By Dr. Mercola
American school lunches have become notorious for their poor quality. In most schools, none of the dishes are made in house, and most are notably lacking in fresh fruits and vegetables.
Overall, school lunches are the epitome of processed factory food, laden with sugar and synthetic ingredients. For example, skim chocolate milk is the No.1 school lunch beverage.
The rationale for this comes from the ill-conceived plan to restrict your child's fats — especially healthy fats — with complete lack of regard for sugar. The USDA believes substituting sugar for healthy fat in milk is "worth it" to get kids to drink milk.
However, adding sugar and removing healthy saturated fat is a recipe for obesity, heart disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases, which is what we've been seeing in children at increasingly younger ages.
In the 2006 book "Lunch Lessons," Cooper and Holmes write that, under the current school lunch program, French fries represent 46 percent of "vegetable servings" consumed by children ages 2 to 19, nationwide.
Packing a healthy lunch for your child is probably a good idea, as the federal lunch program is in dire need of an overhaul. Any system in which pizza and French fries qualify as "vegetables" is unlikely to offer much nutrition.
High School Students Boycott School Lunch
As reported by the Chicago Tribune1 on December 7, students at Albany Park's Theodore Roosevelt High School decided to boycott the school lunch program in hopes of inciting change.
If the boycott were to catch on in other school districts across the country, it could be a game-changing event. The lunch program at Theodore Roosevelt High School is administrated by Aramark, and:
"'The students found that if they boycotted lunch, that Aramark wouldn't get paid, and they saw that as a means of forcing the company and Chicago Public Schools to provide higher quality food,' civics teacher Timothy Meegan told Chicago radio station WBBM-AM."
An estimated 80 percent of the students took part in the three-day long boycott, which arose from a civics class project. As reported in the featured article:2
"In Civics we are working on project based learning. We brainstormed a list of potential issues to work on, narrowed the list to three, and finally voted to work on improving school lunch," the students explain on their website, 'The School Lunch Project: Culinary Denial.'
The site outlines concerns by students about the quality of their school lunches, complete with photographs of food apparently being served at the high school.
On the site, the students complain that they are offered either hamburgers, chicken patties, or pizza on most school days. They would prefer salads, sandwiches, and fresh fruits.
'We remember Michelle Obama wanting to get CPS [Chicago Public Schools] students to eat healthy. What we are eating is not healthy; sometime it's exasperating,' the site states."
Federal Guidelines Created a Substandard School Lunch Program
The students report an improvement in the "presentation and freshness of our food" since the start of the boycott. Mr. Meegan also noted that Aramark suddenly sent in premium fresh produce from a Murano food company — a strategy he believes was meant to undermine the boycott.
To help in this effort, I personally donated 10,000 bags of our puffed rice granola to help feed the boycotting students; Chicago's Dill Pickle Co-Op supplied organic fruit and yogurt.3,4
Aramark has denied making any changes as a result of the boycott. Karen Cutler, vice president of communications at Aramark, also said they "would welcome the chance to meet with the students and their teacher to hear from them directly and to explain how school lunch works under the USDA program."
However, the students aren't interested in long drawn-out talks that ultimately stand little chance of resulting in any real change; hence the decision to boycott the program.
It's quite clear that the federal lunch program as a whole is in dire need of an overhaul. The problem does not necessarily originate with Aramark, but with the federal guidelines, which allow French fries and pizza sauce to qualify as vegetables in the first place.
Most school lunches are heavily reliant on high-energy, low-nutrient-value processed foods because they're cheaper. "Pink slime," which gained a lot of publicity three years ago, is a perfect example of the bottom-of-the-barrel kind of processed foods served as staples in the U.S. school lunch program.
Roosevelt High Urges Other School Districts to Join the Boycott
In a December 11 blog post, the students at Theodore Roosevelt High School comment on the lack of food quality, noting that:
"... [T]he food has no taste, texture is dry, and biscuits are very dry and impossible to chew. The ingredients taste cheap. The fruits and vegetables they serve us they're not very fresh and some are rotten ... the tomatoes taste sour and the packaged apple slices taste bitter and dry.
Quality of school food should be nutritious and fresh but instead we get prepackaged and processed food every day. The only raw meat cooked at school is chicken drumsticks.
CPS is in a contract with Aramark but, that doesn't mean we deserve this type of food ... as students need healthy and fresh food in order to last the whole day with energy because some of us have after school activities to participate in."
The students are now calling for other schools to organize their own school lunch boycotts, saying, "If we all get in this together we might be able to make this change happen."
Indeed, boycotting school lunches is perhaps one of the few strategies that has the power to create rapid change, simply because it hits the industry right where it hurts — their profits.
Even a few days’ worth of losses on a nationwide scale could threaten the bottom line of a company like Aramark. In essence, such a scenario would force them to change rather quickly.
The “Real Food Campus Commitment,” created by The Real Food Challenge, contains a specific set of principles that Aramark and Chicago (or any other school system) could pledge to uphold. The “Good Food Purchasing Guidelines for Food Service Institutions,” by the Los Angeles Food Policy Council is another helpful document that could be used for guidance.
Surprising as it may seem to some, kids actually do appreciate real food. A study5 published in the peer-reviewed journal Childhood Obesity found that 70 percent of kids actually prefer healthier lunches.6
Public schools are always quick to point out that their school lunch program meets or exceeds federal nutrition guidelines, but that's NOT the right answer, for the simple reason that the federal guidelines have repeatedly been shown to be completely inadequate; ruled by food industry interests more so than by the science of quality nutrition.
I applaud Roosevelt High's students for taking matters into their own hands — they should care about the quality of their lunches, because it affects their health, and their future. I hope other schools take up the cause as well.
Kids More Likely to Be Obese If They Eat School Lunches
Over the past 14 years, severe obesity has increased among children, according to a 2014 study published in JAMA Pediatrics.7 In NYC, 1 in 5 kindergarteners is obese.8 Besides obesity, a poor diet makes kids less academically competitive. In one study, fifth-graders who ate fast food four or more times a week showed 20 percent lower test score gains by the 8th grade.
Are school lunches directly contributing to the obesity epidemic? If you look at the results of a 2010 study,9,10 the answer is yes. More than 1,000 sixth graders in Michigan who regularly ate school lunches were 29 percent more likely to be obese than those who brought lunches from home. Specifically, the kids who ate school lunches:
- Were more likely to be overweight or obese (38.2 percent vs. 24.7 percent)
- Were more likely to consume two or more sugary drinks a day (19 percent vs. 6.8 percent)
- Were less likely to eat at least two servings of vegetables a day (39.9 percent vs. 50.3 percent)
- Were less likely to eat at least two servings of fruits a day (32.6 percent vs. 49.4 percent)
- Were less likely to participate in sports or moderate exercise, and spent more time watching TV, playing video games and using computers outside of school
Shifting into a socially responsible, smaller-scale system where independent producers and processors focus on providing food for their local and regional markets — including local schools — would go a long way toward improving food safety and nutrition.
The simplest way back toward health, for children and adults alike, is to focus on REAL food – foods that have not been processed or altered from their original state.
Food that has been grown or raised as nature intended, without the use of chemical additives, pesticides and fertilizers. Such a shift would also have a positive impact on the environment.
The World Is Losing Its Farmable Land
Our youth are facing a grim future indeed, thanks to corporate greed and misapplied technology. As noted by Science Alert,11 in the last 40 years alone, we've lost nearly one-third of the world's farmable land.
In a nutshell, current farming methods, which rely on industrial agriculture, monocropping and chemicals, are "leading to what could be a disaster for food production in the near future." To ward off disaster, we must act now, and the remedy is not newer chemicals or new breeds of genetically engineered seeds.
We must implement regenerative farming practices12 to reverse the continuous loss of soil, and food programs like the school lunch program could actually play an important role in catalyzing this change, simply because it's so big, and covers virtually every community in the country.
Water is also getting short in supply, and regenerative farming practices very effectively address this pressing concern as well. In fact, soil, water, plant growth, and atmospheric conditions are closely interlinked, and our farming practices therefore play an important role in the ecological balance of the planet.
These relationships are the topic of an upcoming intensive PhD course13 organized by the Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague.
The course will take place from July 25 to August 5, 2016, with initial portions being offered online, and the remaining on location at Ege University in Izmir, Turkey. Animals are also a crucial complement.
Rather than being raised by the tens of thousands in factory-style warehouses that pollute the landscape and threaten the health of people who live nearby, livestock can be raised in such a way that they benefit not just soil health and plant growth, but the ecology as a whole.
The Importance of Soil Carbon Restoration
The French government recently launched the "4 per 1,000 Initiative" — a climate change strategy that came out of the COP21 Paris Climate Talks.14 The initiative has support from a wide array of organizations, including IFOAM Organics International, and the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). Unfortunately, the U.S. government has not yet signed on. As noted by the OCA:15
"France, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the U.K., Germany, and Mexico are among the more than two dozen countries that have so far signed on to what one day will likely be recognized as the most significant climate initiative in history. France's 4/1000 Initiative: Soils for Food Security and Climate16 puts regenerative food and farming front and center in the climate solutions conversation ...
Leaders from 190 countries convened in Paris on November 30 for the 14-day COP21 Paris Climate Conference. This year, for the first time in over 20 years of United Nations climate negotiations, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) set out to achieve something concrete: 'a legally binding and universal agreement to make sure the Earth doesn't get warmer than 2°C above pre-industrial levels.'
To meet that goal, the French Government launched the 4/1000 Initiative which, distilled to simplest terms, says this: If, on a global scale, we increase the soil carbon content of the soil by .04 percent each year for the next 25 years, we can draw down a critical mass of excess carbon from the atmosphere and begin to reverse global warming. Is the French Initiative realistic? Yes, even by conservative estimates."
To Rebalance the Carbon Cycle, We Must Address Agriculture
To fully understand how biology can reverse rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere, I suggest reading through the Northeast Organic Farming Association's 16-page white paper,17 "Soil Carbon Restoration: Can biology do the job?" As noted in a recent Washington Post article:18
"We think of climate change as a consequence of burning fossil fuels. But a third of the carbon in the atmosphere today used to be in the soil, and modern farming is largely to blame. Practices such as the overuse of chemicals, excessive tilling, and the use of heavy machinery disturb the soil's organic matter, exposing carbon molecules to the air, where they combine with oxygen to create carbon dioxide.
Put another way: human activity has turned the living and fertile carbon system in our dirt into a toxic atmospheric gas ... Climate change, quite simply, cannot be halted without fixing agriculture."
We Must Do a Better Job of Safeguarding Our Children's Future
As a general rule, we believe that adults know best, and that adults in positions of authority are "always" acting in the best interest of children. The reality of the world at large tells a different story. More often than not, corporations benefit at the expense of children's health and safety. The federal guidelines directing school lunch programs are just one example.
I find it encouraging that high school students take issue with the meals served at school and recognize that the processed fare served is far from ideal in terms of nutrition.
Some schools have already made very positive changes, such as transitioning over to antibiotic-free chicken, and/or serving fresh produce from local farms as part of the National Farm to School Network,19 but they stick out like rare exceptions. REAL food is a right for all children.
And just as people across the US are urged to boycott factory farmed foods20 to usher in sustainable and soil-regenerative agriculture as the norm, so students across the nation can contribute to this cause by addressing the source and quality of the food served in their schools.
To promote positive change, also consider supporting the Farm to School Act of 201521 by signing this letter to Congress.
Section: Articles -
File Under: Health |
By Dr. Mercola
You spend about one-third of your life sleeping; that's a lot of time spent with your body snuggled up against your mattress. This sanctuary should not only allow you to get proper rest, but should do so in a pure fashion without exposing you to unnecessary risk.
Unfortunately, most mattresses are anything but pure. As of July 1, 2007, all U.S. mattresses are required to be highly flame retardant to the extent that they won't catch on fire if exposed to a blowtorch. This means they may contain flame-retardant chemicals.
One type of flame-retardant chemical, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), has been banned in the U.S. since 2004 due to health concerns. But if your mattress contains polyurethane foam and was manufactured before this date, it might still contain them.
Boric acid, a toxic respiratory irritant used to kill roaches; antimony, a metal that may be more toxic than mercury and formaldehyde, which causes cancer, are some of the other chemicals that lurk in many mattresses — even those from "high-end" brands.
What's Hiding in Your Mattress?
In most cases it's virtually impossible to find out what's really in your mattress. Mattress manufacturers are not required to label or disclose which chemicals their mattresses contain. They may even claim that their mattresses are safe, when in reality they are not. As reported by Mother Jones:1
"Major manufacturers such as Simmons, Sealy, and Tempur-Pedic won't divulge their flame-retardant formulas, which are considered trade secrets …
A best guess at what's in today's mattresses comes from Ryan Trainer, … [president] of the International Sleep Products Association, an industry group.
He says most companies use 'various types of barrier fabrics' such as cotton treated with boric acid or rayon treated with silica — both relatively benign chemicals — as well as fire-resistant materials such as modacrylic fiber (which contains antimony oxide, a carcinogen) and melamine resin (which contains formaldehyde)."
Mattresses may off-gas such chemicals, which means they slowly "leak" out over time. Studies looking into the health risks of sleeping on a chemical-laden mattress are hard to come by, but we do know that such chemicals themselves pose hazards.
PBDEs, for instance, disrupt mechanisms that are responsible for releasing hormones in your body, as well as alter calcium signaling in your brain, which is a critical mechanism for learning and memory.
These chemicals actually resemble the molecular structure of PCBs, which have been linked to cancer, reproductive problems and impaired fetal brain development.
Like PCBs, even though certain PBDEs have been banned in some U.S. states and the European Union, they persist in the environment and accumulate in your body.
Higher exposures to PBDEs have been linked to decreased fertility, which could be in part because the chemicals may mimic your thyroid hormones.2 Previous research has suggested PBDEs can lead to decreases in TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone).3
Although newer mattresses will no longer contain PBDEs, the chemicals used to replace them may be just as bad. For instance, organophosphate flame retardants (OPFRs) are frequently found in conventional mattresses.
Some OPFRs have been identified as known or suspected carcinogens or neurotoxic substances.
Why Flame Retardant Chemicals in Your Mattress Could Be Dangerous
The primary filling material used in most conventional mattresses is polyurethane foam — a highly flammable petroleum-based material. Because of its high flammability, polyurethane foam must be treated or wrapped with fire retardant chemicals.
Flame-retardant chemicals have been linked to serious health risks, including infertility, birth defects, neurodevelopmental delays, reduced IQ scores and behavioral problems in children, hormone disruptions, and various forms of cancer.
The risks may be especially dangerous to children, as research revealed that children born to women who were exposed to high levels of PBDEs during pregnancy had, on average, a 4.5 point decrease in IQ.4 Such children are also more prone to hyperactivity disorders.
Remember, these chemicals don't "stay put" in the mattress. They migrate out and collect in house dust. As a result, an estimated 90 percent of Americans have some level of flame-retardant chemicals in their bodies.
Long-term residents of California, which was the first state to use flame retardant chemicals, tend to have far higher levels.
This is no small concern. Flame retardant chemicals have even been identified as one of 17 "high priority" chemical groups that should be avoided to reduce your risk of breast cancer.5
Adding to the conundrum of using flame retardant chemicals, when on fire, objects doused in flame retardants (yes, they can still catch fire) give off higher levels of carbon monoxide, soot, and smoke than untreated objects.
These three things are more likely to kill a person in a fire than burns, which means flame retardant chemicals may actually make fires more deadly.
How to Find a Safer Mattress
If you want to avoid flame retardants and other chemicals in your mattress, you can have a licensed health care provider write you a prescription for a chemical-free mattress, which can then be ordered without flame retardants from certain retailers.
You can also find certain natural mattresses on the market that don't contain them. For instance, most wool mattresses do not have flame-retardant chemicals added because wool is a natural flame retardant.
Given the blatant dangers posed by flame retardants, in late November 2013 California's governor ordered that TB117 (which required all furniture sold in California to withstand a 12-second open flame test) be rewritten to ensure fire safety without the use of these chemicals.
Starting in January 2014, furniture manufacturers began producing furniture that's not required to use flame-retardant chemicals, and full compliance was expected by January 2015. Unfortunately, the updated law only states that the chemicals are no longer required; it doesn't ban them outright.
Organic Mattress Labels You Can Trust
If you're looking for a safe mattress, you need to know what to look for on labels. Some terms, such as "natural," mean virtually nothing, while other labels, such as "organic," may be misleading (as it could mean only part of the mattress materials are organic).
Consumer Reports recently compiled a guide of what such labels really mean.6 Here are some highlights to consider:
Best Mattress Labels: GOTS and GOLS
- Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS): At least 95 percent of the mattress materials must be certified organic. Certain substances, including flame retardants and polyurethane (common in memory foam products), are prohibited.
- Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS): Applies to latex mattress and ensures only organic latex is used.
Good: Oeko-Tex Standard 100
This label sets limits on the emission of toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Chemical flame retardants, colorants and allergenic dyes are prohibited.
Labels with Some Value
- CertiPUR-US: Applies only to polyurethane foam and prohibits certain substances, such as PBDE. Testing is required for formaldehyde and other toxins.
- Greenguard: The finished mattress must be tested for specific emission limits of formaldehyde and other VOCs.
- Greenguard Gold: The same as Greenguard but with tighter emission limits.
- Organic: A mattress may be labeled organic even if only parts of it are organic (and other parts contain harmful chemicals). For instance, the label may read "made with organic cotton."
- Organic Content Standard 100: This applies to the percentage of certified-organic materials in the mattress. It also ensures proper tracking of organic cotton from its source to the finished product.
Once you purchase a new mattress, there's a simple way to help reduce your exposure to toxic emission — let it air out before you sleep on it. According to Consumer Reports:7
"Prices for mattresses with green claims run from as little as $600 to more than $25,000 for luxury versions. In general, expect to pay around $2,000 for a queen-size mattress — more for one meeting GOTS or GOLS.
Whatever mattress you buy, air it out for at least 48 hours before using it to reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals.
That likely means you'll have to dispose of the old mattress yourself (rather than letting the retailer haul it away when they deliver the new one), but you might thank yourself in the long run."
The Best Mattresses Have Multiple Labels You Can Trust
A mattress needn't have only one of the certifications above. The best and purest mattresses on the market may combine multiple safety standards, giving you the ultimate in safety and comfort.
This is certainly the case with my Healthy Home Certified Organic Mattresses and bedding made by Naturepedic. Naturepedic mattresses not only pass flammability standards without chemical flame retardants, they are also third-party certified with the following certifications:
- Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)
- Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS)
- GREENGUARD® Gold
- Organic Content Standard (OCS100)
My mattresses provide fire protection with superior product design and better materials. Their unique and innovative approach provides a simple and elegant solution allowing these mattresses and bedding products to meet all federal and state flammability standards — without the use of dangerous chemicals.
Be especially careful when choosing a mattress for your child, as products intended for kids and babies are also those most likely to be doused in flame retardant chemicals. You spend from six to nine hours every night with your face in close proximity to your mattress, breathing in these chemicals.
Your children spend even longer sleeping, with their faces even closer to the mattress surface. And if your children jump on the bed, or you bounce on your mattress, even more of these toxins can be released into the air. For this reason, look for a pure mattress for your child.
How Often Should You Replace Your Mattress?
You may be wondering when it's time to retire your old mattress and upgrade to a new one. This isn't always an obvious decision the way replacing other household goods can be. As noted by The Better Sleep Council:8
"Similar to your favorite old chair or worn pair of shoes, your mattress can still feel somewhat comfortable long after it has lost its ability to provide your body with the proper support and comfort it needs. Because sleep is so critical to our ability to function and feel our best, it is important to evaluate your sleep set on a regular basis to know when your sleep is compromised and to replace mattress accessories as well."
How long your mattress will last depends on a number of factors, including its original quality and how much use it gets. The following signs may indicate your mattress is no longer providing you with optimal support and it's time for a change:9
- You wake up stiff, numb, or in pain
- Your mattress has visible signs of overuse (stains, holes, sagging, or tears)
- You're tired even after sleeping all night
- You sleep better when you sleep in a different bed (such as at a hotel)
- Your mattress is seven years or older
Once you've upgraded, here's a tip to keep your mattress in good condition. Once every four months (or once a season), use your vacuum to remove crumbs, dead skin, and dust from your mattress. You can also sprinkle it with baking soda, let it sit for an hour, and then vacuum it up for extra deodorizing.
Section: Articles -
File Under: Health |
By Dr. Mercola
Recent research reveals American girls are hitting puberty earlier than ever before. The median age for breast development is now around 9, with rare cases of extreme precocious puberty occurring in girls as young as 4.
Precocious puberty is triggered by premature release of hormones, which results in sexual maturation, sometimes years before the natural norm. Research into the phenomenon reveals that environmental exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals plays a major if not decisive role.
Interestingly, recent research1 also claims that high sugar consumption—specifically soda—can affect young girls' rate of maturation. According to associate professor Karin Michels, who studies links between environmental exposures, genetics and disease:
"Our study adds to increasing concern about the widespread consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks among children and adolescents.
The main concern is about childhood obesity, but our study suggests that age of first menstruation (menarche) occurred earlier, independently of body mass index, among girls with the highest consumption of drinks sweetened with added sugar."
Early onset of puberty has ramifications that go far beyond mere physical changes. Emotions, behavior, mental and physical health can all be detrimentally affected.
While some parents are resorting to drug treatment to keep puberty at bay in their prematurely developing daughters, a more proactive approach would be to limit exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals, starting as early before birth as possible, and to address your child's diet—specifically restricting all forms of sugar as much as possible.
The Ramifications of Early Puberty
Hormones, emotions and behavior tend to go hand in hand, which can lead to distress both in the child and her parents when puberty comes years ahead of schedule. As noted in a recent Newsweek2 article:
"The mother of one 8-year-old wrote that her daughter 'is a very sexual being. Although she does not by definition understand what 'sexiness' means, she exhibits a very particular awareness of her body and wants other people to notice her...'
[N]o matter how physically developed a girl is, her psychosocial maturation remains anchored to her chronological age. 'These young girls get, let's use the term 'hit on,' by older boys and men and how can they be prepared to deal with it?
Obviously, grown women have a hard [enough] time dealing with unwanted sexual attention,' observes [Dr. Marcia] Herman-Giddens [professor of public health at the University of North Carolina].
The brain is highly plastic, and stressful experiences like these take their toll. Early-maturing girls are more likely to smoke cigarettes, they are at high risk for substance use, and they have higher rates of eating disorders."
Precocious puberty is also associated with an increased lifetime risk of estrogen-sensitive breast cancer. For example, one 2013 study3 found that early puberty was associated with a 30 percent higher risk for breast cancer compared to entering puberty at a later age.
Also, for each year that onset of menstruation was delayed, the risk for premenopausal breast cancer was reduced by 9 percent. The risk for postmenopausal breast cancer was reduced by 4 percent.
Early Puberty Associated With Elevated Chemical Exposures
The definition of puberty in girls includes breast development, growth of pubic hair and onset of menstruation. The average age of puberty for girls in the U.S. was 16-17 at the turn of the 20th century. Today the mean age at which girls get their first period is 12.4
According to data from the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey,5 early onset of menstruation appears to be associated with elevated levels of certain chemicals, such as 2, 5-dichlorophenol (2, 5-DCP).
2, 5-DCP is a metabolite of 1,4-dichlorobenzene (paradichlorobenzene), a chemical used in moth balls, room deodorizers, toilet bowl cleaners and other household cleaning products. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention6 (CDC):
"Paradichlorobenzene has been detected in ambient air in households, bathrooms and new buildings, and in exhaled breath samples of persons living in households where room deodorizers and moth crystals were used.
2,5-Dichlorophenol can also be formed in waste water treatment, wood pulp processing, and during the incineration of wood, coal and municipal waste.
12 Worst Endocrine Disruptors
As explained in an informative pamphlet7 on pesticides and endocrine disruption by Beyond Pesticides, endocrine-disrupting chemicals cause harm by:
- Mimicking the action of a naturally-produced hormone, such as estrogen or testosterone
- Blocking hormone receptors in your cells, thereby preventing the action of normal hormones
- Affecting the synthesis, transport, metabolism and excretion of hormones, thus altering the concentrations of natural hormones in your body
Some of the biggest offenders are plastic compounds like phthalates and bisphenols (BPA and BPS)—if nothing else for the fact that they're so ubiquitous.
Plastics are used in every imaginable household product, so you really have to make some decisive lifestyle changes to limit your exposure to these chemicals.
Even then you're unlikely to avoid them entirely. Plastics continue spreading their chemicals into the environment even after they've been used and thrown away. Microscopic plastic particles now fill the water column in our oceans, where they get re-circulated back into our food supply.8
As noted in the featured article,9 your body cannot metabolize phthalates, and indirectly, these chemicals can have an adverse effect on both weight and timing of puberty. Disturbingly, recent research also suggests that prenatal phthalate exposure may lead to reduced IQ in children.
Bisphenol-A and bisphenol-S mimic the hormone estrogen, and as noted in a 2011 study,10 BPA is similar in potency to estradiol, and may influence a number of different endocrine-related pathways.
Moreover, in animal research, adverse effects of BPA have been noted at levels below current acceptable daily intake (RDI) levels.
Besides phthalates and bisphenols, other potent endocrine disruptors include the following.11 I've written about many of these in prior articles, so for more information about any particular one, please follow the links provided.
Endocrine Disruption Can Affect Reproductive Health Throughout Life
On the flip side of early puberty you have early menopause. Many of the same chemicals that cause precocious puberty are also associated with early menopause, which can have an adverse effect on ovarian function. One recent study12 discovered that women with high levels of 15 different chemicals, including PCBs, pesticides and phthalates, typically entered menopause two to four years earlier than those with lower levels.
A woman's reproductive health can also be affected at any point during her childbearing years, via a number of different mechanisms that can be traced back to chemical overexposures.
For example, the thyroid gland is part of your endocrine system, and is therefore also vulnerable to endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Interestingly, recent research suggests that hyperthyroidism, a condition in which your thyroid is overactive, may contribute to fertility and pregnancy problems in women. The authors suggest that women struggling with infertility and/or repeated miscarriages should get tested for thyroid disease.
The study,13,14 published in The Obstetrician & Gynecologist, found that 2.3 percent of women with fertility problems had an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), compared to 1.5 percent of those in the general population. According to co-author Amanda Jeffreys:
"Abnormalities in thyroid function can have an adverse effect on reproductive health and result in reduced rates of conception, increased miscarriage risk and adverse pregnancy and neonatal outcomes."
In terms of treatment, conventional options for hyperthyroidism—such as surgery or the use of radioactive iodine—tend to produce poor results. While I don’t generally advise taking iodine supplements, if testing does confirm that you have hyperthyroidism, a more effective treatment option for you and your doctor is discussed by Dr. Jonathan Wright in the following video.
According to Dr. Wright, normal thyroid levels can often be achieved in less than two weeks with the following protocol:
- Patient starts out on five drops of Lugol's iodine, three times per day
- After four or five days, patient starts receiving 300 mg of lithium carbonate, one to three times per day
If you do decide to follow this protocol, it’s important that your physician know about it, as serious effects can occur if you take too much of either treatment, particularly lithium carbonate.
WHO Says Banning Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals May Be Needed to Protect Human Health
In 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a report co-produced with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), titled "State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals."15 The report suggests that outright banning all endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) may actually be needed to protect the health of future generations. According to the report:
"The diverse systems affected by endocrine-disrupting chemicals likely include all hormonal systems and range from those controlling development and function of reproductive organs to the tissues and organs regulating metabolism and satiety. Effects on these systems can lead to obesity, infertility or reduced fertility, learning and memory difficulties, adult-onset diabetes or cardiovascular disease, as well as a variety of other diseases."
Tips to Help You Avoid Toxic Chemicals
Although it's virtually impossible to steer clear of all endocrine-disrupting chemicals, you can certainly minimize your family's exposure by keeping some key principles in mind.
- Eat mostly fresh, raw whole foods. Processed and packaged foods are a common source of BPA and phthalates—particularly cans, but also foods packaged in plastic wrap.
- Buy products that come in glass bottles rather than plastic or cans.
- Store your food and beverages in glass, rather than plastic, and avoid using plastic wrap. Use glass containers if heating food in your microwave, as heat tends to increase the release of chemicals from plastic. Be aware that even "BPA-free" plastics typically leach other endocrine-disrupting chemicals that are just as bad as BPA.
- Use glass baby bottles for your infants.
- Be careful with cash register receipts. If you use a store regularly, encourage the management to switch to BPA-free receipts. I shop at Publix for my food and when I called them about the receipts it turns out they already switched. Nevertheless it is wise to limit your contact with all these receipts.
- Look for products that are made by companies that are Earth-friendly, animal-friendly, sustainable, certified organic and GMO-free. This applies to everything from food and personal care products to building materials, carpeting, paint, baby items, furniture, mattresses, and more. When redoing your home, look for "green," toxin-free alternatives in lieu of regular paint and vinyl floor coverings, the latter of which is another source of phthalates.
- Choose toys made from natural materials to avoid plastic chemicals like phthalates and BPA/BPS, particularly for items your child may be prone to suck or chew on.
- Breastfeed your baby exclusively if possible, for at least the first year (to avoid phthalates exposure from infant formula packaging and plastic bottles/nipples).
- Use natural cleaning products, or make your own.
- Switch over to organic toiletries, including shampoo, toothpaste, antiperspirants and cosmetics. EWG's Skin Deep database16 can help you find personal care products that are free of phthalates and other potentially dangerous chemicals.
- Replace your vinyl shower curtain with a fabric one.
- Replace feminine hygiene products (tampons and sanitary pads) with safer alternatives. While most ingredients in feminine hygiene products are undisclosed, tests suggest they may contain dioxins and petrochemical additives.
- Look for fragrance-free products: phthalates are often used to help the product hold its fragrance longer. Artificial fragrance can also contain hundreds—even thousands—of potentially toxic chemicals. Avoid fabric softeners, dryer sheets, air fresheners and scented candles for the same reason.
- Check your home's tap water for contaminants and filter the water if necessary. You may also want to use an alternative to PVC pipes for your water supply.
- Teach your children not to drink water from the garden hose, as many are made with phthalate-containing plastics. They are typically more expensive but usually higher quality hoses are well worth the investment.
- Avoid using pesticides and herbicides around your home.
- Avoid all products containing triclosan, which is yet another endocrine-disruptor. The chemical structure of triclosan is similar to thyroid hormones and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), allowing it to attach to thyroid hormone receptors.
Section: Articles -
File Under: Health |
By Dr. Mercola
It's becoming relatively common knowledge that your health is not just about your body, but rather is the result of its symbiotic relationship with 100 trillion bacteria and other microorganisms.
Your microbiome is unique to you, like a fingerprint, and represents a combination of lifestyle factors, genetics, environment, and more.
Your gut microbiome influences your immune responses and nervous system functioning, and plays a role in the development of a number of diseases, including obesity, cancer and heart disease.
In the latter case, research has emerged that bacteria in your gut may play an integral role in the formation of fatty deposits on your arteries, leading to atherosclerosis (hardening of your arteries).
Perhaps even more remarkable, now researchers have also figured out a way to stop the process.
Targeting Gut Microbes to Prevent Heart Disease
Research by physician Stanley Hazen of the Cleveland Clinic and colleagues has shown that certain bacteria in your gut can transform choline (found in meat and eggs) and other dietary nutrients into trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), which slows the breakdown of cholesterol.
The higher your TMAO levels become, the more fatty plaques may collect in your arteries, which may promote atherosclerosis and other heart problems.
As The Atlantic recently reported, Dr. Hazen's colleague Zeneng Wang discovered that the chemical 3,3-dimethyl-1-butanol (DMB) prevents gut microbes from turning choline into trimethylamine (TMA), thereby lowering the risk of heart problems.1,2
DMB is a choline-like compound that works by “gumming up” the enzymes required by the bacteria to digest choline, which stops TMA production. According to The Atlantic:3
"It takes two to TMAO: Bacteria first transform choline into TMA, before an enzyme from the host animal changes TMA into TMAO. At first, Hazen's team tried to prevent the second part of this chain by blocking the animal enzyme.
They succeeded, lowering TMAO levels in mice and making them resistant to atherosclerosis. But there was just one problem: disabling the enzyme leads to a build-up of TMA, which doesn't harm the heart but does smell of rotting fish."
By targeting gut microbes with DMB, the mice, which were bred to be vulnerable to atherosclerosis, produced less TMAO even when fed a choline-rich diet. They also had fewer signs of the condition. As written in Cell:4
"The present studies suggest that targeting gut microbial production of TMA specifically and non-lethal microbial inhibitors in general may serve as a potential therapeutic approach for the treatment of cardiometabolic diseases."
Your Gut Microbes Might Be One Reason Why Eating Red Meat Is Linked to Heart Disease
Your gut bacteria can also metabolize L-carnitine, a substance found in red meat, eggs, and other foods, and in so doing produce TMAO.
Interestingly, people with diets high in L-carnitine, i.e. meat eaters, had a gut microbe composition that was more prone to forming TMAO, while vegetarians and vegans did not.
Even after consuming large amounts of L-carnitine in a steak or supplement, the vegetarians and vegans in the study did not produce significant amounts of TMAO.
This, Dr. Hazen and colleagues believe, means that eating red meat alters your gut flora in a way that predisposes your body toward TMAO production, and subsequently, heart disease.5
This was confirmed by giving the omnivores a course of antibiotics, after which they did not produce TMAO. Dr. Hazen said in a statement:6
"The bacteria living in our digestive tracts are dictated by our long-term dietary patterns … A diet high in carnitine actually shifts our gut microbe composition to those that like carnitine, making meat eaters even more susceptible to forming TMAO and its artery-clogging effects."
Separate research suggests people with the highest TMAO levels may have twice the risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or premature death compared to those with the lowest levels.
The researchers therefore suggested that altering the bacterial population in your gut could have tremendous implications for heart health:
"Perhaps a probiotic approach that would involve the intentional ingestion of certain types of bacteria that might alter the population of bacteria in the gut to one that is beneficial."
U.S Military Using Gut Microbes to Stave Off Disease and More
Rice University synthetic biologist Jeff Tabor received a three-year grant from the U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR) to research how gut microbes may be used to support health on the battlefront.
Synthetic biology involves genetically engineering microorganisms, making it highly controversial. Tabor's work involves a genetically engineered E. coli cell that is capable of sensing certain chemical disturbances.
The ultimate goal is that the cells would then "fire off a battery of molecules to neutralize [the disturbances]."9 The cells would be designed to only survive a matter of hours in your gut, carrying out their intended purpose and then dying off naturally.
To date, his research in mice has been related to obesity and other metabolic issues. When mice were fed the modified E. coli cells, the "sensors" were activated, which means the targeted chemicals were successfully located.
The research is only in the beginning stages, but plans are underway to produce GE cells that would carry up to a dozen sensors and be capable of producing targeted drugs on the spot, including highly-targeted antibiotics that target bacterial chemicals linked to obesity, inflammation, and more.10
Manipulating gut bacteria with "synthetic probiotics" might one day be used to treat diabetes, autoimmune disorders, cancer, neurological disorders, obesity, and more.
The U.S. military is hoping that tweaking the microbiome might also help the armed forces stay healthy in the face of extreme conditions, stress, disruptions to circadian rhythm (like living on a submarine), and sleep loss. Scientific American reported:11
" … [T]he Navy may find creative ways to deploy these synthetic probiotics not just to avoid obesity and its attendant problems but to quickly shift body weight and metabolism as necessary, Tabor suggests.
'Imagine you have a team of marines going from a temperate environment, say, at sea level, to a really cold environment, like up on top of a mountain, in a short period of time. You want them to be able to put on some fat quickly to be more robust in the cold environment.'
The solution? A dose of yogurt laced with synthetic probiotics that change warfighters' metabolism to increase fat for a couple of weeks — and after that another dose to take it off when they return to sea level."
The Microbiome Is a 'Key Regulator' of Your Brain and Behavior
Your microbiome affects your heart, your weight, and, yes, also your brain and behavior. So-called germ-free mice, which have no microbiome to speak of, have altered behavior and brain function.
In a study by Dr. John Cryan, a neuropharmacologist from the University College Cork in Ireland, mice without microbes in their intestines are unable to recognize other mice around them. Dr. Cryan believes microbes may communicate with the brain and help us be social, which in turn allows the microbes to spread to others.12
In addition, mice lacking gut bacteria have been found to engage in "high-risk behavior," and this altered behavior was accompanied by neurochemical changes in the mouse brain.13 Dr. Cryan believes beneficial microbes could one day be used to treat mental health problems in humans.
He dubbed the compounds "psychobiotics." He told Scientific American, "That dietary treatments could be used as either adjunct or sole therapy for mood disorders is not beyond the realm of possibility."14
In one notable study by Dr. Cryan and colleagues, the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus had a marked effect on GABA levels — an inhibitory neurotransmitter that is significantly involved in regulating many physiological and psychological processes — in certain brain regions and lowered the stress-induced hormone corticosterone, resulting in reduced anxiety- and depression-related behavior.15
Further, researchers have discovered that the absence or presence of gut microorganisms during infancy permanently alters gene expression. Through gene profiling, they were able to discern that absence of gut bacteria altered genes and signaling pathways involved in learning, memory, and motor control.
This suggests that gut bacteria are closely tied to early brain development and subsequent behavior. These behavioral changes could be reversed as long as the mice were exposed to normal microorganisms early in life. But, once the germ-free mice had reached adulthood, colonizing them with bacteria did not influence their behavior.16 As reported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Record:17
"Cryan has identified several 'critical windows' for gut microbiota development and in which it might be most possible to transform them: early life, adolescence and old age. But, 'on the whole, it's the early-life period that's instrumental for informing the microbiome composition, which informs our immune system and may shape aspects of brain development as well,' he said."
This is one strong argument for having a vaginal birth as opposed to a C-section (if you have the option), as your baby is "seeded" with microbes as it goes through the birth canal. Breastfeeding further encourages a healthy microbiome in early life, and once your baby is ready for soft foods, you can easily provide abundant probiotics in the form of fermented foods.
However, even though early life is a crucial time for developing a healthy microbiome, you can make favorable changes all throughout your life.
How to Nourish Your Microbiome
Your microbiome is vulnerable to your diet and lifestyle and can be harmed by:
| Antibiotics, unless absolutely necessary (and when you do take them, make sure to reseed your gut with fermented foods and/or a probiotic supplement) || Conventionally raised meats and other animal products, as CAFO animals are routinely fed low-dose antibiotics, plus genetically engineered grains, which have also been implicated in the destruction of gut flora
|| Processed foods (as the excessive sugars, along with otherwise "dead" nutrients, feed pathogenic bacteria)
| Chlorinated and/or fluoridated water
|| Antibacterial soap
|| Agricultural chemicals
In addition to avoiding the harmful aspects above, reseeding your gut with beneficial bacteria is essential for maintaining proper balance and achieving optimal physical and mental health. In light of this, here are my recommendations for optimizing your gut bacteria.
- Fermented foods are the best route to optimal gut health, as long as you eat the traditionally made, unpasteurized versions.
Healthy choices include lassi (an Indian yoghurt drink, traditionally enjoyed before dinner), fermented grass-fed organic milk such as kefir, various pickled fermentations of cabbage, turnips, eggplant, cucumbers, onions, squash, and carrots, and natto (fermented soy).
Fermented vegetables, in particular, are an excellent way to supply beneficial bacteria back into your gut. As an added bonus, they can also a great source of vitamin K2 if you ferment your own using the proper starter culture.
We had samples of high-quality, fermented organic vegetables made with our specific starter culture tested, and a typical serving (about two to three ounces) contained not only 10 trillion beneficial bacteria, but it also had 500 mcg of vitamin K2, which we now know is a vital co-nutrient to both vitamin D and calcium.
Most high-quality probiotics supplements will only supply you with a fraction of the beneficial bacteria found in such homemade fermented veggies, so it's your most economical route to optimal gut health as well.
- Probiotic supplement. Although I'm not a major proponent of taking many supplements (as I believe the majority of your nutrients need to come from food), probiotics is an exception if you don't eat fermented foods on a regular basis.
Section: Articles -
File Under: Health |
By Dr. Mercola
Most of us wish for our children to be healthy and free of disease. We wish the same for ourselves as adults, too. But it’s time to critically examine and have an open conversation about whether multiple vaccines in early childhood should be our nation’s No. 1 disease-prevention strategy.
In fact, such a conversation is long overdue. Many red flags have appeared that suggest vaccines not only have the potential for failure but also for harm. There can be little doubt that we need to review the safety and effectiveness of the current vaccination program in the U.S.
If you're not sure this is necessary, just consider some of the recent vaccine failures that have made headlines. The one-size-fits-all vaccination schedule in the U.S. is not safe for every child, and there comes a point when we may well be sacrificing too many children's lives in the name of "the greater good."
Gut Infections May Cause Vaccine Failure
Researchers from the University of Virginia School of Medicine conducted a study involving malnourished children in Bangladesh. One of the hallmarks of malnutrition is stunted growth.
Despite being given regular medical care, vaccinations and food, stunted growth increased among the children, from 9.5 percent at the start of the study to nearly 28 percent by 1 year old. Children with stunted growth were found to have infections in their intestines more often than non-affected children.1
The researchers believe the children may not be digesting their food properly, and the infections likely play a role. Similar results were found among U.S. children with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
The study also found that vaccines given orally to these malnourished children (and presumably to children with IBD or other gut infections) become less effective. The worse the gut inflammation in the child, the less effective the vaccines (including those for rotavirus and polio) became.
Gut inflammation is widespread throughout the world, including in the U.S. where poor diets prevail. Before blindly vaccinating, we should be looking into how such vaccines may react in children with IBD and other gut issues.
Are they even effective? No one really knows. According to a study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases:2
"Most vaccine assessments have occurred in well-nourished populations of higher socioeconomic status. However, vaccines are often used in populations with high incidences of malnutrition and infections, in whom the effectiveness of some vaccines is inferior for unknown reasons.
The degree and extent of vaccine underperformance have not been systematically studied for most vaccines across differing epidemiologic settings."
Vaccine-Derived Diseases Now Circulating the Globe
There are three strains of wild poliovirus still circulating in the world, but vaccine-strain polio viruses also circulate.3
A large part of the problem is the polio vaccine itself, specifically the live attenuated oral polio vaccine (OPV) that is not being given to children in the U.S. any more but is used in many other countries.
[The U.S. stopped using OPV in 1999 when the only cases of polio in the U.S. were being caused by the live virus vaccine. Children in the U.S. today receive four doses of the injected inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) that cannot cause vaccine strain polio.]
In Ukraine, two children were recently paralyzed by vaccine strain poliovirus type 1 after they received live OPV. The World Health Organization (WHO) noted:4
"The risk of further spread of this strain within the country is deemed to be high."
In early December 2015, the WHO was also notified of two additional cases of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV1) in Lao People’s Democratic Republic in Xaisomboun, a previously unaffected province.
To date, five cases have been associated with this outbreak, including a 7-month-old who received oral polio vaccine in September and a 14-year-old who has a history of receiving the vaccine.
Both suffered from Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) that was officially classified as confirmed vaccine derived polio virus cases.
Worldwide in 2015, there were 24 cases of cVDPV reporded with 10 of them in Madagascar, a country that somehow slipped under the radar when it came to cVDPV news reports this year.
The type1 vaccine derived polio virus (cVDPV1) has also been isolated from the stools of 16 healthy people in other area provinces since the beginning of the outbreak.5
Not only can the oral polio vaccine cause vaccine-strain polio in the recently vaccinated individual, but some people who receive OPV are capable of shedding the virus in their body fluids for decades and can infect others with vaccine strain polio virus, particularly people who are immune compromised.6
Vaccine-Caused Polio is a Growing Problem
At this point in time, as health officials are declaring a victory in eliminating the wild polio virus in large portions of the world, vaccine-caused polio is a growing problem.
The polio virus in the vaccine can mutate into a deadlier version in the intestines of a recently vaccinated person or someone who “catches” the vaccine strain polio virus from that person, igniting new outbreaks.
According to a 2010 article in the New England Journal of Medicine, outbreaks of vaccine-derived polioviruses (VDPVs) have been occurring at a rate of once or twice per year since the year 2000.7
So are we really any better off? Polio can cause difficulty breathing and paralysis as the virus attacks and kills motor nerve cells that control your muscles. It can also cause death in its most severe form.
However, what is not often shared is that in most cases of wild polio virus infection, it is a mild illness, causing flu-like symptoms that disappear in two to 10 days. Often, polio can occur and show no symptoms at all. Even the Mayo Clinic states:8
"The vast majority of people who are infected with the polio virus don't become sick and are never aware they've been infected with polio."
Although polio vaccine has been promoted as the best way of preventing polio, the vaccine has certainly not been the only, nor the ultimate, solution to prevent this disease.
Maintaining a strong and well-functioning immune system will always be the first line of defense, as this reduces the risk of any number of diseases, including polio.
Many Americans Dubious of Flu Shot's Effectiveness
The flu shot is one of the most controversial vaccines of all, not only because it's recommended every year, but also because of its many years of dismal failures. Not surprisingly, many Americans are now dubious of its effectiveness.
A recent Harris Poll of more than 2,200 Americans revealed one-third don't believe the flu shot will protect them, while only 43 percent "strongly believed" it would. A sizeable number also correctly believed there were other ways to protect against the flu than a flu shot.9
Strategies mentioned included frequent hand washing, staying well rested, eating healthy and taking vitamins. Perhaps more people are becoming aware that the flu vaccine is often a major flop. For instance, last year's (2014-2015) flu vaccine had an abysmal 18 percent effectiveness rate.
What are the Risks of Long-Term Annual Flu Vaccination?
The long-term effects of annual flu vaccination are unknown, but it appears this strategy may be backfiring, leaving those who have been vaccinated annually less protected than those with no prior flu vaccination history.10
Research presented at the 105th International Conference of the American Thoracic Society in San Diego revealed that children who get seasonal flu shots are more at risk of hospitalization than children who do not. Children who had received the flu vaccine had three times the risk of hospitalization as children who had not. Among children with asthma, the risk was even higher.11
There remain more questions than answers when it comes to vaccinations, which is why we regularly see "mysterious" side effects – like narcolepsy – popping up after vaccinations enter widespread use. The swine flu (H1N1) vaccine (Pandemrix), for instance was causally linked to an increased risk of narcolepsy among children and adolescents.12
About 1,000 people who received the swine flu shot developed the neurological disorder and will live with it the rest of their lives. If this is news to you, it's probably because few media outlets picked up on this story at the time.
NYC Judge Tosses Flu Shot Requirement for Preschoolers
In 2014, New York City began requiring pre-school children to get an annual flu shot in order to attend city-regulated, nonfamily daycare facilities. The NYC health department rule, instituted during the final days of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration, affected more than 100,000 children between the ages of 6 and 59 months.
Earlier this month, state Supreme Court Justice Manuel Mendez judged the NYC flu shot mandate issued by public health officials to be “invalid and unlawful” because it is in “direct violation of the New York State Public Health Law.”13 Basically, the city’s health department officials do not have the regulatory power to impose a flu shot requirement on children without getting approval from elected representatives in the state legislature.
Immediately after the NY Supreme Court struck down the NYC unlawful flu shot mandate for pre-school children, a Bronx Assemblyman introduced a bill (AO8633) in the legislature to require all pre-school children in the whole state to get an annual flu shot.14
With your legal right to make independent vaccine decisions for yourself and your family being eroded at a rapid clip these days, the NY Supreme Court decision temporarily gives parents in New York City at least some control over which vaccines their children will get. But the new bill pending in the New York legislature, which would make annual flu shots a statewide mandate for all pre-school children, could be a huge problem if parents do not make their voices heard in Albany in 2016.
Thousands of Girls Come Forward to Speak Out About HPV Vaccine Side Effects
In many states across the U.S., public health department officials are increasingly joining with medical trade and pharmaceutical industry lobbyists to severely restrict or eliminate religious and philosophical or conscientious belief vaccine exemptions for all children. This year, California became the first state to eliminate the personal belief vaccine exemption for both religious and conscientious beliefs after heavy industry lobbying in the state legislature.
Children attending daycare and public or private elementary, middle and high schools in California now must receive every federally recommended dose of 10 vaccines or provide a medical exemption signed by a medical doctor or other state-approved medical worker in order to get a school-based education.
Connecticut and New Jersey, for instance, already have annual flu shot mandates in place that force parents to vaccinate infants and young children or they cannot be enrolled in daycare. And Rhode Island has a requirement that students be vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV), another controversial vaccine, before entering seventh grade.
A growing number of teens are speaking out against the HPV vaccine (Gardasil and Cervarix) after suffering debilitating side effects. Gardasil vaccine victims include more than 130 girls in Ireland and more than 1,100 girls in Denmark. You can watch and listen to the experience of one Gardasil victim in the video above.
Among the more serious HPV vaccine side effects reported are chronic fatigue, chronic regional pain syndrome, postural tachycardia syndrome, and fibromyalgia.15 Jesper Mehlsen of the Frederiksberg Hospital in Denmark explained, “We have noted a pattern of symptoms in a relatively large group of patients and that these symptoms seem to have a temporal association to the vaccination.”16
Its also been reported that the HPV vaccine may make you more susceptible to being infected with strains of HPV not included in the vaccine. In an analysis of nearly 600 women between the ages of 20 and 26, 60 percent of those who had received the original Gardasil vaccine, which protects against only four strains (types) of HPV (6,11,16,18), had a higher risk of being infected with another non-vaccine HPV virus strain.17
The unvaccinated women had lower rates of the non-vaccine high-risk strains of HPV, which suggests getting vaccinated may make you more susceptible to being infected with other strains of HPV. And, even though Merck, the manufacturer of Gardasil, is now marketing a new nine-strain version of Gardasil vaccine in the U.S., there are several hundred strains of HPV and 40 of those strains are sexually transmitted.
When HPV infection is cleared by more than 90 percent of sexually active women and men without symptoms and decades of evidence shows that cervical cancer associated with chronic HPV infection can be prevented and treated with regular pap screenings, there is an urgent need to re-evaluate the risks of HPV vaccine reactions and failures.18 It’s yet another example of the many unanswered questions that could be putting people’s health at risk when it comes to vaccination.
Father of Five Becomes Quadriplegic After Whooping Cough Vaccine
In the video above, you can hear from Ben Hammond, a previously healthy Australia man who was given a Tdap (tetanus/diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough) booster required by the hospital, where his son was born prematurely. After the ‘routine’ pertussis vaccine containing shot, which he was forced to receive so he could visit his son in the neonatal intensive care unit, he developed Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM), an immune-mediated brain inflammation.
The Tdap-induced brain inflammation left him a quadriplegic for several months. Although he has regained some mobility, he has suffered permanent brain damage and other disabling health problems that make it impossible for him to work, leaving the family in financial and emotional ruin.
It is well known that whole cell and acellular pertussis vaccine in DPT and DTap/Tdap vaccines can cause brain inflammation and permanent brain damage in both children and adults. Nearly 3,000 cases of pertussis vaccine induced brain injury and death have been awarded compensation in the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) under the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act.19
As reported by Barbara Loe Fisher, co-founder and president of the National Vaccine Information Center:
"A 2013 published study evaluating reports of acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) following vaccination in the U. S. Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) and in a European vaccine reaction reporting system found that seasonal influenza vaccine was the most frequently suspected cause of brain inflammation after 18 years old, representing 32 percent of the total cases reported, and pertussis containing DTaP was among the vaccines most frequently associated with brain inflammation in children between birth and age 5."
Adding insult to injury, the practice of “cocooning,” which is what led Hammond to get the Tdap vaccine in the first place, is a controversial practice. It’s a strategy being promoted by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and government health officials as an effective way of protecting babies from B. pertussis whooping cough by vaccinating their parents and other adult caregivers.
However, there is little evidence to show that this works. A Canadian study investigated how many parents would need to be vaccinated in order to prevent infant hospitalizations and deaths from pertussis using the cocoon strategy, and the results were dismal. They found the number needed to vaccinate (NNV) for parental immunization was at least 1 million to prevent 1 infant death, approximately 100,000 for ICU admission, and >10,000 for hospitalization.20
Protect Your Right to Informed Consent and Defend Vaccine Exemptions
With all the uncertainty surrounding the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, it's critical to protect your right to make independent health choices and exercise voluntary informed consent to vaccination. It is urgent that everyone in America stand up and fight to protect and expand vaccine informed consent protections in state public health and employment laws. The best way to do this is to get personally involved with your state legislators and educating the leaders in your community.
THINK GLOBALLY, ACT LOCALLY.
National vaccine policy recommendations are made at the federal level but vaccine laws are made at the state level. It is at the state level where your action to protect your vaccine choice rights can have the greatest impact.
It is critical for EVERYONE to get involved now in standing up for the legal right to make voluntary vaccine choices in America because those choices are being threatened by lobbyists representing drug companies, medical trade associations, and public health officials, who are trying to persuade legislators to strip all vaccine exemptions from public health laws.
Signing up for NVIC's free Advocacy Portal at www.NVICAdvocacy.org gives you immediate, easy access to your own state legislators on your Smart Phone or computer so you can make your voice heard. You will be kept up-to-date on the latest state bills threatening your vaccine choice rights and get practical, useful information to help you become an effective vaccine choice advocate in your own community.
Also, when national vaccine issues come up, you will have the up-to-date information and call to action items you need at your fingertips.
So please, as your first step, sign up for the NVIC Advocacy Portal.
Share Your Story with the Media and People You Know
If you or a family member has suffered a serious vaccine reaction, injury, or death, please talk about it. If we don't share information and experiences with one another, everybody feels alone and afraid to speak up. Write a letter to the editor if you have a different perspective on a vaccine story that appears in your local newspaper. Make a call in to a radio talk show that is only presenting one side of the vaccine story.
I must be frank with you; you have to be brave because you might be strongly criticized for daring to talk about the "other side" of the vaccine story. Be prepared for it and have the courage to not back down. Only by sharing our perspective and what we know to be true about vaccination will the public conversation about vaccination open up so people are not afraid to talk about it.
We cannot allow the drug companies and medical trade associations funded by drug companies or public health officials promoting forced use of a growing list of vaccines to dominate the conversation about vaccination.
The vaccine injured cannot be swept under the carpet and treated like nothing more than "statistically acceptable collateral damage" of national one-size-fits-all mandatory vaccination policies that put way too many people at risk for injury and death. We shouldn't be treating people like guinea pigs instead of human beings.
Internet Resources Where You Can Learn More
I encourage you to visit the website of the non-profit charity, the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), at www.NVIC.org:
- NVIC Memorial for Vaccine Victims: View descriptions and photos of children and adults, who have suffered vaccine reactions, injuries, and deaths. If you or your child experiences an adverse vaccine event, please consider posting and sharing your story here.
- If You Vaccinate, Ask 8 Questions: Learn how to recognize vaccine reaction symptoms and prevent vaccine injuries.
- Vaccine Freedom Wall: View or post descriptions of harassment and sanctions by doctors, employers, and school and health officials for making independent vaccine choices.
- Vaccine Failure Wall: View or post descriptions about vaccines that have failed to work and protect the vaccinated from disease.
Connect with Your Doctor or Find a New One That Will Listen and Care
If your pediatrician or doctor refuses to provide medical care to you or your child unless you agree to get vaccines you don't want, I strongly encourage you to have the courage to find another doctor. Harassment, intimidation, and refusal of medical care is becoming the modus operandi of the medical establishment in an effort to stop the change in attitude of many parents about vaccinations after they become truly educated about health and vaccination.
However, there is hope.
At least 15 percent of young doctors recently polled admit that they're starting to adopt a more individualized approach to vaccinations in direct response to the vaccine safety concerns of parents.
It is good news that there is a growing number of smart young doctors, who prefer to work as partners with parents in making personalized vaccine decisions for children, including delaying vaccinations or giving children fewer vaccines on the same day or continuing to provide medical care for those families, who decline use of one or more vaccines.
So take the time to locate a doctor, who treats you with compassion and respect and is willing to work with you to do what is right for your child.
Section: Articles -
File Under: Health |
By Dr. Mercola
In 2014, nearly 10 percent of the entire swine population in the U.S. was wiped out by the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) — a highly lethal virus traced back to pig's blood used in piglet feed.
At the time, I noted that this was a perfect example of what tends to happen when you "cannibalize" the food system; feeding animal parts back to animals of the same species. This is especially true for herbivores like cows, where the practice is associated with lethal Mad Cow disease.
Pigs are omnivores, but even there the cannibal solution can lead to serious problems. You'd think the industry would have learned its lessons by now, but recent developments suggest otherwise.
Infected Pigs and Contaminated Manure Used to Combat Lethal Pig Virus
There's no effective vaccine against PEDv, so to thwart the reemergence of the virus in offspring, some farmers are now feeding the intestines from baby pigs that died from the disease to their breeding hogs.1 According to Reuters,2 this "allows female hogs to become infected and pass on immunity to piglets ...
Those fed infected food or otherwise exposed to the virus usually become sick for a few days, but then get well again." Other farmers are spraying their pigs' noses with a mixture of water and hog manure contaminated with the virus, in the hopes of creating a "natural vaccine."
Yet another strategy being employed is to identify carriers of the virus, and then mix their manure into the feed given to female breeding hogs, "so they can pass on antibodies to piglets through their milk."
The antibiotics fed for weight gain contribute to a weakening immune system, which are a magnet for culturing and harboring viruses that have great opportunities for spreading.
So what we have here is a situation where an exceptionally lethal virus was created by overuse of antibiotics in the animals; which was then spread by feeding contaminated pig's blood to piglets; and now the "solution" is to feed infected pig remnants and contaminated manure to breeding pigs.
What could possibly go wrong?
It's worth noting that PEDv is not considered a food safety concern, for the fact that it is not transmissible to humans. However, it may simply be a case of not knowing what we don't know.
To illustrate this point, researchers are now suggesting Alzheimer's may be a slow-acting form of the human version of Mad Cow disease, known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). Infectious prions that cause neurodegeneration appear to be at work in both cases.
So, what might the ultimate outcome be when we eat pork that has been fed pig parts and manure contaminated with a mutated PEDv virus? It may be safe. Then again, it might not.
All I'm certain of is that the practice of feeding animal parts to animals — the cannibal food system — is fraught with potential health hazards. Overall, it's a bad idea.
Antibiotic Use Is Rising, Despite Worldwide Warnings of 'Antibiotic Apocalypse'
The PED virus was traditionally a relatively mild pathogen. Only recently did it suddenly evolve into a far more aggressive version, with a mortality rate of nearly 100 percent among affected animals. This is what typically happens when antibiotics are overused.
For years, experts have warned us that we must rein in the use of antibiotics as they lose their effectiveness in human medicine. Since 80 percent of antibiotics used in the US are given to livestock, food producers have been urged to cease giving animals antibiotics for non-medical purposes.
Despite such dire warnings, agricultural use of antibiotics in the U.S. rose by 23 percent between 2009 and 2014.3 As noted by NPR:4
"If you go by their declarations and promises, meat producers are drastically cutting back on the use of antibiotics to treat their poultry, pigs, and cattle. Over the past year, one big food company after another has announced plans to stop using these drugs.
But if you go by the government's data on drugs sold to livestock producers, it's a different story.
According to the Food and Drug Administration,5 which compiles these numbers, sales of antibiotics for use on the farm increased in 2014, just as they had for most years before that.
And most alarming to public health advocates, sales of antibiotics important in human medicine went up 3 percent from 2013 to 2014, the FDA found. That's just slightly less than the 5-year trend."
Failure to Limit Ag Use of Antibiotics Puts People's Health at Risk
An estimated 2 million Americans become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year, and at least 23,000 of them die as a direct result of those infections. This is already a staggering number, but the problem is predicted to get far worse.
A 2015 report6 commissioned by UK Prime Minister David Cameron estimates that by 2050, antibiotic resistance will have killed 300 million people, with the annual global death toll reaching 10 million, and the global cost for treatment reaching $100 trillion.
To curb antibiotic use on farms, the FDA issued guidance on agricultural antibiotics on December 11, 2013,7,8 but it didn't go anywhere near far enough.
Drug companies were simply asked to voluntarily restrict the use of antibiotics that are important in human medicine by excluding growth promotion in animals as a listed use on the drug label.
However, farmers are still allowed to use antibiotics for therapeutic purposes, without restrictions on how long the animal can be treated. This loophole allows them to continue feeding their animals antibiotics for growth promotion without actually admitting that's the reason for doing so.9
Considering the fact that sales of antibiotics that are important for human medicine went up 3 percent in the year after the FDA's guidance was issued, it seems this strategy has utterly failed to address the problem.
Drug companies continue to sacrifice human lives to keep animals on drugs, and CAFOs ignore the health risks in the name of economy.
California Steps Up With Statewide Legislation
To address these federal regulatory shortcomings, California recently passed its own state law to restrict antibiotic use in livestock.10
While the bill still allows antibiotics to be used as "prophylaxis to address an elevated risk of contraction of a particular disease or infection," the drugs cannot be used "in a regular pattern."
This minor detail closes the loophole that allows farmers to simply change the stated reason for why they're dosing their herd.
The bill, which was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on October 10, 2015, will go into effect in 2018.
Between now and then, California livestock producers will have to figure out how to keep their animals healthy without the routine use of antibiotics. As reported by Aljazeera,11 researchers are investigating the use of prebiotics, probiotics, and certain herb and plant extracts, such as oregano and thyme, known for their antimicrobial properties.
Proof That End of Medical Antibiotics Is Close at Hand
The fact that the livestock industry has been so reluctant to act in the best interest of mankind is atrocious. They clearly waited far too long, because we may already have crossed the threshold of "no return."
Researchers recently discovered a new gene, called mcr-1, in pigs and people in China12,13,14,15 — a gene mutation that makes bacteria resistant to our last-resort class of antibiotics. This is precisely the nightmare scenario scientists have been warning us about.
In fact, it's a bit worse than predicted. The resistance provided by this gene mutation has "epidemic potential," as the rate of transfer between bacteria is exceptionally high. This means the drug-resistance can easily spread from one bacterium to the next, quickly eliminating the possibility of medical treatment for an ever-growing number of bacterial infections.
In addition to finding the gene in pork and chicken samples, it was also found in 16 patients being treated for infections, showing it's already making its way into the human population, by way of contaminated meat.
As reported by Scientific American:16
"Researchers ... found the gene, called mcr-1, on plasmids — mobile DNA that can be easily copied and transferred between different bacteria. This suggests 'an alarming potential' for it to spread and diversify between bacterial populations, they said.
The team already has evidence of the gene being transferred between common bacteria such as E.coli ... and Klesbsiella pneumoniae ... This suggests 'the progression from extensive drug resistance to pan drug resistance17 [i.e. bacteria resistant to all treatment] is inevitable,' they said. '(And) although currently confined to China, mcr-1 is likely to emulate other resistance genes ... and spread worldwide.'"
Mcr-1 Found in German Patient, Contracted Via Contaminated Meat
It gets worse. As it turns out, mcr-1 is not confined to China anymore, thanks to meat exports. As reported by Forbes18 on December 10, 2015:
"This week ... the Danish National Food Institute reported that they also ... found the mcr-1 gene in the blood of a patient and in five poultry samples that originated in Germany between 2012 to 2014. The patient had not left the country and was believed to have become infected by eating contaminated meat.
The genes found in the poultry were identical to those from the Danish patient and from China ... With the recent Chipotle E. coli outbreak, it's not hard to imagine the nightmare scenario of a foodborne outbreak from one of these new, highly resistant strains ..."
Add to this the recent finding that DNA from antibiotic-resistant bacteria are also airborne, and have been found in water as well, and it would appear we are now in the beginning of the end of the antibiotic era. In the near future, even simple infections may become life threatening, and medicine will have nothing to offer to these patients — all because factory farmers wanted to produce more for less money. Hardly the bargain they promised, if you ask me.
How Can You Protect Yourself and Your Family?
There's no sugar-coating it. We're at a critical junction, and we have to get serious about this issue. Tens of millions of people are likely going to die in the coming decades as a result of widespread antibiotic abuses. The presence of mcr-1 may further speed up the prevalence of bacteria impervious to every single antibiotic currently available. There are no quick and easy answers here.
The impending superbug crisis needs to be addressed from a number of different angles, but eliminating antibiotics for growth promotion and prophylactic purposes in livestock and fish production is perhaps the most pressing priority. As a consumer, you can add pressure on the industry and hasten this change by demanding antibiotic-free meats and animal products, no matter where you shop and eat.
Ideally, buy directly from a local farmer or rancher who raises his animals according to organic standards. Sustainably raised, grass-fed meats are also less likely to be contaminated with pathogenic bacteria. This goes for pork and chicken (and their eggs) as well.
Besides talking to your local grocer or farmer, and restaurants you frequent, you can also make your voice heard by signing the Organic Consumers Association's petition calling for a mandatory ban on sub-therapeutic doses of antibiotics for livestock.
Also limit your own antibiotic use to when absolutely necessary. Focus on strengthening your immune system instead. As an all-around preventive measure, you'll want to make sure your vitamin D level is optimized year-round. Also avoid antibacterial household products.
Healthier and Safer Food Resources
If you reside in the U.S., the following organizations can help you locate sustainably raised foods, including grass-fed meats:
| Weston Price Foundation 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.
|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, and 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.
|FoodRoutes — 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.
Section: Articles -
File Under: Health |
By Dr. Mercola
Plant-based diets are widely considered to be better for the environment than diets that include animal foods.
While it's true that animal foods from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are among the worst polluters on the planet, industrially grown plant foods, at least some of them, may not be much better (and in some cases may be worse).
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University conducted a meta-analysis to quantify the water and energy use, along with emissions, for more than 100 foods. The largest water and energy footprint per calorie came from fruits.1
Vegetables, dairy, and fish/seafood were also found to have relatively high resource use and emissions per calorie. Study author Paul Fischbeck, professor of Social and Decision Sciences and Engineering and Public Policy, told Scientific American:2
"You cannot just jump and assume that any vegetarian diet is going to have a low impact on the environment … You can't treat all fruits and veggies as good for the environment."
Lettuce Is a Top Source of Food Waste – and Foodborne Illness
In determining the energy footprint per calorie of the various foods, the researchers also accounted for food waste. The average calories per day consumed were calculated at 2,390, with an additional 1,230 for food waste.
Part of what makes leafy greens like lettuce so environmentally burdensome is because they're a top source of food waste. More than 1 billion pounds of salad go uneaten every year (let the enormity of that number sink in for a minute).3 This means all the water and energy put into its production is wasted too.
Leafy greens (which includes lettuce, spinach, cabbage, etc.) also account for a surprisingly high share of foodborne illnesses each year (22 percent from 1998 to 2008!).4
There are a few reasons for this, including contaminated water used to irrigate fields and manure that may be used for fertilizer or which contaminates the field from nearby farms. Michael Doyle, director of the University of Georgia's Center for Food Safety, told Modern Farmer:5
"We've already had outbreaks with cut lettuce and cut spinach and E. Coli 01:57, and there's also salmonella, and listeria. These organisms typically come from animals; they carry them in their intestinal tracts.
When the manure gets into the environment, then the bacteria is there, in the soil or the water. Often, when manure dries out, the wind blows it. Salmonella, we know, is quite tolerant to drying."
Another issue has to do with a milky "latex" that forms when the plant is cut, essentially trapping in bacteria that's virtually impossible to wash off. Compounding the matter is that leafy greens like lettuce and spinach are often eaten raw. Doyle continued:
"When the latex forms, if there is harmful bacteria there, the bacteria is within the plant tissue.
The treatments that are typically used in the processing plant for cleaning is basically chlorine, and they're just washing the outside of it, so the bacteria is not going to be washed away. Once they get in, the bacteria grows and the plant has nutrients to help them grow."
Lettuce Isn't That Nutritious Compared to Some Other Vegetables
Just about every vegetable is mostly water, but lettuce is virtually all water (96 percent for iceberg lettuce, for instance). This isn't a bad thing, per se. Eating lettuce can fill you up and keep you from eating other less healthy foods, and it provides fiber, which many are lacking.
However, the lettuce in your salad really isn't providing you with that much nutrition, especially if it's iceberg. And if you're on a budget, you want to make the vegetables you do buy count, nutritionally speaking.
There are many other vegetables that are nutritionally superior, less expensive, and better for the environment. For instance, onions, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts all had a relatively small environmental footprint according to the featured study. As reported by The Washington Post:6
"The corollary to the nutrition problem is the expense problem. The makings of a green salad — say, a head of lettuce, a cucumber, and a bunch of radishes — cost about $3 at my supermarket.
For that, I could buy more than two pounds of broccoli, sweet potatoes, or just about any frozen vegetable going, any of which would make for a much more nutritious side dish to my roast chicken. Lettuce is a vehicle to transport refrigerated water from farm to table.
When we switch to vegetables that are twice as nutritious — like those collards or tomatoes or green beans — not only do we free up half the acres now growing lettuce, we cut back on the fossil fuels and other resources needed for transport and storage.
Save the planet, skip the salad."
Say Goodbye to Lettuce, Hello to Sprouts
Salads have become a staple for many Americans, especially at lunchtime. A national survey by GrubHub Seamless analyzed what working Americans are eating for lunch during their workdays. The top three entrees ordered were salads, with Greek salad topping the list.7
You probably assume this is a healthy lunch, but in many cases it's not. As written in The Washington Post:8
"Lots of what passes for salad in restaurants is just the same as the rest of the calorie-dense diabolically palatable food that's making us fat, but with a few lettuce leaves tossed in.
Next time you order a salad, engage in a little thought experiment: Picture the salad without the lettuce, cucumber, and radish, which are nutritionally and calorically irrelevant. Is it a little pile of croutons and cheese, with a few carrot shavings and lots of ranch dressing?"
If you can't imagine your lunch without a salad, don't despair. There's a simple way to radically supercharge your salad; it involves making one key switch – trade your lettuce for sprouts.
Reap the Health Benefits of Eating Sprouts instead of Lettuce
Sprouts may offer some of the highest levels of nutrition available, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and enzymes that help protect against free radical damage. So while lettuce is good, sprouts are even better.
Fresh broccoli sprouts, for instance,are far more potent than whole broccoli, allowing you to eat far less in terms of quantity. Three-day old broccoli sprouts consistently contain anywhere from 10 to 100 times the amount of glucoraphanin — a chemoprotective compound — found in mature broccoli.9
The compound glucoraphanin also appears to have a protective effect against toxic pollutants by improving your body's ability to eliminate or excrete them. Glucoraphanin has also been shown to protect against cancer.
Many of the benefits of sprouts relate to the fact that, in their initial phase of growth, the plants contain more concentrated amounts of nutrients. As a result, you need to eat far less sprouts, in terms of amount, compared to a mature plant. For example, when sprouting seeds, nuts, beans, and grains you get:
- Higher vitamin content. In some seeds, the vitamin content is increased by as much as 20 times during the sprouting process. Some go even higher.
The B1 in mung beans, for example, increases by 285 percent when sprouted; B2 go up by 515 percent; and B3 (niacin) by 256 percent.10
- Higher enzyme content. Sprouts contain an estimated 100 times more enzymes than fresh fruits and vegetables. These enzymes allow your body to extract higher levels of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients from other foods you eat in conjunction with the sprouts as well.
- Increased essential fatty acid and fiber content. The essential fatty acid and fiber content also increases dramatically during the sprouting process. Most people do not get enough fiber or healthy fats in their diet for optimal health, and sprouts can be a great source of both.
- Increased bioavailability of minerals and protein. When the seed starts to sprout, minerals such as calcium and magnesium bind to proteins in the seed, which makes both the minerals and the protein more readily available and usable in your body.
In addition, the proteins are altered in beneficial ways during the process of sprouting, so you get more, and higher quality, protein from sprouts compared to eating the unsprouted seed.
Growing Your Own Sprouts: Good for the Environment, Lower Risk of Contamination
Commercially grown sprouts are one of the most commonly contaminated foods. They're so risky, Food Safety Director Doyle won't even eat them. He told Modern Farmer:11
"We've had so many outbreaks. There is no critical control point in the sprout business. You can't wash the bacteria away. If it grows during the sprouting process, it grows into the sprout itself. You'd have to cook it or something else to kill it."
The simple solution is to grow your own. When grown in soil, you can harvest your sprouts in about a week, and a pound of seeds will probably produce over 10 pounds of sprouts. Sunflower sprouts will give you the most volume for your effort and, in my opinion, have the best taste.
In one 10x10 tray, you can harvest between one and two pounds of sunflower sprouts. You can store them in the fridge for about a week, but it's even better to use them fresh, just after cutting.
Start the New Year Off Right – Grow Sprouts at Home
Download Interview Transcript
If you start your sprouts now, you'll have fresh, healthy sprouts ready to enjoy to start off the New Year right. This is the true basis for a real salad. Once you've chosen your seeds, the next step is healthy soil to plant them in.
First, be sure the soil and/or compost you purchase does not contain biosolids. Sewage sludge, or "biosolids" – as they're referred to with a PR spin – are a type of fertilizer that began being "recycled" into food crops when, ironically, it was realized that dumping them into rivers, lakes, and bays was an environmental disaster. This sludge is what's leftover after sewage is treated and processed.
The problem is the sludge approved for use in fertilizer also contains industrial waste, which is loaded with toxins and heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, and other chemicals that may be harmful to human health and the environment. When you buy compost or potting soil, chances are it will have biosolids with these concentrated toxins in it. And yes, this includes organic fertilizer and organic mulch.
Never mind the fact that you're paying a premium for it thinking this is the way to avoid these toxins! These composted products can have the USDA organic label on them, and still be loaded with toxic biosolids. Most will not reveal the presence of biosolids, although some companies will include "miloganite" on the label, which is a term denoting biosolids from the City of Milwaukee — a national distributor.
For more information, see my interview above with David Lewis, a microbiologist with a Ph.D. in microbial ecology who spent three decades working as an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scientist. If the bag of compost you're looking at happens to include "milorganite" on the label, avoid it like the plague. Aside from that, there's no way to tell whether the compost has toxic sludge in it or not.
Your best alternative is to contact your local nursery and ask them if they use biosolids in their compost. I happen to live close to a nursery that creates their own compost. I asked them about the presence of biosolids, and they said, "No, we do not use biosolids. We compost our own soil." They were very well informed about the toxic dangers inherent with the use of biosolids.
So, it's vital that you discuss what is added to the compost with the person that is actually responsible for producing it. Another alternative is to make your own, using a composting bin or wood chips for example.
My Sprouts' Growth Exploded When I Added Biochar
Sunflower seeds and pea sprouts – 3 days until ready for harvest
Sunflower seed sprouts and wheat grass - ready to harvest
When growing sprouts at home, I first started out using a commercial compost, and my sprouts struggled to grow. I added biochar to the soil, and their growth took off. It was a shocking difference. Biochar is created by slowly burning biomass like wood chips, corn stalks, coconut shells, or any similar organic material, in a low-oxygen environment, such as a kiln.
When burned this way, the carbon in the organic material is not released into the atmosphere as CO2; rather it traps the carbon and forms a type of charcoal that has a reef-like structure, which serves as a magnificent microbial home.
Besides providing excellent living quarters for soil microorganisms, Biochar also has a number of other benefits, including:
- Returning much of the depleted carbon to the soil (carbon sequestration), where it can remain for hundreds or even thousands of years
- Improving overall soil quality and fertility
- Raising the soil's water retention ability
- Potentially helping to "filter" toxic chemicals in the soil, much like carbon-based water filtration systems can filter toxins out of your water
The introduction of Biochar into soil is not like applying fertilizer; rather it's the beginning of a process — most of the benefit is achieved through the activity of the microbes and fungi that take up residence in the treated soil. They colonize its massive surface area and integrate into the char and the surrounding soil, dramatically increasing the soil's ability to nurture plant growth.
If you want to try this at home, you can use my Sprout Doctor Starter Kit, which includes everything you need to get started – seeds (broccoli, pea, and sunflower), a sprouting tray and Sprout Doctor Soil Enhancement, with biochar.
Once your sprouts are ready, harvest some to make a delicious non-lettuce salad. For inspiration, check out my favorite lunch recipe. It's a "salad" unlike any you've probably ever seen – packed with nutritionally rich sprouts, healthy fats and much more.
Section: Articles -
File Under: Health |
By Dr. Mercola
Adding herbs like parsley and thyme to your diet might help boost your brainpower, courtesy of apigenin. Apigenin is a flavonoid found in many herbs, including parsley, thyme, and chamomile, and certain other plants like celery and other vegetables.
When researchers applied apigenin to human stem cells in a petri dish, something remarkable happened – 25 days later, the stem cells had turned into neurons (an effect that didn't occur without apigenin).1
The synapses, or connections between neurons, were also "strong and more sophisticated," which is crucial for memory consolidation, learning, and overall brain function.2
The researchers noted that apigenin binds to estrogen receptors, which affect the development, maturation, function, and plasticity of the nervous system. They wrote in the journal Advances in Regenerative Biology:3
" … [B]y simply adding a plant compound called apigenin to human pluripotent stem cells, they become neurons after a few days. We also observed that neurons could make more sophisticated connections among themselves after treatment with this natural compound.
This observation suggests that flavonoids derived from plants can be used as a tool for the production of neurons in a dish.
Moreover, since flavonoids are present at high amounts in some foods, we can speculate that a diet rich in flavonoids may influence the formation of neurons and the way they communicate within the brain."
How Might Apigenin Help Grow New Brain Cells?
The fact that apigenin triggers stem cells to become neurons is quite remarkable. Neurogenesis, or your brain's ability to adapt and grow new brain cells, is known to be influenced by lifestyle factors, including exercise and diet.
Apigenin may be one factor in the latter and may explain why flavonoid-rich foods are associated with neurogenesis. According to Stanford University, antioxidants such as flavonoids promote neurogenesis not only in a petri dish but also in rodent brains.
Flavonoids, in particular, increase neurogenesis in the hippocampus of stressed rats, possibly by increasing blood flow to the brain and/or increasing levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).4 BDNF is a remarkable rejuvenator in several respects.
In your brain, BDNF not only preserves existing brain cells,5 it also activates brain stem cells to convert into new neurons and effectively makes your brain grow larger.
Apigenin May Fight Cancer Too
Brain health isn't the only reason to include more apigenin-rich foods in your diet; it also appears to be a potent cancer fighter. When mice implanted with cells of a particularly deadly, fast-growing human breast cancer were treated with apigenin, the cancerous growth slowed and the tumors shrank.6
Blood vessels feeding the tumors also shrunk and restricted nutrient flow to the tumor cells, starving them of the nutrients need to spread. In 2013, apigenin was again shown to block the ability of breast cancer cells to inhibit their own deaths.
Interestingly, the compound was also found to bind to 160 proteins in the human body, which suggests it has far-reaching health effects (unlike pharmaceutical drugs, which typically only have one specific target). The researchers explained:7
"… [I]n contrast to small-molecule pharmaceuticals designed for defined target specificity, dietary phytochemicals affect a large number of cellular targets with varied affinities that, combined, result in their recognized health benefits."
Apigenin has even been found to make treatment with the breast cancer drug paclitaxel more effective.8 And according to the International Journal of Oncology:9
"Apigenin has been shown to possess remarkable anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-carcinogenic properties. In the last few years, significant progress has been made in studying the biological effects of apigenin at cellular and molecular levels."
You Can Increase Your Apigenin Intake by Eating Celery, Parsley, and More
Apigenin is most prevalent in celery and parsley, but it's also found in many other plant foods, including:
| Apples || Chamomile
|| Beans and barley
Apigenin may even be one reason why drinking chamomile tea has been found to reduce thyroid cancer risk by up to 80 percent.10
Human exposure to apigenin occurs mostly through the consumption of apigenin-containing fruits and vegetables, although researchers are not sure how much is absorbed into the bloodstream.
Some of the research studies used an injection of apigenin, but you also obtain biologically significant quantities through a healthy diet. Researchers of the 2011 study noted:11
" … [I]t appears that keeping a minimal level of apigenin in the bloodstream is important to delay the onset of breast cancer …
It's probably a good idea to eat a little parsley … every day to ensure the minimal amount. However, you can also find this compound in pill supplements …"
Turmeric: A Spice with Brain-Boosting, Cancer-Fighting Potential
The plant world is teeming with ingredients that can support your health. Another food worth mentioning is turmeric, whose active ingredient, curcumin, is beneficial for both brain health and cancer prevention/treatment, much like apigenin.
Curcumin has potent anti-cancer properties and is also capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier, which is one reason why it holds promise as a neuroprotective agent in a wide range of neurological disorders.
Researchers have previously investigated curcumin for its potential role in improving Parkinson's, Alzheimer's disease, and stroke damage. It can also promote brain health in general, courtesy of its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
One of the ways it works, which is similar to vitamin D, is by modulating large numbers of your genes. But unlike vitamin D that influences thousands of genes, curcumin has been shown to influence about 700 genes.
Another bioactive compound in turmeric called aromatic-turmerone can increase neural stem cell growth in the brain by as much as 80 percent at certain concentrations.12 Neural stem cells differentiate into neurons and play an important role in self-repair.
The findings suggest aromatic-turmerone may help in the recovery of brain function in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and stroke — provided the effect also applies to humans.
Previous research has also shown that curcumin may help inhibit the accumulation of destructive beta-amyloids in the brain of Alzheimer's patients, as well as break up existing plaques.
Ashwagandha for Your Brain
Another lesser-known herb (at least in the U.S.) is ashwagandha, a small evergreen perennial herb that's been a part of India's Ayurvedic medical system for thousands of years.
While often regarded as an herb for stress reduction and improved energy and vitality, researchers at the National Brain Research Centre (NBRC) have conducted studies on mice that suggest ashwagandha extract may reverse memory loss and improve cognitive abilities in those with Alzheimer's disease.13
Initially, mice with Alzheimer's were unable to learn or retain what they learned, but after receiving ashwagandha for 20 days this improved significantly. After 30 days, the behavior of the mice returned to normal. Researchers reported a reduction in amyloid plaques (amyloid plaques, along with tangles of nerve fibers, contribute to the degradation of the wiring in brain cells) and improved cognitive abilities.
Rather than impacting the brain directly, researchers found that the herb worked by boosting a protein in the liver, which enters the bloodstream and helps clear amyloid from the brain.
Researchers concluded, "The remarkable therapeutic effect of W. somnifera [ashwagandha] ... reverses the behavioral deficits and pathology seen in Alzheimer's disease models."
Ginseng and Green Tea: Two More Brain-Boosting Compounds
American ginseng is another beneficial herb that's been linked to improved mental performance. For instance, American ginseng was found to improve working memory and mood in both young individuals and middle-age adults.14
Another study revealed "robust working memory enhancement following administration of American ginseng."15 Green tea shows promise for protecting brain health.
In a study presented at the 2015 International Conference on Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Diseases, those who drank green tea one to six days a week had less mental decline than those who didn't drink it.16 Green tea isn't actually an herb, it (as well as black, oolong, dark, and white teas) comes from an evergreen called Camellia sinensis.
What Are Other Top 'Brain Foods?'
If you want to boost your brainpower, one of the best choices you can make is to eat more real foods. Inside healthy foods are the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and countless other phytochemicals to nourish your brain cells (and even grow new ones).
Consider this: people who eat plenty of vegetables and fruits (about 1.6 cups, or 400 grams) a day perform better on cognitive tests,17 while those who eat a lot of sugar are 1.5 times more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment than those who do not.18
Celery may be particularly beneficial, as in addition to containing apigenin, it's also a rich source of luteolin, a plant compound that may calm inflammation in your brain, which is a primary cause of neurodegeneration. Luteolin has also been linked with lower rates of age-related memory loss in mice, and older mice fed a luteolin-supplemented diet scored better on learning and memory tasks.19 In addition to celery, peppers and carrots are also good sources of luteolin.
The omega-3 fats found in wild Alaskan salmon are also important, as they help fight inflammation throughout your body, including in your brain, and offer numerous protections to your brain cells.
For instance, a study in the journal Neurology found "older women with the highest levels of omega-3 fats … had better preservation of their brain as they aged than those with the lowest levels, which might mean they would maintain better brain function for an extra year or two."20
In separate research, when boys were given an omega-3 supplement, there were significant increases in the activation of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex part of the brain.21 This is an area of your brain that is associated with working memory. They also noticed changes in other parts of the brain, including the occipital cortex (the visual processing center) and the cerebellar cortex (which plays a role in motor control).
You can get omega-3 fats in therapeutic doses by taking a supplement like krill oil. But, if you're looking for a food source, wild Alaskan salmon (along with sardines and anchovies) is among the best. Keep in mind that your brain is not "programmed" to shrink and fail as a matter of course as you age. In fact, you can build a bigger, better brain by making smart choices, including fortifying your diet with herbs, vegetables, and healthy fats.
Section: Articles -
File Under: Health |
By Dr. Mercola
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in your body. More than 3,750 magnesium-binding sites have been detected on human proteins,1 and it's required for more than 300 different enzymes in your body.
In short, magnesium plays an important role in a wide variety of biochemical processes, including the following:
|Creation of ATP2,3 (adenosine triphospate), the energy molecules of your body ||Action of your heart muscle
||Proper formation of bones and teeth
|Relaxation of blood vessels
||Regulation of blood sugar levels
||Activating muscles and nerves
|Helping digest proteins, carbohydrates, and fats
||Serving as a cofactor for RNA and DNA
||It's also a catalyst for neurotransmitters like serotonin
As is the case with vitamin D, if you don't have enough magnesium, your body simply cannot function optimally, and insufficient cellular magnesium levels set the stage for deterioration of metabolic function that can snowball into more serious health problems.
For starters, magnesium is critical for the optimization of your mitochondria, which have enormous potential to influence your health, especially the prevention of cancer.
In fact, optimizing mitochondrial metabolism may be at the core of effective cancer treatment. But your mitochondrial function is also crucial for overall good health, energy, and athletic performance.
Optimizing Mitochondrial Function with Magnesium
Mitochondria are tiny organelles, originally thought to be derived from bacteria. Most cells have anywhere from 1 to 2,000 of them. Your organs need energy to function properly, and that energy is produced by the mitochondria in each cell.
Since mitochondrial function is at the very heart of everything that occurs in your body, optimizing mitochondrial function (and preventing mitochondrial dysfunction) by making sure you get all the right nutrients and precursors your mitochondria need is extremely important for health and disease prevention.
As explained by Rhonda Patrick, Ph.D., in the video above, magnesium plays an important role. Patrick has done extensive research on the link between mitochondrial metabolism, apoptosis and cancer, and on the effects of hyperthermic conditioning on muscle growth.
High-intensity interval training helps optimize athletic performance by increasing your oxidative capacity, meaning the ability of your muscle cells to consume oxygen. Your oxidative capacity relies on your mitochondria's ability to produce ATP by consuming that oxygen inside the cell.
As noted by Patrick, "You want your ATP production to exceed your ATP consumption, in order to enhance or maximize your performance and avoid muscle fatigue."
You can increase your oxidative capacity in two ways:
- Increasing the total number of mitochondria in your cells by engaging in high intensity interval exercises. However, in order for new mitochondria to be created, you must have sufficient amounts of magnesium.
- Increasing the efficiency of your mitochondria to repair damage and produce ATP. This process also requires magnesium as a co-factor.
Common Causes for Magnesium Deficiency
A century ago, we were getting an estimated 500 milligrams (mg) of magnesium from the food we ate, courtesy of the nutrient-rich soil in which it was grown. Today, estimates suggest we're only getting 150 to 300 mg a day from our food supply.
As noted by Patrick, eating a diet rich in calories and poor in micronutrients (read processed foods) is a primary risk factor for magnesium deficiency, for the simple reason that magnesium resides at the center of the chlorophyll molecule.
Chlorophyll, as you may know, is what gives plants their green color. Most Americans eat far too few fruits and vegetables, which may explain why more than half of the American public is deficient in magnesium.
In addition to not getting sufficient amounts from your diet, magnesium is also lost through stress, lack of sleep, alcohol consumption, and prescription drug use (especially diuretics, statins, fluoride and fluoride-containing drugs such as fluoroquinolone antibiotics).
Magnesium levels can also decline in the presence of certain hormones, such as estrogen. If you have elevated insulin levels — which an estimated 80 percent of Americans do — you're quite likely to have low magnesium levels.4
Increasing your magnesium intake may actually go a long way toward improving your condition, or warding off insulin resistance and diabetes in the first place. In one study,5 prediabetics with the highest magnesium intake reduced their risk for blood sugar and metabolic problems by 71 percent.
A second study6 also found that higher magnesium intake reduces the risk of impaired glucose and insulin metabolism and slows progression from pre-diabetes to diabetes.
According to the authors, "Magnesium intake may be particularly beneficial in offsetting your risk of developing diabetes, if you are high risk." The mechanism by which magnesium controls glucose and insulin homeostasis appears to involve two genes responsible for magnesium homeostasis.7
Magnesium is also required to activate tyrosine kinase, an enzyme that functions as an "on" or "off" switch in many cellular functions and is required for the proper function of your insulin receptors.
Last but not least, digestive problems such as Crohn's disease and leaky gut impair your body's ability to absorb magnesium, which is yet another cause of inadequate magnesium levels.
As noted by Dr. Dean, it's quite possible that magnesium insufficiency is part of why health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure are so prevalent these days. It may also play a role in fibromyalgia,8 magnesium deficiency is a well-recognized factor in migraines.9
How to Identify Magnesium Deficiency
Unfortunately, there's no lab test that will give you a truly accurate reading of your magnesium status. The reason for this is that only 1 percent of the magnesium in your body is found in your blood; 50 to 60 percent resides in your bones, and the remaining is in your soft tissues.
Since most of your magnesium is stored inside your cells and bone rather than in blood plasma, there are no satisfactory blood tests for assessing it. That said, some specialty labs do provide an RBC magnesium test which is reasonably accurate.
Other tests your doctor may use to evaluate your magnesium status include a 24-hour urine test or a sublingual epithelial test. Still, these can only give you an estimate of your levels, and doctors typically need to evaluate them in light of the symptoms you exhibit.
Early signs of magnesium deficiency may include headaches, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, fatigue, or weakness. More chronic magnesium deficiency can lead to far more serious symptoms such as:
- Abnormal heart rhythms and coronary spasms
- Muscle cramps and contractions
- Numbness and tingling
- Personality changes
These signs and symptoms are by no means an exhaustive list. In her book, "The Magnesium Miracle," Dr. Carolyn Dean lists no less than 100 factors that will help you decide whether or not you might be deficient.
You can also follow the instructions in her blog post, "Gauging Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms,"10 which will give you a check list to go through every few weeks. This will help you gauge how much magnesium you need to resolve your deficiency symptoms.
Your Best Source of Magnesium: REAL Food
You could theoretically keep your magnesium levels in the therapeutic range without resorting to supplements simply by eating a varied diet, including plenty of dark-green leafy vegetables. One way to really increase your magnesium, as well as many other important plant-based nutrients, is by juicing your greens.
That said, it's important to remember that the magnesium content of your foods depends on the richness of magnesium in the soil in which the plant was grown.
Most soils have become severely depleted of nutrients, and for this reason, some magnesium experts, including Dr. Dean, believe that virtually everyone needs to take supplemental magnesium.
Organic foods may have more magnesium if grown in nutrient-rich soils, but it is very difficult to make that determination. If you eat organic whole foods and have no signs of deficiency, you're probably doing quite alright.
But regardless of how seemingly healthy your diet is, if you have symptoms of magnesium deficiency, you'd be wise to add a supplement, which I'll cover in the next section. Based on data collected by GreenMedInfo11 and The World's Healthiest Foods,12 the following are among the richest food sources of magnesium:
| Dried seaweed, agar ||Rice bran
||Herbs and spices: basil, coriander, chives, cumin seed, parsley, mustard seeds, and fennel
|Nuts: Brazil nuts, cashews, and almond butter
||Seeds: pumpkin seeds, flaxseed, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds
||Unsweetened cocoa powder
|Whey, sweet or dried
||Leafy greens: spinach, Swiss chard, turnip greens, beet greens, collard greens, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and romaine lettuce
||Quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice, millet, oats, rye, and wheat
|Beans: black beans, navy beans, pinto beans, lima beans, and kidney beans
||Squash: summer and winter squash
||Fruits and berries: papaya, raspberries, tomato, cantaloupe, strawberries, and watermelon
Suggested Dosages and Other Recommendations When Taking Magnesium Supplements
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for magnesium13 ranges from 310 to 420 mg per day, depending on your age and sex. However, as noted by Dr. Dean, some researchers believe we may need anywhere from 600 to 900 mg/day for optimal health.
There's certainly many reasons for making sure you're above the RDA, and fortunately, magnesium is quite safe so you don't have to worry about taking too much. Dr. Dean suggests using your intestinal reaction as a marker for your ideal dose. She recommends starting out at 200 mg of oral magnesium citrate per day, and gradually increase your dose until you develop slightly loose stools.
This is your personal cutoff point, as when your body has too much magnesium it simply flushes it out the other end. Magnesium citrate is known for having a laxative effect, which is why it's recommended in this case.
You may reach 600 mg/day before you notice a change in your bowel movements, or it may occur at a much lower dose — it depends on how much magnesium you're getting from your diet. Keep in mind that it's better to divide your dose and take it two or three times a day rather than taking one large dose.
Besides magnesium citrate, there are a variety of other magnesium supplements on the market. I personally prefer magnesium threonate, as it seems to penetrate cell membranes, including your mitochondria, which results in higher energy levels.
It also penetrates your blood-brain barrier and may help improve memory. The following table summarizes some of the differences between the various forms. Whichever supplement you choose, avoid those containing magnesium stearate, a common but potentially hazardous additive.
Magnesium glycinate is a chelated form of magnesium that tends to provide the highest levels of absorption and bioavailability and is typically considered ideal for those who are trying to correct a deficiency ||
Magnesium oxide is a non-chelated type of magnesium, bound to an organic acid or a fatty acid. Contains 60 percent magnesium, and has stool softening properties
Magnesium chloride / Magnesium lactatecontains only 12 percent magnesium, but has better absorption than others, such as magnesium oxide, which contains five times more magnesium||
Magnesium sulfate / Magnesium hydroxide (milk of magnesia) are typically used as a laxative. Be aware that it's easy to overdose on these, so ONLY take as directed
Magnesium carbonate, which has antacid properties, contains 45 percent magnesium||
Magnesium taurate contains a combination of magnesium and taurine, an amino acid. Together, they tend to provide a calming effect on your body and mind
Magnesium citrate is magnesium with citric acid, which has laxative properties||
Magnesium threonate is a newer, emerging type of magnesium supplement that appears promising, primarily due to its superior ability to penetrate the mitochondrial membrane, and may be the best magnesium supplement on the market
Other Important Nutrients That Work in Tandem with Magnesium
One of the major benefits of getting your nutrients from a varied whole food diet is that you're less likely to end up with unbalanced nutrient ratios. When it comes to magnesium, calcium, vitamin D, and K2 also come into play.
These four nutrients work together synergistically, with one supporting the other. All of them are needed in order for each individual nutrient to perform properly.
- An appropriate magnesium to calcium ratio is thought to be 1:1. Excessive amounts of calcium without the counterbalance of magnesium can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and sudden death. If you're calcium deficient, your best bet is to increase consumption of foods high in calcium before opting for a supplement. This is because many high calcium foods also contain naturally high amounts of vitamin K2.
Nature cleverly gives us these two nutrients in combination, so they work optimally. Good sources of calcium include nuts, seeds, and dairy, especially cheeses and vegetables, although veggies aren't high in K2. One exception is fermented vegetables where a starter culture specifically designed to produce ample amounts of K2 was used.
Homemade bone broth is another excellent source. Simply simmer leftover bones over low heat for an entire day to extract the calcium from the bones. You can use this broth for soups, stews, or drink it straight.
- For vitamin D, you want to be in the optimal range of 50 to 70 ng/ml. Sensible sun exposure is the ideal way to optimize your levels, but a tanning bed and/or vitamin D3 supplement (and to a lesser degree certain foods) can also be used during winter months when you're unlikely to produce enough vitamin D from sun exposure.
- The optimal amounts of vitamin K2 are still under investigation, but it seems likely that 180 to 200 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin K2 might be enough to activate your body's K2-dependent proteins to shuttle calcium to the proper areas.
Boost Magnesium to Optimize Your Health and Energy Levels
The evidence is clear: if you want to optimize your mitochondrial function, metabolism, and reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, one of the things you need to do is consume adequate magnesium.
Magnesium also plays a role in your body's detoxification processes and therefore is important for helping to prevent damage from environmental chemicals, heavy metals, and other toxins.
Even glutathione, your body's most powerful antioxidant that has even been called "the master antioxidant," requires magnesium for its synthesis. Your need for magnesium can be magnified by factors such as age, stress, lack of sleep, alcohol consumption, insulin resistance and diabetes, prescription drug use, an unbalanced gut microbiome, poor kidney function, and more.
Among the most common symptoms that your body is lacking in magnesium are "Charlie horses" (the muscle spasm that occurs when you stretch your legs), muscle or coronary spasms, fatigue, nausea, and headaches or migraines.
These are all warning signs indicating you probably need to boost your magnesium intake, either through your diet or through a magnesium supplement. For more details, please see Dr. Dean's blog post, "Gauging Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms."14
While it's best to get your magnesium from your diet, most foods are deficient in magnesium and other minerals due to being grown in mineral-depleted soils. Fertilizers like glyphosate also act as chelators, effectively blocking the uptake and utilization of minerals.
As a result, I believe it would be prudent for most people to consider a magnesium supplement. This is my personal strategy even though I have access to organic foods.
Another way to improve your magnesium status is to take regular Epsom salt baths or foot baths. Epsom salt is a magnesium sulfate that can absorb into your body through your skin. Magnesium oil can also be used for topical application and absorption.
Section: Articles -
File Under: Health |
By Dr. Mercola
What’s for lunch? It’s a question you may ask yourself (or someone else) virtually every day, and one that gives you an opportunity to fuel your body with vital nutrients it needs to thrive.
I was surprised at the results of a national survey by GrubHub Seamless, which analyzed what working Americans are eating for lunch during their workdays. The top three entrees ordered were salads, with Greek salad topping the list.
This is a step above your typical fast-food burger and fries, but even most restaurant salads could be significantly improved. And so I want to share my favorite lunch recipe with you.
It’s a salad of sorts but with one crucial difference. I trade regular lettuce for sunflower seed sprouts. That forms the base of my salad, and then I top it with fresh herbs, additional vegetables, pastured butter, anchovies, sardines and sometimes wild-caught Alaskan salmon or black cod.
Keep in mind the recipe that follows can be tweaked to suit your tastes. I encourage you to add additional vegetables according to season (or what you have available from your garden). You can also experiment with different fresh herbs and alternate the types of fish included.
For the ‘dressing,’ I prefer to use raw, organic pastured butter but you can also use high-quality olive oil and/or coconut oil for their healthy fats. For flavor, you can add in apple cider vinegar, mustard, Himalayan salt and pepper, garlic or any other spices you enjoy.
[Manila team, please put recipe in shaded box]
Dr. Mercola’s Lunch Recipe
- Freshly cut sunflower seed sprouts, chopped (4-8 ounces)
- Freshly cut oregano leaves, chopped (2-4 ounces)
- Freshly cut rosemary, leaves stripped (a few sprigs)
- 1 large or 2 medium carrots, grated
- Fermented vegetables (1/2 cup)
- ½-inch turmeric root, chopped
- 1 habanero pepper, finely chopped (optional)
- Raw organic pastured butter (a few teaspoons)
- ¼ cup to ½ cup red onions, raw or sautéed in butter, chopped
- 1 tin of anchovies, drained (2 ounces) or 1 tin of sardines (3 ounces)
- 6 ounces canned wild Alaskan salmon or frozen wild Alaskan salmon or black cod, lightly sautéed in butter
- Add all ingredients to a medium-sized bowl, stir to combine and enjoy!
Why Sprouts Make the Ideal Base for Your Salad
Sprouts may offer some of the highest levels of nutrition available, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and enzymes that help protect against free radical damage. So while lettuce is good, sprouts are even better.
Fresh broccoli sprouts, for instance,are far more potent than whole broccoli, allowing you to eat far less in terms of quantity. Three-day old broccoli sprouts consistently contain anywhere from 10-100 times the amount of glucoraphanin—a chemoprotective compound—found in mature broccoli.
The compound glucoraphanin also appears to have a protective effect against toxic pollutants by improving your body's ability to eliminate or excrete them. Glucoraphanin has also been shown to protect against cancer.
Sprouts are far less expensive (90 percent or greater) if made at home rather than purchased, and the risk of contamination is much lower, so I strongly recommend growing your own sprouts. Try broccoli sprouts, watercress sprouts and sunflower sprouts, for starters.
When grown in soil, you can harvest your sprouts in about a week, and a pound of seeds will probably produce over 10 pounds of sprouts. Sunflower sprouts will give you the most volume for your effort and, in my opinion, have the best taste.
In one 10x10 tray, you can harvest between one and two pounds of sunflower sprouts. You can store them in the fridge for about a week, but it’s even better to use them fresh, just after cutting.
What Else Makes My Lunch Recipe So Good for You?
Herbs are rich in vitamins, antioxidants and other phytochemicals with health-boosting properties. Oregano, for instance, contains rosmarinic acid, which is a strong antioxidant that may support immune system health.
Oregano also has one of the highest antioxidant activity ratings, with 42 times the antioxidant punch of apples. Oregano also contains beta-caryophyllin (E-BCP), a substance that inhibits inflammation, and has potential anti-viral, anti-fungal anti-microbial effects.
Like oregano, the herb rosemary also has multiple benefits, including a potential beneficial effect on cognitive function and chronic diseases like cancer. Of course, oregano and rosemary also add intense flavor to my ‘salad.’
Carrots are rich in beta-carotene (pre-vitamin A), vitamin K1, vitamin C, and calcium. I generally recommend eating carrots in moderation because they contain more sugar than any other vegetable aside from beets.
However, when eaten as part of an overall healthy diet, the nutrients in carrots may provide you with protection against heart disease and stroke while helping you to build strong bones and a healthy nervous system.
In particular, carrots are associated with a 32 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease and a lower risk of heart attacks in women. Antioxidants in carrots, including beta-carotene, may also play a role in cancer prevention.
Research has shown that smokers who eat carrots more than once a week have a lower risk of lung cancer, while a beta-carotene-rich diet may also protect against prostate cancer.
To maintain a healthy gut, fermented foods are a necessity. Just one-quarter to one-half cup of fermented vegetables, which you can learn to make at home, eaten regularly can have a dramatically beneficial impact on your health.
Fermented foods are potent chelators (detoxifiers) and contain much higher levels of beneficial bacteria than probiotic supplements, making them ideal for optimizing your gut flora.
In addition to helping break down and eliminate heavy metals and other toxins from your body, beneficial gut bacteria perform a number of surprising functions, including:
- Mineral absorption, and producing nutrients such as B vitamins and vitamin K2 (vitamin K2 and vitamin D are necessary for integrating calcium into your bones and keeping it out of your arteries, thereby reducing your risk for coronary artery disease and stroke)
- Preventing obesity and diabetes, and regulating dietary fat absorption
- Lowering your risk for cancer
- Improving your mood and mental health
- Preventing acne
Turmeric, the yellow-pigmented "curry spice" often used in Indian cuisine, contains curcumin, the polyphenol identified as its primary active component and which exhibits over 150 potentially therapeutic activities, which include antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties.
Chili peppers like habaneros are one of the main sources of capsaicin, which is linked to a lower risk of chronic disease, weight loss and more. Capsaicin has been shown to activate cell receptors in your intestinal lining, creating a reaction that lowers the risk of tumors.
Studies have also shown capsaicin may help fight obesity by decreasing calorie intake, shrinking fat tissue, and lowering blood fat levels, as well as fight fat buildup by triggering beneficial protein changes in your body. Peppers are optional in the recipe; only include them if you enjoy spicy foods.
Pastured Organic Raw Butter
Butter, when made with milk from grass-fed cows, is an excellent source of healthy fat. It’s rich in a substance called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). CLA is not only known to help fight cancer and diabetes, it may even help you to lose weight.
Butter is also a rich source of easily absorbed vitamin A (needed for a wide range of functions, from maintaining good vision to keeping the endocrine system in top shape) and all the other fat-soluble vitamins (D, E, and K2), which are often lacking in modern diets. Butter is rich in important trace minerals, including manganese, chromium, zinc, copper, and selenium (a powerful antioxidant).
One Swedish study also found that fat levels in your blood are lower after eating a meal rich in butter than after eating one rich in olive oil, canola oil, or flaxseed oil. The scientists' main explanation is that about 20 percent of butterfat consists of short- and medium-chain fatty acids, which are used right away for quick energy and therefore don't contribute to fat levels in your blood.
Therefore, a significant portion of the butter you consume is used immediately for energy. The very best-quality butter is raw (unpasteurized) from grass-fed cows, preferably certified organic. (One option is to make your own butter from raw grass-fed milk.)
Onions have a wealth of beneficial properties; they’re anti-allergic, anti-histaminic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, all rolled into one. Polyphenolsare plant compounds recognized for their disease prevention, antioxidant and anti-aging properties. Onions have a particularly high concentration, with more polyphenols than garlic, leeks, tomatoes, carrots and red bell pepper.
In particular, onions are especially rich in polyphenol flavonoids called quercetin. Quercetin is an antioxidant that many believe prevents histamine release—making quercetin-rich foods “natural antihistamines.” Onions contain numerous anti-cancer compounds, including quercetin, which has been shown to decrease cancer tumor initiation as well as inhibit the proliferation of cultured ovarian, breast and colon cancer cells.
People who eat more onions, as well as other allium vegetables, have a lower risk of many types of cancer, including:
- Prostate and breast
- Ovarian and endometrial
- Colorectal and gastric
- Esophageal and laryngeal
- Renal cell
Wild-Caught Seafood (Alaskan Salmon, Sardines, Anchovies and Black Cod)
Salmon provides omega-3 fats eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which can benefit many aspects of your health, from your cardiovascular system to mental and behavioral health to your digestive health. It may even help prevent premature death.
Research suggests eating oily fish like wild-caught Alaskan salmon once or twice a week may increase your lifespan by more than two years, and reduce your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 35 percent. Salmon also contains the antioxidant astaxanthin, which has been hailed as one of the most powerful antioxidants ever discovered due to its ability to quench multiple types of free radicals simultaneously.
Findings have shown that it is stronger than other carotenoid antioxidants, such as vitamin E, beta-carotene, and lycopene Astaxanthin also exhibits beneficial properties that make it useful for heart, eye, and brain health, as well as for alleviating chronic pain.
The key to eating fish these days is to choose fish that are high in healthy omega-3 fats and low in hazardous contaminants. Wild-caught Alaskan salmon (not farmed) fits this description, and is one of the few types of fish I still recommend eating. Sardines are another option and are one of the most concentrated sources of omega-3 fats, with one serving containing more than 50 percent of your recommended daily value.
They also contain a wealth of other nutrients, from vitamin B12 and selenium to protein, calcium, and choline, making them one of the best dietary sources of animal-based omega-3s. Anchovies are another beneficial source of animal-based omega-3s, similar to sardines.
For a treat, you may also enjoy black cod (also known as Alaskan sablefish or butterfish). It provides more omega-3s than any other white fish, and even more omega-3s than most varieties of wild salmon.
Once you have all the ingredients on hand, you’ll find that making this lunch salad is incredibly easy and just as fast as driving to a local fast-food joint. But unlike fast food, this salad will nourish your body perhaps better than any other meal you’ve tried. If you want to give it a run for its money, try out my breakfast recipe next.
Section: Articles -
File Under: Health |