healthy and environmentally sound choice. However, there are drawbacks of strict veganism that need careful consideration. Mara Kahn’s book, “Vegan Betrayal: Love, Lies, and Hunger in a Plants-Only World,” reveals many oft-ignored facts about this strictly plant-based diet. Part of the confusion is that many vegans appear quite healthy in the earlier stages.

This isn’t so surprising when you consider the fact that many switch from processed foods to a mostly raw plant-based diet. The influx of live foods will undoubtedly improve your health. In the long term, however, the absence of all animal-based foods can take a toll, as certain nutrients cannot be obtained from the plant kingdom.

Carnosine, carnitine, taurine, vitamin B12 and long-chained omega-3 fats are just a few examples. As noted by Dr. Steven Gundry, author of “The Plant Paradox,” in which he explains the detrimental health impacts of plant-based lectins, his vegan patients tend to be some of the unhealthiest of all. The reason for this is because most vegans 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.13

As chairman of cardiothoracic surgery at Loma Linda University School of Medicine — a Seventh Day Adventist institution — Gundry also ate a vegetarian diet for about 15 years, and had “never been sicker” in his life. Despite running 30 miles a week and spending an hour in the gym each day, he was severely overweight, had high blood pressure and prediabetes.

Does this mean it’s impossible to be healthy on a vegan diet? Absolutely not. But it does mean vegans need to be more mindful of how to avoid the complications associated with an all-plant diet, especially if it’s weighted toward grains and legumes loaded with autoimmune-stimulating lectins.

Ethical Protein

There’s evidence showing animal proteins contribute to aging, and vegan Seventh Day Adventists are among the longest living humans on the planet. However, if you’re going to live on plants alone, you need to figure out how you’re going to obtain animal-based nutrients. In my view, there’s strong support for including small amounts of healthy animal protein in your diet.

Most Americans eat far more protein than required for optimal health, and this excess can trigger ill health by activating the mTOR pathway, which plays an important role in cancer and aging. Replacing carbs with protein is an unwise choice, as high-protein diets tend to have poor health outcomes in the long term. Net carbs need to be replaced with healthy fat, and protein needs to be restricted to what your body needs for growth and repair, which is actually far less than you might think.

Estimates suggest you only need about one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body mass. Quality is also a determining factor when it comes to the benefits and drawbacks of animal protein. Meat, dairy and eggs from CAFOs are best avoided altogether. Organically-raised, pastured or grass fed animals, on the other hand, offer superior nutrition — and as just mentioned, you don’t need very much.

Moreover, surveys show people convert to veganism primarily for ethical reasons, but veganism is not the only ethical diet out there. In fact, organic grass fed animals serve a very important role in regenerative agriculture.

Such animals not only contribute to environmental regeneration and ecological balance, but they’re also a very ethical choice in terms of eating, as they’re not abused or maltreated. They live their life as nature intended, roaming freely, eating a species-appropriate diet that supports their health and well-being. And then, at the species-appropriate time, they are humanely slaughtered for food.

What’s Wrong With CAFO Beef?

There are many troubling practices in mainstream beef production, where animals are raised in CAFOs. For starters, feed additives have a number of problematic aspects, and can contaminate both the food and the environment. Antibiotics are routinely given to factory farmed animals to prevent disease and promote rapid growth, and this is a major driving factor behind antibiotic-resistant disease. Very rarely are antibiotics administered to organic grass fed animals.

Moreover, there’s a great deal of research taking place all over the world to determine the best ways to regenerate the environment, and cattle are a key ingredient. According to Richard Teague, Ph.D., who’s been researching the impacts of cattle grazing for decades, careful management of the animals’ movements is essential. Densely congregated animals that are moved frequently is optimal.

The goal is to mimic the environmental impact that would be had by herds of wild animals. When you do that, it has dramatically positive impacts for the soil health, the water, the production of the water, and even for climate change. Most people believe that grazing is a negative, but that’s not true. Grazing is actually essential to balanced ecosystem functioning.

It stimulates plant growth, and helps press the seeds into the ground. The cattle also deposit urine and dung onto the land, which act as fertilizer. In this way, grazing herds accelerate the building of fertile topsoil. They also affect the water cycle because for every one percentage of organic matter in topsoil, 27,000 additional gallons of water is maintained in that water per acre.

Researchers have even found that when you have an intact ecosystem, which includes grazing animals, the soil microbes process large amounts of methane. According to Nicolette Hahn Niman, an environmental lawyer, sustainable rancher and author, Australian researchers found the total methane emitted from cattle in a well-managed system was fully offset by the soil microbes.

Is Eating Fish, Dairy and Eggs Safe and Healthy?

While the film starts out with a valid premise — the idea that processed meats are bad for your health, as the film progresses, more and more foods are tossed into the proverbial dustbin, until the entire animal food spectrum is covered.

According to this film, anything that comes from the animal kingdom promotes obesity, diabetes and chronic ill health. Not a single animal food gets a qualitative or quantitative pass. Personally, I believe most food groups have their problems these days. The key is to understand how quality and quantity influences your health.

Clearly, most fish are  contaminated with toxins these days, but if you choose wisely, the benefits of fish can still outweigh the hazards. To avoid environmental toxins, select wild-caught fish that are low on the food chain (farmed fish actually contain higher levels of toxins than most wild-caught fish). To get the most nutritional benefits, choose cold water, fatty fish such as sardines, anchovies and herring. These are high in long-chained omega-3 fats, which are actually structural elements that make up your cells.

The same thing goes for dairy and eggs. Quality and quantity are key considerations. CAFO milk and eggs have few redeeming qualities and are best avoided. Organic, pastured and grass fed milk and eggs, on the other hand, have a number of benefits. Cholesterol, for example, far from being a villain, plays a key role in regulating protein pathways involved in cell signaling and is needed within your cell membranes.

Your body is composed of trillions of cells that need to communicate with each other. Cholesterol is one of the molecules that allow these communications to take place. For example, cholesterol is the precursor to bile acids, so without sufficient amounts of cholesterol, your digestive system can be adversely affected.

It also plays an essential role in your brain, which contains about 25 percent of the cholesterol in your body. It is critical for synapse formation, i.e., the connections between your neurons, which allow you to think, learn new things, and form memories.

‘What the Health’ Falls Short By Regurgitating Old Health Fallacies

“What the Health” is a success in terms of promoting veganism. Sadly, it relies on outworn myths to deliver its hidden message and ulterior motivations. While the filmmakers and featured experts are all vegan, this is not expressed, leaving the average viewer to conclude that simply by following the trail of evidence, the filmmaker eventually reached the conclusion that a strict plant-based diet is the sanest, safest, healthiest alternative.

In reality, the film was undoubtedly created with the intention to promote the vegan lifestyle right from the start. That’s fine, as this is the U.S. and there are still First Amendment freedom of speech privileges.

What disturbs me is that they chose to promote the dangerous position that sugar and net carbs have no bearing on health, and that it’s all about animal foods — meats, saturated fats and cholesterol. In summary, the film presents a flat out wrong picture of what’s causing obesity, diabetes and related diseases. This is an absolute travesty, as it’s taken decades to turn the tide against these fallacies.

Your body is designed to have the metabolic flexibility to use both fat and glucose for fuel — not just one or the other. The reason conventional dietary advice has failed so miserably is because eating a high-carb diet for a long period of time results in the loss of this metabolic flexibility, making you unable to effectively burn fat for fuel.

None of this is addressed in this film, which instead reverts back to demonizing all dietary fats while giving sugar, of all things, a free pass. Additionally, the dangers of lectins from many “healthy” plants is completely ignored.

Eat Your Veggies, But Beware of False Sugar Claims

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 another source of incredibly healthy nutrients.

If ethics and animal welfare are your concerns, I would encourage you to investigate and educate yourself on humanely-raised animal foods. Yes, the animal will die in the end, but there’s a tremendous difference between the life of an animal raised in a CAFO and one raised on pasture that is allowed to live a full, healthy and stress-free life. There’s also a big difference in the way they’re slaughtered.

At the end of the day, it is ultimately your responsibility to choose for yourself and your children between the life of an animal somewhere — even if only a few rodents caught in a harvester — or your own health. A balance must be struck between optimizing your health and causing the least amount of unnecessary suffering.

Opportunities to Learn More

If you’re interested in learning more about how to use a ketogenic (high-fat, low-carb, moderate-protein) diet to optimize health and prevent disease, be sure to attend the ACIM conference in Orlando, Florida, November 2 through 4 at the wonderful Florida Conference and Hotel Center.

Gratitude — The Hidden Key to Health and Happiness

10/08/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

An ever-growing body of research confirms that gratitude has a number of potent health benefits. As noted by Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy,1 an expert in brain and mind health:2 “If [thankfulness] were a drug, it would be the world’s best-selling product with a health maintenance indication for every major organ system.” Gratitude actually alters your brain in a number of beneficial ways, and helps:3

  1. Improve physical health by having a general pain-lowering effect, lowering inflammation and blood sugar, improving immune function,4blood pressure and heart health5 and encouraging general self-care
  2. Increase happiness and life satisfaction by lowering stress and emotional distress
  3. Improve emotional resiliency, which also helps combat stress and anxiety
  4. Improve mental health by triggering the release of antidepressant and mood-regulating chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and oxytocin, while inhibiting the stress hormone cortisol
  5. Improve sleep,6 which can have far-reaching benefits for physical and mental health

Research has also demonstrated that gratitude is the single best predictor of good relationships. Indeed, long before modern scientists confirmed these benefits, the philosophers of old espoused gratitude as the way to sanity, good health and life satisfaction.

Defining Gratitude

I recently finished reading “The Little Book of Gratitude,” by Robert Emmons. It’s a great book that I highly recommend if you need some inspiration. In it, he states, “We did not create or fashion ourselves, and we did not get to where we are in life by ourselves. So, living in gratitude is living in truth. It is the most accurate and honest approach to life.”

According to Emmons, gratitude involves “affirming the good and recognizing its sources. It is the understanding that life owes me nothing and all the good I have is a gift, accompanied by an awareness that nothing can be taken for granted.”

Generosity and Happiness Are Neurally Linked

Interestingly, generosity has also been linked to happiness, which may seem counterintuitive since giving to others means sacrificing some of your own physical or emotional resources. Still, many decide to do it anyway — perhaps because they anticipate the feel-good afterglow.7 This experience has now been validated by science showing that generosity and happiness are actually wired together in your brain. As explained by the researchers:8

“We hypothesized that participants who had committed to spending their endowment on others would behave more generously in the decision-making task as well as self-report greater increases in happiness as compared to the control group. Importantly, we predicted that the neural link between generosity and happiness would involve functional interactions between brain regions engaged in generous behavior (TPJ) and those mediating happiness (ventral striatum).

The results confirmed our hypotheses. We found significantly higher levels of generous behavior and happiness, as reflected by greater TPJ activity for generous choices and generosity-related connectivity of the TPJ with striatal happiness regions in the experimental group. We thus conclude that the interplay of these brain regions links commitment-induced generosity with happiness.”

Unfortunately, many underestimate the link between generosity and happiness, and in fact assume the opposite — that they will be happier after spending money on themselves than others, for example.9 Now that you know otherwise, you can put this pearl of wisdom to good use. As study author, professor Phillipe Tobler, from the department of economics at the University of Zurich, said in a news release, “You don’t need to become a self-sacrificing martyr to feel happier. Just being a little more generous will suffice.”10

Gratitude Is a Form of Generosity

Generosity does not necessarily have to involve money. Indeed, gratitude is a form of generosity, because it involves offering or extending “something” to another person — even if it’s only a verbal affirmation of thanks. After all, it’s not yourself you are grateful for but rather something or someone outside of yourself. Moreover, as noted by Emmons:

“In order for gratitude to exist, the giver must act intentionally, typically at some self-sacrifice, to bestow something worthwhile. The one receiving the gift needs to recognize it as a gift, as something good that was freely given. So gratitude engages at least three different aspects of the mind. We intellectually recognize the benefit, we willingly acknowledge this benefit, and we emotionally appreciate both the gift and the giver.

The term “gift” is important in this context because gifts are unearned, things we are not owed by the giver and to which we are not entitled … When we are grateful, we recognize that we have no claim on the gift or benefit received, and it was freely bestowed out of compassion, generosity or love.

To recognize this gift is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is not simply a strategy or tactic for feeling better or for increasing our personal happiness. It does something much more than that. Gratitude enables a person to feel good and also to do good.”

Sow Seeds of Gratitude Every Day

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.11

In one 2015 study,12 participants who kept a gratitude diary and reflected on what they were grateful for four times a week for three weeks reported improvements in depression, stress and happiness. A mindfulness intervention, consisting of a mindfulness diary and mindfulness meditation, led to similar improvements. Indeed, it’s important to remember that you get more of what you focus on, so be mindful of the kinds of thoughts you entertain — especially at night. Emmons suggests:

“After you get into bed, but before drifting off to sleep, try to focus on pleasant thoughts — good things happening to your family or friends; the soothing sounds in your bedroom; how fortunate you are to be in good health; future plans, such as holidays or an upcoming trip; enjoyable things you did during the past few days; how relaxed you are feeling; good things that other people have done for you …

Neuroscientist Rick Hanson has said that the brain takes the shape the mind rests upon. Rest your mind upon worry, sadness, annoyance and irritability and it will begin to take the shape neurally of anxiety, depression and anger. Ask your brain to give thanks and it will get better at finding things to be grateful for, and begin to take the shape of gratitude.

Everything we do creates connections within networks of the brain, and the more you repeat something, the stronger those connections get. The mind can change the brain in lasting ways. In other words, what flows through the mind sculpts the brain.”

Avoiding getting sucked into bad news is the other side of this equation. You may have to limit your media exposure if you find it difficult to maintain a positive outlook in the face of world events. The Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) can be a helpful tool if you struggle with pessimism.

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.

What I’m Grateful for Right Now

As Mercola.com celebrates its 20th year online, I have much to be thankful for, especially my awesome staff, without whom this website would not be what it is today. There are many editors, customer support, an IT tech team and great managers and administrators that make all of this possible.

You may not realize it but when I started the site 20 years ago, I was the only employee and I still had a full time medical practice. I found the articles, edited them and uploaded them to the site. It wasn’t until a year or two later that I actually hired a sorely needed editor, and then additional staff followed. I also never sold anything on the site for about five years but realized I could not pay the bills on my salary, so eventually I took the steps necessary to make the site pay for itself.

I also want to express my deep gratitude to all of you who support this work by reading the newsletter and sharing your knowledge of and experience with these health principles with your family and friends, thereby “paying it forward” in countless ways, helping the world get healthier one person at a time.

I often receive notes of thanks from readers, some of which are featured in the video above. Knowing that people are turning their lives around and regaining their health brings me great joy and satisfaction. My search for optimal health has been a lifelong journey, and I am  grateful for all of you who walk the path with me.

So many people struggle needlessly, having been fooled by the food and drug industries deceptive propaganda that, for many decades now, have pointed everyone in the wrong direction. Together, we are making a difference though, helping turn the current disease paradigm around. While it’s certainly true that we still have a long way to go, positive changes are afoot, and in time, I believe truth and sanity will prevail. We just have to maintain a positive attitude and keep going.

Simple Practices That Strengthen Your Gratitude Muscle

In conclusion, following is a list of suggestions summarized from Emmons’ book, “The Little Book of Gratitude,” which will help strengthen your sense of thankfulness:

  • Focus on the benevolence of other people instead of being so self-centered. Doing so will increase your sense of being supported by life and decrease unnecessary anxieties. Cherishing the kindness of others also means you’re less likely to take them for granted.
  • Focus on what you have received rather than what’s been withheld. “The ‘surplus’ mode will increase our feelings of worth; the ‘deficit’ mode will lead us to think how incomplete our life is,” Emmons says.
  • Acknowledge your positive emotions rather than suppressing them. “Gratitude recruits other positive emotions, such as joy, contentment and hope, and these produce direct physical benefits through the immune or endocrine systems,” Emmons writes. “A grateful perspective on life is a stress-buster, so grateful people are more equipped than others to deal with uncertainties, ambiguities and situations that trigger anxiety.”
  • Avoid comparing yourself to people you perceive to have more advantages. Doing so will only erode your sense of security. As Emmons notes, “Wanting more is related to increased anxiety and unhappiness. A healthier comparison is to contemplate what life would be like without a pleasure that you now enjoy … Gratitude buffers you from emotions that drive anxiety. You cannot be grateful and envious, or grateful while harboring regrets.”
  • Give credit to others while also acknowledging your own contributions. Expressing gratitude is not an either/or proposition. Being grateful for someone’s help does not negate your own contributions.

Emmons also includes a number of practical exercises in his book. Here are two that will help you flex your gratitude muscle:

1. Write a letter to a person for whom you feel grateful. “Describe specifically why you are grateful, how he or she has affected your life, and how often you reflect on his or her efforts,” Emmons suggests. “If you feel [like it] you can deliver the letter in person, arrange to visit but do not say what the visit is about.

Read your letter out loud to the recipient. Be prepared to have your heart touched and to see the other person’s heart touched as well. Allow yourself to open up to whatever the experience has in store for both of you, and spend some time talking about it with your friend.”

2. Practice mindful thank yous for seven days straight. “When thanking someone who has done something for you, whether large or small, be specific, comment on the effort it has taken, and the cost, and keep the focus on that person,” Emmons suggests. “For example, ‘Thank you for bringing me my tea in bed. I really appreciate you getting up early each day. You’re so thoughtful.’ The key to effectiveness is to achieve some separation between the kind act and your expression.”

Your Gut Can Help Fight Depression and High Blood Pressure

10/08/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

Trillions of bacteria live in your gut, influencing your body’s homeostasis daily. Far from being restricted to the confines of your intestinal tract, your gut microbiota is intricately tied to other body systems via a number of complex pathways, including the gut-brain axis and a recently revealed gut-brain-bone marrow axis, the latter of which may influence your blood pressure, mood and more.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that your brain, your immune system and your gut microbes are intricately linked, so it’s not a stretch to add bone marrow to the list of connections. Immune cells stem from bone marrow, and bone marrow inflammation, which may result from high blood pressure, is known to be caused by a signal from the brain. In a study published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology, researchers further revealed that immune cells in bone marrow play an important role in signaling between the brain and gut.1,2

Gut-Brain-Bone Marrow Connection Revealed

In an animal study, researchers replaced natural bone marrow in mice with bone marrow cells from genetically engineered (GE) mice. The marrow had been modified to be deficient in adrenergic receptor beta, making it less responsive to messages from the brain.

“In this way,” researchers wrote in The Conversation, “we could investigate how the host brain-immune communication will modify gut microbiota. Indeed, by studying this new mouse model, we determined that our nervous system — directed by our brain — can modify the composition of gut microbiota by communicating directly with the bone marrow immune cells. The brain, therefore, can change our gut microbiota indirectly by talking to the bone.”3

In short, when bone marrow was less able to communicate with the brain, a “muted inflammatory response” was observed in the gut, which in turn led to a more diverse (i.e., healthier) microbiome. The study shed light on one of the complex ways your gut health may be implicated in that of your heart and brain, with researchers noting:4

“In the context of cardiovascular disease, this muted inflammatory response appears to be beneficial, as it leads to beneficial lowering of blood pressure in our experimental mice.

Most interestingly, a link between gut microbiota and our mental health has recently become clearer. In particular, some have suggested that gut microbiota influence the stress and anxiety pathways in the brain in a way that can alter mood and behavior both positively and negatively, giving a whole new meaning to the term ‘gut feeling.'”

Imbalanced Gut Microbes Play a Role in High Blood Pressure

Imbalanced gut microbes, known as gut dysbiosis, have been previously linked to heart disease and high blood pressure, but a recent animal study shed further light on the unique connection.5 Researchers gave rats antibiotics for 10 days to wipe out their natural microbiota, then transplanted hypertensive microbiota into rats with normal blood pressure. Rats with high blood pressure, in turn, were transplanted with normal microbiota.6

The results were surprising in that the rats treated with hypertensive microbiota developed high blood pressure, while the transplantation of normal microbiota led to only a slight reduction in blood pressure among the hypertensive rats. “We conclude that gut dysbiosis can directly affect SBP [systolic blood pressure],” the researchers wrote, adding that manipulating gut microbiota, such as via the use of probiotics or eating fermented foods, may be an “innovative treatment for hypertension.”7

However, it’s not the first time such a link has been revealed. A systematic review and meta-analysis of nine randomized, controlled studies found significant benefits among people with high blood pressure who consumed probiotics in products like yogurt and milk.8 On average, compared to a placebo, the probiotic consumption lowered systolic blood pressure (the top number) by 3.56 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) by 2.38 mm Hg.

It appeared that at least 100 billion colony-forming units of probiotics a day were necessary to trigger such improvements, and the benefit was only seen in those who consumed probiotics for eight weeks or more. In 2015, meanwhile, certain gut microbes, namely firmicutes and bacteroidetes, were associated with increased blood pressure in rats.

“Products of the fermentation of nutrients by gut microbiota can influence blood pressure by regulating expenditure of energy, intestinal metabolism of catecholamines, and gastrointestinal and renal ion transport, and thus, salt sensitivity,” according to research published in the journal Current Opinion in Nephrology and Hypertension.9

Probiotics Found to Benefit Gut Diseases, Mental Health

The addition of beneficial microbes has been found to benefit people struggling with serious gut diseases, including necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), which often occurs in premature infants and can be fatal. An Australian study revealed that probiotic supplementation significantly reduced NEC risk and mortality in preterm neonates, lowering the incidence of NEC in premature babies by at least 30 percent.10

Probiotics have also been found to benefit irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), of which disturbances in the gut microbiota are often seen.11 Compared to placebo, probiotic therapy was found to reduce pain and symptom severity among people with IBS,12 and probiotics are also known to prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea in children.13

On the mental front, a small study involving adults diagnosed with IBS and depression 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.14

Those receiving the probiotic also reported fewer symptoms of IBS and improved overall quality of life. At the end of 10 weeks, approximately twice as many in the treatment group were still reporting lower levels of depression.

Interestingly, functional MRI scans revealed a link between reductions in depression score and actual changes in brain activity, specifically in areas involved in mood regulation, such as the amygdala. As noted by Dr. Roger McIntyre, professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at the University of Toronto, who was not involved in the study:15

“We know that one part of the brain, the amygdala, tends to be red-hot in people with depression, and it seemed to cool down with this intervention. It provides more scientific believability that something in the brain, at a very biological level, seems to be affected by this probiotic.”

Are Personalized Probiotics the Answer?

As for which strains of probiotic are best, the answer may be harder to come by. Emma Allen-Vercoe, a microbiologist at the University of Guelph in Ontario, told Scientific American, “Bacterial strains are so genetically different from one another, and everybody has a different gut microbiota … There will probably never be a one-size-fits-all probiotic.”16

Studies suggest, for instance, that some people may benefit more from probiotics than others if they’re “low” in a certain variety that is then added to their diet. As Scientific American reported:17

“In other words, their gut ecosystems had a vacancy that the probiotic filled. That is exactly the kind of insight that clinicians need to create and recommend more effective probiotics. If a doctor knows that an individual with severe diarrhea has an undersized population of a particular beneficial microbe, for example, then prescribing the missing strain should increase the chance of a successful treatment.”

Other research has looked into the benefits of certain strains of bacteria, such as Bifidobacteria, which tend to be abundant in babies’ intestines but typically make up less than 10 percent of the gut microbiome bacteria in adults.18 Low levels of Bifidobacteria, in turn, are linked to chronic diseases like celiac disease, diabetes, allergic asthma and even obesity, while supplementing with them has been found to benefit IBS, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, psoriasis, depression and more.19

Another type of bacteria, lactobacillus, has been shown to reduce anxiety in animal studies,20 while taking a probiotic with eight different bacterial strains reduced aggressive and ruminative thoughts in a study of adult volunteers.21,22

The Lectin Connection and How Leaky Gut Can Destroy Your Health

It’s important to be aware that gut dysbiosis, also known as leaky gut, is not only a major gut disrupter linked to digestive disorders, but may also contribute to other chronic diseases like Alzheimer’s and possibly cancer. If your gut is leaky, your blood-brain barrier is also leaky, which means toxins can go right into your brain, affecting your cognitive and mental health.

Further, leaky gut can be triggered by a number of factors, including imbalanced gut microbiota that result from dietary factors, such as the consumption of sugar as well as lectins. This latter component is very important. Lectins are plant proteins, sometimes called sticky proteins or glycan-binding proteins, because they seek out and bind to certain sugar molecules on the surface of cells. There are many types of lectins, and the main difference between them is the type of sugar each prefers and binds to.

Some — including wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), found in wheat and other grass-family seeds — bind to specific receptor sites on your intestinal mucosal cells and interfere with the absorption of nutrients across your intestinal wall.

As such, they act as “antinutrients,” and can have a detrimental effect on your gut microbiome by shifting the balance of your bacterial flora — a common precursor to leaky gut. Dr. Steven Gundry, author of “The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in ‘Healthy’ Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain,” makes a strong case for a lectin-free diet, stating:

“Our microbiome is, I think, our early warning system, because about 99 percent of all the genes that make up [the human body] are actually nonhuman, they’re bacterial, viral and fungal … [from which] we’ve uploaded most of the information about interacting with our environment … because the microbiome is capable of almost instantaneous changing and information processing that we actually don’t have the ability to do.

We’re beginning to realize … that the microbiome is not only how we interact with plant materials … like lectins, but probably more importantly, our microbiome teaches our immune system whether a particular plant compound is a friend or foe [based on] how long we’ve known that plant compound. There are lectins in everything.

But the longer we’ve interacted with lectins and the longer our microbiome has interacted with them, the more our microbiome kind of tells our immune system, ‘Hey, guys, it’s cool. We’ve known these guys for 40 million years. Chill out. They’re a pain, but we can handle them.’

From an evolutionary perspective, if you look at modern foods — say the grains and the beans, which we started interacting with 10,000 years ago, which is a blink of time — our microbiome [regards them as] foreign substances … [T]here’s no lectin speed dating in evolution.”

Lectins are strongly associated with autoimmune disorders of all kinds, primarily by triggering leaky gut. They’re found in many of our most cherished foods, such as:

Potatoes

Eggplants

Tomatoes

Peppers

Goji berries

Lima beans

Cashews

Peanuts

Sunflower seeds

Chia seeds

Pumpkin seeds

Kidney beans

Squash

Corn

Quinoa

Soybeans

Wheat

Lentils

In addition, according to Gundry, glyphosate, which is not only sprayed on GE crops via Roundup but also is used to desiccate wheat in the U.S., is also highly problematic, decimating your microbiome and increasing leaky gut. It’s yet another reason to eat organic as much as possible.

To learn more, I highly recommend picking up a copy of “The Plant Paradox,” especially if you’ve already cleaned up your diet and still struggle with excess weight and/or health problems. Certainly, anyone with an autoimmune disorder would also be wise to take a closer look at lectins.

How to Support a Healthy Microbiota

Supporting your microbiome isn’t very complicated, but you do need to take proactive steps to encourage its health while avoiding factors known to cause harm. In addition to the lectin information above, consider the following recommendations to optimize your microbiome:

Do Avoid

Do: Eat plenty of fermented foods. Healthy choices include lassi, fermented grass fed kefir, natto (fermented soy) and fermented vegetables.

Avoid: Antibiotics, unless absolutely necessary, and when you do, make sure to reseed your gut with fermented foods and/or a high-quality probiotic supplement.

Do: Take a probiotic supplement. Although I’m not a major proponent of taking many supplements (as I believe the majority of your nutrients need to come from food), probiotics are an exception if you don’t eat fermented foods on a regular basis

Avoid: Conventionally-raised meats and other animal products, as CAFO animals are routinely fed low-dose antibiotics plus GE grains loaded with glyphosate, which is widely known to kill many bacteria.

Do: Boost your soluble and insoluble fiber intake, focusing on vegetables, nuts and seeds, including sprouted seeds.

Avoid: Chlorinated and/or fluoridated water. Especially in your bathing such as showers, which are worse than drinking it.

Do: Get your hands dirty in the garden. Exposure to bacteria and viruses can help to strengthen your immune system and provide long-lasting immunity against disease.

Getting your hands dirty in the garden can help reacquaint your immune system with beneficial microorganisms on the plants and in the soil.

Avoid: Processed foods. Excessive sugars, along with otherwise “dead” nutrients, feed pathogenic bacteria.

Food emulsifiers such as polysorbate 80, lecithin, carrageenan, polyglycerols, and xanthan gum also appear to have an adverse effect on your gut flora.

Unless 100 percent organic, they may also contain GMOs that tend to be heavily contaminated with pesticides such as glyphosate. Artificial sweeteners have also been found to alter gut bacteria in adverse ways.23

Do: Open your windows. For the vast majority of human history, the outside was always part of the inside, and at no moment during our day were we ever really separated from nature.

Today, we spend 90 percent of our lives indoors. And, although keeping the outside out does have its advantages it has also changed the microbiome of your home.

Research shows that opening a window and increasing natural airflow can improve the diversity and health of the microbes in your home, which in turn benefit you.24

Avoid: Agricultural chemicals, glyphosate (Roundup) in particular is a known antibiotic and will actively kill many of your beneficial gut microbes if you eat foods contaminated with it.

Do: Wash your dishes by hand instead of in the dishwasher. Research has shown that washing your dishes by hand leaves more bacteria on the dishes than dishwashers do, and eating off these less-than-sterile dishes may actually decrease your risk of allergies by stimulating your immune system.

Avoid: Antibacterial soap, as it too kills off both good and bad bacteria and contributes to the development of antibiotic resistance.

Gratitude — The Hidden Key to Health and Happiness

10/08/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

An ever-growing body of research confirms that gratitude has a number of potent health benefits. As noted by Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy,1 an expert in brain and mind health:2 “If [thankfulness] were a drug, it would be the world’s best-selling product with a health maintenance indication for every major organ system.” Gratitude actually alters your brain in a number of beneficial ways, and helps:3

  1. Improve physical health by having a general pain-lowering effect, lowering inflammation and blood sugar, improving immune function,4blood pressure and heart health5 and encouraging general self-care
  2. Increase happiness and life satisfaction by lowering stress and emotional distress
  3. Improve emotional resiliency, which also helps combat stress and anxiety
  4. Improve mental health by triggering the release of antidepressant and mood-regulating chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and oxytocin, while inhibiting the stress hormone cortisol
  5. Improve sleep,6 which can have far-reaching benefits for physical and mental health

Research has also demonstrated that gratitude is the single best predictor of good relationships. Indeed, long before modern scientists confirmed these benefits, the philosophers of old espoused gratitude as the way to sanity, good health and life satisfaction.

Defining Gratitude

I recently finished reading “The Little Book of Gratitude,” by Robert Emmons. It’s a great book that I highly recommend if you need some inspiration. In it, he states, “We did not create or fashion ourselves, and we did not get to where we are in life by ourselves. So, living in gratitude is living in truth. It is the most accurate and honest approach to life.”

According to Emmons, gratitude involves “affirming the good and recognizing its sources. It is the understanding that life owes me nothing and all the good I have is a gift, accompanied by an awareness that nothing can be taken for granted.”

Generosity and Happiness Are Neurally Linked

Interestingly, generosity has also been linked to happiness, which may seem counterintuitive since giving to others means sacrificing some of your own physical or emotional resources. Still, many decide to do it anyway — perhaps because they anticipate the feel-good afterglow.7 This experience has now been validated by science showing that generosity and happiness are actually wired together in your brain. As explained by the researchers:8

“We hypothesized that participants who had committed to spending their endowment on others would behave more generously in the decision-making task as well as self-report greater increases in happiness as compared to the control group. Importantly, we predicted that the neural link between generosity and happiness would involve functional interactions between brain regions engaged in generous behavior (TPJ) and those mediating happiness (ventral striatum).

The results confirmed our hypotheses. We found significantly higher levels of generous behavior and happiness, as reflected by greater TPJ activity for generous choices and generosity-related connectivity of the TPJ with striatal happiness regions in the experimental group. We thus conclude that the interplay of these brain regions links commitment-induced generosity with happiness.”

Unfortunately, many underestimate the link between generosity and happiness, and in fact assume the opposite — that they will be happier after spending money on themselves than others, for example.9 Now that you know otherwise, you can put this pearl of wisdom to good use. As study author, professor Phillipe Tobler, from the department of economics at the University of Zurich, said in a news release, “You don’t need to become a self-sacrificing martyr to feel happier. Just being a little more generous will suffice.”10

Gratitude Is a Form of Generosity

Generosity does not necessarily have to involve money. Indeed, gratitude is a form of generosity, because it involves offering or extending “something” to another person — even if it’s only a verbal affirmation of thanks. After all, it’s not yourself you are grateful for but rather something or someone outside of yourself. Moreover, as noted by Emmons:

“In order for gratitude to exist, the giver must act intentionally, typically at some self-sacrifice, to bestow something worthwhile. The one receiving the gift needs to recognize it as a gift, as something good that was freely given. So gratitude engages at least three different aspects of the mind. We intellectually recognize the benefit, we willingly acknowledge this benefit, and we emotionally appreciate both the gift and the giver.

The term “gift” is important in this context because gifts are unearned, things we are not owed by the giver and to which we are not entitled … When we are grateful, we recognize that we have no claim on the gift or benefit received, and it was freely bestowed out of compassion, generosity or love.

To recognize this gift is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is not simply a strategy or tactic for feeling better or for increasing our personal happiness. It does something much more than that. Gratitude enables a person to feel good and also to do good.”

Sow Seeds of Gratitude Every Day

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.11

In one 2015 study,12 participants who kept a gratitude diary and reflected on what they were grateful for four times a week for three weeks reported improvements in depression, stress and happiness. A mindfulness intervention, consisting of a mindfulness diary and mindfulness meditation, led to similar improvements. Indeed, it’s important to remember that you get more of what you focus on, so be mindful of the kinds of thoughts you entertain — especially at night. Emmons suggests:

“After you get into bed, but before drifting off to sleep, try to focus on pleasant thoughts — good things happening to your family or friends; the soothing sounds in your bedroom; how fortunate you are to be in good health; future plans, such as holidays or an upcoming trip; enjoyable things you did during the past few days; how relaxed you are feeling; good things that other people have done for you …

Neuroscientist Rick Hanson has said that the brain takes the shape the mind rests upon. Rest your mind upon worry, sadness, annoyance and irritability and it will begin to take the shape neurally of anxiety, depression and anger. Ask your brain to give thanks and it will get better at finding things to be grateful for, and begin to take the shape of gratitude.

Everything we do creates connections within networks of the brain, and the more you repeat something, the stronger those connections get. The mind can change the brain in lasting ways. In other words, what flows through the mind sculpts the brain.”

Avoiding getting sucked into bad news is the other side of this equation. You may have to limit your media exposure if you find it difficult to maintain a positive outlook in the face of world events. The Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) can be a helpful tool if you struggle with pessimism.

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.

What I’m Grateful for Right Now

As Mercola.com celebrates its 20th year online, I have much to be thankful for, especially my awesome staff, without whom this website would not be what it is today. There are many editors, customer support, an IT tech team and great managers and administrators that make all of this possible.

You may not realize it but when I started the site 20 years ago, I was the only employee and I still had a full time medical practice. I found the articles, edited them and uploaded them to the site. It wasn’t until a year or two later that I actually hired a sorely needed editor, and then additional staff followed. I also never sold anything on the site for about five years but realized I could not pay the bills on my salary, so eventually I took the steps necessary to make the site pay for itself.

I also want to express my deep gratitude to all of you who support this work by reading the newsletter and sharing your knowledge of and experience with these health principles with your family and friends, thereby “paying it forward” in countless ways, helping the world get healthier one person at a time.

I often receive notes of thanks from readers, some of which are featured in the video above. Knowing that people are turning their lives around and regaining their health brings me great joy and satisfaction. My search for optimal health has been a lifelong journey, and I am  grateful for all of you who walk the path with me.

So many people struggle needlessly, having been fooled by the food and drug industries deceptive propaganda that, for many decades now, have pointed everyone in the wrong direction. Together, we are making a difference though, helping turn the current disease paradigm around. While it’s certainly true that we still have a long way to go, positive changes are afoot, and in time, I believe truth and sanity will prevail. We just have to maintain a positive attitude and keep going.

Simple Practices That Strengthen Your Gratitude Muscle

In conclusion, following is a list of suggestions summarized from Emmons’ book, “The Little Book of Gratitude,” which will help strengthen your sense of thankfulness:

  • Focus on the benevolence of other people instead of being so self-centered. Doing so will increase your sense of being supported by life and decrease unnecessary anxieties. Cherishing the kindness of others also means you’re less likely to take them for granted.
  • Focus on what you have received rather than what’s been withheld. “The ‘surplus’ mode will increase our feelings of worth; the ‘deficit’ mode will lead us to think how incomplete our life is,” Emmons says.
  • Acknowledge your positive emotions rather than suppressing them. “Gratitude recruits other positive emotions, such as joy, contentment and hope, and these produce direct physical benefits through the immune or endocrine systems,” Emmons writes. “A grateful perspective on life is a stress-buster, so grateful people are more equipped than others to deal with uncertainties, ambiguities and situations that trigger anxiety.”
  • Avoid comparing yourself to people you perceive to have more advantages. Doing so will only erode your sense of security. As Emmons notes, “Wanting more is related to increased anxiety and unhappiness. A healthier comparison is to contemplate what life would be like without a pleasure that you now enjoy … Gratitude buffers you from emotions that drive anxiety. You cannot be grateful and envious, or grateful while harboring regrets.”
  • Give credit to others while also acknowledging your own contributions. Expressing gratitude is not an either/or proposition. Being grateful for someone’s help does not negate your own contributions.

Emmons also includes a number of practical exercises in his book. Here are two that will help you flex your gratitude muscle:

1. Write a letter to a person for whom you feel grateful. “Describe specifically why you are grateful, how he or she has affected your life, and how often you reflect on his or her efforts,” Emmons suggests. “If you feel [like it] you can deliver the letter in person, arrange to visit but do not say what the visit is about.

Read your letter out loud to the recipient. Be prepared to have your heart touched and to see the other person’s heart touched as well. Allow yourself to open up to whatever the experience has in store for both of you, and spend some time talking about it with your friend.”

2. Practice mindful thank yous for seven days straight. “When thanking someone who has done something for you, whether large or small, be specific, comment on the effort it has taken, and the cost, and keep the focus on that person,” Emmons suggests. “For example, ‘Thank you for bringing me my tea in bed. I really appreciate you getting up early each day. You’re so thoughtful.’ The key to effectiveness is to achieve some separation between the kind act and your expression.”

Your Gut Can Help Fight Depression and High Blood Pressure

10/08/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

Trillions of bacteria live in your gut, influencing your body’s homeostasis daily. Far from being restricted to the confines of your intestinal tract, your gut microbiota is intricately tied to other body systems via a number of complex pathways, including the gut-brain axis and a recently revealed gut-brain-bone marrow axis, the latter of which may influence your blood pressure, mood and more.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that your brain, your immune system and your gut microbes are intricately linked, so it’s not a stretch to add bone marrow to the list of connections. Immune cells stem from bone marrow, and bone marrow inflammation, which may result from high blood pressure, is known to be caused by a signal from the brain. In a study published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology, researchers further revealed that immune cells in bone marrow play an important role in signaling between the brain and gut.1,2

Gut-Brain-Bone Marrow Connection Revealed

In an animal study, researchers replaced natural bone marrow in mice with bone marrow cells from genetically engineered (GE) mice. The marrow had been modified to be deficient in adrenergic receptor beta, making it less responsive to messages from the brain.

“In this way,” researchers wrote in The Conversation, “we could investigate how the host brain-immune communication will modify gut microbiota. Indeed, by studying this new mouse model, we determined that our nervous system — directed by our brain — can modify the composition of gut microbiota by communicating directly with the bone marrow immune cells. The brain, therefore, can change our gut microbiota indirectly by talking to the bone.”3

In short, when bone marrow was less able to communicate with the brain, a “muted inflammatory response” was observed in the gut, which in turn led to a more diverse (i.e., healthier) microbiome. The study shed light on one of the complex ways your gut health may be implicated in that of your heart and brain, with researchers noting:4

“In the context of cardiovascular disease, this muted inflammatory response appears to be beneficial, as it leads to beneficial lowering of blood pressure in our experimental mice.

Most interestingly, a link between gut microbiota and our mental health has recently become clearer. In particular, some have suggested that gut microbiota influence the stress and anxiety pathways in the brain in a way that can alter mood and behavior both positively and negatively, giving a whole new meaning to the term ‘gut feeling.'”

Imbalanced Gut Microbes Play a Role in High Blood Pressure

Imbalanced gut microbes, known as gut dysbiosis, have been previously linked to heart disease and high blood pressure, but a recent animal study shed further light on the unique connection.5 Researchers gave rats antibiotics for 10 days to wipe out their natural microbiota, then transplanted hypertensive microbiota into rats with normal blood pressure. Rats with high blood pressure, in turn, were transplanted with normal microbiota.6

The results were surprising in that the rats treated with hypertensive microbiota developed high blood pressure, while the transplantation of normal microbiota led to only a slight reduction in blood pressure among the hypertensive rats. “We conclude that gut dysbiosis can directly affect SBP [systolic blood pressure],” the researchers wrote, adding that manipulating gut microbiota, such as via the use of probiotics or eating fermented foods, may be an “innovative treatment for hypertension.”7

However, it’s not the first time such a link has been revealed. A systematic review and meta-analysis of nine randomized, controlled studies found significant benefits among people with high blood pressure who consumed probiotics in products like yogurt and milk.8 On average, compared to a placebo, the probiotic consumption lowered systolic blood pressure (the top number) by 3.56 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) by 2.38 mm Hg.

It appeared that at least 100 billion colony-forming units of probiotics a day were necessary to trigger such improvements, and the benefit was only seen in those who consumed probiotics for eight weeks or more. In 2015, meanwhile, certain gut microbes, namely firmicutes and bacteroidetes, were associated with increased blood pressure in rats.

“Products of the fermentation of nutrients by gut microbiota can influence blood pressure by regulating expenditure of energy, intestinal metabolism of catecholamines, and gastrointestinal and renal ion transport, and thus, salt sensitivity,” according to research published in the journal Current Opinion in Nephrology and Hypertension.9

Probiotics Found to Benefit Gut Diseases, Mental Health

The addition of beneficial microbes has been found to benefit people struggling with serious gut diseases, including necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), which often occurs in premature infants and can be fatal. An Australian study revealed that probiotic supplementation significantly reduced NEC risk and mortality in preterm neonates, lowering the incidence of NEC in premature babies by at least 30 percent.10

Probiotics have also been found to benefit irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), of which disturbances in the gut microbiota are often seen.11 Compared to placebo, probiotic therapy was found to reduce pain and symptom severity among people with IBS,12 and probiotics are also known to prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea in children.13

On the mental front, a small study involving adults diagnosed with IBS and depression 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.14

Those receiving the probiotic also reported fewer symptoms of IBS and improved overall quality of life. At the end of 10 weeks, approximately twice as many in the treatment group were still reporting lower levels of depression.

Interestingly, functional MRI scans revealed a link between reductions in depression score and actual changes in brain activity, specifically in areas involved in mood regulation, such as the amygdala. As noted by Dr. Roger McIntyre, professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at the University of Toronto, who was not involved in the study:15

“We know that one part of the brain, the amygdala, tends to be red-hot in people with depression, and it seemed to cool down with this intervention. It provides more scientific believability that something in the brain, at a very biological level, seems to be affected by this probiotic.”

Are Personalized Probiotics the Answer?

As for which strains of probiotic are best, the answer may be harder to come by. Emma Allen-Vercoe, a microbiologist at the University of Guelph in Ontario, told Scientific American, “Bacterial strains are so genetically different from one another, and everybody has a different gut microbiota … There will probably never be a one-size-fits-all probiotic.”16

Studies suggest, for instance, that some people may benefit more from probiotics than others if they’re “low” in a certain variety that is then added to their diet. As Scientific American reported:17

“In other words, their gut ecosystems had a vacancy that the probiotic filled. That is exactly the kind of insight that clinicians need to create and recommend more effective probiotics. If a doctor knows that an individual with severe diarrhea has an undersized population of a particular beneficial microbe, for example, then prescribing the missing strain should increase the chance of a successful treatment.”

Other research has looked into the benefits of certain strains of bacteria, such as Bifidobacteria, which tend to be abundant in babies’ intestines but typically make up less than 10 percent of the gut microbiome bacteria in adults.18 Low levels of Bifidobacteria, in turn, are linked to chronic diseases like celiac disease, diabetes, allergic asthma and even obesity, while supplementing with them has been found to benefit IBS, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, psoriasis, depression and more.19

Another type of bacteria, lactobacillus, has been shown to reduce anxiety in animal studies,20 while taking a probiotic with eight different bacterial strains reduced aggressive and ruminative thoughts in a study of adult volunteers.21,22

The Lectin Connection and How Leaky Gut Can Destroy Your Health

It’s important to be aware that gut dysbiosis, also known as leaky gut, is not only a major gut disrupter linked to digestive disorders, but may also contribute to other chronic diseases like Alzheimer’s and possibly cancer. If your gut is leaky, your blood-brain barrier is also leaky, which means toxins can go right into your brain, affecting your cognitive and mental health.

Further, leaky gut can be triggered by a number of factors, including imbalanced gut microbiota that result from dietary factors, such as the consumption of sugar as well as lectins. This latter component is very important. Lectins are plant proteins, sometimes called sticky proteins or glycan-binding proteins, because they seek out and bind to certain sugar molecules on the surface of cells. There are many types of lectins, and the main difference between them is the type of sugar each prefers and binds to.

Some — including wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), found in wheat and other grass-family seeds — bind to specific receptor sites on your intestinal mucosal cells and interfere with the absorption of nutrients across your intestinal wall.

As such, they act as “antinutrients,” and can have a detrimental effect on your gut microbiome by shifting the balance of your bacterial flora — a common precursor to leaky gut. Dr. Steven Gundry, author of “The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in ‘Healthy’ Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain,” makes a strong case for a lectin-free diet, stating:

“Our microbiome is, I think, our early warning system, because about 99 percent of all the genes that make up [the human body] are actually nonhuman, they’re bacterial, viral and fungal … [from which] we’ve uploaded most of the information about interacting with our environment … because the microbiome is capable of almost instantaneous changing and information processing that we actually don’t have the ability to do.

We’re beginning to realize … that the microbiome is not only how we interact with plant materials … like lectins, but probably more importantly, our microbiome teaches our immune system whether a particular plant compound is a friend or foe [based on] how long we’ve known that plant compound. There are lectins in everything.

But the longer we’ve interacted with lectins and the longer our microbiome has interacted with them, the more our microbiome kind of tells our immune system, ‘Hey, guys, it’s cool. We’ve known these guys for 40 million years. Chill out. They’re a pain, but we can handle them.’

From an evolutionary perspective, if you look at modern foods — say the grains and the beans, which we started interacting with 10,000 years ago, which is a blink of time — our microbiome [regards them as] foreign substances … [T]here’s no lectin speed dating in evolution.”

Lectins are strongly associated with autoimmune disorders of all kinds, primarily by triggering leaky gut. They’re found in many of our most cherished foods, such as:

Potatoes

Eggplants

Tomatoes

Peppers

Goji berries

Lima beans

Cashews

Peanuts

Sunflower seeds

Chia seeds

Pumpkin seeds

Kidney beans

Squash

Corn

Quinoa

Soybeans

Wheat

Lentils

In addition, according to Gundry, glyphosate, which is not only sprayed on GE crops via Roundup but also is used to desiccate wheat in the U.S., is also highly problematic, decimating your microbiome and increasing leaky gut. It’s yet another reason to eat organic as much as possible.

To learn more, I highly recommend picking up a copy of “The Plant Paradox,” especially if you’ve already cleaned up your diet and still struggle with excess weight and/or health problems. Certainly, anyone with an autoimmune disorder would also be wise to take a closer look at lectins.

How to Support a Healthy Microbiota

Supporting your microbiome isn’t very complicated, but you do need to take proactive steps to encourage its health while avoiding factors known to cause harm. In addition to the lectin information above, consider the following recommendations to optimize your microbiome:

Do Avoid

Do: Eat plenty of fermented foods. Healthy choices include lassi, fermented grass fed kefir, natto (fermented soy) and fermented vegetables.

Avoid: Antibiotics, unless absolutely necessary, and when you do, make sure to reseed your gut with fermented foods and/or a high-quality probiotic supplement.

Do: Take a probiotic supplement. Although I’m not a major proponent of taking many supplements (as I believe the majority of your nutrients need to come from food), probiotics are an exception if you don’t eat fermented foods on a regular basis

Avoid: Conventionally-raised meats and other animal products, as CAFO animals are routinely fed low-dose antibiotics plus GE grains loaded with glyphosate, which is widely known to kill many bacteria.

Do: Boost your soluble and insoluble fiber intake, focusing on vegetables, nuts and seeds, including sprouted seeds.

Avoid: Chlorinated and/or fluoridated water. Especially in your bathing such as showers, which are worse than drinking it.

Do: Get your hands dirty in the garden. Exposure to bacteria and viruses can help to strengthen your immune system and provide long-lasting immunity against disease.

Getting your hands dirty in the garden can help reacquaint your immune system with beneficial microorganisms on the plants and in the soil.

Avoid: Processed foods. Excessive sugars, along with otherwise “dead” nutrients, feed pathogenic bacteria.

Food emulsifiers such as polysorbate 80, lecithin, carrageenan, polyglycerols, and xanthan gum also appear to have an adverse effect on your gut flora.

Unless 100 percent organic, they may also contain GMOs that tend to be heavily contaminated with pesticides such as glyphosate. Artificial sweeteners have also been found to alter gut bacteria in adverse ways.23

Do: Open your windows. For the vast majority of human history, the outside was always part of the inside, and at no moment during our day were we ever really separated from nature.

Today, we spend 90 percent of our lives indoors. And, although keeping the outside out does have its advantages it has also changed the microbiome of your home.

Research shows that opening a window and increasing natural airflow can improve the diversity and health of the microbes in your home, which in turn benefit you.24

Avoid: Agricultural chemicals, glyphosate (Roundup) in particular is a known antibiotic and will actively kill many of your beneficial gut microbes if you eat foods contaminated with it.

Do: Wash your dishes by hand instead of in the dishwasher. Research has shown that washing your dishes by hand leaves more bacteria on the dishes than dishwashers do, and eating off these less-than-sterile dishes may actually decrease your risk of allergies by stimulating your immune system.

Avoid: Antibacterial soap, as it too kills off both good and bad bacteria and contributes to the development of antibiotic resistance.

Experts Warn Statin Drug Trend Puts Lives at Risk

09/08/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

The number of people continuing to suffer from heart disease and stroke rises each year, despite advancements in pharmaceutical intervention. Unfortunately, the misguided recommendation to eat a low-fat diet is only making matters worse. Cardiovascular disease was listed as the underlying cause of death in 33 percent of all deaths in the U.S.1 and remains the No. 1 cause of death.

Someone has a stroke every 40 seconds and a stroke kills someone every four minutes. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), seven factors are associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, including smoking, inactivity, diet, high cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar.2 While some of these factors are straightforward, such as smoking or not smoking, others are more complicated than a simple measurement.

Like saturated fat, cholesterol has been vilified despite 60 years’ worth of research having failed to demonstrate a correlation between high total cholesterol and heart disease. Cholesterol is actually one of the more important molecules your body uses to build cells and produce hormones and vitamin D. Low levels of cholesterol that may occur with pharmaceutical intervention are linked to memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease,3 and may increase your risk of depression,4 stroke and violent behavior.

Cholesterol is often divided into HDL/”good” and LDL/”bad” cholesterol, but the division is really based on how the molecule combines with protein. LDL and HDL are lipoproteins, or fat molecules combined with protein. Fat must be transported in your blood with a protein, which is classified by density. Large LDL molecules are actually not harmful, but small dense LDL particles may squeeze out of the lining of your arteries and trigger damage and inflammation.

Some groups, such as the National Lipid Association, are now starting to shift the focus toward the size of the LDL particle instead of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, in order to better assess your risk of heart disease. While a potentially more accurate method of assessing risk, the process has not yet been embraced by the mainstream, and requires more complex blood testing than currently done for cholesterol levels.5

New Study Defends Statin Drug Use

A recent study released in the Annals of Internal Medicine6 triggered a flurry of media attention when it recommended patients continue — or start — taking statin drugs.7 According to Cleveland Clinic chairman of cardiovascular medicine, Dr. Steven Nissen, holistic practitioners are hyping side effects associated with statin drugs and have concocted unfounded assertions against the medication.

However, many studies have shown statins fail to live up to the promises of lowering your cardiovascular disease risk. In fact, this class of drug may actually raise your risk.

The study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital that sparked this attention evaluated 28,266 people who reported an adverse event or reaction to taking the statin drug.8 Of those who had already experienced an adverse reaction, 70.7 percent continued their medication. After four years, the researchers found those who continued the drug had a 12.2 percent rate of cardiovascular events. Those who discontinued the medication had a 13.9 percent rate of adverse cardiovascular events.

In other words, those who continued taking the drug after suffering some form of adverse effect experienced a mere 1.7 percent reduced rate of cardiovascular problems over four years. In an editorial in the same publication, Nissen laid a substantial portion of the blame for stopping statin drugs on the doorstep of dietary supplements, lifestyle-based approaches and benefits from these that have not been confirmed in formal clinical studies.9

Statin Benefits Are Weak at Best

Interestingly, the AHA places a strong emphasis on lifestyle-based approaches that include quitting smoking, getting exercise, normalizing weight, reducing blood pressure and reducing blood sugar.10 In other words, while Nissen is not convinced lifestyle-based approaches are very helpful, the AHA doesn’t appear to agree.

Moreover, the potential benefit of statins must also be weighed against its drawbacks, and many cardiologists and even professional organizations have warned that statins seem to do more harm than good.11

According to an analysis from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force,12 to prevent a single person from dying of any cause, 250 people would need to take statin medications for six years; 100 people need to take a statin as a primary preventive for five years in order for one or two people to avoid a heart attack, but none will actually live longer.13 Other studies have also failed to find any kind of mortality benefit from statin medications, even in at-risk groups.14

Unfortunately, statin medications are not just recommended for individuals who have had a cardiovascular event in the past and considered at high risk. They’re now recommended to any person who has a 7.5 percent risk of having a heart attack in the following 10 years, based on a risk profile created by the AHA, which takes into account gender/age/race, cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes and smoking.

Using this calculator, an amazing 26.4 million Americans become candidates for statin treatment.15 However, as discussed in previous articles,16,17 researchers have warned the AHA’s risk calculator overestimates your heart disease risk by anywhere from 75 to 150 percent. This means even healthy people at low risk for heart problems are being put on these risky drugs.

Statin Drugs Focus on the Wrong Factor

Your risk of heart attack and stroke is not related to a simple number, but rather to a complex interaction of the different weight densities of lipoproteins in your blood. For years Americans were misinformed and told to eat a low-fat diet to reduce their risk of heart attack. However, research does not support this recommendation, and even a general look at the difference between potential risk in people from the U.K. and France demonstrates something quite different.

The average French person receives 15.5 percent total calories from saturated fat, while a person from the U.K. receives 13.5 percent. However, the rate of death from heart disease in France is one-third that of that in the U.K.18 And, like saturated fat, Americans have been advised to eat a diet low in cholesterol to control the cholesterol in their body, until the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee said:19 “Cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.”

Heart disease is triggered by damage to your artery walls and blood clotting. When the endothelial wall of your artery is damaged, your body begins the repair process and essentially creates a “scab.” To prevent the scab from dislodging, your endothelial wall grows over it, causing the wall to thicken, which you know as atherosclerosis.

In other words, cholesterol is not clogging your arteries; rather, the arterial walls are thickened as a result of a natural repair process. One of the primary culprits of the initial damage to the arterial walls is sugar (fructose). This means that eating a diet high in sugar is the way to increase your risk of heart disease, not a diet high in cholesterol or saturated fats.

Statin drugs are designed to lower your total cholesterol levels, which tell you virtually nothing about your risk of heart disease unless it is exceptionally elevated. A total cholesterol above 330 or so would be suggestive of familial hypercholesterolemia, which, in my view, would be about the only time a cholesterol-reducing drug would be appropriate.

While cholesterol numbers may be indicative of an increased risk of heart disease, they aren’t the numbers you’re used to seeing. Two ratios that are far better indicators of heart disease risk are:

  • Your HDL/total cholesterol ratio: HDL percentage is a very potent heart disease risk factor. Just divide your HDL level by your total cholesterol. This percentage should ideally be above 24 percent. Below 10 percent, it’s a significant indicator of risk for heart disease
  • Your triglyceride/HDL ratios: This ratio should ideally be below 2

Statin Side Effects Far From Minor

In an interview with CBS News,20 Nissen said that most side effects associated with statins are minor and can be addressed by adjusting the dose or switching to another type of statin. The side effect primarily discussed were muscle aches. Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, professor of preventive medicine and cardiology at Northwestern University School of Medicine, downplayed the matter further by suggesting the muscle aches typically associated with statins may simply be due to the age of the individual taking the drug.21

However, muscle pain is only one of the common side effects attributed to statin medications. Health professional information for atorvastatin (Lipitor) ranks side effects as very common (10 percent prevalence or greater), common (1 to 10 percent), uncommon (0.1 to 1 percent), rare (0.01 to 0.1 percent) and very rare (less than 0.01 percent). Side effects from statins reported to health professionals as very common, common and uncommon include:22

  • General: Urinary tract infections, dizziness, partial loss of sensitivity to sensory stimuli, distortion of the sense of taste, amnesia and headache
  • Gastrointestinal: Diarrhea, indigestion, nausea, intestinal gas, constipation, abdominal discomfort, abdominal pain, vomiting and pancreatitis
  • Metabolic: Abnormal liver function tests, hyperglycemia, hepatitis, anorexia, hypoglycemia and weight gain
  • Musculoskeletal: Joint pain, pain in extremity, musculoskeletal pain, muscle spasms, myalgia, joint swelling, back pain, elevated creatine phosphokinase, neck pain and muscle fatigue

Neuromuscular and Cardiovascular Side Effects Are Devastating

The problem with using statin drugs is they address only the surface issue of total cholesterol levels in a simple manner inside a complex organism. The drugs work by blocking the enzyme in your liver that naturally produces cholesterol your body needs to function. This essentially reduces your total cholesterol without addressing the different densities of lipoproteins, namely HDL, LDL, VLDL (very low-density lipoproteins) or your triglyceride levels.

By altering just one aspect of your cholesterol production, statin medications have a significantly negative effect on your total body health. Rarely mentioned is the link between cardiovascular death and statin medications. It’s important to realize that the medication you’re using to prevent heart disease has a common side effect of cardiovascular death, occurring in up to 10 percent of patients.23

Another less publicized side effect is a progression of muscle wasting that may lead to a diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The World Health Organization Foundation Collaborating Centre for International Drug Monitoring has noted a disproportionately high number of patients with upper motor neuron lesions, like ALS, among those taking statin medications.24

Researchers from Johns Hopkins Medical School countered these disturbing findings25 saying the condition can be treated with steroids and other immunosuppressive drugs; hence, there’s no need to fear this popular “fantastic medication.” Considering you can dramatically lower your cardiovascular disease risk with lifestyle changes alone, this hardly seems like a reasonable recommendation for most people.

What Is the Statistical Effectiveness of Statin Medications?

When the risks of taking a medication include neuromuscular disease and a “common” side effect of cardiovascular death, you would hope the effectiveness of the drug outweighs the risks. However, in this case, the risks far outweigh any benefit from using the drug. In a report published in the Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology, the authors concluded statin advocates used a statistical tool called relative risk reduction (RRR) to amplify what amounts to trivial benefits.26

The same report states clinical trials have also succeeded in minimizing the significance of a large number of adverse effects that patients experience. When you consider the absolute risk for adverse side effects listed above the use of statin drugs, that benefits just 1 percent of the population, appears ludicrous. A 1 percent benefit means that out of 100 people treated with the drug, one person will have one less heart attack.

By changing the statistic to a relative risk, the benefits of statins suddenly help 30 to 50 percent of the population. To understand this better, imagine you have a study of 200 men, half of whom take a drug and the other half a placebo, to examine the effect on prostate cancer. After five years, two men in the group taking the drug get prostate cancer, compared to four in the group taking the placebo.

Using this data, researchers could claim the drug cut the risk by 50 percent, or that there was a mere 2 percent drop in risk — and both would be correct. The first claims relative risk reduction and the second uses absolute risk.

In a second study published in Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology, researchers found that not only were statins not as effective as commonly communicated, but they may also contribute to cardiovascular disease,27 which would account for the common cardiovascular side-effect associated with the drug. Several physiological mechanisms associated with statins were discussed that show how the drug may be associated with making your heart health worse, including but not limited to the following:28

  • Inhibits vitamin K2 function
  • Mitochondria damage
  • Interferes with and depletes coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
  • Interferes with selenium-containing proteins

Reduction in CoQ10 May Be Trigger Behind Statin Side Effects

One of the known effects of statin medications is that it depletes your body of CoQ10, used for energy production in every cell of your body. Hence, CoQ10 is vital for your good health, energy levels, longevity and general quality of life. Although there was a proposal to add a black box warning on statin medications regarding the depletion of CoQ10, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration decided against it in 2014.

The reduced form of CoQ10 is ubiquinol, also a critical component in cellular respiration and the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Considering your heart demands the most energy of the organs in your body, you may see how potentially devastating it may be to diminish your body’s main source of cellular energy.

If you are taking a statin drug, it is essential you also take a CoQ10 or ubiquinol supplement. I strongly recommend the latter as it is more effectively absorbed by your body.

Dr. Steven Sinatra, cardiologist and founder of the New England Heart Center, recommends taking at least 100 milligrams (mg), but preferably 200 mg of high-quality CoQ10 or ubiquinol daily. Using ubiquinol improves the mechanism that prevents LDL cholesterol from damaging your body and effectively rescues cells from the damage done by the statin, protecting muscle cells from myopathies.29

Protect Your Heart Health Using Drug-Free Strategies

It is important that you don’t just stop a medication without first putting other strategies into place to help manage your heart health. If you are looking for a nondrug way to boost your heart health, here are some of my top recommendations:

Reduce, with the plan of eliminating, grains and sugars in your diet. It is vitally important to eliminate gluten-containing grains and sugars, especially processed fructose.

Consume a good portion of your food raw.

Make sure you are getting plenty of high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fats from fatty fish low in mercury. Good examples include sardines, anchovies, herring and mackerel. Alternatively, take a high-quality omega-3 supplement such as krill oil. Research suggests that as little as 500 mg of krill per day may improve your total cholesterol and triglycerides and will likely increase your HDL cholesterol.

Replace harmful vegetable oils and synthetic trans fats with healthy fats, such as olive oil, butter and coconut oil (remember olive oil should be used cold only; use coconut oil for cooking and baking and source your butter from certified grass fed, organically raised dairy cattle).

Include fermented foods in your daily diet. These will not only optimize your intestinal microflora, which will boost your overall immunity, but will also introduce beneficial bacteria into your mouth. Poor oral health is another powerful indicator of increased heart disease risk.

Optimize your vitamin D levels, ideally through sensible sun exposure as this will allow your body to also create vitamin D sulfate — another factor that may play a crucial role in preventing the formation of arterial plaque.

Check your iron level at least once a year, and donate blood two to three times a year if your ferritin level is above 80 ng/mL. An ideal level for adult men and non-menstruating women is somewhere between 40 and 60 ng/mL. You do not want to be below 20 ng/mL or above 80 ng/mL.

Another valuable test is the gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT) test. GGT measures liver enzymes. Not only will this 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.

For women, a healthy GGT level is around 9 units per liter (U/L) whereas the high ends of “normal” are generally 40 to 45 U/L. For men, 16 U/L is ideal, while the normal lab range can go as high as 65 to 70 U/L.

Exercise regularly. Make sure you incorporate high-intensity interval exercises, which also optimize your human growth hormone production.

Stop smoking completely and don’t drink alcohol excessively.

Be sure to get plenty of high-quality, restorative sleep.

Practice regular stress-management techniques.

Skyrocketing Male Infertility May Threaten Mankind’s Survival

09/08/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

Human fertility is in a downward spiral, scientists warn and modern life — with its technological and chemical “progress” — is likely to blame. Female infertility tends to get the most attention, but in this case, it’s male infertility that has made headlines, as recent research shows sperm concentration and quality has dramatically declined in recent decades.1,2,3,4,5

According to the first of two recently published papers,6 a meta-analysis of 185 studies and the largest of its kind, sperm counts around the world declined by more than 50 percent, to 47 million sperm per milliliter (mL), between 1973 and 2013, and continue to dwindle.

The most significant declines were found in samples from men in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, where many had sperm concentrations below 40 million/mL. (Men suspected of infertility, such as those attending IVF clinics, were excluded from the study.) Overall, men in these countries had a 52.4 percent decline in sperm concentration and a 59.3 percent decline in total sperm count (sperm concentration multiplied by the total volume of an ejaculate).

Male Infertility Rates Warn of Impending Human Extinction

According to the World Health Organization, 40 million sperm per mL is considered the cutoff point at which a man will have trouble fertilizing an egg, which means half of the men in most developed nations are near or at the point of being infertile. South American, Asian and African men had no noticeable decline, although this discrepancy could be due to the smaller sample sizes obtained from those countries.

As noted by Frederick vom Saal, professor emeritus of biological sciences at the University of Missouri, who was not involved in the study, these findings are a wake-up call and a warning that “we are in a death spiral of infertility in men.” Indeed, lead author Dr. Hagai Levine, who called the results “profound” and “shocking,”7 worries that human extinction is a very real possibility, should the trend continue unabated.8

Danish researcher and pediatrician Dr. Niels Skakkebæk, who in 1992 published a paper9 showing male fertility declined between 1940 and 1990, also commented on the findings, saying:

“These two new papers add significantly to existing literature on adverse trends in male reproductive health problems … Here in Denmark, there is an epidemic of infertility. More than 20 percent of Danish men do not father children. Most worryingly [in Denmark] is that semen quality is in general so poor that an average young Danish man has much fewer sperm than men had a couple of generations ago, and more than 90 percent of their sperm are abnormal.”

Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals Wreak Havoc on Men’s Reproductive Ability

The second paper,10 published in PLOS Genetics, suggests endocrine disrupting chemicals are to blame for the dramatic decline in reproductive health among men.11 It found that exposing male mice to ethinyl estradiol, a synthetic sex hormone found in birth control pills, causes developmental problems in the reproductive tract, thereby lowering sperm counts.

While men do not use birth control pills, they’re exposed to them nonetheless through contaminated water and other sources. Men are also exposed to a number of other endocrine disrupting chemicals in their day-to-day lives,12 thanks to the pernicious use of endocrine disrupting chemicals in plastics, personal care products, herbicides such as glyphosate13 (which is a very common contaminant in non-organic foods) and more.

The study also confirmed that the effects of environmental estrogens have generational effects. Males are successively becoming increasingly more sterile with each passing generation. As reported by Environmental Health News:14

“They observed adverse effects starting in the first generation of mouse lineages where each generation was exposed for a brief period shortly after birth. The impacts worsened in the second generation compared to the first, and by the third generation the scientists were finding animals that could not produce sperm at all.

This latter condition was not seen in the first two generations exposed. Details of the experimental results actually suggested that multiple generations of exposure may have increased male sensitivity to the chemical.”

Testicular cancer is also on the rise, as are congenital malformations of the penis, and these problems have also been linked to endocrine disrupting chemicals. Experiments on fathead minnows show endocrine disrupters turn the fish into a sterile intersex species, meaning they have both male and female reproductive systems yet are incapable of reproducing.15

While women are also adversely affected by these kinds of chemicals, men are disproportionally affected due to the way the male reproductive system develops in utero. At the outset, male and female fetuses are fairly identical. Sex hormones are what drive the differentiation between the sexes. Alas, when synthetic chemicals that mimic these all-important hormones enter into the mix, it confuses the process and interferes with the biological process of turning the fetus into a male.

Corruption and Lies Threaten Human Health and Survival

The Unites States permits more than 84,000 chemicals to be used in household products, cosmetics, food and food packaging, and a majority of these have never been tested for safety. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, 85 percent of new chemical applications include no testing whatsoever.

What’s worse, the chemical industry has a long history of lying about the safety of their wares, and its powerful lobby has allowed the industry to saturate the world in extremely dangerous chemicals with little or no oversight.

As revealed by Grant David Gillham,16 a political consultant who ran Citizens for Fire Safety, the American Chemistry Council17 (the chemical industry’s trade group) flat out lied when it said it had no involvement with Citizens for Fire Safety. The group was in fact created with the specific aim of defending the use of flame retardants in furniture — despite the fact that they don’t work and are profoundly toxic — to protect the industry’s interests.

Everything an expectant mother takes into her body can potentially get passed along to her developing child, and scientific evidence strongly suggests exposure to chemicals is contributing to cancer, reproductive abnormalities, early puberty18,19,20 and a host of other endocrine, neurological and metabolic problems.

In a 2005 study,21 the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in the umbilical cord blood of infants born in the U.S. Tests detected a total of 287 chemicals from pesticides, consumer products, food packaging and environmental waste, including BPA, flame retardants, PCBs and even DDT. As noted in a 2009 scientific statement from the Endocrine Society:22

“The evidence for adverse reproductive outcomes (infertility, cancers, malformations) from exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals is strong, and there is mounting evidence for effects on other endocrine systems, including thyroid, neuroendocrine, obesity and metabolism, and insulin and glucose homeostasis …

Effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals may be transmitted to further generations through germline epigenetic modifications or from continued exposure of offspring to the environmental insult.”

Hormone Disrupting Chemicals — The Dirty Dozen

As mentioned, endocrine disrupting chemicals specifically alter the normal function of your hormones.23 A hormone’s job is to interact with the cells in your body, sending signals that instruct them to perform certain tasks, and endocrine disrupting chemicals interfere with this communication process. In 2013, the EWG24 identified 12 of the most troublesome hormone wreckers.

Surprisingly, along with some very well-known endocrine disruptors,25,26 the review also identified several you might not normally associate with hormone disruption, such as lead, mercury and arsenic. The EWG’s “dirty dozen” list for the 12 worst endocrine disruptors are outlined in the following table.

I’ve written about many of these in prior articles, so for more information about any particular one, please follow the links. For a list of some of the most common sources of these hormone wreckers, please see “10 Sources of Endocrine Disruptors and How to Avoid Them.”

Bisphenol-A (BPA)

Dioxin

Atrazine

Phthalates

Perchlorate

Fire retardants27

Lead

Mercury

Arsenic

Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs)

Organophosphate pesticides28

Glycol ethers

Other Root Causes of Infertility

While endocrine disrupting chemicals are high on the list of contributing factors, they’re not the only ones. Other variables that can affect a man’s reproductive ability include:

  • Electromagnetic field (EMF) exposures
  • Nutritional deficiencies and/or food intolerances
  • Stress
  • Immune deficiencies
  • Obesity and/or inactivity

These subtle but critical factors synergistically interact to impact the quality of a woman’s eggs and a man’s sperm, affecting a couple’s ability to conceive and the health of the embryo. For example, while a gluten intolerance alone cannot cause infertility, the resulting gut inflammation can affect your nutrient absorption and lead to deficiencies in nutrients you need for optimal sperm, egg and hormone production and a healthy pregnancy.

In terms of diet, certain nutrients are also more important than others when it comes to fertility. Animal-based omega-3 fats and vitamin D are two vital components that can have a significant impact. Both are also crucial during pregnancy to protect the health of both mother and child.

Optimizing your vitamin D could be one of the most important things a woman could possibly do in pregnancy, as research clearly shows that achieving a vitamin D serum level of at least 40 ng/mL (100 nmol/L) reduces the risk of premature birth by 60 percent. It also helps protect against a number or pregnancy complications, as well as autism spectrum disorder and Type 1 diabetes in the child.  

Microwave Exposure Is Decimating Male Reproductive Health

I personally believe this may be the most significant factor for the observed decrease in male sperm count. You may not recall this, but it was well known in World War II that radar operators could easily create sterility by exposing the groin to radar waves. Radar is microwave radiation and was the precursor to cellphones that use similar frequencies.

In May 2011, the cancer research arm of the World Health Organization, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, classified radiofrequency EMF — such as the radiation from cellphones — a class 2B carcinogen, meaning it is possibly carcinogenic to humans.29 Research also suggests microwave radiation may play a significant role in male reproductive health.

While evaluating studies showing you can radically reduce biological microwave damage using calcium channel blockers, Dr. Martin Pall discovered a previously unknown mechanism of biological harm from microwaves emitted by cellphones and other wireless technologies.30

Embedded in your cell membranes are voltage gated calcium channels (VGCCs). It turns out these VGCCs are activated by microwaves, and when that happens, about 1 million calcium ions per second are released.

This massive excess of intracellular calcium then stimulates the release of nitric oxide (NO) inside your cell and mitochondria, which combines with superoxide to form peroxynitrite. Not only does peroxynitrites cause oxidative damage, they also create hydroxyl free radicals — the most destructive free radicals known to man.

Hydroxyl free radicals decimate mitochondrial and nuclear DNA, their membranes and proteins. The end result is mitochondrial dysfunction, which we now know is at the heart of most chronic disease.

The tissues with the highest density of VGCCs are your brain, the pacemaker in your heart and male testes. (A man’s testicles are also more vulnerable to EMFs for the fact that they’re on the outside of the body. Women’s eggs, on the other hand, are somewhat protected and shielded from EMFs due to them being further inside the body.31)

What this research tells us is that excessive microwave exposure can be a direct contributor to conditions such as Alzheimer’s, anxiety, depression, autism, cardiac arrhythmias and infertility.32 Indeed, other studies have linked low-level electromagnetic radiation (EMR) exposure from cellphones to an 8 percent reduction in sperm motility and a 9 percent reduction in sperm viability.33,34

Wi-Fi equipped laptop computers have also been linked to decreased sperm motility and an increase in sperm DNA fragmentation after just four hours of use!35 So, if you care about your reproductive health, avoid carrying your cellphone in your pockets or on your hip, and avoid using portable computers and tablets on your lap.

Strategies to Treat Infertility and Boost Fertility Naturally

Considering there are many factors contributing to male infertility, any comprehensive list of recommendations is bound to be a long one. That said, following are a number of common sense suggestions that will address the root causes of infertility. For more detailed information on treating infertility naturally, including specific information on all fertility nutrients, fertility diet, what to avoid and the influence of stress and sleep on fertility, check out Iva Keene’s home study fertility program, “The Natural Fertility Prescription.”36

Minimize your exposure to toxic chemicals

Exposure to environmental toxins, both in utero and neonatally, may dramatically affect adult fertility. Compounds that can alter hormone function and result in adverse reproductive health effects include but are not limited to heavy metals; endocrine disruptors; phthalates (associated with testicular toxicity and hormonal disruption even at low levels); VCH chemicals used in rubber tires, plastics and pesticides; PAHs released from cigarettes, car fumes and road tar; pesticides and herbicides; formaldehyde; bisphenols found in plastic products; organic solvents; dry-cleaning chemicals and paint fumes.

For a list of suggestions on how to minimize your exposure to these kinds of toxins, please see “Your Body’s Chemical Burden.”

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

Avoid drinking unfiltered tap water

Our waterways are constantly being polluted by industrial waste and byproducts, pharmaceutical drugs (such as birth control pills and other hormone therapies), pesticides and commercial cleaning products. Heavy metals are the most common of the reproductive toxins reaching our water supply through industrial waste, jet fuel exhaust residue and a variety of other sources.

Eat an optimal fertility diet

An optimal fertility diet is about what to avoid as much as it is about what to include. Eat REAL food, ideally organic, to avoid pesticide residues, and locally grown. Processed and packaged foods are a common source not only of pesticides but also chemicals such as bisphenol-A and phthalates.

Key elements are good-quality protein sources (organic and grass fed when it comes to animal products) and healthy fats.

Avoid factory farmed animal products, harmful trans fats and processed vegetable oils. Also avoid unfermented soy products, as soybeans contain phytoestrogens that act on hormones. For an added boost, consider adding more of the following “sperm-enhancing” foods:37 organic pastured eggs, spinach, bananas, dark chocolate, asparagus, broccoli, pomegranates, walnuts, garlic and all zinc-rich foods (as zinc plays a key role in sperm development).

Avoid common allergens

An overactive immune system is more likely to attack its own body cells, and the link between food intolerances and anti-sperm antibodies is well established. The two most widely spread food intolerances are gluten and dairy. Factory farmed milk can also be a source of estrogen that can harm a man’s fertility. Hormones found in factory farmed cows’ milk include:

  • Prolactin
  • Somatostatin
  • Melatonin
  • Oxytocin
  • Growth hormone
  • Luteinizing releasing hormone
  • Thyroid stimulating hormone
  • Estrogens
  • Progesterone
  • Insulin
  • Corticosteroids and many more

Minimize microwave exposure

Avoid carrying your cellphone on your body while it is on, and avoid using laptops and tablets on your lap. More generally, it would also be wise to limit your total exposure by turning your Wi-Fi off at night, and make your bedroom an EMF-free zone.

Get checked for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)

Some STDs can be asymptomatic, meaning you may not be aware you have them as there are no obvious symptoms. One such STD is a chlamydia infection. In men, chlamydia can lead to sperm abnormalities including sperm antibodies.

In women, it can lead to scarring, blocked tubes and miscarriage. Most STDs are easy to treat, so it pays for both partners to have an STD check. There is no point in only one partner going for a test as the other partner can reinfect them again.

Avoid coffee, smoking and alcohol

While organic black coffee has a number of health benefits, fertility does not appear to be one of them. On the contrary, studies suggest it decreases fertility. In one study, men who drank three or more caffeinated beverages per day during the conception phase raised their partner’s risk of miscarriage by more than 70 percent.38

Alcohol is also harmful to both eggs and sperm, and increases the risk of miscarriage. Needless to say, smoking and recreational drugs also have an adverse effect on fertility, reducing the size of your testes and lowering your sperm count.

Get regular exercise

According to recent research, getting at least 30 minutes of exercise three times a week can help boost men’s sperm count. And, to maintain healthy swimmers, you need to stay active —  within a month of quitting exercise, sperm count starts to wane again.39 That said, be aware that bicycling may have an adverse effect on your sperm. In one study, men who routinely cycled 300 kilometers per week ended up having fertility problems.40

Normalize your weight

Obesity contributes to infertility, so normalizing your weight can help improve your sperm quality and quantity. For guidance, please review my free nutrition plan.

Limit hot baths and saunas

While hot baths and saunas have a myriad of health benefits, the heat can take a toll on sperm. In one three-year-long study, 5 of 11 men who quit taking hot baths were able to raise their sperm count by nearly 500 percent. So, limiting hot baths and saunas for a few months may be helpful during the conception phase. I do a far-infrared sauna nearly every day, but I put a small freezer block of ice next to my groin to keep the temperature low.

Combat stress

From making sure you’re getting sufficient amounts of sleep and exercising regularly to incorporating a tool like the Emotional Freedom Techniques or taking up yoga or meditation, there are many ways to address stress. Try a few different things and stick to whatever works.

Clean up your home environment 

Use natural cleaning products or make your own. Avoid those containing 2-butoxyethanol (EGBE) and methoxydiglycol (DEGME) — two toxic glycol ethers that can compromise your fertility and cause fetal harm. Look for products made by companies that are Earth-friendly, animal-friendly, sustainable, certified organic and GMO-free.

This applies to everything from food and personal care products to building materials, carpeting, paint, furniture, mattresses and others.

When buying new products such as furniture, mattresses or carpet padding, consider buying flame retardant-free varieties, containing naturally less flammable materials, such as leather, wool, cotton, silk and Kevlar. Avoid stain- and water-resistant clothing, furniture and carpets to avoid perfluorinated chemicals. Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to remove contaminated house dust. This is one of the major routes of exposure to flame retardant chemicals.

Also switch over to organic toiletries, including shampoo, toothpaste, antiperspirants and cosmetics. EWG’s Skin Deep database41 can help you find personal care products that are free of phthalates and other potentially dangerous chemicals.

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Blood Pressure Testing Is Mostly Inaccurate

09/08/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

About 29 percent of American adults suffer from high blood pressure, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),1 and it ranks as the second greatest public health threat. Of the one-third of adults who have high blood pressure, only half have the condition under control, even with medication.2

Your blood pressure is the force needed to push blood through your arteries coming from your heart to deliver oxygen rich blood around your body. When your blood pressure is measured, you get a high value (systolic) and a low value (diastolic). The high number measures the highest pressure that occurs in your blood vessels while your heart is contracting. The low value measures the pressure in your arteries between heartbeats when your heart is relaxed.

Usually the systolic pressure, or top number, offers the most information about how stiff your arteries are and how much pressure is needed to push blood around your body. This is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. But individually, an elevated systolic or diastolic blood pressure may be enough to make a diagnosis of high blood pressure.

Recent studies have demonstrated the risk of death from heart disease and stroke doubles with every 20 mmHg elevation in your systolic blood pressure or 10 mmHg elevation in your diastolic pressure in people ages 40 to 89.3

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is diagnosed when your pressure measures greater than or equal to 140 mmHg systolic pressure and greater than or equal to 90 mmHg of diastolic pressure. However, to reach the conclusion about treatment for hypertension, your physician must first have an accurate measurement of your blood pressure.

Common Method of Measuring Blood Pressure May Be Inaccurate

The method of taking blood pressure was invented in 1881 and refined in 1905 when Russian surgeon Dr. Nikolai Korotkoff discovered the difference between systolic and diastolic blood pressure measurements.4 Today, sphygmomanometers, the machine that measures blood pressure, continue to measure the appearance and disappearance of sounds in the arteries, known as Korotkoff sounds, as the standard blood pressure measurement.

The blood pressure cuff usually measures the pressure in the brachial artery in your upper arm, but can also be measured using the femoral artery in your thigh. However, central aortic blood pressure (CBP) measurements are often considered a better prognostic marker of cardiovascular disease5 and are a better indicator of the pressure experienced by your organs, such as your brain and kidneys.6 The downside to measuring CBP is that it requires an invasive procedure to determine the measurement.

Since the possibility of large differences between central aortic and peripheral (arm or leg) measurements could affect the decision to treat hypertension or direct the prescription of medication, researchers undertook a study to compare the differences between the two measurements.7 The researchers used data from over 2,500 people between 1950 and 2016 and compared their blood pressure cuff measurements against an invasive central aortic blood pressure measurement.

They found that peripheral cuff measurements were reasonably accurate when compared to the reference standard — or invasive CBP — in people who had blood pressure lower than 120/80 or those who had pressure higher than 160/100. At these extreme ends of the risk spectrum the accuracy was up to 80 percent.

However, the remaining population with blood pressure in the mid-range of systolic measurements between 120 and 159 mmHg and with diastolic measurements between 80 and 99 mmHg, the accuracy of the measure dropped dramatically to between 50 percent and 57 percent.8

Inaccuracies May Be Related to Several Factors

As this study was performed retrospectively, it is impossible to determine why those blood pressure readings may have been inaccurate. However, there are several factors that play into the accuracy of your blood pressure reading that you should be aware of in order to ensure your pressure measurement is as accurate as possible.9,10,11,12

Cuff size

The size of the cuff may change the blood pressure reading significantly. The blood pressure cuff will have an arm circumference range printed on the cuff. Using a cuff that is too small may artificially increase the systolic measurement between 10 mmHg and 40 mmHg.

Placement of the cuff

The cuff must be placed on a bare arm, not over clothing, with the edges of the cuff aligned and positioned at heart level, approximately 1 inch above the bend in your elbow. The sleeve of your shirt should be off and not rolled up.

Hearing ability when using a stethoscope

Many of the machines used today in hospitals and some clinics to take blood pressure are automated and don’t require someone to manually listen for Korotkoff sounds in your brachial artery.

However, there remain a large number of blood pressure measurements taken by an individual listening for the change in sounds in the brachial artery. Individuals who have some hearing loss may record an abnormal reading when they don’t hear the change in sounds correctly.

Machine calibration

Home machines and automated machines must be accurately calibrated to ensure a proper reading. One study demonstrated some home pressure machines were off in up to 15 percent of patients.13 Readings from these machines may impact treatment recommendations.

Body position

Your body position has a great deal to do with how accurate a peripheral blood pressure measurement will be. The proper position is to have your feet flat on the floor, back supported in a chair, legs uncrossed for at least five minutes and your arm supported while sitting.

Activity

Talking to the person taking your blood pressure during the reading may increase your systolic pressure by 10 mmHg and a full bladder may increase your systolic reading by 10 mmHg. Prior to taking your blood pressure, it is important that you sit quietly for three to five minutes and do not exercise for at least 30 minutes prior to the reading.

White coat hypertension

In this instance your blood pressure consistently measures greater than 140/90 mmHg or above but measures less at home. For some people, seeing the doctor is an inherently stressful experience that may temporarily raise your blood pressure. An estimated 15 percent to 30 percent of people with documented high blood pressure have white coat hypertension.14

Nicotine, caffeine or alcohol

All should be eliminated in the 30 minutes prior to having your pressure measured.

Both High and Low Measurements Linked to Health Risks

Accurate measurement of your blood pressure is necessary to prevent damage to your health and appropriately monitor your blood pressure. Both abnormally high and low pressure may be linked to health risks. Physicians will be concerned with low blood pressure when it triggers symptoms, such as:15

Dizziness

Nausea

Fainting

Unusual thirst

Lack of concentration

Blurred vision

Cold, clammy skin

Rapid, shallow breathing

Fatigue

Low blood pressure may be the result of prolonged bed rest, pregnancy, blood loss, endocrine problems or nutritional deficiencies. High blood pressure increases your potential risk for cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, loss of vision, stroke and sexual dysfunction.16 While you may experience symptoms of low blood pressure, you often won’t experience any immediate symptoms of high blood pressure. This is why the condition is called the silent killer, as the initial symptoms may be a stroke or heart attack.

Assess Your Risk of Hypertension Without Measuring Blood Pressure

Another noninvasive method of measuring your risk of hypertension without visiting the physician’s office is to use your waist-to-hip ratio. Research suggests your waist size may be an effective measure for assessing obesity-related hypertension risk.17 If you have a high waist-to-hip ratio, i.e., you carry more fat around your waist than on your hips, you may be at an increased risk for obesity-related hypertension.

To calculate your waist-to-hip ratio, measure the circumference of your hips at the widest part, across your buttocks, and your waist at the smallest circumference of your natural waist, just above your belly button. Then divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement to get the ratio. The Mayo Clinic uses the following waist-to-hip ratio designations to evaluate your health risk:

Waist-to-Hip Ratio Norms

Gender Excellent Good Average At Risk

Gender: Male

Excellent: <0.85

Good: 0.85 – 0.89

Average: 0.9 – 0.95

At Risk: >0.95

Gender: Female

Excellent: <0.75

Good: 0.75 – 0.79

Average: 0.8 – 0.86

At Risk: >0.86

Hypertension Typically a Symptom of Insulin and Leptin Resistance

Typically, high blood pressure is a symptom of insulin and leptin resistance. This means the vast majority of people may be able to normalize their blood pressure using dietary and lifestyle changes that avoid side effects from antihypertension drugs. However, if you are currently on medication, it is important you remain on the medication while making changes to your diet in order to reduce the potential for a stroke or heart attack while naturally bringing your blood pressure to within normal limits.

One of the primary responses to a high-carbohydrate and processed food diet is an over production of insulin and leptin. As these rise, they also cause your blood pressure to rise. Elevated uric acid levels are also associated with hypertension. This means the program you choose should also address normalizing your insulin sensitivity and your uric acid levels. Interestingly, by eliminating excess sugar and fructose in your diet you’ll address these issues all at once.

Standard Medical Treatment for Hypertension Not Risk Free

In my interview with Dr. Andrew Saul, we discuss beta-blocker drugs commonly used in the treatment of high blood pressure. Yet, despite having over 100 antihypertension drugs approved and available on the market, the number of people whose blood pressure is not under control continues to rise.

Beta-blockers are commonly used anti-hypertension medications that come with a laundry list of side effects, including cardiac failure or infarction (heart attack), impaired kidney function, depression and ischemic colitis. Diuretics may be used to help your body reduce a fluid overload. Side effects may include Stevens-Johnson syndrome, impaired hearing, abdominal pain and arthritic pain.18

Calcium channel blockers are a type of antihypertensive medication for which side effects include edema, dizziness, nose bleeds, rash and tinnitus.19 In fact, none of the medications your physician may prescribe to control blood pressure are free of side effects.

Nitric Oxide Dump May Be Exactly What You’re Looking For

Exercise is an important lifestyle strategy that can help normalize your blood pressure. In this video I demonstrate the nitric oxide dump exercise I do daily. The exercise takes just three minutes, and should ideally be done two to three times a day, with at least two hours between each session.

I am now convinced that this gentler strategy, which has not been evaluated or compared to the HIIT protocols discussed in previous articles, is a far healthier strategy to obtain the benefits of HIIT without the downside. I only wish I had known about this more effective approach earlier. This type of exercise stimulates the release of nitric oxide (NO) stored in your endothelial cells in your blood vessels. NO effectively:

  • Causes your blood vessels to relax and dilate, lowering your blood pressure
  • Stimulates and improves your immune function
  • Decreases the viscosity of your blood, reducing platelet aggregation and the potential for stroke or heart attack
  • Provides powerful anabolic stimulus, or increases lean body mass

Start With Lifestyle Choices to Regulate Your Blood Pressure

The most effective way to normalize your blood pressure is through healthy lifestyle choices. High blood pressure is typically associated with insulin resistance. Insulin helps your body to store magnesium, which helps relax your muscles. If your cells have grown resistant to insulin, you won’t be able to store magnesium, which leads to blood vessel constriction and rising blood pressure.

Trans fat is now known to trigger atherosclerosis (hardening of your arteries). This is another trigger for hypertension, so avoiding all trans fats or hydrogenated fats may help prevent atherosclerosis. This includes margarines, vegetable oils, butter-like spreads and baked goods.

If your blood pressure is running high, you need to restore your insulin and leptin sensitivity, and the following five strategies are among the most effective for doing so:

Avoiding processed foods (as most are high in sugar/fructose, grains, harmful fats and artificial ingredients)

Making real food, ideally organic and locally grown, the focus of your diet

Swapping net carbs for healthy fat. Sources of healthy fats to add to your diet include:

Avocados

Butter made from raw, grass-fed organic milk

Raw grass fed dairy

Organic pastured egg yolks

Coconuts and coconut oil

Unheated organic nut oils

Raw nuts, such as pecans and macadamia, which are low in protein and high in healthy fats

Grass fed meats or pasture raised poultry

Intermittent fasting is one of the most effective ways I’ve found to normalize your insulin/leptin sensitivity. It’s not a diet in conventional terms, but rather a way of scheduling your eating to promote efficient energy use. Essentially, intermittent fasting means eating all your calories during a specific window of time each day, and fasting during the rest. When you eat, your body reacts by elevating insulin and leptin.

Starchy carbohydrates cause a far greater insulin elevation than protein, while fat requires no insulin for digestion. If you’re constantly snacking (or drinking) on sugary fare, your insulin/leptin levels will remain chronically elevated, which tends to promote high blood pressure.

The more sensitive your body is to insulin/leptin, the more likely you’ll be to use the food you consume efficiently, which will help improve insulin resistance, and promote weight loss and the creation of muscle. Your body is most sensitive to insulin/leptin following a period of fasting. (Fasting also boosts growth hormone secretion — another important key to weight loss and muscle growth.)

Exercising regularly. On a side note, I recommend training yourself to breathe through your nose when exercising, as mouth breathing during exercise can raise your heart rate and blood pressure, sometimes resulting in fatigue and dizziness. To learn more about this, please refer to my previous article on the Buteyko breathing method.

My optimized nutrition and exercise plan can help guide you step-by-step toward normalizing your insulin and leptin levels, which in turn will help normalize your blood pressure and help you shed excess weight. These are free resources that can help improve your health, or take it to the next level if you’ve already started making some changes.

Experts Warn Statin Drug Trend Puts Lives at Risk

09/08/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

The number of people continuing to suffer from heart disease and stroke rises each year, despite advancements in pharmaceutical intervention. Unfortunately, the misguided recommendation to eat a low-fat diet is only making matters worse. Cardiovascular disease was listed as the underlying cause of death in 33 percent of all deaths in the U.S.1 and remains the No. 1 cause of death.

Someone has a stroke every 40 seconds and a stroke kills someone every four minutes. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), seven factors are associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, including smoking, inactivity, diet, high cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar.2 While some of these factors are straightforward, such as smoking or not smoking, others are more complicated than a simple measurement.

Like saturated fat, cholesterol has been vilified despite 60 years’ worth of research having failed to demonstrate a correlation between high total cholesterol and heart disease. Cholesterol is actually one of the more important molecules your body uses to build cells and produce hormones and vitamin D. Low levels of cholesterol that may occur with pharmaceutical intervention are linked to memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease,3 and may increase your risk of depression,4 stroke and violent behavior.

Cholesterol is often divided into HDL/”good” and LDL/”bad” cholesterol, but the division is really based on how the molecule combines with protein. LDL and HDL are lipoproteins, or fat molecules combined with protein. Fat must be transported in your blood with a protein, which is classified by density. Large LDL molecules are actually not harmful, but small dense LDL particles may squeeze out of the lining of your arteries and trigger damage and inflammation.

Some groups, such as the National Lipid Association, are now starting to shift the focus toward the size of the LDL particle instead of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, in order to better assess your risk of heart disease. While a potentially more accurate method of assessing risk, the process has not yet been embraced by the mainstream, and requires more complex blood testing than currently done for cholesterol levels.5

New Study Defends Statin Drug Use

A recent study released in the Annals of Internal Medicine6 triggered a flurry of media attention when it recommended patients continue — or start — taking statin drugs.7 According to Cleveland Clinic chairman of cardiovascular medicine, Dr. Steven Nissen, holistic practitioners are hyping side effects associated with statin drugs and have concocted unfounded assertions against the medication.

However, many studies have shown statins fail to live up to the promises of lowering your cardiovascular disease risk. In fact, this class of drug may actually raise your risk.

The study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital that sparked this attention evaluated 28,266 people who reported an adverse event or reaction to taking the statin drug.8 Of those who had already experienced an adverse reaction, 70.7 percent continued their medication. After four years, the researchers found those who continued the drug had a 12.2 percent rate of cardiovascular events. Those who discontinued the medication had a 13.9 percent rate of adverse cardiovascular events.

In other words, those who continued taking the drug after suffering some form of adverse effect experienced a mere 1.7 percent reduced rate of cardiovascular problems over four years. In an editorial in the same publication, Nissen laid a substantial portion of the blame for stopping statin drugs on the doorstep of dietary supplements, lifestyle-based approaches and benefits from these that have not been confirmed in formal clinical studies.9

Statin Benefits Are Weak at Best

Interestingly, the AHA places a strong emphasis on lifestyle-based approaches that include quitting smoking, getting exercise, normalizing weight, reducing blood pressure and reducing blood sugar.10 In other words, while Nissen is not convinced lifestyle-based approaches are very helpful, the AHA doesn’t appear to agree.

Moreover, the potential benefit of statins must also be weighed against its drawbacks, and many cardiologists and even professional organizations have warned that statins seem to do more harm than good.11

According to an analysis from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force,12 to prevent a single person from dying of any cause, 250 people would need to take statin medications for six years; 100 people need to take a statin as a primary preventive for five years in order for one or two people to avoid a heart attack, but none will actually live longer.13 Other studies have also failed to find any kind of mortality benefit from statin medications, even in at-risk groups.14

Unfortunately, statin medications are not just recommended for individuals who have had a cardiovascular event in the past and considered at high risk. They’re now recommended to any person who has a 7.5 percent risk of having a heart attack in the following 10 years, based on a risk profile created by the AHA, which takes into account gender/age/race, cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes and smoking.

Using this calculator, an amazing 26.4 million Americans become candidates for statin treatment.15 However, as discussed in previous articles,16,17 researchers have warned the AHA’s risk calculator overestimates your heart disease risk by anywhere from 75 to 150 percent. This means even healthy people at low risk for heart problems are being put on these risky drugs.

Statin Drugs Focus on the Wrong Factor

Your risk of heart attack and stroke is not related to a simple number, but rather to a complex interaction of the different weight densities of lipoproteins in your blood. For years Americans were misinformed and told to eat a low-fat diet to reduce their risk of heart attack. However, research does not support this recommendation, and even a general look at the difference between potential risk in people from the U.K. and France demonstrates something quite different.

The average French person receives 15.5 percent total calories from saturated fat, while a person from the U.K. receives 13.5 percent. However, the rate of death from heart disease in France is one-third that of that in the U.K.18 And, like saturated fat, Americans have been advised to eat a diet low in cholesterol to control the cholesterol in their body, until the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee said:19 “Cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.”

Heart disease is triggered by damage to your artery walls and blood clotting. When the endothelial wall of your artery is damaged, your body begins the repair process and essentially creates a “scab.” To prevent the scab from dislodging, your endothelial wall grows over it, causing the wall to thicken, which you know as atherosclerosis.

In other words, cholesterol is not clogging your arteries; rather, the arterial walls are thickened as a result of a natural repair process. One of the primary culprits of the initial damage to the arterial walls is sugar (fructose). This means that eating a diet high in sugar is the way to increase your risk of heart disease, not a diet high in cholesterol or saturated fats.

Statin drugs are designed to lower your total cholesterol levels, which tell you virtually nothing about your risk of heart disease unless it is exceptionally elevated. A total cholesterol above 330 or so would be suggestive of familial hypercholesterolemia, which, in my view, would be about the only time a cholesterol-reducing drug would be appropriate.

While cholesterol numbers may be indicative of an increased risk of heart disease, they aren’t the numbers you’re used to seeing. Two ratios that are far better indicators of heart disease risk are:

  • Your HDL/total cholesterol ratio: HDL percentage is a very potent heart disease risk factor. Just divide your HDL level by your total cholesterol. This percentage should ideally be above 24 percent. Below 10 percent, it’s a significant indicator of risk for heart disease
  • Your triglyceride/HDL ratios: This ratio should ideally be below 2

Statin Side Effects Far From Minor

In an interview with CBS News,20 Nissen said that most side effects associated with statins are minor and can be addressed by adjusting the dose or switching to another type of statin. The side effect primarily discussed were muscle aches. Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, professor of preventive medicine and cardiology at Northwestern University School of Medicine, downplayed the matter further by suggesting the muscle aches typically associated with statins may simply be due to the age of the individual taking the drug.21

However, muscle pain is only one of the common side effects attributed to statin medications. Health professional information for atorvastatin (Lipitor) ranks side effects as very common (10 percent prevalence or greater), common (1 to 10 percent), uncommon (0.1 to 1 percent), rare (0.01 to 0.1 percent) and very rare (less than 0.01 percent). Side effects from statins reported to health professionals as very common, common and uncommon include:22

  • General: Urinary tract infections, dizziness, partial loss of sensitivity to sensory stimuli, distortion of the sense of taste, amnesia and headache
  • Gastrointestinal: Diarrhea, indigestion, nausea, intestinal gas, constipation, abdominal discomfort, abdominal pain, vomiting and pancreatitis
  • Metabolic: Abnormal liver function tests, hyperglycemia, hepatitis, anorexia, hypoglycemia and weight gain
  • Musculoskeletal: Joint pain, pain in extremity, musculoskeletal pain, muscle spasms, myalgia, joint swelling, back pain, elevated creatine phosphokinase, neck pain and muscle fatigue

Neuromuscular and Cardiovascular Side Effects Are Devastating

The problem with using statin drugs is they address only the surface issue of total cholesterol levels in a simple manner inside a complex organism. The drugs work by blocking the enzyme in your liver that naturally produces cholesterol your body needs to function. This essentially reduces your total cholesterol without addressing the different densities of lipoproteins, namely HDL, LDL, VLDL (very low-density lipoproteins) or your triglyceride levels.

By altering just one aspect of your cholesterol production, statin medications have a significantly negative effect on your total body health. Rarely mentioned is the link between cardiovascular death and statin medications. It’s important to realize that the medication you’re using to prevent heart disease has a common side effect of cardiovascular death, occurring in up to 10 percent of patients.23

Another less publicized side effect is a progression of muscle wasting that may lead to a diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The World Health Organization Foundation Collaborating Centre for International Drug Monitoring has noted a disproportionately high number of patients with upper motor neuron lesions, like ALS, among those taking statin medications.24

Researchers from Johns Hopkins Medical School countered these disturbing findings25 saying the condition can be treated with steroids and other immunosuppressive drugs; hence, there’s no need to fear this popular “fantastic medication.” Considering you can dramatically lower your cardiovascular disease risk with lifestyle changes alone, this hardly seems like a reasonable recommendation for most people.

What Is the Statistical Effectiveness of Statin Medications?

When the risks of taking a medication include neuromuscular disease and a “common” side effect of cardiovascular death, you would hope the effectiveness of the drug outweighs the risks. However, in this case, the risks far outweigh any benefit from using the drug. In a report published in the Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology, the authors concluded statin advocates used a statistical tool called relative risk reduction (RRR) to amplify what amounts to trivial benefits.26

The same report states clinical trials have also succeeded in minimizing the significance of a large number of adverse effects that patients experience. When you consider the absolute risk for adverse side effects listed above the use of statin drugs, that benefits just 1 percent of the population, appears ludicrous. A 1 percent benefit means that out of 100 people treated with the drug, one person will have one less heart attack.

By changing the statistic to a relative risk, the benefits of statins suddenly help 30 to 50 percent of the population. To understand this better, imagine you have a study of 200 men, half of whom take a drug and the other half a placebo, to examine the effect on prostate cancer. After five years, two men in the group taking the drug get prostate cancer, compared to four in the group taking the placebo.

Using this data, researchers could claim the drug cut the risk by 50 percent, or that there was a mere 2 percent drop in risk — and both would be correct. The first claims relative risk reduction and the second uses absolute risk.

In a second study published in Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology, researchers found that not only were statins not as effective as commonly communicated, but they may also contribute to cardiovascular disease,27 which would account for the common cardiovascular side-effect associated with the drug. Several physiological mechanisms associated with statins were discussed that show how the drug may be associated with making your heart health worse, including but not limited to the following:28

  • Inhibits vitamin K2 function
  • Mitochondria damage
  • Interferes with and depletes coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
  • Interferes with selenium-containing proteins

Reduction in CoQ10 May Be Trigger Behind Statin Side Effects

One of the known effects of statin medications is that it depletes your body of CoQ10, used for energy production in every cell of your body. Hence, CoQ10 is vital for your good health, energy levels, longevity and general quality of life. Although there was a proposal to add a black box warning on statin medications regarding the depletion of CoQ10, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration decided against it in 2014.

The reduced form of CoQ10 is ubiquinol, also a critical component in cellular respiration and the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Considering your heart demands the most energy of the organs in your body, you may see how potentially devastating it may be to diminish your body’s main source of cellular energy.

If you are taking a statin drug, it is essential you also take a CoQ10 or ubiquinol supplement. I strongly recommend the latter as it is more effectively absorbed by your body.

Dr. Steven Sinatra, cardiologist and founder of the New England Heart Center, recommends taking at least 100 milligrams (mg), but preferably 200 mg of high-quality CoQ10 or ubiquinol daily. Using ubiquinol improves the mechanism that prevents LDL cholesterol from damaging your body and effectively rescues cells from the damage done by the statin, protecting muscle cells from myopathies.29

Protect Your Heart Health Using Drug-Free Strategies

It is important that you don’t just stop a medication without first putting other strategies into place to help manage your heart health. If you are looking for a nondrug way to boost your heart health, here are some of my top recommendations:

Reduce, with the plan of eliminating, grains and sugars in your diet. It is vitally important to eliminate gluten-containing grains and sugars, especially processed fructose.

Consume a good portion of your food raw.

Make sure you are getting plenty of high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fats from fatty fish low in mercury. Good examples include sardines, anchovies, herring and mackerel. Alternatively, take a high-quality omega-3 supplement such as krill oil. Research suggests that as little as 500 mg of krill per day may improve your total cholesterol and triglycerides and will likely increase your HDL cholesterol.

Replace harmful vegetable oils and synthetic trans fats with healthy fats, such as olive oil, butter and coconut oil (remember olive oil should be used cold only; use coconut oil for cooking and baking and source your butter from certified grass fed, organically raised dairy cattle).

Include fermented foods in your daily diet. These will not only optimize your intestinal microflora, which will boost your overall immunity, but will also introduce beneficial bacteria into your mouth. Poor oral health is another powerful indicator of increased heart disease risk.

Optimize your vitamin D levels, ideally through sensible sun exposure as this will allow your body to also create vitamin D sulfate — another factor that may play a crucial role in preventing the formation of arterial plaque.

Check your iron level at least once a year, and donate blood two to three times a year if your ferritin level is above 80 ng/mL. An ideal level for adult men and non-menstruating women is somewhere between 40 and 60 ng/mL. You do not want to be below 20 ng/mL or above 80 ng/mL.

Another valuable test is the gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT) test. GGT measures liver enzymes. Not only will this 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.

For women, a healthy GGT level is around 9 units per liter (U/L) whereas the high ends of “normal” are generally 40 to 45 U/L. For men, 16 U/L is ideal, while the normal lab range can go as high as 65 to 70 U/L.

Exercise regularly. Make sure you incorporate high-intensity interval exercises, which also optimize your human growth hormone production.

Stop smoking completely and don’t drink alcohol excessively.

Be sure to get plenty of high-quality, restorative sleep.

Practice regular stress-management techniques.

Skyrocketing Male Infertility May Threaten Mankind’s Survival

09/08/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

Human fertility is in a downward spiral, scientists warn and modern life — with its technological and chemical “progress” — is likely to blame. Female infertility tends to get the most attention, but in this case, it’s male infertility that has made headlines, as recent research shows sperm concentration and quality has dramatically declined in recent decades.1,2,3,4,5

According to the first of two recently published papers,6 a meta-analysis of 185 studies and the largest of its kind, sperm counts around the world declined by more than 50 percent, to 47 million sperm per milliliter (mL), between 1973 and 2013, and continue to dwindle.

The most significant declines were found in samples from men in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, where many had sperm concentrations below 40 million/mL. (Men suspected of infertility, such as those attending IVF clinics, were excluded from the study.) Overall, men in these countries had a 52.4 percent decline in sperm concentration and a 59.3 percent decline in total sperm count (sperm concentration multiplied by the total volume of an ejaculate).

Male Infertility Rates Warn of Impending Human Extinction

According to the World Health Organization, 40 million sperm per mL is considered the cutoff point at which a man will have trouble fertilizing an egg, which means half of the men in most developed nations are near or at the point of being infertile. South American, Asian and African men had no noticeable decline, although this discrepancy could be due to the smaller sample sizes obtained from those countries.

As noted by Frederick vom Saal, professor emeritus of biological sciences at the University of Missouri, who was not involved in the study, these findings are a wake-up call and a warning that “we are in a death spiral of infertility in men.” Indeed, lead author Dr. Hagai Levine, who called the results “profound” and “shocking,”7 worries that human extinction is a very real possibility, should the trend continue unabated.8

Danish researcher and pediatrician Dr. Niels Skakkebæk, who in 1992 published a paper9 showing male fertility declined between 1940 and 1990, also commented on the findings, saying:

“These two new papers add significantly to existing literature on adverse trends in male reproductive health problems … Here in Denmark, there is an epidemic of infertility. More than 20 percent of Danish men do not father children. Most worryingly [in Denmark] is that semen quality is in general so poor that an average young Danish man has much fewer sperm than men had a couple of generations ago, and more than 90 percent of their sperm are abnormal.”

Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals Wreak Havoc on Men’s Reproductive Ability

The second paper,10 published in PLOS Genetics, suggests endocrine disrupting chemicals are to blame for the dramatic decline in reproductive health among men.11 It found that exposing male mice to ethinyl estradiol, a synthetic sex hormone found in birth control pills, causes developmental problems in the reproductive tract, thereby lowering sperm counts.

While men do not use birth control pills, they’re exposed to them nonetheless through contaminated water and other sources. Men are also exposed to a number of other endocrine disrupting chemicals in their day-to-day lives,12 thanks to the pernicious use of endocrine disrupting chemicals in plastics, personal care products, herbicides such as glyphosate13 (which is a very common contaminant in non-organic foods) and more.

The study also confirmed that the effects of environmental estrogens have generational effects. Males are successively becoming increasingly more sterile with each passing generation. As reported by Environmental Health News:14

“They observed adverse effects starting in the first generation of mouse lineages where each generation was exposed for a brief period shortly after birth. The impacts worsened in the second generation compared to the first, and by the third generation the scientists were finding animals that could not produce sperm at all.

This latter condition was not seen in the first two generations exposed. Details of the experimental results actually suggested that multiple generations of exposure may have increased male sensitivity to the chemical.”

Testicular cancer is also on the rise, as are congenital malformations of the penis, and these problems have also been linked to endocrine disrupting chemicals. Experiments on fathead minnows show endocrine disrupters turn the fish into a sterile intersex species, meaning they have both male and female reproductive systems yet are incapable of reproducing.15

While women are also adversely affected by these kinds of chemicals, men are disproportionally affected due to the way the male reproductive system develops in utero. At the outset, male and female fetuses are fairly identical. Sex hormones are what drive the differentiation between the sexes. Alas, when synthetic chemicals that mimic these all-important hormones enter into the mix, it confuses the process and interferes with the biological process of turning the fetus into a male.

Corruption and Lies Threaten Human Health and Survival

The Unites States permits more than 84,000 chemicals to be used in household products, cosmetics, food and food packaging, and a majority of these have never been tested for safety. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, 85 percent of new chemical applications include no testing whatsoever.

What’s worse, the chemical industry has a long history of lying about the safety of their wares, and its powerful lobby has allowed the industry to saturate the world in extremely dangerous chemicals with little or no oversight.

As revealed by Grant David Gillham,16 a political consultant who ran Citizens for Fire Safety, the American Chemistry Council17 (the chemical industry’s trade group) flat out lied when it said it had no involvement with Citizens for Fire Safety. The group was in fact created with the specific aim of defending the use of flame retardants in furniture — despite the fact that they don’t work and are profoundly toxic — to protect the industry’s interests.

Everything an expectant mother takes into her body can potentially get passed along to her developing child, and scientific evidence strongly suggests exposure to chemicals is contributing to cancer, reproductive abnormalities, early puberty18,19,20 and a host of other endocrine, neurological and metabolic problems.

In a 2005 study,21 the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in the umbilical cord blood of infants born in the U.S. Tests detected a total of 287 chemicals from pesticides, consumer products, food packaging and environmental waste, including BPA, flame retardants, PCBs and even DDT. As noted in a 2009 scientific statement from the Endocrine Society:22

“The evidence for adverse reproductive outcomes (infertility, cancers, malformations) from exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals is strong, and there is mounting evidence for effects on other endocrine systems, including thyroid, neuroendocrine, obesity and metabolism, and insulin and glucose homeostasis …

Effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals may be transmitted to further generations through germline epigenetic modifications or from continued exposure of offspring to the environmental insult.”

Hormone Disrupting Chemicals — The Dirty Dozen

As mentioned, endocrine disrupting chemicals specifically alter the normal function of your hormones.23 A hormone’s job is to interact with the cells in your body, sending signals that instruct them to perform certain tasks, and endocrine disrupting chemicals interfere with this communication process. In 2013, the EWG24 identified 12 of the most troublesome hormone wreckers.

Surprisingly, along with some very well-known endocrine disruptors,25,26 the review also identified several you might not normally associate with hormone disruption, such as lead, mercury and arsenic. The EWG’s “dirty dozen” list for the 12 worst endocrine disruptors are outlined in the following table.

I’ve written about many of these in prior articles, so for more information about any particular one, please follow the links. For a list of some of the most common sources of these hormone wreckers, please see “10 Sources of Endocrine Disruptors and How to Avoid Them.”

Bisphenol-A (BPA)

Dioxin

Atrazine

Phthalates

Perchlorate

Fire retardants27

Lead

Mercury

Arsenic

Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs)

Organophosphate pesticides28

Glycol ethers

Other Root Causes of Infertility

While endocrine disrupting chemicals are high on the list of contributing factors, they’re not the only ones. Other variables that can affect a man’s reproductive ability include:

  • Electromagnetic field (EMF) exposures
  • Nutritional deficiencies and/or food intolerances
  • Stress
  • Immune deficiencies
  • Obesity and/or inactivity

These subtle but critical factors synergistically interact to impact the quality of a woman’s eggs and a man’s sperm, affecting a couple’s ability to conceive and the health of the embryo. For example, while a gluten intolerance alone cannot cause infertility, the resulting gut inflammation can affect your nutrient absorption and lead to deficiencies in nutrients you need for optimal sperm, egg and hormone production and a healthy pregnancy.

In terms of diet, certain nutrients are also more important than others when it comes to fertility. Animal-based omega-3 fats and vitamin D are two vital components that can have a significant impact. Both are also crucial during pregnancy to protect the health of both mother and child.

Optimizing your vitamin D could be one of the most important things a woman could possibly do in pregnancy, as research clearly shows that achieving a vitamin D serum level of at least 40 ng/mL (100 nmol/L) reduces the risk of premature birth by 60 percent. It also helps protect against a number or pregnancy complications, as well as autism spectrum disorder and Type 1 diabetes in the child.  

Microwave Exposure Is Decimating Male Reproductive Health

I personally believe this may be the most significant factor for the observed decrease in male sperm count. You may not recall this, but it was well known in World War II that radar operators could easily create sterility by exposing the groin to radar waves. Radar is microwave radiation and was the precursor to cellphones that use similar frequencies.

In May 2011, the cancer research arm of the World Health Organization, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, classified radiofrequency EMF — such as the radiation from cellphones — a class 2B carcinogen, meaning it is possibly carcinogenic to humans.29 Research also suggests microwave radiation may play a significant role in male reproductive health.

While evaluating studies showing you can radically reduce biological microwave damage using calcium channel blockers, Dr. Martin Pall discovered a previously unknown mechanism of biological harm from microwaves emitted by cellphones and other wireless technologies.30

Embedded in your cell membranes are voltage gated calcium channels (VGCCs). It turns out these VGCCs are activated by microwaves, and when that happens, about 1 million calcium ions per second are released.

This massive excess of intracellular calcium then stimulates the release of nitric oxide (NO) inside your cell and mitochondria, which combines with superoxide to form peroxynitrite. Not only does peroxynitrites cause oxidative damage, they also create hydroxyl free radicals — the most destructive free radicals known to man.

Hydroxyl free radicals decimate mitochondrial and nuclear DNA, their membranes and proteins. The end result is mitochondrial dysfunction, which we now know is at the heart of most chronic disease.

The tissues with the highest density of VGCCs are your brain, the pacemaker in your heart and male testes. (A man’s testicles are also more vulnerable to EMFs for the fact that they’re on the outside of the body. Women’s eggs, on the other hand, are somewhat protected and shielded from EMFs due to them being further inside the body.31)

What this research tells us is that excessive microwave exposure can be a direct contributor to conditions such as Alzheimer’s, anxiety, depression, autism, cardiac arrhythmias and infertility.32 Indeed, other studies have linked low-level electromagnetic radiation (EMR) exposure from cellphones to an 8 percent reduction in sperm motility and a 9 percent reduction in sperm viability.33,34

Wi-Fi equipped laptop computers have also been linked to decreased sperm motility and an increase in sperm DNA fragmentation after just four hours of use!35 So, if you care about your reproductive health, avoid carrying your cellphone in your pockets or on your hip, and avoid using portable computers and tablets on your lap.

Strategies to Treat Infertility and Boost Fertility Naturally

Considering there are many factors contributing to male infertility, any comprehensive list of recommendations is bound to be a long one. That said, following are a number of common sense suggestions that will address the root causes of infertility. For more detailed information on treating infertility naturally, including specific information on all fertility nutrients, fertility diet, what to avoid and the influence of stress and sleep on fertility, check out Iva Keene’s home study fertility program, “The Natural Fertility Prescription.”36

Minimize your exposure to toxic chemicals

Exposure to environmental toxins, both in utero and neonatally, may dramatically affect adult fertility. Compounds that can alter hormone function and result in adverse reproductive health effects include but are not limited to heavy metals; endocrine disruptors; phthalates (associated with testicular toxicity and hormonal disruption even at low levels); VCH chemicals used in rubber tires, plastics and pesticides; PAHs released from cigarettes, car fumes and road tar; pesticides and herbicides; formaldehyde; bisphenols found in plastic products; organic solvents; dry-cleaning chemicals and paint fumes.

For a list of suggestions on how to minimize your exposure to these kinds of toxins, please see “Your Body’s Chemical Burden.”

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

Avoid drinking unfiltered tap water

Our waterways are constantly being polluted by industrial waste and byproducts, pharmaceutical drugs (such as birth control pills and other hormone therapies), pesticides and commercial cleaning products. Heavy metals are the most common of the reproductive toxins reaching our water supply through industrial waste, jet fuel exhaust residue and a variety of other sources.

Eat an optimal fertility diet

An optimal fertility diet is about what to avoid as much as it is about what to include. Eat REAL food, ideally organic, to avoid pesticide residues, and locally grown. Processed and packaged foods are a common source not only of pesticides but also chemicals such as bisphenol-A and phthalates.

Key elements are good-quality protein sources (organic and grass fed when it comes to animal products) and healthy fats.

Avoid factory farmed animal products, harmful trans fats and processed vegetable oils. Also avoid unfermented soy products, as soybeans contain phytoestrogens that act on hormones. For an added boost, consider adding more of the following “sperm-enhancing” foods:37 organic pastured eggs, spinach, bananas, dark chocolate, asparagus, broccoli, pomegranates, walnuts, garlic and all zinc-rich foods (as zinc plays a key role in sperm development).

Avoid common allergens

An overactive immune system is more likely to attack its own body cells, and the link between food intolerances and anti-sperm antibodies is well established. The two most widely spread food intolerances are gluten and dairy. Factory farmed milk can also be a source of estrogen that can harm a man’s fertility. Hormones found in factory farmed cows’ milk include:

  • Prolactin
  • Somatostatin
  • Melatonin
  • Oxytocin
  • Growth hormone
  • Luteinizing releasing hormone
  • Thyroid stimulating hormone
  • Estrogens
  • Progesterone
  • Insulin
  • Corticosteroids and many more

Minimize microwave exposure

Avoid carrying your cellphone on your body while it is on, and avoid using laptops and tablets on your lap. More generally, it would also be wise to limit your total exposure by turning your Wi-Fi off at night, and make your bedroom an EMF-free zone.

Get checked for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)

Some STDs can be asymptomatic, meaning you may not be aware you have them as there are no obvious symptoms. One such STD is a chlamydia infection. In men, chlamydia can lead to sperm abnormalities including sperm antibodies.

In women, it can lead to scarring, blocked tubes and miscarriage. Most STDs are easy to treat, so it pays for both partners to have an STD check. There is no point in only one partner going for a test as the other partner can reinfect them again.

Avoid coffee, smoking and alcohol

While organic black coffee has a number of health benefits, fertility does not appear to be one of them. On the contrary, studies suggest it decreases fertility. In one study, men who drank three or more caffeinated beverages per day during the conception phase raised their partner’s risk of miscarriage by more than 70 percent.38

Alcohol is also harmful to both eggs and sperm, and increases the risk of miscarriage. Needless to say, smoking and recreational drugs also have an adverse effect on fertility, reducing the size of your testes and lowering your sperm count.

Get regular exercise

According to recent research, getting at least 30 minutes of exercise three times a week can help boost men’s sperm count. And, to maintain healthy swimmers, you need to stay active —  within a month of quitting exercise, sperm count starts to wane again.39 That said, be aware that bicycling may have an adverse effect on your sperm. In one study, men who routinely cycled 300 kilometers per week ended up having fertility problems.40

Normalize your weight

Obesity contributes to infertility, so normalizing your weight can help improve your sperm quality and quantity. For guidance, please review my free nutrition plan.

Limit hot baths and saunas

While hot baths and saunas have a myriad of health benefits, the heat can take a toll on sperm. In one three-year-long study, 5 of 11 men who quit taking hot baths were able to raise their sperm count by nearly 500 percent. So, limiting hot baths and saunas for a few months may be helpful during the conception phase. I do a far-infrared sauna nearly every day, but I put a small freezer block of ice next to my groin to keep the temperature low.

Combat stress

From making sure you’re getting sufficient amounts of sleep and exercising regularly to incorporating a tool like the Emotional Freedom Techniques or taking up yoga or meditation, there are many ways to address stress. Try a few different things and stick to whatever works.

Clean up your home environment 

Use natural cleaning products or make your own. Avoid those containing 2-butoxyethanol (EGBE) and methoxydiglycol (DEGME) — two toxic glycol ethers that can compromise your fertility and cause fetal harm. Look for products made by companies that are Earth-friendly, animal-friendly, sustainable, certified organic and GMO-free.

This applies to everything from food and personal care products to building materials, carpeting, paint, furniture, mattresses and others.

When buying new products such as furniture, mattresses or carpet padding, consider buying flame retardant-free varieties, containing naturally less flammable materials, such as leather, wool, cotton, silk and Kevlar. Avoid stain- and water-resistant clothing, furniture and carpets to avoid perfluorinated chemicals. Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to remove contaminated house dust. This is one of the major routes of exposure to flame retardant chemicals.

Also switch over to organic toiletries, including shampoo, toothpaste, antiperspirants and cosmetics. EWG’s Skin Deep database41 can help you find personal care products that are free of phthalates and other potentially dangerous chemicals.

Blood Pressure Testing Is Mostly Inaccurate

09/08/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

About 29 percent of American adults suffer from high blood pressure, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),1 and it ranks as the second greatest public health threat. Of the one-third of adults who have high blood pressure, only half have the condition under control, even with medication.2

Your blood pressure is the force needed to push blood through your arteries coming from your heart to deliver oxygen rich blood around your body. When your blood pressure is measured, you get a high value (systolic) and a low value (diastolic). The high number measures the highest pressure that occurs in your blood vessels while your heart is contracting. The low value measures the pressure in your arteries between heartbeats when your heart is relaxed.

Usually the systolic pressure, or top number, offers the most information about how stiff your arteries are and how much pressure is needed to push blood around your body. This is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. But individually, an elevated systolic or diastolic blood pressure may be enough to make a diagnosis of high blood pressure.

Recent studies have demonstrated the risk of death from heart disease and stroke doubles with every 20 mmHg elevation in your systolic blood pressure or 10 mmHg elevation in your diastolic pressure in people ages 40 to 89.3

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is diagnosed when your pressure measures greater than or equal to 140 mmHg systolic pressure and greater than or equal to 90 mmHg of diastolic pressure. However, to reach the conclusion about treatment for hypertension, your physician must first have an accurate measurement of your blood pressure.

Common Method of Measuring Blood Pressure May Be Inaccurate

The method of taking blood pressure was invented in 1881 and refined in 1905 when Russian surgeon Dr. Nikolai Korotkoff discovered the difference between systolic and diastolic blood pressure measurements.4 Today, sphygmomanometers, the machine that measures blood pressure, continue to measure the appearance and disappearance of sounds in the arteries, known as Korotkoff sounds, as the standard blood pressure measurement.

The blood pressure cuff usually measures the pressure in the brachial artery in your upper arm, but can also be measured using the femoral artery in your thigh. However, central aortic blood pressure (CBP) measurements are often considered a better prognostic marker of cardiovascular disease5 and are a better indicator of the pressure experienced by your organs, such as your brain and kidneys.6 The downside to measuring CBP is that it requires an invasive procedure to determine the measurement.

Since the possibility of large differences between central aortic and peripheral (arm or leg) measurements could affect the decision to treat hypertension or direct the prescription of medication, researchers undertook a study to compare the differences between the two measurements.7 The researchers used data from over 2,500 people between 1950 and 2016 and compared their blood pressure cuff measurements against an invasive central aortic blood pressure measurement.

They found that peripheral cuff measurements were reasonably accurate when compared to the reference standard — or invasive CBP — in people who had blood pressure lower than 120/80 or those who had pressure higher than 160/100. At these extreme ends of the risk spectrum the accuracy was up to 80 percent.

However, the remaining population with blood pressure in the mid-range of systolic measurements between 120 and 159 mmHg and with diastolic measurements between 80 and 99 mmHg, the accuracy of the measure dropped dramatically to between 50 percent and 57 percent.8

Inaccuracies May Be Related to Several Factors

As this study was performed retrospectively, it is impossible to determine why those blood pressure readings may have been inaccurate. However, there are several factors that play into the accuracy of your blood pressure reading that you should be aware of in order to ensure your pressure measurement is as accurate as possible.9,10,11,12

Cuff size

The size of the cuff may change the blood pressure reading significantly. The blood pressure cuff will have an arm circumference range printed on the cuff. Using a cuff that is too small may artificially increase the systolic measurement between 10 mmHg and 40 mmHg.

Placement of the cuff

The cuff must be placed on a bare arm, not over clothing, with the edges of the cuff aligned and positioned at heart level, approximately 1 inch above the bend in your elbow. The sleeve of your shirt should be off and not rolled up.

Hearing ability when using a stethoscope

Many of the machines used today in hospitals and some clinics to take blood pressure are automated and don’t require someone to manually listen for Korotkoff sounds in your brachial artery.

However, there remain a large number of blood pressure measurements taken by an individual listening for the change in sounds in the brachial artery. Individuals who have some hearing loss may record an abnormal reading when they don’t hear the change in sounds correctly.

Machine calibration

Home machines and automated machines must be accurately calibrated to ensure a proper reading. One study demonstrated some home pressure machines were off in up to 15 percent of patients.13 Readings from these machines may impact treatment recommendations.

Body position

Your body position has a great deal to do with how accurate a peripheral blood pressure measurement will be. The proper position is to have your feet flat on the floor, back supported in a chair, legs uncrossed for at least five minutes and your arm supported while sitting.

Activity

Talking to the person taking your blood pressure during the reading may increase your systolic pressure by 10 mmHg and a full bladder may increase your systolic reading by 10 mmHg. Prior to taking your blood pressure, it is important that you sit quietly for three to five minutes and do not exercise for at least 30 minutes prior to the reading.

White coat hypertension

In this instance your blood pressure consistently measures greater than 140/90 mmHg or above but measures less at home. For some people, seeing the doctor is an inherently stressful experience that may temporarily raise your blood pressure. An estimated 15 percent to 30 percent of people with documented high blood pressure have white coat hypertension.14

Nicotine, caffeine or alcohol

All should be eliminated in the 30 minutes prior to having your pressure measured.

Both High and Low Measurements Linked to Health Risks

Accurate measurement of your blood pressure is necessary to prevent damage to your health and appropriately monitor your blood pressure. Both abnormally high and low pressure may be linked to health risks. Physicians will be concerned with low blood pressure when it triggers symptoms, such as:15

Dizziness

Nausea

Fainting

Unusual thirst

Lack of concentration

Blurred vision

Cold, clammy skin

Rapid, shallow breathing

Fatigue

Low blood pressure may be the result of prolonged bed rest, pregnancy, blood loss, endocrine problems or nutritional deficiencies. High blood pressure increases your potential risk for cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, loss of vision, stroke and sexual dysfunction.16 While you may experience symptoms of low blood pressure, you often won’t experience any immediate symptoms of high blood pressure. This is why the condition is called the silent killer, as the initial symptoms may be a stroke or heart attack.

Assess Your Risk of Hypertension Without Measuring Blood Pressure

Another noninvasive method of measuring your risk of hypertension without visiting the physician’s office is to use your waist-to-hip ratio. Research suggests your waist size may be an effective measure for assessing obesity-related hypertension risk.17 If you have a high waist-to-hip ratio, i.e., you carry more fat around your waist than on your hips, you may be at an increased risk for obesity-related hypertension.

To calculate your waist-to-hip ratio, measure the circumference of your hips at the widest part, across your buttocks, and your waist at the smallest circumference of your natural waist, just above your belly button. Then divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement to get the ratio. The Mayo Clinic uses the following waist-to-hip ratio designations to evaluate your health risk:

Waist-to-Hip Ratio Norms

Gender Excellent Good Average At Risk

Gender: Male

Excellent: <0.85

Good: 0.85 – 0.89

Average: 0.9 – 0.95

At Risk: >0.95

Gender: Female

Excellent: <0.75

Good: 0.75 – 0.79

Average: 0.8 – 0.86

At Risk: >0.86

Hypertension Typically a Symptom of Insulin and Leptin Resistance

Typically, high blood pressure is a symptom of insulin and leptin resistance. This means the vast majority of people may be able to normalize their blood pressure using dietary and lifestyle changes that avoid side effects from antihypertension drugs. However, if you are currently on medication, it is important you remain on the medication while making changes to your diet in order to reduce the potential for a stroke or heart attack while naturally bringing your blood pressure to within normal limits.

One of the primary responses to a high-carbohydrate and processed food diet is an over production of insulin and leptin. As these rise, they also cause your blood pressure to rise. Elevated uric acid levels are also associated with hypertension. This means the program you choose should also address normalizing your insulin sensitivity and your uric acid levels. Interestingly, by eliminating excess sugar and fructose in your diet you’ll address these issues all at once.

Standard Medical Treatment for Hypertension Not Risk Free

In my interview with Dr. Andrew Saul, we discuss beta-blocker drugs commonly used in the treatment of high blood pressure. Yet, despite having over 100 antihypertension drugs approved and available on the market, the number of people whose blood pressure is not under control continues to rise.

Beta-blockers are commonly used anti-hypertension medications that come with a laundry list of side effects, including cardiac failure or infarction (heart attack), impaired kidney function, depression and ischemic colitis. Diuretics may be used to help your body reduce a fluid overload. Side effects may include Stevens-Johnson syndrome, impaired hearing, abdominal pain and arthritic pain.18

Calcium channel blockers are a type of antihypertensive medication for which side effects include edema, dizziness, nose bleeds, rash and tinnitus.19 In fact, none of the medications your physician may prescribe to control blood pressure are free of side effects.

Nitric Oxide Dump May Be Exactly What You’re Looking For

Exercise is an important lifestyle strategy that can help normalize your blood pressure. In this video I demonstrate the nitric oxide dump exercise I do daily. The exercise takes just three minutes, and should ideally be done two to three times a day, with at least two hours between each session.

I am now convinced that this gentler strategy, which has not been evaluated or compared to the HIIT protocols discussed in previous articles, is a far healthier strategy to obtain the benefits of HIIT without the downside. I only wish I had known about this more effective approach earlier. This type of exercise stimulates the release of nitric oxide (NO) stored in your endothelial cells in your blood vessels. NO effectively:

  • Causes your blood vessels to relax and dilate, lowering your blood pressure
  • Stimulates and improves your immune function
  • Decreases the viscosity of your blood, reducing platelet aggregation and the potential for stroke or heart attack
  • Provides powerful anabolic stimulus, or increases lean body mass

Start With Lifestyle Choices to Regulate Your Blood Pressure

The most effective way to normalize your blood pressure is through healthy lifestyle choices. High blood pressure is typically associated with insulin resistance. Insulin helps your body to store magnesium, which helps relax your muscles. If your cells have grown resistant to insulin, you won’t be able to store magnesium, which leads to blood vessel constriction and rising blood pressure.

Trans fat is now known to trigger atherosclerosis (hardening of your arteries). This is another trigger for hypertension, so avoiding all trans fats or hydrogenated fats may help prevent atherosclerosis. This includes margarines, vegetable oils, butter-like spreads and baked goods.

If your blood pressure is running high, you need to restore your insulin and leptin sensitivity, and the following five strategies are among the most effective for doing so:

Avoiding processed foods (as most are high in sugar/fructose, grains, harmful fats and artificial ingredients)

Making real food, ideally organic and locally grown, the focus of your diet

Swapping net carbs for healthy fat. Sources of healthy fats to add to your diet include:

Avocados

Butter made from raw, grass-fed organic milk

Raw grass fed dairy

Organic pastured egg yolks

Coconuts and coconut oil

Unheated organic nut oils

Raw nuts, such as pecans and macadamia, which are low in protein and high in healthy fats

Grass fed meats or pasture raised poultry

Intermittent fasting is one of the most effective ways I’ve found to normalize your insulin/leptin sensitivity. It’s not a diet in conventional terms, but rather a way of scheduling your eating to promote efficient energy use. Essentially, intermittent fasting means eating all your calories during a specific window of time each day, and fasting during the rest. When you eat, your body reacts by elevating insulin and leptin.

Starchy carbohydrates cause a far greater insulin elevation than protein, while fat requires no insulin for digestion. If you’re constantly snacking (or drinking) on sugary fare, your insulin/leptin levels will remain chronically elevated, which tends to promote high blood pressure.

The more sensitive your body is to insulin/leptin, the more likely you’ll be to use the food you consume efficiently, which will help improve insulin resistance, and promote weight loss and the creation of muscle. Your body is most sensitive to insulin/leptin following a period of fasting. (Fasting also boosts growth hormone secretion — another important key to weight loss and muscle growth.)

Exercising regularly. On a side note, I recommend training yourself to breathe through your nose when exercising, as mouth breathing during exercise can raise your heart rate and blood pressure, sometimes resulting in fatigue and dizziness. To learn more about this, please refer to my previous article on the Buteyko breathing method.

My optimized nutrition and exercise plan can help guide you step-by-step toward normalizing your insulin and leptin levels, which in turn will help normalize your blood pressure and help you shed excess weight. These are free resources that can help improve your health, or take it to the next level if you’ve already started making some changes.

Who Makes It Rain?

08/08/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

The artificial manipulation of the weather, known as weather modification, seems like something out of a science fiction novel, but more than 50 countries worldwide already participate in one type of weather modification known as cloud seeding.1 The U.S. Government Accountability Office predicts that in just the next decade, 40 U.S. states will experience some type of water shortage, which stems, in part, from droughts.2

The prospect of using cloud seeding to increase rainfall — its most popular usage — is an enticing one, but it comes along with a fair share of controversy as well. In the U.S., about $15 million is spent on cloud-seeding projects annually, which pales in comparison to the $100 million a year spent in China. Still, in the U.S., cloud seeding has grown by one-third in the last 10 years.3

It’s used in North Dakota, for instance, not only to promote rain but also to inhibit hail (and thereby reduce hail damage to crops). Cloud seeding is also sometimes used to clear fog.

In California, meanwhile, a mountain-top “cloud seeder” has been used to enhance rain and snow in efforts to fight drought. As its popularity grows, however, some are asking whether the practice is cost effective and whether it could end up having some negative effects on the weather, the latter of which is why some farmers in North Dakota are asking for the area’s cloud-seeding programs to end.

How Does Cloud Seeding Work?

There are a number of different ways that cloud seeding can work, but typically dry ice (frozen carbon dioxide) pellets or silver iodide are applied to certain clouds to modify their output. Seeding agents may be applied to clouds from the ground but, most often, aircraft are used to apply the materials to the clouds. This occurs either by releasing the seeding agent below the cloud into its updrafts or by dropping the seeds directly into the upper regions of the clouds. According to NDCMP — the North Dakota Cloud Modification Project:4

“In North Dakota, all seeding is done by aircraft. Base-seeding aircraft release seeding agent into updrafts from below the developing storm using a combination of wing-mounted ice nucleus generators and burn-in-place flares. Cloud-top seeding aircraft use ejectable flares and dry ice released directly into the supercooled cloud.”

There are several considerations as to which method is used. Direct injection works quicker, with results occurring almost immediately. However, NDCMP notes that this is costlier because it requires higher-performance aircraft capable of flying at higher altitudes and directly in-cloud. Updraft treatment, which is done at the cloud base, is an easier and less expensive method, but the results may take up to 30 minutes.

As for who’s in charge of deciding when to seed clouds, in North Dakota the program falls under the direction of the radar meteorologist. “In addition to weather conditions, a number of factors play a part in the decision-making process including safety criteria, radar information, pilot observations and aircraft instrument data,” according to NDCMP.5

North Dakota Reports Up to 10 Percent Increase in Rainfall Due to Cloud Seeding

Determining whether cloud seeding is effective poses a challenge, in part because many areas using the technology want all of the seedable clouds treated in order to reap the most potential benefits. In Wyoming, however, the Wyoming Weather Modification Pilot Program (WWMPP) conducted a randomized cloud-seeding program, which found the seeding increased snowfall by 5 percent to 15 percent under ideal seeding conditions.6

In North Dakota, meanwhile, NDCMP reports that cloud seeding produces an estimated 5 percent to 10 percent additional rainfall annually in the project area while reducing crop hail losses by 45 percent. As for costs, they say it only costs 16 cents per acre to enhance rain and suppress hail.7

The environmental effects are also reported as minimal, with NDCMP stating, “Cloud seeding agents, including silver iodide and dry ice, meet all National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations and are safe for the environment.” They further note that no environmentally harmful effects have been detected from cloud seeding with silver iodide, explaining:8

“The silver concentration in rainwater from a seeded storm is well below the acceptable environmental concentration of 50 micrograms per liter as set by the U.S. Public Health Service. Also, the concentration of iodine in iodized salt used for human consumption is far above the concentration found in rainwater from seeded clouds. Because silver iodide is such an effective ice nucleus, it is used in very small quantities.

Based on the average rate of silver iodide use in North Dakota each summer, it would take nearly 500 years for 1 gram of silver iodide (1/28th of an ounce) to be evenly spread out over an area equal to a full-sized basketball court!”

North Dakota Farmers Ask for End to Weather Modification

Not everyone believes cloud seeding is a win-win proposition. In Ward County, North Dakota, farmers have asked the county commission to halt cloud-seeding programs for the remainder of 2017 amidst a drought, with some opponents suggesting the practice may be making dry conditions worse. The commission voted 4-0 to ask the Atmospheric Resource Board to suspend operations.

Spokesperson Roger Neshem told the commission, “We are not asking for a radical thing here. We are asking to join the other 47 counties in the state who do not try to modify their weather.” In The Dickinson Press, he noted:9

“I was asking, ‘What are we getting for spending this money?’ The only fact in this whole situation is hail insurance rates in Ward County are higher than area counties … I think there are some people … who think they may be doing some accomplishing of the negative sort for the weather patterns here.”

Did Cloud Seeding Cause the Rapid City Flood of 1972?

June 9, 1972, is a date etched in the memories of many Rapid City, South Dakota, residents. During a period of just six hours, 10 inches of rain fell on the city, adding up to 14 inches overnight. Area streams overflowed and a dam at Canyon Lake failed, leading to massive flooding in the city that killed 238 people and injured 3,000 more.10

Before the flood, the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology was conducting a cloud-seeding research study in the area, leading some to suggest that cloud seeding could have been responsible for the catastrophic flooding. An investigation prompted by the governor reportedly came to the conclusion that the seeding project was not responsible, however. Darin Langerud, director of the North Dakota Atmospheric Resource Board, told The Green Sheet Farm Forum:11

“There were some people that wanted to blame cloud seeding on that event … There was a study that was done at the governor’s request after that event to look into all the details, and the conclusion was that the seeding was not the cause of the flood that occurred in Rapid City in 1972, but it did have some negative impact on interest in cloud seeding.”

California Resorts to Cloud Seeding to Fight Against Drought

California is among the U.S. states that have turned to cloud seeding to try to enhance rainfall in the drought-stricken area. In 2002, and again in 2016, Los Angeles and other municipalities used “flare trees” installed on the hilltops to send silver iodide into the clouds. The problem, as is the case in other areas utilizing the technology, is that its effectiveness is dependent on getting the conditions just right.

“Part of the trick,” Scientific American reported, “is finding the right geographical and meteorological situation as well as getting the silver iodide into the right spot in a cloud — while not seeding monster storms or inducing rainfall over places susceptible to dangerous flooding, landslides or other ill effects.”12

The news outlet even quoted William Cotton, an atmospheric scientist and Professor Emeritus at Colorado State University, who noted that cloud seeding may be more of a political move than anything. “In terms of water agencies,” he said, “a lot of it is just getting out there and doing something.”

Another less-than-stellar vote of confidence came from Don Griffith, president of North American Weather Consultants, who has been seeding clouds for more than 50 years. When asked if California’s cloud-seeding efforts worked, he told Scientific American, “That’s a very difficult question to answer … We think so, we hope so, but there’s no way you can demonstrate that.”13

In fact, there is some misconception that cloud seeding can end droughts. In reality, this isn’t possible because droughts are characterized by a lack of clouds that produce precipitation, and such clouds are necessary for cloud seeding opportunities. During droughts, there are therefore few opportunities for successful cloud seeding. As Roelof Bruintjes, an atmospheric scientist at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research, said to Scientific American, “Nobody can create a cloud.”14

That being said, there is an attitude that doing something is better than doing nothing, but whether that is the case or not remains to be seen. There is also a chance that cloud seeding can be used to help increase rainfall before and after a drought to “temper the reduction of rainfall during the drought period,” according to NDCMP.15 It is not a quick fix that can suddenly make rain fall from the sky in the middle of a long drought, however. “Cloud seeding is more a long-term water resource management tool,” Bruintjes said.16

What Are the Risks and Ethical Issues of Cloud Seeding?

Modifying the weather should not come lightly and neither should cloud seeding. Though such techniques have been in use for more than 70 years, including during the Vietnam War, there are still many questions about whether the practice is beneficial or results in unintended consequences. The latter, the American Meteorological Society (AMS) noted, cannot be ruled out:17

“Unintended consequences of cloud seeding, such as changes in precipitation or other environmental impacts downwind of a target area have not been clearly demonstrated, but neither can they be ruled out. In addition, cloud seeding materials may not be always successfully targeted and may cause their intended effects in an area different than the desired target area.

This brings us to the ethical concern that activities conducted for the benefit of some may have an undesirable impact on others. At times unintended effects may cross political boundaries. Weather modification programs should be designed to minimize negative impacts. International cooperation may be needed in some regions.”

In addition, weather modification doesn’t end with cloud seeding. Programs have been attempted to reduce the intensity and/or direction of tornadoes and tropical storms, for instance, while other methods have been used aside from cloud seeding to enhance rainfall. “Much less is known about the effects of these other techniques, and their scientific basis is even further from being demonstrated, either statistically or physically, than it is for cloud seeding,” AMS reported.

In order to minimize risks and ethical issues from what is an inherently unpredictable science, they recommended well-designed and well-supported research programs that “improve the predictability of the undisturbed weather and the magnitude of weather modification effects.” In short, in the spirt of the precautionary principle, perhaps we should learn more about the immediate and long-term effects of weather modification techniques before unleashing them onto the planet.

Ben & Jerry’s — 20 Years of Greenwashing

08/08/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

I recently wrote about the greenwashing of organic milk, and how organic dairies, such as Aurora Organic, are nothing but concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in disguise that are unfairly putting true organic dairy farmers out of business with low quality milk. Few companies are as bad as Ben & Jerry’s, however, when it comes to greenwashing and failing to live up to stated mission goals.

Ben & Jerry’s vision statement includes social, product quality, environmental and economic missions1 that aim “to create linked prosperity for everyone that’s connected to our business:”2

  • Social Mission: To operate the company in a way that actively recognizes the central role that business plays in society by initiating innovative ways to improve the quality of life locally, nationally and internationally.
  • Product Mission: To make, distribute and sell the finest quality ice cream and euphoric concoctions with a continued commitment to incorporating wholesome, natural ingredients and promoting business practices that respect the Earth and the environment.
  • Economic Mission: To operate the company on a sustainable financial basis of profitable growth, increasing value for our stakeholders and expanding opportunities for development and career growth for our employees.

Over the last two decades, Ben & Jerry’s has been directly confronted about their failure to live up to mission, as they continue promoting themselves as a ‘green’ business while utilizing extremely harmful and polluting agriculture methods.

Ben & Jerry’s — One of the Greatest Greenwash Scams in the Business 

Chances are, if you like ice cream, you probably like Ben & Jerry’s — not just because of their “euphoric concoctions” but also because of their emphasis on sustainability and ecofriendly practices, and their support for labeling genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Too bad it’s all a façade.

The company recently got a slew of negative press3,4,5,6 when independent testing by the Organic Consumer’s Association (OCA) discovered traces of glyphosate in 10 out of 11 Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavors.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, and a minor issue in the big scheme of things. As noted by Michael Colby, former editor of Food & Water Journal and co-founder of Regeneration Vermont, a nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to bringing sustainable, regenerative agriculture back to Vermont:7

“It was 20 years ago last month that Food & Water published our report on Vermont’s atrazine addiction, a toxic herbicide that is banned in Europe but continues to be used in abundance on Vermont’s 92,000 acres of GMO-derived feed corn — all for dairy cows. We used the report to get the attention of Ben & Jerry’s, and it worked.

We thought when the doors swung open to the offices of Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield themselves that we’d be able to make the case to them. Our plea at the time was the same as it is today: Ben & Jerry’s should practice what it preaches and help transition its farmers to organic production. If they took the lead, we argued, the entire state could begin a transition away from the kind of industrial, commodity-based dairy system that is wreaking so much havoc with Vermont’s agriculture …

We thought the obvious imbalance — and even direct, outright hypocrisy — between what Ben & Jerry’s was doing and what they were saying would be enough to get these do-good hippies to do the right thing. We were using logic. Because, certainly, the corporation that wanted to “save the planet” and “put the planet before profits” would want to stop being one of the state’s top polluters, right?

Wrong. We were told at the time, by Ben himself, after a year’s worth of meetings and even an offer of a job to me ‘to work with us instead of going after us,’ that Ben & Jerry’s was not going to transition to organic because it wouldn’t allow them to ‘maximize profits.'”

Happy, Healthy Cows? Not So Much

Yes, for those of you who might have been misled to think otherwise, Ben & Jerry’s is actually supporting one of the greatest polluters in the world — factory dairy farming. And the reality of these factory farms is far from the rosy picture put forth in this recent “Caring Dairy” campaign video, in which they highlight the idea that Ben & Jerry gets its milk from some 300 “family operated” dairy farms in the U.S. and Europe.

“Healthy land, dedicated farmers, smart energy and a strong local community … put them together and you got some happy cows,” the video says. Wrong. While the video features cows happily skipping through a meadow, CAFO cows are anything but happy and healthy, and CAFOs are where Ben & Jerry’s gets their milk — not family operated farms that pasture their cows and raise them on grass, as nature intended.

According to Cornell University researchers, the annual mortality rate in CAFO herds is now over 10 percent. In 2002, the mortality rate was less than 4 percent. As noted by Will Allen, owner of Cedar Circle Farm, a regenerative farm in Vermont, “Something’s seriously wrong in the dairy barn.”8

Profit at the Expense of Animal Health

Part of it has to do with the way CAFOs push the animals to overproduce. The average amount of milk produced by a dairy cow was 7,000 pounds per year in 1970. In 2012, it was 22,000 pounds — a 313 percent increase in production per cow.9 This unnatural overproduction takes its toll on the animals, as does the unnatural diet and unnatural living arrangements these animals are forced into. As noted by Allen:10

“The feed programs outlined by the agrichemical corporations have been geared toward one thing: milk production. And the quickest way to do that is to gorge the cow with a rich and continuous diet … [T]oday’s super-producing cows are being fed nearly 130 pounds of feed a day, more than double what they used to eat a few decades ago … The problem is that this nutrient loading is all aimed squarely at milk production, to the detriment of the rest of the cow’s health.

In the end, the dairy cow can’t keep up, succumbing to a whole host of health issues earlier … in her life … ultimately leading to an early death, either from a chronic health issue and/or general burnout that results in an unceremonious exit to the beef yards, where all non-organic dairy cows eventually meet their end in the U.S.

‘Dairy cattle death losses are an extremely important problem,’ writes Dr. Franklyn Garry, DVM, a professor at Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. ‘Not only are these losses an economic disaster, they also represent very substantial problems with animal well-being … There is a real need for the dairy industry and dairy veterinarians to re-evaluate dairy management systems with a focus on optimum animal health.'”

There’s Nothing Socially or Environmentally Friendly About CAFOs

CAFOs are also a blight that cause enormous environmental pollution that destroys soil, water and air quality. While Cohen and Greenfield balked at going organic two decades ago, Colby points out that the situation has only gotten worse since the company was bought by Unilever.

These days, corporate decisions regarding the Ben & Jerry’s brand are made in Unilever’s headquarters in London. Colby goes on to set the record straight on Ben & Jerry’s “environmentally friendly” company, noting that:

“[T]hose free-cone days that Ben & Jerry’s rolls out every year for Vermonters aren’t so free, nor are the grants they provide to so many environmental and economic justice groups … Ben & Jerry’s expects loyalty to its carefully orchestrated charade: The consumption of … pesticide-laden, climate-threatening, cow-abusing ice cream produced with the labor of exploited migrant workers all leads to social and ecological justice for all! Come on, people, really? …

For 20 years I’ve been engaging Ben & Jerry’s, showing them the damage that it is doing at every level, from the atrazine report in 1997 to the GMO report in 2016 and a slew of face-to-face meetings in between. But it always ends the same way: Ben & Jerry’s admits that the marketing is working just fine. ‘People think we’re organic,’ is what we were told time and time again in private meetings, while asking them to actually go organic. If fooling people allows for maximizing profits, why stop fooling them?”

If you’ve been fooled into thinking Ben & Jerry’s was organic, it’s time to rip the wool off your eyes. They’re not. Far from it. The whole thing is a carefully orchestrated greenwashing sham. As noted by OCA following its glyphosate testing:11

“It’s time for Ben & Jerry’s to announce it will immediately begin transitioning to 100-percent organic. Otherwise conscious consumers have no choice but to launch a national and, if necessary, international protest campaign and boycott.”

‘Ecofriendly’ Company Is a Top Polluter

Colby also points out the following facts about Ben & Jerry’s less than illustrious business practices, all of which go against their stated missions to improve quality of life, provide quality products and protect the environment:12

Ben & Jerry’s actually pays its dairy farmers less than the cost of producing the milk. Contributing farms lose on average $125,000 a year, while Ben & Jerry’s annual reports predict $100 million-a-year growth, “Teslas for the executives, and a parent corporation CEO drawing a base salary of $12 million — before the boardroom gifts are doled out.” For each pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream sold, which on average sells for about $5, the dairy farmer gets 15 cents, while the average cost to produce that milk is 22 cents.

Since the founding of Ben & Jerry’s in 1978 in Vermont, nearly 3,000 of the state’s dairy farmers have been forced off their land, unable to withstand the financial strains of working for free, or worse, working at a loss.

Waterways in Vermont are severely polluted by CAFOs. Even drinking water is testing positive for glyphosate and atrazine — toxic herbicides used to grow feed for CAFO cows (most of which is GMO, despite Ben & Jerry’s public support of non-GMO). The cost to clean up Lake Champlain alone is estimated at $2 billion.

According to state officials, CAFOs such as those supplying milk to Ben & Jerry’s are responsible for at least half of the total environmental damage in Vermont and nearly 80 percent of the pollution in Lake Champlain,13 yet the company contributes nothing to the cleanup. In fact, CAFOs get off scot-free when it comes to paying for the pollution they generate, while most other polluting industries are held accountable for cleanup. What’s worse, Vermont secretary of agriculture, Chuck Ross, is even entertaining proposals that would weaken requirements on dairy farms’ practices that help rein in water pollution.14

To learn more about the destructive influence of CAFOs in Vermont, and to get the latest updates, please see Regeneration Vermont’s blog.

It’s Time to Do the Right Thing

Colby, as part of Regeneration Vermont, is still trying to bring Ben & Jerry’s onboard. After all, alongside Cabot Creamery, the ice cream maker is a dominant player in Vermont’s dairy industry. By changing over to organic, Ben & Jerry’s could have a significant impact on farmers and the environment, not to mention the health of consumers everywhere.

Today, when more than 200 of Vermont’s 800 remaining dairy farms have already transitioned to organic and returned their cows to a grass-based diet, going organic would be far easier than before. So, Regeneration Vermont is now asking Ben & Jerry’s (and Unilever) to do what they should have done 20 years ago, and pledge to:

  1. Make the transition from GMO crops and toxic pesticides/fertilizers to regenerative organic farming.
  2. Pay fair farm wages, including premiums based on regeneration benchmarks and assistance in the transition toward regenerative methods.
  3. Ensure economic justice for farmworkers, fair and livable wages, decent housing and social and cultural dignity.
  4. Adopt climate remediation techniques, with emphasis on healthy soils and cover-cropping for carbon sequestration and erosion control.
  5. Support humane treatment of farm animals; phase-out of confinement dairies and transition to grassland grazing and grass-based feed.
  6. Clean up and protect our watersheds, streams, rivers, ponds, lakes and groundwater.

Regeneration Vermont isn’t just pushing Ben & Jerrry’s to get onboard with organic dairy production. In an open letter15 to the governor-elect, Phil Scott, dated December 16, 2016, the group called for a statewide transition toward regenerative dairy production. The letter was co-written by former Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Roger Allbee and signed by a long list of environmental and state business leaders.

Action Item — Encourage Ben & Jerry’s to Fulfill Their Stated Missions ‘for Real’

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) has also created a petition16 to encourage Ben & Jerry’s to convert to organic and stop hoodwinking customers into thinking they’re organic by claiming to be all-natural and environmentally responsible. Currently, they’re neither of those things.

Please join your support with this initiative by signing the petition below. Better yet, call Ben & Jerry’s directly (802-846-1500) and ask the company to fulfill their mission statement and go organic.

“It’s time to hold Ben & Jerry’s accountable for the damage and to demand the necessary transition to organic/regenerative methods,” Regeneration Vermont writes.17

“The executives at Ben & Jerry’s know-how damaging their milk supply chain is. They know that labor is being abused. They know that cows are burning out before they are 5 years old. They know that antibiotics are being misused. They know that the dairies that supply their milk are polluting our drinking water and most of the rivers and lakes in Vermont. They know — because we’ve been telling them for years. Join us in our campaign for a statewide regenerative transition.”

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

There’s a Thriving Regenerative Agriculture Movement in Vermont

I have visited Allen’s Cedar Circle Farm in Vermont, where I had the opportunity to talk to Ronnie Cummins, co-founder of OCA. Many of the issues covered above are discussed in the article published in 2014. A key message Cummins and Allen deliver is the importance of avoiding all CAFO animal products, be it beef, poultry, eggs, milk or other dairy products such as ice cream.

CAFOs simply have too many devastating drawbacks, not just in terms of inferior food products, but also in terms of animal welfare and environmental impacts delivered by GMOs that are dependent on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides that end up in the soil, air and water – and eventually into the ice cream and other products we consume.

One of the most impactful changes you as an individual can make is to switch from CAFO animal products to organic, grass fed beef and dairy that doesn’t rely on such destructive practices. Many do not realize this, but grazing animals are actually a very important part of the ecology.  

Nearly 97% of the native grasslands have been destroyed, much of it planted into GMO corn & soy fields which in turn are fed to herbivores that could be grazing instead of eating grains fed to them on concrete.

Organic Grass Fed Agriculture Can Solve Many Environmental Problems

Our modern agricultural system, which focuses on monocropping and CAFOs as two separate food streams that degrades the farmland by reducing organic matter in soil. Scientists have also declared farming and fertilizers as the No. 1 cause of particulate matter air pollution in much of the U.S., China, Russia and Europe today, specifically the nitrogen component of fertilizers.18,19

According to Allan Savory, an African ecologist, dramatically increasing the number of grazing livestock is really the only thing that can successfully reverse both desertification.20,21 An article22 by Pure Advantage notes how there is no current or envisioned technology that can simultaneously  restore biodiversity and feed people. But livestock can …

Increasing organic matter in soil and pastures also saves all-important water in more ways than one. First, it retains more rain water, thereby reducing irrigation needs; second, it encourages rainfall and prevents extended droughts. In fact, satellite data reveals plant-soil evapotranspiration may exert a far greater influence on weather and rainfall patterns than previously thought.23

The more organic matter there is in the soil, the more moisture is captured and released back into the atmosphere through plant transpiration. For each 1 percent increase in organic matter, each acre of soil can retain another 20,000 gallons of water. Raising organic soil matter by 1 percent in Oklahoma alone would allow the soil there to retain an additional 894 billion gallons more water after each rainfall of 1 inch or more!24

You Have the Power to Make a Difference

For two decades, Ben & Jerry’s has successfully pulled the wool over the public’s eyes. The the toxic truth about their GMO dependent CAFOs are now revealed, the company has become a posterchild for greenwashing of the worst sort. Their social mission is to “operate … in a way that actively recognizes the central role that business plays in society,” and initiate “innovative ways to improve the quality of life.”

Their mission goal has been neglected for 20 years and remains unfulfilled to this day. To fulfill it, they need to transition to regenerative dairy production. Doing so would have a tremendously positive impact on society. CAFOs have no redeeming value aside from corporate profitability. It’s not even profitable for the farmers.

Ben & Jerry’s product mission is to make “the finest quality ice cream … with a continued commitment to incorporating wholesome, natural ingredients and promoting business practices that respect the Earth and the environment.” Sourcing milk from CAFOs violates and nullifies this entire mission goal from start to finish.

You cannot make the finest quality ice cream when you start with toxic inferior raw materials (CAFO milk); you certainly are not committing to incorporating wholesome natural ingredients when you willfully choose CAFO over organic grass fed milk; and you certainly are not promoting business practices that respect the Earth and the environment when insisting on supporting grossly polluting factory farms rather than regenerative farming.

The only mission goal Ben & Jerry’s has ever been able to fully live up to is its economic goal, which is to make “profitable growth” and “increasing value for stakeholders.” Congratulations. Too bad that’s not what health conscious consumers really care about.

I hope you join me in calling Ben & Jerry’s bluff. Let them know you expect them to live up to the promises on which they’ve built their little empire. It’s time to actually deliver the real goods. You can contact Ben & Jerry’s directly by calling (802-846-1500). I strongly encourage you to call them and tell them what you think of their reprehensible, unethical and irresponsible behavior. Phone lines are open Monday through Friday, 8.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. EDT. You can also send them a message using the online contact form at the bottom of their contact page. You CAN make a radical difference. Please give them a call, and ask your family and friends to contact them as well.

Over 267 Toxins Found in Public Tap Water

08/08/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

Many people drink water straight from their tap, assuming it to be safe. Unfortunately, just because it’s clear and tastes normal does not mean it’s pure. Far from it, research conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) revealed hundreds of contaminants coming out of the average U.S. faucet, many at levels above what may cause health risks but below the threshold of legal action.

While the Safe Drinking Water Act was put into place in 1974 to presumably keep Americans’ tap water safe, not one chemical has been added to the list of regulated chemicals in drinking water since 1996. Nneka Leiba, director of EWG’s Healthy Living Science Program, told USA Today:

“The list of regulated chemicals has not kept up with our use of chemicals as a country … “Legal doesn’t necessarily mean safe when it comes to drinking water … What we are concerned about is long-term exposure, eight glasses a day, over a lifetime.”1

Hundreds of Chemicals Are Likely in Your Tap Water

EWG analyzed data from U.S. agencies and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on drinking water tests conducted from 2010 to 2015. The tests came from nearly 50,000 water utilities in 50 states and tested for 500 different contaminants. In all, 267 were detected, including:2

  • 93 linked to an increased risk of cancer
  • 78 associated with brain and nervous system damage
  • 63 connected to developmental harm to children or fetuses
  • 38 that may cause fertility problems
  • 45 linked to hormonal disruption

EWG’s analysis revealed many alarming trends, like the fact that nearly 19,000 public water systems detected lead at levels above 3.8 parts per billion, which would put a formula-fed baby at risk of elevated blood lead levels. Other chemicals of concern include chromium-6, an industrial chemical that’s not regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act but is found in drinking water supplies in all 50 states at levels above those that may pose a cancer risk.

The industrial solvent 1,4-dioxane was also widely detected at levels above what the EPA says could pose a cancer risk, as were nitrates, stemming from industrial agriculture, also at levels above that which might pose a cancer risk. According to EWG:3

“The vast majority of the nation’s drinking water supplies get a passing grade from federal and state regulatory agencies. However, many of the 250-plus contaminants detected through water sampling and testing are at levels that are perfectly legal under the Safe Drinking Water Act or state regulations, but well above levels authoritative scientific studies have found to pose health risks.

What’s more, the Environmental Protection Agency has not added a new contaminant to the list of regulated drinking water pollutants in more than 20 years. This inexcusable failure of the federal government’s responsibility to protect public health means there are no legal limits for the more than 160 unregulated contaminants the tests detected in the nation’s tap water.”

Industrial Farming Fuels Algae Growth That in Turn Taints Drinking Water

There are a number of ways industrial agriculture proves disastrous to drinking water. Among the environmental assaults already being seen include increased nitrate contamination in drinking water, which is the result of fertilizer pollution. Park Rapids, Minnesota, spent $3 million to dig deeper wells due to nitrate contamination.

It’s estimated that 10 percent of private drinking wells in the area may have nitrate levels that pose dangers to pregnant women and infants.4 In Iowa, meanwhile, Des Moines’ water utility spent $900,000 on nitrate filtering in 2013 and $1.5 million in 2015,5 and even sued three neighboring counties (Sac, Buena Vista and Calhoun counties) over the fertilizer runoff tainting these rivers.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that removing nitrate from U.S. drinking water costs nearly $5 billion a year,6 which the industrial agriculture industry has been largely shielded from. Phosphorus and nitrogen run-off from industrial farming not only taint drinking water directly but also contribute to the algae growth that depletes oxygen in the marine environment, leading to disastrous dead zones.

In drinking water, increased algae levels require the increased use of disinfectants by water utilities, which in turn increase the formation of toxic disinfection byproducts like trihalomethanes (THMs). THMs are Cancer Group B carcinogens, meaning they’ve been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals.

Changes in Farming Strategies Necessary to Reduce Agriculture-Driven Water Pollution

The immediate solution to protect your drinking water is to install a water filter on your tap, but on a broader scale the solution is to stop the source of the pollution. Even small changes, like the use of cover crops, can help to prevent soil erosion while absorbing excess fertilizer. Iowa has a voluntary program in place — the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy — to help control fertilizer runoff, but it’s still in its beginning stages even though it started four years ago. Many have questioned whether voluntary programs go far enough.

Iowa has long faced problems with elevated levels of nitrates in drinking water and has been identified as a top contributor to pollution (nitrates and phosphorus) causing the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Fertilizer runoff has also been blamed for toxic algae taking over Florida coastlines. A report released by the Iowa Environmental Council (IEC) has attempted to summarize the related health risks of such nitrates in drinking water.7

Researchers reviewed over 100 studies on the health effects of nitrates in drinking water and found multiple studies linked them to birth defects, bladder cancer and thyroid cancer. While many of the health problems were found with nitrate levels higher than the drinking water standard of 10 mg/L, some studies suggested nitrate levels lower than the drinking water standard may still pose health risks. About 15 percent of private wells in Iowa may have nitrate levels that exceed federal standards.8

From Cookware Chemicals to Pharmaceuticals: What Else Is in Your Drinking Water?

With every sip of water you take, you could be ingesting a mix of chemicals that boggles the mind, including even prescription and over-the-counter medications. Pharmaceutical drugs make their way into waterways when they’re flushed down the drain (or down the toilet after being excreted). Most water treatment plants can’t filter out medications properly. Researchers evaluating the water from Puget Sound in Washington state found 81 different drugs and chemicals which were not removed by wastewater treatment.9

Depending on the method used, anywhere from 10 percent to more than 80 percent of the drugs in the water fail to be removed during treatment.10 And that’s just the beginning. According to a Harvard study, 16.5 million Americans have detectable levels of at least one kind of polyfluoroalkyl or perfluoroalkyl chemical (PFASs) in their drinking water.

PFASs are used to create nonstick, stain-resistant and water-repellant surfaces such as in nonstick cookware. About 6 million Americans are drinking water that contains PFAS at or above the EPA safety level.11

More than 18 million Americans also receive drinking water from water treatment facilities that have violated federal drinking water rules for lead.12 And, in 9 out of 10 cases, the EPA has taken no enforcement action against the violators. Disturbingly, many water treatment facilities are actually using incorrect testing methods to avoid detecting high levels of lead, which means the number of Americans drinking lead-contaminated water is likely even higher than that.

An estimated 16 million also have perchlorate — a chemical used in explosives and rocket fuel — in their drinking water.13 Further, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) put out a report that showed widespread atrazine contamination in drinking water, posing a “dangerous problem” that was not communicated to the people most at risk.14

Atrazine is the most commonly detected pesticide in U.S. waters, and it’s known to cause reproductive harm to mammals, fish and birds, so I recommend filtering your tap water — both for drinking and bathing — with a filter certified to remove it.

Just how severe water contamination may be remains an open question, as the Safe Drinking Water Act regulates only 91 contaminants. Meanwhile, more than 80,000 chemicals are used in the U.S.15 There’s really no telling how many of these chemicals, and in what amounts or to what consequences, end up in our drinking water.

EWG’s Tap Water Database: What Contaminants Are in Your Water?

If you want to know what’s lurking in your water, you can get the results of your local drinking water analysis from your water utility. It’s your right to view the annual water quality report from your area, which should highlight contaminants of concern (although there could be others that are legally ‘safe’ but still pose a long-term health risk). You can also use EWG’s Tap Water Database, which allows you to enter your ZIP code to reveal what’s really in your tap water.

You’ll find out not only whether contaminants have been detected above health guidelines but also other detected contaminants, the primary pollution sources and what to do to filter the contaminants out. It takes only a moment, but the results are truly eye-opening. Please don’t assume your tap water is pure. In all likelihood, it’s far from it.

ewgs tap water database

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

Filtering Your Water Is an Investment in Your Health

As long as your water tastes and looks pure, it’s easy to go on assuming it is such. But finding out what’s really in your water, and taking steps to remedy it, is one of the most important health moves you can make. Take it from Laura Sarcone, communications specialist at the Des Moines Water Works. She witnessed the plant’s nitrate-removal facility run for 177 days straight — when it was built to only run for a few days a year, signaling just how much nitrate pollution was in the area’s water. She told Civil Eats:16

“I think nationally we, the industry, feel water is an undervalued resource … People are willing to pay hundreds for cellphone minutes and unlimited data, or for their cable TV … but rarely do they tend to put the same value on clean drinking water.”

Unfortunately, it’s best to assume your water is less than pure and use a high-quality water filtration system (unless you can verify the purity of your water). If you have well water, it would be prudent to have your water tested for nitrates and other contaminants. If you have public water, you can get local drinking water quality reports from the EPA.

To be certain you’re getting the purest water you can, filter the water both at the point of entry and at the point of use. This means filtering all the water that comes into the house, and then filtering again at the kitchen sink and shower.

Unfiltered water can also expose you to dangerous chlorine vapors and chloroform gas. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other U.S. government agencies report that most homes in the U.S. have measurable levels of chloroform gas, courtesy of chlorinated tap water. Unless you have a whole house water filter, chlorine will vaporize from every toilet bowl in your home and every time you wash your clothes, dishes or take a shower or bath.

Chloroform gas, chlorine vapors and the associated DBPs may increase your risk of asthma, airway inflammation and respiratory allergies. Chloroform gas alone can cause dizziness, nausea and general fatigue. If you get your water from a municipal water supply and don’t have a whole house filter, it really is important to open up windows on opposing sides of your home so you get cross ventilation. Keep the windows open for five to 10 minutes a day to remove these gases. Ideally, use a whole house filtration system.

One of the best I’ve found so far is the Pure & Clear Whole House Water Filtration System, which uses a three-stage filtration process — a micron sediment prefilter, a KDF water filter and a high-grade carbon water filter — to filter out chlorine, disinfection byproducts (DBPs) and other contaminants. You can find more information about water filters in my video below. EWG also has a handy water filter guide that lets you search by filter type, technology and/or contaminant to help you decide on the best type of filter for your home.17

Who Makes It Rain?

08/08/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

The artificial manipulation of the weather, known as weather modification, seems like something out of a science fiction novel, but more than 50 countries worldwide already participate in one type of weather modification known as cloud seeding.1 The U.S. Government Accountability Office predicts that in just the next decade, 40 U.S. states will experience some type of water shortage, which stems, in part, from droughts.2

The prospect of using cloud seeding to increase rainfall — its most popular usage — is an enticing one, but it comes along with a fair share of controversy as well. In the U.S., about $15 million is spent on cloud-seeding projects annually, which pales in comparison to the $100 million a year spent in China. Still, in the U.S., cloud seeding has grown by one-third in the last 10 years.3

It’s used in North Dakota, for instance, not only to promote rain but also to inhibit hail (and thereby reduce hail damage to crops). Cloud seeding is also sometimes used to clear fog.

In California, meanwhile, a mountain-top “cloud seeder” has been used to enhance rain and snow in efforts to fight drought. As its popularity grows, however, some are asking whether the practice is cost effective and whether it could end up having some negative effects on the weather, the latter of which is why some farmers in North Dakota are asking for the area’s cloud-seeding programs to end.

How Does Cloud Seeding Work?

There are a number of different ways that cloud seeding can work, but typically dry ice (frozen carbon dioxide) pellets or silver iodide are applied to certain clouds to modify their output. Seeding agents may be applied to clouds from the ground but, most often, aircraft are used to apply the materials to the clouds. This occurs either by releasing the seeding agent below the cloud into its updrafts or by dropping the seeds directly into the upper regions of the clouds. According to NDCMP — the North Dakota Cloud Modification Project:4

“In North Dakota, all seeding is done by aircraft. Base-seeding aircraft release seeding agent into updrafts from below the developing storm using a combination of wing-mounted ice nucleus generators and burn-in-place flares. Cloud-top seeding aircraft use ejectable flares and dry ice released directly into the supercooled cloud.”

There are several considerations as to which method is used. Direct injection works quicker, with results occurring almost immediately. However, NDCMP notes that this is costlier because it requires higher-performance aircraft capable of flying at higher altitudes and directly in-cloud. Updraft treatment, which is done at the cloud base, is an easier and less expensive method, but the results may take up to 30 minutes.

As for who’s in charge of deciding when to seed clouds, in North Dakota the program falls under the direction of the radar meteorologist. “In addition to weather conditions, a number of factors play a part in the decision-making process including safety criteria, radar information, pilot observations and aircraft instrument data,” according to NDCMP.5

North Dakota Reports Up to 10 Percent Increase in Rainfall Due to Cloud Seeding

Determining whether cloud seeding is effective poses a challenge, in part because many areas using the technology want all of the seedable clouds treated in order to reap the most potential benefits. In Wyoming, however, the Wyoming Weather Modification Pilot Program (WWMPP) conducted a randomized cloud-seeding program, which found the seeding increased snowfall by 5 percent to 15 percent under ideal seeding conditions.6

In North Dakota, meanwhile, NDCMP reports that cloud seeding produces an estimated 5 percent to 10 percent additional rainfall annually in the project area while reducing crop hail losses by 45 percent. As for costs, they say it only costs 16 cents per acre to enhance rain and suppress hail.7

The environmental effects are also reported as minimal, with NDCMP stating, “Cloud seeding agents, including silver iodide and dry ice, meet all National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations and are safe for the environment.” They further note that no environmentally harmful effects have been detected from cloud seeding with silver iodide, explaining:8

“The silver concentration in rainwater from a seeded storm is well below the acceptable environmental concentration of 50 micrograms per liter as set by the U.S. Public Health Service. Also, the concentration of iodine in iodized salt used for human consumption is far above the concentration found in rainwater from seeded clouds. Because silver iodide is such an effective ice nucleus, it is used in very small quantities.

Based on the average rate of silver iodide use in North Dakota each summer, it would take nearly 500 years for 1 gram of silver iodide (1/28th of an ounce) to be evenly spread out over an area equal to a full-sized basketball court!”

North Dakota Farmers Ask for End to Weather Modification

Not everyone believes cloud seeding is a win-win proposition. In Ward County, North Dakota, farmers have asked the county commission to halt cloud-seeding programs for the remainder of 2017 amidst a drought, with some opponents suggesting the practice may be making dry conditions worse. The commission voted 4-0 to ask the Atmospheric Resource Board to suspend operations.

Spokesperson Roger Neshem told the commission, “We are not asking for a radical thing here. We are asking to join the other 47 counties in the state who do not try to modify their weather.” In The Dickinson Press, he noted:9

“I was asking, ‘What are we getting for spending this money?’ The only fact in this whole situation is hail insurance rates in Ward County are higher than area counties … I think there are some people … who think they may be doing some accomplishing of the negative sort for the weather patterns here.”

Did Cloud Seeding Cause the Rapid City Flood of 1972?

June 9, 1972, is a date etched in the memories of many Rapid City, South Dakota, residents. During a period of just six hours, 10 inches of rain fell on the city, adding up to 14 inches overnight. Area streams overflowed and a dam at Canyon Lake failed, leading to massive flooding in the city that killed 238 people and injured 3,000 more.10

Before the flood, the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology was conducting a cloud-seeding research study in the area, leading some to suggest that cloud seeding could have been responsible for the catastrophic flooding. An investigation prompted by the governor reportedly came to the conclusion that the seeding project was not responsible, however. Darin Langerud, director of the North Dakota Atmospheric Resource Board, told The Green Sheet Farm Forum:11

“There were some people that wanted to blame cloud seeding on that event … There was a study that was done at the governor’s request after that event to look into all the details, and the conclusion was that the seeding was not the cause of the flood that occurred in Rapid City in 1972, but it did have some negative impact on interest in cloud seeding.”

California Resorts to Cloud Seeding to Fight Against Drought

California is among the U.S. states that have turned to cloud seeding to try to enhance rainfall in the drought-stricken area. In 2002, and again in 2016, Los Angeles and other municipalities used “flare trees” installed on the hilltops to send silver iodide into the clouds. The problem, as is the case in other areas utilizing the technology, is that its effectiveness is dependent on getting the conditions just right.

“Part of the trick,” Scientific American reported, “is finding the right geographical and meteorological situation as well as getting the silver iodide into the right spot in a cloud — while not seeding monster storms or inducing rainfall over places susceptible to dangerous flooding, landslides or other ill effects.”12

The news outlet even quoted William Cotton, an atmospheric scientist and Professor Emeritus at Colorado State University, who noted that cloud seeding may be more of a political move than anything. “In terms of water agencies,” he said, “a lot of it is just getting out there and doing something.”

Another less-than-stellar vote of confidence came from Don Griffith, president of North American Weather Consultants, who has been seeding clouds for more than 50 years. When asked if California’s cloud-seeding efforts worked, he told Scientific American, “That’s a very difficult question to answer … We think so, we hope so, but there’s no way you can demonstrate that.”13

In fact, there is some misconception that cloud seeding can end droughts. In reality, this isn’t possible because droughts are characterized by a lack of clouds that produce precipitation, and such clouds are necessary for cloud seeding opportunities. During droughts, there are therefore few opportunities for successful cloud seeding. As Roelof Bruintjes, an atmospheric scientist at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research, said to Scientific American, “Nobody can create a cloud.”14

That being said, there is an attitude that doing something is better than doing nothing, but whether that is the case or not remains to be seen. There is also a chance that cloud seeding can be used to help increase rainfall before and after a drought to “temper the reduction of rainfall during the drought period,” according to NDCMP.15 It is not a quick fix that can suddenly make rain fall from the sky in the middle of a long drought, however. “Cloud seeding is more a long-term water resource management tool,” Bruintjes said.16

What Are the Risks and Ethical Issues of Cloud Seeding?

Modifying the weather should not come lightly and neither should cloud seeding. Though such techniques have been in use for more than 70 years, including during the Vietnam War, there are still many questions about whether the practice is beneficial or results in unintended consequences. The latter, the American Meteorological Society (AMS) noted, cannot be ruled out:17

“Unintended consequences of cloud seeding, such as changes in precipitation or other environmental impacts downwind of a target area have not been clearly demonstrated, but neither can they be ruled out. In addition, cloud seeding materials may not be always successfully targeted and may cause their intended effects in an area different than the desired target area.

This brings us to the ethical concern that activities conducted for the benefit of some may have an undesirable impact on others. At times unintended effects may cross political boundaries. Weather modification programs should be designed to minimize negative impacts. International cooperation may be needed in some regions.”

In addition, weather modification doesn’t end with cloud seeding. Programs have been attempted to reduce the intensity and/or direction of tornadoes and tropical storms, for instance, while other methods have been used aside from cloud seeding to enhance rainfall. “Much less is known about the effects of these other techniques, and their scientific basis is even further from being demonstrated, either statistically or physically, than it is for cloud seeding,” AMS reported.

In order to minimize risks and ethical issues from what is an inherently unpredictable science, they recommended well-designed and well-supported research programs that “improve the predictability of the undisturbed weather and the magnitude of weather modification effects.” In short, in the spirt of the precautionary principle, perhaps we should learn more about the immediate and long-term effects of weather modification techniques before unleashing them onto the planet.

Ben & Jerry’s — 20 Years of Greenwashing

08/08/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

I recently wrote about the greenwashing of organic milk, and how organic dairies, such as Aurora Organic, are nothing but concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in disguise that are unfairly putting true organic dairy farmers out of business with low quality milk. Few companies are as bad as Ben & Jerry’s, however, when it comes to greenwashing and failing to live up to stated mission goals.

Ben & Jerry’s vision statement includes social, product quality, environmental and economic missions1 that aim “to create linked prosperity for everyone that’s connected to our business:”2

  • Social Mission: To operate the company in a way that actively recognizes the central role that business plays in society by initiating innovative ways to improve the quality of life locally, nationally and internationally.
  • Product Mission: To make, distribute and sell the finest quality ice cream and euphoric concoctions with a continued commitment to incorporating wholesome, natural ingredients and promoting business practices that respect the Earth and the environment.
  • Economic Mission: To operate the company on a sustainable financial basis of profitable growth, increasing value for our stakeholders and expanding opportunities for development and career growth for our employees.

Over the last two decades, Ben & Jerry’s has been directly confronted about their failure to live up to mission, as they continue promoting themselves as a ‘green’ business while utilizing extremely harmful and polluting agriculture methods.

Ben & Jerry’s — One of the Greatest Greenwash Scams in the Business 

Chances are, if you like ice cream, you probably like Ben & Jerry’s — not just because of their “euphoric concoctions” but also because of their emphasis on sustainability and ecofriendly practices, and their support for labeling genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Too bad it’s all a façade.

The company recently got a slew of negative press3,4,5,6 when independent testing by the Organic Consumer’s Association (OCA) discovered traces of glyphosate in 10 out of 11 Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavors.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, and a minor issue in the big scheme of things. As noted by Michael Colby, former editor of Food & Water Journal and co-founder of Regeneration Vermont, a nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to bringing sustainable, regenerative agriculture back to Vermont:7

“It was 20 years ago last month that Food & Water published our report on Vermont’s atrazine addiction, a toxic herbicide that is banned in Europe but continues to be used in abundance on Vermont’s 92,000 acres of GMO-derived feed corn — all for dairy cows. We used the report to get the attention of Ben & Jerry’s, and it worked.

We thought when the doors swung open to the offices of Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield themselves that we’d be able to make the case to them. Our plea at the time was the same as it is today: Ben & Jerry’s should practice what it preaches and help transition its farmers to organic production. If they took the lead, we argued, the entire state could begin a transition away from the kind of industrial, commodity-based dairy system that is wreaking so much havoc with Vermont’s agriculture …

We thought the obvious imbalance — and even direct, outright hypocrisy — between what Ben & Jerry’s was doing and what they were saying would be enough to get these do-good hippies to do the right thing. We were using logic. Because, certainly, the corporation that wanted to “save the planet” and “put the planet before profits” would want to stop being one of the state’s top polluters, right?

Wrong. We were told at the time, by Ben himself, after a year’s worth of meetings and even an offer of a job to me ‘to work with us instead of going after us,’ that Ben & Jerry’s was not going to transition to organic because it wouldn’t allow them to ‘maximize profits.'”

Happy, Healthy Cows? Not So Much

Yes, for those of you who might have been misled to think otherwise, Ben & Jerry’s is actually supporting one of the greatest polluters in the world — factory dairy farming. And the reality of these factory farms is far from the rosy picture put forth in this recent “Caring Dairy” campaign video, in which they highlight the idea that Ben & Jerry gets its milk from some 300 “family operated” dairy farms in the U.S. and Europe.

“Healthy land, dedicated farmers, smart energy and a strong local community … put them together and you got some happy cows,” the video says. Wrong. While the video features cows happily skipping through a meadow, CAFO cows are anything but happy and healthy, and CAFOs are where Ben & Jerry’s gets their milk — not family operated farms that pasture their cows and raise them on grass, as nature intended.

According to Cornell University researchers, the annual mortality rate in CAFO herds is now over 10 percent. In 2002, the mortality rate was less than 4 percent. As noted by Will Allen, owner of Cedar Circle Farm, a regenerative farm in Vermont, “Something’s seriously wrong in the dairy barn.”8

Profit at the Expense of Animal Health

Part of it has to do with the way CAFOs push the animals to overproduce. The average amount of milk produced by a dairy cow was 7,000 pounds per year in 1970. In 2012, it was 22,000 pounds — a 313 percent increase in production per cow.9 This unnatural overproduction takes its toll on the animals, as does the unnatural diet and unnatural living arrangements these animals are forced into. As noted by Allen:10

“The feed programs outlined by the agrichemical corporations have been geared toward one thing: milk production. And the quickest way to do that is to gorge the cow with a rich and continuous diet … [T]oday’s super-producing cows are being fed nearly 130 pounds of feed a day, more than double what they used to eat a few decades ago … The problem is that this nutrient loading is all aimed squarely at milk production, to the detriment of the rest of the cow’s health.

In the end, the dairy cow can’t keep up, succumbing to a whole host of health issues earlier … in her life … ultimately leading to an early death, either from a chronic health issue and/or general burnout that results in an unceremonious exit to the beef yards, where all non-organic dairy cows eventually meet their end in the U.S.

‘Dairy cattle death losses are an extremely important problem,’ writes Dr. Franklyn Garry, DVM, a professor at Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. ‘Not only are these losses an economic disaster, they also represent very substantial problems with animal well-being … There is a real need for the dairy industry and dairy veterinarians to re-evaluate dairy management systems with a focus on optimum animal health.'”

There’s Nothing Socially or Environmentally Friendly About CAFOs

CAFOs are also a blight that cause enormous environmental pollution that destroys soil, water and air quality. While Cohen and Greenfield balked at going organic two decades ago, Colby points out that the situation has only gotten worse since the company was bought by Unilever.

These days, corporate decisions regarding the Ben & Jerry’s brand are made in Unilever’s headquarters in London. Colby goes on to set the record straight on Ben & Jerry’s “environmentally friendly” company, noting that:

“[T]hose free-cone days that Ben & Jerry’s rolls out every year for Vermonters aren’t so free, nor are the grants they provide to so many environmental and economic justice groups … Ben & Jerry’s expects loyalty to its carefully orchestrated charade: The consumption of … pesticide-laden, climate-threatening, cow-abusing ice cream produced with the labor of exploited migrant workers all leads to social and ecological justice for all! Come on, people, really? …

For 20 years I’ve been engaging Ben & Jerry’s, showing them the damage that it is doing at every level, from the atrazine report in 1997 to the GMO report in 2016 and a slew of face-to-face meetings in between. But it always ends the same way: Ben & Jerry’s admits that the marketing is working just fine. ‘People think we’re organic,’ is what we were told time and time again in private meetings, while asking them to actually go organic. If fooling people allows for maximizing profits, why stop fooling them?”

If you’ve been fooled into thinking Ben & Jerry’s was organic, it’s time to rip the wool off your eyes. They’re not. Far from it. The whole thing is a carefully orchestrated greenwashing sham. As noted by OCA following its glyphosate testing:11

“It’s time for Ben & Jerry’s to announce it will immediately begin transitioning to 100-percent organic. Otherwise conscious consumers have no choice but to launch a national and, if necessary, international protest campaign and boycott.”

‘Ecofriendly’ Company Is a Top Polluter

Colby also points out the following facts about Ben & Jerry’s less than illustrious business practices, all of which go against their stated missions to improve quality of life, provide quality products and protect the environment:12

Ben & Jerry’s actually pays its dairy farmers less than the cost of producing the milk. Contributing farms lose on average $125,000 a year, while Ben & Jerry’s annual reports predict $100 million-a-year growth, “Teslas for the executives, and a parent corporation CEO drawing a base salary of $12 million — before the boardroom gifts are doled out.” For each pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream sold, which on average sells for about $5, the dairy farmer gets 15 cents, while the average cost to produce that milk is 22 cents.

Since the founding of Ben & Jerry’s in 1978 in Vermont, nearly 3,000 of the state’s dairy farmers have been forced off their land, unable to withstand the financial strains of working for free, or worse, working at a loss.

Waterways in Vermont are severely polluted by CAFOs. Even drinking water is testing positive for glyphosate and atrazine — toxic herbicides used to grow feed for CAFO cows (most of which is GMO, despite Ben & Jerry’s public support of non-GMO). The cost to clean up Lake Champlain alone is estimated at $2 billion.

According to state officials, CAFOs such as those supplying milk to Ben & Jerry’s are responsible for at least half of the total environmental damage in Vermont and nearly 80 percent of the pollution in Lake Champlain,13 yet the company contributes nothing to the cleanup. In fact, CAFOs get off scot-free when it comes to paying for the pollution they generate, while most other polluting industries are held accountable for cleanup. What’s worse, Vermont secretary of agriculture, Chuck Ross, is even entertaining proposals that would weaken requirements on dairy farms’ practices that help rein in water pollution.14

To learn more about the destructive influence of CAFOs in Vermont, and to get the latest updates, please see Regeneration Vermont’s blog.

It’s Time to Do the Right Thing

Colby, as part of Regeneration Vermont, is still trying to bring Ben & Jerry’s onboard. After all, alongside Cabot Creamery, the ice cream maker is a dominant player in Vermont’s dairy industry. By changing over to organic, Ben & Jerry’s could have a significant impact on farmers and the environment, not to mention the health of consumers everywhere.

Today, when more than 200 of Vermont’s 800 remaining dairy farms have already transitioned to organic and returned their cows to a grass-based diet, going organic would be far easier than before. So, Regeneration Vermont is now asking Ben & Jerry’s (and Unilever) to do what they should have done 20 years ago, and pledge to:

  1. Make the transition from GMO crops and toxic pesticides/fertilizers to regenerative organic farming.
  2. Pay fair farm wages, including premiums based on regeneration benchmarks and assistance in the transition toward regenerative methods.
  3. Ensure economic justice for farmworkers, fair and livable wages, decent housing and social and cultural dignity.
  4. Adopt climate remediation techniques, with emphasis on healthy soils and cover-cropping for carbon sequestration and erosion control.
  5. Support humane treatment of farm animals; phase-out of confinement dairies and transition to grassland grazing and grass-based feed.
  6. Clean up and protect our watersheds, streams, rivers, ponds, lakes and groundwater.

Regeneration Vermont isn’t just pushing Ben & Jerrry’s to get onboard with organic dairy production. In an open letter15 to the governor-elect, Phil Scott, dated December 16, 2016, the group called for a statewide transition toward regenerative dairy production. The letter was co-written by former Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Roger Allbee and signed by a long list of environmental and state business leaders.

Action Item — Encourage Ben & Jerry’s to Fulfill Their Stated Missions ‘for Real’

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) has also created a petition16 to encourage Ben & Jerry’s to convert to organic and stop hoodwinking customers into thinking they’re organic by claiming to be all-natural and environmentally responsible. Currently, they’re neither of those things.

Please join your support with this initiative by signing the petition below. Better yet, call Ben & Jerry’s directly (802-846-1500) and ask the company to fulfill their mission statement and go organic.

“It’s time to hold Ben & Jerry’s accountable for the damage and to demand the necessary transition to organic/regenerative methods,” Regeneration Vermont writes.17

“The executives at Ben & Jerry’s know-how damaging their milk supply chain is. They know that labor is being abused. They know that cows are burning out before they are 5 years old. They know that antibiotics are being misused. They know that the dairies that supply their milk are polluting our drinking water and most of the rivers and lakes in Vermont. They know — because we’ve been telling them for years. Join us in our campaign for a statewide regenerative transition.”

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

There’s a Thriving Regenerative Agriculture Movement in Vermont

I have visited Allen’s Cedar Circle Farm in Vermont, where I had the opportunity to talk to Ronnie Cummins, co-founder of OCA. Many of the issues covered above are discussed in the article published in 2014. A key message Cummins and Allen deliver is the importance of avoiding all CAFO animal products, be it beef, poultry, eggs, milk or other dairy products such as ice cream.

CAFOs simply have too many devastating drawbacks, not just in terms of inferior food products, but also in terms of animal welfare and environmental impacts delivered by GMOs that are dependent on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides that end up in the soil, air and water – and eventually into the ice cream and other products we consume.

One of the most impactful changes you as an individual can make is to switch from CAFO animal products to organic, grass fed beef and dairy that doesn’t rely on such destructive practices. Many do not realize this, but grazing animals are actually a very important part of the ecology.  

Nearly 97% of the native grasslands have been destroyed, much of it planted into GMO corn & soy fields which in turn are fed to herbivores that could be grazing instead of eating grains fed to them on concrete.

Organic Grass Fed Agriculture Can Solve Many Environmental Problems

Our modern agricultural system, which focuses on monocropping and CAFOs as two separate food streams that degrades the farmland by reducing organic matter in soil. Scientists have also declared farming and fertilizers as the No. 1 cause of particulate matter air pollution in much of the U.S., China, Russia and Europe today, specifically the nitrogen component of fertilizers.18,19

According to Allan Savory, an African ecologist, dramatically increasing the number of grazing livestock is really the only thing that can successfully reverse both desertification.20,21 An article22 by Pure Advantage notes how there is no current or envisioned technology that can simultaneously  restore biodiversity and feed people. But livestock can …

Increasing organic matter in soil and pastures also saves all-important water in more ways than one. First, it retains more rain water, thereby reducing irrigation needs; second, it encourages rainfall and prevents extended droughts. In fact, satellite data reveals plant-soil evapotranspiration may exert a far greater influence on weather and rainfall patterns than previously thought.23

The more organic matter there is in the soil, the more moisture is captured and released back into the atmosphere through plant transpiration. For each 1 percent increase in organic matter, each acre of soil can retain another 20,000 gallons of water. Raising organic soil matter by 1 percent in Oklahoma alone would allow the soil there to retain an additional 894 billion gallons more water after each rainfall of 1 inch or more!24

You Have the Power to Make a Difference

For two decades, Ben & Jerry’s has successfully pulled the wool over the public’s eyes. The the toxic truth about their GMO dependent CAFOs are now revealed, the company has become a posterchild for greenwashing of the worst sort. Their social mission is to “operate … in a way that actively recognizes the central role that business plays in society,” and initiate “innovative ways to improve the quality of life.”

Their mission goal has been neglected for 20 years and remains unfulfilled to this day. To fulfill it, they need to transition to regenerative dairy production. Doing so would have a tremendously positive impact on society. CAFOs have no redeeming value aside from corporate profitability. It’s not even profitable for the farmers.

Ben & Jerry’s product mission is to make “the finest quality ice cream … with a continued commitment to incorporating wholesome, natural ingredients and promoting business practices that respect the Earth and the environment.” Sourcing milk from CAFOs violates and nullifies this entire mission goal from start to finish.

You cannot make the finest quality ice cream when you start with toxic inferior raw materials (CAFO milk); you certainly are not committing to incorporating wholesome natural ingredients when you willfully choose CAFO over organic grass fed milk; and you certainly are not promoting business practices that respect the Earth and the environment when insisting on supporting grossly polluting factory farms rather than regenerative farming.

The only mission goal Ben & Jerry’s has ever been able to fully live up to is its economic goal, which is to make “profitable growth” and “increasing value for stakeholders.” Congratulations. Too bad that’s not what health conscious consumers really care about.

I hope you join me in calling Ben & Jerry’s bluff. Let them know you expect them to live up to the promises on which they’ve built their little empire. It’s time to actually deliver the real goods. You can contact Ben & Jerry’s directly by calling (802-846-1500). I strongly encourage you to call them and tell them what you think of their reprehensible, unethical and irresponsible behavior. Phone lines are open Monday through Friday, 8.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. EDT. You can also send them a message using the online contact form at the bottom of their contact page. You CAN make a radical difference. Please give them a call, and ask your family and friends to contact them as well.

Over 267 Toxins Found in Public Tap Water

08/08/2017 Dr. Mercola 0

By Dr. Mercola

Many people drink water straight from their tap, assuming it to be safe. Unfortunately, just because it’s clear and tastes normal does not mean it’s pure. Far from it, research conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) revealed hundreds of contaminants coming out of the average U.S. faucet, many at levels above what may cause health risks but below the threshold of legal action.

While the Safe Drinking Water Act was put into place in 1974 to presumably keep Americans’ tap water safe, not one chemical has been added to the list of regulated chemicals in drinking water since 1996. Nneka Leiba, director of EWG’s Healthy Living Science Program, told USA Today:

“The list of regulated chemicals has not kept up with our use of chemicals as a country … “Legal doesn’t necessarily mean safe when it comes to drinking water … What we are concerned about is long-term exposure, eight glasses a day, over a lifetime.”1

Hundreds of Chemicals Are Likely in Your Tap Water

EWG analyzed data from U.S. agencies and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on drinking water tests conducted from 2010 to 2015. The tests came from nearly 50,000 water utilities in 50 states and tested for 500 different contaminants. In all, 267 were detected, including:2

  • 93 linked to an increased risk of cancer
  • 78 associated with brain and nervous system damage
  • 63 connected to developmental harm to children or fetuses
  • 38 that may cause fertility problems
  • 45 linked to hormonal disruption

EWG’s analysis revealed many alarming trends, like the fact that nearly 19,000 public water systems detected lead at levels above 3.8 parts per billion, which would put a formula-fed baby at risk of elevated blood lead levels. Other chemicals of concern include chromium-6, an industrial chemical that’s not regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act but is found in drinking water supplies in all 50 states at levels above those that may pose a cancer risk.

The industrial solvent 1,4-dioxane was also widely detected at levels above what the EPA says could pose a cancer risk, as were nitrates, stemming from industrial agriculture, also at levels above that which might pose a cancer risk. According to EWG:3

“The vast majority of the nation’s drinking water supplies get a passing grade from federal and state regulatory agencies. However, many of the 250-plus contaminants detected through water sampling and testing are at levels that are perfectly legal under the Safe Drinking Water Act or state regulations, but well above levels authoritative scientific studies have found to pose health risks.

What’s more, the Environmental Protection Agency has not added a new contaminant to the list of regulated drinking water pollutants in more than 20 years. This inexcusable failure of the federal government’s responsibility to protect public health means there are no legal limits for the more than 160 unregulated contaminants the tests detected in the nation’s tap water.”

Industrial Farming Fuels Algae Growth That in Turn Taints Drinking Water

There are a number of ways industrial agriculture proves disastrous to drinking water. Among the environmental assaults already being seen include increased nitrate contamination in drinking water, which is the result of fertilizer pollution. Park Rapids, Minnesota, spent $3 million to dig deeper wells due to nitrate contamination.

It’s estimated that 10 percent of private drinking wells in the area may have nitrate levels that pose dangers to pregnant women and infants.4 In Iowa, meanwhile, Des Moines’ water utility spent $900,000 on nitrate filtering in 2013 and $1.5 million in 2015,5 and even sued three neighboring counties (Sac, Buena Vista and Calhoun counties) over the fertilizer runoff tainting these rivers.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that removing nitrate from U.S. drinking water costs nearly $5 billion a year,6 which the industrial agriculture industry has been largely shielded from. Phosphorus and nitrogen run-off from industrial farming not only taint drinking water directly but also contribute to the algae growth that depletes oxygen in the marine environment, leading to disastrous dead zones.

In drinking water, increased algae levels require the increased use of disinfectants by water utilities, which in turn increase the formation of toxic disinfection byproducts like trihalomethanes (THMs). THMs are Cancer Group B carcinogens, meaning they’ve been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals.

Changes in Farming Strategies Necessary to Reduce Agriculture-Driven Water Pollution

The immediate solution to protect your drinking water is to install a water filter on your tap, but on a broader scale the solution is to stop the source of the pollution. Even small changes, like the use of cover crops, can help to prevent soil erosion while absorbing excess fertilizer. Iowa has a voluntary program in place — the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy — to help control fertilizer runoff, but it’s still in its beginning stages even though it started four years ago. Many have questioned whether voluntary programs go far enough.

Iowa has long faced problems with elevated levels of nitrates in drinking water and has been identified as a top contributor to pollution (nitrates and phosphorus) causing the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Fertilizer runoff has also been blamed for toxic algae taking over Florida coastlines. A report released by the Iowa Environmental Council (IEC) has attempted to summarize the related health risks of such nitrates in drinking water.7

Researchers reviewed over 100 studies on the health effects of nitrates in drinking water and found multiple studies linked them to birth defects, bladder cancer and thyroid cancer. While many of the health problems were found with nitrate levels higher than the drinking water standard of 10 mg/L, some studies suggested nitrate levels lower than the drinking water standard may still pose health risks. About 15 percent of private wells in Iowa may have nitrate levels that exceed federal standards.8

From Cookware Chemicals to Pharmaceuticals: What Else Is in Your Drinking Water?

With every sip of water you take, you could be ingesting a mix of chemicals that boggles the mind, including even prescription and over-the-counter medications. Pharmaceutical drugs make their way into waterways when they’re flushed down the drain (or down the toilet after being excreted). Most water treatment plants can’t filter out medications properly. Researchers evaluating the water from Puget Sound in Washington state found 81 different drugs and chemicals which were not removed by wastewater treatment.9

Depending on the method used, anywhere from 10 percent to more than 80 percent of the drugs in the water fail to be removed during treatment.10 And that’s just the beginning. According to a Harvard study, 16.5 million Americans have detectable levels of at least one kind of polyfluoroalkyl or perfluoroalkyl chemical (PFASs) in their drinking water.

PFASs are used to create nonstick, stain-resistant and water-repellant surfaces such as in nonstick cookware. About 6 million Americans are drinking water that contains PFAS at or above the EPA safety level.11

More than 18 million Americans also receive drinking water from water treatment facilities that have violated federal drinking water rules for lead.12 And, in 9 out of 10 cases, the EPA has taken no enforcement action against the violators. Disturbingly, many water treatment facilities are actually using incorrect testing methods to avoid detecting high levels of lead, which means the number of Americans drinking lead-contaminated water is likely even higher than that.

An estimated 16 million also have perchlorate — a chemical used in explosives and rocket fuel — in their drinking water.13 Further, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) put out a report that showed widespread atrazine contamination in drinking water, posing a “dangerous problem” that was not communicated to the people most at risk.14

Atrazine is the most commonly detected pesticide in U.S. waters, and it’s known to cause reproductive harm to mammals, fish and birds, so I recommend filtering your tap water — both for drinking and bathing — with a filter certified to remove it.

Just how severe water contamination may be remains an open question, as the Safe Drinking Water Act regulates only 91 contaminants. Meanwhile, more than 80,000 chemicals are used in the U.S.15 There’s really no telling how many of these chemicals, and in what amounts or to what consequences, end up in our drinking water.

EWG’s Tap Water Database: What Contaminants Are in Your Water?

If you want to know what’s lurking in your water, you can get the results of your local drinking water analysis from your water utility. It’s your right to view the annual water quality report from your area, which should highlight contaminants of concern (although there could be others that are legally ‘safe’ but still pose a long-term health risk). You can also use EWG’s Tap Water Database, which allows you to enter your ZIP code to reveal what’s really in your tap water.

You’ll find out not only whether contaminants have been detected above health guidelines but also other detected contaminants, the primary pollution sources and what to do to filter the contaminants out. It takes only a moment, but the results are truly eye-opening. Please don’t assume your tap water is pure. In all likelihood, it’s far from it.

ewgs tap water database

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Filtering Your Water Is an Investment in Your Health

As long as your water tastes and looks pure, it’s easy to go on assuming it is such. But finding out what’s really in your water, and taking steps to remedy it, is one of the most important health moves you can make. Take it from Laura Sarcone, communications specialist at the Des Moines Water Works. She witnessed the plant’s nitrate-removal facility run for 177 days straight — when it was built to only run for a few days a year, signaling just how much nitrate pollution was in the area’s water. She told Civil Eats:16

“I think nationally we, the industry, feel water is an undervalued resource … People are willing to pay hundreds for cellphone minutes and unlimited data, or for their cable TV … but rarely do they tend to put the same value on clean drinking water.”

Unfortunately, it’s best to assume your water is less than pure and use a high-quality water filtration system (unless you can verify the purity of your water). If you have well water, it would be prudent to have your water tested for nitrates and other contaminants. If you have public water, you can get local drinking water quality reports from the EPA.

To be certain you’re getting the purest water you can, filter the water both at the point of entry and at the point of use. This means filtering all the water that comes into the house, and then filtering again at the kitchen sink and shower.

Unfiltered water can also expose you to dangerous chlorine vapors and chloroform gas. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other U.S. government agencies report that most homes in the U.S. have measurable levels of chloroform gas, courtesy of chlorinated tap water. Unless you have a whole house water filter, chlorine will vaporize from every toilet bowl in your home and every time you wash your clothes, dishes or take a shower or bath.

Chloroform gas, chlorine vapors and the associated DBPs may increase your risk of asthma, airway inflammation and respiratory allergies. Chloroform gas alone can cause dizziness, nausea and general fatigue. If you get your water from a municipal water supply and don’t have a whole house filter, it really is important to open up windows on opposing sides of your home so you get cross ventilation. Keep the windows open for five to 10 minutes a day to remove these gases. Ideally, use a whole house filtration system.

One of the best I’ve found so far is the Pure & Clear Whole House Water Filtration System, which uses a three-stage filtration process — a micron sediment prefilter, a KDF water filter and a high-grade carbon water filter — to filter out chlorine, disinfection byproducts (DBPs) and other contaminants. You can find more information about water filters in my video below. EWG also has a handy water filter guide that lets you search by filter type, technology and/or contaminant to help you decide on the best type of filter for your home.17