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Mercola Natural Health Articles Get a healthy dose of natural health news that you can actually use! In this podcast, Dr. Joseph Mercola provides you with practical lifestyle tips and important health alerts. Dr. Mercola is an internationally renowned natural health physician and a doctor of osteopathy. He has made significant milestones in his mission to bring people practical solutions to their health problems. A New York Times Best Selling Author, Dr. Mercola is author of The No-Grain Diet and Take Control of Your Health. He has also been featured in TIME magazine, LA Times, CNN, Fox News, ABC News with Peter Jennings, Today Show and other major media resources. To know more about him visit www.mercola.com.

  • Buyer Beware: Most Collagen Supplements Sourced From CAFOs
    published on October 22nd, 2017 at 12:50 PM

    By Dr. Mercola

    Dull, wrinkled, sagging skin and dry, brittle hair and nails — all of these are signs of aging, which in large part can be attributed to the loss of collagen that occurs naturally with age. Collagen is the most common and abundant of your body's proteins, comprising about 25 percent of the total protein in your body, and up to 80 percent of your skin, in terms of dry weight.1

    It’s found specifically in the connective tissues throughout your body, from your muscles, bones and tendons to your blood vessels and digestive system. As a compound of essential amino acids, there’s only one way to get collagen; your body can’t produce it, so you must obtain it through your diet. Most people, however, will simply reach for a collagen supplement rather than boiling down chicken feet or beef bones for a homemade collagen-rich broth.

    But what are you really getting in these supplements? Recent laboratory testing stirred up controversy with popular collagen and bone broth products results revealing potential contaminants — including antibiotics, prescription drug metabolites, parabens, steroids and insecticides.

    Troublesome Contaminants Found in Many Nonorganic Collagen Products

    The collagen products in question were selected based on their popularity and sales ranking on Amazon.com, and all were nonorganic. The results indicate that if you are consuming bone broth or collagen products that are not organic you are likely getting CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operations) byproducts. As reported by the Consumer Wellness Center (CWC):2

    "The nonprofit Consumer Wellness Center has completed testing of eight popular bone broth and bone broth protein products to determine the possible presence of chemical pesticides, pharmaceuticals, industrial chemicals, toxicological chemicals and food additive chemicals. No companies paid the CWC to be included or excluded from these tests. All products were purchased from Amazon.com in the year 2017.

    Lot numbers of each product tested are included in the full results. No one involved in this testing has any financial stake in the success or failure of any bone broth product … Chemical analytes were confirmed using five different scientific analysis methods. Those methods, encompassed in LC-MS-TOF analysis, include accurate mass, retention time, isotopic ratios, isotopic spacing and ion fragmentation ‘fingerprint’ analysis.” 3

    Other chemicals claimed to be found in some of these products include:4

    Nonorganic Collagen and Bone Broth Products Are Likely CAFO-Derived

    So, what do these results mean? In a nutshell, if a collagen or bone broth protein product is not certified organic, it is very likely the primary ingredients are sourced from animals raised in CAFOs. If you do not consume factory farmed/CAFO meats, you likely should not be consuming CAFO collagen and bone broth products.

    Factory farmed animal products are problematic for many reasons, such as accelerating antibiotic resistance, poor conditions for the animals, and because the farms contribute to severe environmental pollution. As the news spread of these findings, CWC updated its press release with the following disclaimer:

    "After reviewing consumer feedback about the lab tests, Consumer Wellness Center has learned that many people are misinterpreting these results, and some are taking them out of context … [T]he chemicals originally detected were not ingredients nor overwhelming signals that would indicate any sort of acute health risk or illegality …

    [A]t no point did the CWC assert that the products tested were acutely dangerous or running afoul of FDA regulations. The FDA allows astonishing levels of many chemicals in non-organic products, and this is frequently reflected and affirmed in scientific lab testing results."

    CAFO-derived collagen and bone meal or broth may not be acutely toxic, but purchasing food products from factory farms is a problematic practice. I recommend eating mostly organic foods, as each and every source will add to your overall toxic load. Other studies have shown CAFO animal bones and hides can also be a source of heavy metals such as lead,7 which is another potential concern when buying nonorganic animal products.

    Types of Collagen

    While 28 different types of collagen have been scientifically identified, most supplements will contain one or more of just three of these, which are known simply as:8,9,10

    • Type I — collagen found in skin/hide, tendon, scales and bones of cows, pigs, chicken and fish
    • Type II — formed in cartilage and typically derived from poultry
    • Type III — fibrous protein found in bone, tendon, cartilage and connective tissues of cows, pigs, chicken and fish

    Types I, II and III comprise 90 percent of the collagen in your body.11 When talking about collagen, you also need to know the difference between unhydrolyzed (undenatured) or hydrolyzed (denatured) collagen. In their natural, hydrolyzed state, collagen molecules are poorly absorbed due to their large size.

    Hydrolyzation refers to a processing technique that breaks the molecules down into smaller fragments, thereby enhancing intestinal absorption. For this reason, most collagen products, whether topical or ingestible, are hydrolyzed.

    Collagen Versus Gelatin

    Gelatin is a staple in Paleo-based diets. The difference between collagen and gelatin is that collagen is the raw material, and gelatin is what you get when you cook the collagen.12 If you've ever made homemade bone broth, you'll find it forms a layer of gelatin at the top when it cools. That's the collagen from the bones and cartilage that has turned into gelatin, a formidable superfood.

    In fact, making your own bone broth from the bones of organic grass fed or pastured animals is one of the best (and most inexpensive) ways to get healthy collagen into your diet. Hydrolyzed collagen (also called collagen hydrolysate) requires more intensive processing and cannot be produced at home. Hydrolyzed collagen and gelatin are similar but not identical.

    While both products contain the same amino acids, they have different chemical properties and therefore differ in how you can use them. Both gelatin and hydrolyzed collagen have gut-healing properties, aiding digestion and reducing inflammation, although hydrolyzed collagen tends to be more easily digested.

    Since hydrolyzed collagen has been broken down into smaller components, it can dissolve in both cold and hot liquids whereas gelatin will only dissolve in hot liquid. And, since hydrolyzed collagen will not gel, it cannot be used as a substitute for gelatin in dishes like puddings and sauces.

    On a side note, collagen is not only taken internally to improve hair, skin and nails. It's also a key component of wound healing and is used in wound dressings. Collagen dressing containing gelatin has been shown to be particularly valuable in the treatment of chronic wounds, as its biochemistry enhances signaling to cells responsible for creating granulation tissue.13

    When Buying Poultry-Based Collagen, Opt for Organic

    USDA Organic

    The take-home message here is that if you're going to use a poultry-based collagen supplement, make sure it's certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA),14 as this is the only organic label that relates directly to food.

    While organic standards are imperfect, manufacturers of organic products bearing the USDA seal have to meet the strictest standards of any of the currently available organic labels, so it's still your best assurance of organic quality. Keep in mind products can contain varying levels of organic ingredients:

    • Products labeled "100% Organic" must contain only organically produced ingredients and cannot contain preservatives or flavor enhancing chemicals, or traces of heavy metals or other contaminants in excess of tolerances set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).15 Livestock also cannot be given growth hormones
    • Products labeled "Certified Organic" or merely "Organic" must contain at least 95 percent organic ingredients
    • The label "Made with Organic Ingredients" can contain anywhere between 70 to 95 percent organic ingredients

    To ensure you're actually getting your money's worth, look for the "USDA Organic" label. The use of the organic seal shown above is optional, but the label must clearly state “Organic.” The organic certification may not be perfect, but it is typically the best reassurance you can get if you do not know the direct source of your food.

    Beware of brands that have “organic” in their brand name but don’t actually bear the USDA label, or brands that try to trick you with words that look like “organic,” such as “organix” or similar twists on the word. If it’s not clearly spelled out on the label, and spelled correctly, it’s not certified organic.

    For Bovine-Based Products, Look for Grass Fed Certification

    American Grassfed Association

    If the product is derived from bovines (cows), you'll want to make sure the product is certified grass fed. Keep in mind that this applies not only to collagen supplements but also to gelatin, commonly used in cooking and baking. In this case, the label you're looking for is the American Grassfed Certification label. The American Grassfed Association's logo is the only one able to guarantee the animals:

    • Have been fed a 100 percent forage diet
    • Have never been confined in a feedlot
    • Have never received antibiotics or hormones
    • Were born and raised on American family farms (a vast majority of the grass fed meats sold in grocery stores are imported, and without COOL labeling, there's no telling where it came from or what standards were followed)

    How Are Collagen Supplements Made?

    To understand what you’re actually buying, it’s worth knowing how collagen or bone broth products are actually made. Bone meal is essentially a byproduct of conventional livestock farming, with most of it coming from poultry operations. Once chickens are processed for their meat, the bone scraps are boiled in water to obtain bone broth. The liquid is strained to remove any remaining bone pieces and then dried into a powder.

    As a result of this process, many of the contaminants found in the bone of the animal will be present in the final product, as evidenced by the featured lab testing. This is why the source of the collagen is so important.

    If you start with a contaminated product — chickens fed genetically engineered (GE) corn laden with pesticides, for example, or animals that have received drugs or other contaminated feed — the end product will contain traces of those contaminants as well. The best if not only way to avoid them is to start with a pure source, in this case organically-raised, pastured or grass fed animals, and make a collagen-rich soup at home.

    How Collagen Benefits Your Body

    As explained by Caroline Brochard-Garnier, communication manager for Rousselot, a producer of gelatin and collagen products for the drug, food and nutritional markets:16

    "When a collagen peptide preparation with optimized molecular weight and proven bioavailability is ingested, small collagen peptides are absorbed quickly into the blood stream. The presence of these peptides in skin tissue, stimulate skin cells (fibroblasts) and activate multiple biochemical pathways which in turn leads to a response which is widely accepted:

    Small collagen peptides are believed to act as a false signal of the destruction of collagen in the body, triggering the synthesis of new collagen fibers, which in turn increases skin suppleness and reduces the formation of wrinkles. In addition, the synthesis of hyaluronic acid is stimulated which leads to an increase in skin hydration."


    There are Many Safe Ways to Boost Your Collagen

    Quality is always an overriding concern when buying a supplement, and collagen products are no different. Since they’re derived from animal parts, the way those animals were raised and fed is of paramount importance. So, when buying a collagen supplement, be sure it’s “USDA Organic” and/or AGA grass fed certified.

    Many experts also recommend increasing consumption of collagen building blocks as well.18 This includes vitamin C and anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich leafy greens and berries. This way, your body will have what it needs to preserve and produce the collagen needed.

    Vitamin C plays an important role in collagen synthesis, so without vitamin C, your body's natural collagen production will be impacted. Hyaluronic acid has also been shown to improve skin moisture and suppleness and reduce wrinkles when added to the diet.19,20 Here are a number of ways to boost your collagen level without having to resort to a supplement:

    Making and consuming homemade bone broth, made from organic, pasture-raised poultry or grass fed and finished bovine bones and cartilage. Chicken feet are excellent for this, as chicken claws are particularly rich in collagen21

    Red light therapy, aka low-level laser light therapy or photobiomodulation, has been shown to increase collagen growth to reduce wrinkles and improve skin elasticity22

    The antioxidant retinol increases the life span of collagen and blocks enzymes that destroy it

    Ginseng, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, has been found to increase collagen in the bloodstream and may have antiaging benefits23

    Aloe vera, taken orally, nearly doubled hyaluronic acid and collagen production in study participants24

    Hyaluronic acid, an important compound for collagen in the skin, can be found in beans and root vegetables, or taken as a supplement

    Vitamin C has been shown to protect skin and boost collagen production in your body, as it helps the amino acids lysine and proline convert to collagen.25 Fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C include kiwi, oranges and other citrus fruits, tomatoes, bell peppers and broccoli

    Antioxidants, which protect against damaging free radicals, enhance the effectiveness of existing collagen. Berries such as blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are good sources

    Garlic contains sulfur, a necessary component for collagen production, as well as lipoic acid and taurine, which help rebuild damaged collagen fibers

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  • Moringa Goes Mainstream
    published on October 22nd, 2017 at 12:50 PM

    By Dr. Mercola

    The moringa tree may not be one that’s familiar to the average American, but in tropical and subtropical areas surrounding the Himalayas, as well as India, Asia, Africa, Central America and the Caribbean, it’s earned favorable ratings for multiple reasons.

    There are many reasons why moringa has been dubbed a “miracle plant,” although in some regions the large tree is called “horseradish tree” or “drumstick tree.” In the areas of the world like those listed above and many others, it’s the most important nutrition source available, and has been for centuries. It’s also earned a reputation as a traditional herbal medicine.

    Multiple uses for every part of the tree, including the seeds, leaves, flowers, fruit (pods), bark and roots, make the Moringa oleifera tree remarkably notable and valuable, as it’s effective as a medicine and food (described as having a “spicy green flavor similar to Matcha”1) and has many other uses one might not think of immediately in terms of a viable agricultural endeavor.

    Two examples are the leaves, which can even be used as a biofertilizer, and the seeds can act as a water purifier. Further, the tree’s unique phytochemicals form a natural defense mechanism against pests that might attack it, as well as environmental stress, and it not only grows rapidly, but also tolerates drought — undoubtedly an asset in the areas it grows — plus the leaves can be harvested year-round.

    As a food, it’s reached and even surpassed superfood status, as Moringa leaves are packed with essential amino acids (meaning your body can’t produce them on its own and they must be ingested from an outside source) and impressive amounts of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and natural plant compounds, which naturally translate to protection against toxins and disease.

    In fact, Lisa Curtis, a Peace Corp volunteer-turned-entrepreneur, discovered that moringa leaves relieved the lackluster nutritional options she experienced working in a rural village in Niger. Locals picked moringa leaves off the trees, mixed it with a regionally popular peanut snack called kuli kuli, and she found her energy returning. Asked to describe moringa, she explained:

    “It’s a thin tree with leaves around one-third the size of spinach. These delicate green leaves provide a complete protein with all nine amino acids, and are high in iron and vitamins. People talk about broccoli helping fight cancer and being anti-inflammatory. Moringa has those same benefits, but your body can digest it more easily.”2

    Commercial Moringa Takes the Superfood Worldwide

    Curtis partnered with Kellogg’s VC (venture capital) arm called Eighteen94 Capital to produce her own “Kuli Kuli, a Moringa Superfood Company,” based in Oakland, California. The startup produces moringa bars, powders and energy shots through some of the nation’s largest natural foods-oriented grocery stores, including Whole Foods, Costco, CVS, Target, Safeway-Albertsons and thousands of smaller ones.

    She had initially planned to go through the Niger localities as a moringa source until an al-Qaida terrorist attack by a West African offshoot led to an evacuation within 48 hours, and her Peace Corps-based moringa project was literally forced to pull up roots.

    Curtis admits she was heartbroken. At loose ends and back home in the San Francisco Bay area, she noticed several then-little-known superfoods such as chia and quinoa being marketed in her local grocery stores. It got her wheels turning, and the concept grew from there. Her next challenge was how to bring moringa to her, rather than building the business in the Niger region as she’d first envisioned.

    After putting a business plan together and recruiting a few corporate-minded friends, crowdfunding through the site Indiegogo in June 2013 to help raise the first $53,000, and test marketing at some of her regional farmers markets, Curtis’ new enterprise took off.

    The test-market product started with moringa bars — soy-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) and vegan to reach the largest portion of the population. Before long, they developed a moringa powder with pineapple, coconut-lime or lemon, and richer flavors such as cocoa and almond butter to make smoothies, soups and savory dishes.

    Another perk is that the company invested in an organization in Ghana that worked with women’s groups to market their moringa powder in the U.S. Rather than the allegedly savvy natural foods markets being based more on the east and west coasts as expected, Curtis found the biggest success for the company’s moringa powder was in Florida among the Latino community, which was already familiar with moringa’s anti-inflammatory benefits.

    The Moringa Nutritional Profile

    Some may find the term “superfood” a little dubious because it’s now used so often, but when you take a look at what moringa offers in the way of nutrition, you may be surprised. The unique collection of nutrients contained in the leaves is a good start, even when compared with some of the healthiest foods you can eat. According to Nutritionfacts.org, in 100 grams or 1 cup of moringa leaves you get:

    “More iron than spinach (5.3-28.2 mg versus 2.7 mg in spinach), more vitamin C than oranges (120-220 mg versus 69.7 mg per orange), and more potassium than bananas (1324 mg versus 422 mg per banana).”3

    In case you didn’t feel like doing the math, that’s 25 times more iron than spinach, 12 times more vitamin C than oranges (a whopping 157 percent of your daily requirement) and 15 times more potassium when compared to bananas. If that’s not enough, there’s also nine times more protein than yogurt, 17 times more protein compared to milk and 10 times the vitamin A of carrots. In addition, Healthline notes that one cup of moringa leaves contains 19 percent of the RDA in vitamin B6. The site also explained:

    “The diets of people in developing nations sometimes lack vitamins, minerals and protein. In these countries, Moringa oleifera can be an important source of many essential nutrients. Another thing to keep in mind is that if you’re taking Moringa oleifera as a supplement, taking it in capsules won’t supply large amounts of nutrients. The amounts are negligible compared to what you are already getting if you eat a balanced, real food-based diet.”4

    Beta-carotenes in moringa also include the powerhouse quercetin, which may help lower your blood pressure5, and chlorogenic acid, which research indicates may help balance blood sugar after meals.6

    America Is Seriously Veggie Deprived, but Moringa Can Help

    According to the Kuli Kuli website, only 4 percent of the veggie-deprived American population is getting the recommended daily requirement. In fact, the National Fruit and Vegetable Alliance 2015 Report Card7 divulged that, excluding fried potatoes, vegetable consumption in the U.S. had declined by 6 percent over the previous five years. To remedy the problem, just 1 tablespoon of moringa powder, which you can add to soups, sauces, smoothies, dips, desserts or even Popsicles, equals one daily serving of vegetables.8

    The aforementioned antioxidants are a powerful aspect of moringa, because they fight the free radicals that bring on sickness and disease, generated by exposure to things like chemically laced cleaners, flea and tick powders and sprays used for pets and lawn fertilizers touted to keep your lawn weed-free.

    High levels of exposure to those and myriads of other toxins, in addition to stress and many other causes, create the oxidative stress that leads to many chronic diseases. To combat the statistics, one study shows that just 1.5 teaspoons of powdered moringa leaves daily for three months “significantly” increased antioxidant levels in study subjects’ blood.

    The same study showed that the fasting blood sugar levels of 30 women dropped by 13.5 percent, leading researchers to conclude that the antioxidants in moringa have “therapeutic potential for the prevention of complications during postmenopause.”9 In fact, studies are showing that moringa also has the potential to protect against arsenic contamination. Many foods, including rice, have been rendered toxic due to chemical contamination during previous agricultural practices.

    Over time, ingesting even small amounts of arsenic can cause serious health problems, but the leaves and seeds of the moringa plant may prove protective.10 However, some studies caution that the effects were found in animal studies and that the same benefits aren’t guaranteed in humans,

    Studies Based on the Benefits of Moringa

    Three of the science-based health benefits of moringa continue the theme of the way the compounds in the leaves positively impact people with high blood sugar, which in time can exacerbate other problems such as heart disease. That’s why scientists are taking a serious look at how this plant can keep levels at manageable limits.

    One of the compounds in moringa leaves is isothiocyanates, also found in vegetables like arugula, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, watercress, broccoli and horseradish, all known to dramatically lower breast and colorectal cancer risks,11 as well as help prevent weight gain and insulin resistance, according to animal studies.12

    Inflammation is a problem because it can reveal the basis for a number of serious conditions, but studies also show that moringa is effective in relieving it. Several fruits, vegetables, spices and herbs have had the same effect, and it may be the widespread benefits again of isothiocyanates.13 Moringa also has a positive effect on optimizing cholesterol levels, reducing several disease risks.14

    Caveats to Moringa Consumption

    According to Curtis, some of the moringa products, including powder, coming out that may claim to be organic have been shown through testing to contain pesticides and heavy metals, and further, have a bitter taste. Healthline notes the leaves may contain what are called antinutrients, which studies say can reduce the absorption of minerals and protein.15

    Another thing to look at might be that, according to Nutritionfacts.org, moringa is not recommended for pregnant women as studies show it may have anti-fertility and abortifacient effects;16 however, New York Times best-selling author Dr. Michael Greger writes on the same website that if you see moringa for sale, “If it’s comparable in price to other healthy vegetables like broccoli, I’d give it a try.”

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  • Bananas and Avocados Can Prevent Heart Attacks
    published on October 22nd, 2017 at 12:50 PM

    By Dr. Mercola

    If you're fairly familiar with the vitamins and minerals in the most common fruits and vegetables, you may be aware that in bananas and avocados, potassium and magnesium are notable ingredients in both of them. Like all foods, these two powerhouse fruits (because both are fruits rather than avocados being a vegetable) have many other things to offer, but scientists have recently announced that both foods have the potential to prevent heart attacks.

    The research was conducted at the University of Alabama and was published in the journal JCI Insight.1 In fact, scientists have revealed that if you eat a banana and an avocado every day, you could eat yourself right into protection from heart disease, or more specifically, the atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries that often leads to a series of disorders, NDTV2 reported.

    Additionally, it may also lower your risk of arterial blockages, which often necessitate surgery. It's the potassium in these foods that can alleviate a large part of the burden, the study indicates. The animal study found it reduces vascular calcification, one of the complications of kidney disease and cardiovascular disease.

    Mice were fed alternate diets containing low, normal or high levels of potassium, and those with the highest levels had substantially more pliable arteries, while those given lower amounts had much harder arteries. It works the same way in humans. When you include foods in your diet that contain good amounts of these minerals, these symptoms are alleviated, particularly the stiffness in arteries seen as a precursor to cardiovascular problems.

    Problems occur because the stiffness in arteries can cause your heart to work harder to pump blood through your body. Artery calcification is just one of the problems that having a consistent amount of adequate potassium in your diet can help prevent, and all of them are serious and related conditions:

    • Heart disease
    • Stroke
    • Metabolic syndrome
    • Chronic kidney disease (CKD)
    • Hypertension

    Calcification and What It Means for Your Arteries

    Calcification is a buildup of calcium in your tissues, organs or blood vessels. As it's in the process of forming, it can call a halt to the necessary process that keeps your body working as it should. According to Difference Between:

    "Arteriosclerosis is a defect occurring in the artery (blood vessels carrying oxygenated blood) walls. It refers to hardening of the normally flexible walls due to loss of elasticity of the arterial musculature. When young, the arteries are flexible due to the presence of a protein called elastin.

    As age advances, there is loss of this elastin causing thickening of the arterial walls. Atherosclerosis is another condition that refers to the deposition of fat plaques and cholesterol globules within the arteries causing narrowing of the lumen of the arteries."3

    The scientists noted that vascular smooth muscle cells, or VSMCs, contribute to vascular calcification in atherosclerosis and that "Arterial stiffness has become an independent predictor of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, representing an important health problem for the nation as a whole."4

    According to their research, vascular calcification may be more culpable in aortic stiffening than scientists originally thought. In fact, a 2009 study is even titled "Vascular calcification: the killer of patients with chronic kidney disease."5 The study noted:

    "Previously considered a passive, unregulated, and degenerative process occurring in the arterial media, vascular calcification has now been demonstrated to be a highly regulated process of osteochondrogenic differentiation of vascular cells."6 Further, VSMCs were found to produce "extracellular matrix proteins" that actually caused the arterial calcification process to happen faster.

    People With Less Potassium Have Higher Risks

    It's no secret to the scientists that potassium plays a crucial role in staving off arterial calcification and related diseases. In fact, previous studies have made it clear that the association between low blood potassium levels and death from either chronic kidney disease7 or metabolic syndrome,8 while clear, hasn't been investigated thoroughly. The study made something else clear: that "appropriate dietary potassium intake improves those pathological conditions."9

    The researchers also noted that, whereas the direct influence of dietary potassium on the development of vascular calcification in atherosclerosis hadn't yet been "established and characterized," for the first time they'd been able to produce evidence that potassium was the key. While consuming too much of it can cause problems, too, such as a stomachache, nausea and/or diarrhea, according to International Business (IB) Times,10 it's clear that what you eat directly influences your risk of these serious diseases.

    That's why, for these diseases, especially, bananas and avocados are two of the foods containing the potassium that can lower your risk. In response to the study's findings, Dr. Mike Knapton from the British Heart Foundation observed that "With more research, we might be able to see if the disease forms in humans in a similar way and develop treatments."11

    Magnesium and Potassium: Interrelationships in Regard to Health

    When it comes to maintaining a healthy heart, as well as properly functioning kidneys, nerves and muscles and blood pressure regulation, having an adequate intake of magnesium on a regular basis is key. Because it's the fourth most abundant mineral in your body, on which more than 600 functions hinge, getting the right amount to avoid a deficiency is critical.12 But there's more to it than that. The National Academy of Sciences assessed the role of several nutrients, including magnesium, and observed:

    "Magnesium has been called 'nature's physiological calcium channel blocker.' During magnesium depletion, intracellular calcium rises. Since calcium plays an important role in skeletal and smooth muscle contraction, a state of magnesium depletion may result in muscle cramps, hypertension, and coronary and cerebral vasospasms.

    Magnesium depletion is found in a number of diseases of cardiovascular and neuromuscular function, in malabsorption syndromes, in diabetes mellitus, in renal wasting syndromes, and in alcoholism."13

    "Classic" symptoms of low magnesium include muscle spasms, unexplained fatigue, irregular heart rhythms, eye twitches and even anxiety, but those that can be difficult to spot until after it's established that low magnesium levels are what's causing the problems. Studies show that problems such as asthma and osteoporosis may also be involved, along with symptoms that indicate possible related deficiencies, including potassium.

    In response, experts recommend that individuals with these symptoms assume that low levels are likely the problem and begin remedying it immediately by concentrating on higher magnesium intake, either through supplementation or food, and maybe both. One of many reasons is that the body begins stripping magnesium and calcium from your bones during what is called "functioning" low magnesium. Ancient Minerals explains:

    "This effect can cause a doubly difficult scenario: seemingly adequate magnesium levels that mask a true deficiency coupled by ongoing damage to bone structures. Thus experts advise the suspicion of magnesium deficiency whenever risk factors for related conditions are present, rather than relying upon tests or overt symptoms alone."14

    One study shows that intracellular concentrations of magnesium and potassium are closely correlated, and the ratios in your cells are what's important, not the concentrations, and hypokalemia, aka low potassium, "can be induced by the same mechanisms and are often clinically related to one another,"15 especially as they relate to cardiac arrhythmias and, arguably, other heart-related disorders and diseases.

    The upside is that when you begin ingesting adequate potassium and magnesium — bananas and avocados would be a great start — the above symptoms can be reversed, i.e., regulation of blood sugar, better sleep, less stress, improved mitochondrial function and increased energy.

    Bananas: An Example of the Adage 'You Are What You Eat'

    Bananas are a very popular tropical food, known for being an easy-to-carry snack that doesn't require refrigeration and can remain clean while you eat it thanks to its convenient peel. Besides high amounts of potassium, one fairly small banana (about 101 grams) provides a good amount of fiber, Nutrition Data16 reports. Vitamin B6 and vitamin C are also plentiful, as are proteins, copper and manganese.

    You'll want to watch your sugar intake, however, as bananas are an example of a fruit with high amounts of natural fructose; one 7-inch-long banana has 12.4 grams. However, just as the potassium content is good for you, IB Times lists a number of advantages to adding a small banana as a snack choice (or dozens of dishes that incorporate them):

    • Bananas help balance your blood sugar level because they don't raise your glycemic index.
    • Unripe bananas have proven beneficial for people with insulin sensitivity as they contain 15 to 30 grams of digestive-resistant starch.
    • Eating bananas can help maintain a healthy blood pressure level.
    • High-potassium foods can help lower your risk of developing kidney stones.17

    Bananas are a wonderful addition to smoothies, making them creamy and delivering a tropical vibe, but they're also great sliced with organic raw nut butter, aside from just enjoying one for a healthy snack.

    Avocados: Impressive Nutritional Profile

    A single avocado provides very impressive nutrients that positively impact nearly every part of your body, but especially your heart and arteries. Fiber is a big one, as well as vitamin C, vitamin K and folate. To start the litany of how well avocados reach your dietary reference intakes (DRI), or how much you need to provide you with the optimal amounts, Nutrition Data18 provides data on the major nutrients one avocado contains and the percentage of daily values:

    Fiber — 54 percent

    Folate — 41 percent

    Vitamin C — 33 percent

    Vitamin B6 —26 percent

    Vitamin K — 53 percent

    Pantothenic acid — 28 percent

    Magnesium — 15 percent

    Potassium — 28 percent

    Avocado slices are excellent on sandwiches and salads, topped with mozzarella, basil and black pepper, mixed with salsa and chopped papaya or with poached eggs.

    Other foods containing magnesium include greens such as spinach, romaine lettuce and Swiss chard, crucifers like broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, seeds and nuts, fatty fish, such as mackerel and wild-caught Alaskan salmon, specific spices such as fennel, basil, cloves, chives and cilantro, fruits including papaya, watermelon, raspberries and strawberries, and grass fed yogurt.

    Good potassium sources include beet greens, carrots, cantaloupe, oranges and most of the foods listed above. If you've experienced any of the symptoms listed, upping your intake of these foods can likely improve them and may serve to relieve other problems as well.

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  • Fact-Filled Weekly Quiz
    published on October 22nd, 2017 at 12:50 PM

    1 Which seed powder do I recommend keeping in your kitchen at all times?

    Seed Powder
    • Pumpkin
    • Mustard

      Mustard seed contain compounds shown to inhibit cancer proliferation. Learn more.

    • Chia

    2 Which body of water contains the largest "dead zone" in the world?

    Dead Zone Water
    • Mediteranean Sea
    • Lake Superior
    • Gulf of Mexico

      Nitrogen fertilizers and sewage sludge runoff from factory farms are responsible for creating a dead zone. Learn more.

    3 Which cancer accounts for 55 percent of all cancers in women?

    Women Cancer
    • Obesity

      Cancers unrelated to obesity declined 13 percent between 2005 and 2014 while obesity-related cancer incidence rose by 7 percent. Learn more.

    • Breast
    • Lung

    4 As a general rule, your body will adjust to the time zone change at a rate of _____ time zone(s) per day.

    Time Zone
    • One

      If you need to be at your physical or psychological best, you'd want to fly out one or more days ahead of time. Learn more.

    • Two
    • Three

    5 The average American spends how many hours each day sitting?

    • 9
    • 11
    • 13

      You should strive to spend no more than three hours each day sitting, while staying active for the rest (aside from sleeping). Learn more.

    6 According to the film "Automatic Brain," what percentage of your activities does your subconscious mind manage?

    Automatic Brain
    • 50
    • 75
    • 90

      The film is based on the belief that your subconscious mind manages about 90 percent of everything you do whether you are asleep or awake. Learn more.

    7 According to a recent study, having a dog will increase moderate physical activity by an additional _____ minutes a day.

    Dog Running
    • 9
    • 22

      Other suggestions include using a vibrating platform such as the Power Plate or even a mini trampoline. Learn more.

    • 37

  • A Body in Motion Stays Healthier Longer
    published on October 21st, 2017 at 12:50 PM

    By Dr. Mercola

    Getting consistent movement into your daily life is a profoundly powerful intervention for health and longevity. Five years ago, I interviewed Joan Vernikos, Ph.D., on this topic. She's a true pioneer in this field and was one of the first professionals to understand the value and importance of regular movement, not exercise, for the preservation of health and prevention of disease.

    Vernikos was hired by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1964, five years before Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. She served as director of the Space Life Sciences at NASA from 1993 until 2000, and has written over 200 scientific papers. Her new book, "Designed to Move: The Science-Backed Program to Fight Sitting Disease and Enjoy Lifelong Health," is the sequel to her previous book, "Sitting Kills, Moving Heals."

    Health and Fitness Supersedes Age

    Her latest book is dedicated to John Glenn, the first American astronaut to do an orbital flight and a U.S. Senator. He died last year at the age of 95, but made headlines when he flew back into space at the age of 77. Vernikos was instrumental in helping him get back into space.

    "When he first came up with this suggestion, everyone thought, 'You can't send an old man up in space. What if something happens to him, then how do we explain it?'" Vernikos says. "The oldest person at that point was Musgrave at 52 … Glenn wanted to fly again because John F. Kennedy had prevented him from going to the moon.

    He was a national hero and it wouldn't be politically pleasant if something happened to him, so he was forbidden from flying again ... Then one day, as senator, he arrived at NASA. My administrator said, 'What do you think? Should we let John fly again?' … I said, 'Arbitrarily, why not? But let's do some homework with the National Institute on Aging.' We started asking questions of] experts. The answer came back. 'Well, there is no reason to exclude him, as long as he is healthy and fit' …

    [Glenn] was extraordinary. My concern was not that anything would happen to him during the flight, but how would he recover or would he recover? … He came back, of course … We had a session at the National Institutes of Health on the results, which were all double-blind … The chart was put up with  the clustered data from all seven crewmembers ...

    [There was] one outlier. I thought, 'Well, of course that's got to be John Glenn, who is different from all the others who were in their 30s. It was a good try.' As it turned out, Glenn was among the cluster, and the one outlier was 35 years old … [Glenn] also recovered very fast ... The message came back loud and clear: If you are healthy, you are fit and you take care of yourself, there's no reason you can't do anything that anyone else can do whatever your age."

    Inactivity Simulates Lack of Gravity

    One of the things we discussed in depth in the last interview was the effects of microgravity (defined as gravity below the threshold of what we perceive as gravity) on the human body, and how inactivity produces effects that are very similar to those experienced by astronauts in space. Changes occur in the microgravity of space that are very reminiscent of those of aging on Earth, except they happen 10 times faster.

    Take bone loss for example. On Earth, you lose about 1 percent of your bone mass per year, starting at the age of 20. Astronauts, on the other hand, will lose about 5 percent of their bone mass after just a few months. In one case, an astronaut lost 30 percent of his bone mass in six months, and that despite an aggressive exercise program. Astronauts spend between two to four hours a day exercising to counteract the effects of zero gravity.

    "We have never flown an astronaut without exercise. What we've seen is always with the exercise. This is what worries me … There is no control [group] and we're getting a lot of adverse effects as it is, even with exercise. I have a theory about that … When you exercise on Earth, you have gravity to work against. The minute you stop, the response does not just cut off. The response continues over a period of time …

    This after-response to exercise is very valuable. In space, there's no after-response, because there is no gravity to recover in. Then you're right back down at 10.⁵ When the body first responds to microgravity … you see a sequence of changes, just as you see the same sequence in reverse when you stand up or when you return from flight … The response to microgravity … is a mirror image of your response to standing …"

    Vernikos believes exercise can be made more effective for astronauts if it's distributed throughout the day in intermittent periods. In other words, the answer, she thinks, is intermittent, low-intensity but high-frequency all day. The same applies to us here on Earth. The key to optimal health is continuous movement during waking hours.

    The fact that most people spend long hours sitting for work is a significant problem, and Vernikos' book outlines a program developed specifically to help deskbound professionals counteract the ill effects of uninterrupted sitting.

    An interesting side note, with regard to the bone and muscle loss astronauts suffer, is that diet can also have a tremendous influence. Specifically, Vernikos recommends a ketogenic diet for astronauts to protect their bone and muscle mass and optimize mental functioning. Russian cosmonauts typically had fewer health problems, which she attributes to their diet, which (at the time) included a lot of canned fish like sardines, which are high in healthy omega-3 fats.

    Spatial Awareness Diminishes With Inactivity

    Space research also reveals that, without gravity, the vestibular system (located in your inner ear) and the brain maps that tell you where you are, relative to your environment, begins to deteriorate. Hence, astronauts begin to lose spatial awareness. In one case, an astronaut who had spent a mere nine days in orbit nearly fell on his face while standing on a posturography sway platform back on Earth. Yet, he remained completely unaware that he was leaning forward and had started to fall.

    With inactivity mimicking microgravity, what this means in terms of being a human on Earth is that inactivity worsens your spatial awareness, thereby increasing your risk of losing your balance and falling. The good news is, you can reacquire this function.

    "If you're 80 years old and you have poor balance and someone tells you, 'Well, what do you expect? You're 80 years old,' the answer is, 'Hell no.' There is absolutely no reason that you cannot reacquire these maps and the orientation that you had as a child with your environment," Vernikos says.

    Your vestibular system also influences biological functions such as your blood pressure. Bone loss and muscle atrophy can also be related to a dysfunctioning vestibular system. "These are just three critical responses that we know happen when you reduce the gravity stimulus," Vernikos says.

    Astronauts returning from space flight will typically experience a sudden drop in blood pressure when standing up. This orthostatic hypotension is an important indicator of the function of the cardiovascular system and its relationship to the vestibular system. Another effect is that the endothelium, the lining of your blood vessels, virtually disappears. Experiments with rats reveal their veins and arteries turn translucent after spending time in space.

    This is important because the endothelium is where large amounts of nitric oxide (NO) are stored, and NO is a really important biomodulator. At present, scientists have barely scratched the surface on that side effect and its implications. Vernikos believes the best way to stimulate your vestibular system is with postural changes — in other words, physical movement. She explains:

    "[Movement] is the most basic stimulus that we experience many, many times a day, or should. It involves the signal that is perceived by the vestibular system, which then regulates blood pressure. As you stand up, if you've been exposed to space or if you've been sitting too long, or if you've been bedridden, you will have the tendency to faint. You will have a low blood pressure or a sudden drop in blood pressure."

    Practical Strategies

    So, what are some practical strategies you can use to circumvent the damage that occurs during inactivity? Vernikos believes one of the oversights in the field has been the emphasis on total hours seated instead of the uninterrupted hours seated. In other words, if you interrupt sitting reasonably frequently, you're less likely to experience the adverse effects of prolonged sitting, which include a heightened risk of cardiovascular problems, stroke and cancer, especially colorectal, gastrointestinal, ovarian and prostate cancers.

    Diabetes, obesity, depression and a reduction in cognitive reactions in children are also associated with excessive uninterrupted sitting. "I feel there is a circulation component with sitting — a collusion aspect that contributes and makes things worse all-around," Vernikos says.

    Intermittent Standing Is an Important Biological Tuning Mechanism

    One of the benefits of exercise is an increase in brain-derived neurotropic factor or BDNF. Another is an increase of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator 1-alpha (PGC1-α), an obscure metabolic pathway responsible for improving mitochondrial function. While it's unclear whether merely standing up might impart these same metabolic benefits, what is known is that within as little as 30 minutes of sitting, triglyceride levels increase, often related to diabetes. That's a significant response.

    "If you're driving for an hour and a half to get to your doctor and you're sitting in the reception room for another half-hour before they draw blood, of course you're going to be diagnosed as a pre-diabetic," Vernikos says.

    "We have to be a little more critical about how we do things in real life before we jump to all kinds of conclusions. The intermittent standing signal is just that. It's a signal. It's a tuning mechanism … If spread out throughout the day, that's terribly important. For sitting, I would recommend [standing up] 32 to 36 times [per day]. I'll tell you why.

    One of the last experiments I did was with volunteers in bedrest, lying in bed continuously … I used standing [for 15 minutes] as a control. My experiment was on exercising on a treadmill for 15 minutes every two hours or every four hours throughout the day.

    When I got the results (this was a double-blind study) … [my] statistician … said, 'Joan, you're not going to like these results … Standing was more effective than exercise on the treadmill in preventing the changes induced by the continuous inactivity of bedrest.'"

    Intermittent Standing Benefits the Elderly and Handicapped

    Remarkable as it may seem, simply standing up for 15 minutes every two hours was more effective for preventing biological changes than walking for 15 minutes every two or four hours. Other data suggests standing up every 20 to 30 minutes is a good countermeasure. Importantly, Vernikos' experiments suggest even the elderly can regain mobility and independence simply by standing up for a short time every half-hour or so.

    "One 99-year-old, one 92-year-old, one 57-year-old and one 87-year-old who I met along the way and were willing to participate all gained a good degree of independence. Is it the answer for longevity? I don't know. But it helped them gain their independence," she says.

    Even those who are wheelchair bound can benefit from standing, using a stand-up capable chair. There are a number of sit-stand wheelchairs on the market, allowing you to raise yourself up to standing position provided you have use of your arms. "It's a superb device," Vernikos says. "You can go shopping and look at things at eye level. You can talk to other people at eye level. It is a very important addition to the disabled."

    Keep Your Body in Constant Motion

    The take-home message is that for optimal health, you want to stay in more or less continuous motion during waking hours. (Sleep has its own specific regenerative functions, and movement is not on the list of things that need to occur at night.) The good news is there are virtually unlimited opportunities for movement throughout the day. It doesn't need to be anything special at all. Housecleaning, stirring a pot of sauce, rolling dough, gardening, hanging clothes to dry or bending over to pick up an errant sock all count.

    So does standing and shifting your posture to and fro. At bare minimum, you'll want to interrupt your sitting every 20 to 30 minutes, even if it's just to stand up for a moment and then sit back down. If you're currently struggling with poor mobility, consistently doing this may help you regain some of your lost independence. Once you can do more, do more. When I am at home I typically sit less than an hour a day.

    One strategy that can effectively improve your activity level is having a pet. According to a recent study,1 having a dog will increase moderate physical activity by an additional 22 minutes a day, which is not insignificant. Other suggestions include using a vibrating platform such as the Power Plate or even a mini trampoline. Both work by increasing the force of gravity on your body, which is at the heart of issue.

    A trampoline or rebounder, of course, will increase G forces on your body to a far lesser degree than a vibrating plate, but it's enough to increase circulation of oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and organs, and promote increased muscle and bone strength. A vibrating platform is the ideal choice for the elderly and infirm, for whom a rebounder might be too hazardous.

    In fact, whole body vibration training has been scientifically shown to mimic the metabolic effects of exercise, and can help those who are too obese to exercise get started.

    To learn more, pick up a copy of Vernikos' book, "Designed to Move: The Science-Backed Program to Fight Sitting Disease and Enjoy Lifelong Health." In it, she provides deskbound professionals a practical, easy-to-follow movement plan to fight the debilitating effects of uninterrupted sitting.

     Comments (68)

  • Try This Comforting Keto-Friendly Cabbage and Bacon Soup Recipe
    published on October 21st, 2017 at 12:50 PM

    Recipe by Pete Evans


    I’m sure that many of you have already read my latest book, “Fat for Fuel” — if you haven’t yet, I encourage you to pick up your copy now, as it is one of the most important health books you will read in your life — and you’re determined to incorporate the ketogenic diet into your lifestyle. Now the challenge is: How can you make sure that the meals you prepare are keto-friendly? Well, you don’t have to worry — we’ve made it easy for you!


    I’m excited to announce that renowned Australian chef and restauranteur Pete Evans and I are releasing the “Fat for Fuel Ketogenic Cookbook: Recipes and Ketogenic Keys to Health from a World-Class Doctor and an Internationally Renowned Chef” November 14. This fantastic resource offers a wide array of delectable recipes — from appetizers to main courses to snacks and sweet treats — that all follow the principles of the ketogenic diet.


    I am thrilled to have Pete onboard this project, not only because of his amazing palate and creativity in the kitchen, but also because his dedication to eating healthy, fat-burning foods is on par with my principles of achieving nutritional ketosis in order to reach optimal wellness.


    To give you a taste of what our cookbook will offer, Pete has shared one of his healthy recipes below. It combines the freshness of leafy greens with the rich taste of bacon, plus spices, to make a comforting and hearty soup that you can sip when the weather turns chilly. Try it today!



    2 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil

    1 onion, chopped

    1/2 pound silverbeet, leafy green part and stems separated, trimmed and chopped

    1/2 pound green cabbage, shredded

    1/4 pound rindless bacon

    1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

    6 cups organic chicken broth

    Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

    1 large handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves



    1.       Melt 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for five minutes, or until softened. Stir in the garlic, silverbeet stems and cabbage and cook for five minutes, or until softened.

    2.       Melt the remaining oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat, add the bacon and cook until lightly golden, about four minutes on each side. Remove from the pan and drain on a paper towel.

    3.       Chop the bacon into 1-inch pieces and stir into the cooked cabbage mixture, then add the turmeric and broth. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.

    4.       Stir in the leafy green part of the silverbeet and cook for another five minutes until wilted. Season with salt and pepper. To finish, stir in the parsley leaves and serve.


    This recipe makes four to six servings.


    Don’t Underestimate the Health Benefits of Cabbage


    Many people simply pass by and ignore cabbage when they see it in the produce section, not knowing that it actually offers a barrage of benefits. This humble cruciferous vegetable comes loaded with powerful antioxidants like vitamins A and C, as well as phytonutrients sulforaphane, lutein, zeaxanthin and thiocyanates. These nutrients not only stimulate detoxifying enzymes, but they also provide protective effects against certain cancers like breast, colon and prostate.


    You can also help reduce inflammation by adding cabbage to your meals, as it offers a wealth of anti-inflammatory nutrients like anthocyanins. You can also get your fair share of B vitamins, including folate, B6, B1 and B5. These B vitamins not only help boost your energy levels, but also help slow shrinkage in brain regions that are impacted by Alzheimer's disease by as much as sevenfold.


    Another wonderful thing about cabbage is that it offers variety; red, green and Savoy are some examples that you can enjoy, each with its own wealth of nutrients. Although best eaten raw, such as in coleslaw, it wouldn’t hurt to add cabbage to your cooked meals every once in a while.


    If you’re an avid gardener, you can also try growing cabbage at home. This vegetable has a long growing season and can thrive in both warm and cold-weather climates. Check out my article “All About Growing Cabbage” for more helpful tips. [ECF1] 


    Have You Heard of ‘Silverbeets’ Before?


    You’ll probably answer “no,” but you’ll be surprised to know that silverbeet is actually just another name for Swiss chard. While not as popular as other greens like spinach and broccoli, this leafy vegetable offers its own array of benefits, thanks to its impressive nutrient profile. It’s a good source of vitamin C that help fight free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS), as well as phytonutrients that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.


    Silverbeet offers vitamins K and A, and antioxidants like alpha carotene, beta carotene, zeaxanthin and astaxanthin. And just like cabbage, it’s rich in B vitamins like folate, B6, thiamin, niacin and pantothenic acid.[ECF2] [i]


    Can Bacon Actually Be Healthy for You?


    While it’s true that most processed meats like hotdogs, sausages and salami can wreak havoc on your well-being, I believe that the devil’s in the details. Bacon, for example, can be potentially healthy but only if it is prepared properly and the meat is acquired from high-quality sources.


    Bacon from pasture raised pigs provides good amounts of healthy saturated and monounsaturated fat, mainly oleic acid, which is also found in olive oil.[ii] It also offers palmitoleic acid, which has antimicrobial properties, phosphatidylcholine that possesses antioxidant activity superior to vitamin E and fat-soluble vitamin D.


    However, do not buy processed bacon sold in supermarkets or groceries, as that is likely loaded with health-harming preservatives. Instead, I advise getting bacon that has been prepared using time-tested traditional methods, so you can ensure that no unhealthy additives are added to the meat. See if your local farmer who raises pastured pigs offers this type of meat. [ECF3] 


    About Pete Evans

    Pete Evans is an internationally renowned chef who has joined forces with Dr. Mercola to create a healthy cookbook that’s loaded with delicious, unique Keto recipes, ideal for people who want to switch to a ketogenic diet. The “Fat for Fuel Ketogenic Cookbook” will be released November 14.


    Pete has had numerous noteworthy contributions to the culinary world. He has not only cooked for the general public, but he’s also cooked a royal banquet for the Prince and Princess of Denmark, a private dinner for Martha Stewart, and even represented his hometown at the gala GʼDay USA dinner for 600 in New York City. Pete’s career has moved from the kitchen into the lounge room with many TV appearances including Lifestyle Channel’s “Home show,” “Postcards from Home,” “FISH,” “My Kitchen Rules” and “Moveable Feast.”[RS4] 

  • Automatic Brain: The Magic of the Unconscious Mind
    published on October 20th, 2017 at 12:50 PM

    By Dr. Mercola

    “Automatic Brain: The Magic of the Unconscious Mind” is a fascinating first segment of a two-part documentary about the brain. The 52-minute film is based on the belief that your subconscious mind manages about 90 percent of everything you do whether you are asleep or awake. Through a series of interviews and entertaining demonstrations, neuroscientists and magicians team up to explain — and vividly demonstrate — the relationship between your conscious and unconscious brain.

    You may be surprised to discover your conscious mind plays only a minor role in guiding your life. In fact, most of what you think, say and do every day is a function of your “automatic,” or unconscious brain (also known as your subconscious). As such, much of the time, your brain is running your life on autopilot.

    For example, think about brushing your teeth or even driving, and how often you perform those and other routine tasks without being fully conscious of them. The movie is seasoned with plenty of sleight of hand tricks and visual experiments designed to both educate and entertain you. If you have children at home, you might want to share some of the trick segments with them. Watching with others or alone, I think you will benefit from taking a closer look at the inner workings of your brain.

    What Do Scientists Know About the Unconscious Mind?

    Given that your brain weighs just 3 pounds and has been the subject of countless scientific studies, you might think we’ve already learned all we can about it. To the contrary, the brain is remarkably complex and we have much, much more to discover. This film suggests your unconscious mind drives most of your daily routines and habits.

    “The brain decides things before we can consciously think about it,” says Allan Snyder, D.Sc., director of the University of Sydney’s Center for the Mind. “Decisions are almost dictated to us.” For starters, consider how your brain can handle this mixed-up sentence: “Wyh sohuld yuo wacth tihs flim atbou yoru barin?”

    Without much effort or conscious thought, your brain fills in the gaps of perception, enabling you to understand the question to be: “Why should you watch this film about your brain?” Psychology professor John Bargh, Ph.D., founder of the automaticity in cognition, motivation and evaluation laboratory at Yale University, suggests the unconscious mind is asserting itself more and more as researchers continue to study the human brain. He states:

    “Unconscious influences are … everywhere, and as research progresses, it's never going the other way. We’re not saying ‘oh, we used to think these things were all unconscious, but now we find out they're conscious.’ It's exactly the opposite. All these things we thought [were conscious] — because we thought everything was conscious — [are getting] smaller and smaller.”

    Matt James, Ph.D., president of The Empowerment Partnership and master trainer of neuro linguistic programming, writing in Psychology Today, assigns seven qualities to your unconscious brain. These qualities may help you understand the vital role your subconscious plays in orchestrating a significant portion of your life. Your unconscious brain, says James:1

    Acts like a young child: Similar to a young child, your unconscious mind needs clear, detailed directions and it takes instructions literally. This means you may experience neck pain at work if you are prone to saying, “This job is a pain in the neck!” If you want to be successful, you must give your unconscious mind specific, literal (and positive) instructions to follow.

    Communicates through emotion and symbols: Your unconscious mind can get your attention quickly by using feelings and symbols. If you are suddenly overcome with fear, for example, your unconscious mind has discerned (correctly or incorrectly) that your survival may be at risk.

    Deals with positives only: Negative words like “don’t,” “no” or “not” are largely ignored by your unconscious mind. For this reason, it is better to avoid statements like “I don’t want to procrastinate,” which very likely will result in your subconscious creating a picture of procrastination and drawing you toward that behavior.

    It would be better to state your intention in a positive form such as “I am going to tackle the project now.” Creative imaging is another way to settle your mind on positive thoughts.

    Makes associations and learns quickly: To protect you, your unconscious mind is always on alert, gleaning lessons from every experience you have. One bad experience in the classroom at school might translate into a core belief that anything related to education “won’t be fun,” causing you to become anxious whenever you have to try something new in an academic setting.

    If you do well in sports, though, your subconscious will note that “sports equals success” and you will feel energized and positive whenever physical activity is called for at school. (This may explain why so many school-aged children claim lunch or recess as his/her favorite subjects.

    This is likely because lunch and recess have more possibilities for success and, therefore, more positive associations than some of the other activities taking place during the school day.)

    Preserves your body: Because a primary objective of your subconscious is the survival of your physical body, it will fight anything that appears to be a risk or threat of hurting you.

    Runs your body: Since your unconscious mind is responsible for your basic physical functions, such as breathing, heart rate and immune function, it can be an excellent source of information regarding what your body needs and how it can achieve optimal health. When people tell you to “listen to your body,” it is actually your unconscious mind you need to tap into.

    Stores and organizes your memories:  Your subconscious determines where and how to store your memories. It also decides whether to hide unpleasant emotions and trauma from your conscious mind or bring it to the surface so you can deal with it.

    As such, it is also in charge of determining the timing for certain memories to surface. Even if you don’t feel ready to deal with something — like unresolved aspects of your past, including trauma — your unconscious mind knows when you are ready.

    Magic Tricks Work by Cleverly Manipulating Your Unconscious Mind

    Magician Apollo Robbins, known as “the gentleman thief,” who first made national news as the man who pick-pocketed a Secret Service agent while entertaining former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, is well-known for exploiting the automatic mode your brain uses to navigate you through life. About magic, Robbins said:

    “Magic is about what's happening inside the head. It's about how we can manipulate the attention. It's about how [the unconscious mind] can be taken advantage of … to take people on a journey.”

    When Robbins performs a sleight of hand trick to make a coin disappear in one place and mysteriously appear in another, he says the trick works because your automatic brain makes a false assumption about his hand. For example, Robbins could easily make you think the coin is moving from place to place simply by distracting your attention. By inviting your conscious brain to focus on one particular area, Robbins can quickly make changes in another, giving the appearance of something magical transpiring.

    In scientific terms, Stephen Macknik, Ph.D., neuroscientist and director of the State University of New York’s laboratory of translational neuroscience, explains what you experience during a magic trick is a series of “electrochemical signals going around a bunch of circuits in your brain.” Because there are no windows in your skull, he says, the only way you can get information into your brain is through your five senses.

    From there, your brain draws on past memories and then uses cognition to fill in the details — essentially forming what Macknik calls “a grand simulation of reality.” He states: “It's not that the world around you isn't there. It's there, but you've never lived there. You've never even been there for a visit. The only place you've ever been is inside your mind.”

    Overloading Your Working Memory Is Part of Creating an Illusion

    Many tricks performed by magicians work on the principle that your mind can cope with no more than four to five units of information at the same time. As such, when asked to choose and focus on one particular card out of a group of six cards, you will very likely take little notice of the other five cards. Let’s say you chose the king of hearts. As the trick advances, you will eventually notice the king of hearts has disappeared from the group of six, which gives you the false impression the magician has successfully identified your card.

    The truth is, he may have simply showed you a group of six entirely new cards. As such, regardless of the card you chose earlier on, it would not have appeared in the final sequence, leading you to believe the illusionist did something magical to uncover your card. In reality, the magician did very little to identify your card. All he did was cleverly manipulate your unconscious brain to support a “magical” outcome. Because your brain’s working memory was overloaded, it did not notice the wholesale change of the cards.

    The Marshmallow Test and the Unconscious Mind

    In the late 1960s and early 1970s, researchers from Stanford University initiated the “marshmallow test” at Bing Nursery School near San Francisco to explore how the conscious mind can subdue the unconscious mind. Repeated in the film, this experiment endures as one of the most important tests related to self-control and motivation. It involves seating a 4-year-old child in front of a table on which has been placed a plate with one marshmallow and a small hand bell.

    Before a trusted adult leaves the room to “take care of something,” he invites the child to choose if he/she would like to receive a second marshmallow, which is produced from a package of marshmallows the adult has on hand. To earn the second marshmallow, prior to the adult’s return, the child is told he/she must avoid doing the following:

    • Eating the first marshmallow
    • Ringing the bell to summon the adult to return earlier than planned

    Over the years this test has been used, it is evident each child had previously developed his/her personal strategy to resist temptation and exercise self-control well before participating in the experiment. As such, participant brains were effectively on autopilot during the test, which would suggest the outcomes had very little to do with situational willpower. Walter Mischel, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Columbia University and hailed inventor of the marshmallow test, said:

    “The conception of willpower as a stoic thing, where you essentially bite your lip, will it and make it happen. [This] is a terrific way to have resolutions that don't work out. It's just too hard, it's just too impossible. You have to in some way engage the environment, change it and transform it. The only other thing you can do [to overcome temptation] is change your perceptions, and change where you put your attention.”

    The children who waited for the adult to return on his own were shown to be successful in redirecting themselves to other activities while they were waiting. These other activities apparently helped them overcome temptation by choosing to distract or redirect their focus away from the marshmallow. “Four-year-olds can be brilliantly imaginative about distracting themselves: turning their toes into piano keyboards, singing little songs, exploring their nasal orifices,” stated Mischel.2

    Your Ability to Exercise Self-Control at Age 4 Influences Your Adult Life

    Notably, researchers have kept tabs on the original children who participated in the marshmallow test in the early 1970s. Through ongoing interviews, scientists have found that compared to subjects who immediately devoured the marshmallow, those who at the age of 4 were able to wait, went on to:

    • Achieve higher scores on college entry exams3
    • Earn significantly more money
    • Experience happier marriages
    • Maintain a lower body mass index (BMI)4

    Related to BMI, researchers noted that each additional minute the preschooler delayed gratification predicted a 0.2-point reduction in adult BMI. The study authors stated:5

    “Longer delay of gratification at age 4 years was associated with a lower BMI three decades later. Identifying children with greater difficulty in delaying gratification could help detect children at risk of becoming overweight or obese. Interventions that improve self-control in young children have been developed and might reduce children's risk of becoming overweight.”

    Six Actions You Can Take to Harness Your Unconscious Mind

    Clearly, as the producers of “Automatic Brain” assert, your unconscious mind has a strong, powerful influence in your life. For obvious reasons, you want to harness its power and direct its influence in positive, life-giving ways. Operation Meditation suggests six actions you can take to more fully leverage and direct the potential of your unconscious mind:6

    Express yourself artistically: Any type of artistic endeavors, like coloring, drawing or painting, makes use of the subconscious by allowing the creative work to surface and help you express your true feelings. If you are unsure how to get started, you might consider taking an art class, even if you have little artistic talent or interest.

    Because the goal is to tap into your subconscious mind, you don’t necessarily need to be a great artist, just open to the process of creating.

    Meditate: Of all of the ways to connect with and influence your subconscious mind, meditation may be the most powerful. During meditation, you are becoming more relaxed, thereby setting aside conscious thinking. In a relaxed, open-minded state, you are able to access deeper feelings and thoughts that are normally suppressed. (See below for details on mindfulness, a form of meditation.)

    Rehearse desired outcomes: A great way to program a new activity, skill or thought into your unconscious mind is to rehearse it and repeat it until it takes root. Countless songs are lodged in your subconscious, and you can sing them mindlessly, simply because you repeated them at some earlier point in your life.

    Similarly, you can rehearse new attitudes, ideas, outcomes and thoughts. By repeating what you want several times in a row on a daily basis, you will help your subconscious mind catch on and help you achieve your desired outcomes.

    Review before bed: Especially as it relates to learning new material, reviewing it just before you go to sleep may help you transfer it to your subconscious. Reading over key portions of goals, presentations or speeches as the last thing you do before bed ensures the information is in the forefront of your mind as you drift off to sleep. This technique also has the potential to influence the content of your dreams.

    Think and speak positively: Speaking out positive affirmations is a great way to plant positive thoughts and ideas into your unconscious mind. By adopting a consistent habit of positive “self-talk,” you will notice more upbeat thoughts beginning to gradually counteract previously negative thinking.

    Starting with simple phrases such as “I can do this” or “I am doing a fantastic job” will lift your spirits and begin to influence how you think and feel about yourself, even if others around you continue to criticize and be negative. As mentioned earlier, avoid using negative phraseology such as “I won’t use harsh words.” Instead, rephrase the thought into a positive form such as, “I will speak only kind, encouraging words.”  

    Write it down: Getting your thoughts down on paper can help you remove “mind clutter.” Take out a pad of paper and a pen, set a timer for five to 10 minutes and begin writing whatever comes to mind. Avoid editing yourself.

    Write literally anything and everything that comes to mind. Over time, as you stick with this habit — ideally as a weekly and even daily activity — your brain will work its way into your subconscious, uncovering and surfacing valuable insights and thoughts you may not have even realized you had. If you are in the habit of keeping a diary or journal, you probably already experience the many benefits related to this practice.

    Practicing Mindfulness: Another Means of Training Your Mind

    Mindfulness is a form of meditation, and you can practice it anytime, anywhere. To do so, you simply choose to actively pay attention to the moment you're in right now with a nonjudgmental attitude. Instead of letting your mind wander, when mindful, you live in the present moment, letting any distracting thoughts and judgments pass through your mind without getting caught up in emotional implications and negativity, which have the potential to distract you and pull you away from the here and now.

    A great advantage of mindfulness is the ease with which you can incorporate it into any aspect of your day. You can employ mindfulness while you’re doing household chores like washing dishes, when you are eating, going for a walk or working. The goal is to simply pay attention to the sensations you are experiencing in the present moment.

    According to The Atlantic,7 many school teachers are now beginning their classes with short mindfulness exercises involving activities such as counting breaths, focusing on the sensations of breathing, and visualizing thoughts and feelings. The goal is to help students prepare for academic lectures and lessons by:

    • Focusing and training their attention
    • Quieting their thoughts
    • Regulating their emotions

    Mindfulness in Medicine

    Mindfulness, especially the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, has also made its way into medical settings. For example, MBSR uses specific exercises to support patients who are dealing with chronic pain. In recent years, mindfulness has been used to ease stress on Capitol Hill,8 boost athletic and business performance for the Seattle Seahawks9 and Google,10 respectively, and drive results in the U.S. military.11

    While the move toward mindfulness has spurred an industry involved in the promotion of all sorts of books, courses, magazines and smartphone apps, you can bring mindfulness into your everyday world without any special equipment or training. Here are some tips to help you get started:

    • Begin your day mindfully by focusing on your breathing for five minutes before you get out of bed. Tune in to the flow of your breath and the rise and fall of your belly. By regulating your breathing first thing after you wake up, you can bring more clarity and focus to the rest of your day.
    • Minimize multitasking, which works in direct opposition to mindfulness. If you find yourself trying to complete many tasks at once, stop yourself and focus your attention back to the one task at hand.
    • Disable emotionally distracting thoughts by reminding yourself they are only "projections," not a guaranteed future reality. As such, you can allow those thoughts to pass rather than giving them permission to stress you out.
    • Sit quietly for a time, perhaps in the company of soothing music. Breathe rhythmically, and focus on something such as your breathing, a soothing image or object, a breath prayer or mantra, or simply being aware of the present moment. Applying Buteyko breathing can also help calm your mind and get you into deep states of relaxation at any time during the day.

    Whatever method you choose to become more aware of and engaged with your brain will most certainly pay dividends across your entire life — physically, emotionally and spiritually. Your mind is powerful and, as the producers of “Automatic Brain” have suggested, you are very likely only connected to and leveraging a very small portion of all the wonderful benefits your brain has to offer.

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  • Does Sickness Smell?
    published on October 20th, 2017 at 12:50 PM

    By Dr. Mercola

    Your olfactory sense, or the ability to smell, is integral to your health. Inside your nasal passages are two patches of cells designed to detect odors. They are made up of nearly 6 million olfactory receptor cells that allow you to detect and differentiate thousands of different scents. Although impressive, other animals have an even more acute sense of smell as often their survival is dependent on being able to smell enemies or their food.1

    Your sense of smell is also intimately tied to your emotions, memories, ability to taste and even to sexual attraction. Research demonstrates that your ability to smell may peak at age 8. According to different studies, you may begin to lose sensitivity to scent between age 15 and your early 20s.2 However, that loss in sensitivity to scent is not consistent from person to person as some 80-year-olds have a sense of smell as keen as that of a young adult.

    Some degradation of your sense of smell, and therefore your ability to taste food, may be related to air pollution.3 A combination of solvents, pesticides, disinfectants, pharmaceuticals and perfumes may have a negative effect over the years on your ability to discern scent and on your sensitivity to smell.4 Loss of this ability may affect your capacity to pull up memories from the past.

    Research shows odors are an effective reminder of experience,5 which may be tied to the way your brain processes odors and memories. Researchers have also found your sense of smell may predict your longevity, and you may be able to smell the scent of illness. In other words, the relationship between your sense of smell and your health is a two-way street.

    Illness Has a Smell

    From the early days of medical practice, doctors have used smell and taste to determine if their patients had a disease. Examples may be found from the late 1600s when English physician Thomas Willis observed the relationship between sweet-tasting urine and diabetes,6 to physicians today who may note a fruity scent on the breath of a diabetic whose blood sugar is too high.7 Over the years physicians have moved away from smell and taste to using more reliable methods of diagnosis.

    However, a sensitive sense of smell may still give physicians a unique advantage. Some diseases have a particular scent. You may have even detected the scent of a sinus infection on the breath of a loved one. Researchers have described several scents related to diseases,8 including the smell of baked bread on someone with typhoid fever, boiled cabbage in someone unable to metabolize methionine, and the scent of a butcher's shop on someone who suffers from yellow fever.

    It appears that animals use this ability to maintain the health of the group.9 For instance, mice can determine through scent if another is sick, thus avoiding them. After testing this behavior, researchers concluded an inflammatory process in the body of a mouse had a profound impact on social behavior of the individual, reducing the motivation to engage in social interaction. At the same time, illness-related odor cues from a sick mouse inhibited social investigation by healthy members, thus impacting the transmission of disease.

    Researchers tested this same response in human behavior and found you likely can smell if an immune response was activated.10 Researchers injected participants with an endotoxin and found within a few hours they had a more aversive body odor compared to when they were exposed to a placebo. The researchers believed this chemosensory detection may represent the first experimental evidence that sickness smells.

    The researchers also noted the individuals who were sick did not sweat more. The smell from their body was not only stronger but also had a different odor.11 The smell coming from your body emanates from a variety of different areas, not just sweat or your breath. The scent that is "normal" for you will depend on your age, diet, metabolism, health and gender.12

    Mats Olsson, Ph.D., lead researcher evaluating scent change in humans after exposure to an endotoxin, continued this work and found the feelings of disgust individuals experienced after smelling unpleasant smells activated a mild immune reaction.13 This, in turn, may help protect you from getting sick. He also explored other sources of scent, such as breath and urine, and found an inflammatory process was indicated by these odors and was a good indicator of some diseases.

    How Does Illness Affect Body Odor?

    In the original research, Olsson's participants rated the scent of body odor, or the scent your body produces after bacteria on your skin breaks down proteins from your sweat into acids.14 Your sweat alone is virtually odorless, but the bacteria on your skin that multiply rapidly in the presence of sweat, and the subsequent breakdown of sweat into acids is what triggers the odor. Your sweat is specific to the individual, which is how dogs and other animals can identify different people.

    The genes that control your immune response also influence your body odor and scent production. An activated immune response may also change your excretion of metabolic byproducts that may also change your body odor.15 For instance, during stress your cortisol levels are higher, and during an immune response your androgen excretion is lower.16

    Another example of body odor changing with different levels of hormones in your body is stress sweat. You likely have experienced this phenomenon at some point in your life — your body odor becomes strikingly different and worse when you are stressed. As cortisol and adrenaline, released when you're stressed, flood your body, they may cause an increase in sweat production.17

    However, this type of sweat is released from two different types of glands under your arms. Eccrine glands secrete sweat when you're overheated, while apocrine glands contribute sweat when you're stressed.

    The difference is that sweat secreted from your apocrine glands contain more of the nutrients bacteria on your skin require to grow and multiply. These added nutrients increase the byproduct of the bacterial metabolism and change the smell and strength of the odor coming from your sweat. In the same way that a "sick smell" triggers an immune response in others, this type of sweat changes the way you're perceived.18

    Man's Best Friend May Help Detect Disease

    Dogs have been used to help people with diabetes detect abnormally high or low blood sugar before they can feel it and predict seizures before they happen. Today, researchers are working with canines to help detect the scent of cancer. Several demonstrations of how dogs are being used to detect medical changes, including the diagnosis of cancer, are shown in this short news video.

    A dog's ability to smell is far greater than a human's. While you have 6 million olfactory receptor cells, dogs have 300 million, and the part of the brain that is devoted to analyzing those odors is proportionally 40 times larger than yours.19 Dogs in the study in Britain detected bladder and prostate cancer 90 percent of the time or greater. In another study, dogs could detect lung cancer with up to 85 percent accuracy.20

    In yet another example, a Labrador retriever was trained to detect the scent of colorectal cancer from breath and stool samples with greater than 90 percent accuracy.21 Using breath samples, the dog could detect colorectal cancer with 91 percent accuracy and had an amazing 97 percent accuracy with stool samples. The researchers concluded:22

    "This study shows that a specific cancer scent does indeed exist and that cancer-specific chemical compounds may be circulating throughout the body. These odor materials may become effective tools in colorectal cancer screening."

    Even without training, dogs can detect differences in their owners and warn them of impending problems. In a study of 212 dog owners with medically diagnosed Type 1 diabetes, researchers found 65 percent reported their untrained dogs had warned them of an impending hypoglycemic event by barking and growling.23

    Researchers have known that malignant tumors exude tiny amounts of alkanes and benzene derivatives that are not found in healthy tissue.24 In another study using dogs to detect either lung or breast cancers, the researchers found the animals were 88 percent accurate with breast cancer and 99 percent accurate with lung cancer detection, with no false positives.25 However, while the dogs provide a noninvasive way of screening for disease, many medical professionals find the practice controversial.26

    Not all studies demonstrate the same accuracy, although the scent may be confounded by other odors present in the area, such as hospital odors when tests are done in the hospital. Accuracy is also slightly different between individual dogs, in much the same way that behaviors between most trained animals occur. Some researchers are interested in isolating the exact compounds detected by the dogs so training may be standardized.

    Next-Gen Dog Noses

    Since some studies have not been able to replicate the results, and the animals do not perform the same way 100 percent of the time, scientists have been investigating the use of electronic noses. The concept is similar to the devices built to detect explosive components used in bomb making.27 Early use of electronic noses was undertaken by police departments to identify and quantify alcohol use in drivers.

    However, for electronic devices to function, researchers must first identify the chemical components of the disease that are causing the smell. Scientists believe this may standardize the process and improve diagnosis using noninvasive methods. Using an electronic method may also overcome skepticism of physicians who may not want dogs participating in the diagnosis of disease, but may be more comfortable with an electronic device similar to one in use since 1967 to test alcohol levels on your breath.28

    While electronic devices may be more acceptable in the medical community for diagnosis, dogs continue to be an important adjunct to the management of several metabolic and neurological disorders. According to \ at Monell Chemical Senses Center:29

    "There are groups looking to fund research with dogs as detectors because dogs can pick up the odors in people, particularly children who are not properly regulating themselves, Type 1 diabetic children. They can be trained to pick up this peculiar odor on the breath at an early stage and warn people that they are having a low or going into a high of blood sugar."

    Importance of Smell to Your Health and Predicting Death

    Your sense of smell may also have predictive value in determining your longevity, and changes in your sense of smell may indicate the early stages of dementia.30 Smell is inextricably linked to memories formed in the limbic area of your brain. In a study of nearly 3,000 people ages 57 to 85, researchers found that nearly all the participants who could identify only one or two of five different scents had evidence of dementia five years after the test was completed.31

    The olfactory nerve is located deep in the base of the brain. When you have problems with smell, it may indicate a higher likelihood you may develop Parkinson's disease or other neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. and has an annual research budget of $480 million.32

    Researchers hope that by using a simple and inexpensive smell test for early identification, patients may be saved the cost of an MRI and offered early intervention to slow the progression of the disease. In an analysis of similar data from the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project,33 researchers found an inability to perceive odor was associated with a four times greater risk of death in the following five years, compared to those who had a healthy sense of smell.

    The researchers took into account potential confounding factors, such as nutrition, smoking, cognitive function and alcohol abuse. The researchers concluded that your olfactory sense was one of the strongest predictors of five-year mortality. As reported in the Guardian:34

    "The olfactory nerve is the only part of the nervous system that is exposed to the open air. As such, it offers poisons and pathogens a quick route into the brain, and so losing smell could be an early warning of something that will ultimately cause death."

    The loss of sense of smell is also a symptom of zinc deficiency. You can read more about this deficiency, how to test for it and the foods that may balance your zinc levels in my previous article, "Study Warns That Losing Your Sense of Smell May Mean You May Not Live Much Longer."

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  • Do the Healing Benefits of Comfrey Oil Outweigh Its Toxic Effects?
    published on October 18th, 2017 at 12:50 PM

    Comfrey, while considered an important herbal medicine, is controversial due to certain toxic components in it, which led to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to restrict the use of oral comfrey in dietary supplements.1

    The dilemma is how to weigh the virtues of comfrey oil while considering the safety concerns that surround it. It has exhibited the potential to treat skin concerns and pain when used topically. Learn about comfrey oil, its practical applications and potential contribution to skin healing and maintenance, as well as the FDA's concerns about it.

    What Is Comfrey Oil?

    Comfrey oil is extracted from comfrey (Symphytum officinale), a perennial herb of the Boraginaceae family with a black, turnip-like root and large, hairy broad leaves bearings small, bell-shaped flowers. The plant is native to Europe and grows in damp, grassy places such as ditches and riverbanks. It is typically found in Ireland and Britain on ditches and riverbanks, but it also grows in profusion in North America and western Asia.

    The plant has found widespread use in folk and herbal medicine for its properties as a healing agent. Its oil, for instance, is ideal as a base for salves and has been used in folk medicine to treat wounds and skin infections.

    Uses of Comfrey Oil

    Many of the beneficial properties of comfrey are attributed to its high content of allantoin, a substance that, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, helps promote new skin cell growth, along with other substances that may work in reducing inflammation and maintaining healthy skin.2 Comfrey ointments have been used to help heal bruises and pulled muscles and ligaments.

    Previously, comfrey was used in its tea form to aid in treating stomach problems, as well as ulcers, heavy menstrual periods, diarrhea, bloody urine, persistent cough and even cancer and chest pain.3 But experts have raised the alarm on consuming it, as it contains toxic substances called pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs), which damage the liver and can lead to fatality. According to the FDA, there is even evidence that PAs may be carcinogenic in sensitive body tissues when used orally.

    The FDA reported this in 2001, when it sent letters to supplement manufacturers warning them not to put this herb in dietary supplements. Today, in the United States, comfrey is sold only in creams and ointments; countries like the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and Germany have also banned the sale of comfrey-containing oral products.

    But this isn't to ignore the potential healing effects of a common comfrey product, which is its oil. Comfrey oil can help you naturally address wound healing and skin issues4 such as scratches, rash (including diaper rash), bug bites (particularly spiders) and shallow wounds. It is also deemed helpful as a massage salve easing pain from arthritis, muscle aches, low back pain and soreness.5

    Composition of Comfrey Oil

    The comfrey plant contains substances thought to aid skin regrowth, primarily allantoin but also including rosmarinic acid and tannins. As already noted, it also contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs), which can be toxic to your liver.

    Benefits of Comfrey Oil

    Here are different comfrey oil benefits classified according to skin or health condition:6

    For skin rashes —– Comfrey oil can help in treating rashes. However, caution should be taken when it comes to deep wounds – the oil can help heal the skin so quickly that the new tissue may cover the wound before deep healing inside, resulting in an abscess or skin infection. Remember, too, that there are warnings against using comfrey on broken skin because its PAs can still be absorbed by your skin.

    As a poultice — A poultice is a good alternative if you have an infection but don't want to apply comfrey oil directly. Here's how to do it: Blend 4 cups of chopped comfrey leaves and stems with 1/4 cup of carrier oil, such as jojoba, almond or olive oil. Without straining out the herb, wrap the comfrey oil paste with a cotton cloth. Freeze this poultice before applying to help reduce pain and inflammation. Otherwise, you may apply it directly on the affected area for at least 30 minutes.

    For bone fractures — Apart from helping treat superficial wounds, comfrey oil has also been used for fractured bones or torn ligaments in areas of the body where it is not possible to place a cast, such as a rib. It can be applied directly onto your skin or in a poultice, potentially promoting faster healing. It is also said to help reconstruct torn muscles that might have been injured.

    How to Make Your Own Comfrey Oil Infusion

    Create an herbal oil infusion7 by infusing 2 cups of cut comfrey leaves in 4 cups of olive oil with a steady low heat (110 degrees) for two to three weeks. Strain and pour into a clean, dry bottle. Here is another comfrey oil infusion recipe, from Wildly Natural Skin Care.8


    8 ounces comfrey leaf (70 percent)

    4 ounces comfrey root (30 percent)

    Extra virgin olive oil, to cover, approximately 16 ounces


    The roots should already be broken down by chopping. Break up the leaves by hand. To make this using the cold infusion method, put all the herbs in a 16-ounce glass jar, cover with olive oil and cap and shake. This can steep for 28 days. To strain, use a clean old shirt lined in a strainer, pour the mix through into a bowl and squeeze the shirt with herbs in it. The strained liquid is your comfrey oil.


    If possible, use freshly dried herbs for this purpose.

    To get fresh, dry comfrey root: Dig the root when it is dry weather. Clean by hand or use some water and a vegetable brush. Brush the root gently. Chop finely; lay out on a paper bag overnight.

    To get freshly dry leaves: Harvest, wipe the dirt off with a towel and allow to dry whole overnight.

    How Does Comfrey Oil Work?

    As an old European folk remedy, comfrey has many traditional and current uses, mostly focused on skin care. It is important to attribute many of these positive impacts to its high amounts of allantoin, a mucilaginous healing substance that causes cell growth.

    Being mucilaginous, comfrey is commonly used for helping heal wounds, preventing scars and treating existing ones, along with decreasing dryness and flaking of skin. The oil appears to work as an anti-inflammatory, an analgesic and an aid in the healing of sprains and broken bones. It also demonstrates effectiveness in assisting treatment of atopic dermatitis, psoriasis and eczema.

    All these potential benefits are obtained through topical application and not ingestion, largely due to the PAs or toxic, liver-destroying substances present in the plant.

    Is Comfrey Oil Safe?

    Comfrey oil appears to be safe when applied to unbroken skin in small amounts. Note that the poisonous chemicals present in comfrey can still pass through the skin, so they can still be absorbed if your skin is broken or if large amounts are administered. It is considered unsafe to take comfrey oil by mouth because of its PAs, which can cause liver damage, lung damage and cancer. The FDA has recommended that supplement manufacturers not sell any oral form  of comfrey.

    While a Garden Web community forum9 argues that the pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) in comfrey are less toxic than those found in known poisonous plants, such as ragwort, and questions whether PAs cause cancer outside of laboratory experiments, I advise that you err on the side of caution: Stick to prudent topical use of comfrey oil and avoid ingesting any comfrey-based product. Pregnant and breastfeeding women, along with the elderly and children, are also better off avoiding the use of this oil.

    Side Effects of Comfrey Oil

    There are no known scientific reports of interaction between comfrey and conventional drugs.10 But some herbs that have also been known to cause liver problems — such as kava, skullcap and valerian — should not be used while using comfrey products because of the increased risk for liver damage.

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  • 7 Ways to Minimize Jet Lag
    published on October 18th, 2017 at 12:50 PM

    By Dr. Mercola

    Jet lag, also known as flight fatigue, time zone change syndrome or desynchronosis, occurs when travel across time zones disrupts your internal body clock, resulting in mental, emotional and physical symptoms such as:1,2

    • Daytime sleepiness and lethargy followed by nighttime insomnia
    • Anxiety, irritability, confusion and poor concentration
    • Constipation or diarrhea
    • Headache, nausea, indigestion, dehydration and/or general malaise
    • Decline in physical and athletic performance3,4

    There are a number of helpful tricks and "bio hacks" that can help minimize the effects of jet lag when traveling between time zones, or help you overcome the effects faster. This includes pretending you're in your destination time zone while still at home, stimulating your heart meridian at certain times, antioxidant support and use of supplemental melatonin. Interestingly, fasting may be an overlooked but potent antidote as well. I'll review a couple of different dietary techniques below.

    How Air Travel Affects Your Body and Mind

    Aside from jet lag, air travel can have a number of other health effects as well, including the following (see list below).5 Air travel is even associated with a number of psychological effects, courtesy of low oxygen levels (hypoxia), including increased anxiety, stress and other negative emotions that can make you grouchy and unfriendly.

    On the other hand, a heightened emotional response can also present itself as tears of joy and relief when watching inflight entertainment. As reported by BBC News: 6

    "A new survey by Gatwick Airport in London found 15 percent of men and 6 percent of women said they were more likely to cry when watching a film on a flight than they would if seeing it at home. One major airline has gone as far as issuing 'emotional health warnings' before inflight entertainment that might upset its customers."

    Pressure in the ears due to changes in air pressure. Chewing gum during ascent, and swallowing or yawning during descent can help equalize the pressure

    Headache due to low oxygen. Prevent by drinking plenty of water and avoiding caffeine and alcohol during the flight

    Foot, ankle and leg swelling, raising your risk for a blood clot, due to impaired blood flow.

    Prevent by standing up now and then, and flexing, rotating and extending your ankles while sitting. Compression stockings may also be helpful

    Dehydration due to dry air. Prevent by drinking plenty of water before and during the flight

    Toothache due to shifts in air pressure. There's no way to prevent the pain associated with the expansion of gas trapped in fillings or cavities, so see a dentist before traveling if you suspect you have a problem

    Fatigue, sleepiness, increased reaction times and reduced ability to make decisions due to low oxygen

    Gassiness due to shifts in cabin pressure

    Altered/dulled sense of taste and smell. Taste sensitivity can be restored by staying well hydrated

    Dry skin due to dry air — a problem easily addressed with moisturizing lotion. Also, be sure to drink plenty of water

    Bad breath due to dry mouth. Remedy by brushing your teeth on the plane and staying well hydrated

    Minimize Jet Lag by Pretending You're Already There

    As a general rule, your body will adjust to the time zone change at a rate of one time zone per day. What this means is, if you need to be at your physical or psychological best, you'd want to fly out one or more days ahead of time. If you cannot squeeze in the extra time, you could act "as if," and pretend you're in your destination time zone while still at home.7

    To do this, simply wake up and go to bed according to the destination time rather than your local time. Also, be sure to shift your mealtimes accordingly. As an example, if you were planning to travel from New York to Paris, start going to bed (and shift your mealtimes up) an hour earlier each day, three days ahead of your flight, and avoid bright light for two to three hours before going to bed. Here are a couple of other helpful pointers to consider:

    • In the morning, be sure to expose yourself to bright full-spectrum light. If the sun is not yet up, use a clear incandescent light bulb along with a cool-blue spectrum LED to shut down melatonin production
    • If traveling at night, wear blue-blocking glasses on the plane, and continue wearing them until you go to sleep, as excess blue light will impair your melatonin production and make it difficult to fall asleep
    • Once you're at your destination, get up as close to sunrise as possible and go outside. This will help to reset your melatonin production. If weather and circumstances allow, it would be best to do this outdoors with your bare feet on the ground

    The Argonne Anti-Jet Lag Diet

    Another jet lag trick you rarely hear about is the Argonne anti-jet lag diet,8 detailed in a 2012 Harper's Magazine article by Steve Hendricks.9 The diet, developed by the late Charles F. Ehret in the early 1980s when he was a senior scientist at Argonne's Division of Biological and Medical Research, claims to be able to help you quickly adjust your internal clock to a new time zone. It's also recommended to "speed the adjustment of shift workers … to periodically rotating work hours."

    According to Ehret, who studied chronobiology, your biological clock is cued not only by light exposure but also by when and how much you eat. The technique involves determining the time of breakfast at your destination on the day of your arrival, and then rotating feasting and fasting four days ahead of your scheduled travel, as follows: 

    • Day One: Feast day. "Eat heartily with high-protein breakfast and lunch, and a high-carbohydrate dinner. No coffee except between 3 and 5 p.m." Examples of high-protein breakfast/lunch include steak, eggs and hamburger. Examples of high-carb dinner include pasta (no meatballs), crepes (without meat filling), potatoes and other starchy vegetables
    • Day Two: Fast day. Avoid all carbohydrates and keep calories to a minimum. Eat only light meals of salads, soups, fruits and vegetables. If you must drink coffee or any other caffeinated beverage, drink it between 3 and 5 p.m.
    • Day Three: Feast day. (Same as Day One)
    • Day Four: Fast day. "If you drink caffeinated beverages, take them in morning when traveling west, or between 6 and 11 p.m. when traveling east." Avoid all alcohol on the plane. Remain fasting until breakfast (about 7.30 a.m.) at your destination, at which time you break the fast by feasting on a high-protein breakfast  

    The above protocol is not intended as a healthy eating strategy other than one that seems to be helpful when seeking to remediate jet lag. But alternating between feasting and fasting overall is a healthy approach as long as your food choices are healthy. As noted by Hendricks:

    "Ehret theorized that the diet worked because the days of irregular eating gradually unmoored the body's biological clock from its usual rhythms, while the big breakfast and subsequent meals re-anchored the clock in the new time zone.

    In a 2002 study published in the journal Military Medicine, National Guardsmen who followed the diet were found to be 7.5 times less likely than a control group to suffer jet lag after flying from the United States to Korea. On their return, they were 16.2 times less likely to lag. (The difference between the two flights has not been explained, although, as the authors noted, jet lag is more common flying east than flying west.)"

    The Anti-Jet Lag Fast

    Another even easier strategy was devised by a team of researchers at Harvard and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. The anti-jet lag fast involves determining the time of breakfast at your destination and then fasting (abstaining from all food and drink except noncaloric beverages like water) for 12 to 16 hours beforehand. As noted by Hendricks, "Since most of us go 12 to 16 hours between dinner and breakfast anyway, the abstention is a small hardship."

    This strategy is thought to work because fasting causes your master clock to suspend the circadian clock and instructs your body to sleep less. When food intake resumes, the master clock switches the circadian clock back "on." Hendricks explains:

    "The master clock probably evolved because when our prehistoric forebears were starving, they would have been tempted in their weakness to sleep rather than forage for the food they needed to survive. 

    Today, when a traveler suspends his circadian clock before flying from Los Angeles to London, and then reactivates it upon breaking the fast, the clock doesn't know that it should still be on Pacific Time. It knows only that the breakfast and the daylight declare morning in Mayfair, and it resets the body's rhythms accordingly."

    On a side note, fasting (calorie restriction) also activates a very potent biological pathway called Nrf2, a biological hormetic that upregulates all of your beneficial intercellular antioxidants. It also lowers inflammation, improves mitochondrial function and stimulates mitochondrial biogenesis, among other things. So, in addition to resetting your body's internal clock, fasting may help you feel better when traveling for these reasons as well.

    Minimize Jet Lag With Traditional Chinese Medicine

    You can also trick your body into connecting with a new time zone using Traditional Chinese Medicine techniques involving the stimulation of certain acupuncture meridians. As explained by acupuncture physician John Amaro in Acupuncture Today:10

    "Borrowing the knowledge of the general circulation of chi, and being aware that each meridian undergoes a two-hour time peak that moves and peaks from meridian to meridian as it travels through its general circulation, it was reasoned that if one were to reset the body clock utilizing the horary cycle, the body in theory could be made to function at the horary cycle of wherever the person is physically located on the planet, disregarding the effects of so-called 'time travel.'

    The best part of the theory is that it worked! … In virtually every instance in which the subjects were advised to stimulate the proper points based on the theoretical concept, they reported (and it was observed) that jet lag literally did not occur. They felt they were connected to the time zone of their newly arrived destination, as opposed to the time of their departure location."

    Amaro details a technique involving stimulating points for a particular meridian based on the Chinese body clock,11 where each meridian corresponds to a two-hour interval. For example, if you were to board a flight in Los Angeles at 7 p.m., heading to Tokyo, where it would then be noon local time, you would stimulate the heart meridian, as it rules between the hours of 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

    Two hours into your flight, 2 p.m. Tokyo time, you'd stimulate the small intestine meridian, which rules between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Every two hours, you'd stimulate the ruling meridian until you land at your destination.

    Cardiologist Dr. Lee Cowden devised an even shorter version of this technique, focusing on just one meridian — the heart meridian. He explains this technique in the video above, originally taped in 2009. Here's a summary of the steps:

    1. The day of your trip, set your clock to match the local time at your destination (depending on the time of your flight, you may have to do this a day ahead)

    2. At 11 a.m. (the local time at your destination), stroke your heart meridian three times on the left and three times on the right. Your heart meridian begins just to the outer side of your nipple, up through your armpit and down the ulnar aspect (inner side) of your arm, down the outside of your pinky. Once you reach the end of your pinky, gently press into the base of the fingernail (heart point in Traditional Chinese Medicine). For a demonstration, please see the video above

    3. At noon, repeat the heart meridian strokes

    Antioxidant Support Helps Ameliorate Jet Lag Symptoms and Shield Against Radiation

    Cowden also recommends taking a high-quality, broad-spectrum antioxidant before and after boarding the plane. Astaxanthin may be an ideal choice as it also helps shield against cosmic radiation exposure, provided you've been taking it for at least three days ahead of time. Another antioxidant supplement that can be helpful when flying is molecular hydrogen, which is a highly effective selective antioxidant.

    Tyler LeBaron's website, molecularhydrogenfoundation.org,12 lists several hundred studies relating to hydrogen. You can also find a number of his lectures on YouTube. In summary, molecular hydrogen consists of two atoms of hydrogen, the smallest molecule in the universe, which:

    • Is a neutral molecule that can instantly defuse across any cell membrane
    • Has no polarity
    • Is a potent, selective antioxidant

    Free radicals are not all bad; they do serve important health functions. The problem is excess free radicals, or the wrong ones. Molecular hydrogen has been shown to selectively target the damaging free radicals produced in response to radiation, such as the gamma rays you encounter at 35,000 feet in the daytime. Studies have shown molecular hydrogen can mitigate about 80 percent of this damage.

    If you have a healthy microbiome, your body can make  about 10 liters a day of hydrogen gas. However, when you have a steady state of exposure, you don't get the other benefits, so you need to pulse it. That's where you get the benefit. I've taken molecular hydrogen tablets on my last few flights, and felt much better than I normally do when flying. There are a number of different ways to get it, but the most practical way is to take molecular hydrogen tablets.

    Once you're at about 5,000 to 10,000 feet, put the tablet in a small bottle of room temperature water, as ice water will slow the reaction. Put the cap back on and leave it on while the tablet dissolves to prevent the gas from escaping. Once dissolved, drink it as quickly as possible. The hydrogen gas will continue working for about two hours, so if you're on a longer flight, you may want to do a second dose halfway through. 

    Typically, what I wind up doing is just swallowing the tablet and make sure I get at least 8 ounces of water to buffer my stomach. I will take one tablet every hour-and-a-half to two hours, so on a flight from Chicago to Los Angeles I will take two tablets, but from Atlanta to Chicago I only take one.

    Melatonin May Help You Sleep

    Once you reach your destination, take a fast-acting sublingual melatonin along with a slow-release oral melatonin around 10 p.m. (or just before bedtime if you go to bed earlier). Keep in mind that only a very small dose is required — typically 0.25 mg or 0.5 milligrams to start with, and you can adjust it up from there. Taking higher doses, such as 3 mg, can sometimes make you more wakeful instead of sleepier, so adjust your dose carefully.

    Also be sure to stay well hydrated before and during travel, whether you're flying or driving to your destination. Your brain controls sleep and it functions best when fully hydrated. As you can see, there are several ways to minimize jet lag, so the next time you fly, try one or more of them to find a combination that works for you.

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  • Study: 12 Percent of Depression Could Be Prevented With 1 Hour of Exercise a Week
    published on October 18th, 2017 at 12:50 PM

    By Dr. Mercola

    Exercise has long been viewed as an antidote to depression, but for those in the throes of a depressive episode or even a blue mood, it can be hard to summon up the motivation to get moving. Recent research suggests, however, that even a minimal amount of exercise may be enough to combat depression in some people — as minimal as one hour a week. The study was large, involving nearly 34,000 adults who were healthy, with no symptoms of common mental disorders, at the start of the study.

    The participants were followed for 11 years, during which time it was revealed that people who engaged in regular leisure-time exercise for one hour a week were less likely to become depressed. On the flipside, those who didn't exercise were 44 percent more likely to become depressed compared to those who did so for at least one to two hours a week.1

    "The majority of this protective effect occurred at low levels of exercise and was observed regardless of intensity," the researchers said, adding that, "assuming the relationship is causal, 12 percent of future cases of depression could have been prevented if all participants had engaged in at least one hour of physical activity each week."2

    Study author Samuel Harvey, associate professor of workplace mental health at the Black Dog Institute and the University of New South Wales, told Time, "There is good evidence that physical activity can help people recover from depression … Our study takes this a bit further and shows that exercise may also have a role in preventing people developing depression in the first place."3

    In this case, part of the protective effect of exercise was attributed to its social and physical health benefits, though there are many routes by which exercise is good for your mental health and brain.

    Staying Active Is Good for Your Mood

    In my 2008 interview with Dr. James Gordon, a world-renowned expert in using mind-body medicine to heal depression, he stated that physical exercise is at least as good as antidepressants for helping people who are depressed, in part because it increases serotonin in your brain and in part because it increases brain cells in your hippocampus, which are sometimes reduced in people with depression. He's far from the only one to come to this conclusion.

    In 2013, a meta-analysis published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found that exercise is moderately more effective than a control intervention, which in some cases was pharmaceuticals, for reducing symptoms of depression.4 Separate research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that aerobic exercise "at a dose consistent with public health recommendations" is an effective treatment for mild to moderate depression.5

    In addition, a 2017 study revealed that exercise appears to be a "promising and acceptable" treatment for adolescents and young adults with depression, adding that, for best results, the exercise should potentially be engaged in multiple times per week over eight or more weeks and involve:6

    • Supervision
    • Aerobic activity
    • Moderate to vigorous intensity

    Similarly, but in contrast to the featured study, a 2014 study reviewing exercise program variables in the treatment of depression also found supervised aerobic exercise engaged in three times a week at moderate intensity for a minimum of nine weeks was useful for treating depression.7 So there are still some questions about what type of exercise, what intensity and how often is best for treating depression, but what's clear is that exercise should be on your agenda if you're struggling with depression or low mood.

    In addition to aerobic activity, mind-body exercise like yoga has also shown promise. For instance, Iyengar yoga, which focuses on detail and precise alignment of posture combined with deep breathing, reduces symptoms of depression in those who are not taking medication or who have been taking the same medication for at least three months.8

    Still more research, this time involving nursing students, a population among which depression is common, found that both physical exercise and mindfulness meditation were effective in managing depression (with the meditation being even more effective than the exercise in this case).9

    Exercise Boosts Calm, Helps Buffer Stress — Try This 3-Minute Mood Booster

    Exercise benefits your brain and mood via multiple mechanisms, including creating new, excitable neurons along with new neurons designed to release the GABA neurotransmitter, which inhibits excessive neuronal firing, helping to induce a natural state of calm10 — similar to the way anti-anxiety drugs work, except that the mood-boosting benefits of exercise both occur immediately after a workout and continue on in the long term.

    In addition to the creation of new neurons, including those that release the calming neurotransmitter GABA, exercise boosts levels of potent brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, which may help buffer some of the effects of stress.11 What's more, anandamide levels are known to increase during and following exercise. Anandamide is a neurotransmitter and endocannabinoid produced in your brain that temporarily blocks feelings of pain and depression.

    It's a derivative of the Sanskrit word "bliss," and a deficiency is associated with increased anxiety and stress.12 Even in the immediacy, if you're looking for a quick way to boost your mood, doing a short, high-intensity workout will likely do the trick. Undergraduate students who were more physically active had higher pleasant-activated feelings like excitement and enthusiasm overall than people who were less physically active, and they reported feeling more of them on days when they engaged in more physical activity than normal.13

    Please keep in mind that physical activity should include not just "exercise" but also plenty of non-exercise daily movements, such that you're in motion more so than not (except while you're sleeping). Non-exercise movement is a foundational piece of optimal health — even more so than a regimented fitness routine, but ideally you should strive to do them both.

    If you're currently sedentary, you can start by simply sitting less but, ultimately, I recommend aiming for at least 7,000 to 10,000 steps each day and limiting sitting to less than three hours. That being said, if you want to give your mood a boost right now, try the nitric oxide (NO) dump exercise developed by Dr. Zach Bush, which I demonstrate in the video below. In addition to stimulating your brain, this simple exercise will help you maintain homeostasis in your body, and it takes only about three minutes.

    I suggest doing this workout two to three times a day, unless you're injured or recovering from a hard workout, and it may serve as a way to help keep your mood elevated. As you'll see, you can do it anywhere — and I do, at the airport, waiting for luggage, in the lounge. Don't worry about how it looks, focus instead on how great it makes you feel.

    Sleep Is Also a Must for Relieving Depression

    While the focus of this article is exercise, I do want to point out the importance of healthy sleep for a healthy mind. Lack of sleep has long been linked to depression, but it was thought that insomnia was a symptom of depression and not the other way around. It now seems that insomnia may precede depression in some cases and may even double your risk of becoming depressed.14

    Further, sleep therapy is regarded as a valuable form of treatment. A 2014 study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health found that 87 percent of depression patients who resolved their insomnia using cognitive behavior therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) had major improvements to their depression, with symptoms disappearing after eight weeks whether the person took an antidepressant or a placebo pill.15

    Unlike sleep hygiene therapy, which focuses on regular exercise, avoiding caffeine and alcohol at night, and promotion of other healthful habits for restful sleep, CBT-1 teaches people to reserve their bed only for sleeping, and involves the following guidance:

    • Establish a regular wake up time
    • Get out of bed when you're awake
    • Avoid eating, reading, watching TV or performing similar activities in bed
    • Avoid daytime napping

    The study found that those who overcame their insomnia using this program recovered from their depression at nearly twice the rate of those who did not. People with evening chronotypes, otherwise known as night owls, also tend to have more symptoms of depression compared to those who go to bed early and wake early,16 so strategies to regulate your circadian rhythm, like exposure to sunlight during the day and avoidance of blue light at night, could benefit your mental health.

    Ideally, go to bed by 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. and wear blue-light-blocking glasses after the sun goes down. EMFs are also known to disrupt sleep, so take steps to lower your exposure, especially at night while you're sleeping.

    Options include turning off your Wi-Fi at night or, even better, don't use Wi-Fi and switch to wired Ethernet (and hardwire as many devices as possible in your home and office to avoid Wi-Fi fields). You can also install a Faraday cage (copper- and/or silver-threaded fabric) around your bed. Getting back to exercise, this will also help to improve your sleep, which is yet another way it may lower your risk of depression.

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  • Safe Alternatives to Toxic Mothballs
    published on October 17th, 2017 at 12:50 PM

    By Dr. Mercola

    Prior to the mass production of synthetic fabrics such as polyester, mothballs were commonly added to bins, boxes and trunks to prevent stored clothing made from natural fibers from becoming infested with clothes moths (Tineola bisselliella). Perhaps you remember visiting the home of an elderly relative whose attic or basement smelled strongly of mothballs. It's an unforgettable odor and one that can be toxic with continuous exposure.

    Even though people today wear fewer natural fabrics, such as wool, mothballs are still in high demand. While they were once used almost exclusively to prevent moths from attracting to stored clothing, mothballs are now mostly misused to deter pests found in attics, backyards and gardens. A far better solution to moth control is the use of essential oils, such as lavender, mint and white camphor oil.

    Who Regulates Mothballs and What's in Them?

    In the U.S., mothballs are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Currently, more than 30 products are registered with the EPA that contain paradichlorobenzene, as well as more than a dozen products that contain naphthalene.1 Notably, the European Union (E.U.) banned the supply of all naphthalene-containing products in 2008, due to concerns about toxicity.2

    Pesticide labels, including labels for mothballs, detail exactly where and how you can use the product legally. Using mothballs in ways beyond what is recommended on the label is not only illegal, but can be harmful to people, pets and the environment.3 For example, mothballs are sometimes used in gardens to deter digging rodents. Tim Stock, Oregon State University (OSU) pest management expert, said:4

    "People often use mothballs in inappropriate sites and against incorrect pests. The only recommendation that counts is the product label, which is a legal document whose instructions must be followed — particularly on where mothballs may be used and which pests they will control."

    Stock and Dave Stone, assistant professor in OSU's environmental and molecular toxicology department, co-wrote an article entitled "Mothballs: Proper Use and Alternative Controls for Clothes Moths."5

    Stone says mothballs should not be used inside attics, crawl spaces, gardens, trash cans or vehicles. "Often, mothballs are used in these locations to control pests other than clothes moths," he says. Some of the wild pests Stone mentioned are deer, mice, moles, raccoons, squirrels and skunks. He suggested that domesticated cats and dogs have also been targets for mothballs. All such animal applications are illegal, and sometimes dangerous, said Stone.6

    "A relatively common mistake is placing mothballs in an attic to repel squirrels. This will almost always result in a persistent and noxious odor throughout the home."

    How the Toxic Ingredients in Mothballs Can Affect Your Health

    In the past, mothballs were made from plant-based camphor and, later, naphthalene, a derivative of coal tar. Because naphthalene is highly flammable, mothballs are also fashioned from the synthetic chemical paradichlorobenzene, which has an unpleasant smell but is cheaper to make.7

    Today's mothballs — bars, cakes, crystals, flakes and tablets — contain either naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene as nearly 100 percent active ingredients.8 When you inhale the odor of mothballs, you are actually inhaling a pesticide. According to Stone:9

    "Both chemicals are fumigants, meaning that their volatile chemicals will vaporize at lower temperatures, such as room temperature. Naphthalene has been associated with adverse health effects such as headache, nausea, dizziness and difficulty breathing. Paradichlorobenzene is also a potential hazard, although typically less than naphthalene."

    Because naphthalene and paradichlorobenzene transition from a solid straight to a gas, a process called sublimation, it is their toxic fumes that kill moths and moth larvae.10

    In addition to the concerns noted above, I would add that paradichlorobenzene has been found to cause cancer in animals. Prolonged exposure to naphthalene can damage or destroy your red blood cells, which may cause diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Due to the potential side effects, it is essential that you follow all label instructions and take steps to limit your exposure to naphthalene and paradichlorobenzene, whether in mothballs or other household products.

    How to Properly Use Mothballs

    The key to success with mothballs is to place them with your stored items in an airtight, sealed container. Inside a sealed container, the fumes become concentrated, thereby killing the moths. With this arrangement, because the fumes are contained, mothballs are purported to not be harmful to people. You do face risks of toxic exposure and potential health problems, however, if you:11,12

    • Store items with mothballs in containers that are not tightly sealed, because fumes will be released into the air and could accumulate in living areas inhabited by humans and pets
    • Use mothballs in gardens or other outdoor areas to control insects, rodents or snakes because of potential contamination to air, soil, plants and water supplies
    • Leave mothballs out and within reach of children and pets who may ingest them
    • Wash clothes that have been stored with mothballs immediately after removing them from the storage containers

    It's important to note that due to their smaller size, infants can easily be overcome by toxic exposure from clothing treated with mothballs.13 Never put clothing that has been stored in mothballs on your baby until the items have been aired out and washed properly. If possible, store infant clothing separately and use one of the nontoxic alternatives to mothballs that will be discussed later.

    As you might imagine, children, pets and wildlife can easily mistake mothballs as food and chew or swallow them. If someone has ingested a mothball, call the American Association of Poison Control Centers at (800) 222-1222 or seek emergency medical assistance. If you think your pet may have eaten a mothball, contact your veterinarian.

    Safer Ways to Prevent Moth Damage

    The Balance website offers several helpful suggestions to prevent moth damage without resorting to toxic mothballs:14

    • Machine wash or dry clean your clothing prior to storing it at the end of the season to kill any larvae that may have attached to the clothing prior to storage
    • Store your items in sealed containers such as chests, plastic storage containers or suitcases; zip wool coats and suits into garment bags
    • Since moths prefer moist environments, be sure to store your items in in a closet or under your bed; avoid storing clothing for long periods of time in your basement or garage

    While prevention strategies are the best defense against clothing moths, Stock offers tips on what to do if you are dealing with a moth infestation:15 "… Vacuum drawers and closets using a HEPA vacuum cleaner. Also, vacuum furniture and other places that provide food sources such as lint, pet hair and human hair. Lint and hair that have been undisturbed for a long time are prime breeding grounds for clothes moths."

    Be sure to change your vacuum bag regularly to ensure you are removing the larvae from your home and not giving them a chance to repopulate. If you find moths on clothing or other textiles, place the affected item in the freezer for at least 24 hours to kill any active larvae.

    How to Get Rid of Moths Naturally

    The Apartment Therapy website features an easy do-it-yourself project on how to make a moth-repellent sachet using dried herbs.17 Most health food stores sell dried herbs in bulk. In addition to following the suggestions given above, you can eliminate and prevent clothes moths with one or more of the following natural remedies:16

    • Cedar: Cedar blocks, chips, chests or closets have long been recognized as an effective moth repellent. Keep in mind that cedar loses its scent and repellent effectiveness over time, and you'll need to periodically sand the wood lightly or apply cedar oil to re-establish the scent
    • Cloves, rosemary and thyme: Place a mix of these dried herbs in one or more sachet bags and add them to the storage containers with your clothing; replace the contents of the sachets every six months or whenever they lose their fragrance
    • Lavender: Fill one or more sachet bags with dried lavender, or dip several cotton balls in lavender essential oil, then place them in airtight storage containers with your clothes
    • Mint: Secure a handful of dried mint leaves in one or more sachets, or dip several cotton balls in peppermint essential oil and place them with your stored items in airtight containers

    What About White Camphor Oil?

    As mentioned earlier, white camphor oil was, at one time, a primary ingredient in mothballs. Unlike naphthalene and paradichlorobenzene, white camphor has medicinal applications and is not regarded as a carcinogen. It is, however, toxic in large doses.

    White camphor oil (Cinnamomum camphora) comes from the camphor tree, which is native to China, Japan and Taiwan (Formosa). It is sometimes grown in India and Sri Lanka as well. Camphor oil produces three distinct fractions: brown, yellow and white. Only white camphor oil is used for aromatic and medicinal purposes. The brown and yellow fractions contain a substance called safrole, a known carcinogen.

    White camphor is a common ingredient in mentholated products and ointments designed to ease skin diseases and fungal infections. It can often be found in cold rubs and decongestant balms. Its intense penetrating scent makes white camphor oil an effective insect repellent, especially for deterring flies and moths. Due to its cooling and penetrating properties, white camphor oil offers several health benefits, including:18

    • Anesthetic: Causes numbness of your sensory nerves at the area of application
    • Anti-inflammatory and sedative: Reduces inflammation and helps calm your nerves, giving you a peaceful, relaxed feeling
    • Antispasmodic: Gives immediate relief from muscle cramps, spasms and stiffness, which, by the way, could be caused by a magnesium deficiency
    • Decongestant: Provides respiratory relief by reducing blockage in your bronchi, lungs and nasal passages

    Cautions Related to White Camphor Oil

    Although white camphor oil has many health benefits, you should keep the following cautions in mind. If you have any concerns or doubts, seek the advice of a health professional before using it.

    Always use white camphor oil with a mild carrier oil, such as olive oil

    Before using topically, you should conduct a skin patch test to see if you are allergic to it

    Do not administer white camphor oil to children due to potential skin sensitization and toxicity

    Applying it at night may disrupt your sleep

    Do not apply white camphor, or any oil, to burns or open wounds

    If you have asthma, epilepsy or are pregnant, do not use white camphor oil due to its potential adverse effects

    Never take white camphor oil internally

    Related Articles:

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  • Obesity Responsible for 40 Percent of Diagnosed Cancers
    published on October 17th, 2017 at 12:50 PM

    By Dr. Mercola

    Nearly 30 percent of the global population is overweight or obese and this has a significant impact on cancer rates, experts say. In a 2014 report, obesity was linked to an estimated 500,000 cancer cases worldwide each year.1,2 More recent statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows the reality is far grimmer than that — at least in the U.S.

    Obesity-Related Cancers on the Rise in the US

    While cancers unrelated to obesity declined by 13 percent between 2005 and 2014, obesity-related cancer incidence rose by 7 percent, and in 2014 more than 630,000 people were diagnosed with obesity-related cancer in the U.S. alone.3,4,5 Overall, obesity-related cancers accounted for a whopping 40 percent of all diagnosed cancers in 2014. As reported by Reuters: 6

    “According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, 13 cancers are associated with overweight and obesity. They include meningioma, multiple myeloma, adenocarcinoma of the esophagus, and cancers of the thyroid, postmenopausal breast, gallbladder, stomach, liver, pancreas, kidney, ovaries, uterus and colon and rectum (colorectal).” 

    Previous data from the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) suggests excess body weight is responsible for about 25 percent of the relative contribution to cancer incidence, ranking second only to smoking.7 When combined with other high-risk behaviors, such as a poor diet and lack of exercise, the relative contribution rises to 33 percent, making optional lifestyle-related factors a significant contributor to many cancers.

    Obesity-Related Cancers Disproportionally Affect Women

    Women are at greatest risk. Compared to men, women are more than twice as likely to develop obesity-related cancer,8 and the longer a woman is overweight, the greater her risk.9 The latest CDC data shows that 55 percent of all cancers in women were related to obesity whereas obesity accounted for “just” 24 percent of male cancer cases.10 Overall, endometrial, ovarian and postmenopausal breast cancer accounted for 42 percent of all obesity-related cancers.

    According to the authors, “Observational studies have provided evidence that even a 5-kg (11-pound) increase in weight since early adulthood is associated with increased risk of overweight- and obesity-related cancers.” Despite such evidence, few people are fully aware of this association.

    As noted by CDC deputy director Dr. Anne Schuchat,11 “That obesity and overweight are affecting cancers may be surprising to many Americans. The awareness of some cancers being associated with obesity and overweight is not yet widespread.” Considering the fact that nearly 71 percent of American adults are either overweight or obese, and over 20 percent of adolescents are already in the obese category,12 awareness of this link needs to grow if we’re to successfully combat rising cancer rates in coming decades.

    ‘Fat and Fit’ Myth Promotes Unhealthy Ideals

    Many still hold fast to the idea that you can be overweight and metabolically healthy, or “fat and fit,” but the cases in which this might be true are few and far in between. While this notion helps combat weight-related depression and poor self-esteem, it ignores the very real health risks associated with excess body weight.

    As noted in a 2013 review and meta-analysis13 that included data from more than 61,000 people, obese individuals were more likely to die sooner or have heart-related problems than people of normal weight — even if they were otherwise healthy — causing the researchers to conclude that:

    "Compared with metabolically healthy normal-weight individuals, obese persons are at increased risk for adverse long-term outcomes even in the absence of metabolic abnormalities, suggesting that there is no healthy pattern of increased weight."

    More recent research confirms that visceral fat — the fat buildup around your internal organs, which typically shows as an increased waist size — is directly associated with insulin resistance, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and cancer. In the U.S., Greece, Iceland and New Zealand, over 90 percent of adult men and half of all children were found to have this risk factor.14

    Belly Fat Especially Risky for Postmenopausal Women

    As noted by Medical News Today,15 “So-called metabolically obese normal weight individuals may still have impaired health, and up to 50 percent of these individuals may be ignored by current BMI [body mass index] measurements.” Other recent research has linked excess belly fat alone (regardless of bodyweight) to an increased risk for lung and gastrointestinal cancers in postmenopausal women. According to study author Line Maersk Staunstrup, a doctoral student at Nordic Bioscience ProScion in Denmark:16

    "The average elderly women can very much use this information, as it is known that the menopause transition initiates a shift in body fat towards the central trunk area. Therefore, elderly women should be especially aware of their lifestyle when they approach the pre-menopause age."

    How to Measure Your Body Composition

    Indeed, BMI has been repeatedly shown to be an unreliable way to measure a person’s body composition as it fails to take into account muscle mass and intra-abdominal (visceral) fat mass.

    A far more accurate measurement is to measure your waistline (the distance around the smallest area below the rib cage, above your belly button) in relation to your height. Waist circumference is the easiest anthropometric measure of total body fat. A general guide for healthy waist circumference is as follows:

    Waist Measure for Men
    Waist Measurement for Women

    Alternatively, you can measure your waist-to-hip ratio. This is done by measuring the circumference of your hips at the widest part, across your buttocks. Then measure your waist at the smallest circumference of your natural waist, just above your belly button. Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement to get the ratio, or use the University of Maryland’s online waist-to-hip ratio calculator.17

    Normal Waist to Hip Ratio

    The High Cost of Obesity

    Other research also deconstructs the “fat and fit” notion, showing obesity eventually takes a toll on health — and finances — even if the person is currently healthy. Using computer modeling, the researchers estimated the financial cost of obesity for different age groups. As an example, a 50-year-old obese individual with normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels has a price tag in excess of $36,000 in direct medical care and lost productivity.

    Not surprisingly, weight loss was associated with significant savings. Not only could health insurance premiums be lowered across the board if society as a whole did not struggle with an excess of obesity-related health problems, but individuals would also save on co-pays, and they’d be able to maintain their productivity in the workforce. As reported by Medicine Net:18

    “The researchers estimated that if an obese 20-year-old shed enough pounds to drop to the overweight category, almost two-thirds of his lifetime costs to society could be avoided … If a healthy but obese 70-year-old crossed to the overweight category, her lifetime costs could be cut by about 40 percent …”

    How Excess Weight Contributes to Cancer

    Obesity can raise your risk of cancer in several ways. Some cancers, especially breast and endometrial cancer, are sensitive to the female sex hormone estrogen, and fat cells produce an excess of this hormone. This is also why obesity in young children is such a grave concern. By carrying excess weight (and excess estrogen) for many years, if not decades, they’re at a significantly heightened risk of cancer as adults.  

    Obesity is also associated with elevated inflammation levels in your body, which can contribute to cancer growth. One of the basic reasons why nutritional ketosis works so well against cancer is because it very effectively and efficiently lowers inflammation. A high-sugar diet, which tends to pack on the pounds, also feeds cancer by providing cancer cells with their preferred fuel.

    A healthy high-fat diet, on the other hand, tends to discourage cancer growth, as cancer cells lack the metabolic flexibility to use ketones derived from fat as fuel.

    It is likely that obesity represents an indirect marker for the true cause of the problem that contributes to both obesity and cancer, namely insulin resistance, which is also associated with leptin resistance and activation of the mTOR pathway. By lowering your blood sugar levels and normalizing your insulin receptor sensitivity, exercise has a similar effect, as this too creates an environment less conducive to cancer growth.

    Cutting Carbs Is More Effective Than Cutting Calories

    Calorie counting used to be the go-to solution for weight loss. However, research shows it’s not the cutting of calories that has the most profound effect, it’s cutting down on net carbs. One of the reasons for this is because, compared to fat and protein, carbohydrates have the greatest effect on insulin, which drives fat storage. Carbohydrate restriction also activates AMPK, an enzyme and powerful signaling protein that monitors cellular energy levels and drives several important metabolic pathways.

    This includes pathways involved in fat burning, the building of mitochondria, insulin regulation and glycogen breakdown — all of which have important implications not only for fat loss but also for general health. Importantly, recent research19 (summarized in the video above) shows a high-carb diet — even if you reduce calories to a level designed for weight loss — will prevent AMPK activation.

    What’s more, eating a low-carb diet will activate AMPK even if your calorie count is excessive! This can help explain why it’s so difficult to lose weight on a low-calorie diet when a large portion of those calories come from carbohydrates. That said, calorie restriction does have its merits, especially when you start talking about calorie restriction in terms of cyclical fasting. From my perspective, the timing and frequency of your meals is really the key to unlocking healthy metabolism.

    Nutritional Ketosis — The Key to Cancer Prevention and Treatment

    I’ve written a number of articles detailing the anticancer potential of nutritional ketosis. For a more in-depth review, revisit my interview with Thomas Seyfried, one of the leading pioneers in the nutritional treatment of cancer. He's been teaching neurogenetics and neurochemistry as it relates to cancer treatment at Yale University and Boston College for more than 25 years.

    He wrote an excellent medical textbook for alternative oncologists on this topic called “Cancer as a Metabolic Disease: On the Origin, Management, and Prevention of Cancer,” and is currently involved in preclinical research at Boston College. His book costs over $100 but you can get a free summary20 of it here. Earlier this year, I announced my pledge to raise $1 million to support Seyfried’s work by matching donations.

    Another front-runner in this field is Dr. Abdul Slocum with the ChemoThermia Oncology Center in Turkey, where they’re reporting remarkable successes using metabolically supported cancer therapies in a broad range of advanced stage cancers, including those involving the pancreas, lung, breasts, ovaries and stomach. Many of Slocum's patients have failed traditional therapies and some have even been sent home to die.

    When they enter his clinic, they’re immediately placed on a ketogenic diet and remain on it throughout their treatment. By incorporating nutritional ketosis, they’re able to minimize the amount of chemotherapy required without sacrificing effectiveness. On the contrary, effectiveness is massively increased, as their bodies are put into a metabolic state that is inhospitable to cancer cells, making them more vulnerable and easier to eradicate.

    Cyclical Ketogenic Diet for Optimal Health and Disease Prevention

    Research reveals a vast majority of Americans eat all day long. Most also consume a majority of their daily calories late in the evening and this type of eating pattern is a recipe for weight gain and metabolic dysfunction. The reason so many struggle with their weight (aside from eating processed foods that have been grossly altered from their natural state) is because they rarely, if ever, skip a meal.

    As discussed above, carrying excess weight is a significant risk factor for 13 different types of cancer. The good news is that by eating the right foods and reducing the frequency of your eating, you not only will shed weight as a natural side effect of normalizing your metabolism, you’ll also reduce your risk of chronic disease, including cancer, to a significant degree.

    If you already have cancer, the combination of a ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting can significantly improve your chances of recovery. This is the kind of eating plan I detail in my latest book, “Fat for Fuel.” From my perspective, it's nothing short of medical negligence to fail to integrate this type of dietary strategy into a patient's cancer treatment plan (along with optimizing vitamin D).

    A ketogenic diet along with intermittent fasting can be easily integrated into whatever cancer treatment plan you decide to follow. Personally, I believe it's absolutely crucial, no matter what type of cancer you're trying to address. To learn more, please see “Burning Fat for Fuel Increases Quality and Quantity of Life.”

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  • Medical Mistakes Affect 1 in 5 People
    published on October 17th, 2017 at 12:50 PM

    By Dr. Mercola

    Medical mistakes are made in the operating room, in the emergency room and in the doctor's office. And, unfortunately, the mistakes made by doctors, nurses and pharmaceutical companies still are the third leading cause of death in the U.S. Statistics from a study originally published in 20001 have not changed in the 17 years since its publication.

    Authors in the Canadian Journal of Surgery believe medical errors represent a serious public health problem and a threat to patient safety.2 The definition of a medical error often rests on patient outcome, or rather if there was a negative outcome from a medication or procedure.

    Some research suggests 250,000 people die each year from medical errors and millions more who are harmed by drug-related mistakes.3 However, as frightening as the number of people dying from medical error is, some suggest it is only the tip of the iceberg.4

    The purpose of understanding the numbers is not to scare you, but rather to help you understand how you can take control of your health even inside the health care system. Making informed choices and using proven tools to reduce your risk of illness by maintaining optimal health are strategies you may use to reduce your personal risk of injury at the hand of another.

    Some medical errors have resulted in drastic changes in the standards of medical care, but often only after tragedies and long years of work to change an ingrained system. For instance, in 1982, ABC highlighted cases of anesthesia mistakes that resulted in injury or death, but it wasn't until 1985 before a program of standardized anesthesia care and monitoring was put into place to avert those errors.5

    As a general rule, one of your best ways of preventing unnecessary injury or death is to stay healthy and out of the hospital. This is why I am so passionate about sharing preventive health strategies with you, such as eating right, exercising, reducing stress and getting quality sleep. The exception is in cases of accidental trauma or surgical emergencies when modern medicine can be truly lifesaving.

    Survey Reveals 1 in 5 Patients Has Experienced a Medical Error

    In a nationwide survey of more than 2,500 people, researchers found that 1 in every 5 adults had been on the receiving end of a medical error and 1 in every 3 said someone whose care they were closely involved in had experienced a medical error.6 The results from this survey found most of the errors were involved with diagnosis of a medical condition and occurred in an outpatient setting. The press release begins:7

    "The vast majority of Americans are having positive experiences with the health care system, but 21 percent of adults report having personally experienced a medical error, according to a new national survey released today by the IHI/NPSF Lucian Leape Institute and NORC at the University of Chicago."

    Other notable findings from this survey included:

    • Almost half of the participants who discovered an error brought it to the attention of medical personnel or other staff
    • Most believed that although the medical staff are predominantly responsible for safety, patients and families also have a role to play
    • People identified on average seven different factors that played into the medical error

    While the survey does demonstrate a willingness to be involved in patient safety, it is also important to note the average rate of error was 21 percent in this sample size, and medical mistakes continue to rank as the third leading cause of death in the U.S. Dr. Tejal K. Gandhi, chief clinical and safety officer and president of the IHI/NPSF Lucian Leape Institute, commented on the results of the study:

    "The survey results show that Americans recognize that patient safety is a critically important, but complex, issue. The focus on diagnostic errors and the outpatient settings closely parallels other research in this area and confirms that health care improvers need to take a systems approach to safety that encompasses all settings of care, not just hospitals.

    I think one of the most valuable findings is the degree to which patients are willing, and expect, to be involved in their care. The fact that many people who experienced an error spoke up about it confirms that patients and families are vital to informing health care organizations about harm and how to prevent it in the future."

    What's Acceptable Human Error?

    Any time humans are involved in an equation, there is room for error. No human is error free. And, like most other human behaviors, the average rate of human error has also been picked apart, studied, analyzed and discussed. Human error rate tables confirm that the "human factor" is real and unavoidable. Human performance falters when tasks require great care, or are complicated and nonroutine, in much the same way medical care functions.

    However, in most human error rate tables, the highest percentage of error is 10 percent performing complicated, nonroutine tasks.8 Mechanical error rates outside of medical care average 0.5 percent to 1 percent.9 Researchers measured pharmacist error in a busy VA hospital where 1.9 million medications were dispensed over one year and found a 0.0048 percent error rate during the busiest shifts when verification of over 400 medications was done in one eight-hour shift.10

    IHS Automotive, an auto industry research firm, reports there are nearly 253 million cars on U.S. roads.11 There are an estimated 5.8 million car accidents each year.12 Of those car accidents, 94 percent are caused by human error.13 If each car drove just once each day, accidents occurring as the result of human error in the 253 million cars is equal to 2.1 percent. Each of these statistics is a far cry from the 21 percent of patients in the U.S. health care system that experience medical errors.

    You May Be Shocked by These Medical Mistakes

    In many instances, medical error is preventable as it's often the result of human error. Patients and family members may help reduce these mistakes by staying vigilant when receiving medical care.14

    Getting the wrong treatment

    To give you medication, radiation, physical therapy or even surgery, medical staff are required to verify your identity. Most hospitals use identification bands with your name, birthdate and a unique barcode. Make sure this is checked before you receive any medication or treatment.

    Waiting in the emergency room

    Hospitals and emergency rooms have a finite amount of space, so when they are full, you may be forced to wait for medical care. Most hospitals will prioritize patient care based on the extent of the trauma or urgency of the medical situation. Be sure the staff is aware of any changes to your medical condition while you're waiting.

    Waking up during surgery

    If you receive an underdose of anesthesia, your brain may be "awake" even if you can't move your muscles. Unable to move or speak, you may still feel the surgery taking place. Express any concerns you have with your surgeon and anesthesiologist before surgery, including asking about options for local anesthesia in lieu of being put to sleep.

    Surgical mistakes

    Surgeons may perform a procedure on the wrong body part, or leave a "souvenir" inside. Between 2005 and 2012, nearly 800 instruments were left inside patients after surgery, drastically increasing their risk for infection and necessitating a second surgery.15

    This number doesn't include other potential objects, such as sponges or electrodes. Alert your surgeon and attendants you are aware of these issues, confirming with the surgeon the body part on which surgery is planned and asking them to be especially careful when counting instruments and sponges at the end of the surgery.

    Fake doctors

    Not all medical mistakes are made by medical professionals. In some cases, con artists pretend to be doctors or therapists to scam you of your hard-earned money. They sell potions, braces or exercise programs advertised to make you healthier, faster, better or prevent surgery without the research or expertise to back up those claims.

    CNN gave the example of Sarafina Gerling, who wore a back brace advertised online by a man found guilty of insurance fraud. Gerling thought the brace would help her scoliosis, but it only made the condition worse.

    Iatrogenic Infections Result in Nearly 50,000 Deaths Each Year

    Iatrogenic (caused by a medical treatment, diagnostic procedure or physician) and hospital-acquired infections kill more people each year than diabetes. Each year 1.7 million are infected at the doctor's office or hospital and 99,000 die from health care-associated (HAI) infections.16 These infections affect up to 10 percent of all patients hospitalized each year and add an estimated $20 billion in additional health care costs.

    Also called nosocomial infections, the most commonly acquired in-hospital type of infection include infections in central line IV catheters, urinary tract infections from Foley catheters, surgical site infections and diarrheal illness from Clostridium difficile (C. diff). In many cases, these infections can be prevented using simple handwashing techniques required of hospital personnel when coming into contact with patients.

    Unfortunately, many of these infections are triggered by superbugs or bacteria that have become antibiotic resistant. Inappropriate use of antibiotics and overuse have contributed to the development of antibiotic-resistant superbugs, but the largest source of exposure is actually through antibiotic use in your food. Nearly 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are given to livestock to reduce disease and make the animals grow bigger faster.

    Residue from antibiotics is then passed along to you in the meat and dairy products you eat. For example, at least 80 different antibiotics are currently allowed and may be detected in cow's milk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)17 has concluded that as much as 22 percent of antibiotic-resistant illness in humans is linked to food.

    Death Certificates Hide the Real Numbers

    At this point, no one knows the real number of deaths that may be attributed to medical mistakes as most death certificates do not list the trigger. For example, Dr. Barbara Starfield, author of the Journal of the American Medical Association study that documented a staggering 225,000 deaths from medical mistakes in 2000, was herself a victim. Her husband, Dr. Neil Holtzman, attributed her death to an interaction between aspirin and Plavix, which was not mentioned on her death certificate.18

    Researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine believe these shortcomings in how vital statistics are recorded hinder research and keep the issue out of the public eye. They wrote an open letter to the CDC, calling for medical errors to become a recognizable and reportable cause of death.19 The data analysis showed the coding system used to categorize death certificate data doesn't capture information that may have led to unrecognized surgical complications, inappropriate medications, diagnostic errors or poor judgment.

    The inability to capture the full picture of medical errors may stunt research and public knowledge of a problem that continues to grow inside the health care system. The researchers have recommended a number of different strategies that increase transparency following an error and communication within the health care system and with reporting agencies, such as the CDC.

    These types of changes may help researchers evaluate the issues and find solutions to reduce patient injury and death. As long as providers and administrators don't acknowledge the severity of the problem, very few corrections are likely to be made. Dr. Martin Makary, professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, led the research and commented on the irony in the results, saying,20 "It boils down to people dying from the care that they receive rather than the disease for which they are seeking care."

    Staying Safe in the Hospital

    In this interview with Dr. Andrew Saul, who has written a book on the issue of safeguarding your health while hospitalized, we discuss the importance of being your own advocate. Once you have walked through your doctor's office door or have been checked into a hospital, you are immediately at risk for becoming the recipient of medical mistakes. You and your family are the best safeguards against experiencing a medical error. This is particularly important for children and senior citizens.

    Anytime you are hospitalized, be sure you have a personal advocate present with you to ask questions and take notes. It helps reduce the likelihood of mistakes when someone can ask, "What is this medication? What is it for? Who is supposed to get it? What's the dose? Are there side effects?" Another step you may consider if someone you know is scheduled for surgery is to print out the World Health Organization surgical safety checklist.21

    The checklist can be downloaded free of charge here. If a loved one is in the hospital, print it out and bring it with you, as this can help you protect your family member or friend from preventable errors in care. Needless to say, avoiding hospitalization is your safest bet. You may be able to reduce your risk of hospitalization by maintaining optimal health following specific strategies you'll find in my previous article, "Medical Errors: STILL the Third Leading Cause of Death."

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  • Gulf of Mexico Now Largest Dead Zone in the World, and Factory Farming Is to Blame
    published on October 16th, 2017 at 12:50 PM

    By Dr. Mercola

    As reported by CBS Miami (above), nitrogen fertilizers and sewage sludge runoff from factory farms are responsible for creating an enormous dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. As fertilizer runs off farms in agricultural states like Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri and others, it enters the Mississippi River, leading to an overabundance of nutrients, including nitrogen and phosphorus, in the water. 

    This, in turn, leads to the development of algal blooms, which alter the food chain and deplete oxygen, resulting in dead zones. The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico is the largest recorded dead zone in the world,1 beginning at the Mississippi River delta and spanning more than 8,700 square miles — about the size of New Jersey.

    Needless to say, the fishing industry is taking a big hit, each year getting worse than the last. The featured news report includes underwater footage that shows you just how bad the water quality has gotten.

    Gulf of Mexico — Largest Dead Zone in the World

    Nancy Rabalais, professor of oceanography at Louisiana State University, is an expert on dead zones. She has measured oxygen levels in the Gulf since 1985, and blames agricultural runoff entering the Mississippi River for this growing environmental disaster. Recent measurements reveal the area has only half the oxygen levels required to sustain basic life forms.

    "The solution lies upstream in the watershed," she says, "with agricultural management practices; a switch to crops that have deeper roots and don't need so much fertilizer and are still just as profitable as corn."

    According to CBS, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has created a task force to assess dead zones, and hope to reduce nutrient-rich agricultural runoff by 20 percent by 2025. Common sense will tell you that's nowhere near enough. A study2 published last year revealed nitrogen builds up far below the soil surface, where it can continue to leach into groundwater for 35 years.

    This means environmental concerns would persist for decades even if farmers were to stop using nitrogen fertilizers altogether. The researchers analyzed more than 2,000 soil samples from the Mississippi River Basin, finding nitrogen buildup at depths of 10 inches to 3.2 feet. According to the authors:

    "[W]e show that the observed accumulation of soil organic [nitrogen] … in the [Mississippi River Basin] over a 30-year period … would lead to a biogeochemical lag time of 35 years for 99 percent of legacy [soil organic nitrogen], even with complete cessation of fertilizer application. By demonstrating that agricultural soils can act as a net [nitrogen] sink, the present work makes a critical contribution towards the closing of watershed [nitrogen] budgets."

    Lake Erie Suffers From Chemical Pollution

    The problem is hardly restricted to the Gulf of Mexico. Many other waterways are being choked by agricultural chemicals as well. Lake Erie, for example, is currently reporting a 700-square-mile algal bloom, the toxins from which may also contaminate drinking water. Algal blooms also fill the largest tributary to the Great Lakes, the Maumee River. At present, officials claim microcystin levels (toxins produced by the algae) in intake pipes from Lake Erie are low, but that can change at any time.

    In 2014, Toledo, Ohio, was forced to shut off the supply of drinking water to half a million residents for three days due to elevated microcystin levels in the water. The algae also hurt the regional economy each year, as recreational fishing and beach visits must be restricted. Lake Erie began experiencing significant problems in the early 2000s.

    Over the years, it's only gotten more extensive, the bloom covering an increasingly larger area. The University of Michigan is now using a new robotic lake-bottom laboratory to track microcystin levels in the lake (see video above), thereby allowing them to detect and report water safety issues to water management officials more quickly.

    Toledo Mayor Appeals to President Trump — 'Declare Lake Erie Impaired'

    According to a study by the Carnegie Institute for Science and Stanford University, the expansion of algal bloom in Lake Erie is primarily attributable to a rise in the amount of dissolved phosphorus from farm land entering the lake. Part of the problem is that agricultural runoff is typically exempt from clean water laws.

    On September 26, 2017, Toledo mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson urged the federal government to declare Lake Erie impaired due to excessive algae.3 Doing so would allow the lake's nutrient load to be regulated under the Clean Water Act. Many activists believe Hicks-Hudson has been too slow to act, and still isn't taking it far enough. The Blade reports:4

    "Activist Mike Ferner dumped a pitcher of algae-infested water and two dead fish into One Government Center's public fountain … to highlight the condition of the river and lake. Mr. Ferner, joined by more than a dozen other members of the Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie group he founded in response to the 2014 Toledo water crisis, said the protest was in response to foot-dragging by local, state and federal officials.

    He said the administrations of Mayor Hicks-Hudson and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are complicit in allowing manure and other farm fertilizers to pollute the water because they won't call for the open water of Lake Erie to be designated as impaired."

    Drinking Water Threatened by Agricultural Pollution

    Agricultural runoff threatens drinking water across the U.S. as well. As reported by Fern's AG Insider:5

    "Seven million Americans who live in small cities and towns have worrisome levels of nitrates in their drinking water — below the federal limit of 10 milligrams per liter, but high enough to be associated with cancer in some studies, said an Environmental Working Group official.

    Craig Cox, head of EWG's Midwest office, said 1,683 communities had nitrate levels above 5 milligrams per liter and, when plotted on a map, they 'crazily lined up with intensive agriculture.' Farm use of nitrogen fertilizer is regarded as a frequent source of nitrates in groundwater. Soils also shed nitrates naturally. Urban runoff and septic systems also are sources."

    Meat Industry Implicated in Creation of Gulf Dead Zone

    According to Mighty Earth,6 an environmental group chaired by former Congressman Henry Waxman, a "highly industrialized and centralized factory farm system" — consisting of a fairly small number of individual corporations — are responsible for a majority of the water contamination and environmental destruction we're currently facing. Tyson Foods, which produces chicken, beef and pork, was identified as one of the worst offenders. As reported by The Guardian:7

    "Tyson, which supplies the likes of McDonald's and Walmart, slaughters 35 [million] chickens and 125,000 head of cattle every week, requiring five million acres of corn a year for feed, according to the report. This consumption resulted in Tyson generating 55 [million] tons of manure last year … with 104 [million] tons of pollutants dumped into waterways over the past decade.

    The Mighty research found that the highest levels of nitrate contamination correlate with clusters of facilities operated by Tyson and Smithfield, another meat supplier …

    The report urges Tyson and other firms to use their clout in the supply chain to ensure that grain producers such as Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland employ practices that reduce pollution flowing into waterways. These practices include not leaving soil uncovered by crops and being more efficient with fertilizers so plants are not doused in too many chemicals."

    October 2, the group launched its national #CleanItUpTyson campaign,8 calling for Tyson, the largest meat company in the U.S., to "clean up pollution from its supply chain that's contaminating local drinking water and causing a massive dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico." According to Mighty Earth:

    "The local campaigns are part of Mighty Earth's national effort to hold the meat industry accountable for reducing its vast environmental impact, which is driving widespread water pollution, clearance of natural landscapes, high rates of soil erosion, and greenhouse gas emissions. Local communities from the Heartland to the Gulf are among those most affected by the meat industry's impacts, and pay billions each year in clean-up costs."

    Factory Farming — The Ultimate Threat to Life on Earth

    According to Philip Lymbery, chief executive of Compassion in World Farming and author of "Farmageddon" and "Dead Zone" — two books detailing the destructive impact of industrial agriculture — factory farming is a threat to all life on Earth.

    Speaking at a recent Extinction and Livestock Conference in London, Lymbery said: "Every day there is a new confirmation of how destructive, inefficient, wasteful, cruel and unhealthy the industrial agriculture machine is. We need a total rethink of our food and farming systems before it's too late."9

    As noted by The Guardian,10 a number of "alarming exposés" have been featured as of late, including "chicken factory staff in the U.K. changing crucial food safety information on chickens," and an admission by the European commission last month that "eggs containing a harmful pesticide may have been on sale in as many as 16 countries." And, of course, the Gulf of Mexico being earning the recent designation of having the largest dead zone ever recorded. According to Lymbery:

    "We need to go beyond an isolated approach. Not just looking at the technical problems around welfare, not just looking at the technical issues around the environment, not just looking at food security in isolation, but putting all of these issues together, then we can see the real problem that lies at the heart of our food system — industrial agriculture.

    Factory farming is shrouded in mythology. One of the myths is that it's an efficient way of producing food when actually it is highly inefficient and wasteful. Another is that the protagonists will say that it can be good for the welfare of the animals. After all, if hens weren't happy they wouldn't lay eggs. The third myth is that factory farming saves space.

    On the surface it looks plausible, because, by taking farm animals off the land and cramming them into cages and confinement you are putting an awful lot of animals into a small space. But what is overlooked in that equation is you are then having to dedicate vast acreages of relatively scarce arable land to growing the feed …

    The UN has warned that if we continue as we are, the world's soils will have effectively gone within 60 years. And then what? We shouldn't look to the sea to bail us out because commercial fisheries are expected to be finished by 2048."

    No-Tillage Alone Cannot Make a Dent in Nitrate Pollution Problem

    Lymbery, as many others, myself included, point out that the answer is readily available and implementable. Regenerative farming can solve this and many other environmental and human health problems, if done in a thorough and holistic manner. No-till agriculture, which has become increasingly embraced as a solution to water pollution and other environmental problems associated with modern farming, is nowhere near enough.

    While it's certainly useful, and a method employed in regenerative agriculture, it alone cannot address the growing problems of chemical pollution. This was also the conclusion of a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture study. As reported by Indiana University:11

    "Researchers in the Department of Earth Sciences in the School of Science at IUPUI conducted a meta-analysis to compare runoff and leaching of nitrate from no-till and conventional tillage agricultural fields. Surface runoff and leaching are two major transportation pathways for nitrate to reach and pollute water.

    Due to its mobility and water solubility, nitrate has long been recognized as a widespread water pollutant. 'What we found is that no-till is not sufficient to improve water quality,' said Lixin Wang, an assistant professor and corresponding author of the paper.

    'In fact, we found that no-till increased nitrogen leaching.' The study suggests that no-till needs to be complemented with other techniques, such as cover cropping and intercropping or rotation with perennial crops, to improve nitrate retention and water-quality benefits."

    Other recent research12 confirms that adding native prairie strips to the rural landscape can help reduce water pollution from farm fields. Prairie strips refers to small patches of land around the edges of crop fields where native, perennial grasses and flowers are allowed to grow wild. The results show that converting as little as 10 percent of crop areas into prairie strips:13,14

    • Reduces soil loss by 95 percent
    • Reduces phosphorus runoff by 77 percent and lowers nitrogen loss through runoff by 70 percent
    • Lowers nitrate concentrations in groundwater by 72 percent
    • Improves water retention
    • More than doubles the abundance of pollinators and birds

    Regenerative and Biodynamic Farming to the Rescue

    The only viable long-term answer is regenerative agriculture (which goes beyond mere sustainability), for which biodynamic farming stands as a shining ideal. In addition to no-till, regenerative farming focuses on such practices and concepts as rotational grazing, improvement and building of topsoil (which includes cover cropping), the use of all-natural soil amendments and increasing biodiversity.

    Aside from putting an end to water and soil pollution, regenerative agriculture is also needed to protect future generations from the devastating harm caused by pesticides. The amount of pesticides used both commercially and in residential areas has grown immensely since 1945.

    More than 1 billion pounds are used each year in the U.S. alone. Worldwide, an estimated 7.7 billion pounds of pesticides are applied to crops each year, and that number is steadily increasing.15 According to a 2012 analysis,16 each 1 percent increase in crop yield is associated with a 1.8 percent increase in pesticide use.

    Logic tells us this is an unsustainable trajectory. As just one example, studies done by the Chinese government show that 20 percent of arable land in China is now unusable due to pesticide contamination.17 Earlier this year, two United Nations experts called for a comprehensive global treaty to phase out pesticides in farming altogether, noting that pesticides are in no way essential for the growing of food.18

    The report highlighted developments in regenerative farming, where biology can completely replace chemicals, delivering high yields of nutritious food without detriment to the environment. "It is time to overturn the myth that pesticides are necessary to feed the world and create a global process to transition toward safer and healthier food and agricultural production," they said.

    Each Day's Meal Can Help Bring Us Closer to the Tipping Point

    You can help steer the agricultural industry toward safer, more sustainable systems by supporting local farmers dedicated to regenerative farming practices. The Demeter mark, indicative of Biodynamic certification, is the new platinum standard for high-quality foods raised and grown in accordance to the strictest environmental parameters possible.

    Biodynamic is essentially organic on steroids, far surpassing it in terms of its environmental impact. Unfortunately, Biodynamic certified foods are still scarce in the U.S., unless you happen to live near a certified farm.

    Most Biodynamic farms only sell locally or regionally. You can find a directory of certified farms on biodynamicfood.org. We hope to change that as we move forward, and building consumer demand is what will drive that change. Other U.S.-based organizations that can help you locate wholesome farm-fresh foods include the following:

    American Grassfed Association

    The goal of the American Grassfed Association is to promote the grass fed industry through government relations, research, concept marketing and public education.

    Their website also allows you to search for AGA approved producers certified according to strict standards that include being raised on a diet of 100 percent forage; raised on pasture and never confined to a feedlot; never treated with antibiotics or hormones; born and raised on American family farms.


    EatWild.com provides lists of farmers known to produce raw dairy products as well as grass fed beef and other farm-fresh produce (although not all are certified organic). Here you can also find information about local farmers markets, as well as local stores and restaurants that sell grass fed products.

    Weston A. Price Foundation

    Weston A. Price has local chapters in most states, and many of them are connected with buying clubs in which you can easily purchase organic foods, including grass fed raw dairy products like milk and butter.

    Grassfed Exchange

    The Grassfed Exchange has a listing of producers selling organic and grass fed meats across the U.S.

    Local Harvest

    This website will help you find farmers markets, family farms and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass fed meats and many other goodies.

    Farmers Markets

    A national listing of farmers markets.

    Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals

    The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, hotels and online outlets in the United States and Canada.

    Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA)

    CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.


    The FoodRoutes "Find Good Food" map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs and markets near you.

    The Cornucopia Institute

    The Cornucopia Institute maintains web-based tools rating all certified organic brands of eggs, dairy products and other commodities, based on their ethical sourcing and authentic farming practices separating CAFO "organic" production from authentic organic practices.


    If you're still unsure of where to find raw milk, check out Raw-Milk-Facts.com and RealMilk.com. They can tell you what the status is for legality in your state, and provide a listing of raw dairy farms in your area. The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund19 also provides a state-by-state review of raw milk laws.20 California residents can also find raw milk retailers using the store locator available at www.OrganicPastures.com.

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  • Big Chickens, Little Nutrition
    published on October 16th, 2017 at 12:50 PM

    By Dr. Mercola

    Most people would agree with the assessment "you are what you eat," yet many overlook the fact that this holds true for the food you eat, too. If the chicken on your dinner plate was fed an unnatural diet of genetically engineered (GE) soy and grains (or worse) — what essentially boils down to junk food for birds — it can't be expected to be optimally healthy, nor optimally nutritious.

    Because most poultry in the U.S. comes from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), The Guardian went so far as to state, "In 50 years, poultry has gone from being a health food to a junk food," pointing out a study from London Metropolitan University that found, compared to 1940, chicken in 2004 contained more than twice as much fat, one-third more calories and one-third less protein, the latter being the main nutritional reason most people eat chicken.1

    Levels of healthy fats in chicken, namely beneficial animal-based omega-3s including DHA, have also changed considerably. The London Metropolitan University study, written by professor Michael Crawford of London Metropolitan University, found that eating 100 grams (about one-quarter pound) of chicken in 1980 would give you 170 milligrams (mg) of DHA, but that same amount of chicken in 2004 would provide just 25 mg.

    Omega-6 fats, on the other hand — the kind most Americans get way too much of, courtesy of highly processed vegetable oils — increased, rising from 2,400 mg in 1980 to 6,290 mg in 2004.

    If you're not familiar with the importance of the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, the ideal ratio is 1-to-1, but the typical Western diet may be between 1-to-20 and 1-to-50. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a ratio of 1-to-5 for general health and 1-to-2 for optimal brain development. CAFO chicken, and for that matter CAFO anything, certainly isn't helping anyone achieve that goal.

    Nutrition Declines When Animals Are Fed Grains Instead of Grass

    Crawford told The Guardian that a large part of the problem with declining nutrition in chicken and other animal foods is the fact that nearly all livestock is fed grains instead of grass and other species-appropriate foods:2

    "Animal husbandry started with grass and green foods, which are rich in omega-3. That is the beauty of [some] fish and seafood because it's still largely wild, it's still living in an omega-3-rich environment.

    The same used to be true of livestock animals — even chickens used to roam free and live off seeds and herbs — but that is no longer the case. It really is a question of redesigning our food and agriculture systems so they are more keyed in to the pivotal priority of human physiology — namely, our original genome being shaped by wild foods."

    The American Pastured Poultry Producers Association (APPPA) also published a study that compared the nutrition of chickens fed on pasture with the USDA's National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference values for CAFO chicken. The pasture-raised chickens were higher in vitamins D3 and E and had an average omega-3-to-6 ratio of 1-to-5, compared to the USDA's value of 1-to-15.3

    Bigger Chickens Were Made Possible by Antibiotics

    You might consider the plump chicken breasts at your grocery store to be the norm when it comes to chicken sizes, but as recently as the 1920s, most people did not consider raising chickens for their meat — they were far too scrawny. At that time, chickens were raised for eggs only, but that changed around 1923, when a farmer in Delaware accidentally placed an order for too many hatchling chickens (500 instead of 50), so she sold them for meat.

    In her book "Big Chicken: The Incredible Story of How Antibiotics Created Modern Agriculture and Changed the Way the World Eats," journalist Maryn McKenna explains how this one mistake led chickens to become big business. Part of the story, unfortunately, was the discovery that feeding chickens antibiotics made them grow about 2.5 times faster.

    Around that same time, in 1948, a national "Chicken of Tomorrow" contest, seeking to develop a meatier chicken, was sponsored by A&P supermarket and supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    The major lines of chickens sold in the U.S. today can all be traced back to the contest's winner. Between the use of antibiotics for growth promotion and the genetic selection of chickens that grow faster and larger, the average chicken today is four times bigger than chickens in the 1950s; chicken breasts are also 80 percent larger.4

    'The Hidden Cost of Cheap Chicken'

    As noted by the Cornucopia Institute,5 the price of chicken has dropped dramatically over the past few decades, becoming the cheapest meat available in the U.S. As a result, consumption has doubled since 1970.

    Seeing how chicken is supposed to be a healthy source of high-quality nutrition, the fact that it has become so affordable might seem to be a great benefit. But there's a major flaw in this equation. As it turns out, it's virtually impossible to mass-produce clean, safe, optimally nutritious foods at rock-bottom prices, and this has been true since the beginning of "industrialized farming." McKenna wrote:6

    "Chicken prices fell so low that it became the meat that Americans eat more than any other — and the meat most likely to transmit foodborne illness, and also antibiotic resistance, the greatest slow-brewing health crisis of our time."

    In their report, "The Hidden Cost of Cheap Chicken," the Cornucopia Institute pointed out three primary issues with the CAFO chicken that accounts for 99 percent of poultry sold in U.S. grocery stores:7

    Ethics: Chickens are intelligent and deserving of access to the outdoors where they can express their natural behaviors. Sadly, in CAFOS, "The National Chicken Council, the trade association for the U.S. chicken industry, issues Animal Welfare Guidelines that indicate a stocking density of 96 square inches for a bird of average market weight — that's about the size of a standard sheet of American 8.5-inch by 11-inch typing paper … They are unable to move without pushing through other birds, unable to stretch their wings at will, or to get away from more dominant, aggressive birds."

    Environment: CAFOs are notorious polluters of the land, air and water, with problems reported across the U.S. The report noted:

    "In Warren County, in northern New Jersey, Michael Patrisko, who lives near an egg factory farm, told a local newspaper that the flies around his neighborhood are so bad, 'You literally can look at a house and think it's a different color.' Buckeye Egg Farm in Ohio was fined $366,000 for failing to handle its manure properly.

    Nearby residents had complained for years about rats, flies, foul odors, and polluted streams from the 14-million-hen complex. At the same time, [former] Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson was threatening to sue Arkansas poultry producers, including Tyson Foods, saying that waste from the companies' operations is destroying Oklahoma lakes and streams, especially in the northeast corner of the state."

    Human Health: The spread of infectious disease and antibiotic-resistant superbugs is a fact of life at CAFOs. In 2015, a bird flu outbreak among U.S. poultry led to the destruction of millions of chickens and turkeys in three states (Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa) before spreading elsewhere in the U.S.

    Even though there were supposed safeguards in place to contain deadly disease outbreaks from spreading, poultry veterinarians noted that those strategies failed, as the bird flu managed to spread across 14 states in five months.

    Not to mention, one study by the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) found that chicken samples gathered at the end of production after having been cut into parts, as you would purchase in the grocery store, had an astonishing positive rate of 26.2 percent contamination with salmonella.8

    Growing Soy to Feed Chickens Is Also Devastating the Environment

    Allowing chickens to roam freely is better for the chickens, the planet and nutrition, yet another reason being because it could cut down on the staggering amount of soy and other crops grown as chicken feed. A report by wildlife group WWF noted that poultry is the biggest user of crop-based feed globally and, in turn, 60 percent of the loss of global biodiversity can be tied back to the food we eat, particularly crop-based animal feed.9

    Further, the report estimated that if demand for animal products continues to grow as expected, soy production would need to increase by nearly 80 percent to feed those animals, which would strain already vulnerable areas:10

    "Feed crops are already produced in a large number of Earth's most valuable and vulnerable areas, such as the Amazon, Cerrado, Congo Basin, Yangtze, Mekong, Himalayas and the Deccan Plateau forests. Many of these high-risk regions already suffer significant pressure on land and water resources, are not adequately covered by conservation schemes.

    The growing demand for livestock products and the associated intensification and agricultural expansion threaten the biodiversity of these areas and the resource and water security of their inhabitants, as well as the stability of our food supply."

    Again, the research shows that feeding CAFO animals an unnatural and environmentally expensive diet does not yield a superior product. On the contrary, you'd need to eat six CAFO chickens to get the same amount of omega-3 fats found in a chicken from the 1970s.11

    Eggs From Pastured Hens Are Also Healthier

    It's not only chicken meat that benefits nutritionally from pasture. Not surprisingly, chicken eggs do too. A study by researchers in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences revealed that eggs from pastured hens had twice as much vitamin E and long-chain omega-3 fats compared to eggs from CAFO hens. The eggs' omega-6-to-3 ratio was also less than half that of the commercial hens' eggs.12 Study co-author Paul Patterson, professor of poultry science, said in a news release:13

    "The chicken has a short digestive tract and can rapidly assimilate dietary nutrients … Fat-soluble vitamins in the diet are readily transferred to the liver and then the egg yolk. Egg-nutrient levels are responsive to dietary change … Other research has demonstrated that all the fat-soluble vitamins, including A and E, and the unsaturated fats, linoleic and linolenic acids, are egg responsive, and that hen diet has a marked influence on the egg concentration."

    You can usually tell eggs are from pastured hens by the color of the egg yolk. Foraged hens produce eggs with bright orange yolks, and this is what most people who raise backyard chickens are after. Dull, pale yellow yolks are a sure sign you're getting eggs from caged hens that are not allowed to forage for their natural diet.

    Chicken Can Be at the Center of Large-Scale Regenerative Agriculture

    Regenerative agriculture focusing on grass fed beef is a popular topic, and a worthy one at that, but chickens also have an important role to play in regenerative agriculture. Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin, an innovator in the field of regenerative agriculture, has developed an ingenious system that has the potential to transform the way food is grown. According to Reginaldo, regenerative agriculture needs to be centered around livestock in order to be optimized, and adding chickens is an easy way to do that.

    Reginaldo's program has generated a system that has regenerative impact both on the ecology and the economy, meaning it restores the ecology that produces food, and the economic flows necessary for that food to be economically sustainable and resilient. It also addresses the social conditions of food production in the U.S (and elsewhere), which is important considering the fact that farmworkers are typically poorly paid immigrants.

    The chickens are completely free-range, with access to grasses and sprouts as they are rotated between paddocks. This system significantly reduces the amount of labor involved as compared with other ideas out there.

    Further, in a poultry-centered regenerative system, tall grasses and trees protect the birds from predators instead of cages — in addition to optimizing soil temperature and moisture content, extracting excess nutrients that the chickens deposit, bringing up valuable minerals from below the soil surface and being a high-value perennial crop. It's the opposite of CAFOS — regenerating the land instead of destroying it, raising chickens humanely instead of cruelly and producing nutritionally superior, not inferior, food.

    Choosing Safer, More Humane Chicken and Eggs

    Choosing food that comes from small regenerative farms — not CAFOs — is crucial. While avoiding CAFO meats, look for antibiotic-free alternatives raised by organic and regenerative farmers. Unfortunately, loopholes abound, allowing CAFO-raised chickens and eggs to masquerade as "free-range" and "organic."

    The Cornucopia Institute addressed some of these issues in their egg report and scorecard, which ranks egg producers according to 28 organic criteria. It can help you to make a more educated choice if you're buying your eggs at the supermarket.

    Ultimately, the best choice is to get to know a local farmer and get your meat and eggs there directly. Alternatively, you might consider raising your own backyard chickens. Backyard chickens are growing in popularity, and many U.S. cities are adjusting zoning restrictions accordingly. Requirements vary widely depending on your locale, with many limiting the number of chickens you can raise or requiring quarterly inspections (at a cost) and permits, so check with your city before taking the plunge.

    You might be surprised to find that your city already allows chickens, as even many large, urban cities have jumped on board (Chicago, Illinois, for instance, allows residents to keep an unlimited number of chickens, as "pets" or for eggs, provided you keep a humane and adequately sized coop). However, even if you don't want to raise your own chickens but still want farm-fresh eggs, you have many options. Finding high-quality organic, pastured eggs locally is getting easier, as virtually every rural area has individuals with chickens.

    If you live in an urban area, visiting the local health food stores is typically the quickest route to finding high-quality local egg sources. Farmers markets and food co-ops are another great way to meet the people who produce your food. With face-to-face contact, you can get your questions answered and know exactly what you're buying. Better yet, visit the farm — ask for a tour. If they have nothing to hide, they should be eager to show you their operation.

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  • 75 Percent of Honey Contaminated With Pesticides
    published on October 16th, 2017 at 12:50 PM

    By Dr. Mercola

    The process of bees turning flower nectar into honey is one of the marvels of nature. After sucking the nectar from a flower, a honeybee stores the sweet juice in her stomach, carrying an amount close to her own weight, back to the hive. There, she delivers the nectar to an indoor bee, and it is passed from one bee to the next, mouth-to-mouth, until its moisture content reduces to about 20 percent, forming honey.

    Other times, the nectar may be stored in honeycomb cells before the bee-to-bee moisture-reducing process, as the storage process helps to jumpstart the evaporation. Once the honey is created, bees store it in cells capped with beeswax to feed newborn and adult bees.1

    Humans have also developed a taste for the sweet, sticky treat, which is often regarded as one of the purest sweeteners available. However, recent research has revealed that honey is contaminated with neonicotinoid pesticides, with concerning ramifications for bees and humans alike.

    Honey Contaminated With Neonicotinoid Pesticides

    In a sampling of honey collected around the world, the majority of samples were found to be contaminated with neonicotinoid pesticides, including acetamiprid, clothianidin, imidacloprid, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam. Nearly 200 honey samples were tested, with neonicotinoids found in 75 percent of them. Forty-five percent of the samples contained two or more of the pesticides, while 10 percent contained four or five.2

    "The fact that 45 percent of our samples showed multiple contaminations is worrying and indicates that bee populations throughout the world are exposed to a cocktail of neonicotinoids," the researchers wrote. "The effects of exposure to multiple pesticides, which have only recently started to be explored, are suspected to be stronger than the sum of individual effects."3

    Broken down by continent, 86 percent of North American samples contained neonicotinoids, along with 80 percent from Asia, 79 percent from Europe and 57 percent from South America.4 While the levels of pesticides detected were supposedly safe for human consumption, nearly half of the samples contained concentrations known to harm bees.5

    Even the researchers were shocked by the prevalence of the bee-harming pesticides. Lead study author Edward Mitchell, a soil biologist at Switzerland's University of Neuchatel, told The Globe and Mail, "It just shows us that they are used almost everywhere in the world. It's really amazing … Bees, by collecting nectar up to 10 or 12 kilometers (6.2 to 7.45 miles) around the hive, they really are good sensors of contamination of pesticides in the environment."6

    What Happens to Bees Exposed to Neonicotinoids?

    Neonicotinoids are the most widely used insecticides on the planet, the researchers noted. As systemic pesticides, the chemicals are taken up by the plants and contaminate flowers, nectar and pollen. "Neonicotinoids are suspected to pose an unacceptable risk to bees, partly because of their systemic uptake in plants, and the European Union has therefore introduced a moratorium on three neonicotinoids as seed coatings in flowering crops that attract bees," a separate study published in Nature revealed in 2015.7

    However, the majority of soybean, corn, canola and sunflower seeds planted in the U.S. are precoated with neonicotinoid pesticides (neonics). The chemicals persist and accumulate in soils, and since they're water soluble they leach into waterways where other types of wildlife may be affected. Adding insult to injury, according to an investigation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), treating soybean seeds with neonicotinoids provides no significant financial or agricultural benefits for farmers.8

    Yet, the practice continues, even as neonicotinoids have been blamed for declines in pollinators in the U.S. and elsewhere. Neonicotinoids affect insects' central nervous systems in ways that are cumulative and irreversible. Even minute amounts can have profound effects over time. One of the observed effects of these insecticides is weakening of the bee's immune system, allowing them to fall prey to secondary, seemingly "natural" bee infections, such as parasites, mites, viruses, fungi and bacteria.

    While the effects of different neonicotinoids have long been regarded as interchangeable, each may actually affect bees differently. Bayer's imidacloprid was found to cut the number of egg-containing brood cells by 46 percent, for instance, while Syngenta's thiamethoxam decreased the number of live bees by 38 percent.9

    Clothianidin, another neonicotinoid made by Bayer, had a curious effect of increasing the number of queens produced, which the researchers noted could potentially backfire if, "say, all those queens turned out to be infertile."10 Lead researcher Christopher Connolly, Ph.D., of the University of Dundee, told the Guardian, "I think there is sufficient evidence for a ban on imidacloprid and thiamethoxam … "11

    Exposure to Neonics in Wild Queen Bees 'Increases Probability of Population Extinction'

    Much of the research surrounding neonicotinoids surrounds commercially bred honeybees and bumblebees, but wild bees are also at risk. One study involved 18 years of U.K. wild bee distribution data for 62 species, which were compared to amounts of neonicotinoid use in oilseed rape, a crop grown to produce canola oil. The researchers found evidence of increased wild bee population extinction rates in response to neonicotinoid seed treatment.

    While bees that forage on oilseed rape have historically benefited from its availability, according to the researchers, once the crops are treated with neonicotinoids (as up to 85 percent of England's oilseed rape crops are) they have detrimental impacts on the bees. In fact, wild foraging bees were three times more likely to be negatively affected by exposure to neonicotinoids than noncrop foragers. Overall, about 50 percent of the total decline in wild bees was linked to the pesticides.12

    In another study, researchers fed queen bees a syrup containing neonicotinoids (thiamethoxam) in an amount similar to what would be found in neonic-treated canola fields. Queens exposed to the chemical were 26 percent less likely to lay eggs.13 According to the study, which was published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, the finding is an ominous warning for the future of bees:14

    "Modelling the impacts of a 26 percent reduction in colony founding on population dynamics dramatically increased the likelihood of population extinction. This shows that neonicotinoids can affect this critical stage in the bumblebee lifecycle and may have significant impacts on population dynamics."

    Honey Is Also Contaminated With Glyphosate

    Research by a U.S. Food and Drug Association (FDA) chemist and a colleague from the University of Iowa revealed glyphosate residues of 653 parts per billion (ppb) in some honey samples — an amount that's more than 10 times the European limit of 50 ppb.15 Other samples contained residues ranging from 20 ppb to 123 ppb. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Monsanto's widely used RoundUp pesticide.

    Bees, as pollinators, travel from plant to plant. With grasslands being increasingly converted into genetically engineered (GE) corn and soybean fields where glyphosate is amply sprayed, it's easy for them to become contaminated and then transfer that contamination to their honey. Research published in the journal Nature Communications has similarly revealed that pollen collected next to corn fields is contaminated with up to 32 different pesticides.16

    At this point, the effects of these chemical exposures on bees is unknown, but common sense would indicate that they can't be good. In addition to neonics, for instance, glyphosate has been implicated as being at least partly responsible for bee die-offs. In many cases of bee die-offs, the bees become disoriented, suggesting endocrine hormone disruption.

    Glyphosate is a very strong endocrine hormone disruptor. GMO expert Don Huber, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of plant pathology at Purdue University, also cited a study on glyphosate in drinking water at levels that are commonly found in U.S. water systems, showing 30 percent mortality in bees exposed to it.

    Syngenta Defends Neonicotinoids

    The European Union is considering a permanent ban on neonicotinoids to protect pollinators, but Syngenta is speaking out in their favor, calling pesticides only a "very minor element" in declining bee health and claiming that neonics have been singled out among them. Their rhetoric isn't surprising, especially considering that insecticides accounted for nearly 13 percent of their revenue in 2016.17

    Yet, as the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, a nonprofit wildlife conservation group, explains, "Avoiding pesticide use is the best option for conserving pollinators. Most insecticides (and a handful of fungicides and herbicides) can kill bees directly or have sublethal effects that reduce the number of offspring a female bee can produce." They also recommend alternatives to pesticides as an important step in pollinator conservation:18

    "A plant that is growing vigorously, with minimal stress, can avoid or outgrow many diseases and insect pests … It is also important to recognize and work with naturally occurring pest controls (beneficial insects that prey upon pests). A healthy and diverse landscape with sufficient natural habitat can support large numbers of native predators and/or parasites of insect pests.

    Pesticides may eliminate these beneficial insects where they are used, leading to chronic pest problems. Fortunately, many of the same strategies that protect pollinators will support these other native beneficial insects, further reducing the need for pest control. For farms, maximizing crop diversity and practicing crop rotation to disrupt pest populations are some basic strategies to reduce pest problems."

    Playing a Part in Protecting Pollinators

    As for honey, at this time there's no easy way to know whether the variety you buy is contaminated with pesticides, but if the featured study is any indication, there's a good chance it is. Of even greater concern, however, is the preservation of pollinators as a whole, as they're essential to the growth of at least 30 percent of the world's food crops.19

    To avoid harming bees and other helpful pollinators that visit your garden, swap out toxic pesticide and lawn chemicals for organic weed and pest control alternatives. But be aware that even some organic formulations can be harmful to beneficial insects, so be sure to vet your products carefully. The Xerces Society explains:20

    "Pyrethrin, and spinosad, are both common pesticides in organic farming, and are broad-spectrum insect killers, destroying pest and beneficial species alike. Other organic-approved products are safer to use as long as they are not applied where pollinators are actively foraging or nesting. Less toxic pesticides include horticultural oils and insecticidal soaps."

    Better yet, get rid of your lawn altogether and plant an edible organic garden. Both flower and vegetable gardens provide good honeybee habitats. It's also recommended to keep a small basin of fresh water in your garden or backyard, as bees do get thirsty. In addition, you'll want to grow your own pollinator-friendly plants from organic, untreated seeds. If you opt to purchase starter plants, make sure to ask whether or not they've been pre-treated with pesticides.

    Keep in mind that you also help protect the welfare of all pollinators every time you shop organic and grass fed, as you are actually "voting" for less pesticides and herbicides with every organic and pastured food and consumer product you buy. The video above, from the Pesticide Research Institute (PRI), gives examples of 12 pollinator-friendly plants that are good sources of nectar and pollen to add to your garden.

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  • Eat Your Prunes
    published on October 15th, 2017 at 12:50 PM

    By Dr. Mercola

    If your impression of prunes is that they're something old people eat for help with regularity (although there is that), you could use a bit more information about the benefits of this delicious food. For some people, prunes have somehow gleaned a reputation as dry, mealy and terrible-tasting, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Sure, they may look a little odd, being a wrinkly, purple-to-black lump, but they're tasty to the point of crave worthy.

    In case you're not familiar with prunes, they're simply dried plums, just like raisins are dried grapes. More specifically, prunes are sun-dried plums that skipped the fermentation process.1 To make the moist little morsels more intriguing to 25- through 54-year-old females, the California Prune Board asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to begin referring to prunes as "dried plums."

    It must be working, as prune consumption shifted. Europe is on the receiving end of 40 percent of the California prune market, and it's jumped 37 percent in just the last year, Fresh Plaza, a global produce news site, notes:

    "It is moving away from the traditional home baking and breakfast occasions into the acceptance of prunes as a healthy snack and a versatile ingredient for home cooking. Chefs from all around the world are starting to recognize the significant benefits of including prunes in a whole range of recipes."2

    Prunes, much like peaches, are referred to as "freestone," meaning the large pit in the center can stay intact through the drying process, then be easily removed before packaging. Medicine throughout centuries made use of prunes for fever, high blood pressure, jaundice, diabetes, digestion and constipation, still one of its most popular remedies.

    Eat Your Prunes — They're Good for You

    Just like raisins, prunes offer chewy sweetness and amazing versatility as well as plenty of surprising nutrients. Fiber, potassium, iron and retinol from vitamin A are some of its most prominent nutrients (in fact, the drying process increases the fiber content)3 as are the vitamin K and beta-carotenes.

    While I don't recommend you eat an entire cup (174 grams) of pitted prunes in one sitting due to their fructose content (about 5 grams in five prunes4), if you did, you'd get 12 grams, or 49 percent,5 of the recommended dietary allowance (RDI) of fiber, which is what U.S. health organizations say you need for one day (I believe about 50 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories consumed is ideal, however).

    Fiber is crucial for moving food smoothly through your colon, which automatically lowers your risk of colon cancer. In fact, two studies — the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian (PLCO) Screening Trial and another by the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) — noted that "dietary fiber intake is inversely related to the incidence of colon adenomas and cancer."6

    Even more recent studies have come to the same conclusion, such as one conducted in 2015 by researchers at Texas A&M. Nancy Turner, AgriLife research professor in the nutrition and food science department, showed that dried plum consumption provides beneficial effects by helping your colon retain advantageous gut microbiota.7

    The 36 percent RDI in potassium,8 a mineral crucial for good health, you get from eating 1 cup of prunes helps balance the chemical and electrical processes in your body, lowers your risk of stroke and heart disease along with your blood pressure and optimizes several other important body functions.

    In the same cup of prunes, you also get 129 percent of the DRI in vitamin K, which may help prevent inflammation and osteoporosis and improve your insulin sensitivity.9 Other prominent nutrients in prunes include more than 20 percent DRI of several B vitamins10 along with notable amounts of vitamin A, calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium and boron.

    Prunes Should Be Eaten in Moderation

    Prunes are a rich source of simple sugars, including fructose. Despite this, research has shown dried plums do not lead to a rapid rise in blood sugar concentration when consumed,11 possibly due to their high fiber and sorbitol content. However, the fructose still constitutes good reason to limit your intake, as is true in regard to consuming most other fruits. Fruits such as plums and prunes can be good for you, but in limited amounts.

    One medium prune contains 1.2 grams of fructose. If you're insulin or leptin resistant (are overweight, diabetic, hypertensive or have high cholesterol), then it would be especially advisable for you to limit your fruit intake.

    As a general rule, I recommend limiting your fructose intake to a maximum of 15 grams of fructose per day from all sources, including whole fruit. If you are not insulin/leptin resistant (are of normal weight without diabetes, hypertension or high cholesterol) I suggest limiting your fructose intake to 25 grams per day (or less) from all sources.

    What Have Prunes Done for You Lately?

    Prunes, as you've already read, contain a lot of extremely health-beneficial nutrients. It's how they relate to your body in terms of disease prevention, however, that makes them so valuable. The end conclusion of one study, for instance, reported in the Journal of Medicinal Plants Research, lists several of those benefits:

    "Prunes have been found pharmacologically active as antioxidant, anticancer, anxiolytic, mild laxative and antihyperlipedimic. Their efficacy in treatment and prevention of … osteoporosis has been documented in clinical studies.

    It exerts positive effects on cardiovascular parameters possibly through antioxidant activities, high fiber and potassium contents. In conclusion, prunes have wide range of nutritional and medicinal uses and daily consumption can be beneficial in the treatment or prevention of different ailments."12

    Flavonoid polyphenolic antioxidants in plums, such as lutein and cryptoxanthin, help scavenge free radicals from your body. Free radicals come from toxins that enter your body through your skin and the air you breathe, such as pollution and toxic fumes from household cleaners, food dyes and other unhealthy food ingredients. Free radicals are also produced normally during metabolism. Medical News Today reports:

    "Antioxidants, called polyphenols, may prevent cell mutation and reduce cancer cell formation. Prunes were found to have the highest range of polyphenols when compared with other dried fruits, such as raisins, figs, and dates."13

    Bahram H. Arjmandi, Ph.D., a registered dietician and researcher at Florida State University, was one of the first to investigate "estrogen receptors in the gut to aid in calcium transport and to demonstrate the efficacy of dried plum in protecting bone in both animal models of osteoporosis and postmenopausal women."14 NDTV's Smart Cooky quotes Arjmandi:

    "Over my career, I have tested numerous fruits, including figs, dates, strawberries and raisins, and none of them come anywhere close to having the effect on bone density that dried plums or prunes have. All fruits and vegetables have a positive effect on nutrition, but in terms of bone health, this particular food is exceptional."15

    Other Good Things You Get From Eating Prunes

    The incredible compounds in prunes provide several benefits that may seem unrelated, which just goes to show you how all-encompassing such nutrients can be. Here are several more super advantages you gain:

    1. Prunes are considered heart healthy, mostly due to the potassium content, which optimizes heart function and nerve responses throughout your body. Daily potassium intake helps lower your blood pressure, as well as your risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke.

    2. Prunes help fight osteoporosis, in part due to the boron content, which Alive, a health and wellness site, explains:

    "Helps regulate mineral metabolism and optimizes estrogen levels, which in turn increases calcium absorption. Additionally, boron helps convert vitamin D to its active form, which helps the osteoblasts [bone-building cells] utilize calcium for bone formation."16

    3. Eating prunes benefits your hair and skin due to the array of vitamins and minerals they provide, which even help slow signs of aging, such as wrinkles. High amounts of iron helps prevent a deficiency that can show up in dry, discolored hair, and even hair loss.

    4. Prune consumption benefits your vision due to high vitamin A, which produces retinol. Being deficient in this vitamin is a leading cause of macular degeneration, dry eyes, cataracts and night blindness.

    5. The nutrients in prunes go a long way. Nutritionist Anshul Jaibharat offers both a caution and an encouragement:

    "Prunes are high in natural sugar, so too many may not be good for people watching their weight. After all, excess of anything is stored as fat in your body. Prunes have such high nutritional values ensuring that you can eat just one piece and still gain measurable nutrients."17

    Is Prune Juice Beneficial for Constipation?

    You've no doubt heard about the effects of prune juice being a good laxative. In fact, studies have shown it to be even more effective than psyllium husk at treating constipation.18 Prune juice, too, is lauded for decreasing the "transit time" of foods in your digestive tract.

    For people with constipation, eating the whole prune may be enough to get things moving, and I recommend trying this first. If the constipation persists, you could try drinking a small amount of prune juice in the morning to help stimulate the desired action. Additionally, another dose half an hour to an hour after a meal might prove helpful, as well.19

    I do not, however, recommend drinking prune juice regularly or in large quantities because of the sugar content. If chronic constipation is a problem for you, there are many other natural strategies to treat it. Constipation aside, here are a few more ways to incorporate whole prunes into your diet:

    • Use kitchen shears to cut prunes in smaller pieces to toss into salad greens or mixed with quinoa, coconut and chopped walnuts.
    • They're a great snack for traveling, whether you're in the car or on a walking trail, and even in your lunchbox.
    • An ounce (28 grams) can be added to smoothies for a bit of natural sweetness, as well as extra antioxidants and fiber.
    • Pitted prunes and a little water in your food processor produces a tasty topping for everything from banana bread made from coconut flour to homemade vanilla bean ice cream sweetened with stevia. (As is nearly always the case, the healthiest recipes are those you make yourself.)
    • Try adding a handful of prunes to savory dishes such as chicken with rosemary and basil.


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  • Spicy Foods Offer Much More Than Heat
    published on October 15th, 2017 at 12:50 PM

    By Dr. Mercola

    Spices are a wonderful addition to foods and beverages because they can add just the right flair. Nutmeg, for instance, lends quiet warmth and complexity, in desserts like apple crisp and in vegetables like spinach, as in the savory Indian dish, saag paneer. And paprika lends mild sweetness to meat dishes and goulash.

    But flavor is just one trait that makes spices such an integral part of cooking and eating. They can also be incredibly good for your health and help you reach your weight goals. One of the great things about adding spices of any kind to your meals is that the flavor can help you feel more satisfied, so you don't feel so deprived when you eat foods with fewer calories, says Jaclyn London, senior clinical dietician at Mount Sinai Hospital.1

    London adds that in regard to spices, "The key is that all the ones we talk about for weight loss or maintenance have anti-inflammatory properties and a flavor profile that may help limit overall calorie intake." With that, here are several examples of spices to try in your quest to lose weight.

    Warming Spices to Narrow Your Waistline


    While cinnamon is delicious and warming, it also kicks in your metabolism. Studies also show it helps reduce blood glucose levels and improve insulin resistance for people with type 2 diabetes. In fact, in one study published in Diabetes Care concluded that it:

    "Reduced serum glucose [and] triglyceride … levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Because [it] would not contribute to caloric intake, [people with] type 2 diabetes or elevated glucose [or] triglyceride … levels may benefit from the regular inclusion of cinnamon in their daily diet."2

    Nutritionist and author Marilyn Glenville, Ph.D., the former president of the Food and Health Forum at the UK Royal Society of Medicine, warns that people with bleeding disorders or anyone taking blood thinners such as warfarin or heparin should avoid cinnamon, as it contains the blood-thinning compound coumarin.3


    There's a popular legend that Confucius ate ginger at every meal. One reason why may be explained in a study reported by the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hematology, which explored the effects of ginger on "gastric motility," aka how quickly food moved through the colon instead of sticking around and causing problems.4

    The study involved 11 patients, some of whom were given placebos, and concluded with the statement that ginger encouraged more antral contractions in comparison between the two, which conceivably promoted more rapid gastric emptying.5 It also boosts insulin sensitivity, which London explains is due to ginger's anti-inflammatory properties, reducing fatty acids and promoting weight stability.


    Referred to as the "queen of spices" in India and Nepal, cardamom is one of the most expensive spices but still a very popular ingredient in tea and coffee. It's related to cinnamon and is shown in studies to help lower blood glucose levels and regulate your insulin, as well as optimize your cholesterol levels.6

    Studies say this little-known spice, a thermogenic herb, has dozens of other valuable health benefits and uses, besides being antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory, which can sooth your gastrointestinal system and enhance your metabolic function.7

    Cardamom is regarded as a diuretic in Ayurvedic tradition. One study also compared it favorably with8 commercial products designed to relieve weight retention, colic, diarrhea and constipation.9 It's also been noted for balancing gut flora to optimize digestion.10

    Spicy Foods Offer Much More Than Heat

    Chili powder

    You've heard the term "active ingredient." Well, the active ingredient in chili powder is capsaicin. London calls chili powder a "triple threat" because as it boosts your energy, it can help you eat slower.

    Additionally, a sprinkle of chili powder on your food may inspire you to eat more healthy plant-based offerings rather than an extra helping of bread or rice. All three advantages relate to eating less, which may be what you're hoping for. Capsaicin also stimulates brown fat, a type of fat that generates heat by helping you burn calories, which is why it's being explored as a tool for weight loss, healthy metabolism and more.11

    Black pepper

    Recent animal studies note that piperine's ability to inhibit new fat cells from forming, known as adipogenesis, helps reduce waist size and body fat and optimizes cholesterol levels.12 With similar effects to capsaicin, Europeans have used black pepper for thousands of years in traditional medicine to treat inflammation and digestive problems. Its effectiveness is due in part to a compound known as piperine. Daily Mail notes:

    "Piperine has similar effects to capsaicin in chilies and is what gives black pepper its heat. It's the heat which helps prevent the formation of new fat cells, especially if you decide to indulge in a mouth-searing meal featuring pepper and chili."13


    Known for jazzing up Southwestern fare, cumin is also capable of suppressing your appetite and keeping fat cells from showing up again after weight loss.


    Ginseng, particularly the Siberian variety, is known for speeding up your metabolism and giving you a "second wind" of energy, which may be why tea with ginseng has been a "thing" all over Asia and Europe for centuries. Siberian ginseng is known as an adaptogen, which Daily Mail describes as something that "works according to what your body needs." Glenville says it provides energy when required, and helps combat stress and fatigue when you are under pressure.14

    Cayenne pepper

    Cayenne pepper is noted for a phenomenon known as thermogenesis, which consumes oxygen in your body and can result in weight loss. It contains capsaicin, which gives it its heat, but also promotes fat oxidation15 and increases fat burning by as much as 16 percent.

    Capsaicin has been shown to have potential for promoting metabolic and vascular health. Further, the same study shows it has "favorable effects" on atherosclerosis, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, non-alcoholic fatty liver, cardiac hypertrophy and stroke risk.16 But while spice is good, Eat This observes there's such a thing as too much: 

    "Too much spicy food can send you to Toilet Town, but a little hit of capsaicin, the compound that gives chili pepper its powerful kick, has proven to reduce belly fat, suppress appetite and boost thermogenesis."17

    Spices Further Your Weight Loss Goals in Surprising Ways

    Garlic powder

    Practically speaking, one reason garlic powder can help you lose weight is because its strong flavor may make you take smaller bites and also eat slower, which may prevent you from eating too much. Studies also indicate that when you eat garlic, your body temperature can increase, a sure sign of a revved up metabolism. Spry Living says:

    "Garlic is thermogenic. It makes your body generate heat, which burns calories [and] revs up an enzyme called AMP-activated protein kinase that regulates metabolism. This enzyme targets many areas of the body, including muscles and a form of fat called brown fat, which produces heat and burns off calories."18


    Practically a prerequisite for any kind of Indian curry, turmeric is a huge star in the constellation of beneficial spices. London notes that when it comes to weight loss, turmeric can differentiate fat cells by halting their formation and ability to reduce in size.19 Detailing why this is important, Glenville notes:

    "Its active ingredient is curcumin and although the research has not shown that curcumin can actually help with weight loss, it is thought to stop the regrowth of fat after someone has lost weight. This could be helpful as many people end up putting back the weight they have lost after a diet."20

    Turmeric also helps reduce inflammation, which can be a significant contributor to obesity and the inability to lose weight. One study notes:

    "Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric. Evidence suggests curcumin may regulate lipid metabolism, which plays a central role in the development of obesity and its complications. The present review addresses the evidence and mechanisms by which curcumin may play a role in downregulating obesity and reducing the impact of associated problems."21

    Mustard seed

    It's probably no surprise that the compound in mustard seed that's responsible for burning fat and enhancing your metabolism is, once again, capsaicin. Glenville explains:

    "Mustard is part of the cruciferous family of vegetables which are thought to have many health benefits. Other cruciferous vegetables include cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. If you are buying ready-made mustard make sure that it does not contain sugar as this is going to be counter-productive for your weight."22

    Another study at Oxford Polytechnic University in England found that 1 teaspoon of mustard seed can elevate your metabolism by 25 percent, a benefit that persists for several hours after consumption. This may be due to the phytochemical allyl isothiocyanates, which also deliver the flavor.23 Be careful, though: when mustard is neon yellow or loaded with sugar, health benefits go out the window.

    How Diet 'Tricks' Can Masquerade as Lasting Weight Loss

    Nutritionist Monica Reinagel explored a new diet designed to help people lose weight by "flushing impurities from your body and super-charging your metabolism."24 The secret of these weight loss benefits were said to be spices like coriander, cumin, pepper, cinnamon and black pepper.

    While noting the anti-inflammatory and blood thinning ability of turmeric, garlic and ginger, and that cinnamon can stabilize blood sugar, Reinagel asserted that losing 7 to 12 pounds the first week is often more about losing water rather than fat, a trajectory that can't be sustained longer than a few weeks.

    Limiting your intake of net carbs (total carbs minus fiber) to under 40 to 50 grams per day and replacing them with healthy fats is necessary for lasting weight loss, as this will transition your body into primarily burning fat for fuel. Unless you continue limiting your net carbs going forward, the downward momentum generally dwindles, as does your metabolism. Further, unless exercise is a priority, muscle tissue may also begin to diminish, lowering your metabolism even more.

    Regardless of how quickly weight is shed, if the same old eating habits climb back in the saddle, lost pounds are notorious for returning, and then some.

    Ways to Keep Weight Off Once You've Lost It

    The biggest hurdle people face when they double down on a diet plan that's drastically different from what future habits can sustain is that, too often, the weight comes right back. Here are some ways to help you lose weight and also keep it off once you've reached your goal:

    Intermittent fasting helps reset your body to burn fat for fuel and helps optimize insulin sensitivity and mitochondrial health and energy production. It involves cutting calories in whole or in part, either a couple of days a week, every other day or even daily.

    For instance, you may restrict your eating to a window of six to eight hours, choosing between having breakfast and lunch, or lunch and dinner, but avoid having both breakfast and dinner. It's one of the most effective interventions for normalizing your weight.

    The amount of fiber in your diet is crucial for weight loss, as it is for general health. Eat foods known for keeping food moving smoothly through your colon, such as veggies, nuts and seeds such as chia.

    Vitamin D, or lack thereof, derived to some extent from foods you eat and primarily via the sunshine you bask in on any given day, can have an impact on your ability to lose and maintain weight. One study25 showed that for more than 4,600 women 65 years old and older, low vitamin D levels contributed to mild weight gain.26

    Reversing insulin/leptin resistance plays a key role in preventing obesity, metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes and inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. Trading refined sugar and processed fructose for healthy fats will help optimize your insulin and leptin levels. For more detailed dietary guidance, please see my nutrition plan.

    Exercise is extremely important in the quest for weight loss, as well as shoring up sagging muscles and keeping them firm and strong. Exercise also benefits your glucose, insulin and leptin levels by optimizing insulin/leptin receptor sensitivity, subsequently helping to prevent chronic disease.


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  • Why Organic Mustard Seed Powder Is an Essential Kitchen Staple
    published on October 15th, 2017 at 12:50 PM

    By Dr. Mercola

    A number of foods have known anticancer activity. Among the more well-known are members of the cruciferous family, with broccoli leading the pack when it comes to undergoing scientific investigation. One of the lesser-known ones is mustard seed, which also belongs to the brassica genus.1,2

    As it turns out, not only does mustard seed contain compounds shown to inhibit cancer proliferation, it also contains compounds that augment the cancer-fighting potential of other cruciferous veggies, delivering a real double punch when combined. For this reason, I recommend keeping organic mustard seed powder in your kitchen at all times. Mustard seed powder can also be used to whip up homemade topical remedies, such as plasters and baths to relieve pain.

    Mustard Seed Compound Effectively Blocks Bladder Cancer Progression

    One 2010 study3 discovered a compound found in both brown mustard and cruciferous vegetables called allyl isothiocyanate (AITC), also known as mustard oil, lowered the risk of bladder cancer by 34.5 percent and was 100 percent effective at preventing the spread of cancer into surrounding muscle cells. The complete stop of cancer progression is quite remarkable considering the cancer metastasized into surrounding tissues 71 percent of the time in untreated controls.

    Importantly, the whole food — mustard seed powder — was more effective than the purified form. Dry mustard seed contain a compound called sinigrin, a precursor to AITC. When combined with water (which is what happens in your stomach), an enzyme called myrosinase converts the sinigrin into AITC.

    A related form of this enzyme is found in the human digestive tract, but the plant-based one is far more effective, accomplishing a more complete conversion. This is likely why the whole food worked better than the isolated compound.4 Another interesting finding was that higher doses were not more effective. Animals given 71.5 milligrams (mg) of mustard seed powder per kilo of body weight were the ones in which cancer occurrence was reduced by 34 percent and metastasis completely blocked.

    In animals treated with 715 mg of mustard seed powder per kilo, tumor growth was reduced by just 23 percent, and tumor invasion still occurred up to 62 percent of the time. So, a little can go a long way! Other studies have made similar findings. As reported by Natural Society: 5 

    "A similar conclusion was found by Dr. Anthony Di Pasqua, a bioinorganic chemist at the University of North Carolina and his colleague Dr. Fung-Lung Chung from Georgetown University. Their studies support Bhattacharya's conclusions about AITC is brown mustard seed.

    Dr. Di Pasqua said:6 'Our studies have shown that, once inside the cell, ITCs [isothiocyanates7] bind to proteins and that protein binding affinities are closely associated with the ability to induce apoptosis (cell suicide).'"

    Myrosinase Is the Key to Maximizing Chemoprotective Effects of Cruciferous Veggies

    ITCs are derivatives of sulfur-containing compounds called glucosinolates, found in cruciferous vegetables. Different glucosinolates hydrolyze into different ITCs. Broccoli, for example, is high in glucoraphanin, a glucosinolate precursor to sulforaphane, which has well-established chemoprotective effects.8,9 Sulforaphane also helps improve blood pressure, heart health10 and kidney function. 

    Scientists believe sulforaphane's benefits are related to improved DNA methylation, which is crucial for normal cellular function and proper gene expression, especially in the easily damaged inner lining of the arteries (endothelium). Broccoli, like mustard seed, also contains sinigrin, the precursor to AITC.  As mentioned, glucosinolate hydrolysis is catalyzed by a class of enzymes called myrosinase. Plant sources known to be particularly high in myrosinase include:

    Mustard seed

    Garden cress


    Daikon radish




    To reiterate, the enzyme myrosinase is critical for the conversion of the various glucosinolates into ITCs11 — the compounds that ultimately provide you with health benefits such as chemoprotection — and, while most if not all cruciferous veggies do contain some myrosinase, you can significantly boost the conversion by eating cruciferous vegetables together with a particularly myrosinase-rich food.

    Doing so is a simple way to really maximize the chemoprotective effects of these vegetables. Wasabi, for example, has been shown to increase the chemoprotective effects of cruciferous vegetables by as much as 40 percent.12  

    Mustard seed appears to be the most effective, however, as it contains a particularly resilient form of myrosinase. Research confirms mustard seed can boost sulforaphane formation even in boiled broccoli, which is typically not recommended as boiling prevents sulforaphane formation by inactivating the myrosinase in the broccoli.13

    ITCs Also Increase Levels of Master Antioxidant in Your Body

    Once ITCs are absorbed, they turn into glutathione in your liver. Known as your body's most powerful antioxidant, glutathione is a tripeptide found in every single cell in your body. It is called "master antioxidant" because it is intracellular and has the unique ability of maximizing the performance of all the other antioxidants, including vitamins C and E, CoQ10, alpha-lipoic acid, as well as the fresh vegetables and fruits that you eat. 

    Glutathione's primary function is to protect your cells and mitochondria from oxidative and peroxidative damage. It is also essential for detoxification, energy utilization, and preventing the diseases we associate with aging. Glutathione also eliminates toxins from your cells and gives protection from the damaging effects of radiation, chemicals and environmental pollutants.

    Add Mustard to All Cruciferous Veggies

    AITC is found in all cruciferous vegetables, not just mustard. Here's a list of vegetables that belong to this important family.14 Adding one or more of these foods to your diet each week may go a long way toward lowering your cancer risk. And, remember, to really boost the chemoprotective effects of these cruciferous veggies, be sure to add some mustard seed powder or other myrosinase-rich food (see earlier list).


    Bok choi


    Broccoli rabe

    Broccoli Romanesco

    Brussels sprouts



    Chinese broccoli

    Chinese cabbage

    Collard greens


    Garden cress





    Land cress


    Mustard (leaves and seed; brown, green, white and black)





    Pak choi

    Turnips (roots and greens)



    Cooking Also Affects Anticancer Potential of Cruciferous Vegetables

    Another factor that can affect the health benefits of cruciferous vegetables to a significant degree is the way you cook them. Studies have not been done on every single member of this family, but research clearly demonstrates there's an ideal way to prepare and eat mature broccoli.

    In the video above, Elizabeth Jeffery, Ph.D., a researcher and professor in the department of food science and human nutrition at the University of Illinois, delves into this research,15 which shows that steaming your broccoli for three to four minutes is ideal. Do not go past five minutes. While I normally recommend eating most of your vegetables raw, mature broccoli and some other cruciferous vegetables are exceptions to this rule.

    When you eat raw mature broccoli, you only get about 12 percent of the total sulforaphane content theoretically available based on the parent compound. Steaming your broccoli spears for three to four minutes will optimize the sulforaphane content by eliminating epithiospecifier protein — a heat-sensitive sulfur-grabbing protein that inactivates sulforaphane — while still retaining the enzyme myrosinase, which converts glucoraphanin to sulforaphane.

    Again, without myrosinase, you cannot get any sulforaphane. Boiling your broccoli past the one-minute mark is not recommended, as it will destroy a majority of the myrosinase. If you want to boil your broccoli, blanch it in boiling water for no more than 20 to 30 seconds, immerse it in cold water to stop the cooking process, and be sure to add some mustard seed powder to your dish.

    Cauliflower also contains sulforaphane. Boiling or blanching cauliflower causes the greatest loss of antioxidants,16 so steaming appears to be your best bet for cauliflower as well. Unfortunately, while research has identified the ideal steaming times for broccoli, the same has not been identified for cauliflower specifically, but it is likely similar to broccoli's.

    Moreover, research17 reveals different varieties of cauliflower respond differently to various levels of heat and cooking times. In one study, blanching purple cauliflower at 70 degrees C (158 degrees F) significantly increased sulforaphane content compared to 50 degrees C (120 degrees F), while immersion time had no significant influence. In Roman cauliflower, on the other hand, both temperature and immersion time played a role. 

    Broccoli Sprouts — Grow Them at Home and Eat Them Raw

    Broccoli SPROUTS, on the other hand, are best eaten raw, and are an excellent alternative if you don't like the taste or smell of mature broccoli.

    Sprouted broccoli seeds are also far more potent, nutritionally speaking, than mature broccoli, so you don't need to eat nearly as much to reap the clinical benefits from key therapeutic compounds. Research shows that even small quantities of broccoli sprout extract have the power to markedly reduce the size of rat mammary tumors induced by chemical carcinogens. As noted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University:18,19

    "Three-day-old broccoli sprouts consistently contain 20 to 50 times the amount of chemoprotective compounds found in mature broccoli heads, and may offer a simple, dietary means of chemically reducing cancer risk."

    Broccoli sprouts are easy and inexpensive to grow at home. Growing your own is also the best way to ensure the active ingredients in the sprouts have not been destroyed by processing. Commercially available broccoli sprouts are typically heated in order to kill off harmful bacteria. However, use of high heat may also render the sprouts worthless, as it will negatively affect the conversion of glucosinolates to ITCs.

    A recent study20 evaluating ways of eliminating microbial contaminants on broccoli sprouts found treating the sprouts with high pressure could kill off bacteria while leaving heat-sensitive nutrients intact. What's more, the pressure treatment actually boosted glucosinolate to ITC conversion. As reported by Science Daily:21

    "Results showed that processing broccoli sprouts at 400 to 600 megapascals increased the amount of glucosinolates that turned into isothiocyanates. Up to 85 percent of glucosinolates were converted under high pressure processing, boosting the plants' potential health-promoting compounds.

    The rate of conversion for mild heat treatment at 60 degrees Celsius was 69 percent. Isothiocyanate levels in boiled samples were undetectable or not quantifiable. Thus, the researchers say high pressure could be a preferred method over heating for processing broccoli sprouts."

    Other Medicinal Uses for Mustard Seed

    Getting back to mustard seed, powdered mustard seed actually has a long history of use, especially in Ayurvedic medicine, where it was used topically to improve blood circulation and detoxification. Taken internally, 1 teaspoon of mustard seed powder twice a day can be used as a remedy for constipation. Mustard plaster and mustard baths were also common folk remedies for muscle and joint pain. Part of the pain-relieving effect is due to the mustard seed's high magnesium and selenium content.

    You can easily recreate such remedies today using inexpensive household ingredients. For a soothing, pain-relieving mustard bath, fill your tub with warm water. In a glass jar, mix together the following ingredients, then add to your bath and soak:22


    • 1/4 cup baking soda
    • 1 tablespoon mustard powder
    • 1 or 2 drops wintergreen or peppermint essential oil
    • 1 or 2 drops rosemary essential oil
    • 1 or 2 drops eucalyptus essential oil

    Take-Home Message

    There are a number of take-home messages here. First, as a group, cruciferous vegetables are known to have a wide range of health benefits, including the quelling of inflammation and prevention of cancer, and the list of cruciferous vegetables is far longer than most people realize. This means you have plenty to choose from should broccoli, cauliflower or Brussels sprouts fail to tantalize your taste buds.

    Secondly, cruciferous veggies contain several different chemoprotective compounds, but they require the enzyme myrosinase to work. Not only do some cruciferous vegetables contain higher amounts of this critical enzyme, but preparation and cooking can greatly affect its activity, and therein lies the problem. After all, some veggies — Brussels sprouts, for example — are not particularly delectable raw. So, the question is, how do you cook these foods without forgoing the health benefits?

    To recap, your best bet for many cruciferous veggies is to lightly steam them and eat them in combination with a myrosinase-rich food. Mustard seed is the most potent. Doing this is a "hack" that basically gives you the benefit of raw food even though it's been lightly cooked. But there's yet another trick, presented by Dr. Michael Greger in the video below,23 which he dubs the "hack and hold" technique.

    One More Cooking Trick to Boost Sulforaphane Content

    When a cruciferous vegetable is chopped, the myrosinase is activated. So, by chopping the food and waiting about 40 minutes, the sulforaphane will have formed, allowing you to cook the food (in excess of the recommended three to four minutes of steaming) without risking sulforaphane loss.

    The reason for this is because both the precursor to sulforaphane and the sulforaphane itself are largely resistant to heat. It's the myrosinase that gets destroyed during cooking, which then prevents the formation of sulforaphane. By allowing the sulforaphane to form before you cook it, you circumvent this chain of events. An example given by Greger is the making of broccoli soup. When making the soup, you'll want to blend the raw broccoli first; wait 40 minutes for the sulforaphane to form, then boil it.

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