Month: January 2016

Why Exercise and Endorphins Make You Happy

January 29, 2016

By Dr. Mercola

Avid exercisers often enjoy a euphoric feeling after their workouts. Sometimes called a “runner’s high,” this notable post-workout boost in happiness and energy levels is what keeps many devoted exercisers coming back for more.

The feel-good vibes are typically attributed to endorphins, which are neurochemicals produced in your brain’s hypothalamus and pituitary gland. These natural painkillers are similar in structure to the drug morphine and activate opioid receptors in your brain to help minimize pain.

Endorphins are linked to your body’s reward circuits as well and are associated with other feel-good activities like maternal behavior, eating and drinking or having sex.1

Endorphins in your blood also increase in response to pain and stress, such asexercise, and it’s long been suggested that these endorphins help people feel good after their workouts. There’s even a term, “endorphin junkie,” often used by gym rats who are “addicted” to the exercise “high.” There’s just one problem.

Endorphins Can’t Cross Your Blood-Brain Barrier

The idea that endorphins cause the runner’s high has been in circulation for decades. Dr. J. Kip Matthews, a sport and exercise psychologist, told CNN:2

“Long-distance running was quite popular in the mid-1970s around the same time that endorphins were discovered. Anecdotally, there were a lot of reports of the so-called ‘runner’s high.’

… By suppressing the experience of pain, a number of researchers put forth the idea that endorphins could be the source of this euphoric feeling after intense exercise.”

However, as CNN reported, research has shown that endorphin levels might not increase in your body until you’ve exercised for a full hour.3

So why you can still feel euphoric after a very short, intense workout like high-intensity interval training (HIIT)? Some research suggests endorphins are only produced during anaerobic exertion, such as HIIT or intense weight training (and not during typical aerobic exertion unless you exercise for about an hour).4

This still doesn’t explain the full picture, however, as most related studies have measured endorphin levels in your blood during exercise. This isn’t indicative of the endorphin levels in your brain, because endorphins can’t cross your blood-brain barrier.5

So while exercise may increase blood levels of endorphins, it’s the endorphins in your brain that would make you feel good. And research hasn’t proven that exercise increases brain levels of endorphins.

What does increase in your brain following exercise is a neurotransmitter called anandamide, sometimes known as the bliss compound.

‘Bliss Compound’ May Be Involved in the Runner’s High

Anandamide is a neurotransmitter and endocannabinoid produced in your brain that temporarily blocks feelings of pain and depression. It’s a derivative of the Sanskrit word “bliss,” and a deficiency is associated with increased anxiety and stress.6

Anandamide is actually found in chocolate too and is thought to be one reason why eating chocolate may give you a boost in mood (chocolate also contains other chemicals that prolong the “feel-good” aspects of anandamide).

In relation to exercise, however, anandamide levels are known to increase during and following exercise. Anandamide may also be involved in increasing a protein called Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF).

In your brain, BDNF not only preserves existing brain cells,7 it also activates brain stem cells to convert into new neurons and effectively makes your brain grow larger. Research published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology concluded:8

” … [A]cute exercise represents a physiological stressor able to increase peripheral levels of anandamide and that BDNF might be a mechanism by which anandamide influences the neuroplastic and antidepressant effects of exercise.”

A recent animal study similarly found that anandamide might be responsible for producing a “runner’s high” in mice. According to that study:9

Exercise is rewarding, and long-distance runners have described a runner’s high as a sudden pleasant feeling of euphoria, anxiolysis [anxiety relief], sedation, and analgesia [pain relief]. A popular belief has been that endogenous endorphins mediate these beneficial effects.

However, running exercise increases blood levels of both β-endorphin (an opioid) and anandamide (an endocannabinoid) … we … demonstrate that the endocannabinoid system is crucial for two main aspects of a runner’s high.”

Exercise Also Boosts Serotonin, Norepinephrine and Your Body’s Stress Response

Exercise has undeniable effects on your mood, with anxiety reduction key among them.

A study by Princeton University researchers revealed that exercising creates new, excitable neurons along with new neurons designed to release the GABA neurotransmitter, which inhibits excessive neuronal firing, helping to induce a natural state of calm.10

Commonly prescribed anti-anxiety drugs like Ativan, Xanax and Valium actually exert a calming effect in this same manner, by boosting the action of GABA. The mood-boosting benefits of exercise occur both immediately after a workout and continue on in the long term.

In addition to the creation of new neurons, including those that release the calming neurotransmitter GABA, exercise boosts levels of potent brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.

This may help buffer some of the effects of stress. Matthews, the exercise physiologist, continued to CNN:11

“What appears to be happening is that exercise affords the body an opportunity to practice responding to stress, streamlining the communication between the systems involved in the stress response …

The less active we become, the more challenged we are in dealing with stress.”

Exercise Is Scientifically Proven to Benefit Symptoms of Depression

Exercise is one of the most effective prevention and treatment strategies for depression. One study found that 30-minute aerobic workouts done three to five times a week cut depressive symptoms by 50 percent in young adults.12 A meta-analysis published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews even found that exercise is moderately more effective than a control intervention for reducing symptoms of depression.13

A Duke University team also studied three groups that tried exercise only, exercise plus drugs, and drugs only to see what treatment best treated depression. They found that, 10 months later, it was the exercise-only group that was most successful in maintaining wellness and avoiding a depression relapse. James Gordon, M.D., a world-renowned expert in using mind-body medicine to heal depression, stated in our 2008 interview:

“What we’re finding in the research on physical exercise is the physical exercise is at least as good as antidepressants for helping people who are depressed. And that’s even better for older people, very interesting, even more important for older people. And physical exercise changes the level of serotonin in your brain. It changes, increases their levels of ‘feel good’ hormones, the endorphins.

And also — and these are amazing studies — it can increase the number of cells in your brain, in the region of the brain, called the hippocampus … it’s very important because sometimes in depression there are fewer of those cells in the hippocampus, but you can actually change your brain with exercise. So it’s got to be part of everybody’s treatment, everybody’s plan.”

Exercise Activates Pleasant-Activated Feelings

A study on undergraduate students found those who were more physically active overall had higher pleasant-activated feelings than people who were less physically active.14 Pleasant-activated feelings include excitement and enthusiasm, which some might say would be the opposite of depression.

Further, on days when the students engaged in more physical activity than normal, they reported higher levels of these positive feelings as well. Researcher Amanda Hyde told EurekAlert:15

“Our results suggest that not only are there chronic benefits of physical activity, but there are discrete benefits as well … Doing more exercise than you typically do can give you a burst of pleasant-activated feelings. So today, if you want a boost, go do some moderate-to-vigorous intensity exercise.”

Rather than viewing exercise as a medical tool to lose weight, prevent disease, and live longer — all benefits that occur in the future — try viewing exercise as a daily tool to immediately enhance your frame of mind, reduce stress and feel happier.

Let Happiness Be Your Motivation to Exercise

A common reason people fail in their exercise goals is feeling lack of a payoff. In other words, while exercise might help you to lose weight in a few weeks or prevent a heart attack a few years down the road, there may appear to be no immediate and noticeable reward to keep you motivated.

Or is there? Research shows that while many people started an exercise program to lose weight and improve their appearance, they continued to exercise because of the benefits to their well-being.16 Once people recognized this connection to their emotional health, they continued to work out because it made them feel good mentally, and this is a benefit that occurs immediately after exercise (as well as, for some, during).

Dr. Michelle Segar, author of the book “No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness,” explained to the New York Times that harnessing this happy feeling can compel you to stick with your exercise program in the long term:17

“It [Exercise] has to be portrayed as a compelling behavior that can benefit us today … People who say they exercise for its benefits to quality of life exercise more over the course of a year than those who say they value exercise for its health benefits.

…  Immediate rewards are more motivating than distant ones … Feeling happy and less stressed is more motivating than not getting heart disease or cancer, maybe, someday in the future. …  Physical activity is an elixir of life, but we’re not teaching people that. We’re telling them it’s a pill to take or a punishment for bad numbers on the scale. Sustaining physical activity is a motivational and emotional issue, not a medical one.”

Whooping Cough Vaccine Not as Effective as Thought and Spreads Through Those Vaccinated

January 26, 2016

By Dr. Mercola

When making the choice to receive a vaccination, for yourself or your child, you probably do so under the assumption that the vaccine is going to protect you from that particular disease.

Most do not even question this assumption, because they think, well, why would the medical establishment give out, and U.S. health officials promote, vaccines that don’t work?

This is, however, a question deserving of an answer, especially in light of increasing evidence that some vaccines do not work as intended or advertised.

This is particularly the case with the whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine, which is typically given to children as part of the DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis) shot.

Up to Half of Vaccinated Preschoolers Were Infected With Whooping Cough

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently featured an article in Emerging Infectious Diseases that highlighted the transmission of whooping cough among vaccinated children.1

The outbreak occurred at a Tallahassee, Florida preschool in 2013. Twenty-six students between the ages of 1 and 5 contracted whooping cough, as did two staff and 11 family members. The majority of the students were fully vaccinated against whooping cough according to the CDC’s recommended schedule.

In one particular classroom in which all students had received the pertussis vaccine, 50 percent still developed whopping cough. Cases of whooping cough have been on the rise, increasing six-fold from 2000 to 2012. Some believe the increase may be due to vaccine failure.

In fact, the highest rates of infection in the preschool outbreak occurred in the 3-year-old age group, which supports the notion of waning immunity.

The DTaP vaccine is typically given at 2, 4, and 6 months of age, again between 15 and 18 months, and a booster is recommended between ages 4 and 6.2 The authors noted:3

This outbreak raises concerns about vaccine effectiveness in this preschool age group and reinforces the idea that recent pertussis vaccination should not dissuade physicians from diagnosing, testing or treating persons with compatible illness for pertussis.

… Reports of genetic changes in circulating B. pertussis have raised concern that this organism could be adapting to vaccine-induced immunity …

Given these reports and the increased levels of circulation of pertussis among older age groups with documented waning of immunity, further monitoring of acellular pertussis vaccine performance in preschool-age children is necessary to determine if this outbreak was an isolated finding or possibly identification of an emerging epidemiologic trend.”

California Whooping Cough Outbreak Also Occurred Among a Highly Vaccinated Community

In 2014, a whooping cough outbreak spread through Elk Grove, California, a community in which all but 80 of the suburb’s 4,500 kindergartners were vaccinated. Even still, the county had rates of whooping cough that were up to five times higher than surrounding areas.4

Health officials in the area expressed concern that the vaccine is not protecting children as it should be and suggested its protection lasts only two to three years.

Dr. Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis Children’s Hospital, told The Sacramento Bee, “This newer version of the vaccine probably has a shorter period of protection. I think that is a scientifically proven point.”5

Even though U.S. children who follow the CDC’s recommended vaccine schedule get five doses of the pertussis vaccine by age 6, it may only be most effective for the first year. Dr. Blumberg stated that every year following, “the protection rate drops 10 percent or so.”

A New England Journal of Medicine study actually found that after the fifth dose of DTaP, the odds of acquiring whooping cough increased by an average of 42 percent per year.6

Even Dr. Mark Sawyer, a professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego, and a member of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention immunization practices committee, said in The Sacramento Bee:7

“It’s not correct to only pin (the pertussis outbreak) on the people who are unvaccinated … The effectiveness of the vaccine is a huge part of this. People who are immunized do still get pertussis.”

90 Percent of Whooping Cough Cases in Vermont Occurred Among Vaccinated Children

Yet another example of the pertussis vaccine’s questionable effectiveness came from a wave of cases that occurred in Vermont in 2012.

Of nearly 200 cases reported in Vermont children, 90 percent had received at least one dose of the pertussis vaccine, and most had received five or six doses.8

Even shortly after vaccination, the DTaP shot may only have an efficacy rate of 80 percent to 90 percent, which may drop to 70 percent within two to five years.

The Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis) vaccine, which is recommended as a booster for adolescents and adults, is even less effective, with CDC data showing it only protects seven out of 10 people.9 Vermont Department of Health epidemiologist Patsy Kelso told VT Digger:10

“The current thinking is that the pertussis vaccination is just not as effective as we’d like it to be … Even if you’re vaccinated, it’s efficacy wanes after a few years. Although no vaccine is perfect, this vaccine is less good than we’d like.”

The vaccine is clearly ineffective, and it’s not just failing to prevent whooping cough in the U.S. In the U.K., researchers similarly revealed that nearly 20 percent of fully vaccinated children still contracted whooping cough.11

Four Reasons Why Pertussis Epidemics Persist

With high vaccination rates, many people would assume (and the government would lead you to believe) that disease outbreaks would be prevented. This clearly is not the case with pertussis, and Peggy O’Mara, the former editor and publisher of Mothering Magazine, shared four reasons why.12

1. Pertussis Is Cyclical by Nature

Whooping cough is a cyclical disease and natural increases tend to occur every 4 to 5 years no matter how high the vaccination rates are in a population. According to the CDC:13

“Since the early 1980s, there has been an overall trend of an increase in reported pertussis cases. Pertussis is naturally cyclic in nature, with peaks in disease every 3 to 5 years.

But for the past 20 to 30 years, we’ve seen the peaks getting higher and overall case counts going up.

There are several reasons that help explain why we’re seeing more cases as of late. These include: increased awareness, improved diagnostic tests, better reporting, more circulation of the bacteria, and waning immunity.”

2. DTaP Vaccine Immunity Wanes Over Time

The acellular pertussis vaccine loses much of its effectiveness after just three years. This is much faster than previously believed and could also help explain the recent whooping cough outbreaks in the U.S. The CDC acknowledges that waning immunity is common with the DTaP vaccine: 14

“When it comes to waning immunity, it seems that the acellular pertussis vaccine (DTaP) we use now may not protect for as long as the whole cell vaccine (DTP) we used to use.”

3. Vaccinated Individuals May Still Spread Pertussis

The Tdap booster vaccine is recommended for children aged 7 years and older, as well as adults, parents and close family members of babies under age 2 months, who are too young to receive a pertussis-containing vaccine themselves.

Known as “cocooning,” this controversial practice is being promoted by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and government health officials as a way of protecting babies from whooping cough by vaccinating their parents and other adult caregivers. However, there is little evidence to show that this works! In fact, research shows that vaccinated individuals may still transmit the disease.

In an animal study, while acellular-pertussis-vaccinated baby baboons did not develop serious clinical disease symptoms — such as loss of appetite and cough — when they were exposed to the B. pertussis bacteria, they still colonized B. pertussis in their throats and were capable of transmitting the infection to other baboons.15

In that same study, the baby baboons that received whole cell DPT vaccine also were able to transmit pertussis infection to other baboons without showing typical pertussis symptoms, but were infectious for a shorter period of time that those which had received acellular pertussis vaccine.

The study’s lead author Tod Merkel also explained that when exposed to B. pertussis after recently getting vaccinated, you could be an asymptomatic carrier and infect others, saying:16“When you’re newly vaccinated, you are an asymptomatic carrier, which is good for you, but not for the population.”

The Tdap shot is also recommended for pregnant women, even though there is a lack of credible scientific evidence to demonstrate safety and effectiveness.17

4. Tdap Booster Is Only Moderately Effective

Research has shown that the booster shot is only 53 percent to 64 percent effective, which the researchers described as “moderate.”18 There is also concern that the mass use of existing pertussis vaccines has already led to vaccine-resistant strains that are still evolving and could become much more virulent.

The new mutation, which some researchers are calling “P3,” is a strain that produces more pertussis toxin (PT). Another reason why whooping cough cannot be entirely eradicated is the fact that there’s another Bordetella organism — parapertussis — that can also cause whooping cough. The symptoms of B. parapertussis, while often milder, can look exactly like B. pertussis, but doctors rarely recognize or test for parapertussis. And, there is NO vaccine for it.

Are There Risks to Receiving the DTaP Shot?

Whooping cough can be serious, especially for newborns and babies, whose tiny airways can become clogged with the sticky mucus produced by the toxins in B. pertussis bacteria. The majority of 10 to 20 pertussis deaths that occur in the U.S. every year are in infants under age 3 months.19

However, the vast majority of children and adults get through a bout with whooping cough without complications, and it is important for them to get proper nutrition, hydration and rest to support the healing process that sometimes can take as long as two to three months before coughing ends.

Similarly, while some children and adults get pertussis-containing vaccines and experience no complications, others do suffer serious reactions, injuries, or have died after getting vaccinated. It is well known, for instance, that whole cell and acellular pertussis vaccine in DPT and DTaP/Tdap vaccines may cause brain inflammation and permanent brain damage in both children and adults.

Nearly 3,000 cases of pertussis-vaccine-induced brain injury and death have been awarded compensation in the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) under the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act.20 As reported by Barbara Loe Fisher, co-founder and president of the National Vaccine Information Center:

A 2013 published study evaluating reports of acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) following vaccination in the U. S. Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) and in a European vaccine reaction reporting system found … pertussis containing DTaP was among the vaccines most frequently associated with brain inflammation in children between birth and age five.”

15 Natural Remedies for Whooping Cough

If you think you have whooping cough, you should seek medical attention right away, especially if it occurs in an infant or young child. However, there are some natural remedies  that may help someone with whooping cough move more comfortably through the healing process (and certainly won’t hurt). Peggy O’Mara suggested the following options:21

Avoid mucus-forming foods, such as milk, flour and eggs, as well as sugar Eat light foods such as vegetables, soups with garlic and herbal teas Homeopathic remedies for pertussis include Coccus cacti and the nosode, Pertussin.

Drosera is recommended for coughing fits followed by gagging, retching or vomiting.

Cuprum may be indicated for coughing fits followed by gasping for air, difficulty breathing or that end in exhaustion

Wild cherry bark lozenges may soothe your throat Keep well hydrated Try up to 5,000 milligrams of vitamin C daily for seven days
Keep your room and home well ventilated and free of smoke Use a warm air humidifier with essential oils.

Try basil, cyprus, marjoram, thyme, wintergreen, tea tree, camphor, lavender, chamomile, peppermint or eucalyptus)

Massage essential oils with a carrier oil (like coconut oil) into the patient’s chest or back
Acupuncture may be beneficial (and its effects for whooping cough are recognized by the World Health Organization) Rest and avoid exertion Arrange pillows so the patient can be more upright while sleeping
Boil fresh ginger root in water for 20 minutes, then add the water to a foot bath to soak feet for up to 20 minutes Heat a pan of water to just boiling, then add a few drops of oil of thyme.

Have the patient breathe in the steam from the pan (cover his or her head with a towel, being careful to avoid getting burned)

Keep skin hydrated by massaging incoconut oil daily

[+] Sources and References

Zinc Is Crucial for Heart Health

By Dr. Mercola

January 25, 2016

Zinc, an essential trace mineral, is perhaps most widely known for its role in immune system health, as a zinc deficiency is associated with increased colds and flu. However, zinc is the most common mineral in your body aside from iron; it’s actually found in every cell.1

You might not be aware that zinc also has potent antioxidant properties, helping to neutralize free radicals that may accelerate aging and contribute to the development of chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.

New research shows, however, that zinc may boost heart health in another way as well, antioxidant properties aside.

Zinc May Help Regulate Your Heartbeat

Researchers from the University of Leicester uncovered that zinc plays a key role in regulating the way calcium moves in your heart cells.2 Normally, calcium is released through “gates” known as type-2 ryanodine receptors (RyR2).

Proper control of these gates is important, since excessive calcium release may lead to heart failure and fatal arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat).3

The researchers studied individual heart cells and found zinc directly interacts with and modulates RyR2 function, thereby playing an important role in your body’s release of intracellular calcium stores.

Samantha Pitt, a Royal Society of Edinburgh Biomedical Fellow at the University’s School of Medicine, told Medical Xpress:4

Our discovery provides a mechanistic explanation of how zinc plays a key role in regulating heart muscle contractility and how imbalances in zinc may contribute to diseases such as heart failure and fatal arrhythmias.

… The ability of zinc to modulate RyR2 channels in the absence of calcium represents a paradigm shift in our understanding of how RyR2 is activated when heart muscle contracts.

Although just a first step, this kind of basic science research underpins our understanding of the pathophysiology of disease.”

Past research has shown patients with congestive heart failure often have profound zinc deficiency,5 which adds to the growing support that zinc is crucial for heart health, and underscores the importance of consuming enough of this mineral via your diet.

Richard Rainbow, a lecturer in Cardiovascular Cell Physiology at the University of Leicester, continued in Medical Xpress:6

“It always amazes me that seemingly small changes in the concentration of an ion have such profound effects on cardiac cell function that, when in the context of the whole heart, would have severe consequences.”

Your Body Contains More Than 300 Zinc-Dependent Enzymes

Zinc is a constituent of at least 3,000 different proteins in your body and a component of more than 300 different enzymes. In fact, zinc is involved in more enzymatic reactions in your body than any other mineral. For this reason, even mild zinc deficiency may impact numerous aspects of your health, including:

Immune Function

The function of your immune system may markedly decrease in as few as four weeks after eating a low-zinc diet.7

Zinc affects multiple aspects of your immune system, including neutrophils, natural killer cells, phagocytosis, cytokine production, antibody production, and even gene regulation within your lymphocytes (white blood cells).

Research suggests high-dose zinc lozenges may shorten the duration of the common cold.8

Vision Health

Zinc works with vitamin A to help your eyes sense light and communicate via nerve impulses with your brain.

The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS1) found a supplement containing zinc (80 milligrams), vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene and copper helped slow down the damage associated with age-related macular degeneration (AMD).9

Brain Health

Zinc deficiency may play an important role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. The disease is linked to accumulation of clumps of defective proteins in your brain, and zinc, it turns out, may be critical for preventing such accumulation.10,11

Sensory Organs

Zinc is required to produce an enzyme called carbonic anhydrase (CA) VI, critical to taste and smell, which is why loss of sense of smell or taste is one of the classic signs of chronic zinc deficiency.

It’s been estimated that 15 percent of elderly people who lose their sense of smell may have a zinc deficiency.12

Reproductive Health

When men ate a zinc-deficient diet, the health of their sperm suffered in terms of both quantity and quality.13 As noted by the George Mateljan Foundation:14

“This study demonstrated that even brief periods of severe zinc deficiency can lead to measureable changes in sperm composition and quantity. Studies correlating diseases known to impair zinc nutrition with reduced fertility seem to second this conclusion.”

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Research suggests children with ADHD have lower zinc levels than children without the condition.15

Among children with low levels of zinc and ADHD, there is some evidence that zinc supplementation may lead to improvements in symptoms such as hyperactivity, impulsivity, and impaired socialization.16

How Much Zinc Do You Need?

It’s estimated that about 12 percent of the U.S. population may be at risk of zinc deficiency, and this rises to up to 40 percent among the elderly, who often have less intake and more difficulty absorbing this nutrient from food.17

Even under the best circumstances, your body may absorb only 20 percent to 40 percent of the zinc in your food.18 Further, the zinc in animal foods is better absorbed than that from plant foods, and zinc is best absorbed when consumed along with protein.

For adults, the RDA for zinc is about 11 milligrams (mg) per day for adult men and 8 mg for women. If you are lactating or pregnant, you need about 3 mg more. For children, 4 to 8 year olds need about 5 mg, and 9 to 13 year olds need 8 mg, while infants need only about 3 mg.

In addition to the elderly, people who have certain health conditions may be at increased risk of zinc deficiency:19

  • Alcoholism
  • Cirrhosis (liver disease)
  • Kidney disease
  • Celiac disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease)

A number of other factors also contribute to the overall problem of zinc deficiency:

  • Years of industrial farming practices, such as monocropping (planting large expanses of land with the same crop year after year) and tilling the soil, have left our soils deficient in natural minerals, like zinc
  • Genetically engineered (GE) foods, as glyphosate, the active ingredient in herbicides like Roundup, is a mineral chelator, which means it binds specific nutrients, especially zinc
  • Certain drugs deplete your body of zinc, such as ACE inhibitors, thiazide diuretics, and acid-reducing drugs like Prilosec and Pepcid
  • Certain diets, such as vegetarian/vegan diets and high-grain diets, are low in bioavailable zinc and high in phytic acids, which impair zinc absorption

What Are the Best Food Sources of Zinc?

As mentioned, animal products are by far the richest in dietary zinc, as you can see in the table below. Oysters tip the scales at up to 182 mg per serving, but grass-fed beef is also a good source, with about 1 mg of zinc per ounce.20

Other good sources include poultry, raw cheese (especially Swiss and gouda), wild-caught seafood and shellfish, raw milk kefir and yogurt, beans, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds. If you’re relying on plant sources of zinc, soaking seeds and allowing them to sprout may significantly improve zinc bioavailability.21

If you are healthy and you eat a well-balanced diet, you will rarely need supplements to complete your body’s zinc needs, and you should strive to get zinc from dietary sources. Taking too much zinc in supplement form can be dangerous, as it can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb other minerals, especially copper. If you decide to use a zinc supplement, chelated forms are better absorbed than inorganic forms, or zinc salts.

Food Serving Size Zinc (mg)
Oysters 100 grams  (3.5 ounces) 16 to 182
Liver 100 grams 12
Pumpkin seeds (roasted) 100 grams 10
Roast beef 100 grams 10
Tahini (ground sesame seeds) 100 grams 10
Unsweetened chocolate 100 grams 9.6
Alaska King Crab 100 grams 7.6
Lamb 3 ounces 7.4
Cashews (dry roasted) 100 grams 5.6
Pork Shoulder 100 grams 5.0
Almonds 100 grams 3.5
Cheddar Cheese 100 grams 3.1
Chicken Leg 100 grams 2.9
Chicken Breast 100 grams 1.0

Attack on Vaccine Choice Rolls East

As we predicted, more states are following in the footsteps of California and restricting parents’ freedom to protect their children’s health. Check below to see if your state is one of them. State-based Action Alerts!

New York is considering a bill, S6017, that would eliminate all non-medical exemptions to vaccination. According to news coverage, Assembleyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, the bill’s sponsor, said that parents worried for their children’s safety “have bought into the garbage that these vaccinations can cause autism. That’s a lot of crap.”

Bold statements from someone who is neither a doctor nor a scientist! Assemblyman Dinowitz also appears to be unaware of the facts. Someone should tell him about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) cover-up—revealed by Dr. William Thompson, an epidemiologist at the CDC’s National Center of Birth Defects and Development Disabilities—of data linking the MMR vaccine to an increased incidence of autism in African American boys.

Assemblyman Dinowitz may also want to consult the data from the government’s Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP). The government’s own data show that, since 1988, the VICP has awarded almost $3 billion to over 4,000 families who were harmed by vaccines—even though the window to file a claim is so tight that many families miss it, and the system makes it very difficult to demonstrate a connection between the shot and the ensuing health issue. In other words, even after making it next to impossible for patients to make a claim and prove their case, the governmentstill concedes that thousands of us have been harmed by vaccines—and has paid patients billions of dollars in compensation.

In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) receives an average of 30,000 reports each year, 13% of which are considered “serious”—that is, associated with “disability, hospitalization, life-threatening illness, or death.” As we have noted, the government’s Center for Disease Control (CDC) dismisses these reports because they are not “peer reviewed,” but then refuses to provide the peer review needed. This is not surprising since the government has become so deeply enmeshed in the vaccine industry, which has become a poster child for crony capitalism. Its ability to evaluate vaccines honestly has long since been compromised.

Want more? A law review article published in 2011 found eighty-three cases of autism among those compensated by the VICP for vaccine-induced brain damage. Of those eighty-three cases, thirty-nine of them (47%) confirm autism or an autistic disorder resulting from the shot, with the findings published by the Court of Federal Claims. Further, twenty-one decisions by VICP acknowledged autism or autism-like symptoms associated with vaccine-induced encephalopathy and seizure disorder.

But that’s just “a lot of crap,” right, Assemblyman Dinowitz?

State governments are eliminating freedom of choice in even more backhanded ways. Rhode Island’s Department of Health, for example, recently decided to mandate the HPV vaccine for all 7th graders. This is perhaps the single most dangerous vaccine and also the least scientifically justified. The Department of Health has such power because Rhode Island incorporates all CDC-recommended vaccines into the state’s school immunization regulations. The only “public” part of this process was when the state held hearings to provide information to parents and to answer questions about the new mandate.

Readers may remember our previous coverage of a former Merck physician predicting that the company’s HPV vaccine, Gardasil, would “become the greatest medical scandal of all time.” He remarked that Gardasil “is useless and costs a fortune,” in addition to being linked to Guillain-Barré syndrome, paralysis of the lower limbs, vaccine-induced MS, and vaccine-induced encephalitis. You may also recall that the former head of the CDC, Julie Gerberding, actually handed this vaccine over to Merck (it had been developed by government researchers) and personally pushed and fast-tracked it—then left the CDC to become president of Merck’s vaccine division.

This is exactly what we feared—that the passage of California’s bill eliminating all non-medical exemptions to vaccination would embolden other states to follow suit. We must act swiftly to prevent to preserve freedom of choice.

State-based Action Alerts! New York residents, write to your legislators and urge them to oppose S6017. Rhode Island residents, ask your Department of Health to reverse its recent mandate to give 7th graders the HPV vaccine. Please send your message immediately.

New York residents, click here.

Rhode Island residents, click here.

Other states with pending legislation:

Minnesota

Pennsylvania

Tennessee

 

Other articles in this week’s Pulse of Natural Health:

Poisoning Our Children, Even in the Womb

Grass-Fed Label For Meat—Gone!

 

Eliminate Fructose and Watch How This Lowers Your Blood Pressure

October 08, 2010
By Dr. Mercola

Uncontrolled high blood pressure is a very serious health concern that can lead to heart disease and increased risk for stroke. The good news is, by optimizing your dietary intake, exercising, and effectively managing your stress, the odds of lowering your blood pressure are greatly in your favor.

If you or someone you love is affected by high blood pressure, then please review and share the guidelines given below. A list of supplementary articles is also included, if you desire further information. Hypertension is actually an easily treated condition, but one that can cause serious damage to your health if ignored.

Your Diet Will Raise or Lower Your Blood Pressure

Are you on a high grain, low fat regimen? If so, I have bad news for you, because this nutritional combination is a prescription for hypertension and can absolutely devastate your health.

Groundbreaking research published in 1998 in the journal Diabetes reported that nearly two-thirds of the test subjects who were insulin resistant (IR) also had high blood pressure, and insulin resistance is directly attributable to a high sugar, high grain diet, especially if accompanied by inadequate exercise. So, chances are that if you have hypertension, you also have poorly controlled blood sugar levels, because these two problems often go hand in hand.

As your insulin level elevates, so does your blood pressure.

As explained by Dr. Rosedale, insulin stores magnesium. If your insulin receptors are blunted and your cells grow resistant to insulin, you can’t store magnesium so it passes out of your body through urination. Magnesium stored in your cells relaxes muscles. If your magnesium level is too low, your blood vessels will constrict rather than relax, which will raise your blood pressure and decrease your energy level. Insulin also affects your blood pressure by causing your body to retain sodium. Sodium retention causes fluid retention. Fluid retention in turn causes high blood pressure and can ultimately lead to congestive heart failure. If your hypertension is the direct result of an out-of-control blood sugar level, then normalizing your blood sugar levels will also lower your blood pressure readings into the healthy range.

Fructose Can Cause Your Blood Pressure to Skyrocket

The first thing you need to do is remove all grains and sugars from your diet, particularly fructose, until both your weight and your blood pressure have normalized. Eating sugars and grains — including any type of bread, pasta, corn, potatoes, or rice — will cause your insulin levels and your blood pressure to remain elevated.

A study1 published earlier this year discovered that those who consumed 74 grams or more per day of fructose (the equivalent of about 2.5 sugary drinks) had a 77 percent greater risk of having blood pressure levels of 160/100 mmHg. (For comparison, a normal blood pressure reading is below 120/80 mmHg.) Consuming 74 grams or more of fructose daily also increased the risk of a 135/85 blood pressure reading by 26 percent, and 140/90 by 30 percent.

This is significant because the average American now consumes 70 grams of fructose EVERY day!

Fructose breaks down into a variety of waste products that are bad for your body, one being uric acid. Uric acid drives up your blood pressure by inhibiting the nitric oxide in your blood vessels. Nitric oxide helps your vessels maintain their elasticity, so nitric oxide suppression leads to increases in blood pressure. In fact, 17 out of 17 studies demonstrate that elevated uric acid levels lead to hypertension. For more information on the connection between fructose, uric acid, and hypertension, please see this article that explains it in greater depth.

I’ve also interviewed Dr. Richard Johnson, one of the leading medical researchers in this field, about his research into the health dangers of fructose, specifically how fructose causes health problems such as high blood pressure.

My Recommended Fructose Allowance

As a standard recommendation, I strongly advise keeping your TOTAL fructose consumption below 25 grams per day. Since the average 12-ounce can of sodacontains 40 grams of sugar, at least half of which is fructose, this can of soda ALONE would exceed your daily allotment.

In addition, most people would be wise to also limit the amount of fructose you get from fruit to 15 grams or less, because you’re virtually guaranteed to consume “hidden” sources of fructose (typically in the form of high fructose corn syrup) from most beverages and just about any processed food you eat.

Fifteen grams of fructose is not much — it represents two bananas, one-third cup of raisins, or just two Medjool dates. In his book, The Sugar Fix, Dr. Johnson includes detailed tables showing the fructose content in different foods, and I’ve included a sample of these values in the linked article.

Additional Dietary Considerations

  1. Normalize your omega 6:3 ratio — Both omega-3 and omega-6 fats are essential for your health. Most Americans, however, are getting too much omega-6 in their diet and far too little omega-3. Consuming omega-3 fats is one of the best ways to re-sensitize your insulin receptors if you suffer from insulin resistance. Omega-6 fats are found in corn, soy, canola, safflower and sunflower oil. If you’re consuming a lot of these oils, you’ll want to avoid or limit them.Omega-3 fats are typically found in flaxseed oil, walnut oil and fish, with fish being by far the best source. Unfortunately, most fresh fish today contains dangerously high levels of mercury. Your best bet is to find a safe source of fish, or if this proves too difficult, supplement with a high quality krill oil, which has been found to be 48 times more potent than fish oil.
  2. Eliminate caffeine — The connection between caffeine consumption and high blood pressure is not well understood, but there is ample evidence to indicate that if you have hypertension, coffee and other caffeinated drinks and foods can ex­acerbate your condition. Caffeine is a drug, and while it’s entirely legal and widely consumed, it can have a powerful effect on your individual physiology. If you want to eliminate caffeine from your diet, try to do it gradually over a period of days or even weeks in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms like headaches.
  3. Consume Fermented Foods – Differences in gut flora from one person to another appears to have a large effect on whether or not you develop heart disease. If your gut flora is not healthy, your risk is much greater for heart disease, as well as many other chronic health problems. The best way to optimize your gut flora is by including some naturally fermented foods in your diet, such as sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables, yogurt, kefir, and natto. An additional benefit of fermented foods is that some of them are excellent sources of vitamin K2, which is important for preventing arterial plaque buildup and heart disease.

Use Exercise as a Drug

Physical activity is by far one of the most potent “drugs” there is, and its side effects are exactly the kinds you want to experience. Regardless of the primary reason you start an exercise program, your efforts will be rewarded in countless other ways.

A comprehensive exercise regimen, such as my Peak Fitness program, is very important in producing long-term benefits in people with high blood pressure. Nearly every program should incorporate anaerobic sprint or burst-type exercises one to three times a week, as these have been shown to be even more effective than aerobic exercises at reducing your risk of dying from a heart attack.

If you are insulin resistant, you’ll definitely want to include weight training in your exercise program. When you work individual muscle groups, you increase blood flow to those muscles. Good blood flow will increase your insulin sensitivity. Depending on your physical condition when you embark on your exercise program, you may need to consult with a health care professional for help increasing to the intensity required to lower your insulin level. Exercise in combination with the supplement L-arginine has been shown to correct the abnormal functioning of blood vessels seen in people with chronic heart failure. However, I would view this more as a drug approach and not necessarily a supplement you would consider using for optimizing health in general. L-arginine probably works through its interaction with nitric oxide. I would consider it an adjunct, not a replacement, for coenzymeQ10, which is a well-proven therapy for heart failure.

Optimize Your Vitamin D Levels

Believe it or not, the farther you live from the equator, the higher your risk of developing high blood pressure2. And did you know that blood pressure is typically higher in winter months than in summer?

Sunlight actually affects blood pressure in several ways:

  • Sun exposure causes your body to produce vitamin D. Lack of sunlight reduces your vitamin D stores and increases parathyroid hormone production, which increases blood pressure.
  • Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to insulin resistance (IR) and Syndrome X (also known as Metabolic Syndrome), a group of health problems that can include IR, elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels, obesity, and high blood pressure.
  • Vitamin D is also a negative inhibitor of your body’s renin-angiotensin system (RAS), which regulates blood pressure. If you’re vitamin D deficient, it can cause inappropriate activation of your RAS, which may lead to hypertension.
  • Additionally, exposure to UV rays is thought to cause the release of endorphins, chemicals in your brain that produce feelings of euphoria and pain relief. Endorphins naturally relieve stress, and stress management is an important factor in resolving hypertension.

Exposure to appropriate amounts of sunlight is a basic health requirement that extends far beyond blood pressure normalization. Vitamin D helps systems and organs throughout your body to function properly. Ideally, you’ll want to get yourvitamin D through safe exposure to sunshine or a safe tanning bed, but vitamin D3 supplements can also be used. Please do NOT let your doctor give you a “prescription” vitamin D. That is vitamin D2, which is synthetic, and not nearly as beneficial as the real vitamin D, which is D3 (cholecalciferol).

Keep in mind that if you decide to supplement with oral vitamin D3, you must carefully monitor your vitamin D blood levels to avoid overdosing. (This is why it is highly preferable to get your vitamin D through sun exposure, since there is virtually no chance of overdosing.)

To learn much more about vitamin D test values and the best labs to get your tests done, please visit the linked page. I also recommend watching my free one-hour vitamin D lecture for more information about the incredible health benefits of this essential nutrient.

Controlling Your Stress is Crucial

 

One in three American adults have high blood pressure (hypertension), and just as many, if not more, battle emotional and mental stress on a day-to-day basis.

Are these two conditions connected?

You bet. As reported by ABC World News on September 16, 20103, one cardiologist believes the connection between stress and hypertension is undeniable, yet still does not receive the emphasis it deserves. In response, Dr. Kennedy developed a stress-relieving technique he calls “The 15 Minute Heart Cure,” a set of breathing and creative visualization techniques that can be done anywhere, anytime. The technique is demonstrated in the ABC World News video above. By teaching your body to slow down and relax when stress hits — essentially short-circuiting your physical stress reaction — you can protect your health.

My preferred method is the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), an easy to learn, easy to use technique for releasing negative emotions. EFT combines visualization with calm, relaxed breathing, while employing gentle tapping to “reprogram” deeply seated emotional patterns.

Supplements and Other Alternatives

Although certain supplements may be helpful, it’s important to understand they should never be used as a substitute for basic lifestyle choices that treat the real cause of the problem. Using only supplements without modifying your lifestyle is an allopathic approach not very different from using drugs. In most instances, it is not likely to be effective. Once you have made some beneficial changes to your lifestyle, you can then consider some of the following supplements as a way to further enhance your health:

  • Calcium and magnesium. Daily calcium and magnesium supplementation can be useful in lowering blood pressure, especially if yours is on the high end of high. However, if you avoid sugars and grains and eat for your Nutritional Type™ (see above), it’s unlikely additional calcium or magnesium supplements will be necessary.
  • Vitamins C and E. Studies indicate that these vitamins can be helpful in lowering your blood pressure. Ideally, you’ll want to get the right amount of both these nutrients through diet alone. If you decide you need a supplement, make sure to take a natural (not synthetic) form of vitamin E. You can tell what you’re buying by carefully reading the label. Natural vitamin E is always listed as the “d-” form (d-alpha-tocopherol, d-beta-tocopherol, etc.) Synthetic vitamin E is listed as “dl-” forms.
  • Olive leaf extract. In one 2008 study, supplementing with 1,000 mg of olive leaf extract daily for eight weeks caused a significant dip in both blood pressure and LDL (“bad cholesterol”) in people with borderline hypertension. If you want to incorporate olive leaf extract as a natural adjunct to a nutritionally sound diet, you should look for fresh leaf liquid extracts for maximum synergistic potency. You can also prepare your own olive leaf tea by placing a large teaspoon of dried olive leaves in a tea ball or herb sack. Place it in about two quarts of boiling water and let it steep for three to 10 minutes. The tea should be a medium amber color when done.
  • Electrical acupuncture. Acupuncture combined with electrical stimulation has shown to temporarily lower elevations in blood pressure in animals by as much as 50 percent. It’s currently undergoing testing in humans and could be a promising alternative treatment for controlling blood pressure.
  • Breastfeeding. Studies have shown that babies who are breastfed for more than 12 months have a dramatically lower risk of developing hypertension. Researchers believe long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (the same found in fatty fish) in breast milk provide a protective effect for newborns.
  • Quick tricks. Increasing nitric monoxide in your blood can open constricted blood vessels and lower blood pressure. Methods of increasing the compound include taking a warm bath, breathing in and out through one nostril (close off the other nostril and your mouth), and eating bitter melon, rich in amino acids and vitamin C.

Like obesity, high blood pressure is an epidemic. And like obesity, your best treatment is to evaluate your lifestyle and make the necessary adjustments.

A natural approach to preventing disease and healing yourself when illness strikes is always the better choice. In the case of high blood pressure, lifestyle changes — with particular emphasis on normalizing your insulin levels — can put you on the road to a drug-free, all-natural return to optimal health.

How Melatonin May Benefit Depression, Autoimmune Disorders, and Cancer

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By Dr. Mercola

The hormone melatonin plays many important roles in your health, from helping you sleep better to strengthening your immune system, slowing down brain aging, reducing migraine attacks, protecting bone mass, and preventing cancer.

Lack of sun exposure during the day combined with artificial lighting late into the night disrupts your biological clock and hence, your melatonin production, and this disruption can provoke a number of adverse health effects.

In fact, melatonin has been the subject of preclinical research on over 100 different disease applications, many of which go hand in hand with your need for sleep.

Melatonin for Sleep and Beyond

Your master biological clock resides in the suprachiasmatic nucleus of your brain (SCN), which is part of your hypothalamus. Based on signals of light and darkness, your SCN tells your pineal gland when it’s time to secrete melatonin, and when to turn it off.

In scientific studies, melatonin supplementation has been shown to help people fall asleep faster and stay asleep, experience less restlessness, and prevent daytime fatigue.

Keep in mind that you may only need a very minimal dose. I recommend taking only 0.25 mg or 0.5 mg to start, and adjusting upward from there. Taking higher doses, such as 3 mg, can sometimes make you more wakeful instead of sleepier, so start low and adjust your dose as needed.

Melatonin has also been found to reduce the effects of jet lag when traveling across multiple time zones.1And children suffering with eczema, a condition that oftentimes prevents good sleep, may also get more shut-eye with melatonin supplementation,2according to recent research.

Interestingly, melatonin also helped dampen the severity of the eczema, hinting at its anti-inflammatory effects. However, the benefits of melatonin go far beyond sleep. Three specific areas I’ll address in this article are its role in depression, multiple sclerosis, and cancer.

Normalizing Your Circadian System Helps Alleviate Depressive Symptoms

Your melatonin level inversely rises and falls with light and darkness, and both your physical and mental health is intricately tied to this rhythm of light and dark. When it’s dark, your melatonin levels increase, which is why you may feel tired when the sun starts to set.

Conversely, when you’re exposed to bright artificial lighting at night, including blue light emitted from TVs and electronic screens, you may have trouble falling asleep due to suppressed melatonin levels.

Light exposure when you wake up at night can also be problematic as I explain in my video above. However you don’t have to stumble around as red and orange wavelengths will not suppress melatonin production.

You can use a red light to guide you to the bathroom. If you have a clock in your bedroom make sure it has a red LED display. Blue would be the worst as it is the one that shuts down melatonin most effectively.

Winter Blues SAD

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD, also called “the winter blues”) is associated with lack of sun exposure, and scientists generally recommend full-spectrum light therapy over SSRIs like Prozac or Zoloft for this condition.

Interestingly, recent research suggests light therapy may be preferable even for major depression, outperforming Prozac in those with moderate to severe depression. One of the reasons it works so well likely has to do with the fact that bright light helps reset your biological clock, or circadian rhythm.

Melatonin supplementation can help do this to a certain extent as well, but not as effectively as exposure to bright light during daytime. Light may also work in a way similar to antidepressants by regulating neurotransmitter function.

Light Therapy — More Effective Than Prozac

The study3,4,5,6,7in question set out to compare the effectiveness of light therapy alone and in conjunction with the antidepressant fluoxetine (Prozac). The eight-week long trial included 122 adults between the ages of 19 and 60, who were diagnosed with moderate to severe depression.

The participants were divided into four groups, receiving:

  • Light therapy (30 minutes per day upon waking using a 10,000 lux Carex brand day-light device, classic model) plus a placebo pill
  • Prozac (20 mg/day) plus a deactivated ion generator serving as a placebo light device
  • Light therapy plus Prozac
  • Placebo light device plus placebo pill (control group)

In conclusion, the study found that the combination of light therapy and Prozac was the most effective — but light therapy-only came in close second, followed by placebo.

That’s right, the drug treatment was the least effective of all, and LESS effective than placebo! At the end of the study, remission was achieved by:

  • Just over 19 percent in the Prozac only group
  • 30 percent in the placebo group
  • Nearly 44 percent in the light therapy only group
  • Nearly 59 percent in the active combination group

How Melatonin May Aid in the Treatment of Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disorder that, like SAD, has been linked to vitamin D deficiency from lack of sun exposure. Interestingly, recent research suggests that a drop in autumn and winter relapses may be linked to peak melatonin levels, which occurs during these darker months.

Conversely, spikes in relapses occurring during spring and summer — which tend to be less common but do occur — may be related to decreased melatonin levels.

The research,8 led by neuroscientist Mauricio Farez at the Dr. Raúl Carrea Institute for Neurological Research, looked at 139 MS patients living in Buenos Aires.

Thirty-two percent of them experienced a reduction in relapses during fall and winter, compared to spring and summer. As reported by Scientific American:9

“Past research has shown that melatonin can have a protective effect against MS and that shift work, which disturbs melatonin production, can increase the risk of developing the disease. According to the authors, this research is one of the first to bring together epidemiological evidence with results from both human cells and animal models …

[And it] may help to resolve a ‘seasonal paradox’ — MS flare-ups should decrease during warmer, brighter months when people receive more exposure to sunlight and thus produce more vitamin D, which also has anti-inflammatory properties. But some studies, including this one, show that relapses increase in the spring and summer pointing to the possibility that other environmental factors, such as melatonin levels, are involved.”

To test their hypothesis, mice with autoimmune encephalomyelitis (the animal model of MS) received daily injections of melatonin. As a result, clinical symptoms were reduced, and harmful T cells, which are pro-inflammatory, were reduced, whereas regulatory T cells were increased. Similar effects were shown in petri dish experiments. As noted in the featured article:

“Melatonin regulates pathways central to the immune response, so these results may pertain to other autoimmune diseases, particularly where seasonal flare-ups occur, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis …”

Melatonin’s Role in Fighting Cancer

Cancer is another area where melatonin plays a major role. The evidence suggests it may be an important adjunct to cancer treatment,10 as it also helps protect against the toxic effects of radiation therapy. Cells throughout your body — even cancer cells — have melatonin receptors, and melatonin is in and of itself cytotoxic, meaning can induce tumor cell death (apoptosis). It also:11

  • Boosts production of immune-optimizing substances such as interleukin-2, which helps identify and attack mutated cells that lead to malignant cancer
  • Inhibits development of new tumor blood vessels (tumor angiogenesis), which slows the spread of the cancer
  • Retards cancer progression by activating the cytokine system, which helps inhibit tumor growth, and by stimulating the cytotoxic activity of macrophages and monocytes
  • By its antioxidant action it also limits oxidative damage to DNA
  • Inhibits tumor growth by counteracting estrogen. (At night, when melatonin production peaks, cell division slows. And when melatonin latches onto a breast cancer cell, it has been found to counteract estrogen’s tendency to stimulate cell growth)

Melatonin has a calming effect on other reproductive hormones besides estrogen as well, which may explain why it seems to protect most effectively against sex hormone-driven cancers, including ovarian, endometrial, prostate, testicular and breast cancers12 — the latter of which has received the greatest amount of scientific attention. Some of the studies on melatonin forbreast cancer include the following:

  • The journal Epidemiology reported increased breast cancer risk among women who work predominantly night shifts
  • Women who live in neighborhoods with large amounts of nighttime illumination are more likely to get breast cancer than those who live in areas where nocturnal darkness prevails, according to an Israeli study14
  • From participants in the Nurses’ Health Study,15 it was found that nurses who work nights had 36 percent higher rates of breast cancer
  • Blind women, whose eyes cannot detect light and therefore have robust production of melatonin, have lower-than-average breast cancer rates16
  • When the body of epidemiological studies are considered in their totality, women who work night shift are found to have breast cancer rates 60 percent above normal, even when other factors, such as differences in diet, are accounted for17

Melatonin May Improve Outcomes for Lung Cancer Patients

Other cancers may also benefit. In 2004, the Life Extension Foundation collaborated with Cancer Treatment Centers of America on the first clinical trial evaluating melatonin’s effect in patients with lung cancer.

The results,18 which were published in conjunction with the 2014 American Society of Clinical Oncology Meeting, found a tumor response in just over 29 percent of those receiving melatonin at night, compared to just under 8 percent of those receiving it in the morning, and 10.5 percent of placebo recipients.

As reported by Life Extension Magazine:19

“European clinical studies indicate that in patients with metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer, five-year survival and overall tumor regression rates were higher in patients concomitantly treated with melatonin than in those treated with chemotherapy alone. While no patient treated with chemotherapy survived after two years, five-year survival was achieved in 3 of 49 patients treated with chemotherapy and melatonin.

The researchers hope that similarly promising results could eventually convince mainstream medical practitioners to administer melatonin in combination with standard cancer treatment regimens to patients in earlier stages of cancer treatment.”

The Importance of Light and Dark for the Synchronization of Your Body Clocks

Melatonin production is stimulated by darkness and suppressed by light, which is why your levels should be highest just prior to bedtime. This perfectly orchestrated system allows you to fall asleep when the sun sets and awaken refreshed with the sunrise, while also providing potential anti-aging and disease-fighting benefits.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, which is a signal that your melatonin production is off, I suggest making sure you’re sleeping in total darkness and to turn lights down at least an hour or so before bedtime. Also, avoid watching TV and using computers and other electronic gadgets at least an hour prior to bed.

All of these devices emit blue light, which will decrease your melatonin if you work past dark, so ideally you’d want to turn these items off once the sun goes down. If you have to use these devices you can wear yellow glasses that filter the blue wavelengths out and/or use free software like f.lux.

To light rooms at night, use “low blue” light bulbs that emit an amber light instead of the blue that suppresses melatonin production. An equally important factor is the quality of light you’re exposed to during the day. Without sufficient sunlight during the day, your circadian clock may fall out of sync.

Most incandescent and fluorescent lights emit very poor-quality light. What your body needs for optimal functioning is the full-spectrum light you get outdoors, but most of us do not spend much time outside to take advantage of this healthy light.

Using full-spectrum light bulbs in your home and office can help ameliorate this lack of high-quality sunlight during the day, but cannot fully replace it. So do make an effort to go outside for at least 30 to 60 minutes each day during the brightest portion of the day, i.e. right around noon. This will help “set” your circadian clock and help you sleep better.

For Optimal Health, Make Sure You Sleep Well

Remember, when your circadian rhythms are disrupted, your body produces less melatonin, which means it has less ability to fight cancer, and less protection against free radicals that may accelerate aging and disease. So if you’re having even slight trouble sleeping, I suggest you review my “33 Secrets to a Good Night’s Sleep” for more guidance on how to improve your sleep-wake cycle.

If you’ve made the necessary changes to your sleep routine and find you’re still having trouble sleeping, a high-quality melatonin supplement may be helpful.

The amount of melatonin you create and release every night varies depending on your age. Children usually have much higher levels of melatonin than adults, and as you grow older your levels typically continue to decrease. This is why some older adults may benefit from extra melatonin.

The same goes for those who perform night shift work, travel often and experience jet lag, or otherwise suffer from occasional sleeplessness due to stress or other reasons. Start with a dose of about 0.25 to 0.5 mg, and increase it as necessary from there. If you start feeling more alert, you’ve likely taken too much and need to lower your dose.

The Surprising Link Between Type 2 Diabetes And Alzheimer’s Disease

One more reason to watch your weight.

11/24/2015 08:36 am ET | Updated Nov 24, 2015
  • K. Aleisha FettersU.S. News & World Report

SIMARIK VIA GETTY IMAGES

When it comes to Alzheimer’s prevention, most women focus on doing brain games and eating generous doses of omega-3 fatty acids (avocado, anyone?). But mounting evidence shows that they also need to pay more attention to their blood sugar levels.

According to new research published in Diabetologia, if left untreated, insulin resistance, which results in excessively high blood sugar levels, may be one of thefirst signs of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s to come – especially in women. Alzheimer’s is an irreversible brain disorder that reduces cognitive skills over time, eventually leading to the inability to perform routine tasks. More than five million Americans currently have the disease. Almost two-thirds of them are women, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

For the study, researchers from the University of Turku in Finland tested the language skills, semantic memory and executive functions of 5,935 men and women, ages 30 to 97. The brain’s temporal lobe, which tends to be smaller in people with higher levels of insulin resistance, is primarily responsible for these functions. The researchers found that higher levels of insulin resistance were associated with poorer scores in women, but not in men.

This research suggests that women’s brains may be more vulnerable to the effects of insulin resistance than men’s brains, says lead study author Laura Ekblad, a researcher at the University of Turku in Finland. She notes that previous research shows that lesions in the brain, called white matter hyperintensities, are common in people with metabolic problems such as insulin resistance, but are more common in women than they are in men.

“More and more evidence from studies on cellular mechanism show that insulin has specific and important effects on the brain. When insulin resistance is present, there is too much insulin circulating in the blood flow, which leads to a reduced transportation of insulin to the brain,” Ekblad says. “Previous studies show that reduced brain insulin levels can directly contribute to cognitive decline and the pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s disease in multiple ways.”

For instance, apart from contributing to brain lesions, insulin resistance alters the flow of blood and the delivery of glucose (or sugar) to brain cells to use as fuel, says Abbott medical director Refaat Hegazi. Also, as Type 2 diabetes is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, elevated blood cholesterol, mainly LDL cholesterol, values can lead to vascular changes in the brain. Research from Albany University in 2013 has even suggested that Alzheimer’s disease is actually just the late stages of Type 2 diabetes.

Know Your Blood Sugar Levels, Reduce Your Alzheimer’s Risk

The most alarming – and potentially lifesaving – aspect of this study is that, by including young and middle-aged adults, it found that the link between insulin resistance and poorer cognition is present years before both the onset of severe cognitive problems and, in many cases, before the diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes.

After all, more than 1 out of 3 adults have prediabetes, a condition in which the body’s blood sugar levels are too high – but not high enough to be classified as diabetic. During prediabetes, the body becomes increasingly resistant to insulin. However, 9 of out 10 people with prediabetes don’t know they have it. Meanwhile, approximately 29.1 million Americans – or 9.3 percent of the population – have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 30 percent of them are undiagnosed.

That’s why it’s so important, especially if you are overweight, have high blood pressure or abnormal cholesterol levels, to get your blood sugar levels checked with a routine blood test. Your primary care provider can perform one during your next annual physical, or if you are especially concerned about your levels, you can stop in sooner.

If you learn that you do have diabetes, a 2015 study in the World Journal of Diabetes shows that properly managing the disease through prescription medications may reduce or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. “People with uncontrolled Type 2 diabetes open themselves up to health issues from insulin resistance, particularly its negative effects on the brain’s blood vessels and nerves, Hegazi says.

However, unlike diabetes, prediabetes is not only treatable, but reversible. Lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, may decrease the percentage of prediabetic patients who develop diabetes to 20 percent, according to a 2014 review published in The Permamente Journal. And by reducing your risk of diabetes, you can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Whatever your current blood sugar level, Ekblad says, taking control of it now may mean the difference between a future with or without Alzheimer’s.

The Surprising Link Between Type 2 Diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease was originally published on U.S. News.

More from U.S. News:

Emerging Treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease
5 Ways to Cope With Mild Cognitive Impairment
10 Signs Your Thyroid Is Out of Whack