Month: July 2015

New Hope for Arthritis Sufferers

New Hope for Arthritis Sufferers

Anyone who has experienced the debilitating pain and inflammation of arthritis will tell you how much these symptoms can rob a person of the joy of living. Arthritis pain can interfere with the ability to perform even the simplest of tasks, and often prevents sufferers from getting that much-needed good night’s sleep that could help silence an overactive immune system and heal joints. When you think of addressing arthritis, you probably never give your gut a second thought. But you might want to.

Research now links gut bacteria and the resulting gut inflammation to rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers at the New York University School of Medicine linked the prevalence of the harmful intestinal bacteria, Prevotella copri, to the onset of rheumatoid arthritis, which may set off an inflammatory response that begins in the gut—and may initiate rheumatoid arthritis. The researchers analyzed 144 stool samples from rheumatoid arthritis sufferers and healthy controls. They assessed gut bacteria between the two groups using DNA analysis and found that P. copri was more abundant in newly-diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis patients than healthy individuals or those with an established R.A. condition.

Additionally, the researchers also found that high levels of P. copri resulted in fewer beneficial gut bacteria in people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, suggesting a gut flora imbalance affecting people with the condition. Since a gut flora imbalance can be naturally addressed, this research provides exciting news for arthritis sufferers since restoring beneficial gut bacteria may be a key to relief from the debilitating condition.

The NYU researchers built on the understanding established by earlier research published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation. In this study, mice that were raised in germ-free conditions developed joint inflammation after the introduction of specific harmful gut bacteria. Study author, Dan Littman, MD, PhD, professor of pathology and immunology said that “studies of rodent models have clearly shown that the intestinal microbiota contribute significantly to the causation of systemic autoimmune diseases.”

This new avenue of research suggests possible new treatment options as well, good news for the estimated 50 million adults in the United States who have been diagnosed as having a form of arthritis, including: rheumatoid arthritis (R.A.), gout, lupus, or fibromyalgia. While many categorize arthritis as an “older person’s disease,” this is a myth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an CDC estimates that 294,000 children under 18 have been diagnosed with some form of arthritic or rheumatic condition. Considering the vast and growing number of people suffering from this debilitating disease, any natural medicine that offers hope and relief is welcome.

Additional research in the journal Medical Science Monitor suggests that restoring beneficial bacteria in the gut may offer hope in improving joint function for people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. In a study of 30 rheumatoid arthritis sufferers scientists at the University of Western Ontario, Canada, noted joint function improvement in those who took the specific probiotics Lactobacillus rhamnosus andLactobacillus reuteri compared to those given placebos. The researchers are uncertain as to why the probiotics improved joint function. There are no known harmful effects of supplementing with L. rhamnosus and L. reuteri other than some temporary bloating while the body adjusts to the beneficial bacteria.

It may be beneficial to add a probiotic supplement with these strains to the treatment regime of arthritis sufferers. Be sure to choose a supplement that contains the two beneficial strains identified in the study, as most do not. Also, since I am frequently asked if a person could just eat yogurt to glean the anti-arthritis benefits, it’s important to note that while yogurt may confer other benefits, it does not typically contain either of these strains.

For more information, consult my book The Probiotic Promise: Simple Steps to Heal Your Body from the Inside Out.

Read more:


Could Ginger Be Our Best Headache Treatment?

Could Ginger Be Our Best Headache Treatment?

Most of us will run for the medicine cabinet when a headache comes on. Especially if it’s a persistent migraine.

While paracetomol, tylenol and other common pain-relief drugs may be helpful, there are also numerous natural alternatives shown to help.

One of those alternative treatments—raw ginger—is the best of the bunch from a scientific point-of-view. In fact, the latest research shows it can can be just as effective as prescription medication.

The study, published in Phytotherapy Research, involved 100 adult patients with a history of migraines. Over a one month period researchers directly compared the effects of sumatriptan (a common prescription medication for migraines) versus a ginger extract capsule.

Patients had to take either a 50mg dose of sumatriptan or a 250mg ginger capsule at the first sign of a migraine. The treatments were masked so that subjects remained unaware of which treatment they received.

Based on a range of markers self-recorded by the patients, within two hours both the single dose of sumatriptan and the dose of ginger reduced migraine severity by over 60 percent. In other words, ginger supplementation was equally as effective as sumatriptan.

What’s even more intriguing, however, is that the ginger extract was much better tolerated.

The lone side effect of ginger use was indigestion, experienced by 4 percent of users. But a whopping 20 percent of those taking sumatriptan suffered side effects ranging from dizziness to drowsiness, even heartburn.

Patients taking ginger felt so satisfied and impressed with their treatment that many said they would be continuing with ginger use after the study too.

Ginger has long been linked with a range of health benefits…perhaps headache treatment should be at the top of the list.

Have you tried using ginger to relieve headaches or other health issues? How did you consume your ginger?

Read more:

News of Note: Insomnia and Antidepressant Medications

drugs_pillsFDA Issues Safety Warning on Lunesta
In mid-May of 2014, the FDA released a warning that eszopiclone (Lunesta) can cause next-day impairment when taken at the recommended target dose of 3 mg/ day. As a result, the FDA has lowered the recommended starting dose to 1 mg/day.

The FDA cites a double blind, placebo controlled study of 91 adults that found working memory and the psychomotor coordination required to drive a car were impaired for up to 11.5 hours after a 3 mg bedtime dose of Lunesta.

They also determined that subjective perception of sedation and coordination—in other words, patients’ abilities to realize they were sleepy or impaired—were no different than placebo, although these patients were actually quite impaired. Women and men were equally affected.

In fact, according to the data summary from the FDA, a 3-mg dose of Lunesta was almost as impairing as 7.5 mg zopiclone, a medication often used as a positive control in studies of driving impairment (and, interestingly, the parent compound of Lunesta).

Doses can be titrated up to 3 mg from the new starting dose of 1 mg, says the FDA, but patients taking the 3 mg dose are cautioned against driving and related activities the next day. Read the warning.

This article originally appeared in The Carlat Psychiatry Report — an unbiased monthly covering all things psychiatry.

This article was published in print June 2014 in Volume:Issue Volume 12, Number 6.

Is Almond Milk a Rip Off?

July 29, 2015

By Dr. Mercola

There are many reasons to snack on whole, raw almonds. They’re an excellent source of protein, healthy fats, and antioxidants, for starters, and almond skins even contain beneficial phenols, flavonoids. and phenolic acids, which are typically associated with vegetables and fruits.

Drinking almond milk may therefore seem like a smart choice, one that may offer you the health benefits of almonds in beverage form – but it’s not as healthy as it would appear, particularly if you buy commercial varieties.

What exactly is almond milk? It’s typically a combination of almonds, water, sweetener, thickener such as carrageenan, and, often, fortified nutrients such as vitamins A, E, and D.

The problem is that most almond milk contains hardly any almonds, mostly water, added sugars, and a smattering of vitamins for good measure. AsBusiness Insider put it:1

If almond milk closely resembles any beverage, it’s a glass of water and a multivitamin.”

A Handful of Almonds in a Carton…

The amount of actual almonds in a half-gallon carton of almond milk is shocking: research suggests it’s just over a handful. In one analysis of the UK almond milk brand Alpro, almonds made up just 2 percent of the beverage, and the Almond Board of California noted that ingredients are pretty similar between UK and US almond milk brands.2

If you’ve ever wondered how almond milk can be so low in calories – about 30 calories in a cup, compared to 160 calories in a serving of almonds – it’s because it’s mostly water… not almonds.

“Based on these numbers,” Business Insider reported, “to get the nutritional value of a handful of almonds, you’d have to drink not just a few cups of the almond milk but an entire carton of it.”3

Almond Milk Sales Soar as Consumers Get Ripped Off

One maker of plant-based milk, White Wave, reported first-quarter sales in 2014 had increased 50 percent over the prior year. In the US, almond milk tops the plant-based milk market, taking up two-thirds of the share (followed by soy milk, at 30 percent, rice, and coconut milks).4

In all, sales of alternative milks are soaring and are expected to reach $1.7 billion by 2016, with almond milk leading the way.5 But as a consumer, you have to question what you’re really paying for… and how much it’s costing you. In the case of almond milk, you’re paying a lot of money for what is essentially water and sweetener with a handful of almonds.

According to Mother Jones:6

“…the almond-milk industry is selling you a jug of filtered water clouded by a handful of ground almonds. Which leads us to the question of price and profit… A jug of almond milk containing roughly 39 cents worth of almonds, plus filtered water and additives, retails for $3.99.”

Are Other ‘Alternative’ Milks Healthy?

Almond milk is just one plant-based milk available in most major supermarkets. You can now easily find a handful of others as well, most of which are marketed as healthy… but are they really? Here’s a run-down on some of the more popular alternative milks on the market:

Soy Milk

One of the worst problems with soy comes from the fact that 90 to 95 percent of soybeans grown in the US are genetically modified (GM). GM soybeans are designed to be “Roundup Ready,” which means they’re engineered to withstand otherwise lethal doses of herbicide.

The active ingredient in Roundup herbicide is called glyphosate, which is responsible for the disruption of the delicate hormonal balance of the female reproductive cycle.

What’s more, glyphosate is toxic to the placenta, which is responsible for delivering vital nutrients from mother to child, and eliminating waste products. Once the placenta has been damaged or destroyed, the result can be miscarriage. In those children born to mothers who have been exposed to even a small amount of glyphosate, serious birth defects can result.

Glyphosate’s mechanism of harm was identified in 2013 and demonstrates how this chemical disrupts cellular function and may induce many of our modern diseases, including autism. It’s also been declared a “probable carcinogen.”

Aside from the GM issues, thousands of studies have linked unfermented soy to malnutrition, digestive distress, immune-system breakdown, thyroid dysfunction, cognitive decline, reproductive disorders and infertility, and even cancer and heart disease.

The only soy with health benefits is organic soy that has been properly fermented, and these are the only soy products I ever recommend consuming.

After a long fermentation process, the phytate and “anti-nutrient” levels of soybeans are reduced, and their beneficial properties become available to your digestive system. To learn more, please see this previous article detailing the dangers of unfermented soy.

Rice Milk

Rice milk is composed of similar ingredients to almond milk, namely filtered water, rice, and added vitamins. There’s nothing particularly healthy about rice milk along with a potential harm: arsenic.

Rice has been shown to accumulate 10 times more arsenic than other grains, due to physiology and growing conditions, and is an ingredient of “moderate” concern in rice and rice-based processed foods, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG). EWG reported:7

“In 2012, the independent, highly regarded Consumer Reportsresearch organization made public tests indicating that arsenic concentrations commonly exceeded 100 parts per billion in rice, rice flour, crackers, pasta, hot and cold breakfast cereals, and infant cereal…

Arsenic levels in rice milk often surpassed 10 parts per billion, the maximum allowed in drinking water.”

Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is made from the expressed juice of grated coconut meat and water. About 50 percent of the fat in coconut oil is lauric acid, which is rarely found in nature.

Your body converts lauric acid into monolaurin, a monoglyceride that can actually destroy lipid-coated viruses such as HIV and herpes, influenza, measles, gram-negative bacteria, and protozoa such as Giardia lamblia.

Lauric acid is a type of medium chain fatty acid (MCFAs), which is easily digested and readily crosses cell membranes. MCFAs are immediately converted by your liver into energy rather than being stored as fat.

There are numerous studies showing that MCFAs promote weight loss, including one study that showed rats fed MCFAs reduced body fat and improved insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance.8

Yet another study found that overweight men who ate a diet rich in MCFAs lost more fat tissue, presumably due to increased energy expenditure and fat oxidation from the MCFA intake.9 In addition, coconut milk is rich inantioxidants and nutrients, including vitamins C, E and B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and iron.

Raw Milk

Many consider raw milk to be an “alternative” form of milk, but it is actually how all milk used to be consumed. High-quality raw milk from a reputable source is far preferable to the pasteurized CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) milk found in most supermarkets.

High-quality raw milk has a mountain of health benefits that pasteurized milk lacks. For example, raw milk is:

  • Loaded with healthy bacteria that are good for your gastrointestinal tract
  • Full of more than 60 digestive enzymes, growth factors, and immunoglobulins (antibodies)
  • Rich in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which fights cancer and boosts metabolism
  • Rich in beneficial raw fats, amino acids, and proteins in a highly bioavailable form, all 100 percent digestible
  • Loaded with vitamins (A, B, C, D, E, and K) in highly bioavailable forms, and contains a very balanced blend of minerals (calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron) whose absorption is enhanced by live lactobacilli

If You Love Almond Milk, Make Your Own

While almond milk isn’t exactly a superfood by any means, there’s nothing inherently unhealthy about it – unless you choose varieties with added sweeteners and other additives. For the most part, it’s more deceptive than anything, as you’re paying a premium for mostly water and could get better nutrition from eating a handful of actual nuts. Still, if you enjoy the taste of almond milk and don’t want to give it up, making your own almond milk is far more economical – and healthier – than buying a ready-made version.

You can increase the amount of almonds for added nutrition, leave out the sweeteners and other additives, and be left with an almond-milk beverage that’s actually decent for your health at a fraction of the price. It’s simple to make, too. One recipe from Whole Foods Market involves first soaking about one cup of organic, raw almonds in cold water overnight (about 10-12 hours).10 Then, blend the almonds with about three cups of water (you can add more or less depending on how you like the consistency).

Strain the frothy mixture through a cheesecloth, fine-mesh strainer or nut-milk bag. Your almond milk will keep in the fridge for about three days (give it a stir before drinking). Also, don’t throw away the leftover pulp; it can be added to smoothies or even baked goods for added nutrition. One benefit to consuming almonds this way is that they’ll be soaked before you eat them. Soaking helps to get rid of the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors, which can interfere with the function of your own digestive and metabolic enzymes.

Phytic acid, which is found in the coatings of nuts, is an “anti-nutrient” responsible for leeching vital nutrients from your body. Phytic acid also blocks the uptake of essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and zinc. Further, when nuts are soaked, the germination process begins, allowing the enzyme inhibitors to be deactivated and increasing the nutrition of the nut significantly, as well as making them much easier to digest. (Enzyme inhibitors in nuts [and seeds] help protect the nut as it grows, helping to decrease enzyme activity and prevent premature sprouting.)

Choose Raw Almonds for Best Results

When choosing almonds for this recipe (or for snacking), try to find raw, organic almonds. It can be tricky, as 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.

FDA Adds Heart Attack and Stroke Warning to Some Painkillers

Why did it take the FDA so long to warn consumers about these increased dangers? And why, despite these new warnings, does the agency seriously understate the risks?

Earlier this month, the FDA announced it would be strengthening its warnings on non-aspirin nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), updating what is already printed on many NSAID labels about the drugs’ increased risk of heart attack or stroke. The updated labels will include language which warns that these serious side effects can occur as early as the first few weeks of using an NSAID; that the risk may increase with longer use of the NSAID; and that the risk appears greater at higher doses.

NSAIDs are typically used to relieve the pain or fever that results from a variety of conditions. Some of the brands that will have the updated warnings include Celebrex, Advil, Aleve, and Daypro.

This half-hearted, much-too-late admission by the FDA of the dangers of NSAIDs is hardly enough to protect Americans from the well-documented dangers of this class of drugs, as well as other common over-the-counter painkillers such as acetaminophen (i.e., Tylenol). Throughout the years, we’ve documented the scientific evidence showing how deadly these painkillers can be:

  • One study conservatively estimated that 107,000 people are hospitalized each year for NSAID-related gastrointestinal complications and “at least 16,500 NSAID-related deaths occur each year among arthritis patients alone.”
  • Another study showed that patients who take NSAIDs have a 90% greater likelihood of dying from all causes.
  • Daily or long-term use of aspirin doubles the risk of internal bleeding and does not reduce heart attack risk for people with no history of heart problems.
  • By the FDA’s own calculation, acetaminophen—the active ingredient in Tylenol—was the leading cause of liver failure in Americans between 1998 and 2003, and there’s no reason to think that this has changed in the years since. Despite this fact, the New York Times published an article blasting nutritional supplements, specifically green tea extract, for causing liver damage—without even once mentioning the damage done by acetaminophen! In the same way, the FDA has left acetaminophen out of this latest warning. Is this because of industry pressure? It is hard to see any other reason.
  • Every year, 78,000 people go to the emergency room from acetaminophen overdose, whether accidental or intentional. The problem was so bad that the FDA asked doctors to stop prescribing any medication that has more than 325 mg of acetaminophen per dose. Of course, this ignores the fact that if consumers think the prescribed dose isn’t cutting the pain, many will think nothing of taking an extra tablet or two.
  • A study published in JAMA Pediatrics found that Tylenol taken by women during their pregnancy could raise the risk of ADHD and similar disorders in their children by up to 40%. Another study showed that women taking acetaminophen during pregnancy increased the risk of their children having serious behavior problems at age 3 by 70%.

Considering this evidence, it’s outrageous that the FDA has not been more vigilant in making these products safer—or, at the very least, included acetaminophen in its updated warnings— especially given how widely these products are used both for everyday purposes and for the millions of Americans with chronic pain.

The good news is there is research and clinical evidence supporting natural solutions for pain that are non-addictive and cost-effective. You can see our past coverage for a more comprehensive list of what has been studied, but here’s a short review of some of these alternatives to NSAIDs.

(Note: These options are meant to start a conversation between you and your integrative doctor on natural alternatives for chronic pain.)

Dietary supplements

  • Sulfur-containing MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) not only provides pain and anti-inflammatory relief for osteoarthritis, but can also be effective for hay fever and other allergies. As many of us do not get enough usable sulfur in our diet, MSM is offered in powder as well as supplement form, which also facilitates the larger doses that may be necessary for pain and allergy relief.
  • Turmeric, ginger, boswellia, and bromelain exhibit remarkable anti-inflammatory properties (bromelain should be taken at high doses on an empty stomach, as explained at
  • Cayenne cream reduces substance P, a chemical component of nerve cells that transmits pain signals to brain.
  • Cetyl myristoleateacts as a joint lubricant and an anti-inflammatory.
  • The GLA in evening primrose, black currant, and borage oils can help arthritic pain.
  • A member of our staff uses the Swiss Alpine herb butterbur for headaches and migraines (which can often be a side effect of prescription drugs). It also works well for hay fever. Because a toxic element must be removed from the plant, use a reliable preparation such as Petodolex.
  • Samento (a form of cat’s claw, an herb), green tea extract, and zeaxanthin (and other carotenoids) can help manage rheumatoid arthritis. Natural alternatives are particularly important, given the serious—and sometimes fatal—side effects of prescription RA treatments.
  • Even if you already take fish or krill oil, higher-than-normal dosages are anti-inflammatory and may help you manage pain.

Injection therapies that stimulate your body’s natural healing mechanisms (all of the following can only be delivered when appropriate by a knowledgeable and skilled integrative physician)

  • Prolotherapy is the injection of natural substances into chronically injured areas of the body. The injected substances themselves don’t do the healing; instead, they stimulate cell growth in the tissues that stabilize weakened joints, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons.
  • Ozone therapy—a type of oxidative medicine that can also be used to treat viral and fungal infections—is the injection of oxygen gas (ozone) into affected areas. Ozone has been shown to deactivate bacteria, simulate oxygen metabolism, and activate the immune system.
  • Oxygen therapy. Ozone molecules are composed of three oxygen atoms bound together. Oxygen molecules have two such atoms. Other forms of oxygen therapy, such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), may help as well by flooding wounded tissue with the pressurized oxygen it needs to repair itself.
  • Prolozone therapy utilizes injections that are a combination of collagen-producing substances and ozone. As a fusion of prolotherapy and ozone therapy, it is sometimes described as a major advance on both treatments.

Mammograms Again Found to Have No Impact on Mortality

July 28, 2015

By Dr. Mercola

Do annual mammograms save lives?

Several studies over the past few years have concluded that mammograms do not save lives, and may actually harm more women than they help, courtesy of false positives, overtreatment, and radiation-induced cancers.

According to research1 published in 2010, the reduction in mortality as a result of mammographic screening was so small as to be nonexistent — a mere 2.4 deaths per 100,000 person-years were spared.

Another study2 published in The Lancet Oncology in 2011 demonstrated, for the first time, that women who received the most breast screenings had a highercumulative incidence of invasive breast cancer over the following six years than the control group who received far less screenings.

Now, researchers from Harvard and Dartmouth have published a paper3 in which they present similar conclusions.

Mammograms Have No Impact on Breast Cancer Mortality

After analyzing cancer registry data from 16 million women in 547 counties across the United States, they found “no evident correlation between the extent of screening and 10-year breast cancer mortality.”

The researchers concluded that mammograms primarily find small, typically harmless, or non-lethal tumors, leading to widespread overdiagnosis.

As explained by Dr. Otis Webb Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society and author of the book, How We Do Harm, the term “overdiagnosis” in cancer medicine refers to:

“…a tumor that fulfills all laboratory criteria to be called cancer but, if left alone, would never cause harm. This is a tumor that will not continue to grow, spread, and kill. It is a tumor that can be cured with treatment but does not need to be treated and/or cured.”

Also, echoing results found in 2011, higher screening rates were associated with higher incidence of breast cancer. As reported by The LA Times:4

“For every 10-percentage-point increase in screening rates, the incidence of breast cancer rose by 16 percent… That worked out to an extra 35 to 49 breast cancer cases for every 100,000 women…

The researchers also examined breast cancers according to their stage at diagnosis, a marker of a tumor’s aggressiveness. More screening was associated with a higher incidence of early-stage breast cancers but no change for later-stage tumors, according to the study.

How can this be?

‘The simplest explanation is widespread overdiagnosis, which increases the incidence of small cancers without changing mortality,’ the study authors wrote. ‘Even where there are 1.8 times as many cancers being diagnosed, mortality is the same.’”

To Screen or Not to Screen?

Clearly, the issue of breast cancer screening using mammography can be a deeply emotional one. Virtually all discussions relating to cancer are. A recent article in Forbes Magazine5 paints a vivid picture of most women’s fears, and warns of the dangers of not getting diagnosed in time.

While it needs to be an individual choice, I believe it can be valuable to take a step back and look at the big picture, which includes population-based statistics such as those presented above.

It’s also well worth investigating all available options and, of course, weigh the risks and benefits associated with each. As reported by Care2:6

“[The] study authors… point to a balance of benefits and harms and believe mammography is likely most favorable when directed at women who are at high risk — not too rarely and not too frequently.

They also believe watchful waiting, rather than immediate active treatment, is probably a good option in some cases.”

A main objection to mammography is the fact that it uses ionizing radiation to take images of your breasts, and it’s a well-established fact that ionizing radiation can cause cancer.

So the idea that the “best” way for you to avoid dying from cancer is to expose yourself to cancer-promoting radiation at regular intervals for decades on end (in order to catch the cancer early) really falls short on logic — especially since there are non-ionizing radiation imaging techniques available.

Results published in the British Medical Journal7 (BMJ) in 2012 show that women carrying a specific gene mutation called BRCA1/2 are particularlyvulnerable to radiation-induced cancer.

Women carrying this mutation who were exposed to diagnostic radiation before the age of 30 were twice as likely to develop breast cancer, compared to those who did not have the mutated gene.

They also found that the radiation-induced cancer was dose-responsive, meaning the greater the dose, the higher the risk of cancer developing. The authors concluded that:

“The results of this study support the use of non-ionizing radiation imaging techniques (such as magnetic resonance imaging) as the main tool for surveillance in young women with BRCA1/2 mutations.”

Mammograms Do Not Reduce Mortality Beyond That of Physical Examination

Last year, one of the largest and longest investigations into mammography was published.8

It involved 90,000 women who were followed for 25 years, and it sent shockwaves through the medical industry when it reported that the death rates from breast cancer were virtually identical among women who got annual mammograms and those who did not.

Moreover, it found that mammography screening had harmful effects. As reported by The New York Times:9

“One in five cancers found with mammography and treated was not a threat to the woman’s health and did not need treatment such as chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation.”

At the outset of the study, the women, aged 40-59, were randomly assigned to receive either five annual mammography screens, or an annual physical breast examination without mammography.Over the course of the study, 3,250 of the women who received mammography were diagnosed with breast cancer, compared to 3,133 in the non-mammography group.

Of those, 500 women in the mammography group, and 505 in the control group, died from the disease. However, after 15 years of follow-up, the mammography group had another 106 extra cancer diagnoses, which were attributed to overdiagnosis. According to the authors:10

“Annual mammography in women aged 40-59 does not reduce mortality from breast cancer beyond that of physical examination or usual care when adjuvant therapy for breast cancer is freely available. Overall, 22 percent of screen detected invasive breast cancers were over-diagnosed, representing one over-diagnosed breast cancer for every 424 women who received mammography screening in the trial.”

The rate of overdiagnosis (22 percent) is virtually identical to that found in a 2012 Norwegian study,11 which found that as many as 25 percent of women are consistently overdiagnosed with breast cancer that, if left alone, would cause no harm. Other studies that have come to similar conclusions include the following:

  • In 2007, the Archives of Internal Medicine12 published a meta-analysis of 117 randomized, controlled mammogram trials. Among its findings: rates of false-positive results are high (20-56 percent after 10 mammograms)
  • A 2009 meta analysis by the Cochrane Database review13 found that breast cancer screening led to a 30 percent rate of overdiagnosis and overtreatment, which increasedthe absolute risk of developing cancer by 0.5 percent.  The review concluded that for every 2,000 women invited for screening throughout a 10 year period, the life of just ONE woman was prolonged, while 10 healthy women were underwent unnecessary treatment.

Know the Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer

Mammograms can also miss the presence of cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), mammograms miss up to 20 percent of breast cancers present at the time of screening. Your risk for a false negative is particularly great if you have dense breast tissue, and an estimated 49 percent of women do.14 Mammography’s sensitivity for dense breasts is as low as 27 percent,15 which means that about 75 percent of dense-breasted women are at risk for a cancer being missed if they rely solely on mammography. Even with digital mammography, the sensitivity is still less than 60 percent.

Considering the mortality rate from breast cancer is virtually identical whether you get an annual mammogram or an annual physical breast exam, it suggests physical examination can go a long way toward detecting a potential cancer. It certainly makes sense to familiarize yourself with your breasts and the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.16,17 If you notice any of the following symptoms, be sure to address it with your doctor, even if you’re not due for an annual checkup yet.

Lump in the breast (keep in mind that breast lumps are common, and most are not cancerous) Dimpling of the breast surface, and/or “orange peel” skin texture
Pain or unusual tenderness or swelling in the breast Visible veins on the breast
Retracted nipple Change in size or shape of the breast
Nipple discharge Enlarged lymph nodes (located in the armpit)
Vaginal pain Unintentional weight loss

Optimize Your Vitamin D for Breast Cancer Prevention

While detection and diagnosis of breast cancer is certainly important as early treatment has a greater chance of success,prevention is really key, and here you can wield a lot of power over your own destiny. In the largest review of research into lifestyle and breast cancer, the American Institute of Cancer Research estimated that about 40 percent of US breast cancer cases could be prevented if people made wiser lifestyle choices. I believe that is a very conservative estimate.

It’s likely that 75 percent to 90 percent of breast cancers could be avoided by strictly applying the recommendations below, especially when done in combination, as part of an overall healthy lifestyle. Optimizing your vitamin D level alone has been shown to reduce your chances of breast cancer by at least 50 percent and double your chances of surviving breast cancer should you receive a breast cancer diagnosis.

Vitamin D influences virtually every cell in your body and is one of nature’s most potent cancer fighters. It’s actually able to enter cancer cells and trigger apoptosis (cell death). Vitamin D also works synergistically with every cancer treatment I’m aware of, with no adverse effects. The average vitamin D level found in American breast cancer patients18 is 17 ng/ml, a far cry from a more optimal 40-50 ng/ml.

So please, be sure to regularly monitor your vitamin D levels and take whatever amount of vitamin D3 you need to maintain a clinically relevant level. (Remember you also need vitamin K2 if you’re taking an oral vitamin D supplement instead of getting regular sun exposure.)

vitamin d levels

Other Breast Cancer Prevention Tips

Other important lifestyle considerations that can help reduce your chances of breast cancer include the following:

Eat REAL Food A key dietary principle for optimal health and disease prevention is to eat real food. Choose fresh, organic, preferably locally growth foods. That also means avoiding all types of processed foods, which can contain any number of health harming ingredients, from refined sugar, processed fructose, genetically engineered ingredients, carcinogenic pesticides, and tens of thousands of food additives that have not been tested for safety.

Refined sugar is detrimental to your health in general and promotes cancer. As a general guideline, limit your total fructose intake to less than 25 grams daily. If you have cancer or are insulin resistant, you would be wise to restrict it to 15 grams or less.

Consider reducing your protein intake to one gram per kilogram of lean body weight. Replace the eliminated protein and carbs with high-quality fats, such as organic eggs from pastured hens, high-quality meats, avocados, and coconut oil. There’s compelling evidence that aketogenic diet helps prevent and treat many forms of cancer.

Also consider adding more cancer-fighting foods, herbs, and spices to your diet, such as broccoli. To learn more about how anti-angiogenetic foods fight cancer, please see our previous article: “Dramatically Effective New Natural Way to Starve Cancer and Obesity.”

Get plenty of natural vitamin A Vitamin A may also play a role in helping prevent breast cancer.19 It’s best to obtain it from vitamin A-rich foods, rather than a supplement. Your best sources are organic egg yolks, raw butter, raw whole milk, and beef or chicken liver.

Beware of supplementing as there’s some evidence that excessive vitamin A can negate the benefits of vitamin D. Since appropriate vitamin D levels are crucial for your health in general, not to mention cancer prevention, this means that it’s essential to have the proper ratio of vitamin D to vitamin A in your body.

Ideally, you’ll want to provide all the vitamin A and vitamin D substrate your body needs in such a way that your body can regulate both systems naturally. This is best done by eating colorful vegetables (for vitamin A) and by exposing your skin to appropriate amounts sunshine every day (for vitamin D).

Get sufficient amounts of iodine Iodine is an essential trace element required for the synthesis of hormones, and the lack of it can also cause or contribute to the development of a number of health problems, including breast cancer. This is because your breasts absorb and use a lot of iodine, which they need for proper cellular function. Iodine deficiency or insufficiency in any of tissue will lead to dysfunction of that tissue, and tumors are one possibility.

However, there’s significant controversy over the appropriate dosage, so you need to use caution here. There’s evidence indicating that taking mega-doses, in the tens of milligram range may be counterproductive. One recent study suggests it might not be wise to get more than about 800 mcg of iodine per day, and supplementing with as much as 12-13 mg (12,000-13,000 mcgs) could potentially have some adverse health effects.

Nourish your gut Optimizing your gut flora will reduce inflammation and strengthen your immune response. Researchers have found a microbe-dependent mechanism through which some cancers mount an inflammatory response that fuels their development and growth.

They suggest inhibiting inflammatory cytokines might slow cancer progression and improve the response to chemotherapy. Adding naturally fermented food to your daily diet is an easy way to prevent cancer or speed recovery. You can always add a high-quality probiotic supplement as well, but naturally fermented foods are the best.

Avoid xenoestrogens Xenoestrogens are synthetic chemicals that mimic natural estrogens. They have been linked to a wide range of human health effects, including reduced sperm counts in men and increased risk of breast cancer in women. There are a large number of xenoestrogens, such as bovine growth hormones in commercial dairy, plastics like bisphenol-A (BPA), phthalates, and parabens in personal care products, and chemicals used in non-stick materials, just to name a few.
Avoid charring your meats Charcoal or flame broiled meat is linked with increased breast cancer risk. Acrylamide — a carcinogen created when starchy foods are baked, roasted, or fried — has been found to increase breast cancer risk as well.
Avoid unfermented soy products Unfermented soy is high in plant estrogens, or phytoestrogens, also known as isoflavones. In some studies, soy appears to work in concert with human estrogen to increase breast cell proliferation, which increases the chances for mutations and cancerous cells.
Drink a quart of organic green vegetable juice daily Review my juicing instructions for more detailed information.
Get plenty of high quality animal-based omega-3 fats Omega-3 deficiency is a common underlying factor for cancer.
Take curcumin This is the active ingredient in turmeric and in high concentrations can be very useful in the treatment of breast cancer. It shows immense therapeutic potential in preventing breast cancer metastasis.20 To learn more about its use for the prevention of cancer, please see my interview with Dr. William LaValley.
Avoid drinking alcohol Or at least limit your alcoholic drinks to one per day.
Improve your insulin and leptin receptor sensitivity Eating a whole food diet low in added sugars is key. Exercising regularly will also promote optimal insulin and leptin sensitivity
Avoid wearing underwire bras There is intriguing data suggesting metal underwire bras increase your breast cancer risk.
Avoid electromagnetic fields Items such as electric blankets and cell phones can be particularly troublesome and increase your cancer risk. Definitely avoid stashing your phone in your bra as you go about your day.