By Dr. Mercola
According to the Washington Times,1 WebMD, the second most visited health site on the World Wide Web, has received a $4.8 million government contract to educate doctors about the ins and outs of the Affordable Care Act, colloquially dubbed “Obamacare.”
A similar contract for the public portal to educate consumers might also be in the works. However, the lack of transparency and disclosure of the contract has raised questions about potential conflicts of interest.
WebMD has defended against such allegations, saying that the government contract does not affect the company’s news operation, which is free to report what it wants about the health care plan. Still, as stated in the featured article:
“[F]ew if any news outlets earn millions of dollars in training fees from the government on topics they cover, putting WebMD in a unique spot in the media landscape as it navigates not only potential conflicts but also the appearance of conflicts.”
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has criticized the lack of transparency, telling the Washington Post:2
“Disclosure and transparency would be a good practice for any recipient of federal funding to promote the administration’s health care plan.
Even if certain content is not produced with federal funding, but the same company takes federal government money to produce other materials, consumers would be better-informed by knowing the financial relationships.”
WebMD Charged with Educating Your Doctor on the Plan
According to the featured article,3 the contract includes training services aimed at physicians using the private portal, in the form of “lectures, articles, podcasts and ‘expert viewpoints’ in audio, video, or writing, among other presentations.” Doctors can also receive continuing education credits simply for watching the videos.
These services don’t come cheap. According to the Washington Post, a four- minute long video featuring the viewpoint of a medical expert can cost as much as $68,916 under the contract.
And an “exclusively sponsored” five- to eight-question quiz “to convey key sponsor messages” will cost the US government in excess of $140,000. That said, my criticism of this hidden association between the US government and WebMD does not revolve around their service fees.
The real problem is that WebMD has positioned itself as a primary source of independent and science-backed health information yet is financially dependent on pharmaceutical companies, and now the US government, which is trying to promote a widely contested and unpopular health care plan.
Not only that, but WebMD has in fact been caught red-handed promoting dangerous drug solutions on behalf of their sponsors to people who really don’t need such treatment—cementing the notion that WebMD is beholden to its sponsors, even at the expense of the safety and well-being of its readers.
Drug Promotion Presented as a Health Screen...
You may recall that three years ago, WebMD was found to have created a depression screening test in which 100 percent of quiz-takers ended up having a “high likelihood of major depression,” and being asked to talk to their doctor about available treatment.4, 5 The test was sponsored by drug giant Eli Lilly, the maker of Cymbalta, and it’s quite telling that no one is found mentally healthy when Eli Lilly foots the bill...
The quiz was really nothing but direct-to-consumer advertising masquerading as a valid health screen. This is perhaps the most hazardous kind of drug advertising there is, as you don’t even realize they’re trying to sell you something. Seeing an advertisement on TV or in a magazine is one thing—you can recognize that as marketing.
But a health screening test on a well-respected health site? Most would fail to consider that such a test might be rigged to turn you into a consumer. It would probably have been more appropriate to present the test with a disclaimer stating: “For entertainment and time-wasting purposes only.”
That mental health screen debacle sounds awfully similar to the quizzes WebMD has now been contracted to produce under this government contract, “to convey key sponsor messages.” What might these sponsored messages be? In all likelihood, they will be related to the promotion of key drugs, such as cholesterol-lowering statins, now that the statin treatment guidelines have been updated to apply to twice the number of patients as previous guidelines.
Key for Successful Propaganda—The Illusion of Independent Corroboration
The drug industry has deep pockets, so it’s no surprise that their adverts would be splashed all over the WebMD website. Prescription drugs for every imaginable problem are listed on virtually every WebMD page, along with plenty of health-harming processed foods and snacks.
The revenue WebMD generates from advertising is considerable. According to a recent WebMD press release,6 the revenue from public portal advertising and sponsorship for the months of July through September, 2013 alone was $109.6 million, compared to $97.6 million for the corresponding quarter in 2012. That pencils out to nearly half a billion a year in ads from the drug companies.
WebMD is a great example of the brilliant marketing the drug companies are doing. They seek to provide you with the illusion of an independent objective third party that just so happens to confirm their solution is the best choice for your health issues. But when you draw back the curtain, you find it’s really the drug companies themselves that are crafting the message—not an independent entity.
It might be worth noting that WebMD is also partnered with the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration). This virtually assures that you will not learn about any alternatives besides those approved by the FDA for your condition, and further strengthens the promotion of sponsored drugs. By default, you will be kept in the dark about the strategies that can make a real and lasting difference.
The lack of independence among promoters and distributors of health information has become of tremendous concern. Due to a dramatic rise in scientific fraud, which is particularly prevalent in the medical literature, it’s more important than ever to be able to gain access to the full set of data before making or taking a recommendation. Not only are industry studies 400 percent more likely to show positive outcomes, negative findings are never published, and raw data is rarely publicly available.
The sad fact is that before we can regain trust in the scientific method, science must be forthcoming with ALL the data. Every clinical trial should be registered before it begins, and all results and raw data should be provided at the conclusion. At present, they’re not... as a result industry sponsored studies have a 400% increase in positive outcomes vs. independent studies, and on top of that the negative studies are never published at all.
Bias Pervades Scientific Reporting
The reality of biased reporting on science was recently highlighted yet again in a study7, 8 authored by John Ioannidis and colleagues at Stanford University. Ioannidis is one of the world's most important experts on the credibility of medical research. He and his team of researchers have repeatedly shown that many of the conclusions biomedical researchers arrive at in their published studies are exaggerated or flat-out wrong.
Here, they did a meta-analysis9 of 160 other, previously published meta-analyses of animal studies for treatments of a variety of neurological disorders. This analysis ended up covering no less than 1,000 separate animal studies. As reported by Medical News Today:
“The authors' ‘meta-analysis of meta-analyses’ used the most precise study in each meta-analysis as an estimate of the true effect size of a particular treatment. It then asked whether the expected number of studies had statistically significant conclusions.
Alarmingly, the authors found that more than twice as many studies as expected appeared to reach statistical significance. The authors suggest that rather than reflecting willful fraud on the part of the scientists who conduct the original studies, this ‘excess significance bias’ comes from two main sources.
One is that scientists conducting an animal study tend to choose the method of data analysis that appears to give them the ‘better’ result. The second arises because scientists usually want to publish in higher profile journals; such journals tend to strongly prefer studies with positive, rather than negative, results. Many studies with negative results are not even submitted for publication or, if submitted, either cannot get published or are published belatedly in low-visibility journals, reducing their chances of inclusion in a meta-analysis.”[Emphasis mine]
Changes Are Urgently Needed to Protect Value of Medical Science
Ioannidis’ team speculate that, as a result of these kinds of biased animal studies being published and used as grounds for further research, inappropriate treatments have probably made it into human trials where, of course, the stakes are much higher. But no matter what type of research you’re talking about, scientific integrity and complete uncensored reporting of results matter dearly. As stated in a related editorial in PLOS Medicine:10
“As early as 1990, Iain Chalmers, one of the founders of the Cochrane Collaboration, stated that, ‘Failure to publish an adequate account of a well-designed clinical trial is a form of scientific misconduct that can lead those caring for patients to make inappropriate treatment decisions.’”
Ultimately, when a researcher skews the results to fit a preconceived notion, whether it’s done for prestige or to please funders, consciously or unconsciously, it can eventually affect tens of thousands of patients. As reported by Medical News Today:11
“Adriane Fugh-Berman MD charges that basic science, not just clinical trials, is plagued by financial conflicts of interest. Fugh-Berman identifies evidence showing that industry-funded studies on animals and cell cultures can be as biased as industry-funded clinical trials, and can distort data on medical treatments.12”
To remedy this dismal situation and get medical science back on the right track, Ioannidis’ team makes several suggestions, including:
- Requiring animal studies to adhere to strict guidelines for study design and analysis
- Pre-registering animal trials in the same manner as human trials, in order to ensure publication of results regardless whether it’s positive or negative
- Making methodological details and raw data available in order to allow other scientists to verify the conclusions drawn
Another team of researchers in the Netherlands have drawn similar conclusions. In their essay, published in the journal PLOS Medicine,13 they too recommend study registration and data sharing to improve research quality and conduct. They also argue for the creation of a transparent system in which animal studies are routinely and systematically reviewed and replicated.
Estimates Show $1 Trillion Will Be Spent on Drugs Next Year
A staggering statistic can be found in a new report from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics.14 According to this report, global expenditure for prescription drugs is estimated to hit $1 trillion next year, and as high as $1.2 trillion in 2017. The main driver of increased drug sales is increased access to medical care across the world. In the US, the Affordable Care Act will likely lead to major spending increases, considering the fact that drugs are prescribed for virtually any ailment or complaint you might see a doctor for. As reported in Time Magazine:15
“[I]n a best case scenario of nearly complete enrollment [in the Affordable Care Act], increased demand from more insured people will push up prescriptions. Given the large pool of anticipated new enrollees, however, even if signups are lackluster, Michael Kleinrock, research director for the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics says, “We are still [going to] hit $1 trillion in 2014.”
Remember, You Can Take Control of Your Health
It's important to understand that our current medical system has been masterfully orchestrated by the drug companies to create a system that gives the perception of science when really it is a heavily manipulated process designed to manipulate and deceive you into using expensive and potentially toxic drugs that benefit the drug companies more than it benefits your health.
Across the board, drugmakers do an excellent job of publicizing the findings they want you to know, while keeping studies that don’t support their product hidden from you and the rest of the world.
Also, I’m sure by now many of you can follow the dots and draw your own conclusions with circular maps and arrows marking the many conflicts of interest that exist between this unholy alliance of so-called independent health advisors, pharmaceutical companies, processed food companies, and the regulatory agency, the FDA. Folks, it’s time take control of your health, and that includes being able to discern real health advice from shadow marketing machines and propaganda that serves no one but the very industries responsible for much of the ill health in the first place.
It's important to realize that all research is NOT published. And it should come as no surprise that drug studies funded by a pharmaceutical company that reaches a negative conclusion will rarely ever see the light of day... And with so much data missing in action, what does the claim “scientifically proven” really amount to? It certainly cannot be construed as a guarantee of safety or effectiveness.
Likewise, if an alternative treatment has not been published in a medical journal, it does not mean it is unsafe or ineffective. There's a lot to be said for the tried-and-true remedies of old, even if they've not been rigorously studied by modern researcher. I recommend using all the resources available to you, including your own sense of common sense and reason, true experts' advice and other's experiences, to determine what medical treatment or advice will be best for you in any given situation.
Section: Articles -
File Under: Health |
By Dr. Mercola
According to a 2010 US government survey,1 1 in 10 American children now has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)—a 22 percent increase from 2003.
ADHD makes it hard for children to pay attention and control impulsive behavior, and an increasing number of older children, including high school students, are now being labeled as having ADHD. Adult ADHD is also becoming more prevalent.
As reported by the Las Vegas Guardian Express,2 nearly 11 percent of American kids are labeled with the disorder. More than twice as many boys are diagnosed with ADHD than girls—one in five, compared to one in 11. The featured article speculates about the cause behind these rising numbers.
Some experts feel the increase could be due to increased awareness and better diagnosis, but I think you’ll find it interesting that this trend also coincides with increased prevalence of the pervasive weed killer, glyphosate, in the American food supply.
There’s also plenty of room for overdiagnosis. In fact, an ADHD diagnosis is often made on the subjective observations of teachers or guardians, based on signs that nearly every child will display at some point. Aggravating factors, such as diet or home environment, are oftentimes overlooked entirely.
The featured article actually points out some interesting correlations between ADHD diagnoses and changes to the American educational system that might help explain how, if not why, so many children are misdiagnosed or flat out falsely diagnosed.
What Is ADHD?
But before we get into potential causes for the uptick in prevalence, let’s review how ADHD is qualified in the first place. The disorder involves a cluster of symptoms that includes inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsive behaviors.
Often, children with ADHD struggle in school and have difficulty managing interpersonal relationships. They also tend to suffer from low self-esteem. The similar term attention deficit disorder (ADD) has largely been replaced with ADHD, as it describes two of the most common symptoms of the condition, inattention, and hyperactive-impulsive behavior.
Diagnosing ADHD really comes down to a matter of opinion, as there is no physical test, like a brain scan, that can pinpoint the condition. This could change, however. According to a recent study, a newer MRI method called magnetic field correlation imaging that can detect low iron levels in the brains of children with ADHD could potentially help parents and patients make better informed decisions about treatment. As reported by Medicine.net:3
“Psychostimulant drugs used to treat ADHD affect levels of the brain chemical dopamine. Because iron is required to process dopamine, using MRI to assess iron levels in the brain may provide a noninvasive, indirect measure of the chemical, explained study author Vitria Adisetiyo... If these findings are confirmed in larger studies, this technique might help improve ADHD diagnosis and treatment...
The [magnetic field correlation imaging] scans revealed that the 12 ADHD patients who'd never been treated with psychostimulant drugs such as Ritalin had lower brain iron levels than those who'd received the drugs and those in the control group. The lower iron levels in the ADHD patients who'd never taken stimulant drugs appeared to normalize after they took the medicines.”
At present, diagnosis is dependent on subjective evaluation, and, for better or worse, teachers can play a significant role in this evaluation. Most children with ADHD will display a combination of inattention and hyperactive-impulsive behavior, along with the following symptoms:4
|Frequent fidgeting or squirming
||Difficulty playing quietly
||Always seems on the go
||Excessive talking and interrupting others
||Difficulty waiting his or her turn
||Frequently has problems organizing tasks or activities
||Difficulty following through on instructions and apparently not listening
Many of these “symptoms” could describe virtually any child, or most children, on any given day. Hence, those who display these symptoms at school but not at home or with friends are not considered to have ADHD. Ditto for children who display symptoms at home but not at school.
Only children who struggle with inattention and hyperactive or impulsive behaviors around the clock are deemed to have ADHD—or at least they should be. According to a 2010 study,5 an estimated 20 percent of children are misdiagnosed with ADHD.
According to some, the disorder may not even be a “real” disorder at all. Psychiatrist Leon Eisenberg, hailed as the “scientific father of ADHD,” actually went on record saying that ADHD is “a prime example of a fictitious disease.” He made this stunning confession in a 2012 interview with the German paper Der Spiegel, just seven months prior to his death6 at the age of 87.
How the American School System May Be Promoting ADHD Diagnoses
At least part of the rise in prevalence could be attributed to inappropriate diagnosis. As reported in the featured article, there’s an interesting correlation between the rise in ADHD diagnoses and the implementation of the US Elementary and Secondary Education Act known as “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB). The program was implemented nationwide in 2002.
The NCLB standardized teaching methods across the US which, contrary to what the name implies, does leave a lot of kids “behind,” in the sense that brighter children frequently end up bored and discouraged from lack of academic challenge. And bored, discouraged children will oftentimes “act out.”
“Now with the implementation of CORE standards, who some describe as NCLB on steroids, there is a chance the ADHD numbers may climb even more,” the article predicts.7
But there’s more to this story...
“Another study, published by the Child Mind Institute, states there might be another incentive behind the rise, and that is the financial benefit to schools. Many schools, especially those where the tax base is much poorer... rely heavily on federal funding to operate.
Long before NCLB was enacted, many of these districts had already enacted ‘consequential accountability statutes,’” which penalized a school when children failed; however, often scores for children diagnosed with ADHD are not counted... thereby helping to ensure the passing test scores of the class as a whole.
Geographically speaking, children in the South are diagnosed far more often with ADHD than children living in Western states by a rate of nearly 63 percent. North Carolina, one of the first states to implement consequential accountability statutes, stands at a ADHD diagnosis rate of over 16 percent; California, one of the last states to implement these policies, ranks at only 6.2 percent. The difference is staggering.”
Raising a Generation of Drug Users
About two-thirds of the children diagnosed with ADHD are on some form of prescription medication, and oftentimes the side effects are far worse than the condition itself. These drugs actually rival illegal street drugs in terms of their dangerous risks to health, which include:
Sadly, tens of thousands of American kids are now prescribed dangerous antipsychotic drugs before the age of five—some even before reaching 12 months of age, hard as that is to imagine. Children in the Medicaid system are at greatest risk for overdiagnosis. Data shows they’re prescribed antipsychotic medications four times more often compared to those with private insurance.8
The price we pay as a society for drugging our children out of objectionable behavior patterns is steep. In children, the long-term effects of drugs are typically largely unknown, while in the short term, we’ve seen shocking increases in violent and aggressive acts committed by teens taking one or more psychotropic drugs.
These children are also likely to experience health problems as they mature into adulthood. Just look at what happens to street junkies through time, and then consider that Ritalin has a more potent effect on your brain than cocaine... Being raised firmly within the drug paradigm from an early age may also make them more likely to opt for drug treatment for other ailments rather than exploring other options.
What Causes Behavioral Difficulties?
Behavioral problems clearly do exist, and do appear to be more prevalent than in decades past, with or without the ADHD label. The question on everyone’s mind is what’s causing it? The cause of ADHD remains elusive, although there are many contending culprits, including poor nutrition and environmental toxins ranging from food- and vaccine additives to agricultural chemicals.
For example, a 2006 study9 found that a mother's use of cigarettes, alcohol, or other drugs during pregnancy could increase the risk for ADHD. The study also suggested that exposure to lead and/or polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) can cause ADHD symptoms. Pesticide exposure has also been linked with ADHD.
Unfortunately, few are focusing on basic nutrition, which I believe is a key factor. We know that the food choices of most children and adults today are incredibly poor, and how can you possibly expect a child to have normal behavior if he is fed refined grains, sugars, and processed foods loaded with chemicals and largely devoid of natural nutrients?
Five Dietary Factors to Address if Your Child Has ADHD
Five dietary factors of particular concern are the following. If your child struggles with behavioral difficulties, whether he or she has been diagnosed with ADHD or not, I strongly recommend addressing all of these factors:
- Too much sugar. High sugar content and starchy carbohydrates lead to excessive insulin release, which can lead to falling blood sugar levels, or hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia, in turn, causes your brain to secrete glutamate in levels that can cause agitation, depression, anger, anxiety, and panic attacks.
Besides that, sugar promotes chronic inflammation in your body, and many studies have demonstrated the connection between a high-sugar diet and worsened mental health.
- Gluten sensitivity. The evidence10, 11 suggesting that gluten sensitivity may be at the root of a number of neurological and psychiatric conditions, including ADHD, is quite compelling. According to a 2011 study,12 celiac disease is “markedly overrepresented among patients presenting with ADHD,” and a gluten-free diet has been shown to significantly improve behavior in kids. The study went so far as to suggest celiac disease should be added to the ADHD symptom checklist.
- Too few beneficial bacteria. As explained by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, a medical doctor with a postgraduate degree in neurology, toxicity in your gut can flow throughout your body and into your brain, where it can cause symptoms of autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, depression, schizophrenia, and other mental disorders. Reducing gut inflammation is imperative when addressing mental health issues,13 so optimizing your child’s gut flora is a critical step. To learn more, please see my previous article, “Are Probiotics the New Prozac?”
- Animal-sourced omega-3 deficiency. Research has shown that kids low in omega-3 fats are significantly more likely to be hyperactive, struggle with learning disorders, and display behavioral problems. Omega-3 deficiencies have also been tied to dyslexia, violence, and depression. A clinical study published in 2007 examined the effects of krill oil on adults diagnosed with ADHD.14 In that study, patients improved their ability to concentrate by an average of over 60 percent after taking a daily 500mg dose of krill oil for six months. They also reported a 50 percent improvement in planning skills, and close to 49 percent improvement in social skills.
- Food additives and GMO ingredients. A number of food additives are thought to worsen ADHD, and many have subsequently been banned in Europe. Potential culprits to avoid include Blue #1 and #2 food coloring; Green #3; Orange B; Red #3 and #40; Yellow #5 and #6; and sodium benzoate, a preservative.
Recent research also shows that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, used in large quantities on genetically engineered Roundup Ready crops, limits your body’s ability to detoxify foreign chemical compounds. As a result, the damaging effects of those chemicals and environmental toxins are magnified, and may result in a wide variety of diseases, including brain disorders that can affect behavior.
The Hidden Health Hazards of Glyphosate and GMOs
Glyphosate-contaminated food has recently been implicated in the dramatic rise of both ADHD and autism, the latter of which is clearly more extreme in terms of behavioral difficulties. Still, both problems appear to be rooted to some degree in abnormal gut flora, and this is where glyphosate begins its path of destruction. How severe the effect might be in any given person will likely depend on a wide variety of individual factors, including the mother’s gut health during and at the time of giving birth.
Former US Navy staff scientist Dr. Nancy Swanson has meticulously collected statistics on glyphosate usage and various diseases and conditions, including autism. A more perfect match-up between the rise in glyphosate usage and incidence of autism, shown below, is hard to imagine. To access her published articles and reports, please visit Sustainable Pulse,15 a European Website dedicated to exposing the hazards of genetically engineered foods.
According to Dr. Swanson:16
“Prevalence and incidence data show correlations between diseases of the organs and the increase in Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in the food supply, along with the increase in glyphosate-based herbicide applications. More and more studies have revealed carcinogenic and endocrine disrupting effects of Roundup at lower doses than those authorized for residues found in Genetically Modified Organisms... The endocrine disrupting properties also lead to neurological disorders (learning disabilities (LD), attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), autism, dementia, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder). Those most susceptible are children and the elderly.”
How to Optimize Your Child’s Gut Flora
The two key problems caused by glyphosate in the diet are nutritional deficiencies and systemic toxicity, and your gut bacteria are a key component of glyphosate’s mechanism of harm. Effectively addressing this problem requires a two-pronged approach. First you need to avoid the primary sources of glyphosate, which more or less makes it imperative to avoid processed foods. Secondly, you need to address the damage already done. To reseed your child’s gut with the healthy bacteria (probiotics) necessary for optimal physical, mental, and emotional health, I recommend the following strategies:
- Avoid processed, refined foods as they promote the growth of pathogenic bacteria, yeast and fungus in the gut. Most processed foods are also high in sugar and fructose, grains (gluten), artificial additives, and genetically engineered ingredients (which tend to be more heavily contaminated with glyphosate)—all the top items that tend to aggravate ADHD symptoms. Also replace sweetened beverages (whether diet and regular), including fruit juices and pasteurized milk, with pure non-fluoridated water.
- Eat traditionally fermented, unpasteurized foods: Fermented foods are one of the best routes to optimal digestive health, as long as you eat the traditionally made, unpasteurized versions. Some of the beneficial bacteria found in fermented foods are also excellent chelators of heavy metals and pesticides, which will also have a beneficial health effect by reducing your toxic load. Fermented vegetables are perhaps among the most palatable fermented foods. Many kids will also get used to fermented dairy products like kefir.
- Use a high-quality probiotic supplement. If you cannot get your child to eat fermented foods on a regular basis, a high-quality probiotic supplement may be highly beneficial in correcting abnormal gut flora that contribute to brain dysfunction.
Additional Strategies to Relieve ADHD Symptoms
Besides addressing your child’s nutrition, as described in the two sections above, I also recommend implementing the following strategies:
- Clear your house of dangerous pesticides and other commercial chemicals.
- Avoid commercial washing detergents and cleaning products used on clothes, and replace them with naturally derived cleaning products free of added perfumes, softeners, etc.
- Spend more time in nature. Researchers have found that exposing ADHD children to nature is an affordable, healthy way of controlling symptoms.
- Investigate sensory therapy and emotional wellness tools. Instead of looking for a quick fix, encourage ADHD sufferers to talk, and find out what emotions are causing issues. You may also want to consider energy psychology tools such as the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) to improve emotional coping and healing.
Section: Articles -
File Under: Health |
By Dr. Mercola
Anxiety is a natural, normal response to potential threats, which puts your body into a heightened state of awareness.
When felt appropriately, anxiety is beneficial and can keep you out of harm’s way… the anxiety you may feel while hiking near a steep drop-off, for instance, will cause you to be more careful and purposeful in your movements.
For an estimated 40 million US adults, however, anxiety may occur even when there’s no real threat, causing unnecessary stress and emotional pain. While many believe anxiety and stress to be the same, persistent anxiety actually evokes quite a different experience in your brain.
Anxiety in Your Brain: What Happens When Anxiety Attacks?
Anxiety does evoke the same “fight or flight” response that stress does, which means, like stress, anxiety will trigger a flood of stress hormones like cortisol designed to enhance your speed, reflexes, heart rate, and circulation. However, stress can occur with feelings of anger, sadness, or even happiness and excitement.
Anxiety, on the other hand, virtually always involves a sense of fear, dread, or apprehension. And while stress may occur due to an external source (like an argument with your spouse), anxiety tends to be a more internal response.
Further, brief anxiety may coincide with a stressful event (such as speaking in public), but an anxiety disorder will persist for months even when there’s no clear reason to be anxious. While the exact causes for anxiety disorders are unknown, your brain is actively involved.
The National Institute of Mental Health explains:1
“Several parts of the brain are key actors in the production of fear and anxiety… scientists have discovered that the amygdala and the hippocampus play significant roles in most anxiety disorders.
The amygdala is an almond-shaped structure deep in the brain that is believed to be a communications hub between the parts of the brain that process incoming sensory signals and the parts that interpret these signals. It can alert the rest of the brain that a threat is present and trigger a fear or anxiety response.
The emotional memories stored in the central part of the amygdala may play a role in anxiety disorders involving very distinct fears, such as fears of dogs, spiders, or flying. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that encodes threatening events into memories.”
Your Brain May Become Wired for Anxiety
It’s thought that anxiety disorders may result from a combination of nature (your genetics) and nurture (your environment). For instance, if you grow up in an environment with frequent yelling or abuse.
It might make you prone to looking out for potential threats, even when they’re no longer there. In a sense, your brain becomes “wired” for anxiety, such that any potentially undesirable event or emotion becomes cause for alarm.2
Worse yet, some people are so used to feelings of anxiety that they don’t realize there’s a problem and simply suffer in silence. As anxious feelings intensify, it can lead to social isolation, physical symptoms, and related mental health problems, like depression.
Despite this, it’s estimated that only one-third of people with anxiety disorders receive treatment,3 which is highly recommended if you’re struggling with anxiety -- but keep in mind “treatment” doesn’t necessarily mean drugs.
Unfortunately, most people who suffer with anxiety either do nothing or resort to pharmaceutical drugs – many of which are ineffective and capable of destroying your health and sanity further. Commonly prescribed drugs include benzodiazepine drugs like Ativan, Xanax, and Valium.
They exert a calming effect by boosting the action of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the same way as opioids (heroin) and cannabinoids (cannabis) do. This in turn activates the gratification hormone, dopamine, in your brain.
Since the identical brain "reward pathways" are used by both types of drugs, they can be equally addictive and also may cause side effects like memory loss, hip fractures, impaired thinking, and dizziness.
Ironically, the symptoms of withdrawal from many of these anxiety medications include extreme states of anxiety – some of which are far worse than the original symptoms that justified treatment in the first place.
If You’re Wired for Anxiety, Try EFT
Energy psychology techniques, such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), can be very effective by helping you to actually reprogram your body’s reactions to the unavoidable stressors of everyday life.
This includes both real and imagined stressors, which can be significant sources of anxiety. EFT was developed in the 1990s by Gary Craig, a Stanford engineer specializing in healing and self-improvement. It’s akin to acupuncture, which is based on the concept that a vital energy flows through your body along invisible pathways known as meridians. EFT stimulates different energy meridian points in your body by tapping them with your fingertips, while simultaneously using custom-made verbal affirmations.
This can be done by yourself or under the supervision of a qualified therapist, either in person or via online video services, like Skype, FaceTime, or Google Hangouts. By doing so, you help your body eliminate emotional “scarring” and reprogram the way your body responds to emotional stressors.
Since these stressors are usually connected to physical problems, many people’s diseases and other symptoms can improve or disappear as well. If you have a severe problem, it is typically best to consult directly with an EFT professional, otherwise you might not get the relief you need.
In the following video, EFT therapist Julie Schiffman discusses EFT for stress and anxiety relief. Please keep in mind that while anyone can learn to do EFT at home, self-treatment for serious issues like persistent anxiety is dangerous and NOT recommended.
It is dangerous because it will allow you to falsely conclude that EFT does not work when nothing could be further from the truth. For serious or complex issue you need someone to guide you through the process, as it typically takes years of training to develop the skill to tap on and relieve deep-seated, significant issues.
The Major Contributor to Anxiety That Hardly Anyone Knows
Increasingly, scientific evidence shows that nourishing your gut flora with the friendly bacteria known as probiotics is extremely important for proper brain function, and that includes psychological well-being and mood control. It may sound odd that bacteria in your gut could impact emotions such as anxiety, but that is exactly what the research bears testimony to. The probiotic known as Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001, for instance, has been shown to normalize anxiety-like behavior in mice with infectious colitis.4
In a very real sense, you have two brains, one inside your skull and one in your gut (the so-called “enteric nervous system”), and each needs its own vital nourishment. Your gut and brain actually work in tandem, each influencing the other. This is why your intestinal health can have such a profound influence on your mental health, and vice versa; as well as the reason why your diet is so closely linked to your mental health.
Prior research has also shown that the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus had a marked effect on GABA (an inhibitory neurotransmitter that is significantly involved in regulating many physiological and psychological processes) levels in certain brain regions and lowered the stress-induced hormone corticosterone, resulting in reduced anxiety- and depression-related behavior.5
So optimizing your gut flora with beneficial bacteria is a highly useful strategy. This is done by eliminating sugars and processed foods and eating plenty of non-starchy vegetables, avoiding processed vegetable oils, and using healthful fats. Additionally, using plenty of fermented vegetables or a high-potency probiotic would be useful to reestablish a healthy gut flora.
Your Diet Plays an Important Role in Your Mental Health
If you suffer from anxiety, it would be wise to look into nourishing your gut flora, and the best way to do this is to regularly consume traditionally fermented foods, which are naturally rich in beneficial bacteria. Pasteurized versions will NOT have the same benefits, as the pasteurization process destroys many, if not all of the naturally-occurring probiotics. So you will need to seek out traditionally fermented, unpasteurized foods like fermented vegetables, or make them yourself.
If you do not eat these types of foods regularly, then a high-quality probiotic supplement can help fill in the gap and give your gut the healthy bacteria it needs. This is the first part of the equation. The second part of the equation to optimizing your gut flora lies in avoiding the many factors that can throw your bacteria equilibrium way off balance, such as eating sugar, refined grains and other processed foods or taking antibiotics.
Additionally, your diet should include a high-quality source of animal-based omega-3 fats, like krill oil. The omega-3 fats EPA and DHA play an important role in your emotional well-being, and research has shown a dramatic 20 percent reduction in anxiety among med students taking omega-3s.6
Exercise Is Frequently Helpful if You Have Anxiety
Some psychologists swear by exercise as a primary form of treatment for depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. Research has shown again and again that patients who follow regular exercise regimens see improvement in their mood -- improvements comparable to that of those treated with medication.
The results really are impressive when you consider that exercise is virtually free and can provide you with numerous other health benefits, too. The benefits to your mood occur whether the exercise is voluntary or forced, so even if you feel you have to exercise, say for health reasons, there’s a good chance you’ll still benefit.
In addition to the creation of new neurons, including those that release the calming neurotransmitter GABA, exercise boosts levels of potent brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which may help buffer some of the effects of stress. Many avid exercisers also feel a sense of euphoria after a workout, sometimes known as the “runner’s high.” It can be quite addictive, in a good way, once you experience just how good it feels to get your heart rate up and your body moving.
If you struggle with anxiety, you really can’t go wrong with starting a comprehensive exercise program – virtually any physical activity is likely to have positive effects, especially if it’s challenging enough. That said, Duke University researchers recently published a review of more than 100 studies that found yoga appears to be particularly beneficial for mental health,7 although I also recommend high-intensity interval training like Peak Fitness and resistance training as well, in addition to flexibility and core-building exercises like yoga or Foundation Training.
Anxiety Can Be Crippling but You Can Still Take Control of Your Health
Anxiety disorders can be debilitating and in some cases require professional guidance, counseling and treatment. Two conventional treatments of anxiety disorders that have proven to be effective for many are psychotherapy and behavioral therapy. Behavioral therapy is defined as targeting the issue through breathing exercises and small increments of exposure to what is causing your anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy on the other hand, is designed to help you deal more effectively with situations that fill you with anxiety.
By using the above-mentioned strategies, however, including exercise, EFT and dietary changes, you can often teach your body how to maintain an alert yet relaxed state, which will help strengthen your inherent coping mechanisms when faced with stressful situations that trigger your anxiety symptoms. Please do seek professional help if you need it, but also don’t underestimate your own ability to make positive, oftentimes life-changing, decisions to help you take back control of your health.
Section: Articles -
File Under: Health |
By Dr. Mercola
I’ve highlighted the fact that the pharmaceutical industry is responsible for nearly 20 percent of corporate crime in a number of previous articles.
Here, I want to draw your attention to an excellent article1, 2 on the institutional corruption of pharmaceuticals, published in the Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics. It’s well worth reading in its entirety if you have an interest in this topic.
This term, “institutional corruption,” does not refer to any violation of existing rules or laws. Rather it refers to “a certain kind of influence, within an economy of influence, that has a certain effect,” as explained the Cambridge lecture above. As presented in the video, an activity is considered institutional corruption if it:
- Weakens the effectiveness of an institution, and/or
- Weakens public trust in that institution
The lecture series was sponsored by the Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics at Harvard, which also published the featured article on this topic, written by Donald W. Light, Joel Lexchin, and Jonathan J. Darrow. They write:3
“Institutional corruption is a normative concept of growing importance that embodies the systemic dependencies and informal practices that distort an institution’s societal mission.
An extensive range of studies and lawsuits already documents strategies by which pharmaceutical companies hide, ignore, or misrepresent evidence about new drugs; distort the medical literature; and misrepresent products to prescribing physicians.
We focus on the consequences for patients: millions of adverse reactions. After defining institutional corruption, we focus on evidence that it lies behind the epidemic of harms and the paucity of benefits...
If “corruption” is defined as an impairment of integrity or moral principle, then institutional corruption is an institution’s deviation from a baseline of integrity.”
Lack of integrity is indeed different from outright violation of law, which is a punishable crime. Avoidance of “moral principle,” while not illegal per se, is still a very serious concern—if nothing else for the very real harm it produces. This is true in most situations, but it’s particularly heinous when it is the modus operandi of those who wield the greatest power over your health care.
The Three Levels of Institutional Corruption
The authors assert that, within the pharmaceutical industry, institutional corruption occurs at three different levels:
- Lobbying efforts and political contributions. This way, the pharmaceutical industry has influenced the US Congress to enact legislation that has severely undermined the stated mission and function of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- Through the application of industry pressure, “Congress has underfunded FDA enforcement capacities since 1906, and turning to industry-paid “user fees” since 1992 has biased funding to limit the FDA’s ability to protect the public from serious adverse reactions to drugs that have few offsetting advantages,” according to the authors.
- Commercializing the role of doctors, undermining their position as “independent, trusted advisers to patients.”
As stated in the featured article, the health care system is founded on the moral principle that a doctor, first, will do no harm. The principle of not harming the patient is explicit in the Hippocratic Oath,4 one of the oldest binding documents in history. Under that moral edict, the duty of any health care worker is, first and foremost, to treat illness using the best medical knowledge and science available, and to carefully assess the risks of harm.
“The institutional corruption of health care consists of deviations from these principles,” the featured article states.
Unfortunately, the system in operation today has strayed quite far from this high moral ground. In fact, it has strayed so far that, today, the medical establishment as a whole is one of the leading causes of death!
According to the most recent research5 into the cost of medical mistakes in terms of lives lost, 210,000 Americans are killed by preventable hospital errors each year. When deaths related to diagnostic errors, errors of omission, and failure to follow guidelines are included, the number skyrockets to an estimated 440,000 preventable hospital deaths each year. That makes medical errors the third-leading cause of death in the US, right after heart disease and cancer.
If we limit it to adverse drug reactions alone, the featured article6 tells us that 2.7 million Americans experience a serious adverse drug reaction while hospitalized each year. Of those, an estimated 128,000 die as a direct result of the adverse reaction. According to those statistics, hospital-based adverse drug reactions alone are the fourth leading cause of death in the US.
Sadly, a majority of healthcare workers observe mistakes made by their peers yet rarely do anything to challenge them. This too falls into the discussion in the featured video. In it, it is argued that if you have the ability to right a wrong, but do not, are you not also responsible for the outcome? In essence, part of the problem of institutional corruption is not simply “bad people doing bad things,” but “good people looking the other way.”
Do Pharmaceutical Companies Have a Moral Duty to Do No Harm?
According to the featured article:
“The major patent-based research pharmaceutical companies also nominally commit themselves to improving health and relieving suffering... But in fact, these companies are mostly developing drugs that are mostly little better than existing products but have the potential to cause widespread adverse reactions even when appropriately prescribed. This deviation from the principles of health care by institutions allegedly dedicated to health care is institutional corruption.
We present evidence that industry has a hidden business model to maximize profits on scores of drugs with clinically minor additional benefits. Physician commitment to better health is compromised as the industry spends billions to create what Lessig calls a “gift economy” of interdependent reciprocation.”
Contrary to popular belief and corporate sob-stories bewailing the high cost of innovation, pharmaceutical companies devote a miniscule 1.3 percent of their revenues to research and development (R&D) of new drugs. Furthermore, pharmaceutical companies’ revenues have climbed six times faster than their investment in R&D over the past 15 years. Meanwhile, an average of 25 percent of revenues is spent on advertising and promotion of “new” drugs that are no better than their predecessors. So much for the claim that R&D costs are becoming increasingly “unsustainable.”
What’s really unsustainable is the industry’s blatant disregard for patients’ health and well being... Most new drugs offer minor clinical advantages over preexisting drugs at best, and no advantage but greater risks, at worst. For the past 35 years, very few drugs created represent any true advancement in drug therapy. According to the three authors, multiple reviews conducted between the mid-1970's to the mid-1990’s have found that only 11 to 15.6 percent of new molecular entities (NMEs) created provide any kind of “important therapeutic gain.” According to the featured article:
“The independent drug bulletin, La revue Prescrire, analyzes the clinical value of every new drug product or new indication approved in France. From 1981 to 2001, it found that about 12 percent offered therapeutic advantages. But in the following decade, 2002-2011... only 8 percent offered some advantages and nearly twice that many—15.6 percent—were judged to be more harmful than beneficial. A mere 1.6 percent offered substantial advantages.” [Emphasis mine]
They note that similar findings have also been made by the Canadian advisory panel to the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board, and by a Dutch general practice drug bulletin. Interestingly enough, the US has not conducted any such review. Remarkably, studies have revealed that one in every five new drugs ended up causing such serious harm that they eventually received a severe warning label or were withdrawn from the market.
“Of priority drugs that were reviewed in slightly more than half the normal time, at least one in three of them caused serious harm,” the featured article states... [E]vidence suggests that commercial distortions of the review process and aggressive marketing contribute to both undermining beneficence as health care’s raison d’être and to the epidemic of harm to patients.”
Conflicts of Interest and Institutional Corruption Within the FDA
Just over two decades ago, in 1992, Congress passed the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA), and from that moment on, the FDA was set squarely on the path toward doing more harm than good. The act authorizes the FDA to collect “user fees” from drug companies in order to increase the speed by which it can conduct drug reviews. A standard drug application must now be completed within 12 months of submission, compared to as much as 30 months prior to PDUFA. Priority applications must be completed within six months. Since the FDA began collecting user fees from the very industry it was intended to regulate, approved drugs have become increasingly dangerous. According to the featured article:
“Shortened review times led to substantial increases in serious harms. An in-depth analysis found that each 10-month reduction in review time—which could take up to 30 months—resulted in an 18.1-percent increase in serious adverse reactions, a 10.9-percent increase in hospitalizations, and a 7.2-percent increase in deaths.” [Emphasis mine]
Can Institutional Integrity Be Restored to Produce Safer Drugs?
There are ways to correct this fatally flawed system. Unfortunately, the pharmaceutical industry is at this point so enmeshed with our political structure, the US government may as well be viewed as a hybrid corporate-run entity, presenting a façade of concern toward the public but being none-too-confused about whom they’re really serving, namely industry. The featured article presents five strategies that would “reduce conflicts of interest and improve the safety and effectiveness of drugs,” should politicians and Americans at large decide that enough is enough:
- Research companies should have no part in testing the drugs they’ve developed. What’s called for is an independent institute to conduct drug studies.
- The FDA must restore public trust by taking a renewed leadership role focused on drug safety. Part of this includes simply enforcing its currently existing rules, which are all-too-frequently ignored.
- User fees must be eliminated. The FDA must be wholly funded by taxpayers-as-consumers, in order to clarify whom it serves and eliminate conflicts of interest with industry.
- Approval criteria for new drugs should include evidence of superiority over existing drugs and be of relevance to the patient
- Congress needs to create a National Drug Safety Board “with adequate powers, funds, and mandates to independently investigate and report on drug safety issues,” and provide open access to all data. This would go a long way toward reestablishing the public’s trust.
Proof that “Science-Based” Medicine is Disintegrating
If we continue allowing Big Pharma to live and operate on moral low ground, you really don’t need supernatural powers to predict what the future will bring. History is full of examples of how far they will go to make a buck. Criminal corruption has reached pandemic levels within the industry already. In fact, it seems to be more of an unspoken rule than the exception.
Peter Gøtzsche, head of the Nordic Cochrane Centre (which is considered the gold standard in terms of independent research reviews), goes so far as to compare the pharmaceutical industry to an organized crime ring in his book, Deadly Medicines and Organized Crime: How Big Pharma Has Corrupted Healthcare.
"Besides peddling drugs known to be more dangerous than advertised, drug companies are also in large part responsible for the decimation of the very core of medical science, since they fund a great deal of the research. The source of funding has been shown to have a tremendous impact on the results of any study."
According to data from Thomson Reuters,7 the number of retractions of scientific studies have increased more than 15-fold since 2001, and a review8 published just last year showed that nearly 75 percent of all retracted drug studies were attributed to “scientific misconduct,” which includes:
- Data falsification or fabrication
- Questionable veracity
- Unethical author conduct
Corruption of science is incredibly serious, as health care professionals rely on published studies to make treatment recommendations, and large numbers of patients can be harmed when false findings are published. The average lag time between publication of the study and the issuing of a retraction is 39 months. And that's if the misconduct is ever caught at all. What’s worse, about 32 percent of retractions are never published,9 leaving the readers completely in the dark about the fallacies in those studies.
Poster Children for Corrupted Science
One clear example of how deadly corrupted science can be is the painkiller Vioxx. There were many indications that this would be a dangerous drug, despite Merck’s claims, and I warned my readers to avoid it before its FDA approval in 1999. In 2008, four years after the drug was withdrawn from the market, an editorial10 published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggested Merck might have deliberately manipulated dozens of academic documents published in the medical literature, in order to promote Vioxx under false pretenses.
The diabetes drug Avandia is another potent example. Between 1999 and 2007, Avandia is estimated to have caused over 80,000 unnecessary heart attacks,11 although the actual numbers of people harmed or killed by the drug is still largely unknown. Avandia is a poster child for the lethal paradigm of corrupted science as GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the manufacturer of Avandia, hid damaging information about the drug for over 10 years, as they knew it would adversely affect sales!
Two years ago, GSK agreed to a $3 billion settlement over the sales and marketing practices of several of its drugs, including Avandia. This was the largest federal drug-company settlement in US history, surpassing the $2.3 billion paid by Pfizer in 2009 for illegally promoting off-label uses of four of its drugs. Most recently, GSK’s crooked ways made international headlines yet again when Chinese authorities arrested four of the company’s senior executives on charges of cash and sexual bribery.
The British Medical Journal’s blog recently featured an article12 by former BMJ editor and director of the United Health Group’s chronic disease initiative, Richard Smith. The piece is also the foreword to the book mentioned earlier, Deadly Medicines and Organized Crime. Smith writes:13
“The drug industry has systematically corrupted science to play up the benefits and play down the harms of their drugs.... the industry has bought doctors, academics, journals, professional and patient organizations, university departments, journalists, regulators, and politicians. These are the methods of the mob.
... [D]octors and academics are supposed to have a higher calling. Laws that are requiring companies to declare payments to doctors are showing that very high proportions of doctors are beholden to the drug industry and that many are being paid six figures sums for advising companies or giving talks on their behalf. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that these “key opinion leaders” are being bought. They are the “hired guns” of the industry.
And, as with the mob, woe be to anybody who whistleblows or gives evidence against the industry. Peter tells several stories of whistleblowers being hounded, and John Le Carré’s novel describing drug company ruthlessness became a bestseller and a successful Hollywood film.”
Basic Tenets of Optimal Health
Any time your doctor suggests a drug for an ailment, I urge you to do your due diligence before taking it. That said, remember that leading a common-sense, healthy lifestyle is your best bet to achieve a healthy body and mind. And while conventional medical science may flip-flop back and forth in its recommendations, there are certain basic tenets of optimal health that remain unchanged. Following these healthy lifestyle guidelines can go a very long way toward keeping you well and prevent chronic disease of all kinds:
- Proper Food Choices: For a comprehensive guide on which foods to eat and which to avoid, see my nutrition plan. Generally speaking, you should be looking to focus your diet on whole, ideally organic, unprocessed foods. For the best nutrition and health benefits, you will want to eat a good portion of your food raw.
Avoid sugar, and fructose in particular. All forms of sugar have toxic effects when consumed in excess, and drive multiple disease processes in your body, not the least of which is insulin resistance, a major cause of chronic disease and accelerated aging.
I believe the two primary keys for successful weight management are severely restricting carbohydrates (sugars, fructose, and grains) in your diet, and increasing healthy fat consumption. This will optimize insulin and leptin levels, which is key for maintaining a healthy weight and optimal health.
- Regular exercise: Even if you're eating the healthiest diet in the world, you still need to exercise to reach the highest levels of health, and you need to be exercising effectively, which means including high-intensity activities into your rotation. High-intensity interval-type training boosts human growth hormone (HGH) production, which is essential for optimal health, strength and vigor. HGH also helps boost weight loss.
So along with core-strengthening exercises, strength training, and stretching, I highly recommend that two to three times a week you do Peak Fitness exercises, which raise your heart rate up to your anaerobic threshold for 20 to 30 seconds, followed by a 90-second recovery period.
- Stress Reduction: You cannot be optimally healthy if you avoid addressing the emotional component of your health and longevity, as your emotional state plays a role in nearly every physical disease -- from heart disease and depression, to arthritis and cancer.
Meditation, prayer, social support and exercise are all viable options that can help you maintain emotional and mental equilibrium. I also strongly believe in using simple tools such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) to address deeper, oftentimes hidden, emotional problems.
- Drink plenty of clean water so that your urine is light yellow.
- Maintain a healthy gut: About 80 percent of your immune system resides in your gut, and research is stacking up showing that probiotics—beneficial bacteria—affect your health in a myriad of ways; it can even influence your ability to lose weight. A healthy diet is the ideal way to maintain a healthy gut, and regularly consuming traditionally fermented foods is the easiest, most cost effective way to ensure optimal gut flora.
- Optimize your vitamin D levels: Research has shown that increasing your vitamin D levels can reduce your risk of death from ALL causes. For practical guidelines on how to use natural sun exposure to optimize your vitamin D benefits, please see my previous article on how to determine if enough UVB is able to penetrate the atmosphere to allow for vitamin D production in your skin.
- Avoid as many chemicals, toxins, and pollutants as possible: This includes tossing out your toxic household cleaners, soaps, personal hygiene products, air fresheners, bug sprays, lawn pesticides, and insecticides, just to name a few, and replacing them with non-toxic alternatives.
- Get plenty of high quality sleep: Regularly catching only a few hours of sleep can hinder metabolism and hormone production in a way that is similar to the effects of aging and the early stages of diabetes. Chronic sleep loss may speed the onset or increase the severity of age-related conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and memory loss.
Section: Articles -
File Under: Health |
By Dr. Mercola
Given the fact that acetaminophen (sold under the brand name Tylenol, among others) is one of the most widely used drugs in the world, you might be surprised to learn that taking just a bit too much, on a regular basis, or taking it in combination with alcohol, can have rather significant health risks.
The drug can have adverse effects on your liver and kidneys, and acetaminophen-containing prescription drugs must now carry a warning about the potential for serious and potentially lethal skin disorders.
Acetaminophen can be toxic to your liver, even at recommended doses, when taken daily for just a couple of weeks.1
Research2 has also shown that taking just a little more than the recommended dose over the course of several days or weeks (referred to as “staggered overdosing”) is far more risky than taking one large overdose.
Unfortunately, familiarity with this drug and the false sense of security it can bring puts many in harm’s way. When suffering with a cold, headache or other pain, many end up doubling or even tripling the maximum recommended dose by taking multiple OTC medications, all of which may contain acetaminophen at varying amounts.
Certain prescription painkillers, such as Vicodin and Percocet, also contain acetaminophen and should therefore not be mixed with other acetaminophen-containing medications.
Failing to heed this warning can easily lead to an overdose, which can cause serious liver damage or liver failure. Acetaminophen is actually the number one cause of acute liver failure in the US.
Tylenol + Alcohol = 123 Percent Increased Risk of Kidney Damage
Recent research3 suggests that acetaminophen also significantly increases your risk of kidney dysfunction if taken with alcohol—even if the amount of alcohol is small. The findings were presented at the 141st annual American Public Health Association meeting in Boston, Massachusetts. 4
The risk is worrisome enough that the researchers advise doctors who recommend acetaminophen for pain management to educate their patients about the risks of mixing it with alcohol. Besides alcoholics,5 young adults are particularly at risk as they’re more likely to consume both.
The video above specifically addresses the potential hazards of using Tylenol to treat a hangover.
When you consider that both excessive alcohol consumption and regular use of acetaminophen can promote kidney toxicity and/or damage,6, 7 it’s not a major stretch to imagine that combining them might heighten such risks.
Data from more than 10,000 participants was analyzed for the featured study. In all, 2.6 percent of participants reported using acetaminophen together with small to moderate amounts of alcohol, and 1.2 percent of those who did so had impaired kidney function.
While that might not sound like much of a worry, the researchers found that the combination of alcohol with acetaminophen raised the risk of kidney damage by 123 percent, compared to either of them taken individually. According to the authors:
"Although individually it may not be harmful to ingest therapeutic dose of acetaminophen and a light/moderate amount of alcohol, combining the two may be potentially hazardous.”
Acetaminophen May Reduce Immune Function
When a medication is sold without a prescription and used with such frequency as acetaminophen, it’s easy to forget that every drug carries the potential for causing adverse effects—especially if used in combination with other drugs. Interestingly, little-known research from 2009 suggests acetaminophen might render vaccinations less effective when administered together.
Since vaccine-induced immunity is already inferior to naturally acquired immunity, it certainly doesn’t make sense to take something that might reduce whatever meager effectiveness a vaccine might offer.
According to this Czechoslovakian study,8 infants who received acetaminophen right after getting a vaccination experienced lowered immune response, developing significantly fewer antibodies against the disease they were vaccinated against.
The vaccines used in the study were for pneumococcal disease, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B, polio and rotavirus. (No flu vaccines were included. However, it’s likely the effect might still be the same.) The authors concluded that:
“Although febrile reactions significantly decreased, prophylactic administration of antipyretic drugs at the time of vaccination should not be routinely recommended since antibody responses to several vaccine antigens were reduced.”
The researchers suggested that the acetaminophen’s anti-inflammatory activity might interfere with your body’s immune system antibody response, which could explain why the vaccines were rendered less effective. It’s worth noting that a lowered immune response also means you're more susceptible to develop other infections.
And, as we now know, in the case of the flu for example, it is secondary infections such as bacterial staph infections that turn out to be deadly -- not the flu virus in and of itself. From that perspective, it may be worth reconsidering your use of acetaminophen when you feel like you’re “coming down with something.” You just might be better off skipping the pain reliever, and taking steps to boost your immune system instead, such as boosting your vitamin D levels.
Beware of Fatal Skin Reactions
The potential hazards of this medicine cabinet staple don’t end at liver and kidney damage. After reviewing data from the FDA Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS), the FDA found 107 cases of serious skin reactions linked to acetaminophen products from 1969 to 2012. Sixty-seven of them required hospitalization; 12 died. The data, coupled with several cases documented in medical literature, has prompted the FDA to require a warning about potential skin reactions be added to prescription acetaminophen products.9 The skin reactions linked to acetaminophen include:
- Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS): This reaction begins with flu-like symptoms that progress into a painful purple or red rash that blisters and causes the top layer of your skin to slough off. This can lead to serious infections, blindness, damage to internal organs, permanent skin damage and even death.
- Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TENS): TENS also typically begins with flu-like symptoms (cough, headache, aches, fever) and progresses into a blistering rash. Layers of the skin may peel away in sheets, and hair and nails may fall out. TENS is often fatal, typically as a result of infection.
- Acute Generalized Exanthematous Pustulosis (AGEP): This skin eruption causes numerous pustules to appear on the skin, often accompanied by fever. This condition typically resolves within two weeks once the acetaminophen is stopped.
While the main cause of SJS, TENS and AGEP is the consumption of certain acetaminophen-containing medications, no one knows exactly why it occurs, or what makes certain people more at risk. What is particularly alarming is that it can occur at any time, even if you’ve taken the medication in the past without issue. According to the FDA:10
“A serious skin reaction can occur at any time, even if you've taken acetaminophen previously without a problem. There is currently no way of predicting who might be at higher risk. If you've ever had a skin reaction when taking acetaminophen, don't take the drug again…“ [Emphasis mine]
Boosting Your Glutathione Levels May Help Counteract Acetaminophen Hazards
While I generally do not recommend using acetaminophen-containing drugs for minor aches and pains, given their health risks, they are sometimes necessary to temporarily suppress severe pain, such as post-surgical pain. For those instances, I recommend taking it along with N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), which is the rate-limiting nutrient for the formation of the intracellular antioxidant glutathione. It is believed that the liver damage acetaminophen causes is largely due to the fact that it can deplete glutathione, an antioxidant compound secreted by your liver in response to toxic exposure. Glutathione also helps protect your cells from free radical damage.
If you keep your glutathione levels up, the damage from the acetaminophen may be largely preventable. (This is why anyone who overdoses on Tylenol receives large doses of NAC in the emergency room.) So whether you are taking Tylenol in prescription or over-the-counter form, I strongly suggest taking NAC along with it. Bear in mind that while this may help prevent liver damage from occurring, I’m not aware of any evidence supporting its use for the prevention of kidney toxicity and/or potential skin reactions.
Foundational Strategies to Address Chronic Pain
Chronic pain is perhaps one of the most common ailments there is. And while different diseases and conditions may benefit from specific pain-relieving strategies, I believe the following guidelines are foundational basics for the treatment of most if not all painful conditions.
- Get sufficient high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fats are precursors to mediators of inflammation called prostaglandins. One of the best sources of omega-3s is krill oil supplement. The omega-3 fats EPA and DHA contained in krill oil have been found in many animal and clinical studies to have anti-inflammatory properties. Unlike fish oil, krill oil does not pose any toxicity and rancidity to your body, which may only damage your health. It is also far lower on the food chain, making it far less likely to accumulate environmental chemicals and toxins.
- Eliminate or radically reduce your intake of grains and sugars, especially fructose. Excessive intake of grains and sugars will elevate your insulin and leptin levels primarily through causing your body to be resistant to them, resulting in increased inflammation in your body.
- Optimize your vitamin D levels through regular and appropriate sun exposure. Combined with vitamin K2, vitamin D can help prevent the softening of your bones that can often lead to lower back pain. Sun exposure also has pain-killing or analgesic properties beyond vitamin D production. Research has shown sun exposure can be quite beneficial for fibromyalgia pain for example.
- Avoid aspartame and MSG, both of which are notorious for causing headaches and triggering migraines.
- Grounding. Walking barefoot; grounding your body to the Earth, is a simple way to reduce chronic inflammation and pain. When you're grounded, there's a transfer of free electrons, which are among the most potent antioxidants currently known, from the Earth into your body. The effect is sufficient to maintain your body at the same negatively charged electrical potential as the Earth.
This results in a number of health benefits, including calming your sympathetic nervous system which produces beneficial changes in heart rate and blood pressure, improved sleep, decreased levels of inflammation, reduced pain, and an improved general state of well-being. It also thins your blood and reduces your blood viscosity, resulting in improved blood flow throughout your body.
Research has demonstrated it takes about 80 minutes for the free electrons from the earth to reach your bloodstream and transform your blood. A newer theory also proposes that grounding may facilitate the formation of structured water in your body, which may be critical for optimal health. To learn more about this, please see m y interview with water expert Dr. Gerald Pollack.
Effective Pain-Relieving Modalities: Laser Therapy, EFT, and More
I recently interviewed Dr. Phil Harrington about the benefits of infrared laser therapy for pain. Laser therapy treatment helps reduce pain and inflammation and enhances tissue healing—both in hard and soft tissues, including muscles, ligaments, and even bones. It increases oxygenation of tissues and allows injured or damaged cells to absorb photons of light, which speeds healing. While there are a number of companies that manufacture lasers for tissue healing, K-Laser is currently the leading manufacturer of these types of infrared laser tools. Examples of the types of painful injuries that this kind of laser therapy can be helpful for include:
- Acute injuries, such as strains, sprains, and shoulder injuries
- Repetitive-use injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome
- Traumatic injuries, such as post-motor vehicle accident with cervical strain/sprain
- Chronic issues such as frozen shoulder and arthritis
To me, at this point in time, it would almost be medical negligence bordering on medical malpractice not to try laser treatment before prescribing drugs or surgery for conditions such as these. Other therapeutic mind-body modalities such as Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), yoga, acupuncture, meditation, hot and cold packs, and Foundation Training can also result in astonishing pain relief without any drugs. It’s worth noting that EFT is effective against both acute and chronic pain.
Pain-Relieving Alternatives to Acetaminophen (and Other Analgesic Drugs)
The following options can also provide excellent pain relief without any of the health hazards associated with acetaminophen and other pain killers.
- Astaxanthin: One of the most effective oil-soluble antioxidants known. It has very potent anti-inflammatory properties and in many cases works far more effectively than many NSAIDs. Higher doses are typically required and one may need 8 mg or more per day to achieve this benefit.
- Ginger: This herb is a potent anti-inflammatory and offers pain relief and stomach-settling properties. Fresh ginger works well steeped in boiling water as a tea or grated into vegetable juice.
- Curcumin: Curcumin is the primary therapeutic compound identified in the spice turmeric. In a study11 of osteoarthritis patients, those who added 200 mg of curcumin a day to their treatment plan had reduced pain and increased mobility. In fact, curcumin has been shown to have potent anti-inflammatory activity, as well as demonstrating the ability in four studies to reduce Tylenol-associated adverse health effects.12
- Boswellia: Also known as boswellin or "Indian frankincense," this herb contains powerful anti-inflammatory properties, which have been prized for thousands of years. This is one of my personal favorites as I have seen it work well with many rheumatoid arthritis patients.
- Cetyl Myristoleate (CMO): This oil, found in fish and dairy butter, acts as a "joint lubricant" and an anti-inflammatory. I have used this for myself to relieve ganglion cysts and a mild annoying carpal tunnel syndrome that pops up when I type too much on non-ergonomic keyboards. I used a topical preparation for this.
- Evening Primrose, Black Currant and Borage Oils: These contain the fatty acid gamma linolenic acid (GLA), which is useful for treating arthritic pain.
- Cayenne Cream: Also called capsaicin cream, this spice comes from dried hot peppers. It alleviates pain by depleting the body's supply of substance P, a chemical component of nerve cells that transmits pain signals to your brain.
You Can Avoid the Painkiller Trap
Whether you’re trying to address acute or chronic pain, know that there are many safe and effective alternatives to more hazardous prescription and over-the-counter painkillers. K-Laser therapy can be an excellent choice for many painful conditions, including acute injuries.
For long-term relief, you'll want to start taking a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fat like krill oil, as omega-3 fats are precursors to mediators of inflammation called prostaglandins. Addressing your diet by eliminating or radically reducing most grains and sugars (including fructose) is also important, as avoiding grains and sugars will lower your insulin and leptin levels. Elevated insulin and leptin levels are one of the most profound stimulators of inflammatory prostaglandin production. That is why eliminating sugar and grains is so important to controlling your pain.
I also recommend optimizing your production of vitamin D by getting regular, appropriate sun exposure, which will work through a variety of different mechanisms to reduce your pain. Along with these strategies, be sure you are also addressing any emotional elements. EFT is particularly useful for this—whether your pain is chronic or acute. In both instances, your level of stress, your anxiety and your perceptions of pain all play a role in how you experience pain, and addressing these elements can go a long way toward providing effective pain relief.
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File Under: Health |
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By Dr. Mercola
Many people needlessly shun raw nuts from their diet, believing their fat content contributes to weight gain. But mounting research suggests nuts such as pecans and macadamias may actually help you live longer—and help you lose weight to boot.
This isn’t so surprising considering the fact that tree nuts are high in healthful fats that, contrary to popular belief, your body needs for optimal function. Also, to optimize your health, weight, and longevity, you’ll want to shift your body from sugar-burning mode to fat-burning mode. One of the simplest and most effective ways to do this is to implement intermittent fasting.
In order for your body to begin burning fat as your primary fuel instead of sugar,it is helpful to swap non-vegetable carbohydrates like sugar and grains in your diet with high-quality healthful fats. Raw nuts are one source of such fats.
Nut Consumption Associated with Life Extension, Study Finds
A recent study published in NEJM was a large-scale, 30-year long study done at Harvard.1, 2, 3, 4 It found that people who regularly ate a small handful of nuts at least seven times per week were 20 percent less likely to die for any reason, compared to those who largely avoided nuts in their diet.
They also tended to eat more fruits and vegetables, and were leaner than their nut-eschewing counterparts. Nut eaters were more likely to exercise and take dietary supplements. As reported by the Washington Post:5
“Even those who ate nuts less than once a week had a seven percent reduction in risk. Consuming nuts at least five times a week corresponded to a 29 percent drop in mortality risk for heart disease, a 24 percent decline for respiratory disease and an 11 percent drop for cancer.”
The study does have its weaknesses. For example, participants only filled out dietary questionnaires once every two to four years. They also included all types of nuts (including peanut, which is not a nut but a legume and not nearly as health promoting as tree nuts).
The study also didn’t differentiate how they were prepared (i.e. raw or roasted, for example). That said, the result of the featured study has added support from previous research.
For example, a study6 published in the Annals of Internal Medicine earlier this year found that middle-aged women who followed a Mediterranean-style diet rich in nuts and vegetables were approximately 40 percent more likely to survive into later decades without developing some form of chronic disease—including age-related memory deterioration.
Healthful fats and antioxidants, obtained from nuts and vegetables respectively (although nuts also contain beneficial antioxidants, by the way), are both critical factors for brain health. Lead researcher of the featured study, Dr. Ying Bao, told Boston.com:7
“I’m fairly confident in our results. We have long known that nuts are nutritious foods filled with folate, potassium, fiber, good monounsaturated fats, and antioxidants.”
This is a Flash-based audio and may not be playable on mobile devices.
Tree Nuts—Good Sources of Healthful Fats
All nuts are not necessarily created equal, and tree nuts are, from a nutritional stand point, far preferable to peanuts, which is technically a legume. My main objections to peanuts are that they tend to:
- Distort your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio as they are relatively high in omega-6
- Be frequently contaminated with a carcinogenic mold called aflatoxin
- Be one of the most pesticide-contaminated crops
My favorite nuts are macadamia and pecans, as they provide the highest amount of healthy fat while being on the lower end in terms of carbs and protein. Most nuts’ nutritional makeup closely resemble what I consider to be an ideal ratio of the basic building blocks—fat making up the greatest amount of your daily calories, followed by a moderate amount of high-quality protein and a low amount of non-vegetable carbs.
The main fatty acid in macadamia nuts is the monounsaturated fat oleic acid (about 60 percent). This is about the level found in olives, which are well known for their health benefits.
I have been consuming macadamia nuts and pecans almost daily since I started lowering my overall protein intake about a year ago. I primarily use raw macadamia nuts, but also enjoy pecans. They provide a great source of calories and are a phenomenal snack alternative.
To gain a better idea of what I’m talking about, please refer to my Food Pyramid for Optimal Health.
In the featured study,8 those who ate a one-ounce serving seven times or more per week appeared to benefit the most. One ounce of nuts equates to just over 28 grams, or about a small handful. The following list shows the nutrition facts9 in grams per one ounce for your most common tree nuts:
Numbers are grams per ounce
More Nutritional Facts
Generally speaking, each type of nut will offer a slightly different mix of nutrients for your health, so it’s a good idea to include a variety of nuts rather than sticking to one at the exclusion of all others. For instance:
- Raw macadamia nuts are a powerhouse of a nut, containing a wide variety of critical nutrients including high amounts of vitamin B1, magnesium, manganese, and healthful monounsaturated fat, just to name a few.
- Pecans: Pecans contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals, and research has shown they may help lower LDL cholesterol and promote healthy arteries. One of my favorite treats is candied pecans in a salad at a restaurant. I know they have sugar, but a few grams or less a day is not going to cause a major problem provided you’re eating a healthy whole food diet, opposed to processed foods (which are loaded with hidden fructose).
- Walnuts: Walnuts are good sources of plant-based omega-3 fats, natural phytosterols, and antioxidants that are so powerful at free-radical scavenging that researchers have called them "remarkable.”10 Plus, walnuts may help reduce not only the risk of prostate cancer, but breast cancer as well. They’ve also been shown to reverse brain aging in rats and boost heart health in people with diabetes.
- Almonds: One of the healthiest aspects of almonds appears to be their skins, as they are rich in antioxidants including phenols, flavonoids, and phenolic acids, which are typically associated with vegetables and fruits. A study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry11 even revealed that a one-ounce serving of almonds has a similar amount of total polyphenols as a cup of steamed broccoli or green tea. Be careful not to overeat almonds though as they are high in protein, nearly one gram per almond.
- Brazil Nuts: Brazil nuts are an excellent source of organic selenium, a powerful antioxidant-boosting mineral that may be beneficial for the prevention of cancer.
To Become an Efficient Fat Burner—Eat More Healthful Fats
As mentioned earlier, one of the keys to optimal health is to switch your body from burning sugar to burning fat as its primary fuel. This requires a shift in diet, away from non-starchy vegetable carbohydrates toward foods that are high in healthful fats—such as those found in tree nuts. Many would benefit from getting as much as 50-85 percent of their daily calories from fats. Although this sounds like a lot, by volume the largest portion of your plate would be vegetables because they have so few calories. Examples of healthful fats would be:
||Butter made from raw grass-fed organic milk
||Organic pastured egg yolks
|Coconuts and coconut oil
||Unheated organic nut oils
||Raw nuts, such as almonds, pecans, macadamia, and seeds
Besides making sure you’re eating the right foods, intermittent fasting can be quite helpful for achieving this metabolic shift, and here’s why: It takes about six to eight hours for your body to burn the sugar stored in your body as glycogen. However, most of us never deplete our glycogen stores because we eat three or more meals a day. This teaches your body to burn sugar as your primary fuel and effectively shuts off your ability to use fat as a fuel.
Most people need several weeks of intermittent fasting, but some may need several months to teach their body to turn on the fat burning enzymes to effectively use fat as their primary fuel. It is important to understand though that once you teach your body to burn fat effectively and you are normal body weight without high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol, you only need to do intermittent fasting occasionally. You can go back to eating three meals a day as long as you keep your ideal body weight.
I prefer to think of intermittent fasting as a lifestyle rather than a diet. You could even think of it as intermittent eating rather than intermittent fasting, as all you’re doing is restricting your eating to a smaller window of time each day rather than grazing from early morning to late at night. I restricted my eating to a 6- to 7-hour window each day until I became fat adapted and lost about 10 pounds. Now, I still rarely ever eat breakfast but will have some nuts. Many days I only eat one meal around 2-4 PM, but several days a week, I will have two meals.
Weight loss is not the only beneficial side effect of intermittent fasting. It has also been shown to generally extend lifespan much in the same way calorie restriction and extended fasting, but without the suffering that goes along with those methods. It is likely that calorie restriction works to increase longevity by improving insulin and leptin resistance and also inhibiting the mTOR pathway by protein restriction. Healthful fat does not impair any of these pathways and appears to be the solution to having a regular calorie diet and still reap the rewards of calorie restriction.
Reasons to Give Intermittent Fasting a Try
If you’re ready to start intermittent fasting, consider skipping breakfast, make sure you stop eating three hours before you go to sleep, and restrict your eating to an 8-hour (or less) time frame every day. In the 6-8 hours that you do eat, have a moderate amount of healthy protein, eliminate or severely minimize carbs like pasta, bread, and potatoes, and exchange them vegetables and plenty of healthful fats. As already mentioned, this includes raw nuts and other foods like butter, eggs, avocado, coconut oil, and olive oil.
Remember, it will take a few weeks to a few months for your body to make the transition to fat burning mode, and you will need to exercise some willpower and self-discipline to get there. Just gradually extend the time that you start your first meal until it is in the afternoon.
Once your body has made the shift from carb burning to fat burning mode, you can expect cravings for sweets and food in general to rapidly decrease. This is a huge boon for most people, I’m sure. I know it was for me. For many, the desire for sweets and junk food will disappear entirely. Remember, it will typically take a few weeks, and you have to do it gradually, but once you succeed to switch into fat burning mode you’ll be easily able to go without food for 18 hours and not be bothered by hunger.
Another phenomenally beneficial side effect that occurs is that you will radically improve the beneficial bacteria in your gut.
Supporting healthy gut bacteria, which actually outnumber your cells 10 to one, is one of the most important things you can do to improve your immune system so you won’t get sick, or get coughs, colds, and flus. You will sleep better, have more energy, have increased mental clarity and concentrate better. Essentially every aspect of your health will improve as your gut flora becomes balanced.
Based on my own experience with intermittent fasting, I believe it’s one of the most powerful ways to shift your body into fat burning mode and improve a wide variety of biomarkers for disease. The effects can be further magnified by exercising while in a fasted state. For more information on that, please see my previous article “High-Intensity Interval Training and Intermittent Fasting - A Winning Combo.” Clearly, it’s another powerful tool in your box to help you and your family take control of your health, and an excellent way to take your fitness to the next level.
When Buying Nuts, Consider These Facts
To increase the positive impacts on your health, look for nuts that are organic and raw, not irradiated or pasteurized. If you choose to use almonds (remember that they are relatively high in protein), be aware that pasteurized almonds sold in North America can still be labeled "raw" even though they've been subjected to one of the following pasteurization methods:
- Oil roasting, dry roasting, or blanching
- Steam processing
- Propylene Oxide (PPO) treatment (PPO is a highly toxic flammable chemical compound, once used as a racing fuel before it was prohibited for safety reasons)
There are generally no truly "raw" almonds sold in North America, so don't be misled. It is possible to purchase raw almonds in the US, but it has to be done very carefully from vendors selling small quantities that have a waiver from the pasteurization requirement. The key is to find a company with the waiver that is not pasteurizing them. When consumed with these guidelines in mind, raw, organic nuts are a convenient and enjoyable superfood to add to your diet. And this is precisely why they’re recommended as one of the best sources of healthy fats in my nutrition plan.
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File Under: Health |
By Dr. Mercola
If you're a current smoker, the research suggests that no matter what your age, quitting can be extremely beneficial. For instance, if you quit smoking before the age of 40, more than 90 percent of the excess mortality caused by continuing smoking may be avoided.1
If you quit before the age of 30, the benefit is even more dramatic, with 97 percent of excess mortality vanishing. However, even if you quit later in life, there are still impressive benefits.
New research showed that smokers over 65 who quit smoking may reduce their risk of dying from heart-related problems to that of a non-smoker within just eight years.2
Six Things to Do Instead of Smoking
If you’re thinking of quitting, read below for the three steps you should take first. But when you’re ready, the following strategies, recently posted by TIME,3 may help, especially in the early days and hours:
- Chew carrots: A healthy snack can help you beat nicotine cravings (and the urge to bring something to your mouth). Carrots, celery, radishes, bell pepper slices, and other fresh veggies would all work for this purpose.
- Distract yourself: Surround yourself with people who are supportive of your choice to quit and who can help take your mind off of cravings.
- “Snap” your cravings away: Wear a rubber band around your wrist and snap it if you’re considering giving in to a craving. The sting will distract you and give you a moment to remember all of the reasons why you’re quitting.
- Exercise: Exercise helps fight addictions by releasing natural feel-good endorphins and easing stress and anxiety.
- Take a shower: This is another calming distraction, plus when you feel clean and fresh, you’ll be less likely to want to light up.
- Listen to music: Take your mind off of cravings with your favorite relaxing tunes, or put on an upbeat tune and dance to celebrate your new “smoke-free” self.
Cigarette Smoking Causes One of Every Five Deaths in the US
Nearly 44 million US adults (or 19 percent) smoke cigarettes, and cigarette smoking accounts for one of every five deaths in the US each year, which adds up to more than 440,000 deaths annually.4 The good news is that this is more than half that of what it was fifty years ago.
While smoking is conventionally described as a leading cause of preventable death, it actually pales in comparison to the excessive use of sugar and relying on the conventional health care system for health challenges. Both of these behaviors are far more deadly than smoking.
Still, the risks of smoking are well established and it’s certainly better off avoided. If you decide to quit, I believe it’s wise to get healthy first so you don’t turn to another vice, like sugar, as a substitute for cigarettes. When you do quit, however, you’ll experience certain benefits right away and others in the years that follow:5
- Within 20 minutes after quitting, your heart rate and blood pressure drop
- 12 hours after quitting, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal
- Within three months after quitting, your lung function increases
- Within nine months after quitting, coughing and shortness of breath decrease
- Within one year after quitting, heart disease risk drops and within five years related cancer risks are cut in half
Tobacco Companies Luring Teens with Candy-Flavored Cigars
Most flavored cigarettes have been banned since 2009, largely because they lured in children with candy- or fruit-like tastes. Flavored cigars, however, are still allowed and the tobacco industry has cleverly made flavored cigars that are thin in shape so they look just like cigarettes. In the last 12 years, sales of flavored cigars have jumped from $6 billion to $13 billion,6 and teens, in particular, are drawn to them.
A report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently showed that more than two-fifths of middle and high school students who smoke use flavored little cigars or flavored (menthol) cigarettes7 -- and nearly 60 percent are not thinking about quitting.
Teens Also Turning to E-Cigarettes
While rates of cigarette smoking in teens have gone down since 2011, use of other tobacco products have increased notably. Among them, increasing numbers of teens are using hookahs (also known as water pipes) and electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), likely because they believe them to be a safer alternative to cigarettes.
According to the CDC’s 2012 National Youth Tobacco Survey,8 2.8 percent of high school students tried e-cigarettes in 2012, compared to 1.5 percent in 2011. E-cigarettes are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and they are currently legal to sell to minors on a federal level (certain states and cities have already banned such sales, however).
Aside from the fact that smoking electronic cigarettes may tempt youth to try the real thing next, they also pose unique risks in and of themselves (not the least of which is exposure to nicotine). When you take a puff of an electronic cigarette a battery heats up a liquid that contains a flavoring (such as tobacco, menthol, cherry, vanilla, or java), a humectant (typically propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin) and, sometimes, nicotine.
As you inhale, you get a “dose” of flavored nicotine without the chemicals typically produced from burning tobacco. However, the FDA has already detected a potentially deadly antifreeze chemical called diethylene glycol in an electronic cigarette cartridge,9 along with tobacco-specific nitrosamines, which are linked to cancer.
Research has also shown that the aerosol from a leading manufacturer of electronic cigarettes contains metals including tin, copper, nickel, and silver, silicate beads and nanoparticles,10 with unknown but likely deleterious health consequences.
Do These Three Steps Before You Quit
Research shows that two-thirds to three-quarters of ex-smokers stop unaided,11 so if you’re thinking of quitting try going cold turkey. However, I believe the "secret" is to get healthy first, which will make quitting all that much easier.
Exercising is part and parcel of this plan, and as research shows people who engage in regular strength training double their success rate at quitting smoking compared to those who don't exercise.12 Healthy eating is another crucial aspect that can't be ignored. In short, if you want to quit, here are the three basic tips to get you started:
- Read through my comprehensive free nutrition plan to get started eating right, which will teach you about intermittent fasting and other tools to get you healthy BEFORE you quit, radically increasing your likelihood of successfully quitting.
- Develop a well-rounded exercise regimen. It is your ally to fighting disease and quitting smoking. Strength training is an important part, but also remember to incorporate high-intensity interval exercises like Peak Fitness, core-strengthening exercises, aerobics, and stretching.
- Find a healthy emotional outlet. Many people use exercise, meditation, or relaxation techniques for this, and these are all great. I also recommend incorporating the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), as this can help clear out emotional blockages from your system (some of which you might not even realize are there), thus restoring your mind and body's balance and helping you break the addiction and avoid cravings.
If you smoke, I do advise quitting. You should also know about astaxanthin, which has been found to help prevent oxidative damage in those who smoke.13 This might be one way to at least help lessen some of the smoking-related damage for those who are unwilling or unable to quit.
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File Under: Health |
By Dr. Mercola
The Hippocrates Health Institute, situated in southern Florida, is one of the world's oldest complementary health centers. Dr. Brian Clement got started with the organization in 1975, and assumed directorship in 1980.
He’s also the author of a three-volume series of academic books called, Food Is Medicine: The Scientific Evidence, reflecting on the work done at the Institute over the past six decades, combined with the empirical evidence coming out of research institutions such as Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge, Princeton, and Stanford.
Dr. Clement is the medical director of the Hippocrates Health Institute. They offer residential programs lasting anywhere from one to three weeks, sometimes even longer. This allows you to learn, absorb, and help implement a new set of lifestyle strategies at a deep and lasting level.
The Institute was founded by a woman named Anne Wigmore who, in 1952, was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. Her doctors told her she had about three months left to live.
“Well, thank goodness for her history,” Dr. Clement says. “In Europe, her grandmother was a village doctor. She saw her grandma, a natural doctor who used herbs and plants. She adopted that, healed herself, and reversed her cancer.”
Upon her return to Boston, Massachusetts, Wigmore decided to share her experience and help others who were suffering debilitating and lethal diseases. And so the Hippocrates Health Institute was born in Boston in 1956.
Today, six decades in business, the Institute is at the cutting edge in terms of using food and other lifestyle strategies as medicine. When Dr. Clement first joined the staff, he was sent off to Europe.
“I spent three years there, bringing back the message of plant-based raw food diets and ran the original living food center called Humlegaarden – which was started more than 100 years ago in Denmark by Dr. Kristine Nolfi, who had reversed breast cancer with raw food... I came back in 1980 and assumed the directorship,” he says.
What You Can Learn at the Hippocrates Health Institute
Presently, about half of the Institute’s patients are interested in disease prevention. The other half are quite ill. People come from all over the world to learn how to improve and regain their health at this spa-style health retreat. As I said earlier, I had a chance to personally visit the Institute for a week, and it was truly a wonderful experience.
One of the things I was particularly impressed with is the focus on raw foods, specifically sprouts.
I usually eat six to eight ounces of sunflower seed sprouts a day. Four truly powerful nutritional approaches taught at the institute are:
- Intermittent fasting and shifting from burning carbs to burning fat as your primary fuel
- Eating live, raw foods, including lots of sprouts
- Avoiding sugars, refined foods, and processed foods. They also advise avoiding all fruit juices and minimizing fruit initially
- Shifting from poor quality protein to high-quality protein
With respects to the latter, Dr. Clement explains:
“... [E]ach and every one of those four aspects are clinically researched here, and we’ve established concrete empirical evidence on how they work, biochemically, in your body, [and] high-protein diets are major culprits.
What we have seen recently, after 60 years and working with hundreds of thousands of people, is that when we reduce the amount of protein... and minimize the breakdown effect or digestion effect that your body requires to take this very dense nutrition and split it to amino acids, there’s health balance.
Our colleagues in Europe have added another dimension... glycation [and] advanced glycation end products (AGEs). In Germany, they showed us that proteins, when bonding with sugars, actually created another structure.
This structure is such an oddity, an enigma to the human biochemistry, that the immune system doesn’t know what to do with it. It runs rampant, actually causing cell death, producing free radicals.
When we bond high-protein diets, certainly high-animal protein diets (although this could happen in high-soybean diets) and sugars (not only white sugar and red beet but agave syrup and way too many soy proteins), you end up killing cells and creating free radicals. That’s what glycation and AGE’s does.”
Sprouts—Powerhouses of Nutrition
In 1992, Johns Hopkins researched natural ways to squelch cancer. A diet high in cruciferous vegetables was identified as a factor that lowered the incidence. Additional research identified broccoli as having some of the most potent anti-cancer activity. Since then, when they finally looked into sprouted broccoli seeds, researchers discovered that the phytochemical in the sprouts killed cancer dozens of times more effectively than mature broccoli!
The reason why they teach that sprouts are a core food at the Institute is because sprouts, depending on the variety, are anywhere from 10 to 30 times more nutritious than the best organic vegetables you can grow in the best organic soil in your yard.
Sunflower seed and pea sprouts tend to top the list, in terms of their nutritional profile, each being typically about 30 times more nutritious than organic vegetables. While you can sprout a variety of different beans, nuts, seeds and grains, sprouts in general have the following beneficial attributes:
- Support for cell regeneration
- Powerful sources of antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and enzymes that protect against free radical damage
- Alkalinizing effect on your body, which is thought to protect against disease, including cancer (as many tumors are acidic)
- Abundantly rich in oxygen, which can also help protect against abnormal cell growth, viruses and bacteria that cannot survive in an oxygen-rich environment
Phytonutrients, found in raw foods such as sprouts, are key for reversing disease with food. This is such a common-sense approach to health, yet the vision of so many people has been clouded by modern day living.
“I’ll never forget Ann Wigmore... This woman was purely heart and instinct. That’s why she was correct almost always,” Dr. Clement says. “I was frustrating her because I was young and insecure and was, in a way, challenging her [to explain]: “How does this reverse disease?”
She got frustrated one day and took a little organic sunflower seed, and said, “Don’t you realize if we put this to the ground, in seven weeks, it will be 12 to 15 feet-tall with thousands of seeds on it? That sunflower plant is going to be facing the east in the morning and facing the west at night. Now, don’t you think the power of the sunflower is that you’re taking hundreds and thousands of these, by eating them, and that juicing them is going to be good for you?”
It’s the light force in the food that is even more important than the nutrients and the proteins... It is so overwhelmingly obvious that, whatever food choices you make, eat large amounts of green, fresh food.”
Sprouts may in fact be one of the most obvious solutions to worldwide malnutrition and hunger due to poverty. They’re inexpensive and simple to grow, in virtually any climate when grown indoors, and can provide up to 30 times more nutrients than even organically grown vegetables! With barely any money at all, you can eat the healthiest of diets, year-round. Keeping seeds for sprouting is easy. Seeds are relatively simple to store and last for a long time. You also have to store FAR less food if you’re using seeds, as they don’t take up much space. I think it’s just a marvelous preparation strategy.
The Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
One of the things I teach is that, for most people, it’s far healthier to skip breakfast. Omitting breakfast, as part of an intermittent fasting schedule, can have a number of phenomenal health benefits, from improving your insulin sensitivity to shifting your body into burning more fat instead of sugar for fuel. This will help you painlessly lose weight without being hungry as you will now finally have the ability to burn fat. The Hippocrates Institute has also more or less eliminated breakfast, serving only raw vegetable juices in the morning. This is basically intermittent fasting, even though it’s not being taught as that in the program.
Intermittent fasting, also known as “scheduled eating,” does not necessarily mean abstaining from all food for extended periods of time. Rather it refers to limiting your eating to a narrow window of time each day. Ideally, you’ll want to limit your eating to a window of about 6-8 hours, say from noon until 6 or 8 pm each day, which means you’re fasting daily for 16-18 hours. This is enough to get your body to shift into fat-burning mode.
This is a gradual process. Typically you start by not eating anything for three hours prior to going to sleep. This will give you a head start to the fasting process so if you sleep for 8 hours you’ve already fasted for 11 hours when you awake. The next step is to wait as long as you can before you start your first meal or “break” your fast. You can gradually extend the time that you have your first meal by 15 to 30 minutes a day. After several weeks you will be having your first meal at lunch. Typically, the more your body uses carbs as its primary fuel rather than fat, the longer this will take. Once you shift to fat burning mode, modern research has confirmed some of the benefits to be:
- Normalizing your insulin sensitivity, which is key for optimal health as insulin resistance is a primary contributing factor to nearly all chronic disease, from diabetes to heart disease and even cancer
- Normalizing ghrelin levels, also known as "the hunger hormone"
- Promoting human growth hormone (HGH) production, which plays an important part in health, fitness and slowing the aging process
- Lowering triglyceride levels
- Reducing inflammation and lessening free radical damage
Juice Your Vegetables Without Adding Fruit
The Hippocrates Institute also provides and promotes raw vegetable juicing—but not the juicing of fruits. The reasons for this are manifold. According to Dr. Clement:
“Seventy-five percent of raw food eaters today are sugar addicts trading white sugar for agave syrup; trading cakes for three mangoes or watermelons. You’re still a sugar addict... We’ve done empirical research on that. For 35 years, [sugar, including fruit] has been restricted here at Hippocrates in people with cancer.”
If you have cancer and are in treatment, the Institute will tell you to eliminate all sugar, fruit juices and most fruit initially. Fruit juice is clearly worse than eating the whole fruit, since you’re then getting a high dose of fructose all at once, without any of the fiber. But even excessive whole fruit can be a problem for the vast majority of people today, especially if you’re struggling with your weight, insulin resistance, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or cancer.
Large amounts of fructose, especially for someone who’s insulin- and/or leptin-resistant, is not a good idea. Dr. Clement, however, believes that most people, with the exception of athletes, should avoid fruit.
Remember, this is his position, not mine. I am just presenting it so you can evaluate it for yourself. Personally I believe that if you are fat adapted, fruit can be beneficial, especially if consumed before or after a workout where the sugar is consumed as a fuel and does not increase glycogen stores. His argument probably makes more sense for those who are insulin and/or leptin resistant, which happens to be the vast majority of the population.
Why Large Amounts of Fruit Are Not Recommended
Some 30 years ago, Dr. Clement met a fruit cultivation specialist who informed him about some nutritional facts that few people ever consider. Eighty-five percent of the fruit available today did not exist 100 years ago. Fruit has been thoroughly changed through hybridization practices to increase sweetness, and therein lies the problem... and the answer to why it’s probably unwise for most people to eat a diet high in fruit.
For example, the honeybell orange, which is quite sweet, was spliced together about 35 years ago, mixing grapefruit with tangerine. And the popular Red Delicious apple? It’s now 50 times higher in fructose than the original apple, which was more sour than a crab apple!
“Here’s where we saw it: the average fruit today through hybridization has a minimum of 30 times more sugar on an average,” Dr. Clement says, and this is why one of humankind’s original foods is no longer appropriate in large quantities...
Our forefathers also didn’t eat processed sugar, which was primarily reserved for the aristocracy. Increasing sugar consumption over the past four or five generations has resulted in disturbed pancreatic functioning in most people. The human pancreas simply doesn’t know how to process sugars properly anymore, due to being overloaded.
“Now we have massive sugars from what I considered to be the original food of man. What could be more perfect? You eat a fruit, you spit it out, and the seed grows another tree. But now it is quite an altered fruit. Added to this, your pancreas doesn’t work well. So, now you have a problem. When we can get people off the addictive pattern of sugar and we can get them onto plant-based foods without the high-sugar content with enough glucose in it to sustain fuel of the cell, they don’t age prematurely and it works,” he says.
“I would rather have a mango than a green lettuce, because it tastes better. But a green lettuce supplies glucose for my cell without supplying additional amounts that become blood sugar, which not only creates blood sugar swings but feeds every known disease to man and create free radicals. That’s the answer... Definitively, I say that the only people who can eat – not should eat– dried fruit and a lot of bananas are people who are major athletes.”
Unripe Fruit Creates Acidity, and Most Commercially Available Fruit is Unripe...
Another interesting aspect relating to the consumption of fruit is the fact that often the fruit available at your local grocery store is not ripe, and unripe fruit, according to Dr. Clement, creates acidity in your body. (Ripe fruit is alkaline.) Sure, the fruit you buy may look ripe, but we actually have a vastly erroneous concept of how fruit ripens.
As it turns out, you cannot commercially process ripe fruit. If you were to pack ripe oranges in Florida, for example, and ship them to another state, they’d be rotten in about a week. Hence the fruit is picked months before it’s ripe. If you’re like most people, you probably think that once a fruit turns color and softens, it’s ripening. But this is not accurate.
Dr. Clement explains that in order for a fruit to optimally ripen, it must remain attached to the branch on the tree or bush. Nutrients are continuously fed to the fruit while on the tree. The veins that feed the fruit come from the roots, which in turn extract nutrients from the soil and beneficial soil bacteria. Add to that the UV rays from the sun, causing photosynthesis to occur throughout the plant. Once you pluck the fruit, it’s no longer receiving nutrients, and the ripening process stops. Hence the nutritional value of the fruit is compromised.
“We tell people that up to 15 percent of your diet can be ripe organic fruit, even if you’re not an athlete. But once we get beyond the 15 percent, 20 percent it starts to spill over and put sugar in the blood,” Dr. Clement says.
If Eating Fruit, Consider this Food Combining Principle
I recently interviewed Wayne Pickering, better known as “The Mango Man.” He eats plenty of fruit, but appears to be quite healthy. He is a strong proponent of food combining. Food combination takes into account the area and complexity of digestion of each food, to ensure it goes through your entire digestive system with ease. One of the core principles of food combining according to Dr. Pickering is that you should not combine fruit with vegetables, as this inhibits proper digestion. So, if you’re going to eat fruit, seek to eat it by itself, and not in combination with other foods—especially not starches. Dr. Clement agrees with this approach, saying:
“Yes, this is something I have adopted... [W]e’ve had so many times, when people have gotten on the food combining, they’ve eliminated gastrointestinal problems; diverticulosis, diverticulitis, overweight, nausea, and headaches. It has a lot to do with this [principle].”
Juice, Don’t Blend, Your Veggies
Last but not least, with regards to juicing Dr. Clement makes a very interesting and important distinction. Chopping and blending your veggies with a high speed blender should not be confused with juicing as it does NOT provide you with the same health benefits as juicing. Remarkably, blending your veggies using a blender can kill up to 90 percent of the nutrients in 90 seconds, primarily due to oxidation, according to Dr. Clement. He explains:
“I had a colleague at the University of Miami set up a 29-dollar blender. He had his Vitamix. We measured the nutritional levels in several ounces of food. We put that food in the blenders. We knew what the numbers were. We blended it for 90 seconds. About 15 years ago, we found out that 90 percent of the nutrients (we were looking at vitamins A, E, C; the basic five nutrients at the top) are killed in 90 seconds of blending with a high-speed blender.”
Furthermore, when you drink—opposed to chew—the blended vegetables, your body does not produce the enzymes required for digestion of the pulp. Eighty percent of carbohydrates are digested in your mouth when you chew. Without the enzymes to break down the carbohydrates, your blended veggies begin to ferment in your intestinal tract. If the food you eat is not digesting properly, not only can painful gas, heart burn, acid reflux and other stomach problems arise, but your body will also be deprived of critical nutrients, which defeats the whole purpose of juicing in the first place.
Tens of thousands of people have already visited the Hippocrates Health Institute, and if you're interested in their services, check out their website at www.hippocratesinst.org. You can also call them at 561-623-1002. The Institute is open seven days a week.
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File Under: Health |
By Dr. Mercola
If you believe that it is your right to decide what food to feed yourself and your family, you will be interested in the latest legal battle brewing between an Oregon raw milk farmer and the state Department of Agriculture.
In Oregon, sales of raw milk from small farms directly to consumers are legal, but advertising that such milk is available is not.
This means that Christine Anderson, who owns a small farm in Oregon, is unable to post fliers at health food stores, get a booth at a local fair or even post a sign about her raw milk dairy on her own land.
Even a price list available on her web site received a complaint, and she was forced to take it down.
The advertising ban makes it virtually impossible for a small milk farmer to stay in business, and certainly to flourish, which is why Anderson is now suing the Oregon Department of Agriculture and asking that the ban be declared a violation of free speech rights.
Decades-Long Advertising Ban Being Challenged
Retail raw milk sales have been banned in Oregon since 1999. However, the state has an exemption for small farms with up to three cows, nine sheep, and nine goats to sell raw milk on their farms.
The catch, of course, is that they’re not allowed to advertise, and if they do, they could be punished with a year in jail, more than $6,000 in fines and up to $10,000 in civil penalties.
Clearly, this is put in place to limit the public’s access to raw milk, but increasing numbers of small farmers and Americans are challenging this “nanny state” mentality.
If you’re going to ban advertising for raw milk out of concerns for public health (even though no deaths have been linked to raw milk since the government began collecting such data), you should ban advertising for pasteurized milk, mass-produced meat and poultry and bagged salads too, all of which pose a greater threat of food-borne illness than properly produced raw milk!
Anderson’s federal lawsuit against the Department of Agriculture claims that the ban violates free speech rights and infringes on her business. She told OregonLive:1
"Raw milk is legal to sell but you can't talk about it… I work really hard, and I do a good job as a producer. I want to be able to talk about it. I would like to go about my small farm business without a lot of fear that what I'm doing can be construed as breaking the law."
Wisconsin Senate Committee Passes Raw Milk Bill
While bills in several states (including North Dakota, New Mexico, and Illinois) have been introduced to further restrict access to raw milk, the Wisconsin Senate committee passed a bill that would allow dairy farmers to sell raw milk directly to consumers.
The bill would require raw milk producers to register with the state, undergo stringent testing and also keep a list of their sales available for inspection2… but it would allow a practice that many feel should be an unquestionable right – the ability to purchase any food you wish from the farm of your choice.
The raw milk bill will still have to pass through the full Senate next year and is already facing backlash from the state’s dairy industry.
However, if it’s passed it would be a major victory for food freedom, especially in Wisconsin, which is one of a handful of states that has been aggressively targeting raw-milk farmers, seeking to unjustly criminalize their methods of food production.
Do You Really Need to Be Protected from Raw Milk?
Many people should not consume dairy, as they are allergic to the milk proteins, whether it is raw or pasteurized. Additionally, many who are seeking to lose weight, have high blood pressure or diabetes would likely be better avoiding milk as it has the dairy sugar lactose.
However, if you are healthy and want to drink milk then it makes more sense to fear drinking pasteurized milk. While there has not been one single death due to raw milk between 1998 and 2008,3 the United States' largest recorded outbreak of Salmonella resulted from pasteurized milk.
However, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) never issued a specific Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report for this outbreak… The incident, which occurred between June 1984 and April 1985, resulted in 200,000 illnesses and 18 deaths!
Yet this and other outbreaks of illness resulting from the consumption of pasteurized milk are kept from public knowledge, and escapes warnings from the CDC.
In fact, they have never issued a warning against commercially pasteurized milk! This is just one example of the CDC's ongoing bias against raw dairy products. According to Mark McAfee, the founder of Organic Pastures Dairy:
"We haven't seen any deaths from raw milk since the data started being collected in 1973… [There are] no deaths in the CDC website from raw milk. There have been over 80 deaths from pasteurized milk during that time period if you include the Jalisco cheese incident, which killed 50 people all by itself in 1985 – pasteurized milk cheese.
The safety record is really, really good as far as death is concerned, but we still see 30 or 40 people a year that get sick from raw milk because of misunderstood or misapplied practices. But it's not rocket science.
That's why the Raw Milk Institute was founded; to help farmers get a reference point and help farmers build their food safety plans. Again, they are just daily checklists to make sure that conditions are right so that you have a reliable outcome all the time."
While there are no guarantees of perfection, it's worth keeping in mind that the potential for foodborne illness applies to ANY food. Dozens of deaths have been traced back to cantaloupe in recent years, for example.
Raw Milk Is Not an Inherently ‘Dangerous’ Food
It’s contrary to reason that milk (and many other foods) that comes from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are thought of as safe while raw milk sourced from a small carefully run farm is not. In CAFOs, large groups of animals are kept in a small space, oftentimes without natural light or access to the outdoors. The conditions are filthy, with animals standing in one another's waste. Needless to say, harmful bacteria naturally thrive in these conditions.
To combat disease (and promote unhealthy growth), the animals are fed antibiotics, the result of which is they become living and breathing “bioreactors” for the generation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. They may also receive hormones, which increase milk production, and they're fed a diet of grains and soy (most of which is now the genetically engineered variety) rather than grass, which alters their gut flora and makes them even more prone to disease.
As a result, drinking CAFO milk raw would be extremely dangerous. It must be pasteurized for safety. On the other hand, milk from grass-fed cows raised on smaller, clean farms can be safely consumed without being pasteurized, provided the farmer is committed to providing a safe, quality product.
Buying Raw Milk? Safety Signs to Look For
While the benefits of raw milk are finally starting to be understood and acknowledged again, many are still under the misperception that all raw milk is unclean and unsafe. But as with any food, where your raw milk comes from makes a major difference in its quality and safety. Getting your raw milk from a local organic farm is one of the best ways to ensure you're getting high-quality milk, but even then, if you're thinking about purchasing milk from a small farmer, it would be very wise to visit the farm in person. Look around and ask questions about the following general conditions, which should indicate a source of high-quality raw milk.
Low pathogenic bacteria count (i.e. does the farmer test his milk regularly for pathogens?)
||The milk comes from cows raised naturally, in accordance with the seasons
||The cows are not given antibiotics and growth hormones to increase milk production
|The milk is quickly chilled after milking
||The cows are mainly grass-fed
||Cows are well cared for
Do You Want to Stand Up for Food Freedom?
The fight for food freedom isn’t just for those who love raw milk – it’s for everyone who wants to be able to obtain the food of their choice from the source of their choice. Raw milk isn’t the only food on the chopping block… raw-milk cheeses and heritage-breed pigs are also being targeted and there’s no telling what other small-farm, niche foods may be next. So please, get involved! I urge you to embrace the following action plan to protect your right to choose your own foods:
- Get informed: Visit www.farmtoconsumer.org or click here to sign up for action alerts.
- Join the fight for your rights: The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) is the only organization of its kind. This 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization provides a legal defense for farmers who are being pursued by the government for distributing foods directly to consumers. Your donations, although not tax deductible, will be used to support the litigation, legislative, and lobbying efforts of the FTCLDF. For a summary of FTCLDF’s activities in 2012, see this link.
- Support your local farmers: Buy from local farmers, not the industry that is working with the government to take away your freedoms.
Section: Articles -
File Under: Health |
By Dr. Mercola
Public health guidelines from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advise Americans to eat between 20 and 30 grams of fiber a day, but most adults don’t even eat half that much.
This isn’t surprising, since fiber refers to the indigestible portion of plant foods, and in the largely refined standard American diet, healthful fibers are often processed right out.
Unless you regularly eat whole fruits and vegetables, nuts, and seeds, you may be missing out on the healthiest forms of fiber available – and that could be a problem. That said, in spite of their fiber content, bulking up your diet with bran muffins and cereal is typically a big mistake, which I’ll explain shortly.
Why Is Fiber So Important?
I’ve long been interested in the health benefits of fiber. In fact, when I was in medical school 33 years ago, I was so convinced of fiber’s many benefits that my nickname was Dr. Fiber.
I’ve since come to appreciate that the type of fiber in your diet, as well as your gut health, play a major role in harnessing fiber’s health potential while avoiding its potential pitfalls. Before I explain, let’s go over a bit of fiber basics…
It is actually because your body can’t digest fiber that it plays such an important part in digestion. Soluble fiber, like that found in cucumbers, blueberries, beans, and nuts, dissolves into a gel-like texture, helping to slow down your digestion. This helps you to feel full longer and is one reason why fiber may help with weight control.
Insoluble fiber, found in foods like dark green leafy vegetables, green beans, celery, and carrots, does not dissolve at all and helps add bulk to your stool. This helps food to move through your digestive tract more quickly for healthy elimination. Many whole foods, especially fruits and vegetables, naturally contain both soluble and insoluble fiber.
9 Health Benefits of Fiber
There’s no shortage of research showing how fiber may boost your health. Some of its top potential benefits include:
- Blood sugar control: Soluble fiber may help to slow your body’s breakdown of carbohydrates and the absorption of sugar, helping with blood sugar control.
- Heart health: An inverse association has been found between fiber intake and heart attack, and research shows that those eating a high-fiber diet have a 40 percent lower risk of heart disease.1
- Stroke: Researchers have found that for every seven-grams more fiber you consume on a daily basis, your stroke risk is decreased by 7 percent.2
- Weight loss and management: Fiber supplements have been shown to enhance weight loss among obese people,3 likely because fiber increases feelings of fullness.
- Skin health: Fiber, particularly psyllium husk, may help move yeast and fungus out of your body, preventing them from being excreted through your skin where they could trigger acne or rashes.4
- Diverticulitis: Dietary fiber (especially insoluble) may reduce your risk of diverticulitis – an inflammation of polyps in your intestine – by 40 percent.5
- Hemorrhoids: A high-fiber diet may lower your risk of hemorrhoids.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): Fiber may provide some relief from IBS.
- Gallstones and kidney stones: A high-fiber diet may reduce the risk of gallstones and kidney stones, likely because of its ability to help regulate blood sugar.
Wait: Read This Before You Stock Up on Bran Muffins!
Bran muffins, whole grains, and cereals are often touted as the best way to increase your fiber intake, but according to a growing number of experts, including Dr. Loren Cordain, a professor at Colorado State University and an expert on Paleolithic lifestyles, humans are NOT designed to eat grains, and doing so may actually be damaging to your gut.
Dr. Cordain explains:
"There's no human requirement for grains. That's the problem with the USDA recommendations. They think we're hardwired as a species to eat grains. You can get by just fine and meet every single nutrient requirement that humans have without eating grains. And grains are absolutely poor sources of vitamins and minerals compared to fruits and vegetables and meat and fish."
But the problem isn't only that there are superior sources of nutrients; grains actually contain anti-nutrients that may damage your health. Ironically, since we're often told that whole grains are one of the best sources of fiber for our health, the high-fiber bran portion of grain – a key part that makes it a whole grain -- actually contains many of the anti-nutrients.
Substances in grains, including gliadin and lectins, may increase intestinal permeability or leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut can cause digestive symptoms such as bloating, gas, and abdominal cramps, as well as cause or contribute to many others symptoms such as fatigue, skin rashes, joint pain, allergies, psychological symptoms, autism, and more. All grains contain glutinous proteins known as prolamines that can be very “binding,” as they are pasty substances our bodies were just not designed to breakdown correctly. Plus, while fiber may be good for blood sugar, grains are not and may worsen health conditions like diabetes.
There’s even research showing that too much fiber may increase your risk of conditions like diverticulosis, i.e. intestinal polyps.6 It's a vicious cycle, too, because once your digestive tract has been damaged, it allows various gut contents to flood into your bloodstream where they wreak havoc on your health. Further, if you eat a high-fiber diet with a damaged gut, it can lead to serious problems.
If Your Gut Isn’t Healthy, a Temporary Very-Low-Fiber Diet May Help
If you have chronic digestive symptoms like diarrhea, flatulence, stomach pains, reflux, leaky gut syndrome, food allergies, or intolerance, you’d be wise to implement the GAPS program. GAPS stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome. It also stands for Gut and Physiology Syndrome. The first part of the GAPS Introduction Diet is to remove fiber because it feeds microbes.
The human digestive system is not designed to break down fiber. Instead, it ends up undigested in your bowel, where the majority of your gut flora resides. If your gut flora is healthy, i.e. dominated by beneficial, probiotic species, then these microbes will feed on the fiber and proliferate.
However, if your gut is filled with pathogenic bacteria and/or yeast and fungi, fiber will actually make your symptoms worse, as it is a non-specific growth factor for intestinal bacteria, and does not discriminate between pathogenic and beneficial bacteria. So, if your bowel is predominantly dominated by pathogenic microbes, pathogenic microbes will feed on fiber and proliferate, making whatever health problems you have worse.
The digestive system of those with GAPS is predominantly populated by pathogens, which is why fiber must be carefully eliminated from your diet, for a period of time, to help starve out the pathogens (probiotic-rich fermented vegetables and soups with well-cooked, deseeded and peeled vegetables, such as zucchinis and squash, are allowed in the introductory phase). If you’re interested in trying this out, I highly recommend getting Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride’s book Gut and Psychology Syndrome, which provides all the necessary details for the protocol.
What Are the Healthiest Sources of Fiber?
Assuming your gut is generally healthy, I believe most people need upwards of 32 grams of fiber a day. Most Americans get nowhere near this amount. As the New York Times reported:7
“...the current average fiber intake in the United States is about 13 grams a day for women and 17 for men. Increasing these amounts by seven grams a day would bring them close to the recommended levels of 21 to 25 grams for women and 30 to 38 for men. ‘Seven grams a day increase is an achievable goal…’ ‘You’re talking about... increasing vegetable and fruit by two portions a day.'”
If your diet could use more fiber, resist the urge to fortify it with whole grains. Instead, focus on eating more vegetables, nuts, and seeds. The following whole foods, for example, contain high levels of soluble and insoluble fiber.
Vegetables such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts
Root vegetables and tubers, including onions and sweet potatoes
Psyllium seed husk, flax, and chia seeds
A simple “rule” to remember is simply to get most of your fiber in the form of vegetables, not grains.
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File Under: Health |