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All You Need to Know About Canker Sores: An Introduction

The term ?canker sores? may not ring a bell for some, but most people have actually been affected by these types of mouth ulcers at some point in their lives. If you?ve experienced pain because of round or oval sores that have a grayish-white film and red, inflamed borders,1 this means that you?ve had canker sores.

Fast Facts About Canker Sores

Canker sores, which also go by the name of aphthous ulcers, are the most common type of mouth ulcers among people.2 These painful but noncontagious sores typically appear on the inner portion of the cheeks and lips, upper area of the mouth (usually in the soft palate behind the roof of your mouth), on the tongue and at the gums.3,4

Anyone can be affected by canker sores. However, adolescents and young adults should take extra precaution, since canker sores seem to be prevalent during this period.5 Women also have a higher risk for canker sores compared to men.6

Canker sores can be classified into three types: minor; major; and Herpetiform. People can distinguish these sores from each other by examining their sizes, appearances, pain and even recovery time.7

Why Do People Get Canker Sores?

Canker sores often develop because of minor mouth injuries, such as from dental work, sports accidents, intense tooth brushing or accidental cheek bites. Some sores may also arise from using toothpastes and mouth rinses containing a chemical called sodium lauryl sulfate. Eating foods that can trigger allergy reactions or sensitivities can also sometimes cause canker sores.  

Nutrient deficiencies and even exposure to certain bacteria strains are other causes of the sores. In some cases, canker sores might be symptoms of potentially devastating diseases such as celiac disease, inflammatory bowel diseases, Behcet?s disease, HIV/AIDS or a weakened immune system.8

How You Can Go From Painful to Painless

Although canker sores can cause extreme pain, these lesions tend to heal fast ? the pain usually disappears within seven to 10 days, while complete recovery is estimated at one to three weeks. Moreover, treatment isn?t necessary for canker sores, as they usually heal on their own.9

Additional medical treatment might be required only if a patient experiences large, recurrent and unusually painful sores.10 Unfortunately, this is where trouble can creep in, since some conventional cures can potentially cause more pain and affect your body negatively.

If you?ve struggled or are currently struggling with canker sores, take some time to read these pages. You will find information about how these sores can affect you, the best foods you can eat, natural remedies that you can utilize and preventive measures that you should consider.

MORE ABOUT CANKER SORES

? Canker Sore: Introduction

? What Is a Canker Sore?

? Canker Sore Causes

? Canker Sore Types

? Canker Sore Symptoms

? Canker Sore Treatment

? How to Get Rid of Canker Sores

? Canker Sore Prevention

? Canker Sore Diet

? Canker Sore FAQ

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What Is a Canker Sore?

Kratom as an Alternative for Opium Withdrawal

By Dr. Mercola

With opioid overdose being the No. 1 cause of death of Americans under the age of 50, it's quite clear we need safer alternatives to pain management. Rampant opioid addiction is so significant it has even led to a decline in life expectancy in the U.S.

In this interview, Christopher McCurdy, professor of medicinal chemistry at the University of Florida College of Pharmacy and former postdoctoral fellow in opioid chemistry at the University of Minnesota under a National Institutes of Health (NIH) postdoctoral training fellowship, discusses the use of kratom for pain relief and opioid withdrawal. He's one of just a handful of American scientists studying kratom, which he's been investigating for nearly 15 years. According to McCurdy:

"[A]bout 115 or 116 people a day [are] now dying from opioid overdose .. It's surpassed car accidents and other forms of death ? This plant, I believe, has real potential to help curb this. It may not be the single solution to the crisis, but it certainly could help."

What Is Kratom?

Kratom (mitragyna speciosa) is a native tree of Thailand and Malaysia, but it grows all over Southeast Asia in tropical areas. While part of the coffee family, it has a very different chemistry than coffee beans. Kratom has been used in traditional medicine in Thailand and Malaysia for centuries, primarily to boost energy. It also has a long history of use as an opium substitute.

"A lot of opium smokers who would run out of opium would use kratom preparations to tide them over until they could get their opium. They also found that it was a very good way to wean themselves off of opium or wean other family members or friends from opium," McCurdy says.

"They would ? pluck the leaves fresh in the morning, brew a tea and then drink that tea two or three times a day ?  That brings about a lot of questions scientifically, as to why does that work, and is it habit-forming and habituating itself?"

Unfortunately, there's not much research being done on kratom, in part because you cannot patent natural products such as plant material. You also cannot patent the plant's use for opioid withdrawal or pain relief of antidepressive treatment, as all of these therapeutic potentials are covered under the historical use of kratom. McCurdy explains:

"If you were to produce any of the molecules through a patentable process, like a total synthesis or an enzymatic or biochemical synthesis, then that could be a product that could be patented. That process could be patented. That could move forward into commercialization. But simply getting the plant material itself as it's available today in the marketplace and making an extract ? does not lend itself to a patentable standpoint ?"

Kratom Has Opioid Activity

McCurdy has studied how kratom affects opiate addiction and withdrawal. The plant contains a number of alkaloids (nitrogen-containing compounds). Morphine is an example of an alkaloid found in the poppy plant. Kratom contains corynantheine alkaloids, the primary one being mitragynine, thought to be responsible for most of its pharmacological effects. That said, there are many other alkaloids in the plant, and many of its compounds work synergistically to cause beneficial effects.

Mitragynine does have opioid activity. It and many other alkaloids in the kratom plant were recently called out as opioids by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner. "A lot of people were upset about that at first, but I think they need to understand that an opioid is any molecule that can interact with opioid receptors or those proteins in the body," McCurdy says. In other words, an opioid is not identical to an opiate, derived from opium poppy, such as morphine, oxycodone or oxymorphone. Opioid is a generic term that include even endogenous endorphins that bind to opioid receptors in your body.

Mitragynine Is Different From Other Opioids

While it has opioid activity, the mitragynine molecule is different from other opioid molecules. McCurdy explains:

"We initially sent out purified alkaloid of mitragynine for a screen across a whole panel of central nervous system drug targets ? What we found was a really remarkable profile of this molecule. For example, morphine ? is pretty selective for opioid receptors. Mitragynine binds with opioid receptors ? but it also interacts with adrenergic receptors, serotonin receptors, dopamine receptors, and adenosine receptors.

Adenosine receptors are the target for caffeine. It kind of explains why some of these alkaloids in the plant might cause this excitation or stimulant-like effect. It also interacts with alpha-2 adrenergic receptors, [which] are ? used in opioid withdrawal. Agents that activate alpha-2 receptors, like clonidine, are used in opioid withdrawal treatment to stop withdrawal symptoms such as shaking, sweating and heart racing ?  

In all honesty, when I got the report back from the company that screened the molecule, I thought, 'Wow. We just found nature's answer to opiate addictio.' because here it was interacting with many of the same targets that we would target pharmacologically on an individual basis ? Then we went on to pursue much more detailed pharmacology studies, looking at what is it doing in animals addicted to morphine and how the animals behave when we take away their morphine and turn them over to mitragynine.

What we saw was really remarkable. We compared mitragynine to methadone and buprenorphine, the two marketed drugs to treat opioid addiction and opioid withdrawal. What we found was a much cleaner profile. [Kratom] wasn't incredibly superior ? but it seemed to be milder. It activates opioid receptors. So does methadone and buprenorphine, but buprenorphine and methadone seem to be full agonists or activators of opioid receptors, whereas mitragynine, we think, is a partial agonist ?  

Also, it activates a different signaling pathway once the receptor is turned on ? It can be thought of as different inputs into a television ? where the system is on but we're getting input from a Blu-ray player or we're getting input from a satellite ? just different ways of signaling.

Mitragynine seems to signal in a way that seems to not cause respiratory depression, at least to the extent that other traditional opiate drugs do ? Respiratory depression or stopping breathing is essentially the cause of death from opiate overdose. Opioids are pretty safe to your body's organs, except for the fact that they are central nervous system-depressants. They will shut everything off."

How Kratom Eases Withdrawal Symptoms

As a therapeutic agent to help people get off opioids, kratom offers significant benefits. In the CNN news report above, Dr. Sanjay Gupta talks to two opioid addicts who kicked their habit with kratom, and interviews McCurdy about kratom's superior ability to serve as a treatment for opioid addiction. It does, however, need to be regulated, McCurdy believes, to avoid the hazardous mixing with other far more dangerous drugs. It is this mixing, he claims, that is responsible for the deaths that have been linked to kratom.

So, just how does kratom work to curb opiate addiction? As explained by McCurdy, there are three traditional opioid receptors: mu, delta and kappa, all three of which are associated with numbing or dulling pain. In other words, they're analgesic receptors. They block or slow pain signal transmissions at the spinal cord level, so your brain doesn't process the pain signals as much.

Mu was named for its ability to interact with morphine. The mu receptor is responsible for the euphoric effects associated with opiates. It's also primarily responsible for respiratory depression. The delta receptor is also a target for selective analgesics, and does not appear to have as strongly addictive capabilities as the mu receptor. Unfortunately, the delta receptor is linked to convulsions, and many drug trials aimed at the delta-selective opioid receptor had to be halted due to seizures that could not be resolved. Kratom does not appear to significantly interact with delta receptors.

The kappa opioid receptor, while good for killing pain, causes dysphoria ? aversive-type feelings. "In the '70s and '80s, they thought they discovered a selective kappa opioid non-addictive painkiller that was just as potent as morphine, if not more potent," McCurdy says. But when the human clinical trials began, the drug failed. "The people who took the drug said, 'I don't know what that was, but don't ever give it to me again.' They felt so awful they dropped out of the trials even after a single dose."

Abuse Potential of Kratom Appears To Be Low

Kratom appears to be a partial agonist for all of these receptors, only weakly affecting delta and kappa. But, if the mu receptor is the primary target, doesn't that mean kratom is addictive? At present, animal trials suggest the abuse potential of kratom is actually quite low. McCurdy explains:

"I have a paper under review right now in addiction biology with a colleague of mine, Scott Hemby, from High Point University in North Carolina ? [looking] at what the actual abuse potential is for mitragynine. He trained rats to self-administer morphine. They were able to learn to press a lever and they would get injections of morphine ... Once you've trained those animals, you can then substitute that morphine for some other drug and see if they think it's like morphine, right?

We substituted mitragynine and they stopped self-administering. It seemed like, 'Well, this is interesting. Maybe it doesn't activate the mu opioid receptor in an addictive manner or in a manner that would produce addiction.' Of course, ? we did it in a limited fashion at the moment because we're hoping to get some grant funding to really pursue this.

But the fact of the matter is many drugs will substitute for morphine ? like oxycodone or oxymorphone, that we know are used clinically. But mitragynine did not substitute. What was even more interesting is we couldn't train the animals to self-administer mitragynine to themselves over several doses. This was a very strong indicator that mitragynine doesn't have an abuse potential. In fact, that's kind of the sort of story of our paper."

Fresh Kratom Leaves May Be Safer Than Dried

Another compound in some processed and dried kratom products, 7-hydroxymitragynine, is known to be a full opioid agonist, and a very fast-acting and powerful one that does substitute directly for morphine and can be habit forming. It does not appear to cause severe respiratory depression, however.

This compound is not present in fresh extracts, and McCurdy's team is trying to determine exactly how, when and why the compound is created. It could be an oxidative byproduct created during the drying process, or it could be the result of different growing regions, microclimates, the presence of certain insects or soil microbes, for example.

"I think what's even more interesting about this study we did ? we treated animals with mitragynine that were already addicted to morphine, and then re-exposed them to morphine self-administration ? It decreased their intake of morphine. This was pretty exciting, because it also shows that there's some therapeutic potential in reducing opioid intake.

That begs the question about if there is 7-hydroxy present in a very small amount, and you have maybe 20 times or more of mitragynine relative to the 7-hydroxy. Is that actually counteracting the effect of the 7-hydroxy compound so it's not as bad? It's really hard to say at this point, because we don't have all the science done.

We've got lots of additional studies planned and hope we can figure out what's going on there. But our take-home is that kratom, as a whole, is pretty much on the addictive level of coffee. It's really not that harsh of an addictive plant, but it depends. It's starting to look like it may depend on what level of this 7-hydroxymitragynine is present in the material or in the product that's utilized."

Right now, the evidence is leaning toward 7-hydroxymitragynine being the result of oxidative stresses from drying the leaves, which suggests using fresh leaves to make tea, or taking an extract, would eliminate the risk associated with this oxidative metabolite, essentially eliminating the addictive potential of kratom. "That's our hypothesis right now," McCurdy says.

"We've been fortunate to gain collaborations with the University of Science, Malaysia, where they have actual cultivars of Mitragyna speciosa trees that they can use and study. We've been studying fresh extract material from them under an agreement." McCurdy's team is also investigating traditional preparations made by users in Malaysia, and have received samples from trees grown in the native environment. None of the fresh samples have 7-hydroxymitragynine in detectable amounts.

Future Potential

McCurdy has created a modified kratom tea, in which certain alkaloids and plant chemicals were removed, thereby eliminating all side effects. Once perfected, this would be a patentable product that could be used therapeutically to counteract opioid withdrawal symptoms without causing any. One obstacle that needs to be overcome is finding a verifiable kratom source that meets FDA standards to ensure public safety.

"Basically, if it's a clean, good product that we can get on a regular basis and be able to standardize, that would be the next thing. You don't want to have the product being really good one day and not so good the other because the alkaloid content has changed from one batch to the other. You have to have batch-to-batch consistency," he says.

To solve this issue, he's working with horticulturists at the University of Florida to understand the conditions necessary to allow kratom to grow in the U.S., particularly Florida. Could they be grown in a greenhouse? What types of nutrients do they need? He's also been approached by commercial growers looking into the feasibility of growing kratom trees.

"I think there's an interest in it. It may be a groundswell of interest to really see if we can create a new type of product for these growers to look at. That product would ensure us as researchers or producers of a pharmaceutical that we would have a good reliable source that we can control and understand," he says.

"We could then hopefully blend up and produce a really top-notch product that we can do controlled clinical trials with, and then move that on to helping people. That's the whole goal here. It's to really get help to a lot of these opiate addicts and hopefully get them off opiates."

Current Legal Status of Kratom

Kratom is legal in most states, but not all. To check the legal status for your state, see Speciosa.org's legality map.1 In Florida, kratom is legal in all areas except Sarasota, where kratom was banned. In the fall of 2016, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) sought to add mitragynine, 7-hydroxymitragynine, and kratom to the Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule 1 means the substance has absolutely no medical use and is highly addictive. This classification essentially halts all research on the substance.

There was no science or evidence to back up the DEA's rationale, and the agency was contacted by a number of researchers expressing their objections. Researchers even contacted Congress for congressional intervention. "Suffice it to say, there were many points of pressure on to the DEA to not make this scheduling official," McCurdy says. "The DEA decided to open up a 30-day comment period to obtain information. Scientists and people who have benefited from it flooded the DEA with messages."

The DEA received more than 23,000 individual comments urging them not to add kratom to Schedule 1The opposition worked, and the DEA dropped it. This was largely a result of Chris Bell telling the story on Joe Rogan's podcast and encouraging their viewers to write in. Rogan's podcast has tremendous influence as this is the first time the DEA has overturned an action like this. I've included this historic podcast below for your convenience.

Still, the threat is there. They could, at any time, decide to make it illegal. "We had to actually shut down our research while that threat was underway, because I didn't want to wake up one morning, come into work and be in violation of federal law at the university. I don't have a Schedule 1 research license," McCurdy says.

About the Deaths Linked to Kratom

According to McCurdy, kratom has a "remarkable" safety profile. While there have been a few reported deaths associated with kratom in the U.S., most have been in combinations with other drugs. A couple of cases have reported only finding kratom or mitragynine alkaloids in the deceased person's system, but in McCurdy's view, it's a tough sell that kratom alone would be responsible, as this herb has been used for hundreds of years in Malaysia and Thailand without any history of lethal consequences.

"We just don't know enough about how it's being metabolized," he says. "If somebody has some impaired function; they may be on a high-protein diet or they may be on some other type of diet that they think is healthy, but unfortunately isn't healthy when taking kratom. We don't know the answers to all of these questions. There's a lot more work that has to be done.

However, in the indigenous population where this is used, in Malaysia and in Thailand, there haven't been any reports in the history associated to only kratom. In fact, it's never been a drug of abuse or a drug that's sought out for pleasure. It's a societal norm. It's just like [what] coffee is in the United States. [They] drink it in the morning before they go to work. They drink it in the mid-afternoon ?

Many of the men will gather in the evenings and drink a glass or two of kratom tea as they socialize ? It's been safe for hundreds of years ? Any death is a sad event. We don't like to see it. But we need to understand what's going on and how it's happening, even in the few cases that have been reported.

Is it a combination with antidepressants that's a problem? Is it a combination with other drugs, like muscle relaxants? We just don't know enough of these answers yet to really tell people how to safely use the product, although millions of consumers are using it and appear to be using it safely.

The other issue on safety comes back to ? getting a reliable source of the biomass ? I've heard rumors that some products have been shipped into the United States under the form of kelp, so just as seaweed. It comes in wet and damp. That could be some of the problems that we're seeing now with the salmonella outbreak that has been linked to kratom."

Types of Kratom

There are four different types of kratom: red, white, green and Maeng Da. While the white and green are considered the same (the only difference is the timing of when the leaves are picked), the red-veined version is different. Many claim the red veined leaves have more alkaloids and the plant is a more potent version, but based on McCurdy's testing, the potency has less to do with the vein or strain and more to do with location.

"We've analyzed many products that are available in the marketplace through ultra-high performance liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry. What we've learned from that is sometimes the ones that people think are the strongest ? the red vein being ? actually have the lowest [alkaloid] content compared to the products that are cheaper.

But, again, it's one of these things where there are no real labeling laws. There's no consistency. You could buy the red vein one day, buy it the next week and it's less potent. Go back in the next week and the potency's back up ? But from what we've seen in the natural environments, the difference is really going to be the microclimates ?  

The Maeng Da strain, touted as one of the high-end and superior strains, comes from a horn-shaped leaf called tooth leaves. Instead of a nice smooth leaf, like what you would see on mitragyna leaf, you see it's smooth at the bottom and then real jagged edges up to a point. Again, we haven't seen a huge difference in any of these supposed strains. A lot of it comes down to marketing, and what can play to the consumer environment."

Teas and Extracts Can Be Made From Several Parts of the Kratom Tree

Traditionally, kratom has been used as a water extract and as tea made from the leaves. McCurdy has done a systematic study to evaluate various solvents, including ethanol, methanol and acetone, to determine the best extraction method. He's also studied the various extracts in animals, finding there are definitive differences between them. Extracts of bark, stems, roots and flowers have also been investigated.

"We do know there's a higher concentration of alkaloids in the vein than there is in the flesh of the leaf material," he says. "Most of the products that we see coming into the U.S. are whole leaf, just chopped up or ground up, so they do have the vein ? One other thing I find really fascinating is the bark or the branches. If people feel they need a boost, they will put the bark branches into their tea as they brew it.

They say it makes it much stronger. We really haven't found out what that molecule is that's helping to make it stronger yet ? We haven't seen much of a difference outside of the leaves. There are different compounds, of course ? that are in higher quantities in the stems [and] fruits. We're trying to pursue and see what the pharmacology is that's associated to them ?  

Most of the time that people brew teas from the leaf material, they'll also add citric acid, lemon juice or orange juice to the water to make it more acidic and pull more of those compounds out. I think, in theory, it should be a very similar process to the water extract. But the water extract will concentrate it better."

Even Kratom Should Be Used With Caution

While kratom appears to have a favorable safety profile compared to opioids, this isn't to say that kratom usage is without risk and can be used without concern. It's important to recognize that kratom is a psychoactive substance and should not be used carelessly. There's still very little research showing how to use it safely and effectively, and it may have a very different effect from one person to the next.

Also, while it may be useful for weaning off opioids, certain types of kratom could potentially be addictive. So please, do your research before trying it. One place to start is the American Kratom Association.2 Also know there are many other safe and effective alternatives to prescription and over-the-counter painkillers. If you're looking for safer options for pain relief than opioid drugs, please see these options for treating pain without drugs.

How to Make Miso Soup

If you're a Japanese food enthusiast, you might be familiar with their focus on umami, or the "fifth" taste. A very popular source of umami is miso. This is one of the most utilized ingredients in Japanese cuisine, and is the main ingredient for miso soup, a staple in most Japanese households and restaurants.1

But aside from miso soup's flavor, it is also an impressive source of nutrients and probiotics. Continue reading this article to learn about the benefits you can get from it, and how you can make this soup at home.

What Is Miso Soup?

Miso, or fermented soybeans, is well-loved in Japanese cuisine because of its versatility. For hundreds of years, it's been used to flavor sauces, marinades and dressings. However, its most popular use is in miso soup.2 But what is in miso soup? To put it simply, miso soup is the classic mixture of dashi ? a soup base made with kelp or dried fish ? and miso.3 This soup is extremely popular because of its hearty and comforting flavor, which may complement a variety of dishes.

Traditional miso soup recipes usually incorporate finely chopped spring onions and firm tofu ? however, I recommend that you leave out the tofu to minimize possible exposure to lectins and other harmful materials that accompany unfermented soybeans.

While miso soup's taste may be enough to make people love it, it is not the only thing to appreciate about it. Because of the fermentation process that miso goes through, the nutritional benefits of this soup are doubled. In fact, miso soup is loaded with numerous vitamins and minerals, together with its probiotic properties.4

Get These Miso Soup Benefits Today

Miso, on its own, offers nutrients like copper, manganese, protein and zinc. Additionally, it is also packed with numerous enzymes and probiotics because of the fermentation process.5 The health benefits you may get from miso soup include:

  • Improved digestion. Miso's probiotic properties play an important role in balancing gut microbiome, which is one of the most important components of health. Improved microbiome may help support proper digestion, nutrient absorption in the gut and energy regulation.6
  • Better immune function. Studies show that probiotics may support the immune system by signaling immune pathways.7 The better balance of bacteria in your gut may also help combat common illnesses like the flu.8
  • Support for cardiovascular health. While miso soup has been observed to contain high amounts of sodium, studies show that this soup does not cause problems in the cardiovascular system. In fact, regular consumption of miso soup may lower heart rate, which is one of the indicators of autonomic balance.9 However, more studies are required to prove this function.

These Miso Soup Nutrition Facts Are Worth Noting

Miso soup consists of numerous nutritious ingredients, with miso being the top component. With the combination of miso, dashi, leeks and seaweed, it comes as no surprise that miso soup can help nourish your body. To help you determine the amount of the nutrients you might need to get from other sources, here are the nutrition facts for miso soup:10

Miso Soup Nutrition Facts

  Amt. Per
Serving
% Daily
Value*
Calories 5.2  
Calories from Fat 1.2  
Total Fat 0.1 g 0%
Saturated Fat 0 g 1%
Trans Fat 0 g  
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Sodium 80.8 mg 3%
Total Carbohydrates 0.7 g 2%
Dietary Fiber 0.2 g 1%
Sugar 0.2 g  
Protein    
Vitamin A10% Vitamin C 9%
Calcium 3% Iron 28%

How to Make Miso Soup at Home

Miso soup is typically served in Japanese restaurants. The only problem is that you don't have any control on the quality of the ingredients being used. The good news is you don't have to settle for the restaurant variety as it is extremely easy to prepare. Cooking your miso soup at home will let you handpick the ingredients and control their quality and quantity. To help you, here is a recipe from AllRecipes:11

Miso Soup Recipe

Ingredients:

? 4 cups of water

? 1/2 cup of bonito flakes

? 1 4-inch piece of dashi kombu (dried kelp)

? 1 teaspoon of dried wakame seaweed

? 3 tablespoons of miso paste

? 1/4 cup chopped green onions

Procedure:

1. Pour water into a large pot and put it on low heat.

2. Add the kombu and cook until it starts to simmer.

3. Stir in the bonito flakes until combined.

4. Remove the pot from the heat and let it sit for about 5 minutes.

5. Strain the mixture. Set aside.

6. Heat 3 1/2 cups of the mixture (dashi) on medium heat. Add the wakame seaweed and stir until combined.

7. Put 1 cup of dashi in a small bowl and mix in the miso paste. Pour the mixture back into the pot. Stir until soup is warmed through.

8. Add the green onions as garnish. Serve.

Vegan? Fret Not ? Try This Vegan Miso Soup Recipe

Dashi, the main soup base of miso soup, is made with bonito flakes. Bonito flakes are popular in Japan and are made with dried skipjack tuna. This means that dashi, and miso soup by default, is not vegan or vegetarian. So, if you're vegan but you still want to enjoy a warm bowl of miso soup, here's a vegan-friendly recipe from The Spruce instead:12

Vegan Miso Soup Recipe

Ingredients:

? 4 cups water

? 1 tablespoon shredded nori or wakame seaweed

? 1/3 cup miso

? 3 green onions, chopped

? A dash of soy sauce

Procedure:

1. Let the water come to a slow simmer. Add the seaweed and let sit for 5 to 6 minutes.

2. Put it on low heat and add the rest of the ingredients. Stir until the miso is fully dissolved. However, make sure that you don't let the miso boil as this may destroy some of the nutrients it contains. Serve.

Miso Soup: A Tasty Way to Get Your Probiotic Fix

Improving your gut microbiome is one of the foolproof ways to start your journey to better health, and adding miso soup to your diet is one of the best strategies to do this. With its nutrient-packed ingredients and the ease in which you can make this soup, there's virtually no excuse for you not to benefit from it. However, make sure that you eat miso soup together with other healthy foods to get a balanced amount of nutrients, so it'll be easier for you to achieve optimal well-being.  

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Miso Soup

Q: Is miso soup gluten-free?

A: It's hard to determine whether you're getting gluten-free miso soup, especially if you're eating out, because of the difference in ingredients used. While most of the ingredients of miso soup are gluten-free, the grain used during the fermentation may contain gluten.13

If you're gluten-sensitive and you want to enjoy miso soup without worrying, it's best that you prepare it at home so you have complete control over the ingredients.

Q: Is miso soup vegan?

A: This depends on the ingredients used. Miso soup is commonly made with dashi as the soup base, which is made with bonito flakes or dried tuna. However, there are numerous vegan versions of miso soup, such as the recipe above, which means you don't have to miss out on this delicious soup.14

Q: Is miso soup healthy?

A: Miso soup is made with a variety of healthy ingredients, which means that you get considerable levels of nutrients with every serving. The gut-nourishing probiotics in miso are also some of its most notable benefits.

Q: Is miso soup good for you?

A: Miso soup is filled with vitamins, minerals and probiotics. Each serving will both nourish you and give you a plethora of nutrients your body needs.

Q: How many calories are in miso soup?

A: A 100-gram serving of miso soup contains approximately 5.1 calories. However, note that this may vary from recipe to recipe, depending on the amount and the ingredients used.

The Peril on Your Plate: Film Explores the Human Health Effects of Genetic Engineering and Chemical Agriculture

By Dr. Mercola

After being told by her doctor that genetically engineered (GE) food and pesticides could be responsible for her son?s food allergies, Ekaterina Yakovleva set out to investigate. Her quest for answers was captured by the Russian Times in the featured film, ?The Peril on Your Plate: Genetic Engineering and Chemical Agriculture.?

The film shows Yakovleva and her team traveling the world to meet ?the people who lift the lid on the perils of GMOs and the chemicals used in the industry,? as well as proponents of GMOs who argue that genetic engineering is a ?high-tech? solution to feeding the world?s growing population. Advocates for genetic engineering tell Yakovleva that the technology is beneficial to farmers in that it increases resistance to pests and disease, as well as produces higher yields. But Yakovleva isn?t convinced.

She learns nothing could be further from the truth after witnessing the devastation caused by mass farmer suicides in India as a result of the failure of Monsanto?s Bt cotton. Yakovleva visits the U.K. where she meets Lady Margaret, Countess of Mar, a member of the House of Lords and a former farmer who suffered from chemical use, and then to the U.S. where she meets with Zen Honeycutt of Moms Across America about the link between GMOs, pesticides and chronic disease in humans.

What Is Genetic Engineering?

In order to better understand genetic engineering and its impact on human health, Yakovleva starts to research the technique and how it?s used. She learns that genetic engineering enables DNA to be transferred not only between different kinds of plants, but even between different kingdoms, meaning scientists can take DNA from an insect or animal and insert it into the genome of a plant.

Many GMO proponents claim that genetic engineering is just an extension of natural breeding methods, and just as safe. Nothing could be further from the truth ? on both counts. Genetic engineering is radically different from conventional breeding techniques used to improve a crop. For starters, it's a laboratory-based technique allowing scientists to create a food that could never be created by nature.

Claire Robinson, editor of GM Watch and coauthor of the book, ?GMO Myths and Truths: A Citizen?s Guide to the Evidence on the Safety and Efficacy of Genetically Modified Foods and Crops,? says:

?Genetic engineering enables DNA to be transferred not only between different kinds of plants, but even between different kingdoms. You can take DNA from an insect, an animal, a virus or a bacterium, and insert it into the genome of a food crop plant. This is actually a very imprecise process. The truth is that the genetic engineering process disrupts the genome (organization and function of genes) of the plant.

As a result we found time and time again that there are unexpected effects on the plant that is genetically engineered. They tell us that it's exactly the same, except for the inserted gene that's been deliberately put in ... But this isn't the case. The genome is very complex. It's not like Lego; you can't just take out one bit, put in another bit, and expect there to be no knock-on effects."

US Leads World in GM Crop Production

Yakovleva learns that an estimated 190 million hectares (469.5 acres) of GE crops1 ? an area three times the size of France ? are cultivated in 28 countries worldwide.2 The U.S. leads the world in GM crop production, growing about 40 percent,3 while Brazil grows 27 percent and Argentina 13 percent. Canada and India each grow 6 percent.4 GE crops currently in production include squash/pumpkin, alfalfa, sugar beet, potato, papaya, rapeseed oil, corn, soy and cotton.

Monsanto, soon to forgo its name and merge with Bayer, controls a vast majority of GE crops including 80 percent of GE corn and 93 percent of GE soy in the U.S. The first GE crop to hit the market was tobacco. It was genetically modified in 1983 to be resistant to an antibiotic.5 It was later altered for other reasons, including to remove a gene that turns nicotine into a carcinogen in tobacco leaves,6 and to increase the amount of nicotine in cigarettes.7

The first genetically engineered food crop was the Flavr Savr tomato, produced by Calgene, a California-based company later bought by Monsanto. The tomato was genetically modified to stay riper longer by inhibiting a gene responsible for producing a protein that makes a tomato soften.8 Calgene is reported to have been transparent in its marketing of the tomato, clearly labeling the product and adding an 800 number for people with questions. Monsanto later removed the Flavr Savr tomato from store shelves.

A Growing List of Countries Say No to GMOs

The film highlights regions that are completely GMO-free, including Romania, which stopped cultivating GE crops despite being the first country in geographical Europe to introduce them.9 Portugal and Spain have reduced the amount of areas under GE crop cultivation,10 while a number have enacted a total ban including France, Germany, Austria, Poland, Greece, Switzerland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Russia forbids GE crop cultivation,11 but does not prevent GMOs from entering the country?s food chain, according to the film. Yakovleva travels to the Agrarian University in Moscow to meet GMO proponent Arkady Zlochevsky, chairman of the Russian Grain Union. She confronts him about the human health effects of eating GE foods.

?There is absolutely no risk to the human body associated with eating GM foods compared to traditional equivalents, not a single one,? he says, adding that GMOs are ?high-tech? and have ?significant advantages.? He even went so far as to say that glyphosate, the key active ingredient in Monsanto?s Roundup weedkiller, is safer than 100 percent manure.

Glyphosate Doubles as Herbicide and Suicide Poison in India

Unconvinced, Yakovleva travels to India where glyphosate doubles as a lethal human poison. The Punjab region, formally known as the bread basket of India, is now known for colossal suicides among farmers, particularly young farmers between the ages of 20 and 35.

Yakovleva meets with families of farmers who committed suicide. She learns that thousands of farmers have taken their own lives after agriculture corporations granted them loans they could never repay to purchase seeds and pesticides that ultimately failed to provide the profits that were promised.

Inderjit Singh Jaijee, chairman of Punjab?s Baba Nanak Educational Society, says farmers who commit suicide often take drugs, drink alcohol or even take a swig of glyphosate to muster up the courage to go through with it. Singh Jaijee, who is on a mission to raise awareness about the serious issue of suicides in Punjab, says that young farmers are more susceptible because they don?t yet have the experience older people do to survive.

Thousands of Indian Farmers Commit Suicide Over Faulty GE Crops

The amount of suicides in the Punjab region is so massive that some people are making a profit removing dead bodies from a local canal. Ashu Malik, an underwater diver, uses surveillance cameras to monitor the canal for floating bodies. If a body is not claimed, it?s placed back into the water, he says. Ending up in the canal as a result of suicide is so common in this region that families built a house on the canal?s shoreline for them to stay in while they search for their loved ones who are missing.  

The exact number of suicides occurring annually in the Punjab region remains unknown. One estimation found the annual suicide rate to be about 2,200. However, Singh Jaijee?s research estimates it to be closer to 4,000 suicides per year, while farmer organizations estimate up to 6,000. Shocked by what?s become a normality for agricultural communities in India, Yakovleva interviews agricultural scientist Kiran Kumar Vissa to learn more about Monsanto?s Bt cotton, the crop responsible for placing so many farmers into debt.

Monsanto?s Bt cotton was marketed as a solution to the challenges faced by cotton farmers, many of whom were in crisis; however, it ended up causing farmers more problems. There are many places where Bt cotton is not suitable for cultivation, including dry, nonirrigated areas, explains Vissa. The packaging says that Bt cotton is suitable for both irrigated and nonirrigated conditions, but it?s not true, says Vissa, adding, that it?s deceptive to farmers.

Big Ag Uses Images of Rich, American Farmers to Sell GMOs Abroad

Next, Yakovleva meets with renowned scholar and environmental activist Vandana Shiva, who blames the mass suicides solely on the corporations that sell the seeds and chemicals. Monsanto spends huge amounts of money on advertising. Between the fiscal years 2011 to 2017, Monsanto spent more than $500 million on advertising worldwide.12

Shiva explains that seed and chemical agents show farmers in India images of American farmers with big tractors and promise them that if they just take this seed, which they can pay for later, they will be rich. But what they don?t tell the farmer is that they can?t save the seed and that it might fail because the seeds aren?t meant for dry, nonirrigated areas, says Shiva.

So, the farmer takes it on credit, not having a good understanding of the costs involved, and the seed fails, Vandana explains, adding that in two years? time the agents who sold the seed and pesticide return and repossess the farmer?s land because he could not pay his loan. Shiva tells Yakovleva that she has personally spoken to widows whose farmer husbands committed suicide and when she asked what their debt was, they showed her packages of Monsanto?s Bt cotton seed.

Are Farmers Risking Their Health by Using Chemicals?

Yakovleva?s investigation proceeds to the U.K. where she meets with Lady Margaret, Countess of Mar, a member of the House of Lords and a former farmer who suffered from chemical use.

While serving organic tea and pudding, Lady Margaret says she had to give up farming after she was exposed to harmful chemicals while dipping sheep. The sheep dip contained organophosphates, the same class of chemicals to which glyphosate belongs. The chemicals are used as both flame retardants and pesticides. According to National Geographic:

"Organophosphates attack the nervous system in the same way as nerve agents like sarin ? [and] are so toxic to humans that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken steps to limit their availability to the public.?13

Within weeks of being exposed, Lady Margaret says she began to suffer from intense fatigue and neurological problems. She even felt suicidal. At one point, she was forced to rely on an oxygen tank for up to 16 hours a day. Lady Margaret was ill for three years before doctors diagnosed her with organophosphate poisoning.

Most of Americans Have Glyphosate in Their Bodies

Humans are increasingly testing positive for residues of glyphosate.14 In tests conducted by a University of California San Francisco lab, 93 percent of the participants tested positive for glyphosate residues.15 In the European Union, when 48 members of Parliament volunteered for glyphosate testing, everyone one of them tested positive.16 Humans are exposed to glyphosate via the food they eat, the air they breathe, the water they drink and the lawns, gardens, parks and other environments they frequent.

What impact is this having on human health? To find out, Yakovleva and her team head to the U.S. to meet with Honeycutt, who blames chemicals in our food for the rise in chronic disease. A number of chronic diseases have been linked to pesticides, including autism, cancer, food allergies, endocrine disruption, diabetes and Parkinson?s and Alzheimer?s disease.17

One in 4 females over the age of 30 now has a gluten intolerance, says Honeycutt; however, she believes it?s not gluten that?s the problem, but the glyphosate that?s applied to wheat as a drying agent prior to harvest.

?It?s destroying their gut lining. They can?t process it and then the body acknowledges it as a gluten intolerance,? says Honeycutt, adding that food today not only has more chemicals, but is also less nutritious. Chemical-intensive agriculture has depleted our soils of essential nutrients and has drawn out vitamins and minerals that make our food healthy, she adds.

Long-Term Safety Studies Are Sorely Lacking

Yakovleva and her team reached out to Monsanto regarding the public health concerns tied to its Roundup weed killer, but the company refused to comment, instead directing them to its website which, of course, states that all of their products are safe and environmentally friendly. The deceptive GMO talking points Yakovleva received from the seed and chemical industry failed to convince her that GE crops are safe for human consumption, as there?s no real evidence to support this claim.

While few in number, longer-term animal feeding studies have been published over the past several years showing there?s definite cause for concern. Liver and kidney toxicity and immune reactions tend to be the most prevalent. Digestive system, inflammation and fertility problems have also been seen. A major part of the problem is that safety studies conducted for regulatory purposes to gain market approval for a GE product are too short to show the damage that could occur from life-long consumption of the GE food.

Some independent studies looking at lifetime consumption of GMOs have found rather dramatic health effects, whereas the safety studies used to promote GE foods as safe have all been short-term. There seems to be an agreement among biotech scientists to not test GE foods longer than 90 days in rats, which is only about seven to nine years in human terms. That?s nothing when you consider the average human life span is somewhere in the 70s, and the current generation is fed GMO food from Day 1.

How to Protect Yourself From Toxic Agriculture

The biotech giants have deep pocketbooks and political influence and are fighting to maintain their position of dominance. At the end of the day, we must shatter Monsanto?s grip on the agricultural sector. There is no way to recall GMOs once they have been released into the environment. The stakes could not be higher. Will you continue supporting the corrupt, toxic and unsustainable food system that Monsanto and its industry allies are working so hard to protect?

For more and more people, the answer is no. Consumers are rejecting genetically engineered and pesticide-laden foods. Another positive trend is that there has been strong growth in the global organic and grass-fed sectors. This just proves one thing: We can make a difference if we steadily work toward the same goal.

One of the best things you can do is to buy your foods from a local farmer who runs a small business and uses diverse methods that promote regenerative agriculture. You can also join a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program, where you can buy a ?share? of the vegetables produced by the farm, so that you get a regular supply of fresh food.

I believe that joining a CSA is a powerful investment not only in your own health, but in that of your local community and economy as well. In addition, you should also adopt preventive strategies that can help reduce the toxic chemical pollution that assaults your body. I recommend visiting these trustworthy sites for non-GMO food resources in your country as well:

Organic Food Directory (Australia)

Eat Wild (Canada)

Organic Explorer (New Zealand)

Eat Well Guide (United States and Canada)

Farm Match (United States)

Local Harvest (United States)

Weston A. Price Foundation (United States)

The Cornucopia Institute

Demeter USA

American Grassfed Association

Monsanto and its allies want you to think that they control everything, but they are on the wrong side of history. It?s you, the informed and empowered, who hold the future in your hands. Let?s all work together to topple the biotech industry?s house of cards. Remember ? it all starts with shopping smart and making the best food purchases for you and your family.

What's Lurking in Your Dish Towel?

By Dr. Mercola

Hand-washing is one of the simplest ways to reduce exposure to potential disease-causing germs.1 This may also reduce your chances of getting sick and/or spreading infection. Regular and proper hand-washing drastically decreases the number of germs having access to your body, especially at key times such as before eating or touching your mouth, eyes or nose, after using the restroom and while cooking in the kitchen.

With drug-resistant infections on the rise, disinfecting your hands and your surroundings may seem like a good idea. However, research has clearly demonstrated this may exacerbate the problem rather than solve it. While the key to preventing the spread of contagious disease is hand-washing, doing it using proper products and techniques, as well as paying attention to how you dry your hands, are critical factors.

Teaching people proper hand-washing techniques may improve health in the community and reduce the number who get sick with diarrhea by 31 percent and respiratory illnesses, such as colds, by up to 21 percent.2 Through illness prevention, the number of antibiotics prescribed would also decline, as they are often prescribed unnecessarily for respiratory infections and diarrhea-related illnesses.3

However, it is equally important to pay attention to the products you use to dry your hands. In a recent study presented at the American Society for Microbiology, researchers found high growth rates of bacteria on kitchen towels used to dry hands and dishes and to wipe down countertops.4

Kitchen Towels Are Sources of Disease Causing Pathogens

In a previous study,5 lead author Susheela Biranjia-Hurdoyal, Ph.D., from the University of Mauritius, studied the bacterial load of pathogens linked to food spoilage found on kitchen tables. Her team found the kitchen was an important source of pathogens and bacteria causing foodborne diseases.

A lack of hygiene was confirmed when researchers found bacteria in the kitchen that originate in human waste. In the current study, the authors sought to examine the contribution towels made to the burden of pathogens in the kitchen.

The researchers provided 100 kitchen towels to families to use for one month.6 Afterward they collected the towels and cultured bacteria, identifying growth using standard biochemical testing. Additionally, they questioned the participants to establish how the towels were used, identifying some of the factors contributing to contamination.

Once the towels were cultured, bacterial growth was found in 49 percent, with a higher number of bacteria associated with towels collected from homes with larger families.7

When a family used the towels for multiple purposes, such as wiping utensils, drying hands and wiping surfaces, a significantly higher number of bacterial colonies were found than in families who used the towels for single-use during the testing. Researchers also discovered towels kept in more humid conditions had higher colony counts than those consistently dry between use. In the 49 towels testing positive for bacteria were:8

Bacteria Amount Found

Coliforms

36.7 percent

Enterococcus spp

36.7 percent

Pseudomonas spp

30.6  percent

Bacillus spp

28.6 percent

Staphylococcus aureus

14.3 percent

Proteus spp

4.1 percent

Coagulase-negative staphylococci

2 percent

Likewise the researchers were also able to differentiate bacterial growth in various family situations. Coliform bacteria and Staphylococcus were found in significantly higher numbers on towels from meat-eating households.9 Staph aureus was isolated at higher rates in towels from families of lower socioeconomic status, and there was a higher prevalence of Enterococcus on kitchen towels in families who were strictly vegetarian. Biranjia-Hurdoyal commented:10

"The data indicated that unhygienic practices while handling non-vegetarian food could be common in the kitchen. Humid towels and multipurpose usage of kitchen towels should be discouraged. Bigger families with children and elderly members should be especially vigilant to hygiene in the kitchen.?

Proper Hand-Washing Technique Reduces Bacteria

The impact of hand hygiene is significant as carrying viruses and bacteria on your hands may increase the incidence of colds, illnesses and the subsequent medical costs and productivity losses.11 Cleaning your hands begins with proper technique and products to remove debris and pathogens, but as the featured study demonstrates, your technique may be mitigated when you dry your hands with a multiuse towel brimming with microorganisms.

In one study using military recruits, researchers discovered that by teaching simple hand-washing techniques to Navy recruits, the class experienced a 45 percent reduction in outpatient visits for respiratory illnesses. However, despite the resounding success of the program, reducing productivity loss and health care costs, maintaining the program proved time challenging to the staff.12

By using correct hand-washing techniques in your home, you may potentially reduce the number of bacteria and viruses passed from one person to another. Consider the following guidelines to enable your hand-washing to be truly effective for disease control:

  • Use warm, running water and a mild soap. You do NOT need antibacterial soap, and this has been scientifically verified. Even the U.S. Food and Drug Administration states,13 "There is currently no evidence that [antibacterial soaps] are any more effective at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water."
  • Start with wet hands, add soap and work up a good lather, all the way up to your wrists, scrubbing for at least 15 or 20 seconds (most people only wash for about six seconds). A good way to time this is to sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice.
  • Make sure you cover all surfaces, including the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers and around and below your fingernails. Rinse thoroughly under running water.
  • Thoroughly dry your hands, ideally using a paper towel. Consider the process of using one sheet of paper towel described below to reduce the burden on the environment and your potential risk using multiuse towels, or air hand dryers in public places.
  • While leaving public restrooms, use the paper towel to open the door as a protection from germs living on the handles.

Get the Job Done With One Towel

The process of producing paper and paper toweling is intensive. A hefty environmental burden is created in the search for virgin fiber, leading to mass deforestation and in the addition of toxic chemicals that release carcinogenic dioxins and furans into the environment.14

Although using paper towels may result in cleaner hands, the amount used each day may contribute to a rising burden of toxic chemicals and reduction in resources on the planet. In this short Ted Talk, Joe Smith demonstrates how you may reduce paper use and still have clean hands.

Each year, 13 billion pounds of paper towels are used in America,15 amounting to over 45 pounds per person, per year. If every person could reduce their use by just one towel per day, this may reduce waste by 571 million pounds per year. In other words, little changes you make at home and in the community will have a big impact on the environment.

Although paper towels may reduce the number of all types of bacteria found on your hands, inefficient use leads to wasted resources. However, by using the system Smith outlines in his TED Talk above, it's apparent we can reduce the amount of paper towels used on a daily basis, both in public and at home.

The critical factor to this method is twofold. The first is to shake your hands 10 to 12 times to eliminate as much free water as possible. In the second step, Smith discusses how folding the towel in half increases absorbency by increasing interstitial spaces where water can be absorbed.

It's No Secret ? A Healthy Immune System Helps Prevent Illness

One common misconception is if a virus or bacterium enters your body you automatically get sick. However, simple exposure is not the single determinant. Instead, the health of your immune system dictates your body?s response, and therefore your likelihood of contracting an illness. In one study,16 17 people were purposefully infected with the flu, yet only half of the participants exhibited symptoms. When the researchers tested all the participant?s blood, each had demonstrated an immune response.

However, the response in the patients who became symptomatic indicated an antiviral and inflammatory response, which may have been related to virus-induced oxidative stress.

Those who had no clinical symptoms had a more tightly-regulated cell-mediated response and an elevated expression of gene function in an antioxidant response. In other words, half were able to fight off the virus effectively. So, while hand-washing is effective in reducing the spread of pathogens, nurturing an active immune system may reduce your potential of getting sick.

There are many factors influencing your immune system over which you have ultimate control, including getting adequate amounts of sleep, populating and nourishing a healthy gut microbiome, sensible sun exposure, reducing or eliminating sugar consumption, eating a diet high in healthy fats and low in carbohydrates, and engaging in grounding to reconnect with a major contributor of electrons.17

Nontoxic Cleaners Help Reduce Environmental Burden and Risk of Disease

A clean decluttered home provides you with a much-needed sanctuary from the daily grind. Many equate a clean home with a clean scent, spending nearly an hour a day18 cleaning up using rubber gloves and harsh chemicals. However, using commercial sprays, wipes, scrubs and polishes introduces toxins into your home environment instead of removing them. Strong smelling lemon and pine scents ? those many believe are the epitome of a clean home ? are created using toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs).19

In your effort to reduce bacterial pathogens at home, you may have started using products labeled green, natural or organic.20 However, these may also emit hazardous air pollutants.21 A typical professional cleaning product may contain more than 132 different chemicals, fragrances among them.22

?Cleaning products potentially give rise to simultaneous exposures to different chemical substances,? researchers wrote in the international Journal of Occupational Environmental Health,23 which is why you're far better off cleaning with truly natural products. For specific recipes and ingredients see my previous article, ?Keep a Clean House With Nontoxic Cleaners.?

Oregano oil is one of those natural products demonstrating antibacterial effects on human tissue and on your kitchen counters. In one study,24 researchers found oregano oil is effective against three gram negative and two gram positive bacteria. Including oregano essential oil in your homemade cleaning products is simple, easy and an effective means of killing pathogens.

When making your homemade cleaning products, don't use refillable plastic spray bottles available at the store. Instead, ditch the plastic bottle for a glass bottle to eliminate the potential for nasty chemicals from the plastic leaching into your cleaning supplies.

MommyPotamus25 offers a solution so you don't have to purchase a specific glass spray bottle. Use an old screw-top bottle the size of your choice, and fit the sprayer from a plastic bottle right on. Simple and easy! For more about using oregano oil to clean at home, see my previous article, ?Why It?s a Good Idea to Clean With Oregano Oil.?

Thyme Tea: A Potentially Beneficial Beverage Worth Your Time

Thyme is a small herb belonging to the mint family of plants, and has a rich history of use spanning over hundreds of years. For example, people in the Middle Ages placed thyme under their pillows to inhibit nightmares. The ancient Romans, on the other hand, sprinkled it in cheese and alcohol for added flavor.1

Aside from its therapeutic uses, thyme is also used in cooking. Fresh or dried, its leaves and flowers are mixed into casseroles, soups, stews and sautéed vegetables to add a sprightly flavor. Another popular way of using thyme is as a tea, a drink that?s enjoyed by many people.

What Is Thyme Tea?

If you?re looking to add thyme into your daily diet, turning it into tea is a good place to start. Thyme tea is a drink made by brewing the leaves of the plant. To make it, water is boiled and then simmered. The leaves are added afterward and then steeped for five minutes before drinking.2 This method is generally used if you have your own stock of dried leaves. If it?s not possible to grow your own leaves at home, purchasing tea bags is a viable alternative.

The Potential Benefits of Drinking Thyme Tea

Drinking thyme tea regularly can be beneficial to your health thanks to its abundance of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Published research has shown that the plant may help:

? Fight bacteria: Scientists have found that the essential oils found in thyme have potent antibacterial properties. In particular, it has been found to be effective against E. coli,3 a bacterial strain responsible for various diseases such as pneumonia and diarrhea.4

? Manage inflammation:  Thymol, an active compound in thyme, may help manage inflammation by suppressing certain inflammatory pathways. In particular, it may be promising against peritonitis,5 which is the inflammation of the peritoneum, the membrane that covers the organs within your abdominal area.6

? Reduce risk of cancer: A study published in Natural Product Communications indicates that thyme extracts exhibit cytotoxicity against colon cancers.7 In another study, thyme has shown to have beneficial effects against breast cancer.8

? Control blood pressure: In a study that tested mice, thyme helped lower blood pressure. This finding suggests that the Mediterranean diet, where thyme is widely used, can promote healthy blood pressure levels in humans.9

Nutrition Facts and Caffeine Content of Thyme Tea

Thyme leaves do not possess any caffeine; hence, the drink is considered caffeine-free. It is also rich in various vitamins, minerals and essential oils that may promote your health. Here?s an overview of the important compounds found in a teaspoon (0.8 grams) of thyme:10

Thyme Tea Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 0.8 grams
  Amt. Per
Serving
% Daily
Value*
Energy 1 kcal  
Protein 0.04 g  
Total lipid (fat) 0.1 g 0%
Carbohydrates 0.20 g 0%
Fiber 0.1 g  
Calcium 3 mg  
Iron 0.14 mg 0%
Magnesium 1 mg 0%
Phosphorus 1 mg 0%
Potassium 5 mg  
Zinc 0.01 mg  
Vitamin A1.3IU Vitamin C 38 mg

How to Grow, Make and Store Thyme Tea at Home

Making great thyme tea starts with the plant itself. Thyme is easy to grow, and using high-quality leaves harvested from your own backyard will ensure that you get the best taste while avoiding potential toxins that come from commercially made tea.

Start by planting thyme in an area with plenty of sun exposure and well-draining, dry and gritty soil.11 If you plant a root, the resulting harvest can multiply very quickly so make sure it doesn?t overgrow other plants in your garden. Seeds are also a viable way of planting thyme. If you live in northern planting zones that are particularly harsh on plants, cover your thyme plants with evergreen boughs to help them return in the spring.12

Harvesting thyme is simple: When the plants begin to bloom, simply cut the top half off the branches and hang them in a dark, dry place. You may also place them on baking sheets and into the oven or a food dehydrator to speed up the process. Once the flowers become dry, strip the leaves off and store them in a dark corner until they?re ready to be used. After you have your own stock of dried thyme leaves, simply follow this procedure to make the tea:13

Thyme Tea

Ingredients:

? 2 teaspoons of dried thyme leaves

? 2 to 4 cups of filtered water

? raw honey (optional)

Procedure:

1. Pour 2 to 4 cups of water into a pot and bring to a boil.

2. Place 2 teaspoons of dried leaves into every cup of water added.

3. Pour the boiling water into a teapot and let it steep for 10 to 15 minutes.

4. Enjoy the drink afterward, but limit your consumption to 2 to 4 cups only throughout the day.

5. You may add a dash of raw honey for more flavor.

Side Effects of Thyme Tea To Be Aware Of

Preparations of thyme in most forms are considered safe to consume. However, beware that you may develop allergic reactions to this plant. You may also develop contact dermatitis when using herbal poultices that contain thyme.14 Pregnant women should not consume thyme as well, as it has shown to exhibit abortifacient activity. Safety for breastfeeding women is not established, as there?s currently no scientific evidence regarding this area.15

Find the Time to Drink Thyme Tea

Is thyme tea right for you? If you?re willing to take the plunge, drinking it may benefit your health because thyme tea has been shown to help fight oxidative stress, promote cognitive function and boost your immune system. Just be sure that you do not drink it if you?re currently pregnant or breastfeeding.

If possible, I recommend growing your own thyme because this approach helps you avoid toxins found in commercially grown products. If you?re going to purchase tea bags instead, be very cautious on where you buy them. Only source any type of tea from reputable companies.

Frequently Asked Questions About Thyme Tea

Q: Can thyme tea induce labor?

A: Currently, there?s no sufficient evidence to suggest that thyme tea can induce labor, but pregnant women have used it to treat other ailments such as bloating and stomachaches.16 However, since thyme has an abortifacient quality, it is best to find other safer alternatives to stimulate labor.

Q: What is thyme tea good for?

A: Thyme tea may help increase your manage inflammation, kill bacteria and manage blood pressure levels.

Q: Where can I buy thyme tea?

A: Thyme tea can be purchased online, but make sure to review the product you?re purchasing and confirm if it uses high-quality ingredients. You can also grow your own thyme at home, harvest the leaves and brew your own tea.

Chia Is Easy to Grow

By Dr. Mercola

If you were alive in the 1970s and 80s, you undoubtedly remember the "chia pet" craze. Cultivating one of these characters was easily accomplished by applying moistened chia seeds to a grooved terra cotta figurine and watering them daily until they sprouted. Because chia seeds become gel-like when wet, they adhered to the pottery in such a way as to create tuffs of green sprouts that mimicked fur, hair and beards.

While the market for those terra cotta creations has waned, the interest in chia seeds and chia sprouts has experienced explosive growth. Part of the reason is chia's nutritional profile. Chia seeds are high in antioxidants, fiber, omega-3 fats and other beneficial nutrients. If you've never considered growing chia, perhaps you may reconsider after learning more about this superb superfood.

What Is Chia?

Chia seeds are harvested from the plant Salvia hispanica, a flowering plant that is a member of the mint (Lamiaceae) family. Chia is native to central and southern Mexico and parts of Central America. Due to its popularity, it is now grown commercially in several countries around the world, including Argentina, Australia, Bolivia and the U.S.1

Chia's tiny oval seeds boast a shiny, mottled seed coat that can be black, brown, gray or white. The plant itself is an annual herb characterized by dark-green leaves that are wrinkled and deeply lobed. When mature, numerous purple and white, somewhat self-pollinating flowers, emerge from a central spike.

The History of Chia

According to Britannica.com, chia was:2

  • Widely used in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica for medicinal and religious purposes, as well as a major food source for indigenous peoples
  • Roasted in seed form and ground into flour by the Aztecs, who also ate chia seeds whole
  • Overtaken by barley and wheat when Spanish conquerors introduced those and other grains to the "new world"

Chia's production as a food crop dropped off until the late 20th century. Its use, some assert, was somewhat revived due to the popularity of the chia pet in the late 1970s and '80s. At that time, chia began to make a comeback as an alternative crop and health food. Today, chia is well-regarded for its nutritional profile, including its rich stores of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids and dietary fiber, among other benefits.

Tips on Growing Chia

Chia is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 8 to 11.3 It is characterized as a desert plant that grows well in sandy loam soils. Chia plants need moisture during the growth cycle but can cope with moderate drought once established. The plant resists insect pests and diseases, perhaps in part due to the natural repellant properties of chia leaves. Chia's pest and disease resistance make it highly desirable for organic production.

Given proper conditions and ample space to grow, chia is one of the easiest herbs to grow. If you are interested in growing a full plant from which you can harvest chia seeds, you can either make space in your garden or plant chia in containers. Another option is to sprout chia, which I will address later in this article. Gardening experts provide the following helpful information on how to plant chia:4,5

Due to chia's frost intolerance, you'll want to plant your seeds early in the spring

Choose a sunny, well-drained area of your garden

Rather than dig a hole, you can simply rake and loosen the soil bed and lightly sprinkle a small amount of seeds over the area

After applying the seeds, gently press them into the soil or scatter a small amount of soil over them

Water the area well and continue to water your chia seeds whenever the soil is dry to the touch, until the plants are well-established

Thin the plants when seedlings appear to maintain proper spacing

As an alternative to direct sowing in the ground, SF Gate suggests you can start chia indoors in March or April. Under proper conditions, the seeds will germinate in three to 14 days. Plant your chia seeds indoors by:6

  • Scattering a small amount of chia seeds on top of a moist paper towel or over a seed-starting mix
  • Watering the seeds immediately and keeping them moist and warm
  • Exposing them to six to eight hours of bright light every day
  • Waiting until the seedlings are at least 6 inches tall ? or roughly four to six weeks after germination ? before plucking them out individually and transplanting them into your garden or containers

When transferring your seedlings to the garden, be sure to maintain 12 to 18 inches of spacing on all sides. When transplanting them into containers, start with a large pot to ensure it will accommodate future growth as the plant matures. Chia plants can easily grow 3 to 5 feet tall and about 18 inches wide. Flowers will generally appear about four months after germination. Your plants must flower if you want to harvest chia seeds.

Harvesting Chia Seeds

The key to harvesting7,8 chia seeds is to wait for the flower spikes to fully develop. Chia flowers will attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden. After they are pollinated, the flowers die back and tiny seeds develop. You can encourage bloom production by deadheading the flowers.

The best time to begin collecting individual flower heads is after most of the petals have fallen off. You can place harvested flower spikes on a drying rack or inside an open paper bag so air will circulate in a manner that will dry the flowers.

Once the flowers are completely dry, you can crush the spikes by hand, which will reveal the seeds. You'll want to separate the dry plant material from the seeds. Maintain the seeds in dry form until ready for use. As soon as you rinse chia seeds, they will begin to absorb water, which means you'll need to use them right away. If you do not harvest the seeds and they are allowed to spill out on the ground, you can expect sparrows and other seed-eating birds to devour them.

Chia Seeds Contain Healthy Fats, Fiber and Protein

While you may be aware that chia seeds are nutritious, you may not know about the specific attributes known to make them so beneficial. For starters, a 1-ounce serving (about 2 tablespoons) of chia seeds contains 138 calories, 5 grams (g) of protein, 10 g of fiber and 9 g of fat.9 Chia seeds are good for you because they:10,11

Boast very high levels of antioxidants

Are rich in omega-3 fatty acids ? even more so than flaxseed ? and unlike flaxseed, chia can be stored long-term without fear of rancidity

Can be eaten whole and are easily digestible and bioavailable when consumed whole

Possess 18 percent of your recommended dietary allowance of calcium (in a 1-ounce serving)

Contain vitamins A, B, C and E

Are a good source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc

In addition, chia seeds are naturally gluten-free and were included in my list of 10 Superfoods for Digestive Health.

Popular Uses for Chia Seeds

Eaten dry, chia seeds provide a nice crunch and a slightly nutty flavor. If you're looking for ways to use chia seeds that stretch beyond applying them to a piece of "chia pet" pottery, you may be interested to use chia seeds or sprouts in:12

Baked goods

Breading

Jams

Juices

Mousses

Puddings

Salads and salad dressing

Sandwiches

Smoothies

Thickeners

Yogurt

Water

Other options include using chia in its gelatinous form as an energy gel, especially if you add the seeds to coconut water, or in recipes as a substitute for eggs. If you're looking for a refreshing dessert that is also healthy, try this Guilt-Free Chia Seed Pudding recipe.

Cautions About Eating Chia Seeds

Below are several cautions that you should consider before adding chia seeds to your diet:13,14

Similar to all grains and seeds, chia seeds contain phytates, also known as phytic acid, which are considered antinutrients. These compounds are known to block the absorption of certain minerals and other nutrients, which is why you'll want to limit your consumption. Also, to reduce phytates, consider soaking chia seeds prior to eating them.

Given their high fiber content and ability to expand as a gel when added to liquid, chia seeds are said to have the effect of suppressing your appetite. If you have digestive issues, check with your doctor before consuming chia seeds.

To prevent digestive upset, due to the high fiber content, limit your intake of chia seeds to 1 to 2 ounces a day. In addition, since they are able to absorb up to 12 times their volume when introduced to water, you'll want to stay well hydrated when consuming whole chia seeds.

Chia seeds can increase the effect of certain medications, particularly those used to treat high blood pressure and other heart conditions, as well as diabetes. If you take medication of any kind, check with your doctor before adding chia to your diet.

Avoid chia if you have a known allergy to nuts, seeds, mint or other members of the mint family, such as basil, lavender or oregano.

If you have a history of dysphagia or esophageal restrictions be aware of the potential danger of chia seeds, especially in dry form. In one instance, a 39-year-old man required emergency medical assistance to dislodge a gel-like ball of chia seeds that created an esophageal obstruction.15

Try Growing Chia Sprouts

Sprouts offer some of the highest levels of nutrition available, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and enzymes that help protect your body against free radical damage. Many of the benefits of sprouts relate to the fact that, in their initial phase of growth, the plants contain concentrated amounts of nutrients. Chia seeds are no exception, and you can easily grow chia sprouts at home. Sprouts are a fantastic option if you live in an apartment or condo where space is limited. Preparedness Mama explains how to sprout chia seeds:16

Equipment:

  • 1 Tablespoon of chia seeds (will yield 2 cups of sprouts)
  • Recycled clamshell container or glass baking dish with a lid to retain moisture
  • Shallow terra cotta dish to fit inside the above container
  • Spray bottle filled with filtered water

Procedure:

  1. Soak the terra cotta dish in water for a few minutes to moisten it
  2. Sprinkle a small amount of chia seeds onto the terra cotta dish (You can adjust the amount after you have tried this a few times)
  3. Add one-quarter inch of filtered water into the bottom of the clamshell or baking dish and set the terra cotta dish on top of the water
  4. Lightly spritz the seeds with water to moisten them thoroughly; do not overly soak them or they will turn to gel
  5. Close the lid to trap moisture and place the sprouting chamber on your kitchen counter; sprouts will be ready in about four to seven days

Whether you decide to grow chia plants or plan to enjoy chia sprouts, chia is a quick-and-easy source of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, among other beneficial nutrients. I highly recommend chia.

Your How-To Guide for Growing Astragalus

By Dr. Mercola

Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus), a member of the pea family, is an adaptogenic herb with a long history of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine as an immune strengthening tonic, where it goes by the name of Huang Qi and Hwanqqi. Another English name for this shrub is milkvetch.

Adaptogenic herbs help your body adapt to physical, emotional or mental stress. The immune boosting, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties of astragalus also lowers your risk for infections and other diseases. The most important part of the plant is its root, which has a distinct yellow color. For medical use, the root is made into powder, herbal decoctions, tea, capsules and ointments. The raw root can also be used in cooking.

Astragalus oil, which you can make yourself, also has both therapeutic and cosmetic uses. Taken internally, astragalus oil helps boost your immune response by promoting the production of antibodies. It also helps maintain your digestive health and can help alleviate ulcers by promoting the healthy balance of gastric juices and gastric acid in your stomach.

As most adaptogens, astragalus has a rather long list of potential uses. Products containing astragalus have been shown useful in the treatment of chronic weakness and fatigue, bloating, heart failure, night sweats, nephritis, urinary tract infections, allergies, and cold and flu prevention. To take full advantage of this medicinal plant, why not consider growing some in your backyard?1,2,3

Astragalus Growing and Harvesting Guide

Astragalus is a perennial plant with hairy stems that can grow up to 4 feet tall, producing small yellow flowers that eventually turn into egg-shaped beans. Flowering season runs from midsummer through late fall. It grows well in zones 6 through 11. Seeds will germinate in three to 10 days following a three-week-long cold period. However, seed germination rate tends to be low, and should you store seeds, be sure to use them within two years. After that, they may no longer germinate at all.

Once your seeds have been cold stratified, rub the seed on fine sandpaper to rough up the outer shell. Just don?t rub too hard, as you don?t want to damage the inside. This procedure may seem onerous, but will help accelerate and improve germination. Next, soak the seeds in water for a few hours or overnight. Now, the seeds are ready for planting. Start out by planting the seeds in a small pot or starter tray, using high quality seed starting mix.

Press the seeds about one-quarter inch to 1 inch into the soil and cover. Keep soil moist but not soggy until seeds start to sprout. Keep the pots on a window sill or in an area that receives morning sun. Once the seedlings have grown a few inches tall, transfer them to larger pots or straight into your garden, provided there?s no risk of frost.

Contrary to many other plants, astragalus prefers dry, sandy soil, and needs partial shade to full sun. Ideal pH is around 7. If you plant more than one, space them at least 15 feet apart. Since sandy soils tend to dry out quickly, you may need to water more regularly than other plants until it?s established.

Whether you?re growing it in a pot or in the ground, make sure the root ball stays moist. This is particularly important during the summer. Mulching around it will help retain water by slowing down evaporation. Every few months, apply compost or rotted manure around the plant. Avoid all synthetic, inorganic fertilizers and pesticides if you intend to use the root medicinally. Keep in mind that astragalus has a tendency to get invasive if it?s in an ideal spot, so prune annually to maintain the desired shape and size.

The medicinal root can be harvested after two to three years. Two years is generally considered the minimum, or else the rootstock will not be adequately large to make something out of. To harvest the root, use a garden fork or needle-nose spade to loosen the soil around the plant to where you can pull up the taproot.

How to Make Astragalus Oil

Once you?ve harvested the root, there are a variety of ways you can use it. As mentioned earlier, you can make your own astragalus oil for topical or internal use. Here?s how:

Materials

  • Astragalus root
  • Carrier oil (serves as your base; popular choices include sweet almond, coconut oil and olive oil)
  • Spoon for mixing
  • Unbleached cheesecloth, muslin or fine gauze
  • Double boiler or a crockpot
  • Glass jar for storage

Procedure

  1. Combine the root and the oil in the double boiler. The ideal ratio would be 1 cup of carrier oil to every 1/4 ounce of astragalus
  2. Heat slowly over low heat (140 degrees Fahrenheit) for six to eight hours.
  3. When done, strain the mixture and transfer it to a glass jar or container of your choice

How to Make Astragalus Tincture

Another alternative is to make a tincture, which can be taken internally as needed. Heather Harris with The Homesteading Hippy provides a simple 1-to-5 tincture recipe on her site, summarized here. She suggests placing the tincture in capsules if you don?t like the flavor. For more details and dosage suggestions, see thehomesteadinghippy.com.4

  • Pour 10 grams of shredded astragalus root into a large bottle or jar
  • Add 50 milliliters (ml) ? 3.38 tablespoons ? of 80 proof vodka (if using smaller amounts, use 1 gram of astragalus root for every 5 ml of vodka)
  • Cap the bottle or jar and let the herbs soak for 30 days
  • After 30 days, strain out the root and store the tincture in a glass eyedropper bottle. Stored tightly capped in a cool, dark place, the tincture?s shelf life will be several years

How to Make Astragalus Tea

For an immune-boosting beverage, try making an astragalus tea, made from either fresh or dried root. A simple recipe by Leaf.tv is as follows:5

  • In a pot, add 4 ounces of fresh astragalus root, or 3 to 5 tablespoons of dried root, to 1 quart of water
  • Boil the root for three to four minutes
  • Strain to remove root and debris
  • Serve hot or cold

Astragalus Immune-Boosting Soup Recipe

Last but not least, fresh astragalus root can also be used in your cooking. Chicken soup is known to help speed up the recovery process when you?re sick. By incorporating the astragalus herb, you?re giving it an added medicinal kick. Here?s a sample recipe from homemadechinesesoups.com.6

Ingredients

  • 1 free-range organic chicken thigh
  • 4 slices of astragalus root
  • 8 red dates
  • 1 tablespoon goji berries
  • 500 ml water (17 ounces or a little over a pint)

Procedure (for double-boiling jar)

  1. Wash and clean the chicken thigh. Trim away excess fat and skin.
  2. Parboil the chicken thigh.
  3. Soak the astragalus, red dates and goji berries for a short while.
  4. Cut the red dates into halves and remove the seeds.
  5. Place all the ingredients into the double-boiling jar.
  6. Pour enough cold water into the jar to cover the ingredients.
  7. Place the jar into a deep pot and fill the pot with water until the jar is half submerged.
  8. Bring the pot of water to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about one hour.
  9. Add salt to taste before serving.

Suicide Is on the Rise ? Know the Warning Signs, and How to Help

By Dr. Mercola

The recent suicides of fashion designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef and TV personality Anthony Bourdain,1 which occurred within days of each other, have reignited a much-needed public discussion about suicide, mental illness and its treatment. As noted by Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), depression ?is not a condition that is related to success or failure. No one is immune.?2

Statistics also reveal suicide rates have risen sharply across the U.S. since the early 2000s, prompting health authorities to call for ?a comprehensive approach to addressing depression.?3

However, while a number of headlines scream for new drug treatment,4 I believe we?ll get nowhere fast unless we start to address mental health from a more holistic perspective. It seems quite clear that antidepressants, in addition to not working very well (or in some cases at all), are actually part of the problem thanks to their side effects.

Meanwhile, nutritional deficiencies, a decline in social interaction brought about by increasing reliance on social media and technology, excessive exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs), lack of sleep, ?lack of life purpose? or spiritual connection and chronic, unresolved stress are just some of the factors that can contribute to depression, none of which can be addressed by new or more drugs. Specific medical conditions, such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and stroke are also linked to a higher risk of major depressive disorder.

Spade?s Suicide Took Those Closest to Her by Surprise

According to Spade?s husband and business partner, Andy Spade, Kate had struggled with depression and anxiety for several years, and was taking medication for these issues.5,6 The couple separated 10 months ago but lived within blocks of each other, met on a daily basis and had ?never even discussed divorce,? according to Andy, who stressed she did not have an alcohol problem or business-related struggles.

Her father, Frank Brosnahan, also confirmed she?d been ?taking pills,? which he?d ?advised her not to take.?7 Both her husband and father spoke to her the night before her apparent suicide, saying she sounded happy and that there was no indication that she was thinking about taking her own life.8 Both say her suicide was a complete shock.

The same appears to be true for Bourdain, who spent the last five years enthralling viewers with his passion for food and travel in his award-winning series ?Parts Unknown.? His body was discovered by Eric Ripert, a French chef and close friend, in his hotel room. Bourdain was in France, working on an upcoming episode.

Overwhelmingly, the sentiment is that he was a passionate and generous individual, a master of his craft and staunch defender of marginalized populations, especially restaurant workers, in the middle of doing something he loved. In fact, some of the last words Bourdain said to his friend Michael Ruhlman was that ?love abounds.? ?The last I knew, he was in love. He was happy,? Ruhlman said, who was ?stunned? by the news.9 His girlfriend Asia Argento appeared equally shocked.

Suicide Statistics

Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the U.S. affecting more than 16 million Americans,10 and the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide.11,12 Globally, rates of depression increased by 18 percent between 2005 and 2015.13 In the U.S., suicide rates have steadily risen since 2000, primarily in more rural areas14,15,16 ? a trend blamed on the effects of social isolation, economic pressures, opioid addiction and limited access to mental health care.

Depression can be a terminal illness if a person continually attempts, and eventually is successful at taking their own life. Tragically, suicide has risen sharply among children and teens. This simply must speak to some deeper societal problems at work, although antidepressants may play a role in some of these cases as well.

Many antidepressants are known to increase the risk of suicide in children, teens and young adults,17 yet despite such warnings, these drugs are still often prescribed for younger people. According to the most recent statistics:18,19,20,21,22

  • Between 1999 and 2016, suicide increased by 28 percent across most American demographics; in 25 states, the suicide rate rose by more than 30 percent
  • Between 2008 and 2015, the number of children hospitalized for either thinking about suicide or attempting suicide doubled
  • Among young girls (aged 10 to 19), the suicide rate rose by 70 percent between 2010 and 2016  
  • In 2016, nearly 45,000 Americans committed suicide, making suicide the 10th most common cause of death that year
  • Along with drug overdoses and Alzheimer?s disease, suicide is one of three leading causes of death that are on the rise

Know the 12 Warning Signs of Suicide, and How to Help

While some are better at keeping their depression and any thoughts of suicide well hidden, even from the ones they love, it?s important for everyone to recognize the warning signs, and what they can do to help. According to the CDC, the 12 warning signs that someone may be contemplating or getting close to suicide are:23

  • Feeling like a burden
  • Being isolated
  • Increased anxiety
  • Feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Increased substance use
  • Looking for a way to access lethal means
  • Increased anger or rage
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Expressing hopelessness
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Talking or posting about wanting to die
  • Making plans for suicide

If you notice one or more of these signs, take the following five steps to help. For more information about how to prevent suicide, see bethe1to.com.

  1. Ask how they are feeling and if they are considering ending their life, or if they have a plan to do so
  2. Don?t let them be alone and do your best to keep them safe
  3. Make yourself available to them
  4. Reach out to them daily and help them connect to others
  5. Follow up

If you live in the U.S. and are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text 741-741 for the Crisis Text Line.24 If you are in danger of acting on suicidal thoughts, call 911 for immediate assistance.

Depression Is Not the Sole Cause of Suicide

An important, yet frequently overlooked contributor to depression and other neuropsychiatric disorders is EMF exposure. In 2016, Martin Pall, Ph.D., wrote a magnificent and comprehensive review on this that is available for free online.25 He reviews how regular exposure to low intensity microwaves, like those from your cellphone and Wi-Fi, impact your nervous system. There are even two U.S. government reports that detail this.

It?s also important to realize that depression or other mental illness is not the sole cause of suicide. More than half of those who commit suicide do not have a known mental health condition, according to CDC data. As noted by Julie Beck in her thoughtful article, ?When Will People Get Better at Talking About Suicide,?26 published by The Atlantic, ?The traumas and losses of people?s lives and the ways they respond to them are infinitely varied and context-dependent. And that makes suicide hard to talk about.?

And yet we must, if we are to save each other from needless tragedy. According to the CDC, contributing factors to suicide in 2015 included the following:27

  • Relationship problems (42 percent)
  • A crisis in the past or upcoming two weeks (29 percent)
  • Substance abuse (28 percent)
  • A physical health problem (22 percent)
  • Work or financial problem (16 percent)
  • Criminal or legal problem (9 percent)
  • Loss of housing (4 percent)

Antidepressants Are Not a Satisfactory Answer

According to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, 11 percent of Americans over the age of 12 are on antidepressant drugs. Among women in their 40 and 50s, 1 in 4 is on antidepressants,28 the side effects of which run the gamut from loss of libido to emotional flatness, restlessness, sleep disturbances, brain damage, and suicidal and/or homicidal ideation.

Antidepressants can also harm your immune system, and raise your risk of Type 2 diabetes by two to three times in high-risk groups.29 These side effects are all the more significant by the fact that there is very little evidence to suggest antidepressants benefit people with mild to moderate depression. In fact, researchers have found they work no better than a placebo in 80 percent of cases.30,31

What?s worse, long-term use of antidepressants may also cause you to develop bipolar disorder or other types of psychoses,32,33 which means you?ll need to graduate to a new or additional medication, often an antipsychotic drug that blocks dopamine receptors in your brain.

There are safer, and in many cases better, alternatives. Many of the basics have been covered in a variety of previous articles on depression and its treatment. In the following sections, you?ll find summary compilations of lifestyle strategies and nutritional interventions that have been shown to be beneficial. Also know that while these lists are extensive, they?re not exhaustive.

Key Dietary Considerations and Helpful Nutritional Supplements

Eat a healthy whole food diet and avoid processed foods and junk food

One of the first steps in addressing problems like anxiety and depression is to clean up your diet and address your gut health. Otherwise, you?ll have virtually no chance of getting healthy emotionally and mentally.

Foods have an immense impact on your mood and ability to cope and be happy, and eating whole foods as described in my nutrition plan will support your mental health. Avoiding sugar and grains, which processed foods are loaded with, will also help normalize your insulin and leptin levels, which is another powerful tool in addressing depression.

Go gluten-free

The gluten level in our grains is much higher today than it ever was before, thanks to various breeding techniques, and gluten can produce depression if you?re sensitive to it. In such a case, the key is to remove gluten from your diet entirely.

Optimize your omega-3 level

Animal-based omega-3 fats are really important for optimal brain function and psychological health. If you haven't read Dr. Andrew L. Stoll's book, ?The Omega-3 Connection,? on this subject, I highly recommend it. He is an enlightened Harvard psychiatrist who has written an outstanding book on the topic of treating depression with omega-3.

Optimize your vitamin D level

Making sure you?re getting enough sunlight exposure to have a healthy vitamin D level is also a crucial factor in treating depression or keeping it at bay. Vitamin D deficiency is actually more the norm than the exception, and has previously been implicated in both psychiatric and neurological disorders. One previous study found that people with the lowest levels of vitamin D were 11 times more prone to be depressed than those who had normal levels.

Balance your gut microbiome

Unbalanced gut flora has also been identified as a significant contributing factor to depression, so be sure to optimize your gut health, either by regularly eating traditionally fermented foods or taking a high-quality probiotic.

St. John?s wort

St. John?s wort is commonly used for the treatment of depression. It is available in tablets, capsules and liquid form. Research suggests it exerts its antidepressant action by inhibiting the reuptake of the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine.

Numerous double-blind, placebo-controlled studies have examined the effectiveness of St. John?s wort for the treatment of mild to moderate major depression, and most have found the herb more effective than a placebo. It can be at least as effective as paroxetine (Paxil) in the treatment of moderate to severe depression in the short term.

S-Adenosylmethionine (SAMe)

SAMe is an amino acid derivative that occurs naturally in all cells. It plays a role in many biological reactions by transferring its methyl group to DNA, proteins, phospholipids and biogenic amines. Several scientific studies indicate that SAMe may be useful in the treatment of depression.

5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)

5-HTP is another natural alternative to traditional antidepressants. When your body sets about manufacturing serotonin, it first makes 5-HTP, so taking 5-HTP as a supplement helps raise your serotonin levels. Downstream, it also boosts production of melatonin, so taking it shortly before bedtime can help improve your sleep.

B vitamins, including B1, B2, B6, B8, B9 and B12

B vitamins play a role in the production of certain neurotransmitters that are important for mood regulation and other brain functions. Folic acid (vitamin B9) deficiency has been noted among people with depression, as has pyridoxine (B6) deficiency. Pyridoxine is the cofactor for enzymes that convert L-tryptophan to serotonin.

There?s also evidence that people with depression respond better to treatment if they have higher levels of vitamin B12, while high doses of niacin (vitamin B3) are particularly important for schizophrenic patients. It turns out that pellagra, a disorder caused by niacin deficiency, produces the same psychiatric symptoms, such as irrational anger, feelings of persecution, mania and dementia, found in many schizophrenic patients.

One 2017 study34,35,36 found high doses of vitamins B6, B8 (inositol) and B12 in combination were very effective for improving schizophrenic symptoms ? more so than standard drug treatments alone, and particularly when implemented early on.

Low doses were ineffective. Aside from schizophrenia, researchers have found niacin can be successfully used in the treatment of general psychosis, anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. B12 deficiency can also trigger mania, psychosis and paranoid delusions.37,38

One of the reasons for B vitamins? effect on a wide range of mood disorders and neurological and psychiatric conditions relates to the fact that these vitamins have a direct impact on the methylation cycle, and are required for the production and function of neurotransmitters and the maintenance of myelin, the fatty sheath surrounding your nerve cells.

Without this protective coating, nerve signals become slow and sporadic, which can lead to motor function problems, cognitive losses and changes in mood.

B8 also aids in cell communication, allowing your cells to properly interpret chemical messages and respond accordingly.39 Meanwhile, B6, folate and B12 (in combination with S-adenosylmethionine or SAMe) regulate the synthesis and breakdown of brain chemicals involved in mood control, including serotonin, melatonin and dopamine. Hence, a deficiency in one or more of these B vitamins can also play a role in depression.

Address hormonal imbalances

Perimenopause and other hormonal imbalances are frequently misdiagnosed as depression. Women are now entering perimenopause at younger ages these days; some even before the age of 40, and this phase can last for years. Women who have never had PMS may suddenly experience rather severe symptoms, feeling depressed, moody and irritable.

An antidepressant is not going to solve the problem in this case. Rather, you need to balance your hormones. Basics include a nutritious diet and detoxification to ensure proper liver function. Milk thistle or bupleurum are herbs that can help with this.

Other herbs like dong quai and black cohosh may be helpful against menopausal and PMS symptoms. Bioidentical hormones such as progesterone are another option that may or may not be necessary depending on your situation. Once you hit on the right combination, symptoms will typically recede within two menstrual cycles.

Lifestyle Strategies That Help Combat Anxiety and Depression Without Drugs

Exercise regularly

Exercise, including strength training, is clearly one of the best-kept secrets for depression. In one study, which involved adults diagnosed with mild to moderate depression, researchers looked at exercise alone to treat the condition and found:

  • After 12 weeks, depressive symptoms were cut almost in half in those who participated in 30-minute aerobic exercise sessions, three to five times a week
  • Those who exercised at low-intensity for three and five days a week showed a 30 percent reduction in symptoms
  • Participants who did stretching and flexibility exercises 15 to 20 minutes three days a week averaged a 29 percent decline in depressive symptoms

Address stress and unresolved emotional conflicts

Like so many other families, I have been personally affected by depression. My mother suffered from this problem for a time, and actually made several unsuccessful suicide attempts that really devastated me. This occurred just as I was making the transition into energy medicine, so initially she was treated with medications.

However, the medications and inpatient care were a terrible failure. Ultimately, it was energetic techniques that helped her fully recover from her depression.

Learning how to use an energy psychology tool like the Emotional Freedom Techniques can make an enormous difference if you suffer from depression or any other kind of emotional dysfunction. This energy psychology tool is one of the most powerful methods I know of, and is a crucial element of any successful treatment program. In the video below, EFT practitioner Julie Schiffman demonstrates how to use this technique for depression.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT helps you change how you think about things and has been used successfully to treat depression.40 In fact, several clinical studies have demonstrated that CBT is as effective as antidepressant medication. Within 20 sessions of individual therapy, approximately 75 percent of patients experience a significant decrease in their symptoms.

Unlike more traditional forms of therapy, CBT focuses on ?here and now? problems and difficulties, and is a recommended treatment for depression triggered by the stress of moving from one culture and country to another.41 In this case, the therapy assumes mood is related to the pattern of thought. CBT attempts to change mood and reverse depression by directing thought patterns.

Light Therapy

For years, light therapy has been used to treat seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression caused by short winter days and extended darkness. A lack of exposure to sunlight is responsible for the secretion of the hormone melatonin, which can trigger a dispirited mood and a lethargic condition.

Light therapy helps to regulate the body?s internal clock in the same way that sunlight does. Light therapy is an effective treatment for seasonal affective disorder, and may reduce symptoms of nonseasonal and major depression as well.

Minimize EMF exposure

Excessive free radicals triggered by low-frequency microwave exposure from wireless technologies have been linked to anxiety and depression, so take precautions to minimize unnecessary exposure. For example, avoid carrying your cellphone on your body, and never sleep with it next to your head or beneath your pillow. Also do not allow your children to sleep with their phones. To learn more, see ?The Real Dangers of Electronic Devices and EMFs.?

Massage

One of the best-known benefits of massage therapy is its ability to enhance feelings of well-being. Massage therapy lowers levels of stress hormone cortisol by an average of 30 percent, while increasing serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters that help reduce depression.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese treatment in which needles are inserted at specific points in the body. A review of eight controlled trials supported the theory that acupuncture can significantly reduce the severity of depression.

Yoga

Yoga is an ancient system of relaxation, exercise and healing with origins in Indian philosophy, and has been shown to alter your brain chemistry. Some yoga positions are effective in stimulating the release of endorphins and reducing the level of stress hormone cortisol.

Several human studies support the use of yoga for depression, and yoga postures have been specifically shown to increase levels of the neurotransmitter gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA), which may alleviate depression. In one study,42,43 researchers studied the effect of Iyengar yoga classes on participants diagnosed with major depressive disorder who were either not taking medication or had been on the same medication for three months.44

One group was assigned to take a 90-minute yoga class three times a week, plus participate in a 30-minute session at home four times a week. The second group participated in two 90-minute classes and three 30-minute at home sessions.

After three months both groups experienced a reduction in symptoms by at least 50 percent, with no differences in compliance.45 The group who participated seven days a week experienced the greatest reduction in symptoms.

Other research has linked these improvements to changes in GABA, an amino acid that acts as a neurotransmitter in your central nervous system. GABA is responsible for blocking nerve impulses, telling the adjoining nerve cells not to ?fire? or send an impulse. Without GABA your nerve cells would fire frequently and easily, triggering anxiety disorders, seizures and conditions such as addiction, headache and cognitive impairments.46

Biofeedback and progressive muscle relaxation

Biofeedback and progressive muscle relaxation may help to reduce stress levels and therefore a primary environmental trigger for depression. In biofeedback, electrical sensors attached to your skin allow you to monitor your biological changes, such as heart rate, and this feedback can help you achieve a deeper state of relaxation. It can also teach you to control your heart rate, blood pressure and muscle tension through your mind.

Biofeedback is commonly used in the treatment of stress related conditions such as migraine and tension headaches, fibromyalgia, depression and anxiety. Progressive muscle relaxation may achieve the same level of stress reduction through tensing and relaxing all the major muscle groups from head to toe, thereby helping you to recognize muscle tension.

Visualization

Visualization and guided imagery have been used for decades by elite athletes prior to an event, successful business people and cancer patients ? all to achieve better results through convincing your mind you have already achieved successful results.47,48 Similar success has been found in people with depression.49

Spend time in nature and/or listen to nature sounds

Both have been shown to alleviate anxiety and depression. To learn more, see ?Nature Heals,? and ?Science Reveals Why Nature Sounds and Deep Breathing Are so Relaxing.?

The Wasabi You're Eating May Not Be Real Wasabi

Wasabi (Wasabia japonica) is a member of the Brassicaceae family, commonly called the mustard family. It is native to Japan, where it thrives in cool mountain streams with lots of shade and running water. It is prized for its stem which grows to around 2 to 4 inches in diameter and 6 to 12 inches in length, and this is where the actual wasabi condiment comes from.1 Due to its very specific growing conditions, experts consider wasabi to be one of the hardest plants on the planet to cultivate.2

The history of wasabi goes back to prehistoric Japan. There?s archaeological evidence suggesting that during 14,000 B.C. to 400 B.C., the Japanese already utilized wasabi ? not for culinary purposes, but for medicinal applications. It is believed that Utogi, a village up north in the Abe River, Shizuoka Prefecture, is the birthplace of wasabi.3

You may have tasted wasabi before, and so may be familiar with its spicy flavor and very strong aroma that you won't find anywhere else. But chances are that the wasabi you've eaten is just an imitation composed of horseradish, mustard powder and food coloring.4

Real wasabi, on the other hand, is still hot and doesn't leave a burning aftertaste. It's so fresh that you'll need to serve it right before eating, because it will lose its iconic flavor within 15 minutes.5 You'll also be surprised to know that real wasabi contains plenty of nutrients essential for optimal health, such as:6

Nutrient

Unit

Value (Per 100 Grams

Energy

kcal

109

Protein

g

4.8

Total fat content

g

0.63

Carbohydrate, by differenc

g

23.54

Fiber, total dietary

g

7.8

Calcium

mg

128

Iron

mg

1.03

Magnesium

mg

69

Phosphorus

mg

80

Potassium

mg

568

Sodium

mg

17

Zinc

mg

1.62

Vitamin C

mg

41.9

Vitamin A

mg

35

Even if It's Just a Condiment, Wasabi Offers Strong Health Benefits

Wasabi is abundant in a unique antioxidant called isothiocyanates that provides a wide array of health benefits, which also happens to be the reason for wasabi's unique flavor and aroma. Below are the different health benefits that authentic wasabi can provide you:

? May help lower the risk of cancer: Adding wasabi to your diet may help lower your risk for certain types of cancer thanks to its isothiocyanates. In one study, the 6-MITC [6-(methylsulfinyl)hexyl isothiocyanate] and I7557 [6-methylsulfonyl)hexyl isothiocyanate] compounds in wasabi have been shown to inhibit the growth of pancreatic cancer cells.7

In another study, 6-MITC has been shown to suppress the growth of not only breast cancer, but skin cancer as well.8 Research on this powerful plant is still ongoing, but these findings show great promise already. Remember if you want to reap the benefits of these anticancer antioxidants, use authentic wasabi only, not commercially produced varieties.

? Helps improve cardiovascular health: Wasabi's isothiocyanates may help prevent platelet aggregation.9 Essentially, platelet aggregation is the clumping together of red blood cells, which can eventually lead to blood clots. These clots are the main sources of stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.10 By adding wasabi to your diet, you may be able to lower your risk of developing these life-threatening conditions.

? Helps fight inflammation: The 6-MSITC in wasabi may help manage inflammation by inhibiting the production of several inflammatory markers, namely cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) and cytokines.11

? Fights bacteria throughout your body: Wasabi may be a potent antibacterial agent. In a study published in the International Journal of Food Microbiology, wasabi has been found to be effective against Helicobacter pylori. The roots were found to be the strongest, but the other parts of the plant have been found to help kill the bacteria as well.12

In another study published in the journal Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry, the stem of the wasabi plant was found to have strong antibacterial properties against E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus. For the methodology, an extract was taken from the roots and placed on the bacteria, which the researchers studied and recorded.13

? Helps improve digestive health: Wasabi contains fiber, which is known to help control your blood sugar by slowing your stomach's digestion of carbohydrates. Fiber may help you maintain your weight too, as it makes you feel full longer, thereby reducing your cravings for snacks. It's also good for your intestine, as it may reduce your risk of diverticulitis, an inflammation of polyps in your intestine, by as much as 40 percent.14

It's Possible to Grow Wasabi in Your Own Home ? But It Can Be Challenging

According to Real Wasabi, an American company that specializes in mountain-grown wasabi, certain conditions are required to grow high-quality wasabi:15

"Wasabi prefers cool, shady conditions and will sometimes thrive if left undisturbed in misty mountain stream beds. It generally requires a climate with an air temperature between 8 degrees Celsius (46 degrees Fahrenheit) and 20 degrees Celsius (70 degrees Fahrenheit), and prefers high humidity in summer. Since it is quite intolerant of direct sunlight, wasabi is typically grown under shade cloth or beneath a natural forest canopy."

Due to the very specific environment needed to grow wasabi, the U.S. has very few locations that can grow wasabi naturally. Only the Pacific Northwest states have been able to successfully cultivate it, namely Oregon, Idaho and Washington, due to their abundance in naturally flowing mountain streams.16 The mountainous regions of North Carolina have been proven to be effective as well.17

Wasabi grows very slowly, and can take up to three years to fully mature. In the right conditions, the long stems (petioles) of the plant should emerge from the (rhizomes) stem, growing around 12 to 18 inches long. Once the plant reaches up to 2 feet in height and width, it enters the next phase where the rhizome produces the nutrients and flavor it is renowned for.

It is possible to grow wasabi on your own if you live near a mountain stream with lots of shade, but keep in mind that the plant could be susceptible to disease and other outside factors that you won't be able to control.18 You can try growing wasabi in the comfort of your own backyard by using the seedling box method. Here are some useful pointers from a Pacific Northwest Extension publication entitled "Growing Wasabi in the Pacific Northwest," by Carol Miles and Catherine Chadwick:19

"The seedling box method utilizes planting boxes that are approximately 4 inches deep with bottom drainage holes. A 1.5-inch layer of a well-draining germination or rooting medium such as a vermiculite perlite-peat mix will work as a base. Wasabi seeds should be sown approximately 2 inches apart in the planting box and covered with 0.5 inches of the germination mix (Suzuki, 1968).

An unheated greenhouse is the best place to keep the boxes, which must be watered so the seeds stay moist. However, it is important not to saturate the potting mix. The seeds should germinate in 20 days."

Wasabi plants are prone to sunburn, so protect them by using a black shade cloth. If you can invest in a small misting or micro-irrigation system, that will help keep the soil moist consistently and make your life easier. The plants require running water, and a micro-immigration system mimics Mother Nature's running streams. Plant the seeds from September through October so they will germinate before winter begins.20

Selecting the Best Wasabi and Properly Storing It

If you can?t grow your own wasabi, you can purchase from companies that specialize in cultivating certified organic and mountain-grown wasabi. When selecting wasabi, choose the ones that have fresh, unshriveled roots. When looking at wasabi leaves, use the same principle as you would in purchasing salad greens ? they must not be soggy and they must have a uniform color.21

To store wasabi properly, wrap the roots in damp towels and refrigerate them when not in use. To maintain the freshness, rinse them in cold water every other day and remove any spoiled roots. If done correctly, your wasabi can last up to 30 days.22

Other Ways to Enjoy Wasabi, Aside From Sushi

For maximum flavor and freshness, wasabi is best prepared right before you serve your meals. To do this, peel the root with a knife, then grate it using circular motions with a metal grater. By grating the wasabi, you're causing the compounds in the plant to become volatile, thus resulting in the iconic wasabi zing.23 Aside from using it for sushi, you can use grated wasabi in the following ways and with these foods:24

? Add to noodle soups

? A condiment for grilled meats and vegetables

? Add to marinades, dips and salad dressings

? Toss with roasted vegetables

Try This Healthy Wasabi Recipe: Grilled Salmon With Wasabi-Ginger Mayonnaise

This recipe comes from FineCooking.com, but I've tweaked some of the ingredients to come up with what I believe is a healthier meal.

Grilled Salmon With Wasabi-Ginger Mayonnaise

Ingredients:

? 1 1/2 limes

? 1/2 cup organic mayonnaise

? 1 1/2 tablespoon wasabi paste (or more, depending on your preference)

? 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger

? 1/4 teaspoon Himalayan salt and freshly ground black pepper

? 4 6-ounce skinless wild Alaskan salmon fillets

? Coconut oil for the grill

Procedure:

1. Prepare a medium-hot grill fire.

2. Cut the half lime into four wedges and set aside. Finely grate the zest from the whole lime. Cut the zested lime in half and squeeze the juice from one half into a small bowl (save the other half for another use). In a medium bowl, combine 1 teaspoon of the lime juice with the lime zest, mayonnaise, wasabi paste, ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Stir to combine. Taste and add more wasabi paste if you?d like a zippier flavor.

3. Run your finger along each salmon fillet to feel for tiny bones; use tweezers or needle-nose pliers to pull out any that you find. Season the fillets lightly with salt and pepper. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the mayonnaise mixture onto the salmon fillets and refrigerate the rest. With your hands, spread the mayonnaise in a thin layer over all sides of the fillets.

4. When the grill is ready, oil the grill grate using tongs and a paper towel dipped in oil. Grill the salmon until crisp for about four minutes. Turn and continue to grill until the salmon is just cooked through for another three to six minutes. Serve the salmon topped with a dollop of mayonnaise and a lime wedge on the side. Pass the remaining mayonnaise at the table.

There's no doubt that grilling is a big part of U.S. culture, but there's growing evidence that this method can cause you to ingest cancer-causing chemicals like heterocyclic amines (HCAs), advanced glycation end products (AGEs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).  Following the steps below will help you lower your chances of ingesting these carcinogens that may form during grilling:

? Make sure that you grill the fish under indirect heat so it will not burn right away. I highly recommend using a grilling basket for the fish to flip it easier and prevent it from sticking to the main grill.25

? If any char marks remain, remove them before eating. When cleaning, use a nylon-bristle brush or balls of aluminum foil instead of brush wires, which may stick to your grill and injure your mouth and throat the next time you use your grill.

? Make sure your salmon was caught in the wild, or comes from a reputable organic provider. Wild-caught Alaskan salmon is abundant in omega-3 fatty acids that provide a wide array of health benefits, such as helping fight inflammation. Eating wild-caught fish will also help you avoid ingesting pollutants commonly found in commercially grown fish.

Make Your Own Wasabi Massage Oil to Help Promote Healthy Skin

Aside from just being a popular condiment, you can use wasabi to create your own massage oil that can help improve blood circulation, soothe stiff muscles and make your skin feel alive. Below is the list of ingredients you'll need:26,27

Wasabi Massage Oil

Ingredients:

? 1/4 cup coconut oil

? 1/2 teaspoon wasabi paste

? 1/4 cup sesame oil

? 5 drops vitamin E oil

Procedure:

1. Combine the coconut and sesame oil in a small pan and place under a very low flame, until it is warm (it's very important that you do not let the oils reach their smoking point).

2. Turn off the stove immediately and add in the wasabi paste.

3. Cover and let the mixture cool completely.

4. Add the vitamin E oil.

5. Apply to your desired body part and massage.

Note: Do not put the massage oil on cuts, scrapes or burns as the wasabi can sting.

Despite the Promising Benefits of Wasabi, Too Much of It May Not Be Good You

Wasabi is most likely safe to eat. There are no serious side effects reported, but this area still lacks extensive studies, so caution is advised. Those who are allergic to this plant should avoid it to prevent severe reactions. People with blood disorders should exercise care, as wasabi may exacerbate your condition. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should also avoid wasabi, as there?s lack of scientific evidence regarding its safety for this specific group.28

Remember to Use Only Real Wasabi

Again, real wasabi paste is made from the fresh wasabi plant only. The ones that are sold as "wasabi" in supermarkets and restaurants are made of horseradish and artificial flavoring that only mimic real wasabi, so don't settle for those imitations. Real wasabi is more expensive than imitation wasabi, but I believe that the health benefits it provides are worth the extra cost.

Here's How Alcohol Can Increase Your Risk for Alzheimer's

By Dr. Mercola

Drinking alcohol has been found to have both a protective and damaging effect on the brain, depending on which study you read and how much alcohol is consumed. The jury is still out on whether light or moderate consumption may be good for your brain, but it's becoming increasingly clear that heavy drinking is not. Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago even revealed how alcohol may increase your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, by disrupting the way amyloid beta is cleared.

Amyloid beta is a protein implicated in Alzheimer's disease that can clump together in the brain, building up into groups of clumps or a sticky plaque that may disrupt cell-to-cell signaling.1 The study, published in the Journal of Neuroinflammation,2 reveals that binge drinking or heavy alcohol consumption may make it more likely that the brain will accumulate these damaging proteins, contributing to the development of Alzheimer's disease.

Alcohol May Disrupt Your Brain's Ability to Clear Harmful Amyloid Beta

The study focused on rat microglial cells, which are immune system cells in the brain and spinal cord that actively work to clear amyloid beta in a process known as phagocytosis. Researchers exposed the microglial cells to alcohol (in a level comparable to that found in people who drink heavily or binge drink), inflammatory cytokines or a combination of alcohol and cytokines for 24 hours.

The expression of over 300 genes was altered following exposure to alcohol, while exposure to cytokines resulted in changes in more than 3,000 genes and the combined alcohol and cytokines exposure caused changes in over 3,500 genes. Many of the altered genes were involved in phagocytosis and inflammation.3 Notably, microglial phagocytosis was also affected by alcohol, decreasing by about 15 percent after one hour of exposure.

Although the tests were performed in isolated rat cells, which means real-life alcohol consumption in humans may lead to a different result, they suggest that alcohol may hinder the microglia's ability to clear amyloid beta, thereby increasing the risk of Alzheimer's. Speaking with Newsweek, the study's lead author, Douglas Feinstein, professor of anesthesiology in the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, suggested people at risk of developing Alzheimer's may want to be especially careful with alcohol consumption:4

"There is a large literature supporting the idea that low amounts of alcohol can be beneficial; not only peripherally but in the brain. However, it might be prudent that if someone is at risk to develop AD [Alzheimer's disease], they should consider to reduce their alcohol intake; and certainly avoid binge or heavy drinking."

Alcohol Linked to Dementia, Including Alcoholic Dementia

Drinking heavily is known to harm your brain and can lead to alcohol-related brain damage known as alcoholic dementia. The white matter in your brain is considered the "wiring" of your brain's communication system and is known to decline in quality with age and heavy alcohol consumption. While not a true dementia like Alzheimer's disease, the symptoms, such as problems with decision-making, slower reasoning and changes in behavior, can be similar.

However, unlike Alzheimer's, if you stop drinking alcohol it's possible to recover, fully or partially, from alcoholic dementia. That being said, heavy drinking or engaging in binge drinking is also linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, according to two reviews conducted by Alzheimer's Disease International and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).5

The Alzheimer's Society explained, "People who drink heavily over a long period of time are more likely to have a reduced volume of the brain's white matter, which helps to transmit signals between different brain regions.

This can lead to issues with the way the brain functions. Long-term heavy alcohol consumption can also result in a lack of vitamin thiamine B1 and Korsakoff's Syndrome, a memory disorder affecting short-term memory."6 It's also been suggested that alcohol may add to the cognitive burden seen in dementia via neuroinflammation.7

NAD and Niacin (Vitamin B3) Are Important if You Have Alcoholism, May Help With Alzheimer's

People with chronic alcoholism are at risk for niacin deficiency, both due to a reduction in dietary intake of niacin and interfering with the conversion of tryptophan to nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) (the dietary precursor of which is niacin).8 It's also thought that people with lower NAD levels naturally may be at increased risk of addiction, including to alcohol. NAD is also known to be depleted in Alzheimer's disease. Small doses of NAD (not time released) can be incredibly helpful when provided while weaning off alcohol.

The treatment helps to curb cravings for alcohol, detox the body, flushes alcohol (or other drugs) out of the system and relieves withdrawal symptoms. As a potent antioxidant, NAD helps to create energy in cells' mitochondria as well as increases the synthesis of neurotransmitters in the brain.9 What's more, it's being considered as an important therapeutic strategy to help maintain optimal function in the brain and possibly even treat Alzheimer's disease. According to a review in Current Opinion in Psychiatry:10

"Perturbations in the physiological homoeostatic state of the brain during the ageing process can lead to impaired cellular function, and ultimately leads to loss of brain integrity and accelerates cognitive and memory decline.

Increased oxidative stress has been shown to impair normal cellular bioenergetics and enhance the depletion of the essential nucleotides NAD+ and ATP. NAD+ and its precursors have been shown to improve cellular homoeostasis based on association with dietary requirements, and treatment and management of several inflammatory and metabolic diseases in vivo.

Cellular NAD+ pools have been shown to be reduced in the ageing brain, and treatment with NAD+ precursors has been hypothesized to restore these levels and attenuate disruption in cellular bioenergetics."

NAC May Help You Cut Back on Alcohol, Prevent Alzheimer's

If you're a social drinker who perhaps could benefit from cutting back on your drinking, also consider N-acetyl cysteine (NAC). NAC is a form of the amino acid cysteine and is known to help increase glutathione and reduce the acetaldehyde toxicity11 that causes many hangover symptoms. In addition, NAC is known to reduce alcohol consumption and withdrawal symptoms in rodents and cut down cravings in humans.

In a study of people who averaged one drink a week (or binge drinking 0.3 days a month), NAC increased the likelihood of alcohol abstinence and reduced drinks per week and drinking days per week.12 Meanwhile, if you are planning to have a drink, try taking NAC (at least 200 milligrams) 30 minutes before to help lessen the alcohol's toxic effects.

NAC is a powerful antioxidant known to directly target free radicals, especially oxygen radicals, which is important since oxidative damage is believed to be involved in Alzheimer's disease. NAC, in turn, may decrease levels of oxidative damage by protecting mitochondrial function, and in so doing reduce Alzheimer's risk, especially when combined with lipoic acid (LA). As noted in a review published in Cell Journal:13

"Combination of both LA and NAC maximizes this protective effect suggesting that this may prevent mitochondrial decay associated with aging and age-related disorders such as AD. Antioxidant therapies based on LA and NAC seem promising since they can act on mitochondria, one key source of oxidative stress in aging and neurodegeneration."

As for whether or not alcohol can be good for your brain, there is some research showing that light-to-moderate drinking may have neuroprotective effects. For instance, consumption of up to three servings of wine daily is associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer's disease in elderly people without the apolipoprotein E4 (APoE4) gene, the gene thought to be most strongly associated with Alzheimer's disease.14

However, as James A. Hendrix, Alzheimer's Association director of global science initiatives, told Newsweek, "no one should start drinking alcohol as a means of lowering dementia risk."15

More Tips for Cutting Back on Drinking

If you believe you have an alcohol use disorder (alcoholism), seek professional help. If you drink excessively on occasion and would like to cut back, you can try keeping track of how much you drink and setting limits on how much (or little) to consume. You should also avoid places, activities and even people who may tempt you to drink and seek out new positive hobbies and friendships to replace them.16

Exercise is also essential. When you drink, it chemically alters your brain to release dopamine, a chemical your brain associates with rewarding behaviors. When you exercise, this same reward chemical is released, which means you can get a similar "buzz" from working out that you can get from alcohol. In one study, hamsters that ran the most consumed less alcohol, while less active hamsters had greater cravings for and consumption of alcohol.17

In addition, exercise may help to mitigate some of the risks of alcohol consumption. Longtime drinkers who exercise regularly have less damaged white matter in their brains compared to those who rarely or never exercise.18 As a bonus, exercise may also reduce declines in cognitive performance attributed to aging as well as protect against changes related to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.19

Key Strategies for Alzheimer's Prevention

Avoiding excess alcohol consumption is important in Alzheimer's prevention, but it's far from the only tool at your disposal. Dr. Dale Bredesen's (director of neurodegenerative disease research at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Medicine, and author of "The End of Alzheimer's: The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline") ReCODE protocol actually evaluates 150 factors, including biochemistry, genetics and historical imaging, known to contribute to Alzheimer's disease.

This identifies your disease subtype or combination of subtypes so an effective treatment protocol can be devised. Prevention is far better than treatment, however, and for this it's important to focus on a diet that powers your brain and body with healthy fats, not net carbs (total carbohydrates minus fiber), i.e., a ketogenic diet. the ketogenic diet will help you optimize your health by converting from burning carbohydrates for energy to burning fat as your primary source of fuel.

You can learn more about this approach to improving your mitochondrial function, which is also at the heart of Alzheimer's disease, in my book, "Fat for Fuel." One of the most common side effects of being a sugar-burner is that you end up with insulin and leptin resistance, which it at the root of most chronic disease. Keep in mind that adopting the ketogenic diet along with intermittent fasting may further boost your results, especially if you have the ApoE4 gene.

Removing Your Tonsils Is a Bad Idea

By Dr. Mercola

A tonsillectomy is the surgical removal of your tonsils, two oval shaped pads of tissue located on each side of the back of your throat.1 Although the number of tonsillectomies has declined drastically in the last 30 years, the surgery continues to be one of the most commonly performed on children,2 with more than 530,000 done each year on children under 15 in the U.S.3

Administration of the guidelines for the surgery differ between countries. For instance, England's National Health Service (NHS) has classified the surgery as "of limited benefit,"4 with some commissioners unwilling to pay for surgery unless a child has had eight cases of tonsillitis documented by a physician visit in one year, strongly adhering to the letter of the Paradise Criteria for Tonsillectomy.5

This has resulted in a significant drop of routine tonsillectomies, with an increase in emergency admissions to the hospital for tonsillitis. While it may appear as if children are suffering more bad sore throats and infections in their tonsils, recent research finds the tonsillectomy childhood rite of passage may come with an associated long-term risk.6,7

Risks Associated With Tonsillectomy Years After Surgery

Not all scientists agree with the guidelines for tonsillectomies, believing reducing the criteria could result in a reduction in hospital admissions and overall associated health costs.8,9 Now, a recent first-of-a-kind published study demonstrates early removal of tonsillar and adenoid tissue, which often shrinks in adulthood, may have long-term respiratory system effects.10 The study was a collaborative effort between Copenhagen Evolutionary Medicine, University of Melbourne and Yale University.

The team analyzed data from just under 1.2 million children born between 1979 and 1999 in Denmark.11 They looked at the first 10 years of the children's lives to determine if they underwent a tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy and then followed their health up to age 30.12 Of the participants, 17,400 had adenoidectomies, 11,830 had tonsillectomies and 31,377 had a combined adenotonsillectomy, where both the tonsils and adenoids were removed.

The researchers found the risk of preventing a sore throat from tonsillitis nearly vanished by age 40, but the surgery increases the lifetime risk of developing other serious respiratory conditions.13 Sean Byars, Ph.D., who led the research from the University of Melbourne, explained, "We calculated disease risks depending on whether adenoids, tonsils or both were removed in the first nine years of life because this is when these tissues are most active in the developing immune system."

Although these tissues shrink by adulthood and were historically presumed redundant, it is now recognized they are strategically positioned in an arrangement known as Waldeyer's ring. Waldeyer's tonsillar ring tissue includes lymphoid tissue from the nasopharynx, tonsils and base of the tongue.14 The tissue acts as the first line of defense in recognizing bacteria and viruses and begins the immune response to clear the body of foreign invaders.

The analysis of the data revealed tonsillectomies were associated with an increased absolute and relative risk for diseases of the upper respiratory tract, including asthma, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) and influenza. Removal of the adenoids was linked with more than a double relative risk of COPD and nearly double the relative risk of upper respiratory tract diseases. The researchers concluded it is important to consider long term risk associated with these surgeries,15 and wrote:16

"Our observed results show increased risks for long-term diseases after surgery support delaying tonsil and adenoid removal if possible, which could aid normal immune system development in childhood and reduce these possible later-life disease risks.

Given the tonsils and adenoids are part of the lymphatic system and play a key role both in normal development of the immune system and in pathogen screening during childhood in early life, it is not surprising that their removal may impair pathogen detection and increase risk of later respiratory and infectious diseases."

Why Do Doctors Recommend Having Your Tonsils or Adenoids Removed?

Tonsillectomies are recommended for treatment of recurring, chronic or severe tonsillitis or complications resulting from enlarged tonsils, such as difficulty breathing at night.17 Rare diseases of the tonsils or bleeding tonsils may also result in a recommendation for tonsillectomy. According to the Paradise Criteria for Tonsillectomy, the minimum frequency must be seven episodes in the previous year or at least five in the previous two years.18

Tonsillitis often presents with a sore throat and includes a temperature greater than 100.9 degrees Fahrenheit with cervical adenopathy. These are tender lymph nodes along the neck greater than 2 centimeters in size. Children often present with tonsillar exudate, or a white film covering the tonsils, culturing positive for group a beta hemolytic streptococcus.

The initial treatment is antibiotics administered for the streptococcal infection.19 However, with recurring tonsillitis a tonsillectomy and potentially adenoidectomy would be recommended. Complications from enlarged tonsils can include difficulty swallowing, disrupted breathing during sleep and difficulty breathing.

As with other surgeries, a tonsillectomy comes with risks, including reactions to anesthetics, swelling, bleeding during surgery or bleeding during healing and infection.20 Since surgery leaves an open wound in the throat, it is often difficult for children to swallow fluids, sometimes leading to dehydration. Recovery usually takes 10 days and often includes pain in the throat and sometimes the ears, jaw or neck. Complications requiring emergency care include bleeding, fever, dehydration or breathing problems.

In one study, 8 percent of nearly 140,000 children ages 1 to 18 revisited the hospital within 30 days of having a tonsillectomy.21 The revisit rate varied between hospitals. It was as high as 12.6 percent in some and as low as 3 percent in others. Bleeding was the most common reason, followed by vomiting and dehydration, pain and infection. Children older than 10 were at a higher risk of returning to the hospital with bleeding, while having a lower risk of vomiting and dehydration.

Adult Tonsillectomy Surgery Holds Greater Risk

Researchers demonstrated the increased risk for chronic respiratory conditions likely formed from tonsillectomies performed prior to full development of the immune system. However, the adult procedure carries different risks. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association-Otolaryngology looked at the mortality, complications and reoperation rate in adult tonsillectomy.22

The researchers looked at health records of nearly 6,000 adult patients who underwent a tonsillectomy, evaluating mortality, complications and reoperation in a 30-day postoperative period. In most cases patients had a primary diagnosis of chronic tonsillitis and or adenoiditis. The most common complication following the surgery was pneumonia, urinary tract infections and superficial site infections. Patients who required a second operation were more likely to be male and to have postoperative complications.

However, results of a second study we're nearly as positive.23 Researchers from Penn State University found 20 percent of adults who had a tonsillectomy experienced complications, finding a rate significantly higher than previously published. The team also discovered the complications substantially increase health care expenditures for the patients.

This team analyzed data from over 36,000 adult tonsillectomy patients, finding complications included bleeding, pain, dehydration, blood transfusion, dislocation of cervical vertebra and fever.24 After one week, 15 percent suffered at least one possible complication. This rose to 20 percent by week two and four. The researchers found 10 percent visited an emergency room after discharge and nearly 1.5 percent were readmitted to the hospital within two weeks after the procedure.

On average, an adult tonsillectomy without complications costs $3,830, as compared to a surgery with hemorrhage, costing $6,388. Dennis Scanlon, Ph.D., professor of health policy and administration at Penn State University, commented on the results of the study, saying:25

"Our results highlight the challenges patients face when making informed decisions about medical and surgical treatments, as well as the excess costs and harm incurred due to complications. Patients expect to compare the risks and benefits of treatment options, but as our study shows, credible patient-centered information is often lacking, even for a common procedure that has been in practice for many, many years.

The availability of important risk and benefit information should be expedited, and providers need to be trained to engage patients in how to use this information to make informed choices."

Tonsillotomy Is an Alternative Surgical Option

A tonsillotomy, or partial removal of the tonsils, may be an alternative surgical option for both children and adults. Tonsillotomy has provided favorable outcomes in children presenting with obstructive sleep apnea as it is associated with a lower incidence of postoperative bleeding, higher parent satisfaction and faster recovery time than a total tonsillectomy.26 Research has also demonstrated comparable results to a total tonsillectomy in the improvement of obstructive sleep apnea symptoms in children.

In a second study27 with 43 participating children between the ages of 2 and 9, a randomized trial compared the clinical effects of a standard tonsillectomy against a tonsillotomy using a CO2 laser. During follow-up, both patient groups found comparable relief from sleep apnea and tonsillar hypertrophy at three months and two years.

Tonsillotomy caused no measurable bleeding during the surgical procedure, and postoperative pain and distress were less pronounced than in the tonsillectomy procedure group. These results were replicated in another study group of children ages four to five.28

In a recent study evaluating the differences between tonsillotomy and tonsillectomy in adults suffering from tonsil-related health conditions,29 researchers concluded the evidence suggested equal efficacy between both procedures. Adult patients had a preference for the tonsillotomy as there was reduced pain, a reduction in analgesic use, higher patient satisfaction, lower operation time and a reduction in postoperative complications.

Even Small Mixtures of Chemicals Damage Your Liver

By Dr. Mercola

Consuming what has been called "safe" levels of chemicals in combination at low doses has concerned scientists for decades. While many chemicals are thought to be safe at very low doses tested in isolation, what happens when you ingest a little bit of a lot of different chemicals over time?

When regulators consider consumer risk, they evaluate a compound's safety using laboratory animals and exposing them to an individual chemical in progressively smaller amounts until the chemical no longer demonstrates the ability to trigger negative health effects, including cancers. They use this amount to determine some small fraction they "believe" is potentially safe for people.

However, the assumption that toxicity is dose-dependent is not always true, especially for chemicals that mimic hormones.1 And, regulators are not required to test mixtures of these chemicals to determine what the outcome would be under real-world conditions.

Over your lifetime, you may be exposed to nearly 80,000 man-made chemicals present in your food, water, air and personal care products.2 It only makes health sense to evaluate the effect this chemical soup, ingested or absorbed nearly every day, has on your health. A recent study has found that when even small amounts of chemicals from food, pharmaceuticals and personal care products are combined in your body, you may experience liver damage.3

So-Called 'Safe' Levels of Chemical Mixtures Demonstrate Liver Damage

Outside of a laboratory you are never subjected to just a single stressor or single chemical.4 Recent research has demonstrated low levels of chemicals, considered safe by regulators, are actually toxic when present in the body in mixture. The experiment was designed to evaluate real life situations in a general population exposed to combinations at low doses from environmental sources, food, pharmaceuticals and personal care products.5

Using four groups of Sprague-Dawley rats, the researchers administered a mix of chemicals in their drinking water for a period of six months. The control group received water, which was free from additional chemicals. Of the three treatment groups, the low-dose group received 25 percent of the European Union (EU) acceptable daily intake, the medium dose received exactly the acceptable daily intake defined by the EU, while the high-dose group received five times the acceptable daily intake.6

After six months, the researchers evaluated body weight and biochemistry markers, finding the animal's weight increased above 10 percent in all male groups relative to the controls.7 Modest increases were found in the females who received medium and high doses of the chemicals. Additionally, the researchers found adverse effects in liver testing, especially at the low-dose level and primarily in males.

Overall, the results suggest exposure to low doses may induce liver damage as a result of the combination of different toxic mechanisms. The results of this study support previous research demonstrating the effects of chemical cocktails, even at low levels,8 on the liver,9 and their potential for triggering cancer.10

Do You Consume These Chemicals?

The chemicals tested by the researchers included some that may not sound familiar. As you read through the list, it will become clear it is very difficult, if not impossible to avoid consuming these chemicals. Others included in the study were glyphosate, a commonly used herbicide on genetically modified crops, BPA found in plastic products, the artificial sweetener aspartame, and ethylparaben and butylparaben, which are preservatives used by food, pharmaceutical and personal care manufacturers.

Carbaryl

This is a manmade pesticide commonly used to control aphids, fire ants, fleas, ticks and spiders. It is sold under the brand name Sevin by Bayer and brief exposure may result in weakness, dizziness and sweating. Pinpoint pupils, lack of coordination, muscle twitching and slurred speech have also been reported.11

Dimethoate

An insecticide used to kill mites and insects systemically and on contact, it is used on aphids, thrips and whiteflies on crops such as apples, corn, grapefruit, lemons, pears, pecans and tomatoes, as well as other vegetables.12

Methomyl

Used as a pesticide since 1968 on field crops such as lettuce, and on oranges, it is extremely toxic when ingested and has been restricted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It may only be used under direct supervision of trained and certified applicators.13

Methyl parathion

A restricted-use organophosphate pesticide, it is used to control insects by contact or by respiratory action. It is readily absorbed through the skin, and accidental skin contact or inhalation have caused human fatalities.14

Triadimefon

This is a fungicide for agricultural use and seed treatment for barley, corn, cotton, oats, rye, sorghum and wheat. Trade names include Amiral, Bay MEB 6447 and Bayleton.15

Sodium benzoate

This is a preservative commonly found in foods, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.16

Folate May Help Mitigate Pesticide Damage

While it is challenging to eliminate exposure to a chemical mix, there are steps you may consider to help protect your liver and support function. One of those steps is increasing your intake of folate. In one study involving 83 patients with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), researchers found levels of folate and vitamin B12 were inversely related to the development of fibrosis or the formation of scar tissue. According to the researchers:17

"Our study demonstrated a statistically significant correlation between low levels of folate and vitamin B12 with the histological severity of NASH. These findings could have diagnostic and therapeutic implications for patient management and follow up."

Past research has identified an association between low levels of vitamins and chronic liver disease, but this is the first to find an association between folate and vitamin B12 level to NASH severity. Recognized as the most prevalent liver disease worldwide, the condition places a dramatic burden on society. The researchers believe low levels of folate and vitamin B12 may be used as an independent predictor and could have practical implications for assessment and prognosis.18

Another study based in China suggests a folate-deficient diet may increase your risk of liver cancer.19 Lead authors from the U.S. National Cancer Institute and National Institutes of Health found evidence folate deficiency is associated with liver damage and liver cancer.20

The researchers recruited 412 patients who tested positive for Hepatitis B and were at higher risk for liver damage. Folate levels were measured in the participants at the start of the study. Participants were then followed for four years. During the study period, 20 cases of liver cancer were diagnosed.

When data was compared, higher red blood cell folate levels were associated with a 67 percent lower risk of liver cancer.21 The researchers stated more research is required to support the observations, but they concluded the study suggested increased folate in humans could be inversely associated with the development of liver damage and hepatocarcinoma. The researchers found folate appeared to offer the liver some degree of protection against damage.

Folate Is Not Folic Acid

If you're not sure what the difference between folate and folic acid is, you're likely in good company. Many professionals and health practitioners frequently mix up the two as the terms are often used interchangeably. Although some argue they are essentially the same, important distinctions between the two compounds are obvious in the way your body metabolizes and utilizes the vitamin.22

Both of these nutrients are a variety of vitamin B9, but they are not the same chemical structure. Prenatal vitamins and many processed foods are fortified with folic acid to help prevent birth defects associated with a deficiency during fetal development. Deficiency in folate during the first trimester is a major risk factor for neural tube defects such as spina bifida, anencephaly and exencephaly. However, folate and folic acid are not interchangeable.

Your body stores approximately 10 to 30 milligrams of folate at a time, nearly 50 percent of which is in the liver. The other half is stored in blood and tissue. However, while most associate deficiency with pregnancy, other health problems may occur with a folate deficiency, including elevated blood concentrations of homocysteine, cancer and depression.23

Folate is the natural form of vitamin B9 found in foods and once referred to as folacin. The word was derived from the Latin "folium," meaning leaf. Green leafy vegetables are abundant sources of folate.

Folic acid, on the other hand, is a manufactured vitamin and is the form added to some supplements and foods. While folic acid is readily absorbed, this synthetic form is not converted in the intestines as is folate. Instead, it is converted in the liver. This means folic acid can reach saturation more quickly, which may result in overexposure if you're taking supplements. The best way to get enough vitamin B9 is to eat foods rich in folate, such as asparagus, avocados, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and spinach.24

Milk Thistle Helps Prevent Liver Damage

The milk thistle herb has been used for thousands of years to support liver, kidney and gallbladder health. It contains the flavonoid silymarin, thought to be responsible for the beneficial effects attributed to milk thistle, including liver protection and antioxidant, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. The herb is native to the Mediterranean and is regarded as a weed in some areas of the world. When the leaves are crushed, they release a milky sap, which is where the herb gets its characteristic name.

Silymarin is actually a group of compounds working together to provide multiple health benefits, protecting the liver as an antifibrotic by preventing tissue scarring. The compounds are also believed to act as a toxin blockade agent by inhibiting the binding of toxins to liver cell membrane receptors. It has been used to treat alcoholic liver disease, acute and chronic viral hepatitis and toxin-induced liver diseases.

The herb suppresses cellular inflammation through the expression of genes associated with cellular stress, specifically endoplasmic reticulum stress. The anti-inflammatory effects may be accomplished in part using a two-phase process similar to those used by other beneficial natural compounds, like curcumin (found in turmeric) and EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate, a component of green tea).25

A study26 revealed the first-phase cellular response to silymarin in cells is a rapid increase in expression of genes associated with cellular stress, specifically endoplasmic reticulum stress. In severe cases, such stress may lead to cell death, which can be beneficial in some cases (such as cancer). The second phase involves a longer suppression of gene expression associated with inflammation. Along with inhibiting inflammatory signaling pathways, silymarin also:27

? Activated AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK): AMPK is an enzyme inside your body's cells. It's sometimes called a "metabolic master switch" because it plays an important role in regulating metabolism.28 According to the Natural Medicine Journal:29

"AMPK induces a cascade of events within cells that are all involved in maintaining energy homeostasis. . . . AMPK regulates an array of biological activities that normalize lipid, glucose, and energy imbalances.

Metabolic syndrome occurs when these AMPK-regulated pathways are turned off, triggering a syndrome that includes hyperglycemia, diabetes, lipid abnormalities, and energy imbalances ? In other words, activating AMPK can produce the same benefits as exercise, dieting, and weight loss ? the lifestyle modifications considered beneficial for a range of maladies."

? Inhibited mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR): When the mTOR pathway is overactivated it may increase your risk of cancer.30 The power of this pathway has only relatively recently been appreciated and is critical to cell growth, proliferation and survival.31 Many new cancer drugs are being targeted to use this pathway.

N-acetylcysteine Supplement Supports Your Liver Health

N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is a precursor needed for glutathione biosynthesis. This incredibly useful supplement has many benefits relating to its ability to boost production of glutathione, an antioxidant used to reduce free radical damage and which plays a role in the detoxification of heavy metals and other harmful substances.

The most common use of NAC is for liver support. In one study, the researchers suggest NAC may be a better alternative for supporting the liver in those with hepatitis C and for those with other chronic liver diseases than the antioxidant resveratrol.32 According to the authors,33 "Taking all these data together, abundant evidence suggests that antioxidants can effectively attenuate the oxidative and nitrosative stress in liver injury, ultimately improving inflammation and fibrosis progression."

Alcohol and acetaminophen are two common compounds metabolized through the liver and associated with liver damage. NAC supplementation has been effective in minimizing damage associated with alcohol consumption when taken prior to alcohol ingestion.34 Increasing glutathione reduces acetaldehyde toxicity triggering many hangover symptoms. NAC is also used as an antidote for acetaminophen toxicity, which also causes liver damage by depleting glutathione.35

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is a common liver problem triggered by oxidative stress. In a study published in Hepatitis Monthly,36 researchers evaluated 30 patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver steatosis, giving half of the group NAC and the other half vitamin C. Liver function and other measurements were taken initially and at one, two and three months. The researchers found NAC improved liver function in the patients in their study.

Seek Out Whole, Organically Grown Foods and Safe Personal Care Products

The sad fact is most of the foods and personal care products found on grocery store shelves are loaded with chemicals known to cause liver damage and other health conditions. The best way you have to prevent damage is to ? as much as possible ? avoid the chemicals in the first place. The first tangible step you can consider to overhaul your diet and lifestyle is to go organic.

Organic products are available in close to 20,000 natural food stores and nearly 75 percent of traditional grocery stores in the U.S. Polling data37 shows the No. 1 reason people purchase organic products is to avoid pesticides, and it is a primary reason why eating organic foods and using organic products is so important for your health and the environment. To read more about how to eat organic and what it means for your health, see my previous article "Go Organic."

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the average American woman uses 12 personal care products and/or cosmetics in a day,38 containing 168 different chemicals. Although men use fewer products, on average they are still exposed to nearly 85 chemicals daily from their personal hygiene routine. Clearly, this vast chemical exposure is not insignificant, especially as you consider it occurs virtually daily over your lifetime.

You may evaluate the products you're currently using, or find EWG's safe list of products by checking the EWG Skin Deep Cosmetic Database.39 Additionally, I suggest reading my previous article, "7 Domestic Factors That Can Make or Break Your Health," to discover areas where you can reduce your chemical exposure and healthier options you can use at home, including making your own effective and easy to use cleaning products with ingredients you likely already have in your kitchen.

Chemotherapy Is Losing Its Luster

By Dr. Mercola

Surgery, drugs and radiation ? aka the ?cut, poison, burn? strategy ? are typically the only solutions offered by most conventional oncologists to treat cancer, and upon receiving a cancer diagnosis most people are willing to do just about anything to get better. Unfortunately, the standard of care for cancer is not necessarily the most effective.

Research dating back over a decade suggests many women with breast cancer can opt for gentler versions of chemotherapy, or skip it altogether, without harming their chances of recovery. One 2007 study found some breast cancer patients had better outcomes when given Taxotere, a milder chemotherapy drug than Adriamycin, which had been the standard for decades.1

Another suggested the Oncotype DX test2,3 may be able to help determine whether a breast cancer patient might benefit from chemo by measuring the activity of 21 genes involved in cancer recurrence. At the time, Dr. Eric Winer of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston said,4 ?We are backing off on chemotherapy and using chemotherapy more selectively." Now, a number of additional studies have come to the same conclusion: Many breast cancer patients do not need chemotherapy, and have better outcomes without it.

Many Cancer Patients Fare Better Without Chemo

According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), many cancer patients are being overtreated to their detriment; an estimated 70 percent of women with early stage breast cancer probably do not need chemotherapy, and fare just as well without it.5 As reported by NPR:6

?One dramatic example revealed at the [2018 ASCO] meeting relates to the most common form of breast cancer, known as hormone-positive, HER-2 negative disease. For many women who have this diagnosis, but for whom the disease has not spread to lymph nodes, a new study7,8 finds that anti-hormone treatment after surgery is enough, and women won't benefit from rounds of toxic and uncomfortable chemotherapy.

Treatment of breast cancer for this large group of women will become easier. And for the many women who already choose not to undertake chemotherapy, they can be reassured that it's the right call. Likewise, researchers from France presented evidence that people with severe colon cancer don't benefit from a common treatment, which involves heated chemotherapy administered at the time of surgery.

This treatment has been in use for 15 years, without good evidence that it actually works ? The study9 of 265 patients found that it didn't work ? The study is ?an excellent example of how less is more,? when it comes to certain cancer treatments, says Dr. Andrew Epstein, an oncologist from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center who spoke on behalf of ASCO.?

Genetic Testing Allows for Safer Treatment Protocols

In the case of breast cancer, ASCO confirms that the 21-gene test, which assesses your risk of cancer recurrence, is a valuable tool that helps spare women from unnecessary treatment. It?s been estimated that about half of all women diagnosed with breast cancer worldwide have HER2-negative cancer, meaning it is a node-negative, hormone-receptor positive type of cancer, which is typically treated with a combination of estrogen-blocking drugs and chemo.

According to ASCO?s findings, women with estrogen-sensitive breast cancer that test negative for HER2, and whose tumors are smaller than 5 centimeters, have not spread to the lymph nodes, and have an Oncotype DX score between 11 and 25 (out of a max score of 100), can forgo the chemo. 

For this study, more than 10,000 breast cancer patients were followed for an average of nine years. Just over 6,700 of them had Oncotype DX scores between 11 and 25, which is considered an intermediate risk. Half of this group received hormone therapy alone, while the other half received hormone therapy in conjunction with chemo.

At the end of the study, 83.3 percent of those who received hormone therapy alone had not developed a recurrence. Among the dual-treatment group, that percentage was 84.3 percent ? a not statistically significant difference.

The survival rate was also near identical ? 93.9 percent among those receiving hormone therapy alone versus 93.8 percent for those receiving both hormone therapy and chemo. According to Dr. Jeffrey Abrams, associate director of the National Cancer Institute?s Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program:10

?These findings, showing no benefit from receiving chemotherapy plus hormone therapy for most patients in this intermediate-risk group, will go a long way to support oncologists and patients in decisions about the best course of treatment.?

Chemotherapy Takes a Toll on Long-Term Health

Previously, patients with this intermediate score have typically been treated with chemotherapy as a preventive measure, which often has devastating side effects, including hair loss, fatigue, cognitive decline, osteoporosis and heart problems, just to name a few. Numerous studies in both mice and human subjects have also shown that common chemotherapy drugs can foster tumor microenvironments for metastasis to occur later.

As just one example, a 2009 study11 found that long-term use of the breast cancer drug Tamoxifen ? commonly prescribed for the prevention of estrogen-sensitive breast cancer ? may actually increase your risk of developing a more aggressive, difficult-to-treat tumor fourfold. In other words, the very drug that?s supposed to help you can later harm you.

The side effects of chemo can also last a decade or more after treatment has ended. One 2006 study12 found that cancer patients who received chemotherapy had lower metabolism in a key region of the brain's frontal cortex, which translates into poorer memory. Scientists also noticed jumps in blood flow to the cerebellum and frontal cortex, a sign the brains of women who had chemo worked harder to perform normally than did healthy patients.

What's more, chemotherapy patients who underwent both hormone therapy and chemo also experienced an 8 percent drop in the resting metabolism in the basal ganglia. All of these effects ? which explain the ?chemo brain? or mental fog so often reported by those receiving chemo ? were found to linger for at least 10 years post-treatment.

New Trend: More Cancer Patients Forgo Chemo Despite Lack of Change in Practice Guidelines

The good news is increasing numbers of cancer patients are now electing not to use chemo. A recent survey13 published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found the overall use of chemo declined from 34.5 to 21.3 percent between 2013 and 2015. More specifically, for node-negative cancers, usage declined from 26.6 to 14.1 percent, and for node-positive cancers, it declined from 81.1 to 64.2 percent. Use of Oncotype DX testing is thought to be responsible for about one-third of this decline in chemotherapy use.

According to the authors, ?Patients? report of oncologists? recommendations for chemotherapy declined from 44.9 percent to 31.6 percent ? Oncologists were much more likely to order RS [the 21-gene recurrence score] if patient preferences were discordant with their recommendations, and they adjusted recommendations based on patient preferences and RS results.?

To me, this is good news as it appears that more people are starting to take control of their own cancer treatment and care, which is encouraging. As noted by the authors of this survey, all of this happened in the absence of any substantial changes in practice guidelines. Overall, years of research supports the sanity of this trend.

Chemotherapy ? Not Nearly as Effective as Most People Think

Despite its reputation as the gold-standard in cancer treatment, a meta-review14 published in 2004 showed chemotherapy has an average five-year survival success rate of just over 2 percent for all cancers ? hardly the kind of success rate you?d expect from ?gold standard,? evidence-based medicine. According to the authors:

?The overall contribution of curative and adjuvant cytotoxic chemotherapy to 5-year survival in adults was estimated to be 2.3 percent in Australia and 2.1 percent in the USA. As the 5-year relative survival rate for cancer in Australia is now over 60 percent, it is clear that cytotoxic chemotherapy only makes a minor contribution to cancer survival.

To justify the continued funding and availability of drugs used in cytotoxic chemotherapy, a rigorous evaluation of the cost-effectiveness and impact on quality of life is urgently required.?

Chemo Hastens Death When Given to Severely Ill Patients

Fast-forward 14 years, and the research still shows the same thing ? chemotherapy is often contraindicated and hardly a reliable cure. Instead, it often does more harm than good when administered across the board. Another study,15 the National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death (NCEPOD), published in 2008, found more than 4 in 10 patients who received chemotherapy toward the end of life experienced potentially fatal effects.

Moreover, after reviewing data from over 600 cancer patients who died within 30 days of receiving treatment, it was found that chemotherapy hastened or caused death in 27 percent of those cases. As noted in a commentary on these findings, published in the BMJ that same year:16

?The ? NCEPOD has reported that chemotherapy has probably hastened or caused death in over a quarter of patients who died within 30 days of receiving treatment. They suggest therefore, that greater caution be used in prescribing chemotherapy in very sick patients ?

The reality is that patients receiving chemotherapy have been deemed to be fit by their oncologist. Currently, this is assessed, in the main, by performance status. However, although simple to use, it is recognized to be subjective and therefore determination of ?fitness? and the selection of patients for chemotherapy is sub-optimal.

There is increasing evidence that the presence of a systemic inflammatory response, as evidenced by elevated concentrations of C- reactive protein and hypoalbuminaemia, are useful prognostic factors in patients with advanced cancer, independent of stage or treatment ?

[E]levated C-reactive protein and hypoalbuminaemia may be combined in a simple, objective scoring tool, the Glasgow Prognostic score (GPS) ? [W]e believe that the use of simple objective prognostic tools, such as the GPS, will improve the selection of patients for chemotherapy and reduce the number of chemotherapy associated deaths.?

Surgery Lowers Survival in Those With Advanced Kidney Cancer

Yet another study presented at the 2018 ASCO meeting showed patients with advanced kidney cancer do not need surgery. The French study,17 which looked at the outcomes of 450 patients, found ?the surgery was pointless,? as the removal of the diseased kidney did not improve outcomes compared to those receiving chemotherapy alone.

In fact, those who received the chemo drug Sunitinib alone had a median survival of 18.4 months, while those who received both chemo and surgery had a median survival of just 13.9 months. According to lead study author Arnaud Méjean, a urologist at Hôpital Européen Georges-Pompidou?Paris Descartes University,18 ?When medical treatment is required, cytoreductive nephrectomy should no longer be considered the standard of care for these patients with synchronous metastatic disease.?

Indeed, as noted by NPR,19 ?There may be many other cancer treatments that are unneeded and possibly even harmful. Many longtime medical practices are based on tradition and thin evidence.?

Your Lifestyle Significantly Impacts Your Cancer Risk

As the old saying goes, ?An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,? and this certainly holds true for cancer. Optimizing your body?s ability to burn fat as its primary fuel by eating a cyclical ketogenic diet and/or fasting is a foundational aspect of both cancer prevention and treatment.

To learn more, please review ?Metabolically Supported Therapies for the Improvement of Cancer Treatment,? in which Travis Christofferson and Dr. Abdul Slocum discuss how nutritional ketosis and fasting can radically improve treatment outcomes and minimize the need for chemo, even in advanced-stage and hard to treat cancer cases.

Detoxification is another crucial component, as most of us are inundated with thousands of toxins each day, many of which have carcinogenic potential. One of the simplest and perhaps safest ways is to use a low EMF, infrared sauna coupled with a near-infrared light, as your skin is a major organ of elimination.

Optimizing your vitamin D is another essential step, both for prevention and as an adjunct to treatment. For example, in a study20 published in 2010, data collected over a decade from more than 67,000 women showed that women in sunny climates with high vitamin D levels were at a significantly reduced risk of breast cancer. Other lifestyle strategies that will help minimize your cancer risk include the following:

Control your insulin level by limiting your intake of processed foods and sugars, especially fructose, as much as possible. This is one of the most powerful ways to reduce your cancer risk. By avoiding processed foods, you?ll also minimize your exposure to pesticides, herbicides, genetically engineered ingredients and factory farmed foods. Ideally, choose organic or biodynamic locally grown whole foods whenever possible.

Switch over to a cyclical ketogenic diet and then intermittent feasting and fasting. You'll find the exact steps detailed in my book, "Fat for Fuel."

Make sure your vitamin D and omega-3 levels are both optimized. For health and disease prevention, aim for a vitamin D level between 60 and 80 ng/mL and an omega-3 index of at least 8 percent.

Exercise. One of the primary reasons exercise works is that it drives your insulin levels down. Also make sure to get more movement into your waking hours. Simply sitting less can make a profound difference in your health.

Minimize your exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF), including both wireless technologies and household wiring. To learn more, see ?The Real Dangers of Electronic Devices and EMFs,? and ?The Harmful Effects of EMFs Explained.?

Have a tool to permanently erase the neurological short-circuiting that can activate cancer genes. My particular favorite tool for this purpose is the Emotional Freedom Techniques.

Get seven to nine hours of high-quality sleep each night.

Reduce your exposure to environmental toxins like pesticides, household chemical cleaners, synthetic air fresheners and air pollution.

Boil, poach or steam your foods, rather than frying or charbroiling them to avoid the creation of acrylamide, a known carcinogen. Avoid all processed meats for the same reason.

Breastfeed exclusively for up to six months. Research shows this too will reduce your breast cancer risk.

Blood Tests That Help Reveal Your Cancer Risk

While a healthy diet and lifestyle are recommended for everyone, a number of standard blood tests can help you determine your cancer risk, thereby putting you on notice that more radical lifestyle intervention may be prudent. Dr. Leigh Erin Connealy, whom I?ve interviewed on this topic, details these tests in her book, "The Cancer Revolution: A Groundbreaking Program to Reverse and Prevent Cancer." 

One such test is the high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (CRP) test, also mentioned above, which is a nonspecific marker for inflammation. ?It doesn?t tell me where the cancer is, but it tells me something is brewing,? Connealy says. Ideally, you?ll want your C-reactive protein to be below 1. Other valuable blood tests include:

? The hemoglobin A1C test, which reflects your blood sugar over the past 90 days. The reason for this test is because high blood sugar is a cancer-friendly environment

? A cancer profile test (fasting blood and urine) from American Metabolic Laboratories, which checks for:

? Quantitative human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG)

? Phosphohexose isomerase (PHI), the enzyme of hypoxia or low oxygen, which allows cancer to thrive

? Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA), a stress hormone

? Thyroid hormones, as low thyroid levels may predispose you to cancer

? Gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT), a liver marker and a sensitive screening tool for inflammation

? Arachidonyl-2-chloroethylamide (ACEA), a nonspecific marker for many cancers

? ONCOblot, which can identify up to 33 tissue types of cancer and has a 95 percent accuracy rate. It measures the ENOX2 protein

? Circulating tumor cell test by the Research Genetic Cancer Center (RGCC). The vast majority of people die not from the tumor itself but from circulating cancer stem cells, which allow the cancer to metastasize and spread throughout the body. This test is used after cancer treatment, to determine whether or not you might need to continue an anticancer program. Connealy explains:

?Even if you have surgery, chemo or radiation, it will not eradicate or eliminate circulating tumor cells ? The biggest cause of reoccurrence is the circulating tumor cells and stem cells ? Anybody who?s had cancer must have their circulating tumor cells [or] stem cells checked quantitatively.

RGCC is not the only lab that does it, but ? they?re in 13 countries [and] have the highest laboratory international certification you can have. It is, to me, probably the most accurate ?? 

Treatment Alternatives: Cryotherapy, IPT Chemo and Hyperthermic Therapy

It?s important to realize that chemotherapy drugs are, by their very nature, extremely toxic and typically do not work with your body to modulate and normalize its response to allow the cancer to resolve normally and they do absolutely nothing to address the cause of the cancer. Natural approaches, on the other hand, do not have the types of fatal side effects common with cancer drugs because they work by optimizing your body's own natural healing capacities.

Fortunately, there are natural approaches that rival and/or exceed the limited effectiveness of conventional therapies, without the risks. In her book, Connealy discusses the use of a number of alternative treatment methods, such as cryotherapy, which is where you freeze the cancer cells. Cryotherapy typically works well for breast cancer. Connealy has treated 9-centimeter breast tumors with cryotherapy in combination with a cocktail of low-dose chemo and hypodermic mistletoe, successfully eliminating the tumor in a single month.

In patients with cancer in multiple locations, she will often use insulin potentiation therapy with low-dose chemotherapy. Connealy has done a great job of compiling a variety of valuable resources into her book, ?The Cancer Revolution,? and if you or someone you love is faced with cancer, it?s definitely worth reading.

As for finding an open-minded oncologist or doctor willing to implement these kinds of integrative methods, an organization called The Best Answer for Cancer is a helpful resource that lists qualified physicians. You can find more information at www.bestanswerforcancer.org/. It's a hybrid nonprofit that services both integrative physicians and patients with cancer and other chronic disease.

Polluting Pigs Part III

By Dr. Mercola

North Carolina is the second largest pork producer in the U.S. and home to more than 2,500 pig CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations).1 The estimated 9 million pigs living in the state produce copious amounts of waste ? up to 10 times the amount of an average human2 ? for which there is no easy, nor environmentally friendly, disposal solution. Whereas a small farm can use the waste produced by its animals as fertilizer, the massive amounts of waste produced on CAFOs becomes a toxic liability.

Nonetheless, it's typically stored in "lagoons," where the waste can leach into groundwater and wells, run off into waterways and cause all sort of environmental problems. The liquefied waste from the lagoons is then sprayed onto nearby fields. North Carolina alone has an estimated 4,500 active lagoons and 1,700 inactive lagoons,3 and tests have revealed they contain far higher levels of pollutants than the industrial farms are reporting.

North Carolina CAFOs Not Reporting True Levels of Toxic Pollutants in Waste Lagoons

Inspectors with North Carolina's department of environmental quality (DEQ) tested 55 waste lagoons at 35 CAFOs, which revealed vastly different levels of pollutants than were reported by the CAFOs' own tests just one month prior.

In a letter to one CAFO, the DEQ stated, "The results show a significant difference in the PAN [peroxyacetyl nitrate] concentrations as well as other macro and micro nutrients that put into question the validity of the March 17th sampling results. It is unlikely that a lagoon make-up will change significantly in a month without a significant operations event occurring like a lagoon sludge clean out."4

Among the disparities were levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and heavy metals, including zinc and copper. In one case, zinc levels were more than 100,000 percent higher in the DEQ's tests compared to what the CAFOs reported.

Speaking to The Guardian, Devon Hall, co-founder of Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help (REACH), an anti-hog-CAFO group, said, "This manipulation of data is an insult to the community members suffering from the industry's continued use of the lagoon and spray field system ? We demand real enforcement. The response to this slap in the face should be more than a slap on the wrist."5

CAFO map

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North Carolina regulators have since launched an investigation into the underreporting of toxins, including "additional evaluation of historic data" at the CAFOs. Curiously, in their certified letter to one of the CAFOs where discrepancies were reported, the DEQ also apologized for the "short notice" provided by their staff regarding the collection of samples.6

Unfortunately, even as CAFOs have polluted waterways and endangered residents' health, they've been allowed to flourish in the state, despite it being a hurricane-prone area.

Waste stored in open-air lagoons may be breached by floodwaters from hurricanes. This has occurred in North Carolina repeatedly: in 1996 following Hurricane Fran; in 1998 following Hurricane Bonnie; in 1999 following Hurricane Floyd; and in 2016 following Hurricane Matthew. In 1997, following manure spills that proved to be disastrous, North Carolina implemented a ban on the construction of new CAFOs, but the ban expired in 1997 (and loopholes allowed some CAFOs to be built even during the ban).7

Pig Fecal Matter Regularly Spattered on Neighbors' Homes

CAFOs throughout the U.S. have been battling a slew of lawsuits from neighbors whose lives have been ruined by the industrial farming facilities. In North Carolina alone, The Guardian reported, pig farms "produce around 10bn [billion] gallons of feces a year, which is more than the volume of waste flushed down toilets by the human population of Germany."8

Says Elsie Herring, who lives in eastern North Carolina next to a field regularly sprayed with CAFO pig manure, "You stand outside and it feels like it's raining but then you realize it isn't rain. It's animal waste. It takes your breath away. You start gagging, coughing, your pulse increases. All you can do is run for cover."9 In April 2018, a federal jury ruled in the favor of North Carolina residents who live near the Kinlaw hog farm, a 14,000-animal facility, in Bladen County.

They were awarded a collective $750,000 in compensation plus another $50 million in damages as part of a nuisance lawsuit against Murphy Brown LLC, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pork producer. The suit claimed the operations and manure lagoons were harming residents' health and lowering property values. According to one of the attorneys on the case, Michael Kaeske, bacteria from swine digestive systems were found coating the exterior surfaces of all 10 of the plaintiffs' homes.10 The lawsuit stated:11

"Specifically, these homes have tested positive for the DNA fingerprint of pig intestinal bacteria on their surfaces ? they literally have pig feces on their walls. Which means that what the families have been saying for so many years, is true ? they have been assaulted by the particles of a foul, disgusting and germ-ridden odor. Which the multinational company refuses to correct even as it receives the economic benefits of record exports and profits."

The favorable verdict gave hope to the many other communities rallying against the damages caused by industrial agriculture, particularly since Smithfield and other meat producers wield incredible lobbying power, making nuisance lawsuits historically difficult to win. Unfortunately, about a week after the ruling, a federal judge called upon a North Carolina law that limits punitive damages to no more than three times the amount of compensatory damages or $250,000, whichever is greater.

As a result, damages in the suit were reduced to $3.25 million, which means the plaintiffs, who were set to receive $5 million in compensatory damages, will each receive $325,000 instead ? hardly enough to compensate them for the damages and allow them to relocate. Murphy Brown is also appealing the Kinlaw case, and only time will tell whether the company will ultimately be held responsible. This suit is only the first of 26 nuisance lawsuits filed against Murphy Brown; the next went on trial in June 2018.12

Duplin County, North Carolina, Has 38 Pigs Per Person

Certain areas of North Carolina are so densely populated with pig CAFOs that pigs in the areas outnumber people. CAFOs, with their environmental hazards and noxious odors, are also often disproportionately placed in areas with larger African-American, Latino and Native American populations.

Such is the case in Duplin County, which has 2.3 million pigs in CAFOs (along with 16.2 million poultry). With a human population numbering around 60,000, this works out to 38 pigs for each person.13 A study by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill revealed, in fact, that pig CAFOs are much more likely to affect African-American, Latinos and native Americans, noting:14

"The proportions of Blacks, Hispanics and American Indians living within 3 miles of an industrial hog operation are 1.54, 1.39 and 2.18 times higher, respectively, than the proportion of non-Hispanic Whites. In census blocks with 80 or more percent people of color, the proportion of the population living within 3 miles of an industrial hog operation is 2.14 times higher than in blocks with no people of color. This excess increases to 3.30 times higher with adjustment for rurality."

Previous research has also revealed that pig CAFOs in North Carolina are far less likely to appear in white communities, especially those low in poverty. "This spatial pattern is generally recognized as environmental racism," the researchers wrote.15

What Makes Pig CAFOs Such Bad Neighbors?

CAFOs pose environmental hazards in a number of ways, starting with water pollution. The excess of nutrients that runs off or leaches from CAFO waste lagoons lead to algae overgrowth in waterways, depleting the water of oxygen and killing fish and other marine life in expansive dead zones.

This, combined with the excess fertilizers applied to monocrops like corn and soy, which are also used for CAFO animal feed, sends a steady stream of nitrogen and phosphorus to both surface and groundwater, spreading potentially disease-causing organisms and unsustainable amounts of nutrients along the way.

The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico is the largest recorded dead zone in the world, beginning at the Mississippi River delta and spanning more than 8,700 square miles ? and industrial agricultural pollution is primarily to blame. Drinking water can also be affected.

In North Carolina, the Neuse and Cape Fear Rivers, which provide drinking water for 40 percent of the state's residents, have been named among the most endangered rivers in the U.S. because of the many CAFOs in the rivers' floodplains.16 Air quality is also an issue. Ammonia, which is formed when microbes digest nitrogen in manure, has a pungent odor and can lead to chemical burns, cough and chronic lung disease. Other toxic compounds commonly released by CAFOs include:17

  • Hydrogen sulfide, which has a rotten egg odor and can cause inflammation of eye and respiratory tract membranes, loss of olfactory neurons and even death
  • Methane, an odorless but highly flammable greenhouse gas
  • Particulate matter, including particles from feed, bedding, dry manure, soil, animal dander and feathers, which can cause chronic bronchitis and respiratory symptoms, declines in lung function and organic dust toxic syndrome, a severe flu-like illness

Beyond pollution, CAFOs pose serious threats of spreading diseases to humans. For instance, a pig virus, the porcine deltacoronavirus (PDCoV), first identified in Hong Kong in 2012, has recently been shown to have the potential to leap to humans. The sometimes-fatal virus causes diarrhea and vomiting in pigs, and researchers revealed it has the potential to be transmitted between species, including to humans.18

"We're very concerned about emerging coronaviruses and worry about the harm they can do to animals and their potential to jump to humans," senior study author Linda Saif, an investigator in Ohio State's Food Animal Health Research Program at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC), said in a press release.19 Antibiotic-resistant disease can also be spread via CAFOs.

In 2015, research published in Clinical Infectious Diseases revealed that current workers at pig farms are six times more likely to carry multidrug-resistant MRSA than those without exposure to CAFO pigs.20 Aerosolized MRSA has even been detected in the air inside and downwind of a pig CAFO, as well as in animal feed.21 Needless to say, living near a CAFO has turned many people's "American dream" into a nightmare.

What's the Best Way to Fight Back Against CAFOs?

People in rural communities often feel helpless against the giant multinational corporations ruining their lives. It's a good sign that some residents have been awarded damages for their CAFO-caused hardships, but the amounts are unlikely to prompt change within the industry. And, ultimately, this is what's needed to stop the environmental destruction that's occurring at the hands of CAFOs.

The solution lies in changing agricultural practices from industrial to regenerative. Choosing grass fed products like grass fed beef and bison over those raised in CAFOs is a solution that we can all take part in. Look for pastured pork, free-range poultry and other animal products raised naturally in concert with the environment and actively avoid those raised on CAFOs.

The vast majority of animal products sold in U.S. grocery stores come from CAFOs, which is why sourcing your food from a small local farmer, farmers market or food co-op is one of the best decisions you can make ? not only for your own health but for that of the environment and the people forced to live near CAFOs. Ultimately, if a sizeable minority of people begin to boycott CAFO products, they may be forced to change their ways.

 
 

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