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A Breathalyzer for Disease?

By Dr. Mercola

Humans have been given five interesting ?super powers? ? hearing, sight, taste, touch and smell, without which life may arguably be less rich and perhaps even dangerous. Today, however, recently developed breath-analysis technology can use ?smell? to analyze and accurately diagnose 17 different diseases with 86 percent accuracy.

For example, the Na-Nose technology can identify multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, several types of cancer, kidney failure and Crohn?s disease through the use of nanorays. According to CNN:

?The theory behind the technology is that each of us has a unique chemical ?fingerprint.? Each disease also has a particular chemical signature, which can be detected on our breath. The Na-Nose technology, which consists of a sensor chamber with a breathing tube and software, is able to detect this precise chemistry of disease by interpreting the impact on our usual chemical fingerprint.?1

Researchers used nanorays (aka nanoarrays) for breath analyzation, which the journal ACS Nano noted was ?validated by an independent analytical technique, i.e., gas chromatography linked with mass spectrometry [GC-MS].?2

Around 1,400 participants from different countries were tested using the Na-Nose technology, which accurately diagnosed disease approximately nine out of 10 times, Medical Daily reports, adding that if other diseases (besides the 17 specifically mentioned in the study) happen to be present in an individual?s ?breathprint,? the device may detect those, as well.3 Those 17 detectable diseases include:

Lung cancer

Colorectal cancer

Head and neck cancer

Ovarian cancer

Bladder cancer

Prostate cancer

Kidney cancer

Gastric cancer

Crohn?s disease

Ulcerative colitis

Irritable bowel syndrome

Idiopathic Parkinson?s

Atypical Parkinsonism

Multiple sclerosis (MS)

Pulmonary arterial hypertension

Pre-eclampsia

Chronic kidney disease

The study stated, ?One breath sample obtained from each subject was analyzed with the artificially intelligent nanoarray for disease diagnosis and classification, and a second was analyzed with GC-MS for exploring its chemical composition.?4

Na-Nose Technology: ?Inexpensive, Noninvasive and Easy to Use?

It turns out that the study, conducted by colleagues from Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and led by Hossam Haick, from the department of experimental technology development, revealed 13 exhaled chemical species known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are each associated with certain diseases, the composition of which differs from one disease to another, according to ACS Nano.5

Quartz cited research conducted over the last decade showing that with cystic fibrosis, for instance, patients? bodies produce nearly quadruple the acetic acid ? the base chemical in vinegar ? compared to healthy people.6 Haick noted that besides boasting an equivalent accuracy to what?s currently available in the way of tools and expertise, Na-Nose breath analysis is not invasive, which can?t even be said about standard blood tests.

Further, the developers described the technology as easy to use, affordable and a ?miniaturized tool? that could be used for personalized screening, diagnosis and follow-up. Na-Nose technology imitates a human?s or dog?s sense of smell to evaluate a patient?s breath, Medical Daily7 explains, and can assess whether someone is healthy and predict who among healthy people have the highest risk for disease in the future.

Haick stresses that one of the most important benefits of the device is to intercept diseases earlier, which may increase the chances of survival, especially for illnesses like cancer. In fact, Haick says the Na-Nose?s ability to detect lung cancer can increase survival rates from 10 percent to 70 percent.8

The scientists also noted that while detecting disease from breath samples has been used for infections, respiratory ailments and oncology (the study and treatment of cancer), the next step of sophistication in the process would be to not just diagnose an illness but classify its condition to determine the cause and appropriate therapy. Seven different companies have obtained licensing from Technion to develop commercially viable products for unique applications.

Haick said he hopes they?re able to take what was developed in a lab and bring it to mass production. One idea is to create a smartphone that could essentially be called a ?sniffphone? for monitoring health. However, he doesn?t expect any such technology to be available ? either to the medical establishment or to the public ? for several years due to the necessary testing and regulation involved.

Ancient to Modern Technology and Potential Obstacles

Ancient Greek medical practitioners used the five senses to identify their patients? physical maladies. Until more sophisticated methods came along, all they had at their disposal were these senses and medieval instrumentation such as probes and speculums, Brought to Life9 says. Ancient doctors used observations such as skin color, touching patients to analyze body temperature and pulse, listening to heart rates and stomach rumblings, and smelling their patients? breath, body odor and even their urine and feces to diagnose illnesses.

Haick said the study expounded on the theme, noting that doctors circa 400 B.C. learned to evaluate their patients' possible link to disease by the VOCs their patients exhaled (although they didn?t call them VOCs then). ?For example, the stools and urine of infant noblemen were smelt daily by their physicians.?10

Mangilal Agarwal, director of the Integrated Nanosystems Development Institute and an associate professor at Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis, while not involved in Haick's study, is working on similar scent analysis technologies for disease diagnoses, specifically hypoglycemia, breast cancer and prostate cancer.

While Agarwal commends Haick's work and the Na-Nose technology?s noninvasive capabilities (especially in light of the ?sufficiently unpleasant experience? involving a prostate biopsy) he and other scientists raise concerns regarding whether environmental fluctuations and different regions could conceivably produce air signals and other factors that might throw off the sensor?s readings.11

Then there?s the call for smell technology requirements to first establish a profile of breath molecules for normal health, taking such variables as body mass index (BMI), gender, age and ethnicity into account. What subjects ate for dinner or mouth rinse usage might throw off breath analysis results, as would the failure to immediately test breath collections, as storing it for any length of time would doubtless skew results.

Dogs and Fruit Flies as Disease Detectors

Agarwal noted the canine connection to disease detection, which has fascinated the medical world for many years, CNN observed: ?Breath has the scents or volatile biomarkers necessary to identify many diseases. We know this from canines who can detect hypoglycemia and epileptic seizures, fruit flies (and canines) that can detect cancer, and from giant rats that detect tuberculosis in Africa.?12

ChemoSense reported the work of Alja Lüdke and Giovanni Galizia, from the department of biology (and) neurobiology at University of Konstanz in Germany. The two noted in their paper "Sniffing Cancer: Will the Fruit Fly Beat the Dog?" that animals found to be highly sensitive to the smell of cancer may have sparked the first experimentation in electronic noses for cancer detection.

?Cancer cells have a fundamentally different metabolism compared to normal cells, not least due to their tendency to grow fast and in an uncontrolled manner ? Cancer cells may produce cancer-specific metabolites, and/or shift the relative concentration of common metabolites. These changes are then reflected in the emitted odour profile of cancer cells.?13

Cancer doesn?t even have to be visible, Lüdke and Galizia wrote, relating the case of a dog who detected a cancerous lesion on a woman?s leg through her trousers, which turned out to be malignant melanoma. However, fruit flies, when tested, were found to have olfactory receptors (50 different types) that are nearly as sensitive, compared to a dog?s 1,000 receptor types, and also with surprisingly accurate instances of disease detection.14

Smell Receptors: Humans Versus Animals Versus Breath Technology

Canines have been shown to have 300 million smell receptor cells, and the part of their brain that analyzes different odors is 40 times larger than that of humans, most of whom possess around 6 million. The ability of trained dogs to detect disease in humans has been used all over the world. One study used hypoglycemic events in type 1 diabetes patients as a means to develop an alternative to diabetes alert dogs:

?Canines trained as diabetes alert dogs (DADs) have demonstrated the ability to detect hypoglycemia from breath, which led us to hypothesize that hypoglycemia, a metabolic dysregulation leading to low blood glucose levels, could be identified through analyzing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) contained within breath.?15

Studies that demonstrate how quickly and accurately dogs can detect serious diseases like cancer are numerous. One in Britain found them to pinpoint bladder and prostate cancers 90 percent of the time, and sometimes even more frequently.16 In another, a trained Labrador retriever was able to detect colorectal cancer from breath and stool samples with similar accuracy.17

Dogs have even been able to identify people with abnormal blood sugar levels and predict seizures before they happen, even before the individuals realize anything?s wrong. But dogs have also been known to have ?flawed technology,? so to speak, as they don?t perform the same way every time. Technologies like the Na-Nose could exist independently from needing a dog or some other animal?s ability to ?sniff out? sickness.

Coconut Oil and Peanut Butter: Detection and Potential Improvement

Your ability to smell may be a marker for your odds of developing Alzheimer?s disease or a related disorder. According to the Alzheimer?s Association, it?s a progressive brain disorder that destroys brain cells and is ultimately fatal.18 A 2014 study reported that in 2010, while death certificates cited only 84,000 people as dying from Alzheimer?s, in reality, more like 503,400 people in the U.S. aged 75 years and older died from it,19 and Alzheimer?s death rates have risen even further since then.20

Scientists emphasize that early diagnosis and prevention strategies are crucial in slowing down this most common type of dementia. One of the most exciting breakthroughs, though, is also related to smell, in this instance being linked to diagnosing cognitive impairment early, which is crucial. Jennifer Stamps, who in 2013 was a graduate student at the University of Florida, devised the plan to test patients? ability to smell peanut butter, a ?pure odorant,? only detectable by the olfactory nerve.

Patients blocked one nostril at a time for the test, while clinicians held the peanut butter and a ruler closer to each nostril at 1-centimeter (0.39-inch) increments until the patients said they could detect the fragrance ? or not.21 Per Medical News Today:

?The scientists found that patients in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease had a dramatic difference in detecting odor between the left and right nostril ? the left nostril ? did not detect the smell until it was an average of 10 cm closer to the nose than the right nostril had made the detection in patients with Alzheimer's disease.?22

One day, the peanut butter method of dementia detection may become a standard for early Alzheimer?s intervention. As Stamps explains, ?If we can catch it at that early stage, we can start treatment more aggressively, and you can possibly prevent a lot of the progression.?23 Clinical studies show that coconut oil may be another substance with profound potential against Alzheimer?s disease.

It started with the theory that ketone bodies, an alternative fuel for your brain that your body makes when digesting coconut oil, might have brain benefits. As the study ensued, Dr. Mary Newport, whose husband, Steve, began experiencing cognitive decline at age 51, found that giving him 4 teaspoons of coconut oil per day resulted in dramatic improvements.

If you find you?re unable to smell peanut butter, it?s possible that you may benefit from using coconut oil. Until a treatment is found that will turn the symptoms of cognitive decline around or cure it outright, I recommend dosing yourself with coconut oil as described above (as well as making specific dietary changes); there are dozens of other benefits to gain as well.

As for the ?breathalyzer? that may one day become the go-to tool for detecting early-stage diseases, perhaps Alzheimer?s will be among those conditions that it will ultimately detect.

Child Prodigy Astounds Music World With Full-Length Opera Composition

By Dr. Mercola

I am so pleased to post this video and I hope it gives you as much joy as it did me when I first viewed it on 60 Minutes. It is beyond extraordinary to have a glimpse into someone as exceptionally talented as 12-year-old Alma. My only regret is that there is no way to post this without exposing you to a minutelong drug commercial, which I?m sure you realize I don?t endorse. For some of you, it may be the only time you see these commercials so let them entertain you.

Most of us are gifted with some degree of natural talent ? something we do better, or with greater ease, than the average person. And then, there?s the true prodigies; people with seemingly unnatural talent. Their gift is so profound, and comes from God-only-knows-where. Alma Deutscher, from Basingstoke, England, is a perfect example of the latter.1

There are a number of musical prodigies out there, but Alma has most of them beat. She was able to name notes on the piano at age 2 and began playing piano and violin at the tender age of 3. Within a year of tutoring, she was playing Handel sonatas on the violin. She?s now considered a virtuoso of both instruments. By the age of 4, she?d already begun composing her own melodies, and by 6 she?d written her first piano sonata. This was followed by a violin and orchestra concerto at 9.

In December last year, her full-length opera, ?Cinderella,? premiered at the Casino Baumgarten Theatre in Vienna,2 the city of music, performed by the Viennese opera group, Oh!pera ? an unattainable dream even for many adult composers who?ve spent a lifetime perfecting their craft. Alma, who wrote the score for every single instrument, and the lyrics, was 11 years old. The 2.5-hour long opera, with a musical score running 237 pages, received standing ovations.

Cinderella Reinvented by 11-Year-Old Prodigy

Many were also wowed by her creative reinvention of the classical tale of Cinderella. Rather than being matched with her true love by the way of a lost glass slipper of a particularly minute size ? an idea Alma found to be ?quite silly? ? Cinderella is a talented composer and the pining prince is a poet. The tale is set in an opera production company run by the evil stepmother. The two stepsisters are divas with little talent and much vile.

Cinderella, with a natural talent for composing, is not allowed to perform. Meanwhile, the prince writes a love poem that ends up in Cinderella?s hands. Not knowing the identity of the poet, she falls in love with the words and sets them to music. After having her composition stolen by her evil stepsisters, who do their best to sing it at the ball, Cinderella finally gets her chance to perform for the prince.

The prince is enthralled by the enchanting melody, and sets out to discover who wrote the music to his poem. As in the classical story, he travels the land searching for his soulmate, but instead of looking for the foot that fits into the slipper, he sings a portion of the melody, knowing only the true composer can properly finish the song.

So, the prince falls in love with Cinderella not because of her physical beauty or tiny feet, but because of her talent, and because ?he understands her,? to use Alma?s explanation. In other words, he recognizes his soulmate as a talented equal. ?I didn't want Cinderella just to be pretty. I wanted her to have her own mind and her own spirit. And to be a little bit like me. So, I decided that she would be a composer,? Alma explains.3 ?Cinderella? made its American sold-out debut December 16 at the Opera San Jose.4

Where Does the Music Come From?

Most interviews with Alma include the same question: Where does her music come from? In a recent 60-Minutes interview, Scott Pelley received the following answer:5

?I don?t really know, but it?s really very normal to me to ? walk around and having melodies popping into my head. It?s the most normal thing in the world. For me, it?s strange to walk around and not to have melodies popping into my head. So, if I was interviewing you, I would say, ?Well, tell me Scott, how does it feel not having melodies popping into your head???

Oftentimes, the music comes when she?s most relaxed, either playing outdoors with her younger sister, or skipping rope. Her father, Guy Deutscher, a linguistics professor and amateur musician, taught her to read musical notes, but questions the influence of his role in her immense ability to create music, including scores for instruments she does not play.

He tells Pelley, ?I thought it was me [that taught her to read music]. I hardly had to say [any]thing ? and, you know, her piano teacher once said ?it?s a bit difficult with Alma; it?s difficult to teach her because one always has the sense she?d ?been there? before.?? Alma also says she has ?lots of composers? inside her mind, in a special ?country? she created in her imagination.

These imaginary friends provide her with the emotional juices her tender youth lacks. Each one has their own emotional style of composing. One of them, Antonin Yellowsink, helped her compose a ?dark and dramatic? violin concerto. ?[S]ometimes when I?m stuck with something, when I?m composing, I go to them and ask them for advice. And quite often, they come up with very interesting things,? she says.

Would Rather Be Original Alma Than Second Mozart

Many compare Alma to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791),6 one of the few childhood prodigies that can even compare to Alma?s talent. However, while flattered, Alma insists she would rather ?prefer to be the first Alma than the second Mozart.? That said, she has a great affinity for the famed composer and musician, and ?would have loved? to have him as a teacher.

The question is whether Alma wouldn?t have ended up teaching Mozart a thing or two. In a concerto in Israel, Alma performed one of Mozart?s piano concertos with a cadenza ? a musical interlude where the orchestra goes silent, allowing the soloist to perform his or her own music. But in this case, Alma didn?t just perform Mozart?s solo. She created her own.

?It's something that I composed because, you see, it's a very early concerto of Mozart and the cadenza was very simple. It didn't go to any different keys,? she tells Pelley. ?And I composed quite a long one going to lots and lots of different keys doing lots of things in Mozart's motifs,? Alma says. ?So, you improved the cadenza of Mozart?? Pelley asks, to which she replies, ?Well, yes.?

Robert Gjerdingen, a professor of music at Northwestern in Chicago who has acted as a ?consultant to Alma's education,? had the following to say about his star protégé:

?It's kind of a comet that goes by and everybody looks up and just goes, ?Wow.? I sent her some assignments when she was six, seven, where I expected her to crash and burn, because they were very difficult. It came back, it was like listening to a mid-18th century composer. She was a native speaker ? It's her first language ? she speaks the Mozart-style. She speaks the style of Mendelssohn ? She's batting in the big leagues. And if you win the pennant, there's immortality.?

The Many Benefits of Music

As for why she composes, Alma says her inspiration is to ?make the world a better place,? and she believes beautiful music can do that. She is undoubtedly correct. Music is a form of emotional communication, an emotional protolanguage of sorts, and like emotions it can have a tremendous influence on psychological and even physical health. For example, music has been found to:

  • Help you exercise harder, while making it feel easier
  • Help Alzheimer?s patients reconnect with people around them, remember past life events and reduce agitation associated with dementia
  • Allow patients with Parkinson?s disease move more freely.7 The music appears to provide an external rhythm that bypasses the malfunctioning signals in the brain
  • Improve your mood; calm nerves; reduce stress and/or invigorate and energize
  • Facilitate connection and unification between people. Despite individual differences in musical preferences, classical music has been shown to elicit a very consistent pattern of brain activity in virtually all listeners. Areas activated include those involved in movement, planning, memory and attention. This brain activation creates a sort of unifying force that synchronizes and unifies people together8

What Happens in Your Brain When You Hear Music?

When you listen to music, much more is happening in your body than simple auditory processing. Research shows that music triggers activity in the nucleus accumbens, a part of your brain that releases the feel-good chemical dopamine and is involved in forming expectations. At the same time, the amygdala, which is involved in processing emotion, and the prefrontal cortex, which makes possible abstract decision-making, are also activated.9

Based on the brain activity in certain regions, especially the nucleus accumbens, captured by an fMRI imager while participants listened to music, the researchers could predict how much money the listeners were willing to spend on previously unheard music. As you might suspect, songs that triggered activity in the emotional and intellectual areas of the brain demanded a higher price.

Interestingly, the study?s lead author noted that your brain learns how to predict how different pieces of music will unfold using pattern recognition and prediction, skills that may have been key to our evolutionary progress. As reported by Time:10

?These predictions are culture-dependent and based on experience: someone raised on rock or Western classical music won?t be able to predict the course of an Indian raga, for example, and vice versa. But if a piece develops in a way that?s both slightly novel and still in line with our brain?s prediction, we tend to like it a lot. And that, says [lead researcher] Salimpoor, ?is because we?ve made a kind of intellectual conquest.?

Music may, in other words, tap into a brain mechanism that was key to our evolutionary progress. The ability to recognize patterns and generalize from experience, to predict what?s likely to happen in the future ? in short, the ability to imagine ? is something humans do far better than any other animals. It?s what allowed us (aided by the far less glamorous opposable thumb) to take over the world.?

Alma?s future passion project is to write a book, turn it into a film and write the musical score. I hope you?ll take the time to view the featured 25-minute documentary about Alma Deutscher, and revel in her musical talent. You will not regret it. Then, if you?re eager for more, you can listen to some of the ?Cinderella? performances in the 1.5-hour-long recording above. May she inspire you to help make the world a better place, every day.

Tasty Chocolate and Avocado Truffles Recipe

Tasty Avocado Bomb Truffles

Recipe from Jennafer Ashley of Paleohacks

 

Chocolate truffles are a popular type of confectionery composed of a chocolate coating and ganache, a filling made by mixing chocolate and cream. The ingredients are mixed together and rolled into balls, which are then served as gifts or eaten for a quick snack.[i] Their name comes from their similar appearance to truffles, a type of mushroom prized in the culinary world for its unique aroma and flavor.[ii]

 

However, most chocolate truffles sold today contain lots of sugar, which can wreak havoc on your health when consumed. I believe it?s far better to make your own chocolate truffles using raw, organic ingredients that can provide a multitude of health benefits. Plus, it?ll taste better, too!

 

This chocolate and avocado truffle recipe by Jennafer Ashley of Paleohacks is a great example. Not only is it healthy and delicious, but also easy to prepare.

 

Ingredients:

 

·         2 small ripe, organic avocados

·         1 cup raw of cacao powder

·         2 tablespoons of raw cacao powder for dusting

·         3 tablespoons of Dr. Mercola?s coconut oil, melted

·         2 tablespoons of  Dr. Mercola?s raw honey

 

Procedure:

 

1.       In a mixing bowl, combine the melted coconut oil, avocado and honey. Use a hand mixer on medium speed to mix the ingredients until they reach a smooth consistency.

2.       Gradually mix in 1 cup of raw cacao powder until it completely combines with the other ingredients. Place in the freezer for 10 minutes.

3.       Using a tablespoon, scoop out the mixture and roll it into balls. Dust with the reserved cacao powder.

4.       Store in the refrigerator, then serve once chilled.

 

Note: This recipe makes 12 truffles.

 

Avocado Is a Nutrient Powerhouse

 

In this recipe, avocado serves as the ganache. This fruit is actually one of the most nutritious foods you can eat because of its high amounts of healthy fat. In fact, I enjoy one myself almost every day. This allows me to increase my intake of healthy fat and other vitamins without going over my protein and carbohydrate limit.

 

But what makes avocado really good for you? In one study, avocado has been found to contain phytochemicals that can help destroy oral cancer cells.[iii] In another study, Japanese researchers suggest that avocado may help protect against liver damage, based from their tests on mice.[iv] Furthermore, avocado may enhance your stomach?s ability to absorb carotenoids when it is eaten with other ingredients.[v]

 

Raw, Organic Chocolate Is Rich in Antioxidants

 

There?s no doubt that people all over the world love chocolate, but most varieties sold today are loaded with sugar, which can adversely affect your health over time. You can circumvent this problem by consuming raw, organic chocolate instead.

 

Cacao, the plant from which chocolate comes, is rich in various antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, making it a perfect complement to avocado. In one study, diabetics were given a cocoa drink rich in flavonols (a type of antioxidant). After one month, researchers noted that the test subjects had improved blood vessel function.[vi] In addition, chocolate may help:[vii]

 

Improve exercise endurance

Lower your risk of Alzheimer?s disease

Reduce stress hormones

Lower your blood pressure and improve your lipid profile

Reduce the symptom of glaucoma and cataracts

Protect against preeclampsia in pregnant women

Improve liver function for those who have cirrhosis

Improve endothelial function

 

Coconut Oil Adds More Health Benefits to the Recipe

 

Coconut oil is one of the best ingredients you can add to your kitchen arsenal. In fact, I use it a lot in my own cooking. When added to your food regularly, coconut oil?s medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) can help optimize your health.

 

For one, MCFAs are a great source of healthy energy compared to sugar. When digested, they are immediately converted by your liver and used up by your body as fuel, instead of being stored as fat. Furthermore, coconut oil may help:

 

·         Promote healthy brain function: Ketones produced by coconut oil may serve as an alternative healthy source of energy for brain cells, which may help reduce the symptoms of Alzheimer?s disease.[viii]

·         Boost your immune system: The fatty acids that make up coconut oil contain antimicrobial properties, which can help eliminate harmful bacteria and viruses in your gut.[ix]

·         Promote weight loss: Coconut oil can help manage your weight in the long run by making you feel full longer. In one study, those who ate more MCFAs on a daily basis consumed 256 fewer calories.[x]

·         Improve oral health: The antimicrobial properties of coconut oil can help promote healthy gums and teeth. Rinsing it around your mouth (also known as oil pulling) can help reduce plaque and decay-causing bacteria.[xi]

 

 

About the Author:

Paleohacks is one of the largest Paleo communities on the web. They offer everything Paleo: from a Q&A forum where users get their top health questions answered, to a community blog featuring daily recipes, workouts and wellness content. You can also tune in to their podcast, where they bring in the top experts in the Paleo world to share the latest, cutting-edge health information.



An Attitude of Gratitude Can Help You Live a Longer, Happier Life

By Dr. Mercola

This article previously ran a few years ago but there are so many good reminders about the benefits of gratitude, I decided to share it with you again this year with a new video. I am grateful beyond words for your support, and for partnering with me to help people all over the world take control of their health.

Besides sharing time with family and friends over food, the primary ingredient of the American Thanksgiving holiday is gratitude. While it's certainly good to have an annual holiday to remind us to express gratitude, there's much to be said for the benefits of cultivating the spirit of thankfulness year-round.

People who are thankful for what they have are better able to cope with stress, have more positive emotions, and are better able to reach their goals. Scientists have even noted that gratitude is associated with improved health. As noted in the Harvard Mental Health Letter,1 "expressing thanks may be one of the simplest ways to feel better:"

"The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness (depending on the context). In some ways gratitude encompasses all of these meanings. Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible.

With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals ? whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.

...People feel and express gratitude in multiple ways. They can apply it to the past (retrieving positive memories and being thankful for elements of childhood or past blessings), the present (not taking good fortune for granted as it comes), and the future (maintaining a hopeful and optimistic attitude).

Regardless of the inherent or current level of someone's gratitude, it's a quality that individuals can successfully cultivate further."

Gratitude ? It Does a Body Good

Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, head of biologic psychology at Duke University Medical Center once stated that: "If [thankfulness] were a drug, it would be the world's best-selling product with a health maintenance indication for every major organ system."2

One way to harness the positive power of gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal or list, where you actively write down exactly what you're grateful for each day. In one study,3,4 people who kept a gratitude journal reported exercising more, and they had fewer visits to the doctor compared to those who focused on sources of aggravation.

As noted in a previous ABC News article,5 studies have shown that gratitude can produce a number of measurable effects on a number of systems in your body, including:

Mood neurotransmitters (serotonin and norepinephrine) Inflammatory and immune systems (cytokines)
Reproductive hormones (testosterone) Stress hormones (cortisol)
Social bonding hormones (oxytocin) Blood pressure and cardiac and EEG rhythms
Cognitive and pleasure related neurotransmitters (dopamine) Blood sugar

Ways to Cultivate Gratitude

Cultivating a sense of gratitude will help you refocus your attention toward what's good and right in your life, rather than dwelling on the negatives and all the things you may feel are lacking. And, like a muscle, this mental state can be strengthened with practice. Besides keeping a daily gratitude journal, other ways to cultivate a sense of gratitude include:

  • Write thank you notes: Whether in response to a gift or kind act, or simply as a show of gratitude for someone being in your life, getting into the habit of writing thank-you letters can help you express gratitude in addition to simply feeling it inside.
  • Count your blessings: Once a week, reflect on events for which you are grateful, and write them down. As you do, feel the sensations of happiness and thankfulness you felt at the time it happened, going over it again in your mind.
  • Pray: Expressing thanks during your prayers is another way to cultivate gratitude.
  • Mindfulness meditation: Practicing "mindfulness" means that you're actively paying attention to the moment you're in right now. A mantra is sometimes used to help maintain focus, but you can also focus on something that you're grateful for, such as a pleasant smell, a cool breeze, or a lovely memory.

Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude

Three years ago, the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California,6 in collaboration with the University of California, launched a project called "Cultivating Gratitude in a Consumerist Society." This $5.6 million project aims to:

  • Expand the scientific database of gratitude, particularly in the key areas of human health, personal and relational well-being, and developmental science;
  • Promote evidence-based practices of gratitude in medical, educational, and organizational settings and in schools, workplaces, homes and communities, and in so doing?
  • Engage the public in a larger cultural conversation about the role of gratitude in civil society.

In 2012, 14 winning research projects were announced, with topics covering everything from the neuroscience of gratitude, to the role of gratitude for the prevention of bullying. The organization has a number of resources you can peruse at your leisure, including The Science of Happiness blog and newsletter,7 and a Digital Gratitude Journal,8 where you can record and share the things you're grateful for. Scientists are also permitted to use the data to explore "causes, effects, and meaning of gratitude."

For example, previous research has shown that employees whose managers say "thank you" feel greater motivation at work, and work harder than peers who do not hear those "magic words." As noted in a previous Thanksgiving blog post in Mark's Daily Apple:9 "[R]esearch10 has shown that being on the receiving end of a person's gratitude can boost subjects' sense of self-worth and/or self-efficacy.

It also appears to encourage participants to further help the person who offered the gratitude but also another, unrelated person in an unconscious 'pay it forward' kind of connection."

Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude as Part of a Healthy Lifestyle

Starting each day by thinking of all the things you have to be thankful for is one way to put your mind on the right track. Also, remember that your future depends largely on the thoughts you think today. So each moment of every day is an opportunity to turn your thinking around, thereby helping or hindering your ability to think and feel more positively in the very next moment.

Most experts agree that there are no shortcuts to happiness. Even generally happy people do not experience joy 24 hours a day. But a happy person can have a bad day and still find pleasure in the small things in life.

Be thankful for what you have. When life gives you a 100 reasons to cry, remember the 1,000 reasons you have to smile. Face your past without regret; prepare for the future without fear; focus on what's good right now, in the present moment, and practice gratitude. Remember to say "thank you" ? to yourself, the Universe and others. It's wonderful to see a person smile, and even more wonderful knowing that you are the reason behind it! And with that, I wish you all a Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving!

The Science of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

By Dr. Mercola

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that occurs seasonally, typically ramping up in the fall and winter months and disappearing come spring (although it may occur during other seasons as well, albeit less often). It?s quite common for people to notice changes in their mood, energy levels and food cravings when the weather turns colder and the days get shorter, but this slump, known as ?winter blues,? is different from true SAD.

In the case of SAD, symptoms are so severe that they interfere with daily life. "I feel myself wanting to cry for no reason; I overreact extensively and am extremely irritable," one SAD sufferer told NBC News.1 ?There are days where I cannot bring myself to get out of bed or function.?

Common SAD symptoms include oversleeping, intense carbohydrate cravings, overeating and weight gain. Some people also have trouble concentrating and withdraw socially,2 preferring to ?hibernate? indoors instead of carrying on with their normal day-to-day activities.

Dr. Norman Rosenthal, clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine, was the first to describe SAD, writing in a 1984 journal article that the ?depressions were generally characterized by hypersomnia, overeating and carbohydrate craving, and seemed to respond to changes in climate and latitude.?3 Indeed, rates of SAD vary depending on location, with people living farthest from the equator in northern latitudes being most susceptible.

In the U.S., for instance, according to a review published in Depression Research and Treatment, SAD affects only 1 percent of Floridians compared to 9 percent of Alaskans.4 Women are also at increased risk, with SAD being diagnosed four times more often in women than men. Young adults also seem to be disproportionately affected (SAD typically begins between the ages of 18 and 30 years),5 and this could be due to links to ancient ancestors. Professor Robert Levitan of the University of Toronto told The Guardian:6

?Because it affects such a large proportion of the population in a mild to moderate form, a lot of people in the field do feel that SAD is a remnant from our past, relating to energy conservation. Ten thousand years ago, during the ice age, this biological tendency to slow down during the wintertime was useful, especially for women of reproductive age because pregnancy is very energy-intensive.

But now we have a 24-hour society, we?re expected to be active all the time and it?s a nuisance. However, as to why a small proportion of people experience it so severely that it?s completely disabling, we don?t know.?

Why Shorter Days, Less Sunlight May Lead to SAD

A whole host of physiological processes are directed by your body?s circadian rhythm, which is calibrated by exposure to natural sunlight and darkness. Regular sunlight exposure is a crucial part of this equation. Many have become familiar with its importance for optimizing your vitamin D levels ? and there is research showing that not only is SAD more common in people with low vitamin D levels, but improving levels improves SAD symptoms.7

However, sunlight?s role in this condition goes far beyond vitamin D. For instance, sunlight helps to keep levels of the protein SERT low. As a key player in transporting the neurotransmitter serotonin, known to play a role in mood, low levels are a good thing, as higher SERT levels are linked to lower serotonin activity and increased depression. According to the Depression Research and Treatment review:8

?In one study, people with SAD had 5 percent more SERT, a protein that assists with serotonin transport, in the winter months than in summer9 ? Throughout the summer, sunlight generally keeps SERT levels naturally low. But as sunlight diminishes in the fall, a corresponding decrease in serotonin activity also occurs.?

The SAD-Melatonin Connection

Your master biological clock resides inside the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of your brain, which is part of your hypothalamus. Based on signals of light and darkness, your SCN tells your pineal gland when it's time to secrete melatonin and when to turn it off. One of melatonin?s primary roles is regulating your body?s circadian rhythm. When it gets dark, your brain starts secreting melatonin (typically around 9 or 10 p.m.), which makes you sleepy.

Levels typically stay elevated for about 12 hours; then, as the sun rises, your pineal gland reduces your production and the levels in your blood decrease until they're hardly measurable at all. People with SAD may overproduce melatonin, such that the increased darkness that comes along with winter leads to feelings of sleepiness and lethargy, or melatonin production may be phase-delayed, which means it?s produced at the wrong time.10

The combination of low serotonin and excess melatonin may prove to be especially problematic for circadian rhythms, and there?s evidence that, for people with SAD, ?the circadian signal that indicates a seasonal change in day length has been found to be timed differently, thus making it more difficult for their bodies to adjust.?11

It?s also been proposed that seasonal changes in diet could play a role in SAD, and research has found that vegetarians are four times more likely to suffer from SAD than non-vegetarians.12 Vegetarians have also been found to be twice as likely to suffer from nonseasonal depression,13 which suggests that nutrient deficiencies may be involved in both.

Exposure to Sunlight ? Full-Spectrum Light ? Is Crucial

Full-spectrum light therapy is often recommended for the treatment of SAD. Light therapy alone and placebo were both more effective than the antidepressant Prozac, even for the treatment of moderate to severe depression, in an eight-week-long study.14

Further, in a study of patients with bipolar disorder, who have recurrent major depression, bright white light therapy was also effective in boosting mood, with 68 percent achieving a normal mood after four to six weeks of treatment compared to 22 percent of those who received a placebo treatment.15

The idea is to try to simulate exposure to natural sunlight during times of the year when it may not be available. Researchers explained that sitting in front of a light box, first thing in the morning, daily from early fall until spring, may be necessary to help relieve SAD symptoms. Further, if you know that SAD symptoms tend to come back for you every winter, you may want to start light therapy earlier, such as during late summer:16

?In the Scandinavian countries, light rooms, where light is indirect and evenly distributed, are available. Typically light boxes filter out ultraviolet rays and require 20 to 60 minutes of exposure to 10,000?lux of cool-white fluorescent light daily during fall and winter. This is about 20 times as great as ordinary indoor lighting.?

It?s exposure to the full spectrum of light that?s so important, as exposure to only one type of light can be counterproductive. Going outside around sunrise, for instance, would provide exposure to full-spectrum light in a form superior to virtually any light box ? the real, full-spectrum light from the sun is ideal.

Exposure to sunlight is also important, not only because it will help optimize your vitamin D level,17 but also due to other mechanisms, like regulating your circadian rhythm and production of serotonin, which is released in response to sunlight exposure.

Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy May Also Improve SAD

Total playlist length: 28:08

Energy psychology uses a form of psychological acupressure, based on the same energy meridians used in traditional acupuncture to treat physical and emotional ailments for over 5,000 years, but without the invasiveness of needles. One such form is the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), which has proven effectiveness in improving mental health, including depression.

While I have long recognized the value of EFT, it?s finally starting to get some mainstream attention. Speaking to CBS News, Pittsburgh area therapist Joan Kaylor stated, ?By tapping on these points, this can have an effect on Seasonal Affective Disorder by removing the sadness, by removing both the emotional component, as well as any physical sensations.?18

Another option is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps you to modify behaviors, thoughts and emotions that may be affecting your mental health and happiness. It?s been shown to help people with SAD. Research published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that CBT works the same as light therapy in improving SAD symptoms,19 and you may want to consider a combination of the two. Rosenthal told NBC News:20

?Several controlled studies have shown that CBT can be extremely valuable not only in helping people who have SAD, but in preventing subsequent episodes. SAD is an illness where your behavior will have a major play.

Also if you don't know what's going on, you begin to blame yourself and think you're a failure. CBT can correct dysfunctional behaviors that may [arise from SAD] like lying in bed late with covers over your head, which is the worst thing you can do as you're depriving yourself of natural light when it is its most effective: in the morning.?

It?s worth noting, too, that winter is a natural time for your body to slow down somewhat. While this can be difficult when your work and personal life dictate otherwise, allowing yourself time to overwinter may ultimately help you to respect your body?s circadian rhythm and recharge.21 That being said, this doesn?t mean you should plant yourself on the couch for the winter and not venture outdoors. The opposite ? staying active and getting outside ? is among the best ?cures? for SAD.

Stay Active and Get Outdoors to Fight SAD Symptoms

Exercise is another well-known tool for improving your mental health. In my 2008 interview with Dr. James Gordon, a world-renowned expert in using mind-body medicine to heal depression, he stated that physical exercise is at least as good as antidepressants for helping people who are depressed, in part because it increases serotonin in your brain and in part because it increases brain cells in your hippocampus, which are sometimes reduced in people with depression. He?s far from the only one to come to this conclusion.

In 2013, a meta-analysis published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found that exercise is moderately more effective than a control intervention, which in some cases was pharmaceuticals, for reducing symptoms of depression.22 Separate research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that aerobic exercise ?at a dose consistent with public health recommendations? is an effective treatment for mild to moderate depression.23

Exercise has even been found to increase your resilience to stress, which may make enduring those cold winter days more tolerable.24 If you can, do your workouts outdoors so you can get some sunlight exposure along with them. As Dr. Meir Kryger, professor of medicine at Yale School of Medicine, told NBC News, ?The worst thing you can do is stay indoors and not be exposed to natural sunlight at all.? As an alternative, Rosenthal suggests doing your workout in front of your full-spectrum light box.25

Focus on Self-Care, Stress Relief and Healthy Lifestyle to Reduce SAD

In many cases, leading a healthy lifestyle, one that helps you to relieve stress and provides the nutrients your body needs physically, will help you to continue functioning with SAD. For example, Rosenthal has said that ?Transcendental Meditation (TM), other forms of mindfulness, yoga, walking and exercise that is personally enjoyable were beneficial.?26 Even taking a vacation to sunny destination during the winter can help, if possible.

Tryptophan is another tool, one that?s been shown to be equally effective to light therapy in treating SAD.27 Your body produces 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) from the amino acid tryptophan (found in foods like poultry, eggs and cheese). However, eating tryptophan-rich foods is not likely to significantly increase your 5-HTP levels, so 5-HTP supplements (which are made from extracts of the seeds of the African tree Griffonia simplicifolia) are sometimes used.

The chemical 5-HTP works in your brain and central nervous system by promoting the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin and thereby may help boost mood. In addition, the following three factors will help ?anchor? your biological rhythm, which will promote body clock synchronization and optimal health.

  • Get bright daylight exposure, ideally around solar noon, for at least a half-hour or more each day. This will ?anchor? your circadian rhythm and make it less prone to drifting if you?re exposed to light later in the evening. 
  • Then, in the evening, put on blue-blocking glasses and/or dim environmental lights and avoid the blue light wavelength (this includes LED light bulbs, TVs and most electronic gadgets)
  • When it?s time to go to sleep, make sure your bedroom is pitch black. I recommend installing blackout shades for this purpose or using a sleep mask. Also keep in mind that digital alarm clocks with blue light displays could have a detrimental effect, so if you have to have an LED clock, opt for one with a red display, and set it on its dimmest setting. You can also try a dawn-simulating clock that imitates a natural sunrise in the morning.

How to Increase Your Sense of Gratitude

By Dr. Mercola

Thanksgiving ? celebrated each year on the fourth Thursday of November ? is perhaps one of the most cherished of American holidays; it's a time when family and friends gather over ample amounts of food and give thanks for the blessings in life, including each other. As explained by University of California psychology professor Robert Emmons, one of the leading scientific experts on gratitude and author of several books on the topic, gratitude involves two key components:1

  1. It's "an affirmation of goodness;" when you feel gratitude, you affirm that you live in a benevolent world
  2. It's a recognition that the source of this goodness comes from outside of yourself; that other people (or higher powers, if you prefer) have provided you with "gifts" that improve your life in some way

An Attitude of Gratitude Fosters Health and Happiness

The practice of openly sharing what we're grateful for is by many accounts one of the healthiest aspects of our annual Thanksgiving festivity. According to psychologists, it's a ritual that fosters both happiness and health. It's unfortunate that most people reserve this gratitude ritual for Thanksgiving Day only. While giving thanks once a year is beneficial, doing it more often could be life changing.2 At least that's what science suggests.

Studies have actually shown that the psychological state of gratitude has beneficial implications for every major organ system in your body.3 So, if you're serious about your well-being you'd be wise to increase the frequency at which you feel and express gratitude. Adopting the ritual of saying grace at every meal, for example, is a great way to flex your gratitude muscle on a daily basis,4 and will also foster a deeper connection to your food.

When you reflect on all the things that went into its creation, from the sowing of the seed, to the harvest and the cooking, you'll realize just how much work ? by both nature and man ? went into creating the meal before you that will now provide you with nourishment. Considering a breakdown anywhere along that chain would result in scarcity and hunger, there's a lot to be thankful for in each plate of food.

The First Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is celebrated in remembrance of the first recorded feast between the British pilgrims and Native Americans in Plymouth. The year was 1621, and the pilgrims had just reaped their first successful harvest in the New World. While the history of this first Thanksgiving celebration is sketchy, eyewitness accounts claim:5

  • The feast was attended by at least 50 English pilgrims and 90 Wampanoag Indians, the latter of which walked for two days to attend. In addition to food, marksmanship games and running races were also enjoyed.
  • The celebration lasted three days.
  • Venison was the highlight of the meal, brought by the Wampanoag tribesmen. Other meal selections included fish and fowls (wild turkeys, ducks and geese).

At the time, the get-together was not called "Thanksgiving," and it did not become an annual, national holiday until 1863, nearly a century and a half later. In fact, the feast in 1621 appears to have been a singular event. Unfortunately, the peace between pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe was short-lived, and Thanksgiving is for many Native Americans a controversial holiday tainted by ancestral pain. According to Time:6

"Early European colonizers and Native Americans lived in peace through a symbiotic relationship for about 10 years until thousands of additional settlers arrived ? Up to 25,000 Englishmen landed in the New World between 1630 and 1642, after a plague drastically cut the native population by what's believed to be more than half ? The arrival of new settlers prompted a fight for land and rising animosity. War exploded in 1675 ?

Many Native Americans have long marked Thanksgiving as a day of somber remembrance. Jacqueline Keeler, a member of the Dineh Nation and the Yankton Dakota Sioux ? observes Thanksgiving with her family but doesn't think of it as a national holiday ? 'Thanksgiving tells a story that is convenient for Americans. [But] it's a celebration of our survival. I recognize it as a chance for my family to come together as survivors, pretty much in defiance.'"

Be Sure to Keep the 'Thanks' in Thanksgiving

Depending on the kind of year you've had, you may or may not feel like you have a whole lot to feel thankful for. Whether or not you should express thanks if you feel you have nothing to be thankful for is addressed in a previous New York Times article. In it, Arthur C. Brooks writes:7

"It's best to be emotionally authentic, right? Wrong. Building the best life does not require fealty to feelings in the name of authenticity, but rather rebelling against negative impulses and acting right even when we don't feel like it. In a nutshell, acting grateful can actually make you grateful ?

Evidence suggests that we can actively choose to practice gratitude ? and that doing so raises our happiness ? If you want a truly happy holiday, choose to keep the 'thanks' in Thanksgiving, whether you feel like it or not."

One way to flex your gratitude muscle when life events leave you uninspired is to identify and express gratitude for seemingly "useless" or insignificant things. It could be a certain smell in the air, the color of a flower, your child's freckles or the curvature of a stone. Over time, you'll find that doing this will really hone your ability to identify "good" things in your life. In fact, you may eventually find that "bliss" is closer than you imagined.

Health Benefits of Gratitude

Aside from making you feel better about your life, feeling and expressing gratitude has been found to have a wide range of beneficial health effects, including:8,9,10

Stimulating your hypothalamus (an area of your brain involved in the regulation of stress) and your ventral tegmental area (part of your brain's "reward circuitry," an area that produces pleasurable feelings)11

Improving your sleep12 (especially if your mind has a tendency to go into overdrive with negative thoughts and worries at bedtime)

Raising the likelihood you'll engage in healthy activities such as exercise

Raising your relationship satisfaction

Raising your work performance (in one study, managers who expressed gratitude saw a 50 percent increase in the employees' performance)

Reducing your stress13

Enhancing your sense of general well-being14

Improving your heart health,15 reducing the likelihood of sudden death in patients with congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease

Producing measurable effects on a number of systems in your body, including the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine (involved in mood regulation), inflammatory cytokines, reproductive hormones, the stress hormone cortisol, the social bonding hormone oxytoxin, blood pressure, cardiac and EEG rhythms, and blood sugar levels

10 Practical Strategies to Build and Strengthen Gratitude

Like a muscle, your sense of gratitude can be built and strengthened with practice. Here are 10 gratitude practices you can experiment with:

? Keep a daily gratitude journal

This can be done in a paper journal, or you can download a Gratitude Journal app from iTunes.16 In one study, people who kept a gratitude journal reported exercising more, and had fewer visits to the doctor compared to those who focused on sources of aggravation.17,18

? Write thank you notes or a thank you letter19

Whether in response to a gift or kind act, or simply as a show of gratitude for someone being in your life, getting into the habit of writing thank you letters or notes can help you express gratitude in addition to simply feeling it inside.

? Nonverbal actions

This includes smiles and hugs, both of which can express a wide array of messages, from encouragement and excitement to empathy and support.

? Be sincere, and choose your words wisely

While it's easy to say words like "please" and "thank you" in passing, these courtesies can become potent acknowledgments of gratitude when combined with eye contact and sincerity. In other words, say it like you mean it.

Research20 also shows that using "other-praising" phrases are far more effective than "self-beneficial" phrases. For example, praising a partner saying, "thank you for going out of your way to do this," is better than a compliment framed in terms of how you benefited, such as "it makes me happy when you do that." The former resulted in the partner feeling happier and more loving toward the person giving the praise.

? Focus on the benevolence of other people instead of being so self-centered

Doing so will increase your sense of being supported by life and decrease unnecessary anxieties. Cherishing the kindness of others also means you're less likely to take them for granted.21

? Avoid comparing yourself to people you perceive to have more advantages

Doing so will only erode your sense of security. As Emmons notes in his book, "The Little Book of Gratitude,"22 "Wanting more is related to increased anxiety and unhappiness. A healthier comparison is to contemplate what life would be like without a pleasure that you now enjoy ? Gratitude buffers you from emotions that drive anxiety. You cannot be grateful and envious, or grateful while harboring regrets."

? Prayer and/or mindfulness meditation

Expressing thanks during prayer or meditation is another way to cultivate gratitude. Practicing "mindfulness" means that you're actively paying attention to the moment you're in right now. A mantra is sometimes used to help maintain focus, but you can also focus on something that you're grateful for, such as a pleasant smell, a cool breeze or a lovely memory.

? Create a nightly gratitude ritual

This suggestion was given by Dr. Alison Chen in a Huffington Post article.23 "My colleague has a bedtime routine with her [3-year-old] and it includes recognizing what you are grateful for. When this part of the night comes, you can't shut him up," Chen writes.

"There are so many things that we take for granted and when you listen to the long list that a child can come up with you realize the possibilities for gratefulness are limitless! Take a couple of minutes each day to stop and reflect; taking regular pause is an excellent way to bring about more feelings of gratefulness in your life."

One suggestion is to create a gratitude jar,24 into which the entire family can add notes of gratitude on a daily basis. Any jar or container will do. Simply write a quick note on a small slip of paper and put it into the jar. Some make an annual (or bi-annual or even monthly) event out of going through the whole jar, reading each slip out loud.

? Spend money on activities instead of things

According to recent research,25 spending money on experiences not only generates more feelings of gratitude than material consumption, it also motivates greater generosity. As noted by co-author Amit Kumar, postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Chicago, "People feel fortunate, and because it's a diffuse, untargeted type of gratitude, they're motivated to give back to people in general."26

Interestingly, generosity has also been linked to happiness, which may seem counterintuitive since giving to others means sacrificing some of your own physical or emotional resources. This experience has now been validated by science showing that generosity and happiness are actually wired together in your brain. 27

? Tap forth gratitude

The Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) is a helpful tool. EFT is a form of psychological acupressure based on the energy meridians used in acupuncture that can quickly restore inner balance and healing, and helps rid your mind of negative thoughts and emotions. In the video below, EFT practitioner Julie Schiffman demonstrates how to tap for gratitude.

Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude Year-Round

Your future health and happiness depends largely on the thoughts you think today. It's worth remembering that each moment of every day is an opportunity to feel and express gratitude. Doing so will, over time, help you feel happier, strengthen your relationships and support your health. By focusing on what's good right now, in the present moment, you become more open to receive greater abundance in the future.

So, remember to say "thank you" ? to yourself, the universe and others. And with that, I want to say THANK YOU to you, my readers, for your continued support throughout the year, and I wish you all a Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving!

Tarragon Adds a French Twist to Your Meals

Tarragon (pronounced TEHR-uh-gon) or Artemisia dracunculus is an herb that is popular in the world of cooking. In fact, tarragon is such a vital part of French cuisine that it is one of the "Fines Herbes." These are the four most commonly used herbs in French cuisine, which also includes parsley, chervil and chives.1 Tarragon is known for its slightly bittersweet flavor, with an aroma similar to anise.2

The earliest records of tarragon date back to more than 600 years ago. It was believed to have been introduced to Italy in the 10th century during the time of the Mongol invasions. The Mongolians used tarragon as a sleep aid, breath freshener and seasoning.

After this turbulent period, some tarragon histories have St. Catherine of Siena bringing tarragon back to France after a visit with Pope Clement VI.3 However, she could not have done this as she was only 5 years old when Clement VI4 died. While other histories have tarragon arriving in France in the 1500s, if St. Catherine was the one who brought it to France, most likely it was after her visit to see Pope Gregory VI in 1376.5

The Different Health Benefits of Tarragon

Tarragon contains various nutrients and essential oils that can provide a multitude of benefits. The most well-known ones include:

Pain Relief

Chewing the leaves can help relieve pain, especially in the mouth or tooth. You can consume tarragon tea to get the same benefit.

Induce Sleep

Drinking tarragon tea can help those with insomnia. The calming effect of the herb's compounds can help you rest well at night.

Increase Appetite

If you're having trouble getting your appetite up, try consuming tarragon. It's been reported to have stimulating properties for your stomach.

Promote Reproductive Health in Females

Tarragon can help maintain a healthy female reproductive tract, and may also help women deal with suppressed menstruation.

Improve Intestinal Function

Tarragon is a vermifuge, meaning it can help expel parasitic worms from the intestines. As a result, this lowers your risk of developing intestinal ailments and malabsorption.

Cardiovascular Health

Your heart and arteries can benefit from tarragon greatly, because it acts as an inhibitor of platelet aggregation. As a result, the risk of developing a heart attack or a stroke is potentially lower.

The Different Uses of Tarragon

Tarragon is versatile and can be used in various types of dishes, such as:6

? Potatoes: Spice up a potato salad by sprinkling tarragon over it.

? Eggs: Add new layers of flavor to classic egg dishes such as deviled eggs.

? Seafood: Bring out a wonderful aroma to various fish such as salmon and tuna using tarragon. You can also sprinkle it on clams and scallops.

? Poultry: Give your roasted chicken a flavor boost by covering it with tarragon before cooking.

? Sauces: Tarragon can make your sauces taste better. You can add it to sour cream, lemon sauce, pesto and other sauces.

How to Grow Tarragon in Your Own Home

Growing your own herbs is a convenient way of having fresh ingredients ready whenever you need to use them for cooking. Aside from that, you have the benefit of avoiding pesticides and other chemicals that may have been used in commercially grown herbs.

In the case of tarragon, planting it should start indoors with a small pot. The soil should be fertile, well-draining and should have a pH level between 6.5 and 7.5. Once these requirements are met, plant four to six seeds around April, or before your area's last expected frost. Place the pot in a room location that has low light and at room temperature.7,8

When it comes to watering the plant, do it regularly, using only an average amount of water. You must allow the soil to go almost dry before watering again, or else the seedlings will suffer. After 10 to 14 days of regular watering, the seeds will start to grow. Then, transfer the pot outdoors where it can receive full sunlight.9,10

Once the seedlings reach around 2 inches in height, start thinning them down to one plant. Choose only the healthiest or strongest looking seedling. In about seven weeks, the plant will be ready for harvesting. A good indicator for harvesting is when the plant reaches a height between 12 and 36 inches.11,12

Growing Tarragon Completely Indoors

If circumstances won't allow you to grow tarragon outdoors, you can grow it inside the house using plant-growing lights. You can use standard fluorescent lamps, but a high-output T5 fluorescent or high-intensity discharge (HID) lamp will produce higher-quality leaves. Regarding the position of the lamp, a standard fluorescent or HID lamp should be 2 to 4 inches above the plant. But if you're using a T5 lamp, place it 1 foot above the plant.13

Harvesting and Storing Tarragon

There's no specific time to harvest tarragon. Once your plant reaches a height between 12 and 36 inches, it's ready for harvesting. Use kitchen shears when picking off the leaves because they are very delicate. If you use your hands, you risk releasing the aromatic oils inside the leaves. Once you have gathered enough, wash them with cool water and gently pat them dry.14

Storing tarragon is easy. Simply wrap a bunch of leaves in a damp paper towel and place it inside the refrigerator. You can also place the leaves inside a plastic bag or in a jar filled with water that's lightly covered with plastic. It's important that the leaves are not dried, because they will lose their flavor and nutrients.15

Cooking With Tarragon: Creamy Tarragon Chicken

Poultry pairs well with tarragon and any dish that combines these two is guaranteed to be a hit. In this recipe, you'll learn how to make a creamy tarragon sauce that goes very well with chicken. It's something that you and your family will enjoy.16

Creamy Tarragon Chicken

Ingredients:

? 4 boneless and skinless pasture-raised chicken breasts

? 1/4 teaspoon of Himalayan salt, plus more to taste

? 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper, plus more to taste

? 3 teaspoon of coconut oil

? 1/4 cup of finely chopped shallots

? 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard

? 1 tablespoon of homemade sour cream

? 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh tarragon

Procedure:

1. Season the chickens on both sides with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons of coconut oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chickens and cook until well browned, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and tent with foil.

2. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of oil to the pan. Add shallots; cook, stirring, until softened in about 2 to 3 minutes. Add broth and bring to a simmer. Cook until juices are reduced by half, for about 3 minutes.

3. Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the pan; reduce heat to low. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 4 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a warmed platter. Stir mustard, sour cream and tarragon into sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper and spoon over the chicken.

Tarragon Can Also Be Used as an Essential Oil

Aside from its culinary uses, tarragon can also be made into an essential oil with aromatherapeutic properties. It has a wide variety of benefits, which include:17

? Deodorizer

Tarragon essential oil has effective antimicrobial properties. When diluted and applied on your underarms, it can help prevent the development of bad odor.

? Antirheumatic

Tarragon oil can help improve the flow of blood throughout the body and eliminate a toxin called uric acid. With these two benefits working together, the risks of developing rheumatism and arthritis are reduced.

? Circulatory

Improved blood flow throughout your body is one of the circulatory benefits of tarragon. It helps improve the distribution of oxygen, various nutrients and antioxidants in your body to keep your health in optimal condition.

? Stimulant

Tarragon essential oil has a stimulating effect on your brain, nervous, digestive and endocrinal systems, which helps support growth and improve your immune system.

Making tarragon essential oil is a simple process. The leaves are harvested, distilled and then packaged for use. The resulting oil is usually colorless, but in some cases it may have a slight green color. The aroma is reminiscent of anise or fennel, and has a slightly spicy taste. There are a few methods in which you can use the oil:

? Massage: Mix 3 to 4 drops of tarragon essential oil with a carrier oil, and then massage the mixture to your body to receive its therapeutic benefits.

? Bathwater: Add tarragon essential oil to your bathwater and soak in it so your body can feel refreshed afterwards.

? Hot compress: Add tarragon essential oil to your hot compress or use it as a tummy rub to help kill intestinal worms.

? Toothache reliever: Mix 1 or 2 drops of tarragon essential oil in a cup of warm water, then gargle the mixture to help alleviate toothaches.

Before using tarragon essential oil, you must be aware of its potential side effects. It contains estragole, also known as methyl chavicol, which can be poisonous in high doses.

Children and pregnant women should avoid using tarragon oil for safety reasons. Nevertheless, in controlled doses, the benefits can typically be enjoyed without any serious complications. Just consult with your doctor first before using the oil for proper guidance. 18 After you've been permitted to use the oil, do a skin patch test on your arm. Simply place a diluted drop on your skin to check for any irritations or allergic reactions. Should any side effects occur, stop using the oil immediately.

Are Stents a Scam?

By Dr. Mercola

Angioplasty is a surgical procedure often recommended after an arterial blockage has been found in the heart muscle. Your heart requires a strong oxygen and nutrient supply, like other muscles in your body. There are two major coronary arteries that supply the left and right sides of your heart. By branching into smaller arteries they are able to supply the entire muscle with blood.

The goal of coronary artery angioplasty is to repair or unblock the blocked artery. During the procedure the surgeon inserts a thin expandable balloon that is inflated to flatten the blockage against the arterial wall.1 After the balloon is removed, the surgeon often places a stent with the intention of keeping the artery open and blood flowing freely.

There are currently five types of coronary artery stents available, each with different advantages and disadvantages to placement.2 However, while the different types of stents offer options for those for whom a stent is absolutely necessary, research shows those with stable coronary artery disease, stable angina, do not require stents.

Recent Study Finds Stent Placement May Not Be Better Than Placebo

In a recent study published in The Lancet, researchers from Imperial College London investigated the difference between patients who had received a stent for stable angina and those who underwent a placebo intervention.3 In the short video above, lead author and interventional cardiologist Dr. Rasha Al-Lamee, describes the study and its results.

The researchers recruited 200 participants with severe single vessel blockage from five sites across the U.K.4 During the initial six weeks, all patients underwent an exercise test followed by intensive medical treatment. At that point they were randomly assigned to two groups. The first underwent a percutaneous intervention (PCI) during which coronary angioplasty was performed and a stent was placed. The second group also underwent a PCI procedure with an angiogram but without a balloon angioplasty or stent placement.5

For the following six weeks, neither the patient nor the physician knew if the patient received the stent. At the conclusion of the six weeks, patients again underwent an exercise test and were questioned about their symptoms. The researchers found both groups experienced nearly identical improvements in exercise tolerance and no difference in reported improvements of their symptoms.6  From the data, Al-Lamee commented:7

"Surprisingly, even though the stents improved blood supply, they didn't provide more relief of symptoms compared to drug treatments, at least in this patient group. It seems that the link between opening a narrowing coronary artery and improving symptoms is not as simple as everyone had hoped."

The results were presented at the Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics symposium in Denver. Not surprisingly, the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions (SCAI) questioned the conclusions, believing the surgical PCI is the preferred treatment.

The president of SCAI, Dr. Kirk Garratt, commented on the study, saying,8 "In 2017, we don't subject stable patients without symptoms to PCI, so this study doesn't properly reflect current PCI practice. Convenience and medication side effects are also big concerns for patients."

Recent Study Supports Previous Findings

Previous analysis of the benefits of stent procedures supports findings from the featured study. Patients in the U.S. spend $60 billion a year on invasive cardiovascular procedures.9 Although only 5 percent of the world's population lives on U.S. soil, Americans undergo half of the world's bypass surgeries and stent placements. Of these stent placements, up to 50 percent may be done unnecessarily based on current medical guidelines,10 which is inconsistent with Garratt's assertion the procedure is done only when necessary.

In one study involving over 140,000 patients across more than 1,000 hospitals, researchers found nearly half of the stent procedures were unnecessary.11  Senior cardiologist in Apollo Health City, Hyderabad, India, Dr. Manoj Agarwal, commented on the overuse of stents, saying:12

"If you use a stent when the blockage is not significant or if it is in a non-critical artery, that is misuse and unethical. But there is no monitoring in India. The onus of monitoring ought to be on the institutions or hospitals where the procedures are done.

For many patients, undergoing an invasive procedure may put their minds at rest due to the ignorance surrounding the benefit of stents, when in fact a worryingly large majority are undergoing a procedure that will bring absolutely no benefit to their long-term prognosis."

In one study, researchers found 7.6 percent of those undergoing angioplasty experienced at least one serious side effect during hospitalization.13 More recent reports indicate serious complications may be experienced by up to 5 percent of individuals undergoing angioplasty.14 One of the largest hospital chains in the U.S., Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), came under scrutiny in 2012 when allegations were made that thousands of unnecessary heart procedures were performed.15

An investigation into HCA physicians revealed the doctors were unable to justify many of the procedures performed and in some cases made misleading statements in the medical records, making it appear the procedures were necessary to protect the life of the patient.16 Although HCA denied these decisions were financially motivated, cardiac procedures are among the more lucrative measures taken in hospital.17

Edward Hannan, Ph.D., from the University at Albany SUNY, was interested in how well physicians adhered to recommendations by the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC). He and his colleagues gathered data from 58 hospitals in New York State and found a mere 36 percent met the criteria to undergo the procedure.18

Thus, while the featured study called into question the effectiveness of most angioplasty and stent insertions, many hospitals are also performing these procedures in unnecessarily large numbers.

Procedure Is Dangerous and Expensive for a Psychological Benefit

More than 1.5 million angioplasty and bypass surgeries are done each year in the U.S., making them the most commonly performed procedures.19 Although Americans are seven times more likely to undergo these surgeries than patients from Canada or Sweden, the death rate per capita is nearly identical in all three countries.

The AHA recommends angioplasty and potential stent placement if you are experiencing consistent chest discomfort or pain, or if the blockage puts you at immediate risk of heart attack or death. Dr. Catalin Toma, director of interventional cardiology at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute, commented on the results of the featured study, saying:20

"Telling someone that they have a 90 percent blockage in an artery is an anxiety-inducing concept. And medications will treat the symptoms but not the blockage itself. A patient can have a hard time wrapping his or her mind around that. If the artery is blocked, they might think they need it to be unblocked."

He hopes the study will reduce the "knee-jerk reaction" physicians and patients have that any blockage should automatically require the placement of a stent. Dr. John Mandrola, cardiac electrophysiologist in Louisville, Kentucky, points out that he and many other physicians have watched patients report less chest pain, more energy and greater stamina after an angioplasty and stent.21

Mandrola elaborated that the thinking is that blockages are deadly and must be fixed. Thus, if a physician performs an angioplasty and shows the patient and family pictures of unblocked arteries, everyone is happy and the patient feels better. Mandrola continued:22 "This is a hugely disruptive study. The implications are huge. Billions of dollars have been spent, and many hundreds of thousands of patients have been exposed to the risks of PCI, without any documented benefit."

Dr. Rita Redberg, professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco added:23 "I've been saying for many years that we don't know if patients feel better from stents, or if they feel better because patients always feel better when we do an invasive procedure. That's how the mind works."

Alternative Options May Have Greater Benefits

In this important interview, Dr. Thomas Cowan, family physician and a founding member of the Weston A. Price Foundation, discusses the function of your heart and circulatory system that may change the way you understand heart disease. He makes a strong case for heart disease being rooted in mitochondrial dysfunction and believes plaque formation is not nearly sufficient to explain a heart attack.

A noninvasive alternative treatment covered by Medicare and used in University settings24 is enhanced external counterpulsation (EECP). This is a painless treatment used to help develop collateral circulation in your heart muscle. If you have blockage in your left anterior descending artery the procedure is not recommended. During the treatment, long inflatable cuffs are wrapped around your legs and buttocks. An electrocardiogram is used to time the inflation of the cuffs with the rhythm of your heart.

While your heart is at rest between beats, the cuffs inflate and squeeze blood from your legs toward your core. Physicians use this procedure to treat stable and unstable angina, chronic heart failure, coronary artery disease and ischemic cardiomyopathy.25 The additional pressure from the treatment triggers your body to form new blood vessels and thereby improve collateral circulation in your heart. This improved flow often eliminates angina pain and can improve your physical function up to 40 percent.

Each session lasts approximately an hour and you may need up to 35 sessions to achieve the desired results. The effects of the procedure typically last five to eight years. However, this noninvasive procedure is far preferable to the potential side effects from a PCI or the long-term side effects after placement of a stent. The treatment is very effective, not as costly as the invasive PCI, and is covered by insurance.

Cowan explains this procedure encourages the growth of new vessels in the way that high intensity strength training does. However, those with heart disease are physically unable to do this type of exercise to grow the strength of their heart. EECP does the work for them, so their exercise capacity improves and they can then do more of their own strength training.

Changing Your Daily Choices Reduces Your Risk for Angioplasty

Most chronic diseases are preventable by making simple lifestyle changes. Foundational principles to improve your metabolic health include nutritional choices, quality sleep, pure, fresh water and exercise. Generally speaking, focus your dietary choices on whole, unprocessed, organically raised, non-CAFO, non-GMO foods such as fresh vegetables, grass fed meats, raw dairy and nuts.

Seek out sustainable, healthy local sources and aim to eat the majority of your food raw. Fermented foods are also an excellent source of probiotics (and vitamin K2 if a special starter culture is used).

It is important to achieve optimal levels of vitamin D from sensible sun exposure. Vitamin D is essential for the health of your cardiovascular system and may help lower your blood pressure.26 Unfortunately, the vast majority of people in the U.S. are deficient.27 Blood levels between 40 and 60 ng/ml are ideal for preventing disease. It's important to use measured vitamin D levels to determine the amount of supplementation, if any, is needed.

Nearly as important as knowing what to eat, is knowing what not to eat. Topping the list is fructose and other forms of sugar that act as toxins when consumed in excess and drive multiple disease processes. You may find sugar added to processed foods and drinks under a number of different names. Sugar has become a staple in the Western diet and is likely a large contributor to the meteoric rise in numbers of people suffering from chronic illness.

As for how much water you need, you may test your hydration by the color of your urine. Aim for a light straw color and urinating at least four times daily. Seek out pure, "living" water that imparts a significant number of health benefits. Your cells use negatively charged, structured "EZ" water to build and maintain your health. You can find more information in my article, "Water Supports Health in Ways You May Never Have Suspected."

Achieving quality sleep for eight hours each night is also important to supporting your mitochondrial health. During sleep your body produces melatonin that acts as an antioxidant for your mitochondria preventing oxidative stress from free radical damage. For more information on this relationship, see my previous article, "Light at Night Damages Your Health and Potentially Future Generations."

A comprehensive exercise program will include stretching, strength training and high intensity interval training. The combination of these strategies reduces your risk for injury, improves your muscular health (including your heart) and improves your ability to do everyday living tasks.

Consider including a two- to three-minute exercise several times a day to release nitric oxide that will help relax your blood vessels and improve your blood pressure. Learn more about this in my previous article, "Can You Really Get Fit in Six Minutes a Week?"

Chuck Norris Sues for MRI Dye Injuring His Wife

By Dr. Mercola

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an imaging study that allows your physician to see detailed pictures of your organs and tissues. Raymond Damadian invented the machine and performed the first total body image in 1977.1 This process has been called the one of the greatest medical breakthroughs of the 20th century.

The MRI machine uses a large magnet, radio waves and a computer to take detailed cross-sectional pictures of your internal organs and tissues.2 The scanner looks like a tube with a table that enables you to slide into the tunnel of the machine to gather data. Unlike CT scans or X-rays that use ionizing radiation known to damage DNA, the MRI uses magnetic fields.

Images from an MRI give physicians better information about abnormalities, tumors, cysts and specific organ problems with your heart, liver, uterus, kidneys and other organs. In some instances, your physician may want an enhanced MRI, one using contrast agents to improve the clarity of the images produced. In one of every three MRIs with contrast, the agent used is gadolinium.3

What Is Gadolinium?

This is a chemical contrast medium or dye that is injected to enhance the quality of the images. Gadolinium is bonded to a chelating agent that is intended to reduce the toxicity of the chemical to your body as gadolinium is a dangerous heavy metal known to cause neurological damage. There are several products that include gadolinium, called gadolinium-based contrast agents (GBCA).4

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released guidelines on the use of GBCAs5 as they began an investigation into the potential health effects from brain deposits of the heavy metal. The FDA acknowledged that repeated use of GBCAs may result in gadolinium deposits in your brain and other tissues but has not determined if there are any adverse health effects from these deposits.

To reduce accumulation, the FDA recommends health care professionals limit use to circumstances where additional information garnered by the use of gadolinium is absolutely necessary.6 In response, institutional review boards responsible for the safety of patients in clinical trials or research studies developed consent forms that include a list of known risks, such as kidney damage and brain accumulation, with boxed warnings not to exceed recommended dosages.7

Johns Hopkins Office of Human Subject Research acknowledges specific challenges when using enhanced MRI imaging with GBCA as "there is potential severe toxicity related to a diagnostic procedure with no direct therapeutic value."8 GBCAs are sold under several different names based on the chelating agent to which they are bound and the drug company that developed them. These include:

Ablavar

Dotarem

Eovist

Gadavist

Magnevist

MultiHance

Omniscan

OptiMARK

ProHance

Physiological Issues Associated With Heavy Metal Toxicity

Heavy metals are naturally occurring elements with a high atomic weight and a density five times that of water.9 They are widely distributed throughout the environment from industrial, agricultural, medical and technical pollution. Heavy metal toxicity has documented potential for serious health consequences, including kidney, neurological, cardiovascular, skeletal and endocrine damage.10

While your body requires small amounts of some metals, such as zinc, manganese, iron and copper, high amounts of these and environmental pollutants is dangerous.11 Metals that are most commonly associated with poisoning are arsenic, lead, mercury and cadmium, which are also the heavy metals most commonly found in environmental pollution.

Symptoms of heavy metal poisoning vary based on the organ systems affected. Scientists have found that heavy metals also increase oxidative stress secondary to free radical formation.12 The health risks associated with heavy metal toxicity have proven to be a major health threat, especially those that do not have a biological role, as they often remain present in plants and animals.

Testing for heavy metal toxicity includes blood, urine and hair and nail analysis for cumulative exposure. Symptoms of accumulation of gadolinium will be related to the organ systems affected and may include nausea, vomiting, central nervous system dysfunction,13 headache and gastrointestinal disturbances.14

Chuck Norris Focuses Attention on Heavy Metal Risks After Enhanced MRI

After undergoing three MRIs with GBCAs to evaluate her rheumatoid arthritis, Gena O'Kelley, the wife of American film icon Chuck Norris,15 began experiencing severe physical symptoms that began with a burning sensation in her skin. She described it as if there was acid burning her skin, slowly covering her body.16 She reports that she visited the emergency room five or six nights in a row, while doctors ran multiple tests for ALS, MS, cancer and Parkinson's disease.

However, it was O'Kelley who made the connection between her burning skin, contracted arm and cognitive issues and the multiple MRIs she had undergone. She told Full Measure:17

"When we got to the hospital in Houston this last time, and I'm so bad and I said, listen, I am sober enough in my thinking right now, because I had such brain issues going on, I said I'm only going to be able to tell you this one time and I need you to listen to me very closely. I have been poisoned with gadolinium or by gadolinium and we don't have much time to figure out how to get this out of my body or I am going to die."

After five months of treatment in China and then in a clinic in Nevada, O'Kelley was able to return home to her seven children for continued treatment by a physician in Houston. Norris shared their tax return records documenting $2 million over three years in uninsured medical expenses to help O'Kelley return to health. Now Norris is suing 11 medical companies for the part they played in not warning the couple and others of the dangers of using a GBCA for MRI contrast.18

O'Kelley suffered confusion, muscle spasms, kidney damage and muscle wasting from a heavy metal contrast agent her doctors told her would be cleared from her body within hours after the MRI. The couple's attorney, Todd Walburg, told CBS News,19 "We have clients who have been misdiagnosed with Lyme disease, ALS, and then they've eventually ruled all those things out and the culprit remaining is the gadolinium."

Although the FDA has been aware of a strong association between gadolinium and kidney damage since 2006,20 and are aware GBCAs may deposit in organ and brain tissue,21 the agency insists the contrast dye is safe for use22 but states it will continue to assess safety. Norris states their intention is to draw attention to the problem and hopefully help others who suffer from the physical effects of the contrast agent.

Gadolinium Linked to Several Health Problems

In a comprehensive review of previous studies, researchers evaluated the effects of gadolinium and found that although the heavy metal was bound to chelating agents designed to help the chemical be eliminated from the body, gadolinium was found deposited in organs, bone and brain tissue.23 Their findings contradict statements from the FDA and pharmaceutical companies that only those with previous history of kidney damage may experience tissue deposits. Lead author and toxicologist Dr. Stacy Branch said:24

"Given the ever-growing toxicological and gadolinium tissue retention data, it is vital that the FDA promptly leads efforts, including retrospective and prospective clinical studies, to better define the connection between GBCA-exposure and adverse health events. This is needed to guide the choice of preventive methods, achieve accurate diagnoses, implement effective treatment approaches, and spark research for the design of safer contrast agents and imaging protocols."

These results were supported in a recent study from Case Western University, where researchers found gadolinium deposits in brain tissue of people who underwent more than one MRI with GBCA.25 The challenge faced by patients is that the symptoms they experience from the GBCA often result in the recommendation for another MRI with contrast to diagnose the problem. Repeated doses increase the risk for further health damage.

It seems ludicrous to imagine that deposits of heavy metal in your bone, brain and organs would not cause cognitive problems or other health damage, but that is exactly what the FDA is saying, as they acknowledge gadolinium is deposited but state they have no evidence these deposits are dangerous to your health.26

Recent research has also shown GBCA more easily passes the blood brain barrier in individuals who have neurological disease such as MS, stroke or a brain tumor.27 However, these neurological conditions are often a reason an MRI with GBCA is ordered, increasing the risk for further neurological damage to these individuals.

Support Your Body's Efforts to Eliminate Heavy Metal

It is vital you carefully review the recommendation to undergo an enhanced MRI with your physician and get a second opinion if you aren't completely satisfied. It is important to remember that you are the one who will experience the consequences of GBCA use and not your physician, radiologist or the FDA. If an MRI with contrast is absolutely necessary, there are several steps you can take that may help reduce gadolinium deposits and help your body detoxify.

Many of these steps will also help detoxify your body of other heavy metals and improve your overall health. Remember, if you do experience symptoms, a second MRI with contrast will only intensify the problem and not diagnose the issue. Seek out the care of an integrative medicine physician who can help guide your efforts to detoxify and consider the following steps:28,29

Optimize your gut microbiome

When your gut is functioning optimally without inflammation or leaking, toxins may be eliminated through your liver and gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which reduces the toxic load on your kidneys. Eliminate foods that commonly cause inflammation in your gut, such as wheat, refined sugar and corn.

Reduce your carbohydrate intake to 50 grams or less per day and eat fermented foods to help colonize your gut with beneficial bacteria. Add bone broth to your nutritional plan to help heal a leaky gut.

Optimize your nutrition

Healthy omega-3 fats, zinc and selenium help support your body during detoxification. Drink enough fresh, pure water so your urine is a light straw color to support your kidneys. Eat foods high in fiber to feed your beneficial bacteria. Broccoli, kale, garlic and onions support your liver during detoxification and add fiber to your diet.

Eat more fermented foods

Traditionally fermented food usually contains at least one cruciferous vegetable. Studies have now shown these vegetables are high in sulforaphane that protects your cells from inflammation30 and promotes healing and protection of the blood-brain barrier.31

Diatomaceous earth

Diatomaceous earth develops from fossilized shells of freshwater diatoms. It is found in large quantities across the earth. However, in order to use it on yourself or your pets it must be food grade. Nonfood grade is used in swimming pool filters and as an insecticide in around nonfood plants. Food grade diatomaceous earth binds heavy metals and other toxins in your GI tract, gently helping them pass out of your body.32

According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, you may dissolve less than 1 teaspoon for every 100 pounds of body weight in a glass of fresh, pure water and drink just before bed. Over a period of weeks or months, gradually increase this amount to nearly 1 tablespoon. This gradual increase will help reduce any GI discomforts.

Used this way, the metal binding capacity is unlikely to hinder the absorption of other needed minerals, such as calcium, magnesium or zinc that are consumed during the day.

Sauna

Sweating in a sauna may help eliminate heavy metals and other toxins such as BPA.33 Anytime you use a sauna, carefully clean the area where you are seated as toxins that were eliminated from the previous use could be absorbed as your pores open and you begin to sweat.

Green team

Cilantro and chlorella have long been used to help detoxify from heavy metals.34 Cilantro mobilizes toxins from your tissues, often faster than your body can eliminate them. Chlorella helps to bind the metals and improve elimination, thus reducing the possibility of experiencing the effects of retoxification when heavy metals have been mobilized but not removed.

Chelation

The Lighthouse Project Gadolinium Toxicity35 gathers information from individuals who have been poisoned by gadolinium and the treatments they have used. While chelation seems to be a logical choice, when used alone they have no record of individuals experiencing a complete remission of symptoms, so be sure to implement a more comprehensive, holistic plan.

Medical chelation is a process where a chemical agent is administered that binds to the metal, making it a stable compound that can be excreted. Chemical agents can be administered orally, through an IV or rectally.

Meet the Sacklers: The Family That's Killing Millions (Maybe More Than Stalin)

By Dr. Mercola

The U.S. has a massive opioid addiction problem. According to the U.S. surgeon general, more Americans now use prescription opioids than smoke cigarettes,1 and addiction to narcotic pain relievers now costs the U.S. more than $193 billion each year. The Manchester, New Hampshire, fire department recently said it now responds to more calls for drug overdoses than fires.2 That's not so surprising when you consider that opioids are now the leading cause of death among Americans under the age of 50.3

The following graph by the National Institute on Drug Abuse shows the progressive incline in overdose deaths related to opioid pain relievers between 2002 and 2015.4 This does not include deaths from heroin addiction, which we now know is a common side effect of getting hooked on these powerful prescription narcotics. In all, we're looking at just over 202,600 deaths in this 13-year time frame alone.5

National Overdose Deaths

Misleading Marketing Created the Opioid Epidemic

How did we get into this mess? Part of the problem, from the very beginning, has been false advertising. This past summer I wrote about how a single paragraph in a 1980 letter to the editor in the New England Journal of Medicine became the basis of a drug marketing campaign that has since led hundreds of millions of people straight into the arms of addiction and/or death.

In 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved OxyContin (an extended-release version of oxycodone) for children as young as 11,6 thereby opening the gate for narcotic addiction among children and young teens as well. In July 2015, The Fix7,8 wrote about the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma, who that year made it onto Forbes' Top 20 billionaires list9 ? in large part due to the burgeoning sales of OxyContin.

About 80 percent of heroin drug addicts report starting out on painkillers such as OxyContin.10 Indeed, prescription opioids are now recognized as the primary gateway drug to heroin and other illicit drug use, and prescription painkillers ? not illicit drugs ? are the most commonly abused drugs in the U.S. As noted by Zachary Siegel, writing for The Fix,11 "It's easy to get rich when health care providers write 259 million prescriptions for painkillers, enough for every American adult to have a bottle full of pills."

The massive increase in opioid sales has been repeatedly blamed on an orchestrated marketing plan aimed at misinforming doctors about the addictive potential of these drugs. Purdue Pharma was one of the most successful in this regard, driving sales of OxyContin up from $48 million in 1996 to $1.5 billion in 2002.12

Purdue's sales representatives ? who received handsome incentives and bonuses for OxyContin sales ? were extensively coached on how to downplay the drug's addictive potential, claiming addiction occurring in less than 1 percent of patients being treated for pain.

As noted by Dr. Irfan Dhalla, a drug safety researcher, "Purdue played a very large role in making physicians feel comfortable about opioids."13 Statistics reveal this marketing claim to be an outright lie. In reality, studies show addiction affects about 26 percent of those using opioids for chronic noncancer pain, and 1 in 550 patients on opioid therapy dies from opioid-related causes within 2.5 years of their first prescription!14

A Fortune Built on Dangerous Misrepresentations

In 2007, Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty to charges of misbranding "with intent to defraud and mislead the public," and paid $634 million in fines ? an amount said to represent 90 percent of its profits from OxyContin sales during the time of the offense.15 Fast-forward a decade, and it seems this fine did little to alter the company's moral compass. Opioids are still massively misrepresented, misused and abused by tens of millions of Americans.

A potential part of the problem is the fact that no specific individuals have ever been charged. None of the members of the Sackler family was ever charged with any kind of misdeed, for example, and owners and corporate leaders of other drug companies have also walked away scot-free.

The Sacklers' profiteering from the opioid abuse epidemic they helped engineer was again highlighted in Esquire16 in mid-October, as well as The New Yorker.17 After recounting the family's extensive philanthropic endeavors18 and notorious "pursuit of naming rights," Esquire journalist Christopher Glazek writes:

"To a remarkable degree, those who share in the billions appear to have abided by an oath of omertà: Never comment publicly on the source of the family's wealth. That may be because the greatest part of that $14 billion fortune ? came from OxyContin, the narcotic painkiller regarded by many public health experts as among the most dangerous products ever sold on a mass scale ?  

Even so, hardly anyone associates the Sackler name with their company's lone blockbuster drug. 'The Fords, Hewletts, Packards, Johnsons ? all those families put their name on their product because they were proud,' said Keith Humphreys, a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University School of Medicine who has written extensively about the opioid crisis. 'The Sacklers have hidden their connection to their product' ?

The family's leaders have pulled off three of the great marketing triumphs of the modern era: The first is selling OxyContin; the second is promoting the Sackler name; and the third is ensuring that, as far as the public is aware, the first and second have nothing to do with one another."

Opioid Epidemic Equates to 9/11 Massacre Every Three Weeks, Year-Round

According to President Trump's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, led by New Jersey governor Chris Christie, opioids kill an estimated 142 Americans each day, a death toll equivalent to a "September 11th every three weeks," and Purdue Pharma was one of leading engineers of this still ongoing massacre.

You may want to believe that the Sackler family, while being the sole owners of Purdue Pharma, personally had nothing to do with the corporate decisions that fueled the epidemic but, according to Glazek, that's not true.

"Few are aware that during the crucial period of OxyContin's development and promotion, Sackler family members actively led Purdue's day-to-day affairs, filling the majority of its board slots and supplying top executives," he writes. In other words, Sackler family members were fully aware of, and involved with, the marketing machinations behind OxyContin.

Sackler Marketing Specialty ? Inflated Claims

Glazek provides a summarized history of the Sackler family's rise to wealth and power. In 1952, Arthur Sackler, son of immigrants living in Flatbush, Brooklyn, bought Purdue Frederick, a company founded in 1892 that sold patent medicines. It's flagship product back then was Gray's Glycerine Tonic, a remedy peddled as a general cure-all.

Arthur's two brothers, Mortimer and Raymond, ran the company. Arthur made a name for himself in drug advertising, which at the time was relegated to "detail men" who sold medicines to doctors by going door-to-door.

Arthur believed, and rightfully so, that print ads in medical journals would be a great way to boost drug sales, and in 1952 published the first color drug ad in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). He later went on to develop an ad campaign for Valium, made by Roche. Glazek writes:

"This posed a challenge, because the effects of the medication were nearly indistinguishable from those of Librium, another Roche tranquilizer that was already on the market. Arthur differentiated Valium by audaciously inflating its range of indications.

Whereas Librium was sold as a treatment for garden-variety anxiety, Valium was positioned as an elixir for a problem Arthur christened 'psychic tension.' According to his ads, psychic tension, the forebear of today's 'stress,' was the secret culprit behind a host of somatic conditions, including heartburn, gastrointestinal issues, insomnia, and restless-leg syndrome." 

As a result of this campaign, Valium became the most widely prescribed drug in the U.S., making a record-breaking $100 million in sales. According to Glazer, it was this "original marketing insight" that drove OxyContin's success as well ? "That simple but profitable idea was to take a substance with addictive properties ? and market it as a salve for a vast range of indications."

Marketing Messaging Was No Mistake

Glazer also notes that one of the Sackler family members that appears to have been heavily involved in the marketing of OxyContin was Raymond's eldest son, Richard Sackler.19

"'At all the meetings, that was a constant source of discussion ? 'What else can we use the Contin system [editor's note: a slow-release system] for?' said Peter Lacouture, a senior director of clinical research at Purdue from 1991 to 2001. 'And that's where Richard would fire some ideas ? maybe antibiotics, maybe chemotherapy ? he was always out there digging' ?

In the tradition of his uncle Arthur, Richard was also fascinated by sales messaging. 'He was very interested in the commercial side and also very interested in marketing approaches,' said Sally Allen Riddle, Purdue's former executive director for product management. 'He didn't always wait for the research results.'"

Despite his close involvement in the business, heading up the firm's research and development division, as well as its sales and marketing division, Richard's name does not appear anywhere on the Purdue Pharma website. Between 1999 and 2003 he also served as company president, after which he became co-chairman of the board.

Arthur's daughter, Elizabeth Sackler, described by Glazer as "a historian of feminist art who sits on the board of the Brooklyn Museum and supports a variety of progressive causes," has "emphatically distanced" herself from her cousin, Richard, and Purdue Pharma, noting in an email to Glazer that "Neither I, nor my siblings, nor my children have ever had ownership in or any benefit whatsoever from Purdue Pharma or OxyContin."

The Rise of Narcotic Entitlement for Every American 

As noted by Glazer, while Purdue didn't invent the movement incited by pain specialists in the mid-'90s, who were calling for more and better pain management strategies, the company certainly took full advantage of it. Purdue and other drug companies in the business of making painkillers created patient advocacy front groups such as the American Pain Society, the American Academy of Pain Medicine, and Purdue's own group, Partners Against Pain.

These groups were instrumental in pressuring regulators into making pain assessment one of the vital signs20 recorded at every doctor's visit. The inclusion of pain as "the fifth vital sign" has since become one of the hidden drivers behind opioid prescriptions, as nothing lowers a patient's pain score as much as a narcotic pain reliever, thereby assuring the doctor will maintain a higher patient satisfaction rating.

"As an internal strategy document put it, Purdue's ambition was to 'attach an emotional aspect to noncancer pain' so that doctors would feel pressure to 'treat it more seriously and aggressively.' The company rebranded pain relief as a sacred right: a universal narcotic entitlement available not only to the terminally ill but to every American," Glazer writes.

This "universal narcotic entitlement" is now killing an unprecedented number of Americans.21,22 According to the latest data from the National Center for Health Statistics, life expectancy for both men and women dropped between 2014 and 2015 for the first time in two decades, and drug overdose deaths appear to be a significant contributor.23,24,25

In 2015, 33,091 Americans died from an opioid overdose. Nearly one-third of them, 15,281, were by prescription.26,27,28   Back pain, which is of the most common health complaints across the globe, has also become one of the most common reasons for an opioid prescription. And, if you have back pain and suffer depression or anxiety you're at particularly high risk for opioid abuse and addiction, research shows.29

Opioids Are by Far the Most Lethal Medications Available

The most common drugs involved in prescription opioid overdose deaths include30 methadone, oxycodone (such as OxyContin®) and hydrocodone (such as Vicodin®). As noted by Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): "We know of no other medication routinely used for a nonfatal condition that kills patients so frequently."31

Despite its many risks, which include birth defects and the risk of addiction, nearly one-third of American women of childbearing age are now prescribed opioid painkillers32 and more than 14 percent of pregnant women were prescribed opioids during their pregnancy.33 Clearly, if you are planning a pregnancy or are pregnant, you should go to great lengths to avoid narcotic drugs. If you wouldn't consider taking heroin, you really should not take a narcotic pain reliever either.

Knowing that these drugs carry the serious risk of addiction, abuse and overdose, they should be prescribed sparingly and only for the most severe cases of pain, for which no other options are available. Unfortunately, the current medical system heavily discourages doctors from making much-needed changes in their prescription habits. As mentioned, patient pain assessment plays a significant role in a doctor's quality of care indicator, and nothing will eliminate pain as effectively as a narcotic.

Additionally, and in the midst of this epidemic of opioid overdose deaths, drug companies are still paying physicians to boost opioid sales by writing more prescriptions. According to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health,34 between August 2013 and December 2015, more than 375,000 non-research opioid-related payments were made to more than 68,000 physicians, totaling in excess of $46 million.

This amounts to 1 in 12 U.S. physicians collecting money from drug companies producing prescription opioids. The top 1 percent of physicians received nearly 83 percent of the payments, and the drug fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that can be anywhere from 500 to 1,000 percent more potent than morphine, was associated with the highest payments.

Many of the states struggling with the highest rates of overdose deaths, such as Indiana, Ohio and New Jersey, were also those showing the most opioid-related payments to physicians.

This suggests there's a direct link between doctors' kickbacks and patient addiction rates and deaths. It's also worth noting that a significant amount of people get their first opioid prescription from their dentist.35 This is particularly true for teenagers and young adults.36 Half of all opioids are also prescribed to people with mental health problems.37

Industry, Distributors and Congress Have Much to Answer For

In a recent episode of 60 Minutes,38 whistleblower Joe Rannazzisi lays the blame for the opioid crisis squarely on the shoulders of the drug industry ? especially the drug distributors ? and Congress.39,40

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) was well aware of the fact that drug distributors were sending extraordinarily large shipments of opioids ? hundreds of millions of pills ? to pharmacies across the U.S., and that people were dying from their misuse; yet rather than taking steps to stop the massacre, industry lobbyists and Congress made it virtually impossible for DEA agents to take action.

With this new information about the Sacklers, we now have a good idea of where the financing came from to facilitate the opioid distribution that Rannazzisi was seeking to shut down. Rannazzisi led the DEA's Office of Diversion Control, which specifically regulates and investigates the drug industry.

According to Rannazzisi, "This is an industry that's out of control. What they want to do is do what they want to do, and not worry about what the law is. And if they don't follow the law in drug supply, people die." As reported by CBS News:41

"His greatest ire is reserved for the distributors ? some of them multibillion dollar, Fortune 500 companies. They are the middlemen that ship the pain pills from manufacturers, like Purdue Pharma and Johnson & Johnson to drug stores all over the country. Rannazzisi accuses the distributors of fueling the opioid epidemic by turning a blind eye to pain pills being diverted to illicit use."

Opioids Have Never Been Proven Safe or Effective Beyond Six Weeks of Treatment

In April 2016, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a paper in which it noted that:42

"Most placebo-controlled, randomized trials of opioids have lasted six weeks or less, and we are aware of no study that has compared opioid therapy with other treatments in terms of long-term (more than 1 year) outcomes related to pain, function, or quality of life. The few randomized trials to evaluate opioid efficacy for longer than six weeks had consistently poor results.

In fact, several studies have showed that use of opioids for chronic pain may actually worsen pain and functioning, possibly by potentiating pain perception. A 3-year prospective observational study of more than 69,000 postmenopausal women with recurrent pain conditions showed that patients who had received opioid therapy were less likely to have improvement in pain ? and had worsened function ?

An observational case?control study of patients undergoing orthopedic surgery showed that those receiving long-term opioid therapy had significantly higher levels of preoperative hyperalgesia. After surgery, patients who had received long-term opioid therapy reported higher pain intensity ? in the recovery room than patients who had not been taking opioids."

Another 2016 paper43 found nearly half of all unemployed men between the ages of 25 and 54 are using opioids on a daily basis. Two-thirds of them, about 2 million, are on prescription opioids. A follow-up study44 looking at the opioid epidemic's impact on the American labor force suggests chronic opioid use is in fact a major driver behind the decline in labor force participation, accounting for 20 percent of the increase in male unemployment between 1999 and 2015.

How You Can Avoid Becoming a Statistic

Attorney Mike Moore, who is currently representing the states of Ohio, Louisiana and Mississippi against Purdue Pharma, recently stated he has discovered evidence connecting the Sackler family "directly, and personally, to corporate misdeeds" committed in the '90s and 2000s, and says he's "looking really hard" at the possibility of suing certain Sackler family members personally.45 He and others also want Purdue's owners to fund opioid addiction treatment.46

However, according to Glazer, the family "will likely emerge untouched: Because of a sweeping non-prosecution agreement negotiated during the 2007 settlement, most new criminal litigation against Purdue can only address activity that occurred after that date. Neither Richard nor any other family members have occupied an executive position at the company since 2003." The same safe and rosy future is not guaranteed the tens of millions of Americans who fall victim to opioid addiction each year.

It's extremely important to be fully aware of the addictive potential of opioid drugs, and to seriously weigh your need for them. Once you start to develop a tolerance to them, meaning your regular dosage is no longer providing the same relief it did in the beginning, addiction is close at hand, and can develop faster than you might think.

Drug addiction is an extremely complex and difficult-to-treat condition that has the power to demolish and undo everything you've accomplished so far in life ? or put the brakes on any advancement you may have hoped for. You stand to lose not only your health but also your family and your job.

There are many other ways to address pain. Below is a long list of suggestions. If you are in pain that is tolerable, please try these options first, before resorting to prescription painkillers of any kind. If you need a pain reliever, consider an over-the-counter (OTC) option. Research47 shows prescription-strength naproxen (Naprosyn, sold OTC in lower dosages as Aleve) provides the same pain relief as more dangerous narcotic painkillers.

? Eliminate or radically reduce most grains and sugars from your diet

Avoiding grains and sugars will lower your insulin and leptin levels and decrease insulin and leptin resistance, which is one of the most important reasons why inflammatory prostaglandins are produced. That is why stopping sugar and sweets is so important to controlling your pain and other types of chronic illnesses.

? Take a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fat

Omega-3 fats are precursors to mediators of inflammation called prostaglandins. (In fact, that is how anti-inflammatory painkillers work, by manipulating prostaglandins.) Good sources include wild caught Alaskan salmon, sardines and anchovies, which are all high in healthy omega-3s while being low in contaminants such as mercury. As for supplements, my favorite is krill oil, as it has a number of benefits superior to fish oil.

? Optimize your sun exposure and production of vitamin D

Optimize your vitamin D by getting regular, appropriate sun exposure, which will work through a variety of different mechanisms to reduce your pain. Sun exposure also has anti-inflammatory and pain relieving effects that are unrelated to vitamin D production, and these benefits cannot be obtained from a vitamin D supplement.

Red, near-, mid- and far-infrared light therapy (photobiology) and/or infrared saunas may also be quite helpful as it promotes and speeds tissue healing, even deep inside the body.

? Medical cannabis

Medical marijuana has a long history as a natural analgesic and is now legal in 29 states including Washington, D.C. You can learn more about the laws in your state on medicalmarijuana.procon.org.48

? Kratom

Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) is another plant remedy that has become a popular opioid substitute.49 In August 2016, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration issued a notice saying it was planning to ban kratom, listing it as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. However, following massive outrage from kratom users who say opioids are their only alternative, the agency reversed its decision.50

Kratom is likely safer than an opioid for someone in serious and chronic pain. However, it's important to recognize that it is a psychoactive substance and should not be used carelessly. There's 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 people off opioids, kratom is in itself addictive. So, while it appears to be a far safer alternative to opioids, it's still a powerful and potentially addictive substance. So please, do your own research before trying it.

? Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT)

EFT is a drug-free approach for pain management of all kinds. EFT borrows from the principles of acupuncture in that it helps you balance out your subtle energy system. It helps resolve underlying, often subconscious, and negative emotions that may be exacerbating your physical pain. By stimulating (tapping) well-established acupuncture points with your fingertips, you rebalance your energy system, which tends to dissipate pain.

? Meditation and Mindfulness Training

Among volunteers who had never meditated before, those who attended four 20-minute classes to learn a meditation technique called focused attention (a form of mindfulness meditation) experienced significant pain relief ? a 40 percent reduction in pain intensity and a 57 percent reduction in pain unpleasantness.51

? Chiropractic

Many studies have confirmed that chiropractic management is much safer and less expensive than allopathic medical treatments, especially when used for pain such as low back pain.

Qualified chiropractic, osteopathic and naturopathic physicians are reliable, as they have received extensive training in the management of musculoskeletal disorders during their course of graduate health care training, which lasts between four to six years. These health experts have comprehensive training in musculoskeletal management.

? Acupuncture

Research has discovered a "clear and robust" effect of acupuncture in the treatment of back, neck and shoulder pain, and osteoarthritis and headaches.

? Physical therapy

Physical therapy has been shown to be as good as surgery for painful conditions such as torn cartilage and arthritis.

? Foundation Training

Foundation training is an innovative method developed by Dr. Eric Goodman to treat his own chronic low back pain. It's an excellent alternative to painkillers and surgery, as it actually addresses the cause of the problem.

? Massage

A systematic review and meta-analysis published in the journal Pain Medicine included 60 high-quality and seven low-quality studies that looked into the use of massage for various types of pain, including muscle and bone pain, headaches, deep internal pain, fibromyalgia pain and spinal cord pain.52

The review revealed massage therapy relieves pain better than getting no treatment at all. When compared to other pain treatments like acupuncture and physical therapy, massage therapy still proved beneficial and had few side effects. In addition to relieving pain, massage therapy also improved anxiety and health-related quality of life. 

? Astaxanthin

Astaxanthin is one of the most effective fat-soluble antioxidants known. It has very potent anti-inflammatory properties and in many cases works far more effectively than anti-inflammatory drugs. Higher doses are typically required and you may need 8 milligrams (mg) or more per day to achieve this benefit.

? Ginger

This herb has potent anti-inflammatory activity and offers pain relief and stomach-settling properties. Fresh ginger works well steeped in boiling water as a tea or grated into vegetable juice.

? Curcumin

In a study of osteoarthritis patients, those who added 200 mg of curcumin a day to their treatment plan had reduced pain and increased mobility. A past study also found that a turmeric extract composed of curcuminoids blocked inflammatory pathways, effectively preventing the overproduction of a protein that triggers swelling and pain.53

? Boswellia

Also known as boswellin or "Indian frankincense," this herb contains specific active anti-inflammatory ingredients.

? Bromelain

This enzyme, found in pineapples, is a natural anti-inflammatory. It can be taken in supplement form but eating fresh pineapple, including some of the bromelain-rich stem, may also be helpful.

? Cetyl Myristoleate (CMO)

This oil, found in fish and dairy butter, acts as a joint lubricant and anti-inflammatory. I have used this for myself to relieve ganglion cysts and carpal tunnel syndrome. I used a topical preparation for this.

? Evening Primrose, Black Currant and Borage Oils

These contain the essential fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which is particularly useful for treating arthritic pain.

? Cayenne Cream

Also called capsaicin cream, this spice comes from dried hot peppers. It alleviates pain by depleting the body's supply of substance P, a chemical component of nerve cells that transmits pain signals to your brain.

? Methods such as hot and cold packs, aquatic therapy, yoga, various mind-body techniques and cognitive behavioral therapy can also result in astonishing pain relief without drugs.

? Grounding

Walking barefoot on the earth may also provide a certain measure of pain relief by combating inflammation.

? Mind-Body Therapies

Methods such as hot and cold packs, aquatic therapy, yoga, various mind-body techniques and cognitive behavioral therapy can also result in astonishing pain relief without drugs.

? Low-Dose Naltrexone (LDN)

Naltrexone is an opiate antagonist, originally developed in the early 1960s for the treatment of opioid addiction. When taken at very low doses (LDN, available only by prescription), it triggers endorphin production, which can boost your immune function and ease pain.

GMO Apples Arriving at Grocery Stores

By Dr. Mercola

Apples genetically engineered to resist browning when sliced or bruised are on their way to about 400 grocery stores in the U.S. Midwest. Developed by Okanagan Specialty Fruits, the apples are engineered to suppress the production of the enzyme ? polyphenol oxidase (PPO) ? that causes browning. The first two varieties of the so-named Arctic Apple ? Arctic Golden and Arctic Granny ? were deregulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2015. A third variety, Arctic Fuji, joined the mix in 2016.1

Their arrival in stores is noteworthy for a number of reasons, the first being that this is the first Genetically modified organism (GMO) designed to have a perceived benefit for consumers. While people have been consuming genetically engineered (GE) foods for some time ? often without knowing, since labels aren?t required ? the GE products were designed to appeal to farmers.

For instance, Monsanto recently released Roundup Ready Xtend cotton and soybean seeds, designed to tolerate both Roundup and dicamba herbicides. Consumers wouldn?t go seeking out this type of soybean, but rather consume it by default, because it?s planted by farmers. This is changing with the release of GE Arctic Apples, which could prompt people to seek out the nonbrowning apples by name.

Arctic Apples to Serve as a Bellwether for Consumer-Geared GE Foods

Many companies dabbling in GMOs have their eyes on Arctic Apples, waiting to see if consumers accept or reject them. ?If the apple sells, it will pave the way for others,? Yinong Yang, a plant pathologist at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, told Nature. He is among those keeping watch on the new apples, as he created a GE mushroom that resists browning, using CRISPR technology.2

Others waiting in the wings include Finless Foods, which is working on creating Bluefin-tuna fillets made from fish stem cells, and the creators of meatless burgers made from GE yeast. As for Okanagan?s GE apples, ?The purpose of Arctic apples is definitely to promote healthy eating, boost apple consumption and reduce food waste, no matter what your age, income or any other factor,? the company?s president, Neal Carter, told Bloomberg.3

He stated that, in testing that occurred in 2017, 90 percent of consumers who tried them said they?d buy them if they were available, and the company cites statistics that 40 percent of apples are wasted, often due to browning.4 How valuable a nonbrowning apple proves to be to consumers remains to be seen, however. The first GE apples will be sold sliced, in 10-ounce bags ? and they won?t be labeled as GMOs.

As of November 2017, there are about 280 acres of GE apple trees growing in Washington state. The company is hoping to increase this to more than 1,000 acres by 2020 and expanding to other countries and products.5 Despite the fact that this is one of the only whole-product GMOs on the market (as opposed to products sold that contain GE ingredients), there will only be a QR code on the package, which consumers can scan with a cellphone for more information.

As Bill Freese, science-policy analyst at the advocacy group Center for Food Safety, who is calling for the apples to be clearly labeled as GMOs, told nature, ?Not everyone has a smartphone, and even if you have one, are you going to check every item with it??6

Will Sliced Apples Increase Contamination Risks, Packaging Waste?

A nonbrowning apple may hold a certain allure for those looking for a ready supply of fresh-looking apple slices, but there are some variables that don?t appear to be particularly well thought out. Contamination risks certainly come to mind. The more you process a food ? pre-peeling and slicing it, for instance ? the more the risk of contamination increases.

The apples will be passed down the equipment line to be sliced and diced, losing any natural protection they would have from the skin and being exposed to any contaminants that may linger on the machinery. When consuming a whole apple, you bypass these extra sources of potential contamination. Plus, the peel can be washed, removing contaminants the whole apple may have come across, to some extent.

There?s talk of the GE apple slices being sold in vending machines and the like, which, on its surface, sounds like a great way to get kids to snack on apples instead of candy. But a whole non-GMO apple is already a perfectly portable snack. Packaging sliced apples into individual servings only serves to create more packaging waste.

Further, it takes only a minute to slice up an apple yourself and pop it into a reusable container to eat later ? is the new product really that much more convenient? Not to mention, Carter noted, the GE Arctic Apples are expected to ?fetch a premium in pricing,? according to Bloomberg, which also spoke to Jim McFerson, professor of horticulture at Washington State University in Pullman, who called the GE apples a ?risky wager.?

?Because apples are seen as a quintessentially healthy product that parents provide for children, it?s a sensitive market,? he said.7 It?s true, too, that there could be unintended consequences. Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, said of the GE apples:8

"Many big apple buyers don't want this. Consumers don't want this. It's not only an unnecessary product, but the risks have not been fully examined ? Regulators have glossed over the possible unintentional effects of this technology, including the potential economic impacts on farmers, the potential of contamination for non-GMO and organic apple crops and the potential impact of the non-browning gene silencing, which could also weaken plant defenses and plant health."

Why Do Apples Turn Brown? And Is It Such a Bad Thing?

The worth of the GE Arctic Apple is hanging on the notion that a browned apple is a bad apple. But is this really the case? Cutting an apple exposes the cells to oxygen, which allows the PPO enzymes to rapidly oxidize the phenolic compounds in the apple tissues into ortho-quinones (o-quinones).

O-quinones form a natural antiseptic that helps protect the apple from bacteria and fungi. While o-quinones have no color, they react with oxygen and amino acids to produce melanin, which turns the apple brown. Put another way by a study published in the journal HortScience:9

?The enzymatic browning is a consequence of the oxidation of polyphenols to their corresponding quinones by PPO. These quinones are then polymerized with other quinones or phenolics, originating brown pigments.?

Apples with higher levels of phenolic compounds are best for your health but also tend to brown faster than apples with lower levels. One study suggested that among the apple varieties studied, Fuji is the best for fresh consumption because of its higher phenolic content at harvest time. However, they suggested a variety known as ?Aori27? is best for processing, as it had the lowest PPO activity and the lowest polyphenol content, and therefore the lowest potential for enzymatic browning.10

That being said, from a health standpoint, you?re better off choosing polyphenol-rich apples for your health and not worrying about it if they turn a little brown ? they?re still safe to eat. If the brown color is too off-putting, you should know that there are simple methods to stave off browning (if you?re not planning to eat the whole apple at once, that is), none of which require resorting to a GMO. Among them:

  • Put cut apples in the refrigerator. This will slow down the chemical reactions and oxidation process that leads to browning.
  • Spray exposed areas of cut apples with pineapple juice or lemon juice, which will slow enzymatic browning.
  • Immerse cut apples in pure water, which will keep oxygen from reaching the surface without affecting flavor. You can even add a dissolved vitamin C tablet to the water; the antioxidants will further stave off browning.11
  • Blanch apples in boiling water for four to five minutes (this should only be used for apples you plan on cooking, as it will affect the texture).

How to Seek Out the Healthiest Apples

There?s no doubt than an apple makes a near-perfect snack, even if it turns a little brown sometimes ? all the more incentive to eat it right away. As mentioned, the browning serves a purpose, helping to protect the apple from bacteria, and the apples with the most beneficial phenolic compounds are those that brown the fastest. That?s just a little food for thought if you?re contemplating whether you should take the chance on GE apples just so they stay white.

As for why apples are so good for you, compared to other commonly consumed fruits, they ranked highest for the proportion of free phenolic compounds, which means they are not bound to other compounds in the fruit and therefore may be more easily absorbed into your bloodstream.12 Apple peels contain most of the healthiest components, including antioxidants like catechin, procyanidins, chlorogenic acid, phlorizin and more.

Compounds in apples are good for your brain, helping to protect neuron cells against oxidative stress-induced neurotoxicity,13 and may lower your risk of stroke.14

Eating apples is associated with a lower risk of death from heart disease, an association that may be related to their content of antioxidant flavonoids,15 and they?re known to help regulate blood sugar.16 Like many whole foods, apples contain compounds that are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-mutagenic, which means they may also help fight cancer. According to the journal Planta Medica:17

?Apple products have been shown to prevent skin, mammary and colon carcinogenesis in animal models. Epidemiological observations indicate that regular consumption of one or more apples a day may reduce the risk for lung and colon cancer.?

Look for apples with shiny skin, which tend to be crisper than dull apples, and refrigerate them at 32 degrees F to keep them nice and crisp.18 It?s important to seek out organic apples, however, as they?re ranked No. 4 on the Environmental Working Group?s list of most pesticide-contaminated produce.19 Seeking organic apples will also ensure that they?re not GE.

If you?re purchasing conventionally grown apples, for now it?s only the sliced Arctic Apples that are GMO, so to avoid them, choose whole apples instead. Finally, no matter what type of apple you buy, keep in mind that they are a relatively high-fructose fruit, with 9.5 grams in a medium-sized apple. They should, therefore, be consumed in moderation.

Do We Really Need Opioids for Pain?

By Dr. Mercola

The U.S. is in the midst of an opioid crisis, with more than 91 Americans fatally overdosing on the powerful drugs every day.1 The statistic includes prescription opioids, heroin and fentanyl, but many of the deaths stem from prescription drug use. In fact, of the more than 33,000 Americans killed by opioids in 2015, nearly half of them involved a prescription for the drugs.2 Even the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states:3

"In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies reassured the medical community that patients would not become addicted to prescription opioid pain relievers, and healthcare providers began to prescribe them at greater rates. This subsequently led to widespread diversion and misuse of these medications before it became clear that these medications could indeed be highly addictive."

Fast-forward about two decades later, and it was estimated that, in 2015, 2 million Americans suffered from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers.4

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also highlights the fact that overdoses from prescription opioids, in particular, "are a driving factor in the 15-year increase in opioid overdose deaths," noting, "The amount of prescription opioids sold to pharmacies, hospitals, and doctors' offices nearly quadrupled from 1999 to 2010, yet there had not been an overall change in the amount of pain that Americans reported."5

Prescription opioids are considered standard care for treating severe pain following surgery or injury or due to illnesses such as cancer, although they're now increasingly prescribed for many types of pain, including chronic back pain or pain from osteoarthritis. Even in the former case, however, research is now questioning whether the dangerous drugs work better than safer options.

Non-Opioid Pain Relievers Work Just as Well to Treat Pain in ER Patients

If a person comes to the emergency room with severe acute pain, most physicians would prescribe them an opioid to relieve pain. Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggests, however, that less risky opioid-free options may work just as well.6

The study evaluated the effects of four different combinations of pain relievers ? three with different opioids and one opioid-free option composed of ibuprofen (i.e., Advil) and acetaminophen (i.e., Tylenol) ? on people with moderate to severe pain in an extremity, due to bone fractures, shoulder dislocation and other injuries. The patients had an average pain score of 8.7 (on a scale of zero to 10) when they arrived.

Two hours later, after receiving one of the pain-relief combinations, their pain levels decreased similarly, regardless of which drug-combo they received. Specifically, pain scores fell by:7

  • 4.3 in the ibuprofen and acetaminophen group
  • 4.4 in the oxycodone and acetaminophen group
  • 3.5 in the hydrocodone and acetaminophen group
  • 3.9 in the codeine and acetaminophen group

"For patients presenting to the ED with acute extremity pain, there were no statistically significant or clinically important differences in pain reduction at 2 hours among single-dose treatment with ibuprofen and acetaminophen or with 3 different opioid and acetaminophen combination analgesics," the researchers concluded.8

Speaking to Vox, the study's lead author, Andrew Chang of the department of emergency medicine at Albany Medical College, Albany, New York, said, "Some (not all) physicians reflexively think fractures require opioids, but this study lends evidence that opioids are not always necessary even in the presence of fractures."9

Even Non-Opioid Pain Relievers Come With Risks

It's worth noting that while ibuprofen and acetaminophen are generally safer options than opioids, they're not without risk. So when choosing an option for pain relief, it's important not to assume that, because a drug is available over the counter, it's automatically safe. Ibuprofen, for instance, is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), which have been linked to kidney problems, heart attack, stroke, gastrointestinal disorders, miscarriage and hearing problems.

Acetaminophen, meanwhile, is the leading cause of acute liver failure in the U.S.10 and can also cause kidney dysfunction, especially if taken with alcohol.11 Unbeknownst to many, acetaminophen may also cause three serious skin reactions, two of which typically require hospitalization and can be fatal. This isn't to say that ibuprofen and acetaminophen aren't generally safer than opioids, but rather to point out that caution is warranted no matter what type of drug you take.

Pain relievers are clearly valuable medications in many instances, and even opioids have their place (such as for treating severe pain in end of life care), but do use caution, no matter which kind you take. And if you do use an opioid, be aware that there's a high risk for addiction and, with that, overdose death.

Drug Overdose Is the Leading Cause of Death in Americans Under 50

Up to 29 percent of people prescribed opioids for chronic pain end up misusing them, and 4 percent to 6 percent of them will transition to using heroin.12 Even when taken as directed, prescription opioids can lead to addiction as well as tolerance, which means you need an increasingly stronger dose to get the pain-relieving effects.

Physical dependence, in which you suffer withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking the drugs, can also result along with other issues like increased sensitivity to pain, depression, low levels of testosterone and more.13

"Anyone who takes prescription opioids can become addicted to them. In fact, as many as one in four patients receiving long-term opioid therapy in a primary care setting struggles with opioid addiction. Once addicted, it can be hard to stop," the CDC notes.14 Alarmingly, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50, with the deaths being driven by synthetic opioids like fentanyl, which can be anywhere from 500 percent to 1,000 percent more potent than morphine.15

Did You Know Some Doctors Get Bonuses for Prescribing Opioids?

It's shocking that, in the midst of this epidemic of opioid overdose deaths, the pharmaceutical industry would be making payments to physicians to prescribe more opioid products, but this is precisely what's occurring, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health.16 More than 375,000 non-research opioid-related payments were made to more than 68,000 physicians, totaling more than $46 million, between August 2013 and December 2015.

This amounts to 1 in 12 U.S. physicians who have received money from drug companies producing prescription opioids. The top 1 percent of physicians received nearly 83 percent of the payments, and fentanyl was associated with the highest payments. Many of the states struggling with the highest rates of overdose deaths, such as Indiana, Ohio and New Jersey, were also those showing the most opioid-related payments to physicians.17

Also unsettling, family physicians received the most payments (close to 1 in 5 family medicine doctors were recipients18), which is "an indicator that opioids are being really heavily marketed for pain," Scott Hadland, the study's author, told The Washington Post.19 "The next step is to understand these links between payments ? and prescribing practices and overdose deaths," he said. "It's very common that the first opioid ? [many people are] ever exposed to is from a prescription."20

Adding insult to injury, with the opioid epidemic being declared a public health emergency, it allows state governments to access certain resources that might otherwise be out of reach outside of a declared emergency.

In some cases, such as in Arizona, the emergency declaration allows for increased funding, which the state has used to train law enforcement officers on how to administer naloxone, the lifesaving opioid antidote.21 So, in essence, taxpayer funds are now being used to pay drug companies to fight the epidemic that they created.

Opioid Testing Scam Is Another Goldmine for the Medical Industry

The opioid epidemic has created a cash cow in the form of urine drug tests. According to data compiled by Kaiser Health News and researchers at the Mayo Clinic, reported by Bloomberg, "[S]pending on urine screens and related genetic tests quadrupled from 2011 to 2014, to an estimated $8.5 billion a year ? more than the entire budget of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The federal government paid providers more to conduct urine drug tests in 2014 than it spent on the four most recommended cancer screenings combined."22 With the rising rates of opioid abuse and overdose, entrepreneurs targeted doctors to increase urine testing for the drugs, resulting in a lucrative business for all parties involved:

"As alarm spread about opioid deaths and overdoses in the past decade, doctors who prescribed the pills were looking for ways to prevent abuse and avert liability. Entrepreneurs saw a lucrative business model: persuade doctors that testing would keep them out of trouble with licensing boards or law enforcement and protect their patients from harm. Some companies offered doctors technical help opening up their own labs."23

Bloomberg highlights a network of pain clinics to show just how much money is at stake from the seemingly innocuous task of conducting urine tests on opioid patients. While its founder claims the tests are medically necessary to protect patients from addiction and be sure the patients are taking the drugs instead of selling them on the streets, you'll quickly see that there are many people making a hefty profit all linked back to the prescription of drugs that are claiming far too many people's lives:

"This [urine] testing process, driven by the nation's epidemic of painkiller addiction, generates profits across the doctor-owned network of 54 clinics, the largest pain-treatment practice in the Southeast.

Medicare paid the company at least $11 million for urine and related tests in 2014, when five of its professionals stood among the nation's top billers. One nurse practitioner at the company's clinic in Cleveland, Tennessee, single-handedly generated $1.1 million in Medicare billings for urine tests that year, according to Medicare records."24

Exploring Nondrug Options for Pain Relief

If you have chronic pain of any kind, please understand that there are many safe and effective alternatives to prescription and even over-the-counter painkillers. The pain remedies that follow are natural, providing excellent pain relief without any of the health hazards that pain medications like opioids often carry.

Astaxanthin: One of the most effective oil-soluble antioxidants known, astaxanthin has very potent anti-inflammatory properties. Higher doses are typically required and one may need 8 milligrams or more per day to achieve this benefit.

Ginger: This herb is anti-inflammatory and offers pain relief and stomach-settling properties. Fresh ginger works well steeped in boiling water as a tea or grated into vegetable juice.

Curcumin: Curcumin is the primary therapeutic compound identified in the spice turmeric. In a study of osteoarthritis patients, those who added only 200 milligrams of curcumin a day to their treatment plan had reduced pain and increased mobility.25 In fact, curcumin has been shown in over 50 clinical studies to have potent anti-inflammatory activity, as well as demonstrating the ability in four studies to reduce Tylenol-associated adverse health effects.

Boswellia: Also known as boswellin or "Indian frankincense," this herb contains powerful anti-inflammatory properties, which have been prized for thousands of years. This is one of my personal favorites, as I have seen it work well with many rheumatoid arthritis patients.

Bromelain: This protein-digesting enzyme, found in pineapples, is a natural anti-inflammatory. It can be taken in supplement form, but eating fresh pineapple may also be helpful. Keep in mind that most of the bromelain is found within the core of the pineapple, so consider leaving a little of the pulpy core intact when you consume the fruit.

Cetyl Myristoleate (CMO): This oil, found in fish and dairy butter, acts as a "joint lubricant" and an anti-inflammatory. I have used a topical preparation for myself to relieve ganglion cysts and a mild annoying carpal tunnel syndrome that pops up when I type too much on non-ergonomic keyboards.

Evening Primrose, Black Currant and Borage Oils: These contain the fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which is useful for treating arthritic pain.

Cayenne Cream: Also called capsaicin cream, this spice comes from dried hot peppers. It alleviates pain by depleting the body's supply of substance P, a chemical component of nerve cells that transmit pain signals to your brain.

Dietary Changes and Additional Pain Relief Options

When physicians don't know how to effectively treat chronic pain, they resort to the only treatment they know: prescription drugs, which will do nothing to solve the underlying reasons why you're in pain. Toward that end, if you suffer from chronic pain, there's a good chance you need to tweak your diet as follows:

  1. Start taking a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fat like krill oil. Omega-3 fats are precursors to mediators of inflammation called prostaglandins. (In fact, that is how anti-inflammatory painkillers work, they positively influence prostaglandins.) The omega-3 fats EPA and DHA contained in krill oil have been found in many animal and clinical studies to have anti-inflammatory properties, which are beneficial for pain relief.
  2. Reduce your intake of most processed foods as not only do they contain sugar and additives, but also most are loaded with omega-6 fats that upset your delicate omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. This, in turn, will contribute to inflammation, a key factor in most pain.
  3. Eliminate or radically reduce most grains and sugars (especially fructose) from your diet. Avoiding grains and sugars will lower your insulin and leptin levels. Elevated insulin and leptin levels are one of the most profound stimulators of inflammatory prostaglandin production. That is why eliminating sugar and grains is so important to controlling your pain.
  4. Optimize your production of vitamin D by getting regular, appropriate sun exposure, which will work through a variety of different mechanisms to reduce your pain. This satisfies your body's appetite for regular sun exposure.

Finally, the natural pain relief methods that follow are useful for ongoing and lasting pain relief and management:

  • Chiropractic adjustments: According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), patients with neck pain who used a chiropractor and/or exercise were more than twice as likely to be pain-free in 12 weeks compared to those who took medication.26
  • Massage: Massage releases endorphins, which help induce relaxation, relieve pain and reduce levels of stress chemicals such as cortisol and noradrenaline.
  • Acupuncture: Researchers concluded that acupuncture has a definite effect in reducing chronic pain such as back pain and headaches ? more so than standard pain treatment.27

EPA Refuses to Ban Neurotoxic Pesticide Found in 87 Percent of Newborns

By Dr. Mercola

Exposure to pesticides, herbicides and insecticides has dramatically increased since the introduction of genetically engineered (GE) crops. Urine output of glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, shot up by more than 1,200 percent between 1993 and 2016.1 Unfortunately, glyphosate is not the only chemical of concern.

Chlorpyrifos (sold under the trade name Lorsban) ? an organophosphate insecticide known to disrupt brain development and cause brain damage, neurological abnormalities, reduced IQ and aggressiveness in children ? is another.2 ,3 In adults, the chemical has been linked to Parkinson's disease4,5 and lung cancer.6

Chlorpyrifos has been in use since 1965, and is commonly used on staple crops such as wheat and corn, as well as fruits and vegetables, including nonorganic citrus, apples, cherries, strawberries, broccoli, cauliflower and dozens of others. Since the chemical has a half-life of several months and can remain on sprayed foods for up to several weeks,7 nonorganic foods are a major source of exposure.

Importantly, nonorganic, non-grass fed meats are likely to be loaded with this chemical, since conventional feed consists primarily of genetically and/or conventionally raised grains such as corn. This is yet another reason to make sure you feed your family grass fed meats and animal products, especially your young children. Chlorpyrifos is also a commonly found water contaminant, and has even been found in indoor air.8

Children experience greater exposure to chemicals pound-for-pound than adults, and have an immature and porous blood-brain barrier that allows greater chemical exposures to reach their developing brain. Needless to say, the results can be devastating and, indeed, many agricultural and industrial chemicals have been found to affect children's brain function and development specifically.

Decadelong Effort to Ban Chlorpyrifos Fall Through

Permissible uses of chlorpyrifos was limited in the year 2000, at which time the chemical was banned for use in homes, schools, day care facilities, parks, hospitals, nursing homes and malls. However, agricultural use remained, and it can still be used on golf courses and road medians.

Scientists at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) actually pushed for a complete ban on chlorpyrifos, as its dangers are well-documented, and the chemical is in fact classified as a neurotoxin, as it disrupts communication between brain cells. Research shows that living within 1 mile of chlorpyrifos-treated fields increases a woman's risk of having an autistic child by 300 percent.9,10

A petition to ban chlorpyrifos on food was filed over a decade ago, and the lack of response from the EPA finally led to a federal court ordering the EPA to issue a decision.11 Forced to act, Scott Pruitt, President Trump-appointed head of the EPA,12 issued an order denying the petition to revoke all tolerances for chlorpyrifos on food in March 2017.13,14 As noted by NPR:15

"That's despite the agency's earlier conclusion, reached during the Obama administration, that this pesticide could pose risks to consumers. It's a signal that toxic chemicals will face less restrictive regulation by the Trump administration. In its decision, the EPA didn't exactly repudiate its earlier scientific findings. But the agency did say that there's still a lot of scientific uncertainty about the risks of chlorpyrifos ?

Patti Goldman, from the environmental group Earth Justice, calls the decision 'unconscionable,' and says that her group will fight it in court ? 'Based on the harm that this pesticide causes, the EPA cannot, consistent with the law, allow it in our food.'"

87 Percent of Newborns Have Chlorpyrifos in Their Cord Blood

Considering Pruitt's history of championing industry interests and the evidence showing other EPA officials have has taken an active role in protecting chemical giants against rulings that would impact their bottom line, his decision to keep chlorpyrifos on the market does raise suspicions. As noted by USA Today,16 Pruitt "filed more than a dozen lawsuits seeking to overturn some of the same regulations he is now charged with enforcing."

Evidence also suggests Dow Chemical, the maker of chlorpyrifos, pressured government agencies to ignore incriminating studies (see next section). The EPA's earlier conclusion that chlorpyrifos posed a risk to consumers was largely based on research17 showing that exposure to the chemical caused measurable differences in brain function. In one study, compared to children whose exposure to the chemical was negligible, children with high levels of exposure had lower IQ at age 7.18

Research19 published in 2014 showed that pregnant women exposed to chlorpyrifos during their second trimester had a 60 percent higher risk of giving birth to an autistic child. Studies have also shown that genetic differences can make some people far more vulnerable to chlorpyrifos than others.

Moreover, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chlorpyrifos is metabolized in the human body into 3,5,6-trichloro-2-pyridinol (TCPy),20 which is even more toxic than the original insecticide. Disturbingly, California's biomonitoring program found TCPy in 82 percent of Californians sampled in 2012, including pregnant women.21

Another 2012 study,22 which measured chlorpyrifos levels in maternal and cord plasma of women and children living in an agricultural community, found measurable levels in 70.5 percent of maternal blood samples and 87.5 percent of cord blood samples. According to the authors:

"Blood organophosphate pesticide levels of study participants were similar in mothers and newborns and slightly higher than those reported in other populations. However, compared to their mothers, newborns have much lower quantities of the detoxifying PON1 enzyme suggesting that infants may be especially vulnerable to organophosphate pesticide exposures."

Dow Chemical Requested Evidence To Be 'Set Aside'

Government-funded studies also reveal that chlorpyrifos poses serious risks to 97 percent of endangered animals in the U.S.23,24 This alone ought to be cause enough to ban this chemical, but it appears industry pressure worked its usual magic.

On April 13, 2017, a legal team representing Dow Chemical and two other organophosphate manufacturers sent letters to the three agencies responsible for joint enforcement of the Endangered Species Act25,26 ? the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Department of Commerce ? asking them to "set aside" these incriminating findings, as the companies believe they are flawed. As reported by USA Today:

"Over the past four years, federal scientists have compiled ? more than 10,000 pages indicating the three pesticides under review ? chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion ? pose a risk to nearly every endangered species they studied. Regulators at the three federal agencies ? are close to issuing findings expected to result in new limits on how and where the highly toxic pesticides can be used ?

The EPA's recent biological evaluation of chlorpyrifos found the pesticide is 'likely to adversely affect' 1,778 of the 1,835 animals and plants accessed as part of its study, including critically endangered or threatened species of frogs, fish, birds and mammals ? In a statement, the Dow subsidiary that sells chlorpyrifos said its lawyers asked for the EPA's biological assessment to be withdrawn because its 'scientific basis was not reliable.'"

Pruitt claims he's "trying to restore regulatory sanity to EPA's work." I would argue the definition of sanity is first not to abandon the EPA's mandate to protect the public health and, further, not to give developmentally crippling toxins a free pass and ignoring loads of unbiased research documenting its toxicity.

At present, the EPA is also in the process of reassessing atrazine, another pernicious and exceptionally toxic agricultural chemical. It remains to be seen whether the agency will finally take a firm stand against this pernicious toxin, or let it slide like chlorpyrifos and glyphosate.

Toxic Exposures Have Robbed Americans of 41 Million IQ Points

Problems with cognitive function that are not severe enough for diagnosis are becoming even more common than neurobehavioral development disorders. In 2012, David Bellinger, Ph.D., professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, published a study funded by the National Institutes of Health where he calculated the impact of toxic exposures on children's IQ.27

He determined that based on a population of 25.5 million children, aged birth to 5, those born to mothers exposed to organophosphates, mercury or lead during pregnancy suffered a combined loss of 16.9 million IQ points. Researchers calculated a collective loss of 41 million IQ points in the U.S. from the same exposures.28 Conventional farmers are reluctant to stop using pesticides as this will put their crops at risk, and pesticide makers will not support a ban for obvious reasons.

But at what point do we say enough is enough? How many children have to be sacrificed for financial profits? Considering the lack of proactive measures from government and industry, it's up to each and every one of us to be proactive in our own lives. One of the most effective ways to reduce your exposure to toxic pesticides, herbicides and insecticides is to buy certified organic foods, or better yet, foods certified biodynamic.

Environmental Toxins Kill 1.7 Million Children Annually, Worldwide

Untested chemicals should not be presumed safe.29 The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that environmental pollution, including but not limited to toxic exposures, kills 1.7 million children every year.30 The top five causes of death for children under 5 are related to their environment.

A recent report from CHEMTrust, a British charity working internationally to prevent man-made chemicals from triggering damage to wildlife or humans, found current chemical testing is not adequately picking up chemicals that cause developmental neurotoxicity.31 Their "No Brainer" report32 evaluated the impact of chemicals on the development of a child's brain.

The report praised the European Food Safety Authority for work on risk assessment of pesticides and recommended their approach be expanded to include chemicals from other sources.33

They also recommended chemicals used for food contact material be routinely tested and screened for developmental neurotoxicity. The report also called for a taskforce to identify and develop better ways to screen chemicals before use. Without a doubt, the U.S. needs to follow suit and take a stronger stance against chemicals suspected of neurotoxicity.

How to Protect Your Family From Toxic Pesticides

According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report on pesticide residues in food,34 in 2014, 41 percent of samples had no detectable pesticide residues. The following year, a mere 15 percent of all the food samples tested were free from pesticide residues. That just goes to show how rapidly and dramatically our pesticide exposure has increased.

Here's a summary of commonsense recommendations that will help reduce your exposure to pesticides, and help you eliminate toxins you may already have been exposed to:

? As a general rule, your safest bet is to grow your own food, followed by buying certified organic or, better yet, biodynamic produce, and grass fed or pastured meats and animal products. See the listing below for sources where you can locate farm-fresh foods locally. If you cannot afford an all-organic/biodynamic diet, focus on buying grass fed and organic pastured meats first.

Next, familiarize yourself with average pesticide loads and buy (or grow) organic varieties of produce known to carry the highest amounts of pesticides. You can find a quick rundown in the Consumer Reports video above.35 Another excellent source, which is updated annually, is the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) shopper's guide36 to pesticides in produce.

? Filtering your drinking water is also important. To remove pesticides, look for a filter certified by the NSF International to meet American National Standards Institute Standard 53 for volatile organic compounds reduction. This will ensure the filter is capable of significantly reducing pesticides.37 Most activated carbon filters will meet this requirement and get the job done.

? Carefully wash all nonorganic produce to remove surface pesticides. According to a recent study,38 the most effective cleaning method, by far, is to wash your produce using a mixture of tap water and baking soda. Soaking apples in a 1 percent baking soda solution for 12 to 15 minutes was found to remove 80 percent of the fungicide thiabendazole and 96 percent of the insecticide phosmet.

? Lastly, if you know you have been exposed to pesticides, eating fermented foods and/or using a low-EMF far infrared sauna can be helpful, especially if combined with an optimal supplemental detox regimen including binders to catch the toxins that are mobilized from the fats. The lactic acid bacteria formed during the fermentation of kimchi has been shown to help your body break down pesticides.

Where to Find Organic Farm-Fresh Foods

If you live in the U.S., the following organizations can help you locate wholesome farm-fresh foods in your area:

Demeter USA

Demeter-USA.org provides a directory of certified Biodynamic farms and brands. This directory can also be found on BiodynamicFood.org.

American Grassfed Association

The goal of the American Grassfed Association is to promote the grass fed industry through government relations, research, concept marketing and public education.

Their website also allows you to search for AGA approved producers certified according to strict standards that include being raised on a diet of 100 percent forage; raised on pasture and never confined to a feedlot; never treated with antibiotics or hormones; born and raised on American family farms.

EatWild.com

EatWild.com provides lists of farmers known to produce raw dairy products as well as grass fed beef and other farm-fresh produce (although not all are certified organic). Here you can also find information about local farmers markets, as well as local stores and restaurants that sell grass fed products.

Weston A. Price Foundation

Weston A. Price has local chapters in most states, and many of them are connected with buying clubs in which you can easily purchase organic foods, including grass fed raw dairy products like milk and butter.

Grassfed Exchange

The Grassfed Exchange has a listing of producers selling organic and grass fed meats across the U.S.

Local Harvest

This website will help you find farmers markets, family farms and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass fed meats and many other goodies.

Farmers Markets

A national listing of farmers markets.

Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals

The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, hotels and online outlets in the United States and Canada.

Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA)

CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.

FoodRoutes

The FoodRoutes "Find Good Food" map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs and markets near you.

The Cornucopia Institute

The Cornucopia Institute maintains web-based tools rating all certified organic brands of eggs, dairy products and other commodities, based on their ethical sourcing and authentic farming practices separating CAFO "organic" production from authentic organic practices.

RealMilk.com

If you're still unsure of where to find raw milk, check out Raw-Milk-Facts.com and RealMilk.com. They can tell you what the status is for legality in your state, and provide a listing of raw dairy farms in your area. The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund39 also provides a state-by-state review of raw milk laws.40 California residents can also find raw milk retailers using the store locator available at www.OrganicPastures.com.

CoQ10 ? The No. 1 Supplement Recommended by Cardiologists

By Dr. Mercola

According to the industry publication New Hope,1 coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) and the reduced version, ubiquinol, are among the most popular supplements for mitochondrial health. Between 2000 and 2016, the number of Americans using CoQ10 increased from 2 million to 24 million, and the number of brands featuring CoQ10 has increased from 18 brands to 125.

This rapid growth suggests people are becoming increasingly familiar with the importance of mitochondrial health, which is great news. Even better, a recent poll2,3 reveals CoQ10 is now also the No. 1 supplement recommended by cardiologists for all patients. For years, I?ve warned that anyone taking a statin drug to lower their cholesterol really must take a CoQ10 supplement ? or better yet, ubiquinol, which is the active, reduced form ? to protect their health, especially their heart health.

In the past, few doctors, including cardiologists, would warn their patients of the fact that statins deplete your body of CoQ10 (and other important nutrients, including vitamin D). It appears this may now be slowly changing. Your body also produces less ubiquinol with advancing age, which is why supplementation is recommended even if you?re not on a statin drug.

Why CoQ10 Is so Important for Optimal Health

Ubiquinol ? the reduced, electron-rich form of CoQ10 that your body produces naturally ? plays an important role in the electron transport chain of your mitochondria, where it facilitates the conversion of energy substrates and oxygen into the biological energy (adenosine triphosphate or ATP) needed by your cells for life, repair and regeneration.

It?s a fat-soluble antioxidant, meaning it works in the fat portions of your body, such as your cell membranes, where it mops up potentially harmful byproducts of metabolism known as reactive oxygen species. Taking this supplement helps protect your mitochondrial membranes from oxidative damage, and this in turn has been shown to be helpful for a number of health conditions and chronic diseases.

This is to be expected, since many conditions, including heart disease and migraines ? for which CoQ10 has been found beneficial ? appear to be rooted in mitochondrial dysfunction. CoQ10 is used by every cell in your body, but especially your heart cells. Cardiac muscle cells have up to 200 times more mitochondria and hence 200 times higher CoQ10 requirements than skeletal muscle.

Low CoQ10 levels have also been detected in people with certain types of cancer,4 including lung, breast and pancreatic cancer, as well as melanoma metastasis, further strengthening the metabolic theory of cancer. The word ?coenzyme? also provides a clue to its importance; it works synergistically with other enzymes to digest food, for example.

It also has the ability to increase your body?s absorption of important nutrients. More specifically, it helps recycle vitamins C and E, thereby maximizing their beneficial effects. The video above is a rerun of my interview with Robert Barry, Ph.D., a prominent CoQ10 researcher, in which he discusses the many reasons for taking CoQ10.

CoQ10 Plays an Important Role in Heart Health

Research shows CoQ10 is particularly important for heart- and cardiovascular conditions, including congestive heart failure5 and high blood pressure.6 Research also suggests CoQ10 can aid recovery after bypass and heart valve surgeries.7 I personally think all heart failure patients should be on ubiquinol. To me, not doing this is medical negligence.

When it comes to heart health, a more general benefit is that ubiquinol also acts as an antioxidant in your blood, where it prevents the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, thereby helping prevent atherosclerosis. A 2015 study8,9,10 found that older individuals who took a combination of CoQ10 and selenium daily for four years suffered fewer heart attacks, required fewer days in the hospital and had lower all-cause mortality. They also reported higher quality of life, compared to controls who received a placebo.

Remarkably, over the course of a decade ? even though they?d stopped taking the supplements after four years ? heart disease related deaths were nearly 50 percent lower in the original treatment group, and all-cause mortality was still 18 percent lower than controls. While CoQ10 is known to protect heart health all on its own, selenium aids your body in producing and accumulating CoQ10 by serving as a "booster."

Ubiquinol/CoQ10 also helps quell inflammation. Ubiquinol has been shown to have a positive effect on two inflammation markers, NT-proBNP and gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT), the latter of which is an early marker for heart failure. Levels of these markers are reduced and the genes linked with them are downregulated with ubiquinol supplementation. This can lower your risk not only for heart problems but also any number of other conditions associated with chronic inflammation.

CoQ10 Helps Prevent Statin-Induced Diabetes

By depleting your body of CoQ10, statin drugs not only increase your risk for heart problems, they also significantly increase your risk of diabetes.11 Rosuvastatin (Crestor), for example, is associated with a 27 percent increased risk of Type 2 diabetes.12 According to one 2011 meta-analysis,13 the higher your statin dose, the greater your risk of drug-induced diabetes.

The ?number needed to harm? for intensive-dose statin therapy was 498 for new-onset diabetes ? that?s the number of people who need to take the drug in order for one person to develop diabetes. In even simpler terms, 1 in 498 people who are on a high-dose statin regimen will develop diabetes.

As a side note, the ?number needed to treat? per year for intensive-dose statins was 155 for cardiovascular events. This means 155 people have to take the drug in order to prevent a single person from having a cardiovascular event. Supplementing with ubiquinol or CoQ10 can help reduce this risk by improving mitochondrial function and hence insulin signaling. As noted in Life Extension Magazine:14

?By design, statins interfere with the production of new cholesterol molecules by blocking an enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase. But in the process, they also block a precursor of CoQ10, interfering with its natural production and resulting in lower CoQ10 blood levels. Making matters worse, lowering LDL cholesterol impairs CoQ10 transport into cells.

The combination of these effects has been shown to directly reduce blood levels of CoQ10 by as much as 54 percent. Diabetic patients already have lower-than-normal CoQ10 levels. That?s because their body uses up much of its CoQ10 stores in an effort to combat diabetes-induced oxidative stress. When diabetics are prescribed statin drugs ? the further depletion of CoQ10 can be especially harmful.?

Other Health Benefits of CoQ10

Research reveals ubiquinol and CoQ10 is helpful for an array of different conditions and diseases, including but not limited to:15,16

Traumatic brain injury. Recent animal research suggests ubiquinol has neuroprotective benefits that can improve your chances of recovery in case of a traumatic brain injury. The study in question explored the effects of ubiquinol on cerebral gene expression when administered prior to traumatic brain injury.

Rats were given either saline or ubiquinol 30 minutes before a traumatic brain injury was induced. Those given ubiquinol fared better than the control group ? an effect ascribed to ubiquinol?s ability to positively affect genes involved in bioenergetics and free radical production.

Parkinson's disease. High doses of CoQ10 may be beneficial in the early stages.

Statin-induced myopathy. Evidence shows CoQ10 lowers your risk of developing pain and muscle weakness associated with statin use.

Migraines. CoQ10 has been shown to ease headaches, including migraines, tension, cluster, menstrual and Lyme-related headaches.

Physical performance. CoQ10 is also popular with athletes. Since it?s involved in energy production, it may improve your physical performance. It may also be helpful for those with muscular dystrophy for the same reason.

Infertility. CoQ10 supplementation may also improve fertility in men and women. High levels of CoQ10 are found in semen, and has been directly correlated with sperm count and motility. Research also shows that a higher CoQ10 concentration in sperm cells helps protect sperm membranes from free radical damage.17

Women who want to conceive need to be mindful of their mitochondrial health. As noted in one study,18 ?impaired mitochondrial performance created by suboptimal CoQ10 availability can drive age-associated oocyte deficits causing infertility.?

CoQ10 Combats Negative Effects of Many Drugs

CoQ10 supplementation also becomes important if you?re taking certain kinds of drugs, of which statins is but one. If you take any of the following medications you may benefit from a CoQ10 or ubiquinol supplement, as it can help combat the negative effects associated with these drugs:

Acid blockers

Allergy medicines

Antacids

Anti-arrhythmic drugs

Antibiotics

Antidepressants

Blood thinners

Blood pressure drugs

ACE inhibitors

Angiotensin II receptor antagonists

Beta-blockers

Diuretics

Cholesterol reducers (including fibrates)

Diabetes medications

Psychiatric drugs

CoQ10 Versus Ubiquinol

As mentioned, ubiquinol is the reduced version of CoQ10 (aka ubiquinone). They?re actually the same molecule, but when CoQ10 is reduced it takes on two electrons, which turns it into ubiquinol. In your body, this conversion occurs thousands of times every second inside your mitochondria. The flipping back and forth between these two molecular forms is part of the process that transforms food into energy.

Ubiquinol production ramps up from early childhood until your mid- to late 20s. By the time you hit 30, it begins to decline. Young people are able to use CoQ10 supplements quite well, but older people do better with ubiquinol as it?s more readily absorbed. People with a genetic single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) called NQO1 lack the enzyme required to convert CoQ10 to ubiquinol in their bodies, and they definitely need to use ubiquinol or they won?t get any of the benefits.

Research has shown that Hispanic and Chinese populations are especially prone to having this SNP.19,20,21 There are also genetic tests you can get that can identify whether you have it. For all of these reasons, I typically recommend using ubiquinol, especially if you?re over 40.

How to Regenerate CoQ10 Naturally

Interestingly, recent research shows you can improve your body?s conversion of CoQ10 to ubiquinol by eating lots of green leafy vegetables, which are loaded with chlorophyll, in combination with sun exposure. Once chlorophyll is consumed it gets transported into your blood. Then, when you expose significant amounts of skin to sunshine, that chlorophyll absorbs the solar radiation, facilitating the conversion of CoQ10 to ubiquinol.

You can also improve absorption of CoQ10 from food or supplements by taking it with a small amount of healthy fat such as some olive oil, coconut oil or avocado. To optimize your body?s production of CoQ10, also be sure to eat plenty of:

  • Fatty fish low in contaminants, such as wild-caught Alaskan salmon, sardines, anchovies and herring
  • Grass fed beef and organic pastured poultry
  • Organic, grass fed or pastured organ meats
  • Sesame seeds
  • Broccoli

Suggested Dosing Recommendations

Dosing requirements will vary depending on your individual situation and needs. As a general rule, the sicker you are, the more you need. That said, studies typically cap the dose at 600 mg per day for severely ill people. If you're just starting out with ubiquinol, start with 200 to 300 mg per day. Within three weeks your plasma levels will typically plateau to its optimum level.

In one study, concentrations of ubiquinol increased nonlinearly with dosage over the course of a month, plateauing around levels of 2.6 grams per milliliter (g/mL) at a dosage of 90 mg/day; 3.7 g/mL for a dose of 150 mg/day and 6.5 g/mL for a dose of 300 mg/day, about midway through the month.22 After the first month, you can go down to a 100 mg/day maintenance dose. This is typically sufficient for healthy people.

If you have an active lifestyle, exercise a lot or are under a lot of stress, you may want to increase your dose to 200 to 300 mg/day. Remember, if you're on a statin drug you need at least 100 to 200 mg of ubiquinol or CoQ10 per day, or more. To address heart failure and/or other significant heart problems you may need around 350 mg per day or more. I personally take 300 mg of ubiquinol every day.

Ideally, you?ll want to work with your physician to ascertain your ideal dose. Your doctor can do a blood test to measure your CoQ10 levels, which would tell you whether your dose is high enough to keep you within a healthy range. CoQ10 (or ubiquinol) is also appropriate for those with other chronic diseases besides heart problems, such as diabetes, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, chronic fatigue, migraines and autism, for example.

Ideally, you'll want to split the dose up to two or three times a day rather than taking it all at once, as this will result in higher blood levels. Other dosing guidelines, as presented by Dr. Stephen Sinatra (a board certified cardiologist, and a prominent expert in the field of natural cardiology) include:

Hypertension: 200 mg/day

World class athletes who need extra ATP turnover: 300 to 600 mg/day

Heart transplant or severe congestive heart failure: 300 to 600 mg/day in divided doses

Arrhythmia: 200 mg/day

Typical athlete: 100 to 300 mg/day

Mitral valve prolapse: a combination of 400 mg magnesium and 100 to 200 mg of ubiquinol per day

Increasing Fiber Decreases Major Health Risks

By Dr. Mercola

It?s become increasingly clear in recent years that fiber intake is a more crucial ?mover and shaker? in the fight against cancer and other serious diseases than was previously realized. A perfect example, a recent study1 reveals, is the discovery that people with colon cancer who add extra fiber to their overall food intake may have a lower risk of mortality compared to people who don?t consume much fiber.

Adequate fiber intake is so crucial to health, asserts senior study author Dr. Andrew Chan of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, that consuming more fiber after such a diagnosis can positively impact patients? risk of dying from the disease, independent of how much fiber those patients ate before the diagnosis.

How Do You Like Them Odds?

Chan and his team used the data of 1,575 adults with colon cancer to determine how much fiber they were used to eating, then followed half of them for eight years. Of that number, 733 of them died ? 174 of that number from colon or rectal cancer tumors.

However, the numbers confirmed that for each additional 5 grams of dietary fiber a patient consumed, their odds of dying of colorectal cancer decreased by 22 percent. In addition, those patients also had a 14 percent lower risk of dying from any cause when compared to those who reported the lowest dietary fiber consumption.

It?s clear that when an individual learns they have colon cancer ? and as a consequence changes their diet to add more fiber ? their survival rate increases. But notice that the term ?dietary? fiber is used. While the researchers promoted cereal grains as among the best ways to increase fiber intake, I do not recommend this. Grains will raise your insulin and leptin levels, which is a major driver of most chronic diseases. There are far healthier forms of fiber, including that from vegetables, berries, psyllium seed husk, flax and chia seeds.

So What Factors Are the Biggest Contributors to Disease?

Dr. Samantha Hendren, a researcher at the University of Michigan (not involved in the study) maintains what many doctors believe, that the most telling risk factors for colon cancer are family history, a personal history of cancerous polyps, diseases such as ulcerative colitis and failure to get screened for the disease.

However, other factors can influence risk, Hendren noted, mentioning lifestyle.2 Another researcher, Nour Makarem, at Columbia University in New York (and also not involved in Chan?s study), said that for her part, diet is very important, particularly as it relates to dietary fiber, as eating foods high in fiber can lower the risk of developing colon cancer.

?Therefore, consuming a healthy diet that is high in ? fiber sources such as fruits and vegetables, may protect from colorectal cancer. (It) also improves outcomes and reduces risk of death among colorectal cancer survivors.?3

Dr. Jennifer Wargo, a surgeon and research scientist working with the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, conducted research showing that the intestinal flora of cancer patients play a significant role in whether or not they respond to ?breakthrough? immunotherapy.4 Some have thought specific bacteria had to be present for a person?s gut health to be considered healthy; Wargo believes it?s the diversity.

?I don?t think it?s one bacteria per se that?s driving this entire response. I think it?s probably a community of bacteria. And what we found is that, in patients who responded to the treatment, they actually had a much higher diversity of bacteria in their gut microbiomes compared to non-responders.?5

This is important, as low-fiber diets have been linked to less microbial diversity in the gut in animal studies.6 So eating a fiber-rich diet, which in turn may improve the microbial diversity in your gut, may be linked to better responses during immunotherapy cancer treatment.

Wargo also explained that the question of diet for health and disease prevention can?t be ignored, wondering aloud if patients with a fiber-rich and more microbiome-friendly diet may fare better during cancer treatment and whether eating in this way may help facilitate and enhance the immune system, ultimately preventing cancer.7

Fiber Should Be on Your ?High Priorities? List

One of the biggest problems with the American diet (and arguably that of much of the world) is that fiber is low on the list of priorities. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends 25 grams of fiber per day based on a 2,000 calorie diet,8 to which most people don?t even come close, my recommendation is more than that: 50 grams per 1,000 calories.

For some, this would mean an utter diet transformation, but one that could improve not just your digestive health but likely transform your health overall. Fiber in your diet is not only important for helping foods ?swish? the inside of your large intestine and colon to help move everything through properly, your gut microbiome also benefits, and the rest of your body does, too, from the other nutrients in the whole foods you eat.

Interestingly, it?s actually your body?s inability to digest some types of fiber that makes it so important in the digestive process. Soluble fiber, found in foods such as Brussels sprouts, blueberries and flaxseeds, attracts water and helps these foods dissolve into a gel-like texture, which helps slow down your digestion.

Why do you want digestion to take more time? Because you?ll feel full longer, which helps you eat less. Insoluble fiber is found in dark green leafy vegetables, celery and carrots, among other whole foods. Like its name suggests, it doesn?t dissolve, so this type helps food move through your digestive tract more quickly for healthy elimination.

Many whole foods, especially fruits and vegetables, contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. So, both types of fiber are good for you, imparting benefits that range from fewer hemorrhoids and a lower risk of kidney stones and gallstones to, more importantly, a lower incidence of stroke, heart attack and diabetes.

Your skin may even improve once toxins make their way out of your body. Additionally, as fiber helps escort yeast and fungus out, their potential for being excreted through your skin to cause acne, rashes and other skin problems is diminished.

Cause and Effect: ?Which Came First, the Disease or the Disrupted Microbiota??

An example of the importance of how gut bacteria impacts a person?s health is how the absence of it increases a person?s propensity toward obesity. The New York Times notes the work of microbiologist Claire M. Fraser-Liggett and geneticist Dr. Alan R. Shuldiner, from the University of Maryland?s School of Medicine:

?Previous studies have already found differences in the gut microbiota of lean and obese adults. There is also evidence that the typical high-calorie American diet rich in sugar, meats and processed foods may adversely affect the balance of microbes in the gut and foster the extraction and absorption of excess calories from food.

A diet more heavily based on plants ? that is, fruits and vegetables ? may result in a microbiome containing a wider range of healthful organisms. In studies, mice that had a microbiota preconditioned by the typical American diet did not respond as healthfully to a plant-based diet.?9

Studies have explored this phenomenon and found that the gut microbiome more directly influences your health and disease than previously thought. Besides the obesity and problems that result due to ?colonization with multidrug-resistant organisms,? one study10 listed health conditions that can occur when the microbiome is compromised:

  • Clostridium difficile infection, aka C. diff, a ?sometimes devastating intestinal infection? that can occur when powerful antibiotics annihilate healthy bacteria that otherwise keep your microbiome balanced. Fecal transplant is one treatment that?s been used to treat such debilitating disorders, and has a 90 percent success rate.11
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) such as Crohn?s and ulcerative colitis, evidenced by such symptoms as frequent diarrhea, rectal bleeding, abdominal cramps, nausea and fatigue.
  • Allergic diseases such as asthma and eczema were observed less in the children of a rural African village who ate fiber-rich diets that positively affected their gut health, compared to children exposed to a more Western diet, and protected them from disease-causing illnesses and infections.12
  • Autoimmune diseases may be one result of how ?bad? gut microbes and too few good ones can affect your entire body. Rheumatoid arthritis is one example, the study authors suggested, as animal studies have demonstrated that some bacteria can cause antibodies to attack and wreck joint health.13
  • Neuropsychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism and obsessive-compulsive disorder are conditions possibly rooted in a damaged microbiota. Depending on your genetic makeup, altered microbes may disrupt the blood-brain barrier to modify normal brain development.14

Want a Little Fiber With That?

It?s quite sobering to realize that your diet can either make or break not just the ecosystem in which your gut bacteria reside, but also your mental health. And it?s not just the food you eat but all kinds of other factors, including the chemicals and pollution you?re exposed to. All of it can alter the composition of gut bacteria, Belfast Telegraph contends.15

As such, the recommendation is to ?eat with your gut in mind? as at least one thing you can control to improve your immune system and other aspects of health through fiber consumption for better intestinal bacteria.

Interestingly, while you can augment your intestines with probiotics from raw grass fed yogurt, sauerkraut and kefir, you can also do it by eating inulin-rich, gut-beneficial foods like raw garlic, leeks, chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke and bananas, according to Dr. Dan Robertson, a medical officer at Push Doctor, who advises:

?Looking after your gut is really important. That means eating a balanced diet and not bombarding your microbiome with foods that are hard to break down, such as refined carbs, trans fats and foods high in added sugar. Try to stick to regular mealtimes too, so that your gut can get into a regular pattern.?16

The latter foods (raw garlic, leeks, chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke and bananas) are examples of prebiotics, which help nourish beneficial bacteria and have been found to beneficially alter gut microbiota and significantly reduce body weight and body fat.17 Since obesity is linked to cancer, it stands to reason that consuming more prebiotic fiber may also help lower your cancer risk by helping with weight loss. Additional healthy foods containing high amounts of fiber include:

  • Vegetables: Acorn squash, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli
  • Seeds: Chia seeds, flaxseeds and psyllium husk
  • Berries: Elderberries, raspberries, loganberries, blackberries
  • Nuts: Almonds, pistachios, walnuts
  • Fruits: Fresh pears, oranges and avocados; dried figs, prunes

While berries are fruits, too, they contain such high amounts of fiber they can be placed in a category all their own.

Caveats When Eating Anything, Even When It?s ?Healthy?

That said, keep other ingredients and food factors in mind when you eat. Many fruits contain high amounts of natural sugar, known as fructose, which is why I recommend eating most fruit in moderation and focusing on vegetables to increase your fiber intake.

No matter what foods you eat, organic is always best. While eating organic foods won?t always guarantee your food will be free of every pesticide, chemical or genetically modified organism (which, while genetic engineering isn?t allowed in organics, could potentially contaminate organic crops), it?s among your best bets in dealing with some of the unknowns, which goes not only for exotic foods but also some of the time-honored staple crops grown throughout the U.S.

As gut genomics specialist from Washington University School of Medicine, Dr. Jeffrey Gordon, explains, ?The nutritional value of food is influenced in part by the microbial community that encounters that food.?18 And you can improve your gut microbiome by eating plenty of fiber. If you?re not sure how much you?re consuming daily, Cronometer.com is a free online nutrient tracker that can help.

 
 

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