Month: March 2016

B12 Deficiency Caused by This Popular Drug


March 30, 2016

By Dr. Mercola

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that your body does not make, which means you must get it via your diet or supplements. Vitamin B12, along with other B vitamins, is used by your body to convert the carbohydrates you eat into glucose that your body uses for energy.

Vitamin B12 also plays a role in the production of DNA and RNA and works closely with folate to make red blood cells and produce S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), which is involved in immune-system function and mood.1

Vitamin B12 is also important for the maintenance of your central nervous system, including the conduction of nerve impulses and producing the myelin sheath, which protects and “insulates” your nerves.2

A deficiency in vitamin B12 can be difficult to detect and may lead to numerous, sometimes-irreversible issues with your health, including nerve damage. If you take the diabetes drug metformin, it’s important to be aware that you’re at an increased risk of this potentially serious vitamin deficiency.

Diabetes Drug Metformin Linked to Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Researchers from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City used data from the Diabetes Prevention Program and the Diabetes Prevention Program Outcomes Study to look into the effects of metformin use on vitamin B12 levels.

Data from participants taking metformin twice daily or those taking a placebo were included, and the participants had their vitamin B12 levels measured after five and 13 years.

Significant differences in vitamin B12 levels were found. Among those taking metformin, average vitamin B12 levels were lower and 4 percent were deficient compared to 2 percent in the placebo group.3

Further, nearly 20 percent of those taking metformin had borderline low vitamin B12 levels compared to 10 percent of those taking a placebo. More people in the metformin group were also anemic, which is associated with vitamin B12 deficiency.

Neither the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nor the American Diabetes Association formally recommends monitoring vitamin B12 levels in people taking metformin, but the researchers suggested patients ask their doctors to do so.4

How Common Is Vitamin B12 Deficiency?

Studies from the U.S. Framingham trial show nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population may have suboptimal blood levels of vitamin B12, which is a level low enough to experience neurological symptoms.5 Another 9 percent were considered deficient in the vitamin, while 16 percent were near deficient.

It’s often said that vitamin B12 deficiency is more common in the elderly. This is because stomach acid decreases as you get older, and stomach acid is essential for your body to absorb vitamin B12.

However, the Framingham trial found low levels of the vitamin across the board; low levels were common in young people and the elderly alike.6

It should be noted, however, that many symptoms often attributed to aging may actually be due to vitamin B12 deficiency. This includes memory loss, cognitive decline, muscle weakness and more.

Why Low Levels of Vitamin B12 Are Often Missed

Most physicians do not routinely test their patients’ vitamin B12 levels. Even if you have yours tested, the levels considered “normal” in the U.S. may still be too low.

Normal ranges of vitamin B12 in the U.S. are 200 pg/mL to 1100 pg/mL, even though people at the lower end of this spectrum (between 200 pg/mL and 350 pg/mL) often have symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency.7

In fact, if your levels are below 600 pg/mL, you might be suffering from B12 deficiency. Integrative medicine practitioner Chris Kresser explains:8

“In Japan and Europe, the lower limit for B12 is between 500 to 550 pg/mL, the level associated with psychological and behavioral manifestations such as cognitive decline, dementia and memory loss.

Some experts have speculated that the acceptance of higher levels as normal in Japan and the willingness to treat levels considered ‘normal’ in the U.S. explain the low rates of Alzheimer’s and dementia in that country.

Experts who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of B12 deficiency, like Sally Pacholok, R.N. and Jeffery Stuart, D.O., suggest treating all patients that are symptomatic and have B12 levels less than 450 pg/mL.

They also recommend treating patients with normal B12, but elevated urinary methylmalonic acid (MMA), homocysteine and/or holotranscobalamin (other markers of B12 deficiency).”

The Signs and Four Stages of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

There are four stages of vitamin B12 deficiency:

  • Stage 1: Declining B-12 blood levels due to absorption problems
  • Stage 2: B12 stores are depleted at the cellular level
  • Stage 3: Ability to synthesize new red blood cells is decreased
  • Stage 4: Macrocytic anemia is considered a late indicator of B12 deficiency

The symptoms also progress in stages. Some of the initial signs of B12 deficiency include unexplained anemia and neuropsychiatric disorders, and gastrointestinal disorders such as Crohn’s disease or infection with Helicobacter pylori.

If you are also elderly or a vegetarian and have some of these symptoms, a B12 deficiency may also be suspect for causing these problems.

Low levels can also lead to mental fogginess, memory troubles, muscle weakness, and — one of the hallmark signs — fatigue. Vitamin B12 also plays a role in:

Proper digestion, food absorption, iron use, carbohydrate and fat metabolism Healthy nervous system function Promotion of normal nerve growth and development
Help with regulation of the formation of red blood cells Cell formation and longevity Proper circulation
Adrenal hormone production Healthy immune system function Support of female reproductive health and pregnancy
Feelings of well-being and mood regulation Mental clarity, concentration, memory function Physical, emotional, and mental energy

Vitamin B12 for Bone Health

Accumulating research also suggests low levels of vitamin B12 may wreak havoc on your bone health.

Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), for instance, revealed that mice deficient in vitamin B12 have growth retardation and fewer osteoblasts (cells responsible for bone formation).9

The researchers suggested that lack of vitamin B12 may interfere with growth signaling in the liver and its “downstream effect” on the osteoblasts. Meanwhile, low vitamin B12 status may increase the risk for bone fractures in older men.10

Older women with low levels of vitamin B12 (below 208 pg/ml) also experienced significantly more rapid bone loss in the hips — a sign of osteoporosis — than women with higher levels of B12 in a separate study11 A meta-analysis even found that raising vitamin B12 levels in older individuals lead to a reduction in fracture risk.12

Vitamin B12 Is Crucial for Mental and Cognitive Health

Vitamin B12’s role in brain health and mental health is particularly significant and can cause a range of neurological disturbances that mimic depression, dementia and confusion, as well as serious mental illness .

According to a small Finnish study published in the journal Neurology, people who consume foods rich in vitamin B12 may reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s disease in their later years.13 For each unit increase in the marker of vitamin B12 (holotranscobalamin), the risk of developing Alzheimer’s was reduced by 2 percent.

Meanwhile, B-group vitamins may slow brain shrinkage by as much as seven-fold in brain regions specifically known to be most impacted by Alzheimer’s disease.14 Among participants taking high doses of folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12, blood levels of homocysteine were lowered, as was the associated brain shrinkage — by up to 90 percent.

Who Is Most at Risk of Vitamin B12 Deficiency?

If you’re a vegan who does not eat animal products, you are at high risk of deficiency, as vitamin B12 is available in its natural form only in animal food sources. This doesn’t necessarily have to be meat — eggs and dairy are options also. Top foods to include are:

Children fed a vegan diet may continue to be deficient in the vitamin for years even after animal foods are added to their diet. It’s extremely important for kids to receive adequate levels of vitamin B12 during these formative years. One study found children fed a vegan diet up until the age of 6 who had marginal vitamin B12 status may have impaired cognitive performance as adolescents.15

As mentioned, when you get older the lining of your stomach gradually loses its ability to produce hydrochloric acid (the stomach acid suppressed by proton pump inhibitors), which releases vitamin B12 from your food. If you’re over 50, it’s safe to assume you are not absorbing vitamin B12 at an optimal level. Other factors may also influence your body’s ability to absorb vitamin B12 properly, including:

Intestinal dysbiosis Leaky gut or gut inflammation Low stomach acid
Pernicious anemia Medications including acid-suppressing drugs (antacids) and metformin Alcohol
Exposure to nitrous oxide

In general, those most at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency include:

Vegetarians and vegans Elderly people
People who regularly use proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) People taking metformin
People with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) Women with a history of infertility or miscarriage

Oral Vitamin B12 Supplements Are Difficult to Absorb

Many people, including the elderly, those with gut disorders and vegetarians and vegans, could benefit from adding extra vitamin B12 to their bodies. There is one problem with supplementation however, which is the poor absorbability of oral vitamin B12 supplements.

Vitamin B12 is the largest vitamin molecule known. Because of its large size, it is not easily absorbed passively like most supplements, making many, if not most, oral B12 supplements are grossly ineffective. This is why vitamin B12 is often given via injection, especially for people with absorption issues. Sublingual (under your tongue) sprays are also effective, as they allow the large B12 molecule to be absorbed directly into your bloodstream.

Are You Taking Metformin for Diabetes or Diabetes Prevention?

During the three-year Diabetes Prevention Program study, lifestyle interventions were found to be more effective than metformin at preventing or delaying the development of diabetes. A follow-up study monitored the group for 15 years — and lifestyle interventions were still more effective than metformin at preventing diabetes.16

After the initial three-year study, those who made dietary changes and exercised at moderate intensity for 15 minutes daily were 58 percent less likely to develop diabetes compared to a placebo group. Those taking metformin were 31 percent less likely to develop the disease.

Such lifestyle interventions also work for treating and reversing diabetes, which should be welcome news for those looking to avoid the increased risks of B12 deficiency that may come with taking metformin long-term. You can find my recommended diet and exercise changes to prevent or treat type 2 diabetes here


Artificial Sweeteners Cause Cancer

March 30, 2016

By Dr. Mercola

If you’ve added the artificial sweetener sucralose (brand name Splenda) to your diet because you think it’s a healthy alternative to sugar, you’re being dangerously misled. Research from the Ramazzini Institute has linked the popular sugar alternative to cancer, specifically leukemia.

The findings were first presented at a London cancer conference in 2012 and prompted The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) to downgrade Splenda from its “safe” category to one of “caution.”

Now that the study has been published in a peer-reviewed journal, CSPI has again downgraded Splenda, this time from “caution” to “avoid.”

Splenda May Increase Risk of Cancer in Mice

The researchers fed mice Splenda beginning prenatally and continuing for their entire lifespan. The mice were fed varying concentrations of the artificial sweetener: 0 ppm (parts per million), 500 ppm, 2,000 ppm, 8,000 ppm or 16,000 ppm.

A significant increase in cancerous tumors was seen among male mice, and the risk increased along with the dose. The risk of leukemia in male mice also significantly increased, especially at Splenda doses of 2,000 to 16,000 ppm.1According to the study:

“These findings do not support previous data that sucralose is biologically inert. More studies are necessary to show the safety of sucralose, including new and more adequate carcinogenic bioassay on rats.

Considering that millions of people are likely exposed, follow-up studies are urgent.”

CSPI explained that the only other long-term feeding studies conducted on Splenda were conducted by its manufacturer. The new study, they said:2

” … [I]s more powerful than the industry-funded studies, which tested fewer animals, started exposing the animals beginning at adolescence as opposed to in utero, and ended earlier in the animals’ lives.”

After more than a decade, CSPI has finally gotten it right about Splenda in recommending that consumers avoid it. For the record, however, CSPI is generally an organization whose guidelines need to be taken with a grain of salt.

For instance, while recommending that people avoid artificial sweeteners like sucralose, aspartame and saccharin, they still consider drinking diet soda to be safer than drinking regular soda.

Splenda Is Found in 4,500 Products

If you’d like to heed the warnings and cut Splenda from your diet, be aware that it’s found in more than 4,500 products. Splenda has been smartly marketed, and it’s most known for its tag line “made from sugar so it tastes like sugar.”

It’s earned a reputation for being somehow safer than other artificial sweeteners like aspartame, which is why PepsiCo ditched aspartame in its Diet Pepsi in 2015 and replaced it with none other than Splenda.

Splenda became one of the top-selling artificial sweeteners in the U.S. in a very short period of time. Between 2000 and 2004, the percentage of U.S. households using Splenda products jumped from 3 percent to 20 percent. By 2012, Splenda generated sales of nearly $288 million.3

But make no mistake; Splenda is far from natural, even though it technically does start off as a sugar molecule. In the five-step patented process of making sucralose, three chlorine molecules are added to a sucrose or sugar molecule.

A sucrose molecule is a disaccharide that contains two single sugars bound together: glucose and fructose. The chemical process to make sucralose alters the chemical composition of the sugar so much that it is somehow converted to a fructose-galactose molecule.

This type of sugar molecule does not occur in nature, and therefore your body does not possess the ability to properly metabolize it. As a result of this “unique” biochemical make-up, the manufacturers claim that Splenda is not digested or metabolized by your body, making it have zero calories.

Splenda is supposed to pass right through you. However, the research (which is primarily extrapolated from animal studies) indicates that about 15 percent ofsucralose is, in fact, absorbed into your digestive system and ultimately stored in your body.

Splenda May Decimate Your Gut Bacteria

If the potential cancer finding isn’t enough to sway you away from this toxic artificial sweetener, be aware that Splenda may wreak havoc on your gut bacteria, which could have an untold number of consequences on your health.

An animal study published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, for instance, found that Splenda reduces the amount of beneficial bacteria in rat intestines by 50 percent while also increasing the pH level.

It also affected a glycoprotein that may affect the way certain drugs are metabolized by the body.4 The researchers explained:

“At the end of the 12-wk treatment period, the numbers of total anaerobes, bifidobacteria, lactobacilli, Bacteroides, clostridia, and total aerobic bacteria were significantly decreased … Splenda also increased fecal pH

These changes occurred at Splenda dosages that contained sucralose at 1.1 to 11 mg/kg (the U.S. FDA Acceptable Daily Intake for sucralose is 5 mg/kg).

Evidence indicates that a 12-wk administration of Splenda exerted numerous adverse effects, including (1) reduction in beneficial fecal microflora, (2) increased fecal pH, and (3) enhanced expression levels of P-gp, CYP3A4, and CYP2D1, which are known to limit the bioavailability of orally administered drugs.”

Splenda May Have Neurotoxic Effects and Is Found in Water

Research published in 2014 detailed Splenda’s oxidative effects and suggested the sweetener may have neurotoxic properties.

The researchers, who assessed the effects of sucralose on water fleas, concluded that: “exposure to sucralose may induce neurological and oxidative mechanisms with potentially important consequences for animal behavior and physiology.”5

The enzyme acetylcholinesterase is found in all animals, and for researchers looking for possible effects that artificial sweeteners like Splenda might have on animals and humans, this new information was disturbing.

If for no other reason, that’s why it’s so important to find out the consequences of Splenda exposure sooner rather than later, as the chemicals have already been detected in municipal effluents and surface waters in both the U.S. and Europe.6

Splenda Raises Your Insulin Levels

Far from being an inert substance, research also shows that Splenda affects your body’s insulin response. When study participants drank a Splenda-sweetened beverage, their insulin levels rose about 20 percent higher than when they consumed only water prior to taking a glucose-challenge test.7

Blood sugar levels also peaked at a higher level, “So the artificial sweetener was related to an enhanced blood insulin and glucose response,” researchers noted, adding:8

“Although we found that sucralose affects the glucose and insulin response to glucose ingestion, we don’t know the mechanism responsible. We have shown that sucralose is having an effect. In obese people without diabetes, we have shown sucralose is more than just something sweet that you put into your mouth with no other consequences.

What these all mean for daily life scenarios is still unknown, but our findings are stressing the need for more studies. Whether these acute effects of sucralose will influence how our bodies handle sugar in the long term is something we need to know.”

Artificial Sweeteners Confuse Your Metabolism

When you eat something sweet, your brain releases dopamine, which activates your brain’s reward center. The appetite-regulating hormone leptin is also released, which eventually informs your brain that you are “full” once a certain amount of calories have been ingested.

However, when you consume something that tastes sweet but doesn’t contain any calories, like an artificial sweetener, your brain’s pleasure pathway still gets activated by the sweet taste. However, there’s nothing to deactivate it since the calories never arrive.

Artificial sweeteners basically trick your body into thinking that it’s going to receive sugar (calories), but when the sugar doesn’t come your body continues to signal that it needs more, which results in carb cravings.

Contrary to industry claims, research over the last 30 years — including several large-scale prospective cohort studies — has shown that artificial sweeteners stimulate appetite, increase cravings for carbs, and produce a variety of metabolic dysfunctions that promote fat storage and weight gain — often to the researchers’ great surprise.

For instance, a 2010 review published in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine revealed the correlation between increased usage of artificial sweeteners in food and drinks and the corresponding rise in obesity. More than 11,650 children aged 9 to 14 were included in this study. Each daily serving of diet beverage was associated with a body mass index (BMI) increase of 0.16 kg/m2.

You can see the trends for yourself in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine graphic below, which clearly refutes the beverage industry’s claims that artificially sweetened diet soda aids weight loss.

Are There Safer Artificial Sweeteners?

I recommend avoiding artificial sweeteners of any kind, as each is linked with its own risks. Aspartame is perhaps the most dangerous of the bunch. At least it’s one of the most widely used and has the most reports of adverse effects. There are also hundreds of scientific studies demonstrating its harmful effects.

Sugar alcohols are another option on the market. They can be identified by the commonality of “ol” at the end of their name, such as xylitol glucitol, sorbitol, maltitol, mannitol, glycerol, and lactitol. They’re not as sweet as sugar, and they do contain fewer calories, but they’re not calorie-free. So don’t get confused by the “sugar-free” label on foods containing these sweeteners.

One reason that sugar alcohols provide fewer calories than sugar is because they’re not completely absorbed into your body. Because of this, eating too many foods containing sugar alcohols can lead to abdominal gas and diarrhea. It’s also worth noting that maltitol, a commonly used sugar alcohol, spikes blood sugar almost as much as a starchy new potato.

Xylitol, in comparison, does not have a great effect on your blood sugar, so from that perspective it may be a better choice. In moderation, some sugar alcohols can be a better choice than artificial sweeteners like Splenda and aspartame. Of the various sugar alcohols, xylitol is one of the best. When it is pure, the potential side effects are minimal, and it actually comes with some benefits such as fighting tooth decay.

All in all, I would say that xylitol is reasonably safe, and potentially even a mildly beneficial sweetener. As a side note, xylitol is toxic to dogs and some other animals, so be sure to keep it out of reach of your family pets.)

That being said, two of the best natural sugar substitutes are from the plant kingdom: Stevia and Luo Han Guo (also spelled Luo Han Kuo). Stevia, a highly sweet herb derived from the leaf of the South American stevia plant, is sold as a supplement. It’s completely safe in its natural form and can be used to sweeten most dishes and drinks.

Luo Han Kuo is similar to Stevia, but it’s a bit more expensive and harder to find. In China, the Luo Han fruit has been used as a sweetener for centuries, and it’s about 200 times sweeter than sugar.

How to Break Free From Artificial Sweeteners

The best option of all is to break free from the grip of artificial sweeteners, which starts by eliminating your sugar cravings. If you aren’t craving something sweet, you probably won’t have a desire to reach for an artificial sweetener.

First, I highly recommend trying an energy psychology technique called Turbo Tapping, which has helped many “soda addicts” kick their habit, and it should work for any type of sweet craving (or diet soda craving) you may have. A few other tricks to try to kick your sugar cravings:

    • Exercise: Anyone who exercises intensely on a regular basis will know that significant amounts of cardiovascular exercise is one of the best “cures” for food cravings. It always amazes me how my appetite, especially for sweets, dramatically decreases after a good workout.

I believe the mechanism is related to the dramatic reduction in insulin levels that occurs after exercise. Additionally, if you do eat sugars or fruits around the time of the exercise, your sugar levels will not rise as it will metabolized for fuel

  • Organic, black coffee: Coffee is a potent opioid receptor antagonist, and contains compounds such as cafestrol — found plentifully in both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee — which can bind to your opioid receptors, occupy them and essentially block your addiction to other opioid-releasing food.9,10 This may profoundly reduce the addictive power of other substances, such as sugar.
  • Sour taste, such as that from cultured vegetables, helps to reduce sweet cravings, too. This is doubly beneficial, asfermented vegetables also promote gut health. You can also try adding lemon or lime juice to your water.

[+] Sources and References

More Than Half of The American Diet is Ultra-Processed Junk Food


March 23, 2016

By Dr. Mercola

About 90 percent of the money Americans spend on food goes to buy processed food.1,2,3 What’s worse, new research shows that, astonishingly, more than half—nearly 60 percent, in fact—of the food Americans eat is ULTRA-processed.4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11

Basically, half of what the average American eats in any given day are convenience foods that can be bought at your local gas station.

Moreover, those ultra-processed foods account for 90 percent of the added sugar consumption in the U.S.  Data from a nationally representative food survey was used for this study, which found that:

  • On average, 57.9 percent of the calories people eat comes from ultra-processed foods
  • 29.6 percent of calories comes from unprocessed or minimally processed foods (such as meats, eggs, milk, and pasta)
  • Processed but not ultra-processed foods (such as canned or preserved foods, cured meats and cheeses) account for 9.4 percent of calories
  • 2.9 percent of calories comes from “processed culinary ingredients” such as vegetable oil, table salt, and sugar
  • Less than 1 percent of daily calories comes from vegetables

Excessive Sugar Consumption Drives Disease Statistics

The dangers of eating too much added sugar have been well-established, and have even become officially recognized. For the first time ever, the 2015-2020 U.S. dietary guidelines12 now recommend limiting your sugar intake to a maximum of 10 percent of your daily calories.13

Decreasing sugar consumption is indeed at the top of the list if you’re overweight, insulin resistant, or struggle with any chronic disease. Research14has shown that as much as 40 percent of American healthcare expenditures are for diseases directly related to the overconsumption of sugar.

More than $1 trillion each year is spent on treating sugar and junk food-related diseases, which runs the gamut from obesity and diabetes, to heart disease and cancer.15

According to a report16 on the global cancer burden, published in 2014, obesity is responsible for an estimated 500,000 cancer cases worldwide each year. A more recent British report estimates obesity may result in an additional 670,000 cancer cases in the U.K. alone over the next 20 years.

For over half a century, nutritional guidelines have focused on cutting saturated fats and cholesterol, and we now know that this was a very serious mistake.

As fats were removed from processed fare, the sugar content increased (to make the food palatable), and sugar is the real culprit of virtually all diseases previously blamed on dietary fats.

What is Ultra-Processed Food?

Anything that isn’t directly from the vine, bush, tree, or from the earth is considered processed. Bread and pasta, for example, are processed goods. Ditto for anything canned or frozen.

Depending on the amount of adulteration the food goes through, processing may be considered minimal or significant. “Ultra-processed” foods are at the far end of the significantly altered spectrum.

Examples of ultra-processed foods include breakfast cereals, pizza, soda, chips and other salty/sweet/savory snacks, packaged baked goods, microwaveable frozen meals, instant soups and sauces, and much more. In the featured study, ultra-processed foods were defined as:

  • Food products containing several ingredients that are not traditionally used in cooking
  • Besides salt, sugar, oils and fats, they can include artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, and other additives “used to imitate sensorial qualities of unprocessed or minimally processed foods”
  • These ingredients may also be added “to disguise undesirable qualities of the final product”
  • They typically contain preservatives and chemicals that give them an unnaturally long shelf-life

Ultra-Processed Foods Contain FAR More Sugar Than Processed Foods

The difference between processed foods and ultra-processed foods in terms of sugar content is quite dramatic.

The researchers found that about 2 percent of the calories in processed foods came from added sugars. By definition, unprocessed or minimally processed contained none. Ultra-processed foods, on the other hand, got 21 percent of their calories from added sugars.

Not surprisingly, the authors of the featured study concluded that: “Decreasing the consumption of ultra-processed foods could be an effective way of reducing the excessive intake of added sugars in the USA.”

On a positive note, the researchers also found that there were significant differences in how much ultra-processed foods people ate.

One in 5 people (about 60 million Americans) actually got more than 70 percent of their calories from real food (i.e. unprocessed or minimally processed), and only 30 percent from ultra-processed fare.

As noted by Time Magazine:17 “7.5 percent of the people with the lowest processed food consumption actually met the federal dietary recommendations of eating no more than 10 percent of daily calories from sugar.

So if people avoid processed foods, it’s possible to reach recommended nutritional requirements.”

So there is a ray of hope. In my view, eating a diet consisting of 90 percent real food and only 10 percent or less processed foods is a doable goal for most that could make a significant difference in your weight and overall health.

I realize for many  this is a challenge, but I know it is doable. Unless I’m travelling, my diet is very close to 100 percent real food, much of it grown on my property. One just needs to make the commitment and place a high priority on it.

Carb-Rich Foods are As Risky As Cigarettes

In related news, research suggests refined non-vegetable fiber carbs such as potatoes, bagels and breakfast cereal are as risky as smoking, increasing your risk for lung cancer by as much as 49 percent.

Your risk is particularly high if you’ve never smoked. Among smokers, eating a high glycemic diet was associated with a 31 percent increased risk for lung cancer. As reported by UPI:18

“A high glycemic index, a measure of the effect of carbohydrates on blood sugar levels, was linked to a greater chance for developing lung cancer, researchers at the University of Texas MD Andersen Cancer Center found…

While increased levels of carbohydrates can increase the risk, the researchers said the quality of carbohydrates, rather than the quantity, has the strongest effect.

Foods such as white bread and puffed rice cereal are highly refined, which is why the researchers suggest swapping them out for whole-wheat or pumpernickel breads and pasta.

“The results from this study suggest that, besides maintaining healthy lifestyles, such as avoiding tobacco, limiting alcohol consumption and being physically active, reducing the consumption of foods and beverages with high glycemic index may serve as a means to lower the risk of lung cancer,” Dr. Xifeng Wu, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Texas, said…”

High glycemic foods, i.e. refined carbs high in sugar, promote insulin resistance and obesity, and this isn’t the first time a connection has been made between a high-sugar and/or obesity and cancer.

In fact, cancer specialists who discussed the cancer trend at the 2015 American Society of Clinical Oncology conference in Chicago warned that obesity will likely overtake smoking to claim the lead spot as the principal cause of 10 different types of cancer within the next decade.19 Obesity is also associated with worsened prognosis after a cancer diagnosis, raises your risk of dying from the cancer treatment, and raises your risk of additional malignancies and comorbidities.20

Half of All Americans are Pre-Diabetic or Diabetic

Other recent research suggests that nearly half of all adults living in California now have diabetes or prediabetes, and most are not even aware of it. (For a list of pre-diabetes and diabetes rates by county, see the original news story.21) According to Harold Goldstein, executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy which commissioned the report:22“This study is a wake-up call that says it’s time to make diabetes prevention a top state priority.”

As reported by Marinij Health:23

“Nationally, diabetes rates have tripled over the past 30 years. In California, the rate has increased by 35 percent since 2001…Some health experts say one way to address the diabetes epidemic is to impose a tax on sugary beverages. Berkeley became the first city in the country to pass a soda tax in 2014, but similar efforts have repeatedly failed in the Legislature…

[H]owever, two legislators — Democratic Assemblymen Jim Wood, of Healdsburg, and Richard Bloom, of Santa Monica – [have] proposed a “health impact fee” of 2 cents per ounce on sugar-sweetened sodas and other drinks. And last month, a Field Poll about childhood obesity-prevention policies showed more than 7 in 10 of voters polled believe there’s a close link between a child regularly drinking sugary beverages and diabetes.”

In 2008, pre-diabetes and diabetes affected 1 in 4 Americans. Then, research24,25 published last year which looked at data up to 2012, found that HALF of all Americans are now either pre-diabetic or diabetic. In all, 12 to 14 percent have full-blown diabetes, and another 38 percent are pre-diabetic. So California is not unusual in that sense. Moreover, as in California, African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asian-Americans are nearly twice as likely to have diabetes as Caucasians.

Why Diabetes is Such a Dangerous Disease

Diabetes has become so common that many don’t even bat an eyelash anymore, but this is a serious mistake. Aside from the potentially deadly side effects of diabetes drugs, which I’ve covered in previous articles, the health complications that diabetes fosters are many, including but not limited to the following:

High blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke – 75 percent of diabetics have high blood pressure (130/180 mm Hg or higher). Death from heart disease and risk for stroke is 2 to 4 times higher among people with diabetes. Amputations – In 2004, 71,000 lower limb amputations due to diabetes were performed in the U.S.
Blindness — Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults aged 20 to 74 years Dental disease — Almost one-third of people with diabetes have severe periodontal disease
Kidney disease – Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure.

In 2005, more than 45,700 people began treatment for end-stage kidney disease in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, and another 178,700 were living on chronic dialysis

Pregnancy complications — Poorly controlled diabetes before conception and during the first trimester of pregnancy among women with type 1 diabetes can cause major birth defects in 5 to 10 percent of pregnancies, and spontaneous abortions in 15 to 20 percent of pregnancies
Nervous system disease — About 60 to 70 percent of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of nervous system damage such as: impaired sensation or pain in hands or feet, poor digestion, carpal tunnel syndrome and erectile dysfunction Cancer— People with prediabetes have a 15 percent higher risk of cancer, especially cancers of the liver, stomach, pancreas, breast, and endometrium.

Women with diabetes have a 50 percent greater risk of developing colorectal cancer than women without diabetes.26

People with the highest insulin levels at the time of a cancer diagnosis also have significantly increased risks of cancer recurrence, as well as a greater risk of being diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of cancer27

What’s the Key to Resolving Insulin Resistance and Diabetes?

The answer can be summarized in three words: Eat real food. Intermittent fasting, or the more accurate term, Time Restricted Feeding (TRF), can also be helpful. When you fast, your liver burns off the available liver fat, and by temporarily depleting your liver fat stores you restore metabolic stability to your liver and improve hepatic insulin sensitivity.

Exercise is also an important component. Studies have shown that exercise is beneficial and increases insulin sensitivity, whether you lose weight or not,28 and even if you’re physically active as little as 2.5 hours a week can be beneficial.29 When it comes to diet though, the long-term and most sustainable answer is to simply cut way down on ultra-processed foods, and to think of “diet” in terms of unprocessed whole foods, with which you then cook from scratch.

Truly, a major part of the problem is that so few people take the time to cook their own meals anymore. But relying on a “gas station diet” of ultra-processed foods is a recipe for insulin resistance, obesity, and related diseases that will ultimately cost you a fortune in medical bills and shorten your lifespan.

When you consider the ultimate, long-term price tag of all this convenience food, the time you invest in cooking will pay tremendous dividends. Remember if you want to be healthy, you or someone you trust needs to spend some serious time in the kitchen preparing your own food.

If you’re insulin/leptin resistant, have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or are overweight, you’d be wise to limit your total fructose intake to 15 grams per day until your insulin/leptin resistance has resolved. For others, limit your daily fructose consumption to 25 grams or less. This can be pretty difficult unless you eat real food, and the reason for this is because ultra-processed foods are eight times higher in sugar than minimally processed or unprocessed foods.

Replace Refined Carbs With Healthy Fats and Moderate Amounts of Protein

Since you’re cutting a lot of energy (carbs) from your diet when you eliminate processed sugars and grains, you need to replace them with something better, including:

    • As much high quality healthy fat as you want. Your body needs saturated and monounsaturated fats to stay healthy, in appropriate quantities, as they provide many beneficial effects, contrary to what you have probably been told.30 It is good to target about 90 percent of your fat calories from them. If you’re insulin resistant, you may need upwards of 50-85 percent of your daily calories in the form of healthy fats.

Good sources include coconut and coconut oil, avocados, butter, nuts, and animal fats. Remember—fats are high in calories but small in volume, so when you look at your plate, vegetables should be the largest portion by far, as they are not calorie dense.

  • Moderate amounts of high quality protein found in organically-raised, grass-fed or pastured meats and dairy products, fish, legumes, and nuts. Aim for one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body mass, which places most people in a range of 40-70 grams of protein per day. Use the chart below to help you.
Red meat, pork, poultry and seafood average 6-9 grams of protein per ounce.

An ideal amount for most people would be a 3 ounce serving of meat or seafood (not 9 or 12 ounce steaks!), which will provide about 18-27 grams of protein

Eggs contain about 6-8 grams of protein per egg. So an omelet made from two eggs would give you about 12-16 grams of protein.

If you add cheese, you need to calculate that protein in as well (check the label of your cheese)

Seeds and nuts contain on average 4-8 grams of protein per quarter cup Cooked beans average about 7-8 grams per half cup
Cooked grains average 5-7 grams per cup Most vegetables contain about 1-2 grams of protein per ounce

Fermented Foods and Fiber Help Prevent Diabetes

Optimizing your gut health is also important. Multiple studies have shown that obese people have different intestinal bacteria than lean people. Recent research31,32 also suggests your microbiome can influence your risk of diabetes. Fortunately, optimizing your gut flora is relatively easy.

You can reseed your body with good bacteria by regularly eating fermented foods (like fermented vegetables, especially fermented with starter culture that has strains that produce vitamin K2, natto, raw organic cheese and miso) or by taking a high-quality probiotic supplement.

Recent research33 also shows that increasing your fiber intake can help prevent diabetes. In this study, those who had the highest intake of fiber (more than 26 grams a day) had an 18 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those with the lowest intake (less than 19 grams a day).

One way that a high-fiber diet may be protective against obesity and diabetes has to do with your intestinal bacteria’s ability to ferment fibers. When you eat foods high in fermentable fibers, such as cabbage, beans, and other vegetables, the bacteria in your intestines ferments them into butyrate and propionate, which are short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) involved in sugar production.

Just be sure to get most of your fiber in the form of vegetables, not grains, and focus on eating more vegetables, nuts, and seeds. The following whole foods, for example, contain high levels of soluble and insoluble fiber.

Chia seeds Berries Vegetables such as broccoli andBrussels sprouts
Root vegetables and tubers, including onions and sweet potatoes Almonds Psyllium seed husk, flax, and chia seeds
Green beans Cauliflower Bean

[+] Sources and References

Study Finds Evidence of Connection between Arthritis Flare-Ups and Weather Conditions

March 20, 2016

By Dr. Mercola

Do your joints ache when a storm is coming? Do you feel like a walking, talking weather prediction station? You may be convinced your arthritic pain is worse when the barometric pressure falls, but many researchers have developed headaches trying to prove this with science.

The vast majority of studies have failed to establish a scientific connection between changing weather patterns and arthritis symptoms.

Despite its lack of scientific support, both arthritis sufferers and rheumatologists insist there is a great deal of clinical support for this phenomenon, citing widespread reports of weather-induced pain flare-ups.

More than 60 percent of osteoarthritis patients report that their symptoms vary with weather conditions.1 Fibromyalgia patients have also reported weather-related fluctuations in pain although, as with arthritis, scientific evidence is elusive.2, 3

Well, clinicians and patients may now be vindicated! A few recent scientific studies have begun to offer some “mild support” for what patients and physicians have reported for decades—weather may indeed be a factor in arthritis pain.

The video above will provide you with a first hand account of a remarkable success story.  Sarah Allen, a former patient of mine, shares how she put herarthritis into remission.  I encourage you to take the time to listen to her story and share it with your loved ones who may find it beneficial.

Weather May Influence Arthritis Symptoms After All

Dutch researchers tracked pain levels of hip osteoarthritis sufferers over the course of two years, and then went back and matched their symptoms against daily weather records.

They found that the participants’ aches and pains indeed were a little bit worse and joints a bit stiffer when humidity and barometric pressure levels rose, although the changes were certainly not dramatic.4

Pain scores worsened by one point for each 10 percent increase in humidity. Function scores worsened by one point for each 10 hectopascals (0.29 of an inch) increase in barometric pressure.

These changes were too small to be considered “clinically relevant,” but this doesn’t mean that the pain was not real. Other recent European studies have shown similar findings, but the changes are all subtle; maybe this is the reason science has failed to demonstrate this connection until now.

How Can Atmospheric Pressure Cause Joint Pain?

Dr. Fotios Koumpouras, the rheumatologist interviewed in the featured video, mentions another recent European study finding a connection between temperature, barometric pressure, and joint pain.

He theorizes that, as barometric pressure falls (like before and during a storm), the pressure inside your joints changes, which may impact your nerve endings around those joints:5

“The ligaments contain these very specialized receptors, and they are stretch receptors. These stretch receptors, particularly in joints that may have arthritis, could be hypersensitive. And small changes in pressure, atmospheric pressure, may in fact allow these receptors to fire.”

Even small changes in pressure may cause these receptors to fire, which you may experience as an increase in pain. However, this is not the only theory in circulation.

Mood and daily activity may also be factors. It’s possible that your pain threshold drops during cold, rainy weather, because environmental conditions can definitely affect your mood. When it’s cold, many people are less likely to go outside and get the exercise that normally keeps arthritis pain in check.6

Another factor could be the placebo effect (or “nocebo” effect7). That is, if youexpect your pain to be worse when the weather changes, then it very well may be. After all, the pain-weather “phenomenon” is commonly accepted as truth, at least in Western culture.

The Weather Channel even provides a map called “Aches and Pains Index” to forecast how severe your pain should be on any given day.8 (If you are a highly suggestible person, perhaps you should avoid going there!)

Now that we’ve spent some time mucking around in the gray areas of science with respect to arthritis pain, let’s take a look at what we KNOW works in terms of pain relief for arthritis sufferers.

Two Kinds of Arthritis—and Both Can Be Painful

There are two types of arthritis: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The only thing they have in common is that they are both characterized by pain, inflammation, stiffness, and swelling of the joints—but they are very different diseases, with different causes and presentations.

Here are the principal differences:

Osteoarthritis (OA): OA, or degenerative arthritis (degenerative joint disease), typically occurs in older individuals, but can also follow repetitive stress or acute trauma.

OA usually affects the distal joints, or the joints at the end of your fingers and toes, not the middle ones. Additionally, OA is not symmetrical, so typically you may have it in just one joint, or on one hand or foot but not the other.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): Much more serious than OA, RA is an autoimmune disease that causes your immune system to attack the tissues that line your joints. RA can occur at any age, but fortunately, juvenile RA is relatively rare.

RA tends to be bilateral and symmetrical. RA also affects your middle joints and is associated with joint deformities, especially your hands and fingers. People do die from RA so it’s not to be treated lightly.9

Arthritis Drugs Are Some of the Most Dangerous in Medicine

Due to the fact that both OA and RA involve joint pain and inflammation, they share common treatment modalities. Anti-inflammatory drug approaches such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) and analgesics, like Tylenol, are typically used for both types of arthritis.

The problem with these drug approaches is that regular, chronic use of arthritis drugs can result in liver or kidney damage. Use of analgesics is a very common cause of kidney disease in the United States (analgesic nephropathy).

Acetaminophen is actually the No.1 cause of acute liver failure! Still, pain control is an important aspect of treating RA. Because of its severity, rheumatoid arthritis is often treated aggressively with some of the most dangerous drugs on the market.

A relatively recent class of RA drugs are the TNF-alpha inhibitors, also termed “biologic” drugs. While these drugs are enthusiastically promoted by the medical and pharmaceutical industry, there are still concerns about their safety. Potentially serious side effects include infection and cancer. A safety analysis was performed on three TNF-alpha inhibitors: Humira, Enbrel, and Remicade.

It was concluded that, when it comes to your significant risk of death from taking them, there is no difference among the three; they’re all equally dangerous.

Arthritis pain can be quite severe and typically, most benefit from some form of pharmacologic relief while waiting for the natural therapies to kick in. So if you chose to use a drug, you’ll want to be sure to use the safest drugs and only when necessary, with the ultimate goal of managing your pain without medications. Some of the safest pain drugs are the non-acetylated salicylates, such as salsalate, sodium salicylate, and magnesium salicylate (i.e. Salflex, Disalcid, or Trilisate).

Not only do pharmaceutical agents have a range of potential side effects, but they merely suppress symptoms without doing anything to address the underlying cause. Targeting the cause of the problem is a much more effective approach for achieving long-lasting relief.

Therefore, the remainder of this article will focus on treating arthritis effectively with “tried and true” natural approaches that are scientifically sound and that address the cause of the problem, with special emphasis on the management of RA.

First, Address Your Diet

Rheumatoid arthritis affects 1.5 million Americans. The majority are women, and the prevalence in women appears to be on the rise. I have personally treated more than 3,000 patients with rheumatoid arthritis in my practice, which is well over 10 times the number a typical family physician would treat in his or her entire career—so I have a fair amount of experience here.

My rheumatoid arthritis treatment protocol has helped thousands of RA patients go into remission, and one of the key factors is dietary modification.

I cannot emphasize strongly enough the importance of this aspect of the program—it is an essential component of my RA protocol. Following these general guidelines alone will go a long way toward dramatically reducing your chronic inflammation, whether it’s from RA or another inflammation-based disease:

  1. Eliminate sugar/fructose and most grains (this automatically means avoiding virtually all processed foods)
  2. Optimize your gut flora by consuming naturally fermented vegetables; work your way up to 4 to 6 ounces per day offermented veggies
  3. Consume whole, unprocessed high-quality foods, organic and locally-grown if possible
  4. Eat a large portion of your food raw
  5. Get plenty of high-quality animal-based omega-3 fats, such as krill oil

Key Elements of My RA Treatment Protocol

For many years, I followed the Brown Protocol, originally developed by rheumatologist Thomas Brown. Over the years, I have modified his program, making changes to it based on new information provided by modern science, as well as my experience in natural medicine. Using this approach, 60 to 90 percent of my patients experienced improvement. You can review my complete RA treatment protocol here, but I have outlined many key components in the table that follows:

Key Components of My RA Treatment Protocol
Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN) Naltrexone is a pharmacologically active opioid antagonist, conventionally used to treat drug and alcohol addiction.

However, in very small doses, it is inexpensive, non-toxic, and has immunomodulating properties widely reported by physicians as effective in getting people off of dangerous arthritis medications

Astaxanthin A powerful anti-inflammatory antioxidant with very powerful pain control properties.

In one study, RA sufferers experienced a 35 percent improvement in pain levels, as well as a 40 percent improvement in their ability to perform daily activities, after only eight weeks on astaxanthin.

Astaxanthin at 4 mg per day is particularly useful for anyone placed on prednisone because it offers potent protection against cataracts and age-related macular degeneration

Vitamin D Vitamin D deficiency is strongly associated with the development of RA. Ideally, you’ll want to get regular and appropriate sun exposure (alternatively, use a safe tanning bed or take an oral D3 supplement) and closely monitor your levels to assure you maintain your level within the therapeutic range of 50-70 ng/ml year-round
Exercise Regular exercise is critical if you want to prevent functional decline from arthritis. RA can lead to diminished muscle mass and reduced strength that can be as debilitating as the physical damage to your joints.

Just be careful not to overdo it, and take care with inflamed joints, icing them when necessary before and after exercise.

Your program should include a range of activities, including weight training, high intensity exercises, cardio, stretching, and core work.

Walking and swimming are also excellent (if you have access to a chlorine-free pool), as are practices like yoga and tai chi

Drug-Free Relief from Pain and Inflammation
Curcumin (Turmeric) Curcumin has been shown to be effective against acute and chronic pain and is best known for its potent anti-inflammatory properties; inhibits inflammatory enzymes and blocks inflammation pathways; shown to influence more than 700 genes
Boswellia Also known as boswellin or “Indian frankincense,” boswellia is another herb I’ve found to be particularly useful against arthritic pain and inflammation
Ginger Exhibits anti-inflammatory properties and can offer pain relief. Fresh ginger works well steeped in boiling water as a tea or grated into vegetable juice
EFT Lingering emotional trauma is pervasive in people with RA. One of my favorite tools for addressing this is EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), which has been described as “acupuncture without needles.”

Although EFT is something you can learn to do yourself in the comfort of your own home, you may want to employ the help of a well-trained professional

Final Thoughts

If you have OA or RA, implementing some basic lifestyle changes can help quell the inflammation that causes your joints to become achy, stiff, or swollen. Whether you’re an arthritis sufferer whose pain and stiffness fluctuates with the season or among the bunch who must manage troublesome symptoms 365 days a year, the guidelines I’ve shared have a very good chance of helping you to feel better. I know this because I’ve treated thousands of arthritis sufferers, just like you!

Drugs for rheumatoid arthritis are among the most dangerous drugs prescribed and may cause more problems than they solve, so the sooner you can incorporate more natural treatments and reduce your reliance on pharmaceuticals, the better. If you need to take an analgesic from time to time, this is much less risky than taking them on a daily basis. And in time, you may improve so much that you will completely leave them behind!

[+] Sources and References

Nourishing Your Gut Bacteria Is Critical for Health and Mental Well-Being

March 13, 2016

By Dr. Mercola

Barely a day goes by without some type of media announcement noting the importance of your gut flora.

One of the best and least expensive ways to optimize your gut microbiome is to eliminate sugars and processed sugars and eat traditionally fermented foods, but probiotic supplements can also be beneficial.

Greg Leyer,1 who has a PhD in Microbiology Food Science, is the Chief Scientific Officer of United Agricultural Services (UAS) Laboratories, a probiotic-dedicated manufacturer, and he’s been passionate about probiotics and health for more than two decades.

“I got interested in microbiology and spent my graduate research career looking at pathogenic bacteria, those bacteria we want to avoid and that make us sick,” he says.

“In the course of doing those studies, I became aware that not all bacteria are bad and became intrigued in this whole concept of probiotics … My first post-graduate job was in the area of developing probiotics for infant nutrition. That was 21 years ago.

I’ve been in the probiotic research development field ever since, and have seen the research in the market just explode.”

Nourishing Your Microbiome Begins With Real Food

Mounting evidence reveals there’s more to nutrition than previously thought — a large component of it actually revolves around nourishing the health-promoting bacteria in your body, thereby keeping harmful microbes in check.

Probiotics are supplements designed to increase your beneficial bacteria, the largest concentration of which is found in your gut. Different types of bacteria live in different locations in your gastrointestinal tract. You also have bacteria residing in other areas of your body, such as your mouth and skin.

While probiotic supplements have their benefits and their place, it’s important — before taking a supplement — to optimize the conditions where these beneficial bacteria grow.

One of the reasons a healthy diet is able to influence your health is by the fact that it helps create an optimal environment for beneficial bacteria in your gut, while decreasing pathogenic or disease-causing bacteria, fungi, and yeast.

“Healthy eating” basically amounts to eating real food, which means avoiding processed foods and staying away from sugars, because few things fertilize and accelerate the growth of pathogenic microbes better than sugar. As noted by Leyer:

“In studies done in people all over the world, you’ll see different microbial communities residing in people that have different dietary intakes. You want to provide foods that are going to nourish this healthy community of bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract.

Sugars aren’t selective. Bacteria like sugars, but the bad bacteria lovesugars. Eating real food, complex carbohydrates, fiber, and things like that, are more selective. The pathogenic bacteria don’t like non-fiber carbs as much. It’s more difficult for them to utilize them as an energy source.”

The Importance of Probiotics When Taking an Antibiotic

Unfortunately, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) restricts supplement makers from making certain health claims; for example, you cannot market a probiotic saying, “This is useful to take after an antibiotic,” because that would imply that antibiotics might harm you in some way.

As a result of these restrictions, unless you spend a fair amount of time reading about the subject you may not be aware of many of the benefits of probiotics.

“There’s a lot of really exciting research that we’re not able to talk about,”Leyer notes. “One of them is the role of healthy bacteria when co-prescribed with an antibiotic, and the effect it has on maintaining healthy populations in your gut.

Antibiotics are selective for bacteria, but they’re not terribly selective for a particular bacteria.

Antibiotics – and many studies have shown this – will have a tremendously disruptive effect on the overall microbial community. They’ll kill the target organism that might be causing your infection … but they also do a lot of harm to the good bacteria that are there.

Studies have shown that when you co-administer probiotics with antibiotics and continue that probiotic administration, you’re quickly able to restore that microbial community to the healthy state it has prior to the antibiotic treatment.”

Guidelines for Taking Probiotics With Antibiotics

If you’re taking an antibiotic, don’t simultaneously take the probiotic as the antibiotic is liable to simply kill the bacteria off. Instead, take them a few hours before or after taking the antibiotic. From the clinical research Leyer has done, this strategy appears to work quite well.

Saccharomyces yeast, a beneficial type of yeast, may also be helpful when taking a course of antibiotics, as it has also been shown to prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea.

“Fifteen to 25 percent of people who take an antibiotic end up getting antibiotic-associated diarrhea.

Probiotics – I’ll include Saccharomyces in this group – have been shown to have tremendous benefits in reducing the risk of developing that kind of secondary complication of antibiotic treatment,” Leyer says.

The Hazards of Antibiotics in the Food Supply

Medical antibiotics are not the sole source of exposure. About 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are actually used in livestock production to fatten up the animals and prevent disease.

So, unless you’re buying organic grass-fed meats, you’re likely ingesting minute doses of antibiotics with each hamburger and steak you eat.

This continuous low-dose exposure has the added downside of promoting antibiotic resistance. The role of antibiotics in promoting (rather than treating) disease is slowly gaining ground.

There’s no question that antibiotics have saved lives. But if you were to carefully analyze and objectively determine their true impact, you just might find they’ve done more harm than good.

Leyer cites the book “Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues,” written by Dr. Martin Blaser, which presents the theory that many of our modern disease epidemics may be rooted in the disruptive effect modern foods have on our microbiota.

“Keeping your intestinal microflora healthy, consuming healthy, active, probiotic bacteria is a key component to maintaining, in my opinion, your overall health,” Leyer says.

Probiotics for the Prevention of Leaky Gut, and More

Leaky gut results when there’s a disruption in the interconnections between the cells in your intestines. Little holes or tears can develop, allowing food particles to enter your blood stream, which can cause an autoimmune response.

It’s a serious problem, and I’ve known a number of people who nearly died from it. There are a number of causes for leaky gut, but whatever the cause, one of the most powerful remedies is to consume homemade organic bone broth and fermented vegetables. Certain probiotic supplements can also be helpful.

According to Leyer:

“I am familiar with the evidence behind certain probiotics and their ability to prevent or lessen leaky gut. The issue with leaky gut is that you’re getting things into the circulation system that aren’t supposed to be there. Lipopolysaccharides (LPS) … are gram-negative bacteria … [LPS] is a diagnostic test to look for leaky gut.

What we’re finding is that subchorionic levels of LPS circulating in the blood causes this chronic inflammation cascade. Chronic inflammation seems to be at the root of a lot of disease states … One that is front and center is type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance. There’s been some really intriguing work with probiotics maintaining tight-junction barrier, reducing leaky gut, reducing circulating LPS, and affecting insulin sensitivity through downplaying this inflammation.”

Probiotics have also been extensively tested for their immunological functions. For example, in the elderly, probiotics can help boost activity of immune cells that fight off cancer cells. The mechanism involved here is an orchestration of immune chemical messengers called cytokines. But there’s still much to be learned about the exact mechanisms by which probiotics influence health.

“There are some areas in the probiotic science where the mechanisms are becoming better understood. And there are some areas in probiotic science that is more theory than really causal right now. But the more layers of the onion you peel back, the more you understand this is an incredibly complicated web of information from gut to human, to nervous system to immune system. This complex interplay is not so simple that you can clearly identify,” Leyer explains.

Probiotics and the Gut-Brain Axis

It’s become quite clear that the benefits of probiotics transcend the gut. More recent studies have delved into the role of gut bacteria in the workings of the gut-brain axis, and how they benefit your mental and psychological health. Anxiety, depression and other mood disorders are increasingly recognized as being, in part, the result of an unbalanced microbiome.

Probiotics appear to have the ability to make compounds that interact directly with your brain. They certainly influence your immune system, which has interactions with and can cross the blood-brain barrier.

“There’s an interesting study that … looked retrospectively at a study where people gave infants probiotic bacteria for the first two years of their life,” Leyer says. “They were really looking at the ability of this probiotic to ward off the incidence of atopic eczema or skin rashes. When the kids were 13 years old, they went back and said, ‘Okay. Let’s look at autistic spectrum disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and [other] psychological kind of issues.’

Of the kids that took the probiotic, none had developed any kind of autistic spectrum disorders; 17 percent of those that did not get probiotics developed autistic spectrum disorders. The study wasn’t designed to look at ADHD or autism, but it’s an interesting way to look back in time and say:

Here’s a population of people that were essentially imprinted with probiotic bacteria at a very young age. We now understand that there’s this developmental window in young people that’s critically important for probiotics.”

Beware of ‘Probiotic’ Junk Food

As a general rule, I believe most people would be able to obtain most of their nutritional support from real food. This is certainly the case with beneficial bacteria, because there are a lot of good fermented foods that provide them.

One of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to probiotic foods is yogurt, because most of them are nothing more than creamy junk food. The Cornucopia Institute has published a Yogurt Buyer’s Guide and Scorecard2,3 where you can learn more about your favorite brands.

Many who seek to improve their health buy commercial yogurt from the grocery store, thinking they’re doing something good for themselves when in reality they’re not. They’d be far better off taking a probiotic supplement, as then they’d avoid added sugars and other unhealthy additives. The exception to that rule is traditionally cultured yogurt made from organic raw milk.

Commercial yogurts often contain upwards of 25 to 30 grams of sugar per serving, which meets or exceeds the daily recommended amount of sugar for the whole day!

The amount of probiotics you’ll get from commercial yogurt is also far lower than what you’d get from a high-quality probiotic supplement. A commercial yogurt might give you a million probiotic cells, which sounds like a lot, but if you take a quality-made supplement you’re getting tens of billions of probiotics — three orders of magnitude greater amounts. So in that respect, a supplement is clearly easier and more cost-effective.

“The other thing you have to consider is that in a yogurt, you’ve got a very acidic condition that’s degrading the quality of the probiotics over the course of the shelf life of that yogurt. In a quality-made dietary supplement, these probiotics are essentially in suspended animation or dormant until you consume them; they come back to life when you swallow the capsule,” Leyer notes.

Probiotic Guidelines

Many tend to imagine that taking probiotics is like planting seeds in your garden. They grow, reproduce, and all you basically have to do is “seed and feed” them. But that’s actually not the case. Your intestinal tract contains thousands of different bacterial types, not to mention fungi and viruses. It’s a challenging environment with lots of competition.

Probiotics have developed the ability to withstand normal concentrations of stomach acid and bile in the small intestine, and live there, but they don’t live and thrive there forever.

As noted by Leyer:

“When you stop taking the probiotics, studies show that you start seeing less and less of that probiotic residing there. It will decline to this baseline level of before you started taking a probiotic supplement. On the immune side, there are studies that show that immune benefits decline within a few days after stopping taking the probiotics. So it’s really important to maintain a continual onslaught of these healthy bacteria.”

Factors to look for when trying to identify a high-quality probiotic supplement include the following:

Make sure it’s a reputable brand. If you trust the products made by a company, perhaps they’re doing a great job making their probiotics as well.
Look for a potency count (colony forming units or CFUs) of 50 billion or higher. That’s the number of bacteria being delivered per dose.
Declaration of shelf life, i.e. the shelf life of the CFUs. Avoid capsules that only declare the CFUs at time of manufacture. Food products should be in resealable packaging and stored as directed
Look for a product containing multiple species of bacteria, as high diversity tends to be associated with better health. That said, products containing species of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria are generally recommended.

Examples would be Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus plantarum. These organisms predominantly reside in the small intestine or the upper gastrointestinal tract (GI) where a vast majority of your immune cells reside. Bifidobacteria, on the other hand, reside in the large intestine or the lower bowel, which is another critical location associated with health. Bifidobacterium lactis, Bifidobacterium longum, and Bifidobacterium bifidum are important ones.

Look for non-GMO brands.
Confirm that they’re manufactured according to current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP)4

Optimizing Your Microbiome Is a Potent Disease Prevention Strategy

As noted by Leyer, “probiotic consumption for health and wellness is here to stay.” A tremendous amount of research shows that the microbial community in your body has a wide ranging influence over your health. “The days of ‘all bacteria are bad’ are long gone,” Leyer says. “Eating clean and natural foods, nourishing your gut, and having a healthy intestinal community are really at the core of wellness.”

I also firmly believe that applying this knowledge can make a distinct and positive difference in your health, boosting not only your immune function, but also your neurological function and mood. Best of all, supporting your microbiome isn’t very complicated. You do need to take proactive steps to implement certain key strategies while actively avoiding other factors though. So to optimize your microbiome, consider the following recommendations:

Do Avoid
Eat plenty of fermented foods. Healthy choices include lassi, fermented grass-fed organic milk such as kefir, natto (fermented soy), and fermented vegetables. Antibiotics, unless absolutely necessary, and when you do, make sure to reseed your gut with fermented foods and/or a high quality probiotic supplement.5,6
Take a probiotic supplement. Although I’m not a major proponent of taking many supplements (as I believe the majority of your nutrients need to come from food), probiotics is an exception if you don’t eat fermented foodson a regular basis Conventionally-raised meats and other animal products, as CAFO animals are routinely fed low-dose antibiotics, plus genetically engineered grains loaded with glyphosate, which is widely known to kill many bacteria.
Boost your soluble and insoluble fiber intake, focusing on vegetables, nuts, and seeds, including sprouted seeds. Chlorinated and/or fluoridated water. Especially in your bathing such as showers, which are worse than drinking it.
Get your hands dirty in the garden. Exposure to bacteria and viruses can serve as “natural vaccines” that strengthen your immune system and provide long-lasting immunity against disease.

Getting your hands dirty in the garden can help reacquaint your immune system with beneficialmicroorganisms on the plants and in the soil.

According to a recent report,7 lack of exposure to the outdoors can in and of itself cause your microbiome to become “deficient.”

Processed foods. Excessive sugars, along with otherwise “dead” nutrients, feed pathogenic bacteria.

Food emulsifiers such as polysorbate 80, lecithin, carrageenan, polyglycerols, and xanthan gum also appear to have an adverse effect on your gut flora.8

Unless 100 percent organic, they may also contain GMOsthat tend to be heavily contaminated with pesticides such as glyphosate. Artificial sweeteners have also been found to alter gut bacteria in adverse ways.9

Open your windows. For the vast majority of human history the outside was always part of the inside, and at no moment during our day were we ever really separated from nature.

Today, we spend 90 percent of our lives indoors.And, although keeping the outside out does have its advantages it has also changed the microbiome of your home.

Research10 shows that opening a window and increasing natural airflow can improve the diversity and health of the microbes in your home, which in turn benefit you.

Agricultural chemicals, glyphosate (Roundup) in particular is a known antibiotic and will actively kill many of your beneficial gut microbes if you eat and foods contaminated with Roundup
Wash your dishes by hand instead of in the dishwasher. Research has shown that washing your dishes by hand leaves more bacteria on the dishes than dishwashers do, and that eating off these less-than-sterile dishes may actually decrease your risk of allergies by stimulating your immune system. Antibacterial soap, as they too kill off both good and bad bacteria, and contribute to the development of antibiotic resistance.

[+] Sources and References

Autophagy — How Your Body Detoxifies and Repairs Itself

March 11, 2016

By Dr. Mercola

While there are many different ways to rid your body of accumulated toxins, from detoxifying foods and chemical and/or natural detox agents to saunas, a biological process known as autophagy plays a key role.

The term autophagy means “self-eating,” and refers to the processes by which your body cleans out various debris, including toxins, and recycles damaged cell components.

The video above provides a more in-depth biochemical review of the autophagy processes involved in health and disease. As explained in layman’s terms by Greatist:1

“Your cells create membranes that hunt out scraps of dead, diseased, or worn-out cells; gobble them up; strip ’em for parts; and use the resulting molecules for energy or to make new cell parts.”

Dr. Colin Champ, a board-certified radiation oncologist and assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center explains it thus:

“Think of it as our body’s innate recycling program. Autophagy makes us more efficient machines to get rid of faulty parts, stop cancerous growths, and stop metabolic dysfunction like obesity and diabetes.”

By boosting your body’s autophagy process, you dampen inflammation, slow down the aging process, and optimize biological function. As noted by Fight Aging:2

“Greater autophagy taking place in tissue should mean fewer damaged and disarrayed cells at any given moment in time, which in turn should translate to a longer-lasting organism.”

Boosting Autophagy Through Exercise

Like the benefits of exercise, autophagy occurs in response to stress. And, in fact, exercise is one of the ways by which you boost autophagy. As you probably know, exercising creates mild damage to your muscles and tissues that your body then repairs, and by so doing makes your body stronger.

Exercise also helps flush out toxins by sweating, and is helpful for just about any detox program. In fact, many consider exercise a foundational aspect of effective detoxification.

Dr. George Yu, for example, who has been involved with clinical trials to help detoxify people from the Gulf War, recommends using a combination of exercise, sauna, and niacin supplementation to maximize elimination of toxins through your skin.

Exercise is an important component as it also causes vasodilation and increased blood flow. Beyond that, as noted in the featured article:

“One study looked at autophagosomes, structures that form around the pieces of cells that the body has decided to recycle.

After engineering mice to have glowing green autophagosomes … scientists found that the rate at which the mice were healthily demolishing their own cells drastically increased after they ran for 30 minutes on a treadmill.

The rate continued increasing until they’d been running for 80 minutes.”

How Much Exercise Do You Need to Optimize Autophagy?

The amount of exercise required to stimulate autophagy in humans is still unknown, however it is believed that intense exercise is more effective than mild exercise, which certainly makes logical sense.

That said, other research has shown that the “Goldilocks zone” in which exercise produces the greatest benefit for longevity is between 150 to 450 minutes of moderate exercise per week, lowering your risk of early death by 31 and 39 percent respectively.

Spending at least 30 percent of your workout on high-intensity exercises has also been shown to further boost longevity by about 13 percent, compared to exercising at a consistently moderate pace all the time.

Following these general guidelines will likely put you in the most advantageous position for maximizing autophagy as well.

How to Radically Inhibit Autophagy

One of the quickest ways to shut down autophagy is to eat large amounts of protein. What this will do is stimulate IGF-1 and mTOR, which are potent inhibitors of autophagy.

That is why it’s best to limit your protein to about 40 to 70 grams per day, depending on your lean body mass. The specific formula is one gram of protein for every kilogram of lean body mass, or one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body mass.

Substantial amounts of protein can be found in meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Some vegetables also contain generous amounts of protein — for example, broccoli. Forty grams of protein is not a large amount of food — it’s the equivalent of one six-ounce chicken breast.

To determine whether or not you’re getting too much protein, simply calculate your body’s requirement based on your lean body mass, and write down everything you eat for a few days. Then calculate the amount of daily protein you’ve consumed from all sources.

If you’re currently averaging a lot more than what is optimal, adjust downward accordingly. The following chart provides a quick overview of how much protein is in various foods.

Red meat, pork, poultry, and seafood average 6 to 9 grams of protein per ounce.

An ideal amount for most people would be a 3-ounce serving of meat or seafood (not 9- or 12-ounce steaks!), which will provide about 18 to 27 grams of protein

Eggs contain about 6 to 8 grams of protein per egg. So an omelet made from two eggs would give you about 12 to 16 grams of protein

If you add cheese, you need to calculate that protein in as well (check the label of your cheese)

Seeds and nuts contain on average 4 to 8 grams of protein per quarter cup Cooked beans average about 7 to 8 grams per half cup
Cooked grains average 5 to 7 grams per cup Most vegetables contain about 1 to 2 grams of protein per ounce

The Importance of Mitochondrial Biogenesis

Healthy mitochondria are at the core of staying healthy and preventing disease. Mitochondrial damage can trigger genetic mutations that can contribute to cancer, so optimizing the health of your mitochondria is a key component of cancer prevention. Autophagy is one way to remove damaged mitochondria, but biogenesis is the process by which new healthy mitochondria can be duplicated.

Interestingly, exercise plays a dual role as it not only stimulates autophagy but is also one of the most potent stimulators of mitochondrial biogenesis. It does this by increasing a signal in your body called AMPK, which in turn activates PGC-1 alpha.

By stimulating  your mitochondria — the organelles in nearly every cell that produce ATP — to work harder, your mitochondria start making reactive oxygen species (ROS), which act as signaling molecules. One of the functions they signal is to make more mitochondria.

In essence, the key to preventing disease — virtually  eliminating the risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, many other diseases — and  slowing down the aging process lies in  optimizing mitochondrial function and increasing mitochondrial numbers. Thankfully, exercise helps you do both.

Intermittent Fasting — Another Way to Boost Autophagy

Fasting is another biological stressor that produces many beneficial results, including autophagy. In fact, some of the benefits associated with fasting — such as a reduced risk of diabetes and heart disease — can at least in part be attributed to this process.

While there are many different kinds of intermittent fasting schedules, if you’re insulin resistant, my personal recommendation is to fast every day by scheduling all of your eating within a window of approximately 8 hours or less. For example, you could restrict your eating to the hours of 11am and 7pm. This equates to 16 hours of daily fasting.

I used to recommend skipping breakfast, but I’ve since realized that it probably doesn’t matter which meal you skip — breakfast or dinner — as long as you skip one of them. Some really struggle without breakfast, so play around with it and find out what works best for you.

Eating between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. may work better for some people, and this schedule actually has an added advantage, because you’re now fasting for several hours before going to bed. I’m convinced that it’s best for most to avoid eating three hours prior to bed, as the last thing you need to be doing is producing energy when you don’t need it.

There’s compelling evidence showing that when you supply fuel to your mitochondria at a time when they don’t need it, they leak a large number of electrons that liberate reactive oxygen species as free radicals.

These free radicals damage your mitochondrial and eventually nuclear DNA. There’s also evidence indicating that cancer cells uniformly have damaged mitochondria, so eating too close to bedtime is not a good idea. I personally strive for six hours of fasting before bedtime, but at bare minimum, avoid eating at least three hours before going to bed.

To Boost Autophagy, Switch to a High-Fat, Low-Carb Diet

Nutritional ketogenesis is a third strategy that will help boost autophagy, and to accomplish that, you need to cut down on the non-fiber carbs and increase the amount of healthy fat in your diet, along with a moderate amount of protein. (Many Americans tend to eat far more protein than they need, which will counteract your efforts to get into nutritional ketosis.)  According to Champ:3

“Ketogenesis is like an autophagy hack. You get a lot of the same metabolic changes and benefits of fasting without actually fasting … Between 60 and 70 percent of one’s overall calories should come from [healthy] fat … Protein makes up 20 to 30 percent of calories, while carbs are kept below 50 grams per day …  Similar benefits have been noted in people following a diet in which carbs didn’t exceed 30 percent of their overall calories.”

Most Americans consume harmful fats like processed vegetable oils, which will invariably make your health worse. Not only is it processed, it’s very high in omega-6 oils, and excess omega-6 fats will integrate into the inner mitochondrial membrane and become highly susceptible to oxidative damage, causing your mitochondria to die prematurely.

It is best to keep omega-6 fats consumption to less than 4 to 5 percent of your total daily calories Replace the omega-6 fats with healthy fats-  such as natural, unprocessed fat- found in real foods such as seeds, nuts, real butter, olives, avocado, orcoconut oil.

It’s also important to make the distinction about which carbs we’re talking about when we say “low-carb,” as vegetables are “carbs” too. However, fiber carbs (i.e. vegetables) will not push your metabolism in the wrong direction — only the non-fiber ones will (think sugars and anything that converts to sugar, such as soda, processed grains, pasta, bread and cookies, for example).

Even more importantly, the fiber is not broken down by sugar but travels down the digestion system, is consumed by bacteria in your intestine, and converted to short chain fats that actually improve your health.

If you look at the nutrition facts on a processed food package, it will list total carbs, and again, that’s not what we’re talking about. To calculate the dangerous non-fiber carbs, simply subtract the grams of fiber from the grams of total carbohydrate in the food in question. Remember, you do need carbs, but you need most all of them from vegetables, which are also high in fiber.

Autophagy Restores Function in Aging Muscle Stem Cells

It has long been known that mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) in skeletal muscle are an important part of the muscle repair process. Previous research4 has shown that exercise affects the behavior of your muscle stem cells, and may help prevent or even restore age-related muscle loss. MSCs in muscle are very responsive to mechanical strain, and these stem cells accumulate in muscle post-exercise.

And, while the MSCs do not directly contribute to building new muscle fibers, they do release growth factors, which encourage other cells to generate new muscle. It’s also known that people’s muscles tend to become increasingly deficient in MSCs with age, and that autophagy efficiency declines as well. As a result, metabolic waste starts to build up in your cells and tissues.

A recent Spanish study5 reports that satellite cells — muscle stem cells responsible for tissue regeneration — rely on autophagy to prevent the arrest of the cell cycle, known as cellular senescence; a state in which stem cell activity significantly declines. In short, to improve the regeneration of muscle tissue, you need to augment autophagy.

With efficient autophagy — your body’s internal cleaning mechanism — your stem cells retain the ability to maintain and repair your tissues.

As reported by Fight Aging:6

“The researchers demonstrated that restoring youthful levels of autophagy in old satellite cell populations can restore them from senescence and return their regenerative capabilities … The paper … is one of the more compelling of recent arguments for putting more effort into treatments based on artificially increased levels of autophagy …

[M]any of the methods known to modestly slow aging in laboratory species are associated with increased levels of autophagy. It is a vital component in hormesis, wherein causing a little damage leads to a lasting increase in autophagy and a net gain. Stem cells spend much of their time in a state of quiescence, only springing into action when called upon.

This helps to preserve them for the long term. In older tissues with greater levels of molecular damage, ever more stem cells slip from quiescence into an irreversible senescent state. These senescent cells are no longer capable of generating new cells, and start to secrete all sorts of harmful signal molecules.”

Health and Longevity Are Rooted in Mitochondrial Function

The take-home message here is that your lifestyle determines your fate in terms of how long you’ll live and, ultimately, how healthy those years will be. For optimal health and disease prevention, you need healthy mitochondria and efficient autophagy (cellular cleaning and recycling), and three key lifestyle factors that have a beneficial effect on both are:

  1. What you eat: A diet high in quality fats, moderate in protein, and low in non-fiber carbs. Eating organic and grass-fed is also important, as commonly used pesticides like glyphosate cause mitochondrial damage
  2. When you eat: Daily intermittent fasting tends to be the easiest to adhere to, but any fasting schedule that you willconsistently follow will work
  3. Exercise, with high intensity interval exercises being the most effective

7 Domestic Factors That Can Make or Break Your Health


March 09, 2016

By Dr. Mercola

More than 80,000 chemicals are put into American household products, food, and food packaging each year, a majority of which are not tested for safety beforehand.

The typical American home contains an average of 3 to 10 gallons of toxic materials in the form of household cleaning products alone.1

In Europe, more than 1,300 chemicals are banned from use in lotions, soaps, toothpaste, cosmetics, and other personal care products. In the U.S., a mere 11 have been banned.2

Add to this toxic flame retardants, found in countless items from furniture to baby products and electronics, and it’s easy to see why some experts warn that many are likely to be exposed to dangerous levels of chemicals.

Many of these chemicals end up in household dust, and young children in particular may ingest about 50 milligrams of household dust a day, making house dust an important source of toxic exposure3 that can play a role in the development of both obesity4 and other serious health problems.

Toxic Exposure Has Gone ‘Too Far,’ Experts Warn

When asked whether we need to reduce the use of chemicals in our homes, Professor Stephen Holgate, an asthma expert at the University of Southampton and lead author of a new indoor air report5 by The Royal College of Physicians replied:6

“Yes, we should. It has gone too far. There are 15,000 chemicals circulating in an average human. Many are in tiny quantities, but we need to find out more about how these mixtures interact when they get inside the human body — especially the fetus, which is very sensitive.”

While it’s virtually impossible to avoid toxic chemicals entirely, you can significantly reduce your exposure by being vigilant about what you bring into your home and use on a daily basis. More often than not, there are safe, effective, and less expensive alternatives to the toxic products you use.

In this article, I’ll review seven areas of concern in the average home, where toxic chemicals or other hazards may be adversely impacting your health — including your weight.7

1. Processed Foods

Besides being loaded with empty calories courtesy of their high sugar content, processed foods are also a primary source of synthetic food additives, preservatives, colors, and flavor enhancers; many of which have never been properly tested for long-term safety.

Moreover, a recent assessment8 done by the Danish National Food Institute warns that even small amounts of chemicals can amplify each other’s adverse effects when combined, yet whatever risk assessment is done on these chemicals is typically done on individual chemicals in isolation.

Most notably, the researchers found that even non-carcinogenic chemicals may act synergistically and cause cancer when combined!

This is a significant concern, considering the fact that more than 10,000 additives are allowed in food and food packaging. The latter often containbisphenol-A (BPA), bisphenol-S (BPS), and phthalates, for example, which can migrate into your food.

Propyl paraben, used as a food preservative, is just one in a long list of hazardous food additives permitted in the U.S. It’s an endocrine-disrupting chemical found in about 50 brand name foods, including tortillas, muffins, cakes, and food dyes.9

Meanwhile, the European Union removed propyl paraben from its list of safe food additives in 2006 due to its potential health hazards, which includes estrogenic activity (making it relevant when it comes to estrogen-sensitive cancers like breast cancer).

It’s also been shown to impair fertility in women, and reduce sperm counts and testosterone levels in men.10 The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has launched a social media campaign and petition aimed at getting the chemical out of the US food supply.

To avoid these kinds of chemicals, ditch processed and pre-packaged foods — including baked goods, condiments, and sweetened beverages — and eat REAL food, ideally organic and locally grown, to maximize freshness and avoid harmful pesticides as well.

2. Indoor Air Pollutants

According to the EPA, indoor air contains 2 to 5 times more contaminants than outdoor air, and on occasion, as much as 100 times more. The list of indoor air pollutants is long.11 A shocking 2009 study12 identified a whopping 586 chemicals in the air of 52 ordinary homes near the Arizona-Mexico border.

This included the pesticides diazinon, chlorpyrifos and DDT; high levels of phthalates; and 120 chemicals they couldn’t even identify.

Just about anything in your home can contribute to poor air quality, including chemicals in paints, flooring, and furnishings, as well as household cleaning products and air fresheners.

As a general rule, if a product is scented, it carries a health risk (unless the scent comes from a pure essential oil). According to the Royal College of Physicians air quality report,13 airing out your home for at least a few minutes every day can go a long way toward improving air quality.

One caveat would be if you live in an area of high pollution, such as next to a main road. In those cases, you may need to consider using an air purifier inside your home. Houseplants are also beneficial. The spider plant, for example, has been shown to reduce levels of formaldehyde in the air.14

NASA tests have shown that houseplants can remove up to 87 percent of air toxins in 24 hours. They recommend using 15 to 18 “good-sized” houseplants in 6- to 8-inch diameter containers for an 1,800 square-foot house.

Non-Toxic DIY Cleaning Recipes

While the sources of indoor air pollution are numerous, household cleaning products rank high on that list, including laundry detergents and dryer sheets, which can release as many as 600 different volatile organic compounds (VOCs). You’re also likely to absorb toxins from these products via your skin during the act of cleaning, not to mention the fumes you inhale in the process.

While there are safer products on the market, including my Greener Cleaner Laundry Pouches, it’s easy to be tricked, as many chemicals are not required to be listed on the label. Fortunately, it’s both easy and inexpensive to make your own cleaning solutions. has a list of recipes15 that is well worth printing out or bookmarking for future reference, as it covers virtually every cleaning situation you can think of. Here are a few of my favorite tips from that list. For the rest, please refer to the original article.

Bathroom Kitchen Laundry Multi-purpose
Deodorizing toilet scrub: Pour ½ cup of baking soda and about 10 drops of tea tree essential oil into the toilet bowl, followed by ¼ cup of vinegar. Scrub with toilet brush. All-purpose countertop cleaner: Mix equal parts vinegar and water. Spray on and wipe off.

For stone counters, use rubbing alcohol or vodka with water instead, as the acidity may harm certain surfaces like marble and granite.

Homemade laundry detergent: My Healthy Green Family16 offers a borax-free laundry detergent recipe using just five non-toxic ingredients: glycerine soap, washing soda, baking soda, citric acid, and coarse salt.

For full instructions, please see the original source.17

Non-toxic tile floor cleaner: For tile floors, mix one part white vinegar with two parts warm water in a bucket.

Scrub as usual, using either a mop or rag. No need to rinse.

Beware that vinegar is not recommended for either varnished wood or other wood flooring.

Tub and shower scrub: Combat mildew by spraying straight white vinegar onto the area.

Let sit for 30 minutes. Scrub with sponge if needed, and rinse with warm water.

For more heavy-duty grime, mix baking soda with a small amount of liquid castile soap. Scrub and rinse.

Soap scum can also be cleaned using a small dollop of coconut oil on a damp cloth.

Spray the area with white vinegar and wipe dry with a lint-free cloth.

Cutting board sanitizer(wood or plastic): Cut a fresh lemon in half and rub it across the surface in question.

Let the juice sit for 10 minutes, then rinse.

You can also use coconut oil to clean, sanitize, and condition your wooden cutting board.

Use whenever the wood starts to look dry.

Homemade fabric softener: Add 20 to 30 drops of essential oil to a one-gallon jug of white vinegar.

Add 1/3 cup to each load of laundry. (Shake before use.)

All-purpose mirror and window cleaner: Mix one part white vinegar with four parts water.

Add lemon juice for a citrusy smell. Lemon juice will also provide extra grease-cutting power.

Spray onto the mirror or window, and scrub off with sponge or rag.

Antibacterial disinfectant: Bathrooms are breeding grounds for germs of all kinds, but antibacterial products such as those containingtriclosan can do more harm than good.

For a homemade antibacterial solution, mix 2 cups of water with 3 tablespoons of castile soap and 20 to 30 drops of tea tree oil.

Spray onto the surface (such as toilet seat and sink), then wipe off.

Homemade dishwasher detergent: Mix equal parts of liquid castile soap and water. You can add lemon if you like.

Use about 2 teaspoons of lemon juice to mixture of 1 cup water and 1 cup soap. Store in a glass jar.

Pour the mixture into the detergent compartment in your dishwasher, and add plain white vinegar to the rinse compartment.

Non-toxic fabric freshener/dryer sheets: Stuff a sachet bag with dried herbs of your choice and use in lieu of commercial fabric fresheners sheets.

Another option is to dab a few drops of essential oil on a lint-free rag.

Both are, of course, reusable.

Simply add new herbs, or a few more drops of essential oil when you feel it’s losing its scent.

Conditioning furniture polish: Combine ¼ cup vinegar with ¾ cup olive oil.

Distribute onto the furniture using a soft, lint-free cloth, and wipe off.

For wood furniture, mix ¼ cup lemon juice with ½ cup olive oil, then follow the same procedure as above.

Alternatively, you can just use straight coconut oil in the same manner.

In all situations, test your mixture on a small area first.

3. Flame Retardants

Couch cushions, carpeting, mattresses, children’s items and electronics are common sources of toxic flame retardant chemicals, many of which have been linked to serious health risks, including infertility, birth defects, neurodevelopmental delays,18 reduced IQ and behavioral problems in children, hormone disruptions,19 and cancer.

In fact, flame retardant chemicals have been identified as one of 17 “high priority” chemical groups that should be avoided toreduce breast cancer.20,21

There’s also research to suggest pets are adversely impacted. For example, hyperthyroidism in cats has been linked to polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) exposure.22 These chemicals are also poisoning both pets and wildlife, according to recent tests.

The most comprehensive recommendation is to opt for organic or “green” alternatives no matter what product is under consideration — be it a piece of furniture, clothing, kids toys, cleaning product, or personal care item. This is by far the easiest route, as manufacturers are not required to disclose the chemicals they use to make their products comply with safety regulations, such as fire safety regulations.

Your mattress and bedding, for example, may be soaked in toxic flame retardants, but you will not find the chemicals listed on any of the labels. Wool and silk are two excellent alternatives, as they’re both naturally flame retardant. If you have trouble finding them locally, I have wool and silk comforters, pillows, mattresses, and mattress pads available in my online store.

4. Personal Care Products

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Click on the code area and press CTRL + C (for Windows) / CMD + C (for Macintosh) to copy the code.

The average American woman uses 12 personal care products and/or cosmetics a day, containing an average of 168 different chemicals. Items such as tampons, pads, and liners are also chockfull of toxic chemicals, including dioxin, chlorine disinfection byproducts, plus genetically engineered cotton and pesticides. Men, who tend to use fewer products, are still exposed to about 85 chemicals from their daily regimen.

Almost 13,000 chemicals are used in cosmetics, and only about 10 percent have been evaluated for safety. As recently reported by Reuters:23

“Some creams, shampoos, after-shaves and toothpastes made by groups such as L’Oreal and Procter & Gamble, may contain potentially harmful substances … French consumer protection group UFC-Que Choisir … published a list of 185 products it said contained substances that were legal, but could cause allergies, irritations or endocrinal disorders …

The study pointed, for example, to eight brands of baby wipes including L’Oreal’s Bebe Cadum and Mixa, Beiersdorf’s Nivea and Procter & Gamble’s (P&G) Pampers that contain phenoxyethanol, which it said could be toxic for the blood and liver.”

To avoid potentially toxic ingredients, look for products bearing the USDA 100 percent Organic seal, and be sure to read the list of ingredients. The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database24 can help you find personal care products that are free of questionable chemicals.

I’ve also created a personal line of skin care products with well-recognizable ingredients, such as organic coconut oil, orange oil, or rosemary extract, as well as a line of feminine hygiene products using 100 percent organic cotton.

Coconut Oil Can Replace a Slew of Personal Care Products

When it comes to personal care products, your safest, not to mention least expensive, bet is to simplify your beauty routine and make your own products using wholesome all-natural ingredients. For example, plain organic coconut oil can replace a long list of costly and potentially toxic products, including the following.25,26 If you want something scented, simply add a drop or two of your favorite high-quality essential oil.

Hair treatments: Coconut oil is well known for its hair benefits.27 Most women seem to prefer using it as a pre-shampoo conditioner. Simply massage the coconut oil onto dry hair and leave on for about an hour or longer. You could even leave it on overnight. Just wear a shower cap or use a towel to protect your pillow. Then, wash and style as usual.
Makeup remover: Swipe on with a moist cotton ball. Wipe off with clean cotton ball or wet washcloth.
Facial cleanser: Massage a dollop of coconut oil onto face and neck. Wash off with wet washcloth and pat dry.
Body scrub: Mix equal parts coconut oil with organic cane sugar in a glass jar. Use the scrub on dry skin prior to your shower or bath.
Facial scrub: Instead of sugar, mix coconut oil with baking soda, or oatmeal with a dash of cinnamon, for a gentle facial scrub.
Shaving lotion: Apply a thin layer of coconut oil on area to be shaved, and shave as usual. The lauric acid in the coconut oil will also serve as an antiseptic for cuts that result from shaving.
Face and body moisturizer: You can use it either by itself, or add your favorite essential oil. (Make sure you’re using a high-quality essential oil that is safe for topical application.) The featured article28 also suggests whipping the coconut oil with an electric mixer to produce a fluffy moisturizer that stays soft and spreadable even in cooler temperatures.

When applied topically, coconut oil helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by helping to keep your connective tissues strong and supple, and aids in exfoliating the outer layer of dead skin cells, making your skin smoother.

Eye cream: Apply a thin layer of coconut oil around your eyes to soften wrinkles and counteract thinning, sagging skin.
Cuticle cream: Simply rub a small amount of coconut oil around your cuticles to soften dry areas.
Deodorant: Applying a small amount of coconut oil directly onto your armpits can help keep odors at bay, courtesy of the oil’s antibacterial properties. If you prefer, you can add a small amount of baking soda, or make a homemade deodorant using coconut oil, baking soda and arrow root powder. For directions, see the second video above. also lists additional deodorant recipes using coconut oil as the base.29
Bath soak: Adding coconut oil to your bath can help moisturize dry itchy skin. (Make sure to scrub your tub afterward to prevent slipping!). Make sure the water is warmer than 76 degrees Fahrenheit though; otherwise the oil will turn to a solid.

Soap: Coconut oil is one of the base ingredients in many homemade soap recipes, such as this one by
Lip balm: You can either apply a small amount of coconut oil, as is, or make your own lip balm using coconut oil as one of the base ingredients. You can find all sorts of recipes online, but here’s one by The Liberated Kitchen.31
Toothpaste: Mixed with baking soda, coconut oil can replace your regular toothpaste. The baking soda will gently cleanse while the coconut oil’s antibacterial action may help keep harmful bacteria in check. For recipes using essential oils to spruce up your toothpaste, see
Insect repellent: Mixing coconut oil with high-quality essential oils may help keep biting insects at bay when applied to exposed skin. Effective choices include: peppermint, lemon balm, rosemary, tea tree oil, neem, citronella (Java Citronella), geraniol, catnip oil (according to one study,33 catnip oil is 10 times more effective than DEET), and/or clear vanilla extract

5. Inappropriate Lighting Conditions

Besides chemical exposures, your home and living conditions can also make or break your health in other ways. For example, to optimize sleep, you’ll want to optimize lighting conditions so that you get plenty of natural sunlight during the day and minimal artificial lighting at night.

Many allow too much light in their bedroom at night, which can make sleep more elusive, as light exposure prevents the release of melatonin — a hormone that helps regulate your waking and sleeping cycles. And once your sleep cycle is disrupted, most other health problems tend to be aggravated. As reported by Time Magazine:34

“According to a new study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, research participants who slept in the darkest rooms were 21 percent less likely to be obese than those sleeping in the lightest rooms. That connection is tied to the main sleep hormone … melatonin.

Too little melatonin means that we don’t properly get into sleep mode, which you can also think of as slimming mode. Lose the night light and look into getting some blackout curtains for a darkness-induced boost to your weight loss goals.”

Poor sleep is also associated with overeating, due to the effect it has on the hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin, and the situation can be further aggravated by lack of bright light exposure first thing in the morning. Research35 shows that dim lighting in the early morning following a night of sleep deprivation results in reduced leptin levels and increased ghrelin. Those who got blue light exposure after a night of poor sleep had higher leptin levels.

So once you get up, be sure to open the blinds and greet the morning sun. If it’s still dark outside, such as in wintertime, use full spectrum light bulbs. Other research shows that spending at least 30 to 60 minutes in bright natural sunlight around noon will help “anchor” your circadian rhythm, thereby making it easier to fall asleep at night.

Once the sun sets, avoid bright artificial lighting and blue light-emitting items like TV’s, cell phones, computers and tablets, all of which inhibit melatonin production and impede sleep. As noted by Time Magazine:

“A study in the Pediatric Obesity journal found that kids who bask in the nighttime glow of a TV or computer tend to have poorer lifestyle habits and are less likely to get enough rest. Researchers found that students with access to one electronic device were 1.47 times as likely to be overweight as kids with no devices in the bedroom. That increased to 2.57 times for kids with three devices — so leave your iPad in the living room.”

6. Inappropriate Temperature

Many also keep their homes too warm at night, especially their bedrooms. Time Magazine cites a study in the journal Diabetes, which “suggests that simply blasting the air conditioner or turning down the heat in winter may help us attack belly fat while we sleep.” This has to do with your so-called brown fat, which helps keep your body warm by burning stored fat. Brown fat also plays a role in regulating blood sugar.

According to the article:

“Participants spent a few weeks sleeping in bedrooms with varying temperatures: A neutral 75 degrees, a cool 66 degrees, and a balmy 81 degrees. After four weeks of sleeping at 66 degrees, the subjects had almost doubled their volumes of brown fat. (And yes, that means they were able to lose belly fat.)”

Moreover, keeping the temperature in your bedroom below 70 degrees Fahrenheit will help optimize your sleep. Research shows the optimal temperature for sleep is actually as low as 60 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit and below 54 degrees will interfere with your sleep.36

7. Excessive EMF Exposure

Lasts but not least on my list of domestic factors that can aid or hamper your healthy lifestyle efforts is exposure toelectromagnetic fields (EMF) and dirty electricity. Your body is a complex communication device where cells, tissues, and organs “talk” to each other to perform basic functions. At each of these levels, the communication includes finely tuned bio-electrical transmitters and receivers, which are tuned like tuning into a radio station.

What happens when you expose a radio antenna to a significant amount of external noise? You get static from the noise — and that is what is happening to your body in today’s “electrosmog” environment. It’s not only cell phones that pose a problem; all form of dirty electricity has the potential to harm human health.

In his book, “Dirty Electricity: Electrification and the Diseases of Civilization,” epidemiologist Dr. Sam Milham points out that the major diseases plaguing modern man — heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc. — may be triggered by dirty electricity.37

EMF can also disrupt sleep, and if you do nothing else, I urge you to at least empty your bedroom of any and all electronic devices, especially cell phones and portable phone bases. Keep only battery-driven devices like alarm clocks by your bed. For more guidelines on how to reduce your EMF exposure at home, please see my previous article, “EMF Controversy Exposed.”

As you can see, there are many easily overlooked health hazards in your home, and addressing the most common ones, reviewed in this article, can help “sanitize” your home from a wide variety of health harming influences — from toxic chemicals in food and various household items, to the influences of light, temperature and electromagnetic emissions that can undermine all other efforts to improve your health.