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According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention1 (CDC), 40 percent of children between the ages of 3 and 6 use potentially dangerous amounts of toothpaste.
The CDC and American Dental Association (ADA) recommend using no more than a pea-sized amount for children in this age group, and those younger than 3 should use no more than the size of a rice grain on their toothbrush.
The problem with using excessive amounts of toothpaste has to do with the fluoride it contains. If you look closely, you’ll find fluoride-containing toothpastes have a warning on their label stating that “If you accidentally swallow more than used for brushing, seek professional help or contact a poison control center immediately.”
This warning was made mandatory for fluoride-containing dental products by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in April, 1997.2 Ironically, while swallowing toothpaste is recognized as a cause for concern, we’re supposed to believe that drinking fluoridated water at any quantity is not only safe but beneficial for our teeth.
Too Much Fluoride Causes Dental Fluorosis
The fact of the matter is that fluoride is a toxic substance with no known biological imperative. Researchers have even questioned its efficacy as a topical anticaries prophylactic.3
Dental caries is caused by demineralization of your teeth by the acids formed during the bacterial fermentation of dietary sugars. Demineralization is countered by the deposit of minerals from your saliva. However, the remineralization process is a slow one, and fluoride is said to prevent dental caries by enhancing this remineralization.
The problem is, your teeth do not actually rely on fluoride for remineralization. What’s more, research4 has concluded that the protective shield fluoride forms on teeth is up to 100 times thinner than previously believed. It has long been believed that fluoride changes the main mineral in tooth enamel, hydroxyapatite, into a more-decay resistant material called fluorapatite.
However, the researchers found that the fluorapatite layer formed in this way is only 6 nanometers thick — meaning it would take almost 10,000 such layers to span the width of a human hair. As noted by the authors, “it has to be asked whether such narrow … layers really can act as protective layers for the enamel.”
Meanwhile, fluoride has been shown to cause significant systemic harm when ingested, which is part and parcel of the CDC’s new warning against using too much toothpaste. As reported by the Chicago Sun Times:5
“Brushing with too much toothpaste can damage enamel, as children could swallow too much fluoride while their teeth are developing, the CDC says. This can cause dental fluorosis, white marks and discoloration of teeth.”
However, dental fluorosis is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fluoride damage. For example, evidence shows fluoride is an endocrine disruptor that can affect your bones, brain, thyroid gland, pineal gland and even your blood sugar level.6 Importantly, it’s a known neurotoxin, shown to lower IQ in children.7
Most US Kids Have Fluoride-Damaged Teeth
According to research8 presented at the April 2017 National Oral Health Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, 57 percent of youth between the ages of 6 and 19 years have dental fluorosis, a condition in which your tooth enamel becomes progressively discolored and mottled.
When Fluoride Action Network (FAN) researchers analyzed the same set of data, they found over 21 percent of adolescents had moderate fluorosis and 2 percent had severe fluorosis.9
According to FAN, "The data suggests that up to 24 million adolescents now have some form of dental fluorosis, with over 8 million adolescents having moderate fluorosis, and 840,000 having severe fluorosis." Incredibly, the situation is still worsening. According to the most recent data, which has yet to be published, the dental fluorosis rate in the U.S. may now be a staggering 65 percent.10
In stark contrast, when water fluoridation was first started in the U.S. in 1945, it was promised that only 10 percent of people would suffer from mild dental fluorosis at the then-recommended levels.11 Clearly, they were wrong.
In 2011, concerns over escalating fluorosis rates prompted the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to lower the recommended level of fluoride in drinking water, from a previously recommended range of 0.7 to 1.2 mg/L to 0.7 mg/L.
However, adverse effects, including reduced IQ, behavioral alterations, neurochemical changes, hypothyroidism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have been demonstrated even at that lower level, so while it reduced exposure for many, the most serious risks remain.
What’s more, reduced IQ has been seen in study participants with higher urinary fluoride concentrations even when no dental fluorosis was present, which suggests the doses of fluoride that impair cognitive ability are far lower than those that cause severe dental fluorosis.12
Fluoridated Water Likely a Far Greater Concern Than Excessive Toothpaste
Unfortunately, public health officials often brush off fluorosis as a purely aesthetic issue, one they believe is an okay trade-off for the supposed benefits of fluoride. In reality, dental fluorosis is an outward sign that fluoride is damaging the body in other ways as well.
Research has found impairment in cognitive abilities among children with fluorosis (even mild fluorosis) compared to children with no fluorosis, for example. Studies have also found that children with higher levels of fluorosis have increased rates of cavities13,14 — a finding that suggests more is definitely not better, not even when it comes to protecting against cavities.
Importantly, the CDC completely ignores the role fluoridated water plays in this epidemic, as toothpaste is by far not the only source of fluoride for young children, and probably isn’t the most significant source either.
In a January, 2019 study15 in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dentistry, the prevalence of dental fluorosis among 10- to 12-year-olds in three Ecuadorian provinces was nearly 90 percent. According to the authors, “A positive statistical relationship and statistical significance was detected between dental fluorosis and consumption of bottled beverages.”
A “low negative” relationship between fluorosis and brushing with adult toothpaste without help suggests fluoridated water (used in bottled beverages) is likely to be a greater risk factor than toothpaste exposure, although toothpaste ingestion may still play a role.
CDC and Mainstream Media Ignore the Elephant in the Room
In response to the CDC’s toothpaste warning, FAN writes:16
“A spate of news stories … focused on kids swallowing too much toothpaste. But according to Paul Connett, Ph.D., FAN Director, ‘The defenders of water fluoridation are missing the real story. Dental fluorosis is a biomarker of over-exposure to fluoride and the 'elephant in the room' is what damage fluoride is doing to other tissues.’
Recent scientific research indicates that exposure to fluoridated water may lower thyroid function17,18 and 350 published studies indicate that fluoride can damage the brain … While it is understandable that die-hard promoters of fluoridation should be fixated on any study dealing with teeth, it is less understandable why the media should ignore fluoride's impact on the brain.
The fetal brain is under attack from several environmental toxins19 but only one, fluoride, is deliberately added to our water. There are safer ways to prevent dental caries than exposing the fetus to a neurotoxicant … Repeating the dogma that fluoridation is "safe and effective" many times does not make it so.
Connett urges more scientists to overcome this dogma and intimidation and review the brain studies themselves … fluoride-brain studies are readily accessible.20 Connett added that, ‘I believe that the intellectual ability of future generations depends on their willingness to do this. Neither intimidation nor dogma has a place in science or public health.’"
Protecting Your Dental Health Has Nothing to Do With Fluoride
When it comes to good oral hygiene and preventing cavities, it’s important to realize that drinking fluoridated water and brushing with fluoridated toothpaste is not the answer. It's far more important to address your nutrition and basic oral care. Here’s a five-step plan that can help you improve your oral health, without the use of toxic agents such as fluoride:
1. Reduce your net carbohydrate intake to meet your insulin level requirement. I suggest you reduce your overall net carbs (total grams of carbohydrates minus your grams of fiber intake) if your fasting insulin level is over 5.
Aside from sugar, avoid carbs like beans, legumes and grains such as rice, quinoa and oats, as well as highly-processed grain products like bread, pasta, cereal, chips, bagels and fries. These begin digestion in the mouth and impact the health of your teeth the most.
Limit your daily fructose intake to 25 grams or less. Even fructose found in fresh fruit should be limited until you’ve normalized your insulin and leptin levels. If you’re already struggling with Type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance, consider restricting your total fructose to 15 grams per day until your insulin sensitivity has been restored.
Focus on eating a diet of fresh, whole foods, including grass fed meats and organic and fermented vegetables. This helps ensure you get plenty of minerals for strong bones and teeth. If needed, consider adding one or more nutritional supplements to support your oral health.
2. Brush twice or three times a day, 3 to 6 minutes after drinking and/or eating.
3. Use nonfluoridated toothpaste, or make your own. For example, you could simply mix coconut oil and baking soda with a pinch of Himalayan salt. High-quality peppermint essential oil can be added for flavor and cavity prevention. Start with a couple of tablespoons of coconut oil and baking soda, and add more of one or the other until you get an agreeable consistency. (Slightly firmer consistency tends to be easier to use.)
If buying non-fluoridated toothpaste, be sure to check the ingredient list for other harmful ingredients such as triclosan, sodium lauryl sulfate, propylene glycol, diethanolamine and parabens.
4. Floss daily.
5. Pull with coconut oil once a day, ideally first thing in the morning, for five to 10 minutes to reduce bacterial growth, strengthen your teeth, reduce bad breath and lower your risk of gum disease.
To Protect Your Child’s Teeth, Bones and Brain, Avoid Fluoride From All Sources
For instructions on how to brush and floss properly, as well as oil pulling guidelines, see “Dental Dedication: Improve Your Oral Health.” In the video above, Bill Osmunson, a practicing dentist and staunch advocate against fluoride, also discusses some of the variables that contribute to good oral hygiene (summarized above).
Remember, by avoiding sugars and processed foods, you prevent the proliferation of the bacteria that cause decay in the first place. Following up with proper brushing and flossing and getting regular cleanings with a mercury-free biological dentist will ensure that your teeth and gums stay healthy naturally.
Many natural substances, such as vitamins C and K2, Coenzyme Q10 and homeopathic tissue salts such as silica, calcarea fluorica (calcium fluoride, not to be confused with sodium fluoride found in toothpaste), calcium phosphate and calcium carbonate, also have the power to improve the health of your teeth and gums.
Fluoride really has no major advantage, only hazards. And those hazards go far beyond the visible signs of dental fluorosis. Far worse is the damage that occurs inside the body, which you cannot see.
So, in addition to teaching your children about proper nutrition and oral care, be mindful about limiting their fluoride exposure from all sources, including toothpaste and other dental products, fluoridated water, fluoridated pesticides (and hence pesticide contaminated foods), bottled beverages such as juices and teas, fast food packaging, non-stick pots and pans, fluorinated drugs, fluoridated table salt and mechanically deboned chicken.
Oat-based foods, such as oatmeal, cereals and bread, are considered by many to be a healthy dietary addition, but if you eat such foods know that you’re probably getting herbicide residues along with them.
In testing done by Friends of the Earth (FOE), 100 percent of oat cereal samples tested positive for residues of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide.1 While there are multiple reasons to reconsider the health value of oats, including their lectin content, the rampant use of glyphosate on this crop as a desiccant just prior to harvest, and their subsequent glyphosate contamination, is worthy of attention.
All Oat Cereals Tested Contained Glyphosate
FOE, looking to uncover how many pesticides and herbicides residues are in commonly eaten foods, tested store-brand cereal, beans and produce from the top four food retailers in the U.S.: Walmart, Kroger, Costco and Albertsons/Safeway.
Altogether, 132 samples of house brand samples were tested, from more than 30 U.S. stores in 15 states. Residues of glyphosate and pesticides — neonicotinoids and organophosphates — were found, with glyphosate being detected in 100 percent of oat cereal and pinto bean samples tested.
The average level of glyphosate in cereal samples was 360 parts per billion (ppb), which FOE noted is more than twice the level set by Environmental Working Group (EWG) scientists for lifetime cancer risk in children. Some of the cereal samples contained residues as high as 931 ppb.
As for pinto beans, levels were found up to 1,128 ppb, although average glyphosate levels were 509 ppb — 4.5 times higher than EWG’s benchmark for lifetime cancer risk in children. According to FOE:
“EWG determined that a 1-in-a-million cancer risk would be posed by ingestion of 0.01 milligrams of glyphosate per day. To reach this maximum dose, one would have to eat a single 60-gram serving of oat cereal with a glyphosate level of 160 ppb or a 90-gram serving of pinto beans with a glyphosate level of 110 ppb.”
Oat-Based Foods Marketed to Children Contain Glyphosate
EWG also commissioned independent laboratory tests to determine how much glyphosate is lurking in the U.S. food supply. Forty-three out of 45 food products made with conventionally grown oats tested positive for glyphosate, 31 of which had glyphosate levels higher than EWG scientists believe would be protective of children’s health.2
Examples of foods with detectable levels of glyphosate include Quaker Dinosaur Eggs instant oatmeal, Cheerios cereal, Nature Valley granola bars, Quaker steel cut oats and Back to Nature Classic Granola. Further, out of 16 organic oat foods tested, five contained glyphosate, although at levels below EWG’s health benchmark of 160 ppb.
Follow-up testing of another 28 samples of oat-based cereal and other oat-based foods marketed to children found glyphosate in all the samples tested, with 26 of them coming in above EWG’s health benchmark of 160 ppb.
Glyphosate was detected in General Mills’ Cheerios and a host of Quaker brand products such as instant oatmeal, breakfast cereal and snack bars. The highest glyphosate level — 2,837 ppb — was found in Quaker Oatmeal Squares breakfast cereal. According to EWG:3
“These test results fly in the face of claims by two companies, Quaker and General Mills, which have said there is no reason for concern. This is because, they say, their products meet the legal standards.
Yet almost all of the samples tested by EWG had residues of glyphosate at levels higher than what EWG scientists consider protective of children’s health with an adequate margin of safety.”
Why Do Oats Have Glyphosate Residues?
Nearly 300 million pounds of glyphosate are used in the U.S. each year, with usage being heaviest in the Midwest due to extensive production of genetically engineered (GE) corn and soy. In fact, more than 90 percent of corn and soy grown in the U.S. is genetically engineered, and these ingredients are common in processed foods.4
Oats, although not GE, are a common source of glyphosate residues because the chemical is used as a desiccant on many non-GMO crops. In northern, colder regions farmers of wheat, oats and barley must wait for their crops to dry out prior to harvest.
Rather than wait an additional two weeks or so for this to happen naturally, farmers realized they could spray the plants with glyphosate, killing the crops and accelerating their drying (a process known as desiccating).
In some cases, non-GMO foods may be even more contaminated with glyphosate than GMO crops, because they’re being sprayed just weeks prior to being made into your cereal, bread, cookies and the like.
Researchers from University of California San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine noted in JAMA that Roundup is “applied as a desiccant to most small nongenetically modified grains.” So for both GE crops and non-GE grains, glyphosate “is found in these crops at harvest.”5 As an aside, beans are also desiccated using glyphosate, which is likely why FOE’s testing found such residues in all the pinto bean samples tested.
Glyphosate is the only systemic herbicide registered for use prior to harvest of dry beans. When applied preharvest, glyphosate moves to both the growing points and storage structures (including roots and seeds) of plants to target EPSP synthase, which prevents production of certain amino acids and diverts energy from essential plant processes.
This process affects the entire plant causing death and necrosis of green material. In fact, it’s the only systemic herbicide registered for use prior to the harvest of dry beans, and although it’s not a true desiccant, it’s the “product of choice for many dry bean growers,” according to the Alliance of Crop, Soil, and Environmental Science Societies.6
However, the article stresses that the timing of application is crucial to prevent excessive residues of herbicide in the final product, stating:7
“[W]hen relying on this herbicide alone or when using it with other desiccants, application timing should be delayed to limit glyphosate accumulation in bean seed … But desiccation is a science that requires finesse.
Regardless of the product(s) being used, agronomists and growers must ensure proper application to maximize desiccant efficacy while limiting negative impacts to quality, including unacceptable herbicide residue levels.”
Glyphosate Linked to Pregnancy Risks
Herbicide use is on the rise in the U.S. Midwest, where corn and soy crops are prolific, and researchers are concerned exposure could be harming pregnant women and children in the area.
In a study of pregnant women in central Indiana, glyphosate was detected in the urine of 93 percent of the participants, with higher levels found in those living in rural areas and those who consumed 24 ounces or more of caffeinated beverages per day.8
Further, higher levels of glyphosate in women’s urine was significantly associated with shortened pregnancy lengths. Study author Dr. Paul Winchester, medical director of the neonatal intensive care unit at the Franciscan St. Francis Health system and professor of clinical pediatrics at Riley Hospital for Children in Indiana, said in a news release:9
“In our study, which is ongoing, mothers with relatively higher levels of glyphosate were more likely to have shorter pregnancies and deliver babies with lower birth-weight, outcomes that everyone should be concerned about. Shorter pregnancies with relatively lower birth weights have been linked to lower cognitive ability later in life and higher risk of metabolic syndrome.”
As for the higher glyphosate levels among rural residents, none of whom were farmers or directly involved in Roundup application, it’s believed the exposure may have come from inhalation of contaminated air or dust.
It’s also possible that consumption of caffeinated beverages may be associated with higher glyphosate levels because some caffeine-containing beverages, such as coffee, tea and soft drinks, may contain glyphosate residues, although the study didn’t test for this.10
Even Diapers Contain Glyphosate, Which Could Pose Long-Term Health Risks
A French study of disposable diapers revealed glyphosate was found in the material, along with about 60 other chemicals. Although the levels of glyphosate were low, Anses, the French agency for food, environmental and occupational health and safety, said it and other chemicals “could migrate through urine, for example, and enter into prolonged contact with babies’ skin.”11
They gave diaper manufacturers 15 days to develop a plan of action to remove harmful substances from the products. Although the specific diaper brands weren’t named, they’re said to provide a representation of the market and include some that are sold in multiple countries. Anses, while suggesting that no immediate risk was present, said long-term health effects could exist:12
“There is no epidemiological research allowing us to prove the health effects linked to the wearing of nappies. That said, dangerous chemical substances have been found in the nappies … there is evidence the safety thresholds for several substances have been crossed.
At the current time and from what we know at the moment, it is not possible to exclude a health risk linked to the wearing of disposable nappies.”
Eating Organic Reduces Cancer Risk
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) determined that glyphosate is a "probable carcinogen" in 2015. In August 2018, jurors ruled Monsanto (which was taken over by Bayer in June 2018) must pay $289 million in damages to DeWayne “Lee” Johnson, a former school groundskeeper who claimed the company’s herbicide Roundup caused his terminal cancer.13
The award was later slashed to $78 million,14 but it’s not an isolated case. Thousands of people across the U.S. have filed lawsuits alleging that Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, and others containing the active ingredient glyphosate, caused them to develop cancer.
There are many routes of exposure to this likely carcinogen, including via your drinking water, but diet is among them. The featured study also found residues of another potentially carcinogenic pesticide — organophosphates — were widespread in applesauce, apples and spinach samples they tested.15
Eating organic is one simple way to avoid these toxins, and research shows that doing so could reduce your risk of cancer. In a study of nearly 70,000 adults, those who ate primarily organic foods had a lower risk of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and postmenopausal breast cancer compared to those who rarely or never ate organic foods.16
EPA Petitioned to Prohibit Glyphosate’s Use as a Desiccant
Choosing organic oat products may be especially important to avoid glyphosate, as EWG’s studies suggest that glyphosate levels may be higher in oat products than they are in even wheat and corn. Further, “real dietary exposure” is not limited to oat products. Children (and adults) are being exposed to glyphosate from a variety of sources, with potentially devastating effects.
EWG and other consumer groups have petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce the amount of glyphosate residues allowed in oats from 30 parts per million (ppm) to 0.1 ppm, as well as prohibit the use of glyphosate as a preharvest desiccant.17
The 0.1 ppm limit for glyphosate on oats was actually the legal limit in 1993 — it has since been raised 300fold, in response to a petition from Monsanto around the time farmers began to widely use glyphosate as a desiccant late in the season.18
If you’re concerned about glyphosate residues in your food, you can help to prompt change by reaching out to the companies that make your food. Let them know that you prefer foods without glyphosate residues — and are prepared to switch brands if necessary to find them.
In addition to voicing your opinion to food companies, contact the EPA and encourage them to restrict preharvest applications of glyphosate in order to reduce the amount of this toxic chemical entering the food supply.
Political newspaper and website The Hill has become the latest to belittle people interested in vaccine choice and safety, and practically deny adverse events after vaccination.1
They start out by acknowledging that "internet censorship is anathema to Americans, whose free speech is protected by the First Amendment," but then go on to discuss what can be done to silence those who question vaccine safety or speak about their own experiences with adverse vaccine reactions.
To be clear, the article is written by Rachel Alter, a graduate research assistant at the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, and Dr.Irwin Redlener, president emeritus and co-founder of the Children's Health Fund, and published by The Hill.
A disclaimer at the top reads, "The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill." Still, even the headline — Time to Dispel Vaccine Myths Spreading on Social Media — reeks of censorship. The beginning paragraphs go so far as to call personal adverse vaccine reactions "exaggerated personal anecdotes":2
"[W]hat can be done about the growing amount of harmful misinformation intended to influence thousands of people to make decisions that put not only their lives, but the lives of their and others' children, at risk?
Such is the situation for the anti-vaccination, or 'anti-vax,' community, thousands of whose members flock to social media pages where they promptly remove 'pro-vax trolls,' and post fear-mongering memes and exaggerated personal anecdotes."
Are Vaccine Injuries 'Exaggerated Personal Anecdotes'?
The authors of this piece in The Hill are only the latest to downplay or deny that vaccine injuries occur. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), recently did the same in an interview with CBS News.3
"[T]he lack of safety and adverse events, things like autism … that issue is based purely on fabrication and that's been proven … there is no association whatsoever between the measles vaccine and autism," he said. The reporter questioned Fauci's claims that there are no studies showing vaccines may cause harm and asked if he were perhaps not looking at the right studies.
"That's just not true … that's just not true, period," Fauci said, refusing to even entertain the notion that vaccines may cause adverse reactions in some people, and that parents of vaccine-injured children may be justified in their hesitation to vaccinate their other children.
So what's the truth? Every vaccine comes with a risk of adverse reactions, including death, and it's up to each person to decide if that risk outweighs the benefit of the vaccination.
"For example," Dr. K. Paul Stoller, fellow, American College of Hyperbaric Medicine, wrote in Acta Scientific Paediatrics, "it has not been proven that the MMR vaccine is safer than measles," continuing:4
"The nonprofit organization Physicians for Informed Consent (PIC) recently reported in The BMJ that every year an estimated 5,700 U.S. children (approximately 1 in 640 children) suffer febrile seizures from the first dose of the MMR vaccine — which is five times more than the number of seizures expected from measles.5
This amounts to 57,000 febrile seizures over the past 10 years due to the MMR vaccine alone. And, as 5 percent of children with febrile seizures progress to epilepsy, the estimated number of children developing epilepsy due to the MMR vaccine, in the past 10 years, is 2,850."
$4 Billion Paid Out to Victims of Vaccine Injuries
To deny that adverse vaccine reactions occur is the fabrication. There is, in fact, a federally operated vaccine injury compensation program (VICP) available to victims of vaccine injuries. Congress created VICP under the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act as an alternative to a vaccine injury lawsuit, which acts as a shield from liability to vaccine manufacturers.
In their latest release of data and statistics, the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) revealed that approximately $4 billion has been paid out to vaccine-injured victims since 1988 — in response to only 31 percent of the filed petitions.6
"There is no telling how much more money the taxpayer-funded program might have shelled out if the court had not chosen to dismiss the remaining petitions (56 percent) — possibly doing so fraudulently in at least some cases," Children's Health Defense, which is working to end childhood health epidemics by eliminating harmful exposures, explained.7
One in 168 — Not 1 in 1 Million
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that vaccines are safe, and serious adverse reactions are rare. For serious allergic reactions like anaphylaxis, they state such reactions occur "at a rate of approximately 1 per million doses for many vaccines."8
However, serious adverse events occur far more common than publicly admitted, with 1 in 168 children requiring emergency room admittance following their 1-year wellness check when vaccines are given, according to Canadian research.9
One in 730 children ends up in the emergency room after their 18-month vaccination appointment, as well, and researchers noted an additional 20 febrile seizures occurred for every 100,000 vaccinated at 12 months.
"There are significantly elevated risks of primarily emergency room visits approximately one to two weeks following 12- and 18-month vaccination. Future studies should examine whether these events could be predicted or prevented," the researchers concluded.10
Research from Shanghai, China, also provided some insights into the frequency of vaccine adverse reactions among children. The Shanghai study, based on reported pediatric adverse drug reactions (ADRs) for 2009, found that 42 percent were caused by vaccines, with reactions ranging from mild skin rashes to deadly reactions like anaphylaxis.
Of all the drugs causing adverse reactions among children, vaccines were the most commonly reported.11 The vast majority of reports came from physicians, pharmacists and other health care providers, with less than 3 percent coming from consumers.
In the U.S., underreporting of adverse reactions to vaccines is common, with an estimated 99 percent of such reactions never reported to the federal Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS). As noted in 2011 by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality:12
"Adverse events from vaccines are common but underreported, with less than 1 percent reported to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Low reporting rates preclude or delay the identification of 'problem' vaccines, potentially endangering the health of the public. New surveillance methods for drug and vaccine adverse effects are needed."
Refusing Vaccination 'Silly'
In their belittling of people who value informed consent and choose to refuse one or more vaccinations, The Hill article calls such personal choice "silly":13
"If it were only a matter of putting oneself at risk by refusing vaccination, we would not necessarily be called to action. After all, a personal choice is just that, regardless of how silly it may seem to outsiders. But people who refuse vaccines for themselves and their families are putting the most vulnerable members of their community at risk of severe illness or death."
They're invoking the commonly parroted idea that vaccines confer herd immunity if a high-enough percentage of people in a population are vaccinated. However, vaccines do not work in the same way as natural immunity, and there is evidence that vaccine-induced herd immunity is largely a myth.
In his book, "Vaccines, Autoimmunity, and the Changing Nature of Childhood Illness," Dr. Thomas Cowan explains how vaccines cause a distortion in the two branches of your immune response — the cell-mediated immunity (innate) and the humoral immunity (adaptive). This, in turn, radically increases your risk of immune dysfunction, including development of autoimmunity and even cancer.
When you get a viral childhood disease, the virus enters your body and infects your cells. The subsequent disease process involves your cell-mediated immune response, which activates white blood cells and chemicals that attract them to the site of infection in order to clear the virus.
During recovery, your humoral immune system kicks in and starts generating antibodies against the virus to help prevent the same kind of disease process from occurring again in the event you're exposed to the virus again at a later date.
As long as the cell-mediated immune system is activated first, and the humoral immune system is activated second, you will have a longer-lasting, qualitatively superior immunity against that disease. Vaccines, however, circumvent the possibility of creating robust herd immunity in a population, as they often avoid a cell-mediated immune response, provoking a humoral response instead.
Vaccination triggers the creation of vaccine-strain antibodies, but since vaccination skips the cell-mediated response, it only confers an artificial temporary immunity.
This is also why most vaccines, especially inactivated vaccines, require booster shots to try to extend artificial immunity. (Live attenuated viral vaccines, such as measles vaccine, are thought to more closely mimic the natural disease process, but even live virus vaccines confer an artificial immunity that is not identical to natural immunity.)
Open Discussion Into Vaccine Safety — Not Name-Calling — Is Urgently Needed
In the vaccination debate, what happens all too often is not an open, scientifically based discussion but rather inappropriate name-calling and threats. A scathing article in the Los Angeles Times even labeled unvaccinated people "cockroaches."14 Many parents are also left feeling belittled or threatened by their children's doctors should they so much as question the U.S. CDC's vaccination schedule.
At least one study has found the vaccination schedule may put premature babies at increased risk of neurodevelopmental disorders,15 but should parents question their pediatrician about it, they may risk being rejected from the practice and left without a source of medical care for their child. Barbara Loe Fisher, founder of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), explained:16
"These days, a well-baby checkup can be a frightening and gut-wrenching experience for a new mom bringing her baby to the pediatrician's office.
That is because, with the approval of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), many pediatricians have taken the hardline position that they do not have to discuss vaccination with parents or, if they do, they can threaten them with dismissal from the practice for not obeying a direct order."
The ability to make informed, voluntary vaccine choices for yourself and your children must be protected, because vaccines are not a one-size-fits-all-solution, nor is the U.S. public as a whole a one-size-fits-all population. Stoller also questioned whether vaccine policy is really about safeguarding the public, and his stance deserves consideration:17
"In the U.S., the pharmaceutical industry is the largest campaign donor to politicians and the largest advertiser in all forms of media, but even that level on influence should still yield to safeguards on human rights and bioethics.
For when a medical intervention becomes shielded from liability and is then mandated by governments who are often in an unholy partnership with the corporations responsible for that intervention then we are all in peril.
When coercion becomes part of the equation, a crime against humanity is being perpetrated. The intellectual and social suppression of views, research and information inconvenient to vaccine stakeholders and proponents is no different today than it was for those who opposed the practice of bloodletting and dosing patients with mercury.
The difference today are the economic factors, for it is projected that by 2020, global vaccine revenues exceed $60 billion, so with that amount of money in play vaccine and public health policies have been made to support the desires of a criminal cabal where informed consent is perhaps the only remaining firewall."
Passion fruit, also known as granadilla, is more readily available in supermarkets across the country today than in the past but, visually, although they’re unquestionably exotic, they’re rather unimportant looking. The exterior is rather like a hairless kiwi and a small grapefruit, but it’s when you cut the fruit in half that it gets really interesting.
NDTV describes passion fruit, aka Passiflora edulis, as a “type of berry which is sweet-sour, highly aromatic and seedy.” Ripe fruits are eaten by cutting them in half and scooping out the bright yellow contents with a spoon, avoiding the thin membrane similar to that in a grapefruit. Hungry Harvest describes the passion fruit’s unique flavor profile this way:
“Slightly wrinkled fruits are ripe and will have a sweeter taste than the smooth skinned passion fruit! If the skin is smooth, your passion fruit will taste tart … They also have a strong and characteristic perfume. You can absolutely eat them raw by themselves if you don't mind the tartness. We recommend enjoying them with something sweet or creamy.”1
Besides eating them raw, the serving options are numerous for passion fruit. The pulp can be placed in a blender with a little stevia and orange juice, then placed back inside the rinds for a creamy, delicious fruit bowl. You can make passion fruit pudding, ice pops, tarts, sauces and vinaigrettes for salad, and that’s just the short list; researching recipe options will net a harvest of tasty results.
Native to Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina, passion fruit is also grown in the tropical areas like India, Australia and South Africa. Inside the tough rind, the pulp is soft, but both are edible and often juiced to make a nutritious drink. Like so many other plant-based foods, the nutritional aspects are considerable.
Nutritional Aspects of Passion Fruit
According to Medical News Today,2 two of the most beneficial nutrients in passion fruit are vitamins; principally 229 IU of vitamin A (aka International Unit, usually used to measure fat soluble vitamins, and 5.4 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C, which, as an antioxidant, is well known for its ability to battle colds and flu. Vitamin A helps improve your skin, immune system and vision.
Raw passion fruit also provides minerals, including 63 mg of potassium, one of the seven essential macrominerals, which is significant because 100 mg of potassium are recommended per day to support your body’s functions. In fact, a high intake has been shown to reduce the risk of overall mortality by 20 percent;3 however, that’s predicated on balancing potassium with your sodium intake.
Further, a healthy potassium intake decreases your stroke risk, lowers your blood pressure, maintains your bone strength, decreases your chances of forming kidney stones, regulates your body’s fluids and controls the regular activity of your heart and other muscles.4
Passion fruit also brings significant amounts of magnesium (5 mg), important for more than 300 enzymatic reactions in your body, such as metabolizing the foods you eat and synthesis of proteins and fatty acids;5 calcium (2 mg), another essential element that’s the most abundant one in your body, critical for bone health and for vital brain communication to other areas of your body;6 and iron (.29 mg).
As for fiber, of which 25 grams are provided in 1 cup of passion fruit (or 1.9 grams when you eat one),7 top recommendations specify a daily intake of 30 to 38 grams of fiber per day for men, and 21 to 25 grams a day for women. Supporting a 2015 study reporting a 10 percent reduced risk for all-cause mortality for every 10 grams of fiber you add to your daily intake,8 I recommend 50 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories consumed, ideally from fiber-rich foods.
Passion Fruit Shown to Reduce Anxiety and Sleeplessness
One little-known bonus associated with eating a whole passion fruit is decreased stress and anxiety, due to the 5 mg of magnesium it contains. According to a systematic review, not only are most people grossly deficient — 68 percent in the U.S. alone9 — but the results can lead to hypertension, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. The study concluded:
“The potential effect of (magnesium) in attenuating psychological response to stress merits further investigation since stress is a ubiquitous feature of modern lives. The modulation of the HPA axis by (magnesium), which has been demonstrated to reduce central and peripheral endocrine responses, suggests that behavioral effects of stress exposure such as anxiety could be attenuated by (magnesium) supplementation.”10
The HPA axis, incidentally, refers to hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal dysfunction, and can trigger adrenal fatigue symptoms. While the above study is careful to note that the science is scant in regard to magnesium’s involvement in mental and emotional health, it’s worth noting that a deficiency can result in personality changes, not to mention serious illnesses from seizures to abnormal heart rhythms, the National Institutes of Health11 notes.
An alkaloid compound in passion fruit known as harman has also been noted as good for people suffering from insomnia, as well as restlessness, tension and nervous anxiety. Harman actually functions as a sedative, noted by Vanguard12 as imparting “blood pressure-lowering, sedative and antispasmodic” actions.
Passion Fruit: Improves Insulin Sensitivity
Most people don’t consider that eating certain fruits can raise your glycemic index, which can result in a rapid and steep increase in blood sugar. The American Diabetes Association13 calls it the GI value, and reveals that most fruits, among them pineapples and melons, have a low GI value. However, passion fruit does not, making it a great fruit option for people with diabetes. News-Medical addresses several related issues:
“Modern lifestyle diseases, such as obesity and metabolic syndrome, may lead to many complications, including hypertension, diabetes, hyperlipidemia and cardiovascular disease. They also accelerate the aging processes. Appropriate dietary interventions may help to regulate glucose and energy metabolism, and thus improve the outcome for affected individuals.
Among the interventions are caloric restriction, which helps reduce insulin resistance by preventing sustained hyperglycemia. This often requires long-term control of dietary choice and portion size, which is difficult to maintain for a majority of overweight subjects. For this reason, functional foods, such as passion fruit are being studied for their potential contribution to reducing weight and insulin resistance.
One compound in passion fruit, which has garnered plenty of interest is piceatannol, an analog of resveratrol. The latter is a polyphenol, which has been shown to lower glucose levels, and to increase stamina, in several rodent studies.”14
The aforementioned piceatannol found in passion fruit was identified in a 2017 randomized, placebo-controlled study as a substance that could improve your metabolism. According to the study authors, 39 participants, men and women, half being overweight, were given 20 mg of piceatannol per day for eight weeks.
Assessing the blood pressure, heart rate, inflammation, endothelial function, lipids, oxidative stress and mood of the subjects beforehand, the researchers found that while the nonoverweight men and women, and some overweight women, showed no overwhelmingly beneficial effects, the overweight men did. They concluded that piceatannol supplementation can improve metabolic health, including insulin sensitivity and other aspects of metabolic health.15
Additional Perks From Eating Passion Fruit
Another advantage you get from eating the exotic passion fruit has to do with your skin. Besides the vitamins A and C, riboflavin and carotene are additional antioxidants that bring about a remarkable renovation in your body through the eradication of free radicals. One of the fringe benefits is what that process does for slowing the aging process, including that of your skin.
Antioxidants also boost your health by flushing harmful toxins from your body, which not only affects the appearance of your skin, but fights inflammation to help stave away many forms of infection. Working with potassium and vitamin C, antioxidants help retain your skin’s moisture and elasticity and improve your blood flow. According to one study:
“Most dermatologists agree that antioxidants help fight free radical damage and can help maintain healthy skin. They do so by affecting intracellular signaling pathways involved in skin damage and protecting against photodamage, as well as preventing wrinkles and inflammation.”16
One of the most desired results found in terms of health benefits from eating passion fruit is its anticarcinogenic potential with their ability to render free radicals impotent in their attempt to mutate healthy cell DNA into cancerous ones.
A 2012 study published by the International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research indicates that different concentrations of passion fruit extract were tested to see which would be most effective against Streptococcus mutans, a common dental bacteria causing caries, tooth cavities and root canal infections, and a 40 percent to 45 percent concentration was found to be the most effective, exerting a “significant antimicrobial effect against S. mutans,” and better than commonly used drugs.17
The same publication noted that several powerful polyphenols and carotenoids in passion fruit have been shown to initiate apoptosis in cancerous cells, also known as programmed cell death, especially in leukemia, according to a thesis presented at the University of Florida in 2003.18
With all the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and obscure compounds such as piceatannol and harman loaded in passion fruit, it’s no wonder that so many studies have shown improvement in people with type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Those results have also been shown to lower the risk of cardiovascular issues, as well, as a natural result.
Known as a multipurpose herb and "rejuvenator" used in ancient Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for thousands of years, ashwagandha1 (Withania somnifera) is a plant native to India with a host of bioactive functions.
Ashwagandha is a member of the Solanaceae family along with eggplant and tomato. It bears light green flowers that evolve to bright red fruit and is able to survive extreme temperatures and widely varying altitudes.2
In Sanskrit, the word ashwagandha means "odor of a horse." The likeness refers not only to the odor of the plant's root but the essence of strength it's said to deliver. It's a powerful adaptogenic3 herb, meaning it helps your body manage and adapt to stress4 by balancing your immune system,5 metabolism and hormonal systems.6
Ashwagandha also has natural pain reliever (analgesic) properties,7 can help increase physical strength, and its rejuvenating effects can promote general health when used regularly. While some adaptogens are stimulants in disguise, this is not the case with ashwagandha. It can give your morning exercise routine a boost, and when taken prior to bed it can help you get a good night's sleep as well.
The Main Bioactive Components in Ashwagandha
Flavonoids and other compounds are the active ingredients that give ashwagandha its many powerful properties. In one study,8 bioactive withanolides — naturally occurring steroids — in ashwagandha were identified as agents that suppress pathways responsible for several inflammation-based illnesses, including arthritis, asthma, hypertension, osteoporosis9 and cancer.
Withanolides in ashwagandha also have immunomodulating properties,10 described as substances that can either stimulate or suppress your immune system to help fight infections, cancer and other diseases.
One of the alkaloids in ashwagandha, called somniferin, helps promote relaxation and sound sleep. In fact, the botanical name "somnifera" means the herb induces sleep. A study11 at the University of Tsukuba in Japan also found it relieves related problems such as insomnia and restless leg syndrome.
Ashwagandha Eases Stress and Anxiety
As an adaptogen, ashwagandha is frequently used to support healthy adrenal function, which can be adversely affected by persistent stress, be it physical or psychological. Research shows the root reduces cortisol levels, restores insulin sensitivity and helps to stabilize mood.12
In one placebo-controlled clinical trial,13 volunteers with a history of chronic stress who took 300 milligrams (mg) of ashwagandha twice a day reported significant reductions in stress, and testing revealed their cortisol levels decreased by an average of nearly 28 percent after 60 days of supplementation.
In another study,14 patients diagnosed with moderate to severe anxiety who were treated with ashwagandha reported "significantly decreased" symptoms compared to those undergoing more conventional interventions.
A third study15 found "empirical evidence to support the traditional use of [ashwagandha] to aid in mental process engaging GABAergic signaling." According to the authors:
"Our results provide evidence indicating that key constituents in [ashwagandha] may have an important role in the development of pharmacological treatments for neurological disorders associated with GABAergic signaling dysfunction such as general anxiety disorders, sleep disturbances, muscle spasms and seizures."
Ashwagandha for Sexual Health and Fertility
Ashwagandha also supports sexual and reproductive health in both men and women, and may be used as an aid to boost your libido. In men struggling with infertility, ashwagandha has been shown to balance their luteinizing hormone,16 which controls reproductive organ function in both men and women. Ashwagandha can also help boost testosterone levels in men,17,18 which can have a beneficial effect on libido and sexual performance.
In one placebo-controlled trial,19 men between the ages of 18 and 50 were given either a placebo or 300 mg of ashwagandha root extract twice a day in addition to participating in a strength training program. After eight weeks, those taking ashwagandha had greater increases in testosterone, muscle size and strength, compared to those taking a placebo.
It's also been shown to improve the quality of semen in infertile men,20 in part by inhibiting reactive oxygen species and improving essential metal concentrations, including zinc, iron and copper levels. Other research21 suggests ashwagandha improves semen quality by regulating important reproductive hormones.
In otherwise healthy women, ashwagandha has been shown to improve arousal, lubrication, orgasm and overall sexual satisfaction.22 In addition, ashwagandha's ability to rebalance hormones (including thyroid hormone, estrogen and progesterone) has been shown to improve polycystic ovary syndrome23 and relieve symptoms associated with menopause.24
The Many Health Benefits of Ashwagandha
In Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha is classified as "Rasayana," a type of essence that helps in the healing of the body and the lengthening of life,25 and when you consider the many varied health benefits of this herb, it's easy to see how it might influence longevity.
Importantly, a number of studies have shown this exotic herb can treat several diseases and disorders better than medications — without all the side effects. For example, studies show ashwagandha has antitumor and blood production (hemopoietic) capabilities, and benefits the cardiopulmonary, endocrine and central nervous systems, all "with little or no associated toxicity."26 Ashwagandha has also been shown to:27,28,29,30,31,32
Support healthy levels of total lipids, cholesterol and triglycerides that are already in the normal range
Enhance radiation therapy effects33 by reducing tumor GSH levels.34 It also reversed paclitaxel-induced neutropenia (low neutrophil count, a type of white blood cell) in mice35
Counteract osteoporosis36 (reduced bone density)
Protect your brain from oxidative stress,37 and lower your risk of Alzheimer's38,39
Stimulate proper thyroid function40 and treat subclinical hypothyroid — In one double-blind, placebo-controlled study,41 ashwagandha was pitted against some of the most popular drugs targeted for hypothyroid patients. The study involved 50 participants with elevated serum thyroid hormone (TSH), all between the ages of 18 and 50.
Divided into two groups, each was given either ashwagandha treatments or starch as a placebo for eight weeks. According to the researchers, ashwagandha effectively and significantly normalized serum thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), T3 and T4 levels, compared to placebo, stating such treatment may be beneficial for hypothyroid patients.
As explained by Thyroid Advisor,42 ashwagandha "directs THS hormone to travel to the pituitary. TSH triggers the thyroid gland to produce sufficient amounts of T4 and T3."
Reduce blood pressure43
Inhibit inflammation — In animal studies, ashwagandha was found to be more effective against inflammation than phenylbutazone44 or hydrocortisone45
Protect nerve function and oxidation46
Provide natural pain relief47
Combat insomnia and promote relaxation
Nourish and protect your liver
Increase red blood cell production
Improve adrenal function48
Lower irritability, edginess and anxiety
Increase energy and endurance
Promote healthy immune function
Treatment aid for Type 2 diabetes
Treatment aid for vitiligo
Ease symptoms of Parkinson's disease
Improve memory and cognitive function by slowing down the deterioration of brain cells, repairing brain cell damage and rebuilding neuronal networks and synapses
Improve cardiovascular health — Ashwagandha helps maintain your heart health through its regulation of blood circulation. It helps prevent blood clots, and helps keep blood pressure levels within the normal range, which prevents the stress from burdening your heart49
Maintain youthful appearance of skin — Ashwagandha increases your estrogen levels, which in turn triggers the production of collagen. This allows the skin to keep its youthful appearance and helps in the production of natural oils. It also fights off free radicals that cause wrinkles, dark spots and blemishes50
Aid wound healing — Ashwagandha root powder can be used topically as a poultice to help treat wounds. Mix the powder with water to make a smooth paste, and apply to the wound. It will help fight off bacteria, alleviate pain and speed up the healing process
Treat arthritis — Ashwagandha has been noted in Ayurvedic manuscripts as well as modern medicine as being an effective remedy for both rheumatoid arthritis (Amavata) and osteoarthritis (Sandhi-gata Vata).51
According to one study,52 "Patients of rheumatoid arthritis receiving Ashwagandha root powder showed excellent response. Their pain and swelling completely disappeared. A double-blind placebo controlled study, combining Ashwagandha, turmeric and zinc showed significant improvement in pain and inflammation"
Possible Ashwagandha Side Effects and Contraindications
While generally safe, well-tolerated and nontoxic, side effects can still occur. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center cites case reports showing side effects from ashwagandha may include:
- Nausea, headache, stomach irritation and loose stools
- Overactive thyroid
- Burning, itching and discoloration of skin/mucous membrane
- Irregular heartbeat, dizziness
Ashwagandha is also contraindicated53 for, and should not be used by pregnant women, as it may induce abortion; breast-feeding women, as it may have an effect on your child; and people taking sedatives, as ashwagandha may augment the sedative effects. While ashwagandha appears to be beneficial for thyroid problems, if you have a thyroid disorder, use caution and consult with your doctor, as you may need to tweak any medications you're taking for it.
Beware of Adulterated Ashwagandha Products
Needless to say, making sure you're getting a high-quality product is of utmost importance. To ensure effectiveness, I recommend using 100 percent organic Ashwagandha root, free of fillers, additives and excipients. Unfortunately, adulterated ashwagandha products have been found on the market, so buyer beware.
A bulletin54 by the Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program reveals many ashwagandha root powders and root extracts manufactured in India are being adulterated by adding leaves, stems and aerial parts of the plant, without declaring this on the label. In some tests, up to 80 percent of products were found to be adulterated in this manner.
This fraudulent addition on undeclared plant material is a cost-saving strategy that results in an inferior product with questionable efficacy. As noted in the bulletin, the price difference between roots and leaves is significant, with high-quality roots selling between $2.46 and $3.56 per metric ton, compared to just 34 to 82 cents per metric ton for dried leaves.
The bulletin also cites investigations showing there's a wide variety in concentration of withaferin A between products — in this particular case, products manufactured in India — with levels of this natural steroid ranging from 0.02 to 2.34 mg per gram of ashwagandha root, depending on the brand. The addition of other materials from the plant is suspected to be one of the reasons for this wide variance in quality.
The take-home message is, when buying ashwagandha, it's worth doing your homework to make sure you're getting a quality product.
1 The following lifestyle factor has been scientifically shown to be as potent a risk factor for premature death as smoking:
2 These three factors have a far greater influence on your cardiovascular disease risk than high cholesterol:
3 Two former Snopes employees reportedly quit after discovering Facebook was paying Snopes and pushing fact-checkers to:
4 The following has been established as the best available treatment for seasonal affective disorder (SAD) — a type of depression that strikes during winter months and resolve during spring and summer:
5 As you get older, the following form of exercise becomes increasingly important, as it promotes healthy bone strength and good posture, and helps normalize hormone production:
6 How long does it take a plastic bottle to break down in the ocean?
7 Hypnosis puts you into a state of:
The flax plant (Linum usitatissimum) has a long and illustrious history spanning nearly 10,000 years. Remains of flax seeds have been found in Stone Age dwellings in Switzerland and Egypt. The plant reached the U.S. in the 1800s with European settlers and is now grown as a nutritional seed harvest and for fiber used in the making of linen.
Although used historically for centuries, it wasn't commonly found on many shopping lists 10 years ago. Flaxseeds contain more polyphenols than vegetables like olives1 and lower your risk of serious diseases such as Type 2 diabetes,2 heart disease and cancer. They are available in a brown or yellow variety and are sold either whole, ground or as flaxseed oil.
The oil should not be confused with linseed oil, which, while made from flaxseed, is reserved for industrial purposes. Although most of the benefits found in flaxseed are also found in the oil, I recommend using whole flaxseed, since flaxseed oil is delicate and easily oxidized. If you like to use flaxseed oil, add it to salads and soups, but only at the end of the cooking process.
Animal research has demonstrated the addition of flaxseed to a high-fat diet protected mice against obesity,3 supporting previous research showing lignans in flaxseed were associated with a lower risk of Type 2 diabetes in women.4
Researchers Discover Flaxseed Fiber Feeds Beneficial Bacteria
The health of your gut is key to attaining optimal health. If you've been trying to lose weight but have seen little progress, the challenge may be helped by feeding your beneficial bacteria.5
Past studies have investigated the breakdown of dietary fiber in the gut, noting it produces changes in the digestive system, ultimately reducing the production of fat tissue and improving your immune function. In a recent study published in the American Journal of Physiology, researchers used an animal model to determine the effect flaxseed would have on weight gain. The animals were separated into four groups:6
- A control group, eating a standard diet containing 4.6 percent soy-based fiber
- Experimental group 1, eating a high-fat diet containing no fiber
- Experimental group 2, eating a high-fat diet containing 10 percent indigestible cellulose fiber
- Experimental group 3, eating a high-fat diet containing 10 percent flaxseed fiber
The team used several measurement factors, including oxygen burned, carbon dioxide produced and energy expended. At the end of the trial, glucose tolerance was also measured. The mice were fed a consistent diet over 12 weeks, after which bacteria and other biological materials were collected from the beginning of the large intestine.
Those eating only a high-fat diet had fewer bacteria associated with improved metabolic health and more bacteria linked to obesity compared to the other three groups. The mice that fared best ate indigestible cellulose or flaxseed, however those eating flaxseed also had better glucose control and higher levels of beneficial fatty acids, compared to the control group.7 According to the researchers:8
"Our data suggest that flaxseed fiber supplementation affects host metabolism by increasing energy expenditure and reducing obesity as well as by improving glucose tolerance. Future research should be directed to understand relative contribution of the different microbes and delineate underlying mechanisms for how flaxseed fibers affect host metabolism."
The Importance of Lignans
These results highlight the importance of lignans in the diet. Lignans are a class of secondary metabolites from plant products demonstrating numerous beneficial biological effects in mammals.
They are found in nuts, seeds and vegetables and drinks such as tea and coffee. Lignans are converted by intestinal bacteria to enterolignans — enterodiol and enterolactone. Also called mammalian lignans, they were discovered independently by two research teams at nearly the same time. 9
These enterolignans perform a variety of biological activities, including anti-inflammatory and apoptotic effects that have an influence on disease. Flaxseed is the richest known source of plant lignans and when diets have been supplemented with flaxseed, it substantially increases the formation of enterolactone in the gut.
In a another study evaluating gut microbiota metabolites of dietary lignans against the risk of Type 2 diabetes, researchers discovered the presence of enterolactone was highly associated with a lower risk of Type 2 diabetes in U.S. women.10
Additional Health Benefits of Flaxseed
As flaxseeds are high in lignans, they play a significant role in blocking the effects estrogen may have in producing estrogen-driven cancers such as breast, uterine, ovarian and prostate cancer.11 Postmenopausal women with high intakes of dietary lignans have a 15 percent lower risk of breast cancer than women with low intake.12
A meta-analysis of 21 studies13 also linked high lignan intake with a reduced risk of breast cancer, while a Canadian study14 found a diet high in flaxseed was associated with a reduction in breast cancer risk.
Researchers have discovered phytoestrogens'15 effect on the bone can help maintain density and in the case of osteoporosis, suggesting enterolactone excretion is positively associated with bone mineral density in the spine and hips in post-menopausal women.
Flaxseed is one of the best sources of alpha linolenic acid (ALA), a plant-based omega-3 fat.16 ALA may help reduce inflammation in your arteries and reduce tumor growth. One tablespoon contains 3 grams of dietary fiber in soluble and insoluble form.17
Aside from feeding beneficial bacteria in your gut, soluble fiber also helps maintain blood sugar and cholesterol levels, while insoluble fiber helps maintain digestive health by binding to water and helping food pass through your intestines more quickly.
Flaxseed contains a high level of vitamins including E, K, C and several B vitamins. The seed is also rich in calcium, iron, magnesium and phosphorus, essential to maintaining a variety of bodily functions and supporting your overall health.18
Grow Your Own Flaxseed and Store for Maximum Freshness
The flax plant is highly adaptable and can be grown in most of the U.S. The plant enjoys plenty of sun with fertile, well-draining soil. While it appreciates cool weather best, you may be successful by planting in an area where the plant receives afternoon shade.
There are several varieties of flax plants that grow well in different hardiness zones. Discover more tips to grow and harvest at home in my previous article, "How to Grow Flax for Seeds and Fiber."
It's important to keep your flaxseed fresh. If you purchase it already ground, it has a shorter shelf life than the whole variety. Even when carefully packaged, ground flaxseed may only last from six to 16 weeks.
On the other hand, whole flaxseed may last up to 12 months when stored in an airtight container. When sold in bulk at large grocery stores they should be covered and sold on a regular basis to ensure freshness. Flaxseed are highly perishable and turn rancid rapidly.
Buy organic whole seeds and grind them yourself in a small coffee grinder just before use. Your nose can often tell you whether or not your flaxseed has turned rancid. When testing oil or ground seed, inhale deeply to determine if there's a slightly bitter odor similar to old cooking oil. If it tastes strong or burnt, it's likely rancid.
Fermented Foods Add Fiber and Beneficial Bacteria
Adding fermented foods to your daily regimen of flaxseed is yet another way of protecting your gut microbiome. Fermentation has traditionally been used in many cultures around the world in order to enhance foods and prevent spoilage. Regularly eating fermented vegetables is an incredibly powerful way to nourish your gut microbiome and boost your fiber intake.
While you can purchase high-quality fermented foods from reputable sources, I recommend making them at home since you know they were prepared properly, exactly what's in them and can customize your recipe to include the exact ingredients you enjoy. When using a specific starter culture, your fermented vegetables will also be a rich source of vitamin K2.
The probiotics from fermented vegetables help break down and eliminate toxins from your body, assist in the absorption of minerals and help you maintain your ideal weight. For an easy recipe of how I make fermented vegetables, see my previous article, "How to Make Your Own Fermented Vegetables."
Easily Add Flaxseed to Your Daily Routine
Flaxseed is a powerhouse of nutrition and fiber that can have a significant impact on your gut microbiota and may reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes. If you don't grow your own flax at home, purchase organic, local, non-GMO certified flaxseed and pay attention to the "use by" date.19
I take one tablespoon of organic brown flax seeds nearly every day. I used to grind them fresh and add them to my smoothie, but I think a far better way is to soak them overnight and then grind them up.20
If you're just getting started with flaxseed, remember they're rich in fiber so start slow and build up your tolerance, and be sure to drink plenty of water. It's also important to remember there are several side effects21 associated with eating flaxseed.
These may include allergies, hypoglycemia and stool problems. Flaxseed and flaxseed oil can cause allergic reactions, including hives, itchy palms and possibly nausea and vomiting.
Since flaxseed lowers your blood sugar, when mixed with diabetic medication, your blood sugar may dip alarmingly, so use caution and consult with your doctor. The high levels of fiber may also increase the frequency of your bowel movements so be sure to limit your use of flaxseed in recipes until your body accommodates to high levels of fiber.
Recipe by Jennafer Ashley of PaleoHacks
Admit it: Sometimes, you just can’t help but think of ways to make your meals more interesting. Because dining in restaurants and fast food chains can be unhealthy and costly, most people fall into the cycle of processed dinners like instant mac and cheese, pizza and microwavable meals. So, why not try something new?
This one-pan paleo chicken paprikash recipe by Jennafer Ashley of PaleoHacks will add surely spice to your life, but takes less than an hour to make. Chicken paprikash or paprika csirke is a traditional Hungarian dish with a creamy tomato sauce that’s seasoned with paprika and is usually paired with spaetzle (tiny dumplings) or egg noodles. Instead of sour cream, this recipe uses coconut cream as a dairy-free alternative.
If you’re too busy to whip up other dishes for the week, you can simply reheat this and have another hearty meal.
One-Pan Paleo Chicken Paprikash
Makes: 4 servings
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
2 teaspoons ghee, divided
2 pounds skinless, chicken thighs
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 small sweet onion, chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1/2 cup coconut cream
1/3 cup chicken stock
1 cup diced tomato
1/2 cup chopped parsley
- Heat 1 teaspoon of ghee over medium heat in a cast iron skillet for two minutes. Pat dry the chicken thighs with a paper towel and season both sides with salt and pepper. Place the chicken in a skillet and cook for four minutes on both sides. Remove from the pan and set chicken aside on a plate.
- Add the remaining teaspoon of ghee into the skillet and stir in the onion. Sauté for six minutes, and then add the garlic. Continue cooking for an additional minute.
- Stir in the paprika, coconut cream and chicken stock, mixing well until fully blended. Add in the tomatoes and chicken thighs, and then let it simmer for 20 minutes.
- Add plenty of sauce on top and garnish with parsley.
Spice Up Your Life With a Dash of Paprika
Paprika peppers are believed to have originated from Mexico, and were collected by Christopher Columbus on his expedition. Capsicum, the plant where paprika comes from, was first known as an ornamental and medicinal plant in Hungary during the 15th century. Because of the sunny climate and rich soil specifically in Hungary’s two main regions, the former floodplains of the Danube and Tisza rivers, high-quality paprika was produced in this country.
Paprika is a commonly used spice in eastern European cuisine that gives dishes a rich aroma and a savory taste. Unlike what most people know, paprika isn’t necessarily spicy like ground cayenne pepper— it is generally sweet and mild, a variant used in this recipe. Other variants are smoked and hot paprika, which may be used if you prefer the dish to have a smoky flavor or a spicy kick. Alternatively, you may use paprika as a garnish, which will only add color to the dish if it is not heated, as this spice releases flavor when it interacts with heat.
Aside from adding a savory flavor or spicy flair to a dish, paprika may also help improve your overall health by:
- Inhibiting insulin resistance — A 2013 study found that paprika pigments, which contain large amounts of carotenoids such as capsanthin and capsorubin, help restrain obesity-related insulin resistance.
- Reducing the risk of chronic diseases — Through its antitumor properties, paprika helps suppress the growth of tumor cells. Another study found that it has multidrug resistance properties that may help fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
- Lessening the risk of heart complications — As found by a 2009 study, paprika’s capsanthin content helps boost HDL levels, which get rid of bad cholesterol, resulting in a lower risk of heart disease.
Additionally, paprika is a good source of vitamin A, folate, beta-carotene and vitamin C. In fact, Albert Szent-Györgyi, a Hungarian scientist, found in his research that paprika contains vitamin C — a discovery that contributed to his Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1937.
8 Tips in Preparing and Cooking Chicken Paprikash
Paprikash is one of the delicacies of Hungarian cuisine, together with stews like goulash, pörkölt and tokany. To help you achieve the taste of this authentic Hungarian dish while ensuring that you’re serving a healthy meal, here are a few preparation and cooking tips to remember:
- Buy organic tomatoes to ensure that they’re of high quality, as they have more vitamin C and a higher phenolic compounds content.
- Avoid buying canned tomato products because they may contain bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical that may increase your risk of various health conditions such as infertility, breast and prostate cancer, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and early puberty. The acidity of the tomato causes the BPA in the can lining to leach into the food.
- It is important to consume tomatoes with healthy fat such as ghee, which is used in this recipe, because lycopene in tomatoes is fat-soluble. When mixed with fat, this carotenoid may be absorbed better and may easily pass through the intestine.
- Choose organic, pasture-raised chickens instead of chickens raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), to reduce your risk of salmonella or antibiotic-resistant infection and to help you gain healthier fats and vitamins.
- Wash your hands before and after handling raw chicken. Also, wash your utensils after being used and use a separate cutting board for raw meats.
- When buying paprika, take note that the sweet variety is usually labeled “mild paprika.”
- Remember to choose a dark-colored airtight container when storing paprika and use or replace it within six months. Ground spices like paprika usually lose their flavor the longer they’re stored.
- When buying ghee, look for the organic kind to ensure that it is antibiotic-free. You can also make homemade ghee using organic, grass fed butter.
Give Paprika a Space on Your Spice Rack
If you aren’t used to using paprika in your dishes because you may think that it is just similar to cayenne pepper and chili powder, this recipe will certainly give you a grasp of both of its culinary use and health wonders. If you are looking for more dishes that use paprika, you may check these: Salmon Supreme Recipe, Homemade Chicken Nuggets Recipe or Low Carb Bacon and Cheese Muffins Recipe.
PaleoHacks is a top source for amazing Paleo recipes, fitness tips and wellness advice to help you live life to the fullest. If you have questions regarding the Paleo diet in general, PaleoHacks may provide you with the answers that you may need.
In this interview, Mike Dow, Psy.D., and author of “Your Subconscious Brain Can Change Your Life: Overcome Obstacles, Heal Your Body, and Reach Any Goal with a Revolutionary Technique,” reveals how tapping into your subconscious through a modern form of hypnosis can help you heal mind, body and soul.
"Most meditation is alpha. Hypnosis takes you into an even slower brain wave, into theta," Dow says, who experienced his first hypnosis session as a "deep, wondrous trance, almost dream-like."
"I would say it felt magical, relaxing and wonderful. I sort of would have those twitches when you're about to fall asleep, because my brain was letting go of its control of my physical body. I just felt supremely relaxed. In that moment, I became a convert.
I knew that this had the potential to heal so many things and do it in a natural way, because I also knew in that moment that everything that I was hearing, I was accepting … I was allowing it into my mind, and into my mind-body. That's my experience. In that moment I said, 'I have to write a book about this.'"
Clinical Versus Layman Hypnosis
When considering hypnosis as a healing modality, it’s important to seek out someone who is properly trained. Dow, a licensed psychotherapist, received his advanced training with the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH), which only accepts licensed health care professionals and teaches the science of clinical hypnosis, which is different from hypnosis schools that train laypeople in hypnosis.
"There is a sort of international congress that recognizes different organizations around the world. The ASCH is the largest training organization in the United States," Dow says. "I trained with a large group of mental health professionals, physicians, dentists, who wanted to add clinical hypnosis to their practice …
The human brain is a really complicated organ, an entity. If you work with somebody who has training from the ASCH, you know they have years of training, a license and malpractice insurance. They can bill your health insurance, and also have additional training in clinical hypnosis."
Overcoming Barriers to Health and Healing
According to Dow, hypnosis is a great tool that can help patients overcome barriers that may be preventing them from implementing healthy lifestyle strategies. He notes that our Western health care system is subconsciously training us to become aware of symptoms.
"We are actually training our belief system to monitor what is wrong with us," he says. For example, if you're watching a commercial on TV for a drug, you may start thinking about whether you have those symptoms. Likewise, doctors don't generally ask you how well you are, they ask you to list your problems.
"The subconscious is sort of the opposite of that. The subconscious is always looking for the place in your body where you feel the most relaxed," Dow says. "You can then take that feeling and spread it around. It's sort of a wellness model, which I really appreciate and I think people in this country, at least, need more of these days …
Electroencephalography (EEG) studies have found that hypnosis is using mostly the right side of the brain. It's not thinking in words. It's painting in pictures, in images, which is really fantastic if you have somebody with trauma, who has an overactive emotional center of the brain.
Their right side of the brain is overactive. We can sort of unstick that. I realized that you can integrate some of the old things that I was doing, sort of the more rational, logical dry therapies with this more, I would say, magical paintbrush, ethereal therapy of hypnosis and self-hypnosis."
The Deep Link Between Your Subconscious Mind and Your Body
While originally trained in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), Dow now integrates hypnosis in most therapy sessions. And, while CBT tends to be effective in about 70 percent of cases, the addition of hypnosis greatly increases the effectiveness.
Dow cites a recent brain scan study in which they discovered that hypnosis increases the connection between the prefrontal cortex and the insula, which they believe allows the subconscious to take control over the body. For example, studies have shown the placebo effect — an essentially subconscious process — is more effective in treating irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) than prescription drugs.
"Now, all of a sudden, the subconscious can affect just about anything, not just the realm of mental health or the psychological, but just about anything in the integrative treatment model … It's effective for so many things, from fibromyalgia to chronic fatigue syndrome …
It can boost T cells. If somebody is a cancer survivor and you want to boost your T cells in your immune system, the subconscious brain is a wonderful treatment strategy,” he says, adding, “This is something that we can measure in blood samples.
I think when people hear that, it’s really evidence-based. We can now say, ‘OK, visualize your immune system attacking those malignant cells.’ We know that actually works. We could actually measure that. That has been proven in research, which I think is really exciting for people to know."
Brain Waves and States of Suggestion
Brainwaves, from fastest to slowest are:
- Gamma — The "aha!" moment; moments of insight
- Beta — Normal waking, alert consciousness, such as when you're focusing on your work, reasoning or worrying about something
- Alpha — Deep relaxation, meditative consciousness
- Theta — Dreaming (rapid eye movement or REM sleep)
- Delta — Deep sleep
When you're using hypnosis, self-hypnosis and conscious visualization techniques, you're in a state between beta and theta, somewhere between awake and asleep, yet you're conscious and aware of what you're doing.
Dow's own EEG scans revealed mostly theta brainwaves throughout his brain, with the exception of the back of his occipital lobe which had beta brainwaves, which means the brain thinks it's seeing something.
"Theta is a really fantastic brainwave. It is the jack-of-all-trades of brainwaves, because it allows the delete and edit button in your brain to work better," Dow says.
"If you want to go back to something that you didn't like during that day or from 10 years ago, and you want to delete or edit that file, or … if you want to reframe something and see something in a different way … highlight all the things you did right, and all of a sudden, that helps you to reframe.
Theta brainwaves are really good at that. Theta is also fantastic at helping the brain access memories. You're going to find memories you couldn't access while you're awake in a conscious beta or an alpha state. It really is sort of a magical brainwave to a lot of people."
Wake-Induced Lucid Dreaming (WILD)
This hypnosis state is sometimes also referred to as wake-induced lucid dreaming or WILD. It's a theta state, just like the moment right before you fall asleep, in which you're highly impressionable.
"I use a technique with my patients — I have them imagine that they are having a dream. Sometimes I will tell them that they are dreaming. I will have them imagine there is a blank canvas in front of them. This blank canvas is going to be the dream they wish they'd had, that they're going to enter the dream, and that this awareness is their entire awareness.
People, when they're in a subconscious, brain-activated state, often report they feel like they lose sense of their body. They lose sense of time and space. Like what happens when you're dreaming, you're not aware of your body or where you are when you're dreaming.
If you have this blank canvas or you intentionally have a dream, if I say on a count of "three, two, one," the dream will start, you can actually paint dreams and have these lucid dreams.
If there's an intention to the dream — for example, if this dream is going to give you some insight about a particular part of your life that you're struggling with — you just let the subconscious become untethered to paint that dream. Usually, people will find something that they hadn't discovered before.
It would be a new insight for them, which is really exciting for people … It really is a form of lucid dreaming, which I really love … People really do look like they're in rapid eye movement sleep as well …
In study after study in major peer-reviewed journals, hypnosis combined with CBT is more effective than either alone. My conscious visualization technique combines those strategies. Whether we're talking about fibromyalgia, cancer, smoking, alcoholism, anxiety disorders or depression, it works time and time again.
If you're talking about something like a phobia, I used to treat phobias the old-fashioned way, with graded exposure … Baby step by baby step, your brain learns that you can tolerate the thing you fear. But it goes really slowly … When we supercharge that treatment with the subconscious, it really works wonders. It makes the treatment go much faster."
Hypnosis can even change your bleeding rate. Dow cites a study in which patients were told during hypnosis that they would bleed less. A control group did not get that suggestion. The blood loss of each person was then measured, showing the hypnosis group actually bled less.
Improving Compliance With Subconscious Suggestion
Getting and staying healthy requires follow-through, whether it's changing your diet, exercising more or getting more sleep. While few lifestyle strategies are actually difficult to implement, compliance can be an issue for any number of reasons.
Life changes require a bit of discipline in the beginning, until you've formed a new habit. Here, self-hypnosis can be a really valuable tool. In his book, Dow details the protocol for his subconscious visualization technique. He also provides both written and audio files of several sample scripts you can use and modify for self-hypnosis.
"What I suggest is that in the beginning people use the audio tracks. As they get better at using the technique, they start to modify it for themselves. I use my own scripts on myself all the time, but I'm always changing it.
Whatever I need that day, I just close my eyes and I'm sort of talking to myself. What's really great is people can start to tweak. They see the language of the subconscious brain. They can start to really customize it however they need."
Here's a quick summary of the steps:
First, consider your conscious thought patterns, such as pessimistic thinking, catastrophizing, worst-case scenario thinking or polarized thinking. Dow details seven pitfall thought patterns that fuel your conscious thinking.
Next, you activate your subconscious using Dow's "3-12-7 technique," which starts out with mindfulness meditation. First, note three sounds that you hear. Then take notice of two colors — one color on the back of your eyelids when your eyes are closed, and one at the top of the crown of your head as you inhale.
On the next exhale, allow your eyes to drop, which will typically take you into a light trance. Next, keeping your focus on your breath, imagine descending a flight of 12 steps, allowing yourself to become increasingly relaxed with each step. "By the time people get to the end of that, their subconscious brains are really activated," Dow says.
Next, imagine yourself floating upward to the count of seven, allowing your body to feel warm and light. "By the time they reach seven, it's a really, really deep state of subconscious activation," he says.
In step 3, you float backward into your chosen memory. Once your subconscious brain is activated, memories are going to start to feel real. At this point, you can reimage and edit that memory. At this point, Dow also incorporates bilateral stimulation, which encourages your eyes to flutter from side to side, as they do during REM sleep.
Next, imagine floating forward in time, back to the present. See yourself today, and notice what's different.
Then, float yourself forward into the future, and see yourself doing whatever it is you want to be able to do, be it face a phobia, stick to a diet or go to the gym. See yourself performing the activity the way you want to be able to do it. According to Dow, research shows that when your subconscious wires certain parts of the brain together, and unwires others, it feels like things happen effortlessly. Dow explains:
In the final step, you bridge your subconscious and conscious mind. Dow explains the process:
Myths and Misconceptions About Hypnosis
Many believe they’re just not suggestible enough to get into these states where personal transformation can occur but, according to Dow, this simply isn’t true. “I have yet to encounter somebody who is not hypnotizable when they use my technique,” he says. Another myth is that you’re either hypnotizable or you’re not. The reality, however, is not that black-or-white.
"Remember that it is a skill," Dow says. "As you use it, you will become better and better. You will go deeper and deeper. It will become more and more effective every time you use it … I recommend using my program a few times a week.
I shared a case example of somebody who felt relief after one or two sessions. But when we look at the research for conditions from anxiety disorders and depression to smoking, weight loss and IBS, most of the data show that the more people practice — we're looking at eight sessions, 16 sessions, 32 sessions — that's when we're really finding results.
I think people should use this as a practice. Also, remember, just like meditation, self-hypnosis is really the shift from a sympathetic nervous system activation, or fight-or-flight, to a parasympathetic, rest-and-digest dominant state. You are teaching your brain in your body to relax … Many issues flare up when there's stress present. The more you use this practice, the more relaxed, the calmer you're going to be."
Another common misconception is the fear that you might be induced or motivated to do something under trance that you wouldn't normally do if fully conscious. Dow puts such concerns to rest, saying:
"All hypnosis is self-hypnosis. Remember that the mind is a very suggestible entity in general. As long as you have somebody who has your best interest at heart … [who is] unbiased, [they're] not going to plant false memories … [or] lead you into anything that you don't want to do.
It is your subconscious brain that is going to lead you to ultimate health and healing … Your subconscious is actually conspiring in your favor. I think that's really good news …
The subconscious is really a tool that we all use every day. If you've ever been searching for a name and it just pops into your brain hours later, your subconscious was looking for that name the whole time. That was your subconscious brain conspiring in your favor, helping you. You didn't even realize it.
I think our subconscious brains can be used for our own health, our own healing. We can use it for good. If we give our subconscious brains a little bit of love and a little bit of attention, they can help us with a lot more in our own daily lives."
To learn more about this fascinating and accessible self-help tool, be sure to pick up a copy of “Your Subconscious Brain Can Change Your Life: Overcome Obstacles, Heal Your Body, and Reach Any Goal with a Revolutionary Technique,” available from most bookstores, including Amazon.
Viruses of different kinds can cause numerous diseases, some of which can be irritating and even life-threatening. One such example is the poxvirus, which is a precursor to infections like molluscum contagiosum and monkeypox.1
What Is Molluscum Contagiosum?
Molluscum contagiosum refers to a skin condition caused by a poxvirus of the same name. People who have been infected develop lesions or bumps called mollusca on the skin.2,3 Around 10 to 20 bumps may initially appear, although the number can increase if the person has a weak immune system or has been diagnosed with HIV.4
Children with molluscum contagiosum develop lesions on their genitals, face, chest, stomach, arms, armpit and legs. Sexually active teenagers and adults may also have lesions appearing on their genital area and their inner thighs.5
Just like the herpes simplex virus (HSV), molluscum contagiosum can spread from one person to another via sexual intercourse, when a person touches the lesions of an infected person. Sexual intercourse is one of the major reasons why this disease occurs in teenagers and adults.6
However, the most common way for the virus to be transmitted is by touching or coming into contact with the an infected person’s lesions,7 such as when adults participate in contact sports like football or wrestling.8
How Does Molluscum Contagiosum Affect People?
Globally, the incidence of molluscum contagiosum ranges from 2 to 8 percent,9 and recent reports have indicated that the infection’s prevalence continues to rise. In the U.K., a 50 percent increase in molluscum contagiosum was observed between 1998 and 2008. On the other hand, a 23 percent seroprevalence rate was documented in Australia,10 and as many as 20 percent of female sex workers from India are affected by this disease.11
Increasing cases of molluscum contagiosum may be linked to some regional outbreaks. For instance, in an outbreak that occurred in East Africa, lesions were found in 17 percent of the village population and in a whopping 52 percent of children 2 years old and older.12
High prevalence rates for molluscum contagiosum were also found among HIV-infected people, especially patients with CD4 cell counts that are lower than 200 to 250 cells per microliter of blood.13,14
Here’s What You Can Do to Combat This Infection
There are ways to prevent molluscum contagiosum from infecting you and your loved ones. These pages contain information regarding molluscum contagiosum, such as its other modes of transmission and hallmark symptoms. You’ll also discover the foods you should be eating if you have been infected, the natural remedies you can try to target the lesions and the most effective preventive techniques against the infection.
- Get These 5 Potential Health Benefits From Marigolds
- How Can You Use Marigolds? Here Are 3 Ways
- Marigolds Add Color Not Just to Your Garden but Your Health, Too
- Try These Delicious and Healthy Marigold Recipes
- Make Your Own Calendula Oil Infusion With These Easy Steps
- Contraindications for the Use of Marigolds
Marigolds (Calendula officinalis) are mainstays in gardens all over the world because of their sunny appearance. Throughout history, the marigold plant, also called calendula, has been well-utilized since the 12th century in Central Europe and the Mediterranean.1 Documentations of use also reach as far back as the Indian, Middle Eastern, Greek and Roman civilizations when calendula flowers were used as a dye.2
The name it goes by these days, marigold, was introduced in the early days of Christianity. People named it Mary's Gold in honor of the Virgin Mary, which was then shortened through time into "marigold."3 Its other common names are pot marigold, English marigold and poet's marigold.4
However, marigold shares the same name with the Tagetes plant, which is a more popular flower in the U.S.5 This type of marigold is also well-known in Mexico as the "flower of the dead." It is used by citizens during "Dia de los Muertos" or the "Day of the Dead," and is commonly used to adorn home altars, which are built by families to remember and show respect for their deceased loved ones.6
Take note that these two plants belong to different plant varieties. It's a common mistake to interchange them because of their similar names, but it's important to know that they have distinct benefits.7 To make sure that you're looking at the calendula plant, it's best that you look for its scientific name in labels.
With its numerous uses, it's obvious that this plant offers so much more than beauty alone. Continue reading to learn more about marigold's health benefits and how you can use it for some everyday health concerns.
Aside from its vibrant color that adds to its attractiveness, marigolds may be used to help alleviate various ailments. It is traditionally used to help relieve minor burns, wounds and other skin problems.8 This plant may have beneficial effects against the following health conditions as well:
- Cancer — Flavonoids in marigold flowers were found to exhibit cytotoxic, anti-inflammatory and inhibitory activities against colon cancer, leukemia and melanoma cells.9
- Skin conditions — Marigold has been used in mitigating various skin conditions because of its anti-inflammatory properties. Marigold essential oil, when applied on the skin, may help reduce damage caused by UVB radiation.10 To add, a 2018 study found that marigold methanol extract has high levels of polyphenols that provide antiaging effects to the skin.11
- Bursitis — Bursitis or the inflammation of the bursa sac often causes extreme pain due to swelling.12 As an alternative to injections, shoe gear change, surgery or paddings, marigolds may be used for paste and pad therapy to help ease discomfort and inflammation.13
- Body toxins — Marigolds are known to assist in the body's detoxification process by eliminating toxic materials that have accumulated over time in the body. This detoxification not only benefits the digestive system, but also the lymphatic system by helping induce drainage and alleviate inflammation of the lymph nodes.14
- Menstrual pain — Marigold offers benefits for the proper regulation of the processes that take place in the female reproductive system. It helps relieve menstrual pain and cramps.15
Marigolds are often used by many people for decorative purposes — they can be made into wreaths, flower arrangements, potpourri and dry-in-place decorations.16 But apart from their bright and attractive flowers, marigolds may be utilized in other ways. Here are some techniques on how to put marigolds to good use:
- As an herbal infusion — Because marigold leaves are bitter-tasting, its flower petals may be used to create an herbal infusion by soaking them in water, vinegar, alcohol, cream or milk. This results in a golden orange liquid with a woody and sweet taste.17
- As a topical solution — Marigold extract was found to exhibit wound healing activities when taken orally and applied topically.18 It also may be used to help alleviate burns through its antioxidant properties.19
- As an eyewash — Marigold cold infusions have been used as a wash to help soothe and cool strained eyes. It's also commonly used to help relieve conjunctivitis.20
Marigolds are commonly found in gardens and plant boxes to exude an inviting appearance in homes and also in vegetable gardens to attract insects that feed on pests.21 While they're often ignored by seasoned green thumbs because they seem to prefer using other plants that are more unique,22 it's still a good idea to grow these flowering plants in your garden or yard.
Marigolds not only will give a vibrant appearance to your garden, but also will allow you to utilize this herb when needed. Follow this guide on how to grow and care for your marigold plants:23
- Find a portion of your garden with abundant sunlight as marigolds need it to thrive. They also grow best in moderately fertile and well-drained soil.
- Sow the marigold seeds 1 inch apart in the garden when the soil is warm during spring. You also have the choice of germinating them indoors.
- Water the plants well and let the soil dry thoroughly before watering again. Water them at the base of the plant and not from the top.
- Marigold seeds germinate easily. The blooms usually appear after a few weeks. Once the flowers are established, pinch off the tops, aka "dead-heading," for them to become bushier.
You can also plant marigolds as a ground cover. Gardeners have noted that this plant, with its pungent scent, has the ability to repel nematodes or the microscopic worms found underground that harm the roots of vegetable crops.24
Apart from the plant's various medicinal uses, marigold has culinary uses, too. The petals can be powdered and used as a coloring and flavoring agent — a more affordable alternative to saffron.25 The fresh or dried whole flowers can also be added to soups, stews, pudding, yogurt and salad, while the leaves can be used in salads or stews.26 Here's one marigold recipe you can try:
Cauliflower With Marigold Sauce
Serving size: 4 servings
- 1 medium cauliflower
- 1/4 cup organic raw butter
- 1/2 coconut flour
- 1/3 cup grated grass fed, organic and raw milk cheese
- 1 1/4 cups raw coconut milk
- 6 marigold flowerheads
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Break up the cauliflower into large florets. Steam them for 10 to 15 minutes or until cooked.
- In a saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour and mix until a soft paste is formed.
- Slowly add the milk, whisking continuously to keep the mixture smooth.
- Decrease heat to low and simmer for five to 10 minutes or until the sauce thickens.
- Stir in cheese. Do not allow to boil.
- Remove from heat and add the marigold petals. Stir the mixture slowly.
- Place the cauliflower in a serving dish and pour the sauce. Serve.
(Adapted from Genius Kitchen27)
Brewing tea is also one of the most well-known uses for this herb. Its flower petals produce a vivid, pungent flavored tea.28 To make your own, follow this recipe:
Marigold Herbal Tea Recipe
- 2 teaspoons dried marigold petals
- 1 cup boiling water
- Add the marigold petals in the cup of water and steep for five minutes.
- Strain the mixture and let cool until warm enough to drink.
(From "90+ Herbal Teas To Be In Good Health"29)
Marigold essential oil, or calendula oil, is often used as an active component in lotions, salves and creams because of its positive effect on the skin.30 Studies found that it contains high amounts of flavonoids and terpenes that contribute to the improvement of skin health, promotion of wound healing and reduction of inflammation.31
There are two ways to make your own marigold oil: cold infusion and hot infusion. However, cold infusion is more recommended because the flowers are delicate.32 Below are the two methods on how to make calendula oil infusion:33
- Fresh calendula petals or leaves
- Carrier oil (coconut oil, sunflower oil or almond oil)
- Clean lidded glass jar
Cold infusion method:
- Put your desired amount of dried calendula petals in a clean, dry glass jar.
- Fill the jar with your carrier oil of choice to cover the petals by an inch.
- Place the jar in a sunny spot to infuse for two to six weeks.
- Drain the petals from the oil and store the oil in a container with a lid. Remember to put a label on the container.
Hot infusion method:
- Put your desired amount of dried calendula petals in a saucepan with boiling water.
- Remove from heat and set aside to cool. After a few minutes, strain the mixture and place the oil in a glass jar.
- Label the container, seal with a lid and store the oil. You can use it for up to one year.
Before using marigolds or calendula to help ease a health issue, it is best to consult a health practitioner to get the right dosage. If you're pregnant or breastfeeding, it's best to avoid this herb because of the lack of studies in this area.34
Marigolds should also be avoided by people who are allergic to plants that belong to the Compositae or Aster family such as daisies, chrysanthemums and ragweed. Marigolds belong to the same family and may cause severe allergic reactions.35
Pepper is the most traded spice in the world, accounting for one-fifth of all imported spices worldwide. The pepper market, worth $4.69 billion, grew by 9 percent in value and 4 percent in quantity between 2012 and 2016, suggesting that people's palettes continue to demand pepper's warm, earthy flavor.1
In the U.S. and throughout the world, black pepper is a mainstay in spice cabinets and on tabletops, but white pepper is equally appealing, if not quite as widely used, at least in the U.S. What's the difference between the two? Color is the most obvious distinction, and some recipes call for white pepper in lieu of black simply to keep a light-colored appearance in the final dish for purposes of visual appeal.
Beyond appearance, there are several other important disparities, beginning with how they're processed. As for which is better, that's a personal choice, as both black and white pepper have great value in your diet. In my opinion, the answer to which is better is both!
White and Black Pepper Come From the Same Plant
Both white and black pepper are made from peppercorns of the piper nigrum plant, and peppercorns are actually the fruit of the plant, which grow in long clusters, similar to grapes.
Black peppercorns are made using the unripe berries, which are then cooked and dried (or sometimes only dried in the sun, without cooking.2 The drying process gives the peppercorns their dark appearance and wrinkled texture, along with their pungent flavor.
White peppercorns begin similarly, but are picked fully ripe, at which point they're red. They're then soaked to soften and the outer skin is removed, leaving the white seed behind. The white seed is subsequently dried,3 leaving white pepper that's popular in Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai cuisines as well as in white foods, such as cream sauces popular in French cuisine and mashed potatoes.
There are also green peppercorns, which are harvested unripe and treated with preservatives to stop the enzymes that would otherwise darken their skin. Red peppercorns are also available, which are the ripe varieties treated similarly to preserve their color.
Green and red peppercorns are sometimes pickled in brine or vinegar and may be available in gourmet markets, often mixed with white and black peppercorns for a showy presentation.4 As described in the journal Medicinal & Aromatic Plants:5
"The black pepper's fruits are small (3 to 4 mm in diameter) called a drupe and the dried unripe fruits of Piper nigrum are known as a peppercorn. The fully mature fruits are dark red in color and approximately 5 mm in diameter. A fruit contains a single seed … A single stem contains 20 to 30 spikes of fruits.
The collected spikes are sun dried to separate the peppercorns from the spikes. The fresh harvested unripe green fruits may freeze-dry to make green pepper. The fresh harvested unripe green fruits may sun-dried to make black pepper. The red skin of the ripen fruits is removed and the stony seeds are sun-dried to make white pepper."
White and Black Pepper Have Different Flavors and Heat
There are subtle differences in flavor among the different color peppercorns, with black being the most pungent, such that if you use them in a grinder all together, the black peppercorns will probably overpower the rest.
Comparing black and white peppercorns, black is more pungent, while white has an earthier flavor. Further, since white peppercorns are allowed to ripen longer, some say they have a more complex flavor, which is further heightened by the soaking process.6
Cook's Illustrated conducted an experiment to determine if black pepper could be substituted for white pepper in recipes, with the finding that it's OK to swap them as long as only a little bit is called for. But for recipes that require larger amounts of either, their different flavor profiles may be more noticeable. According to Cook's Illustrated:7
"We made two pots of hot and sour soup (which traditionally calls for white pepper), using 1 teaspoon of black pepper in one batch and 1 teaspoon of white pepper in the other.
Tasters noted that the soup with black pepper was more aromatic and had more spicy heat but preferred the soup with white pepper for its floral, earthy flavor and greater complexity. However, when we tried the swap in a stir-fry that called for a lesser amount of white pepper, tasters had a hard time distinguishing them."
White and Black Pepper Have Similar Health Benefits
Both white and black pepper contain similar amounts of piperine, the substance responsible for their pungency and heat, as well as many of their health benefits. Overall peppercorns contain about 2 to 9 percent of this beneficial alkaloid.8 Known for its anti-inflammatory properties, piperine has been shown to be beneficial for arthritis, even in small doses.9
It's also useful for metabolism and digestion, having been found to increase insulin sensitivity and block the formation of new fat cells in animal studies.10 It's also known to stimulate pancreatic and intestinal enzymes as well as bile acid secretion, aiding digestion.11 Stir-fried white pepper has even been found to decrease the frequency of diarrhea in infants and children, especially in cases of persistent diarrhea.12
This is only a small sampling of piperine's (and pepper's) health-boosting potential, however, as this powerful compound has numerous proven therapeutic effects, including:
In addition to stimulating the immune system, potentially fighting cancer and offering powerful antioxidant activity, piperine also increases the bioavailability of other substances, notably resveratrol and curcumin. In one study, the addition of piperine increased absorption of curcumin by 2,000 percent.13 Further, as noted in Medicinal & Aromatic Plants:14
"Piperine increases the absorption of many drugs and nutrients from the gastrointestinal tract by various mechanisms. It alters the membrane dynamics and increases permeability at site of absorption.
Piperine increases the serum half-lives of some substances like beta-carotene and coenzyme Q10 and decreases metabolism of many drugs by inhibiting various metabolizing enzymes … "
This means adding white or black pepper to your meals may make it easier for your body to absorb the many nutrients they contain. Pepper itself also contains some nutrients, including manganese, vitamin K, fiber and iron.
As for its effects on blood pressure, piperine may help to dilate blood vessels15 and alleviate hypertension.16 Piperine has even been described as a potential functional food for mood and cognitive disorders, as it possesses antidepression-like activity while enhancing cognitive function.17
Pepper Has Been Valued Since Ancient Times
Known as the "king of spices" and "black gold," pepper was considered a valuable spice and medicinal agent in ancient Chinese and Indian medicine, used for the treatment of pain, chills, rheumatism, influenza and fevers.
"In tea form, black pepper was also credited for relieving migraine headaches, strep throat, poor digestion and even coma," researchers wrote in Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety. "It was also used for enhancing the circulation of blood, increasing the flow of saliva and stimulating appetite."18
References to pepper date back to ancient Greek and Roman texts, and the spice trade, especially pepper, was active even in 1000 B.C. During medieval times, its rarity and cost gave pepper the status of a luxury item, hence the Dutch phrase for a prohibitively expensive item, "pepper expensive."19 The McCormick Science Institute adds: 20
"Pepper was so precious in ancient times that it was used as money to pay taxes, tributes, dowries and rent. It was weighed like gold and used as a common medium of exchange. In A.D. 410, when Rome was captured, 3,000 pounds of pepper were demanded as ransom."
As pepper became more commonplace, its price eventually went down, making pepper the staple condiment it is today. Beyond your diet, pepper can also be used in personal care products, particularly to fight dandruff.
To make a homemade dandruff treatment, mix soaked poppy seeds with hung curd (yogurt drained of its water) and a teaspoon of white pepper and apply to your scalp. Leave on for about an hour and rinse off. You can even use pepper in essential oil form. Black pepper essential oil is useful for low energy, muscles aches, pain and bruises.
Grind Pepper Fresh for Best Results
As for whether white or black is better, you can try both and decide for yourself. However, know that both varieties will add a similarly healthy kick to your meals, so there's no reason to exclude one or the other — and every reason to use both liberally if you enjoy them.
But like many spices, both white and black pepper begin to lose some of their potency once ground. So for best results, choose whole peppercorns and grind them fresh when you need them. Dried peppercorns can stay fresh for three to four years, especially if stored in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight or heat.21
In fact, the McCormick Science Institute notes that pepper has been known as the "master spice" because it keeps for years without losing its flavor or aroma.22 This isn't the case with pre-ground pepper, however, which loses its flavor quickly, within a matter of months.
Peppercorns are versatile in that you can use a pepper grinder to grind them to a course or fine texture, depending on your preference. You can also use them crushed, especially when using pepper in a coating, such as in the pepper steak recipe below.
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1 teaspoon wheat-free tamari sauce
- 1 pound grass fed beef or buffalo/bison strip loin
- 2 tablespoons beef stock
- 1/4 cup peppercorns, crushed roughly
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/4 cup butter
- Place peppercorns on a plate and press steak into peppercorns to cover both sides thickly. Work peppercorns into the meat using your hands.
- Sprinkle a skillet with the salt and over medium heat, cook until salt begins to brown. Add steak to the pan and brown over high heat. Reduce to medium heat and cook until it reaches the desired degree of doneness, approximately three to four minutes per side for medium-rare. Discard drippings. Note: As much as possible, avoid charring the meat to prevent the formation of carcinogenic chemicals.
- In a separate saucepan, combine butter, tamari, beef stock and lemon juice.
- Serve the steak with the sauce on the side.
The looming threat of plastic pollution is one of mankind's greatest challenges. With more than 381 million tons of plastic produced worldwide each year,1 it's no surprise the waste ends up in our soil, lakes, rivers and oceans, as well as in the bodies of humans and wildlife.
The durability of plastic is what makes it popular for use in so many products. But its strength and durability also mean that it doesn't break down in the environment. It's estimated that a plastic bottle can take 450 years to break down in a marine environment,2 while fishing line can take 600 years.3 But even then, it never goes away. It simply breaks down into smaller pieces that may persist in the environment forever.
These tiny pieces of plastic, commonly known as microplastics, may be eaten by fish and other marine life. This can cause a lot of suffering if the plastic builds up in their bodies over time. When a whale found malnourished and dying off the coast of Norway had to be put down, an autopsy revealed 30 plastic bags and a large amount of plastic packaging waste in its stomach and intestines, which was causing blockages and pain.4
Microplastics that bioaccumulate in the food chain and are eventually consumed by humans (the average person ingests about 100 plastic particles each year from shell fish alone) can cause a lot of health problems in people, too. As in the environment, plastic does not break down in the human body, either.
Many of the chemicals used in the manufacture of plastics are also known to disrupt embryonic development, dysregulate hormones and gene expression, cause organ damage, and have been linked to obesity, heart disease and cancer.
One of the greatest sources of plastic pollution is single-use plastic found in food packaging. An investigation by CBC News Marketplace explores the role supermarkets play in fueling plastic pollution, as the majority of food products are continually wrapped in toxic, nonbiodegradable plastic packaging.5
Why Buying Plastic-Free Is so Difficult
The featured film highlights two families and their attitude toward plastic (one family tries to avoid it, one doesn't) when it comes to buying food. The two families agree to participate in a social experiment where they switch places to see how the other side lives when it comes to addressing plastic pollution.
About 95 percent of what we buy contains some form of plastic packaging, says Jessica and Jonathan, who have an infant child name JJ. The couple live in the north end of Toronto, Canada, where they shop at No Frills, a discount grocery chain owned by Loblaw Inc., a Canadian supermarket chain with stores located in the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec.
The film follows the family up and down the aisles of their local No Frills grocery store as they shop for food, paying particular attention to how much of it comes packaged in plastic. The couple, who grocery shop about twice a week, say they used to use reusable bags, but don't anymore. "We never bring reusable bags," says Jessica. "We did before. But then we just stopped" says Jonathan. "We got lazy," says Jessica.
Western Nations Are Dumping Their Plastic Problem on to Poorer Countries
Plastic is cheaper and more convenient, say the couple. And they're right. Supermarkets and their suppliers have come to rely on plastic because it's cheap and durable. But "cheap" is relative. The true cost of single-use plastic on human and environmental health is astronomical, and the burden of that cost is unevenly distributed.
Some of the world's largest plastic producers often ship their waste to other countries to be recycled. Both the U.S. and Canada, as well as several other countries, were shipping large portions of plastic waste to China, which would buy it, recycle it and make new products. But last year China announced that it would no longer accept plastic waste imports in an effort to protect the environment and human health.
Since 1991, nearly half the world's plastic waste has been sent to China.6 Since China decided it no longer wanted to be the "world's garbage dump,"7 experts say there may be an estimated 111 million tons of plastic with nowhere to go by 2030. The U.S., Britain, Germany, Japan and Mexico were among some of the largest exporters of plastic waste to China.8
Instead of dealing with their own waste, many Western nations have been dumping (literally) their plastic problem on to other countries with little to no environmental regulations on how that waste is processed and disposed of. In the first six months of China banning plastic waste imports, nearly half of plastic waste exported from the U.S. for recycling was shipped to Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam. John Hocevar, Oceans campaign director for Greenpeace USA, says:
"Instead of taking responsibility for their own waste, U.S. companies are exploiting developing countries that lack the regulation to protect themselves. The average person when they put a piece of plastic in a [recycling] bin, they assume it is being recycled, not being shipped to China or now to Southeast Asia, where it will possibly be incinerated or landfilled."
The film shows exclusive footage provided to CBS News Marketplace by Greenpeace of heaping piles of plastic waste in Malaysia. The footage is recent and was taken about an hour outside of Malaysia's capital, Kuala Lumpur. Hidden within the mounds of plastic waste is plastic trash from some of Canada's popular stores and grocers, including a bag from Sobeys, a milk bag from Nova Scotia dairy Scotsburn, a burger bun bag from Ben's Bakery and a birdseed bag from a company in Ontario.
The most ironic part about Canadian companies dumping their trash abroad in places like Malaysia, is that nothing about their marketing suggests they are participating in such an environmentally destructive practice.
One of Sobeys' most popular commercials drives home the slogan, "Delivering you the future." One of Scotsburn's advertisements says, "Our products meet our family." These feel-good (and misleading) slogans convince consumers they care about people and their health. But that isn't exactly the case.
Consumers Need More Plastic-Free Choices in Supermarkets
The film goes back to showing the two families that agreed to switch places to see how the other side lives when it comes to addressing plastic pollution. Sofia, Nick and their daughter, Lyla, also from Toronto, do their best to live a zero-waste lifestyle. They try to be mindful about the waste they generate on a daily basis.
Sofia shops for food once a week and in local grocers that support zero waste and offer food in bulk. She consciously tries to reduce their waste by using cloth bags for produce and reusable bags and other containers to store food. The lifestyle swap is difficult on Sofia as she finds herself extremely anxious over having to buy food packaged in plastic.
Jessica and Jonathan, tasked with buying food that's not wrapped in plastic, have an even more difficult time. When it comes to purchasing milk for their infant child, the couple notices they have to buy more milk because it comes in smaller packaging, yet it's also more expensive. Both families agree they need more plastic-free options. So why aren't grocers providing it?
Major retailers like Loblaws are part of the problem, which means they are part of the solution, too. Rather than criticize them for what they are doing, CBC News Marketplace reached out to Loblaws and Sobeys and asked what they plan to do to reduce plastic packaging.
Neither retailer was very forthcoming. Sobeys never issued a comment, and Loblaws directed them to its corporate social responsibility report, which made no mention of any plans to reduce plastic packaging. CBC News Marketplace contacted both retailers several more times, but both refused to meet and discuss plastic waste. However, they did find a grocer who would talk, one who could be an example for supermarkets everywhere.
The film arrives in London, England, at a local grocery chain called Thornton's Budgens. Similar to Canada, not a lot of plastic waste gets recycled in the U.K., according to the film. But consumers are growing increasingly more concerned about environmentally friendly packaging than the price — and stores are starting to listen.
Budgens, one of the first in the world to introduce plastic-free zones, has more than 2,000 products without plastic packaging. Even more impressive is that the store made the change in just 10 short weeks.
Local UK Grocer Goes Plastic-Free in 10 Weeks
The owner of Thornton's Budgens, Andrew Thornton, said they decided to act against plastic pollution simply because they could.
"If we as one store operator, with very little resources, can do this in 10 weeks, what could a Loblaws do if they put all their resources behind it? We are trashing the planet, and to me, plastic has become a symbol of one of the things that's wrong with society today. So we took action because we could. We felt we could make a difference."
The products affected by the store's plastic ban include everything from fresh produce to eggs, fish, bread, cheese and packaged foods. The store even sells plastic-free bacon that's packaged in paper and uses a plant-based cellulose film as an alternative to plastic. It looks and acts like plastic, but it's not and it's biodegradable, meaning you can put it with your food or garden waste and it will go back into the Earth and fertilize the soil.
Not only is Budgens helping curb plastic waste, but it's making more money, too. "We didn't set out to do it for commercial reasons, but there is a commercial benefit," said Thornton. To achieve its goal, the store worked with Frankie Gillard of the environmental group A Plastic Planet. She says that big supermarkets have the power to get major brands to switch to more sustainable packaging methods.
"You basically say, 'We're going to delist your product otherwise.' They have the power to make or break a brand. So, of course, they have the power to say how it should be packaged."
Loblaws and Sobeys Refuse to Talk Plastic Waste
Since neither Loblaws or Sobeys were very forthcoming about their position on plastic waste. CBC News Marketplace set up shop outside one of the retailers' locations in Toronto to launch a different kind of swap. They approached shoppers as they were leaving the store and asked them to do an audit of their purchases.
They find a lot of plastic packaging. Most of the items in all of the shopper's bags were packaged in plastic: bread, cheese, sushi, meat and fruit. The film crew swaps out all of the plastic for more environmentally friendly packaging, putting cookies in glass jars, produce in cloth bags and fruit and meat in glass containers.
The film crew was able to fill two large garbage bags full of plastic by intercepting the purchases of just seven Loblaws shoppers. The result was similar at Sobeys. Customers at both Loblaws and Sobeys told CBC News Marketplace that they want more options for buying plastic-free, and they want major retailers to take action to make it possible.
Loblaws did eventually issue a statement listing "incremental changes" it has made so far, including selling single-serve, compostable coffee pods, removing microbeads from their own brand personal care products and making customers pay for plastic bags. But clearly, there is a lot more they could be doing.
The more awareness raised about plastic pollution, the more companies are moving to change. A string of companies, including Unilever, Nestlé and PepsiCo, recently announced they are introducing reusable packaging for certain products in an effort to phase out single-use plastic. Vox.com reports:9
"Starting in May, Unilever's Axe and Dove deodorants will come in refillable steel containers that are expected to last eight years.
PepsiCo will start selling Tropicana orange juice in glass bottles and certain flavors of Quaker cereal in steel containers. Häagen-Dazs, owned by Nestlé, will come in refillable stainless steel tins. Procter & Gamble's Pantene shampoo will come in aluminum bottles, and its Tide brand detergent will come in stainless steel containers."
The move is important because if we really want to curb plastic pollution, we need to stop using it — and not just keep hoping that it gets recycled.
Only a Small Portion of Plastic Gets Recycled
Plastics can, and should, be recycled, but a 2017 analysis10 reveals a staggering 91 percent aren't. As reported by National Geographic:11
"Mass production of plastics, which began just six decades ago, has accelerated so rapidly that it has created 8.3 billion metric tons — most of it in disposable products that end up as trash. If that seems like an incomprehensible quantity, it is. Even the scientists who set out to conduct the world's first tally of how much plastic has been produced, discarded, burned or put in landfills, were horrified by the sheer size of the numbers …
Of the 8.3 billion metric tons that has been produced, 6.3 billion metric tons has become plastic waste. Of that, only 9 percent has been recycled. The vast majority — 79 percent — is accumulating in landfills or sloughing off in the natural environment as litter. Meaning: At some point, much of it ends up in the oceans, the final sink."
The film ends with a powerful message to the supermarkets. Sofia, a member of the family that's conscious about plastic waste, said companies should listen to what their customers want. "I'm supporting your business. Support my values," she said. To learn more on how to reduce plastic waste, check out trashisfortossers.com for a beginner's guide to zero waste living.12
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.1,2,3 It's been estimated4 that as many as 20 percent of Americans are affected by SAD each winter.
What differentiates SAD from regular depression is that a full remission occurs in the spring and summer months. Common SAD symptoms include oversleeping, intense carbohydrate cravings, overeating and weight gain. Some people also have trouble concentrating and withdraw socially, preferring to "hibernate" indoors instead of carrying on with their normal day-to-day activities.5
Dr. Norman Rosenthal, clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine, was the first to describe SAD, writing in a 1984 journal article6 that the "depressions were generally characterized by hypersomnia, overeating and carbohydrate craving, and seemed to respond to changes in climate and latitude."
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, SAD affects just 1 to 1.4 percent of Floridians compared to 9.7 percent of people living in New Hampshire7 and 9 percent of Alaskans.8
The Importance of Vitamin D
Many have become familiar with the importance of sun exposure for optimizing your vitamin D level,9 and there is research showing that not only is SAD more common in people with low vitamin D, but raising your level also improves symptoms of SAD.10,11
Your body produces vitamin D through exposure to UVB light. Unfortunately, for those living in northern latitudes, this may only be an option for a few short months each year. As a general rule, you have to live below 22 degrees latitude if you want to produce any vitamin D at all during the winter. The charts below display the likelihood of vitamin D synthesis across the U.S. by month.
While supplementation may be required during months when you cannot produce sufficient amounts through sun exposure, it's important to get your vitamin D level tested before you start taking supplemental vitamin D. This will help you fine-tune your dosage over time.
For optimal health, including mental health, you'll want a vitamin D level between 60 and 80 ng/mL12 (150 to 200 nmol/L), with 40 ng/mL being the lower cutoff for sufficiency. GrassrootsHealth has an online vitamin D calculator that can help you estimate the oral dosage required to get you into a healthy range, based on your starting blood level.
Considering vitamin D's impact on mental health and brain function, it would certainly be prudent to make sure your vitamin D level is optimized if you struggle with SAD. Vitamin D is only part of the equation, however, as sunlight influences your mood in general, and SAD specifically, in other ways as well.
SAD Linked to Circadian Rhythm Disruption
Your body's circadian rhythm, which directs a whole host of physiological processes, is calibrated by exposure to natural sunlight and darkness. When sunlight is lacking, it can disrupt your circadian rhythm, triggering SAD.
For instance, sunlight helps keep your level of the protein SERT low. As a key player in transporting the neurotransmitter serotonin, known to play a role in mood, having a low level is a good thing, as higher SERT levels are linked to lower serotonin activity and increased depression. As noted in the journal Depression Research and Treatment:13
"In one study,14 people with SAD had 5 percent more SERT, a protein that assists with serotonin transport, in the winter months than in summer … 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."
Melatonin is another important player that is influenced by your circadian clock and exposure to bright full-spectrum light. 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.
In people with SAD, melatonin production appears to be disturbed. Some may overproduce melatonin, leading to feelings of sleepiness and lethargy. In others, melatonin production may be phase-delayed, which means it's produced at the wrong time.15
The combination of low serotonin and excess melatonin may prove to be especially problematic for your circadian rhythm, 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."16
Proper Light Exposure Is Crucial Treatment for SAD
According to an overview of SAD in the journal Psychiatry,17 "Light therapy is established as the best available treatment for SAD." Indeed, light therapy alone has been found to be more effective than the antidepressant Prozac.18 Even placebo was more effective than the drug — a finding that highlights the fact that drugs are not the answer for this condition.
Interestingly, while daylight as a whole is beneficial to fight off the winter blues, blue light has been found to be particularly beneficial. According to one 2010 study,19 blue light appears to play a key role in your brain's ability to process emotions, and its results suggest that spending more time in blue-enriched light could help prevent SAD.
It may be even more effective than the bright white light typically used in light boxes to treat SAD and other forms of depression. In a previous interview, researcher Dan Pardi explains the peculiar effect blue light has on your brain, which sheds further light on why it's so important to expose yourself to blue light during daytime hours, and why you need to avoid it at night:
"[R]ods and cones in the eye ... are specialized cells that can transduce a photo signal into a nerve signal ... In the mid-90s, a different type of cell was discovered ... [called] intrinsically photosensitive Retinal Ganglion Cells (ipRGC).
It does the same thing as rods and cones: It transduced light to a nerve signal. But instead of the signal going to your visual cortex, it goes to your master clock. Those cells are most responsive to blue light.
If you can block blue light, you can actually create something called circadian darkness or virtual darkness. What that means is that you can see, but your brain doesn't think that it's daytime; your brain thinks that it's in darkness.
That is actually a practical solution for living with artificial light in our modern world ... With more awareness, future digital devices will adjust lighting in the evening to automatically dim and emit amber/red light [instead of blue]. This is much better for healthy circadian rhythms and sleep quality."
Blue light is prevalent in outdoor light, so your body absorbs the most during the summer and much less in the winter. Because of this, the researchers suggested that adding blue light to indoor lighting, as opposed to the standard yellow lights typically used, may help boost mood and productivity year-round, and especially during the winter.
Timing and Intensity of Light Exposure
If you know that SAD symptoms tend to come back for you every winter, you may want to start light therapy in late summer. Keep in mind, however, that blue light at night should be avoided as it will inhibit melatonin production and impair sleep.
So, to be clear, you only want to expose yourself to blue light in the morning, and possibly afternoon, but not in the evening. Findings differ on the issue of the most effective timing, but at least one meta-analysis20 found the largest mean effect size among those exposed to bright light in the morning and evening.
To be on the safe side, I'd suggest avoiding light therapy once the sun begins to set, to avoid further disruption of your circadian rhythm. The light intensity is also important. Outdoor light is in the neighborhood of 10,000 lux, and this is the level of intensity you're looking for.21
This is about 100 times stronger than a normal light bulb, so to be effective, you'll need to get a special light box, and make sure it generates at least 10,000 lux and emits white and blue light, not yellow or infrared. As noted by the authors of a 2015 paper addressing the assessment and treatment of SAD:22
"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."
Additional Treatment Strategies for SAD
In addition to optimizing your vitamin D and getting daily light therapy, the following strategies may also be helpful in the treatment of SAD:
Exercise — Exercise is a well-recognized tool for improving your mental health. In my 2008 interview with Dr. James Gordon, a world-renowned expert on mind-body medicine for the treatment of depression, he stated that physical exercise is at least as good as antidepressants for helping people who are depressed, as it increases serotonin.
It also boosts 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.
A 2013 meta-analysis23 published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found exercise is moderately more effective than a control intervention, which in some cases was pharmaceuticals, for reducing symptoms of depression.
Other research24 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.
If you can, do your workouts outdoors so you can get some sunlight exposure at the same time. As Dr. Meir Kryger, professor of medicine at Yale School of Medicine, told NBC News,25 "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 a full-spectrum light box.
Optimize your sleep — You were designed to go to sleep when the sun sets and wake up when the sun rises. If you stray too far from this biological pattern you will disrupt delicate hormonal cycles in your body, which can affect both your mood and your health.
The link between depression and lack of sleep is well established. More than half of people diagnosed with depression struggle with insomnia. In one study, 87 percent of depression patients who resolved their insomnia had major improvements to their depression, with symptoms disappearing after eight weeks.26
While there are individual differences, as a general rule, aim for eight hours of sleep per night. If you struggle with insomnia or poor quality sleep, review the many suggestions listed in "Sleep — Why You Need It and 50 Ways to Improve It."
Clean up your diet — A factor that cannot be overlooked is your diet. Foods have an immense impact on your mood and ability to cope, and eating a diet of fresh, whole foods as described in my nutrition plan will best support your mental health.
Refined sugar and processed fructose are known to have a very detrimental impact on your brain function and mental health in general. A classic book on this subject, "The Sugar Blues" by William Dufty, delves into this topic in great detail. Cutting out artificial sweeteners will also eliminate your chances of suffering their toxic effects.
Interestingly, vegetarians are four times more likely to suffer from SAD than nonvegetarians, so a primarily plant-based diet may not be ideal during the winter season. Vegetarians are also twice as likely to suffer from nonseasonal depression,27 which suggests nutrient deficiencies may be involved in both.
Optimize your omega-3 status — One nutrient that is extremely important for healthy brain function and mental health is marine-based omega-3, found in small fatty fish such as sardines and anchovies. Wild-caught Alaskan salmon is another good source, as is krill oil, if you need a supplement. As with vitamin D, your best bet is to get tested, to ensure your omega-3 index is at 8 percent or above.
One 2009 study28 showed that people with lower blood levels of omega-3s were more likely to have symptoms of depression and a more negative outlook while those with higher blood levels reported the opposite emotional states.
Optimize your gut health — Fermented foods such as fermented vegetables are also important for optimal mental health, as they are key for optimizing your gut health. Many fail to realize that your gut is literally your second brain, and can significantly influence your mind, mood and behavior.
Energy psychology — Energy psychology can be likened to psychological acupressure. It's based on the same energy meridians used in traditional acupuncture, but doesn't require needling. One form of energy psychology is the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), which has proven effective against depression, anxiety and other emotional challenges.
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."29
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) — Another option is CBT, which helps to modify behaviors, thoughts and emotions that may be affecting your mental health and happiness, and has been shown to be effective for those with SAD.
Research published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found CBT works the same as light therapy in improving SAD symptoms,30 and you may want to consider a combination of the two. Speaking with NBC News, Dr. Norman Rosenthal, clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine and author of "Winter Blues: Seasonal Affective Disorder: What It Is and How to Overcome It," said:31
In closing, it may be worth noting that it's natural for your body to want to slow down somewhat in the wintertime. While this can be difficult when your work and personal life dictate otherwise, allowing yourself to slow down a bit and surrender to the overwinter process32 may ultimately help you to respect your body's circadian rhythm and recharge.
That said, this doesn't mean you should plant yourself on the couch for the winter and not venture outdoors. On the contrary, staying active and spending time outdoors during the day are among the best "cures" for SAD.
In the video above, Julie Schiffman demonstrates a simple technique to help you love and accept yourself — something most of us can benefit from. Schiffman is a practitioner of the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), which is a form of psychological acupressure that involves tapping with the fingertips on specific meridians in order to clear negative emotions and thought patterns.
This is but one way to bring more self-love into your life, akin to giving your inner critic a giant bear hug. The fact is, many of us engage in negative self-talk and are overly critical of ourselves, which can set the stage for mental and even physical health problems.
Turning your low levels of self-acceptance around, and taking the time to be compassionate and gentle toward yourself, is essential to being happy and healthy — and it all starts with you.
Low Self-Acceptance Can Damage Your Health
Self-acceptance is an important part of psychological health and involves accepting all of your attributes, both positive and negative. "Self-acceptance enables an individual to appropriately evaluate his/her efficient and inefficient features and accept any negative aspects as parts of their personality," researchers wrote in the journal PLOS One.1
Self-acceptance includes three main attitudes, including love for your body, even if you're not completely satisfied with your weight, fitness level or any other physical attribute. It also involves the ability to protect yourself from others' negative judgments, such that you don't let it phase you if other people judge you.
Self-acceptance also involves recognizing and appreciating your own capabilities and believing in yourself. People who have high levels of self-acceptance tend to also have higher levels of self-esteem and interpersonal satisfaction. They're also less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, eating disorders and obesity.2
If you have a disability or chronic illness, self-acceptance may be particularly important and can help facilitate healing and better coping, while helping you engage in healthy behaviors to support your well-being.
"Lack of self-acceptance is characterized by feelings of worthlessness, inadequacy, depression, self-blame and self-hatred, which block motivation, inhibit positive behaviors and cause difficulties in rehabilitation and adjustment," the researchers continued.3
For instance, in people with rheumatoid arthritis, those who displayed unconditional self-acceptance were less likely to have anxiety and automatic negative thoughts, improving quality of life.4
Striving for Perfectionism Can Be Dangerous
Part of accepting yourself involves recognizing your strengths and accepting your weaknesses. This does not mean, however, that you should strive for perfectionism, which is linked with psychological distress and depression.5 Feeling a self-generated pressure to be perfect is even believed to be part of the personality of people prone to suicide ideation and attempts.6
"A primary mechanism underpinning the development and maintenance of depression is perfectionism," researchers wrote in PLOS One. "Perfectionistic trepidations, particularly those shaped by social influences such as perceived demands of perfection from others and concern over mistakes, may potentially exacerbate daily stresses and create a vulnerability toward depression."7
While simply striving to achieve a high standard isn't a bad thing (and can even have positive outcomes), when that striving is combined with self-criticism and concern over making mistakes or how other people perceive you, problems arise. In addition to depression, perfectionism has also been linked to eating disorders, anxiety and schizophrenia.8
What's interesting to note, though, is that self-compassion has been found to moderate the link between perfectionism and depression, such that learning to be kind to yourself could eliminate much of the negative effects associated with perfectionism.9
"Self-compassion is 'a useful emotion regulation strategy, in which painful or distressing feelings are not avoided but are instead held in awareness with kindness, understanding and a sense of shared humanity,'" Kristin Neff, Ph.D., an associate professor with the University of Texas at Austin's department of educational psychology, explained.10
For example, perfectionism is believing you've failed if you made a mistake. But viewed under the lens of self-compassion, a mistake is something everyone has experienced and is something you can build upon and learn from.
Why High Self-Compassion Is Healthier Than High Self-Esteem
Learning to be kind and loving to yourself, i.e., having self-compassion, is not the same as having high self-esteem and may, in fact, be preferable to it. While high self-esteem is also associated with lower levels of depression and anxiety, it can have some downsides, including being correlated with narcissism. According to Neff:11
"Self-esteem is … associated with the better-than-average effect, the need to feel superior to others just to feel OK about oneself. Research shows that most people think they are funnier, more logical, more popular, better looking, nicer, more trustworthy, wiser and more intelligent than others.
To be average is unacceptable in Western society, so pretty much everyone walks around wearing rose-colored glasses (at least when they are looking in the mirror). This comparative dynamic, however, the tendency to puff ourselves up and put others down, creates interpersonal distance and separation that undermines connectedness."
And although low self-esteem is linked to health problems of its own, having high self-esteem does not lead to gains in academic or job performance, improve leadership skills or decrease risky behaviors in children the way you might expect.
A better option, research by Neff and colleagues suggests, is self-compassion. "In general, the research suggests that self-compassion offers most of the benefits of high self-esteem, with fewer downsides."12
The Three Components of Self-Compassion
Eastern philosophies have embraced the idea of self-compassion since ancient times, even if it's a relatively new concept in the U.S. Using the writings of Buddhist scholars, Neff defined self-compassion as having three primary components, as follows:13
- Self-kindness versus self-judgment — When you're in a self-compassionate frame of mind, you soothe and comfort yourself in times of need; you do not regard yourself in a harsh, critical or judgmental way, or take a "stiff upper lip" approach when you're suffering.
- Common humanity versus isolation — This allows you to understand that being human is to be imperfect and failing and making mistakes is common to humanity. This gives you a broader perspective when evaluating your own shortcomings.
- Mindfulness versus overidentification — Being mindful means being present in the current moment and accepting it at face value, not giving too much weight to negative thoughts or experiences (but not ignoring them either).
Self-compassion should exist not only when you're in the midst of difficult or painful life circumstances but also, and perhaps most importantly, when "suffering stems from one's own foolish actions, failures or personal inadequacies," Neff said.14 Even in extremely stressful times, such as during divorce, self-compassion can act as a buffer to your emotional health and recovery.
People who had higher levels of self-compassion at the beginning of a study were less negatively affected emotionally by the divorce on a daily basis.15 Even among college students, taking a short two-week self-compassion course led to gains in healthy impulse control and self-growth and decreases in self-judgment, habitual negative self-directed thinking, anxiety and depression.16
Self-Compassion in Practice
Self-compassion sounds good in theory, but how do you do it in practice? EFT as mentioned, can be used to enhance self-love and acceptance. Self-compassion based meditation, including loving-kindness meditation (LKM) and compassion meditation (CM), is also helpful and can help you enhance your positive emotional state.
Both LKM and CM, which are often performed together, have been found to activate brain areas involved in emotional processing and empathy.17 You can take a guided course or try it yourself. Neff offers guided self-compassion meditations on her website that you can follow along with at home to get started.18
She also recommends a number of self-compassion exercises, such as keeping a daily self-compassion journal, in which you write down instances where you judged yourself or felt ashamed or bad about yourself. Next, connect those feelings to all of humanity by writing how other people have likely experienced similar feelings and circumstances.
Finally, practice self-kindness by writing words of understanding and comfort. Another self-compassion exercise involves writing a letter to yourself about your imperfections and feelings of inadequacy. Next, write a letter to yourself from the perspective of an imaginary friend who is unconditionally loving, then go back and read it at a later time.
"After writing the letter, put it down for a little while. Then come back and read it again, really letting the words sink in," Neff says. "Feel the compassion as it pours into you, soothing and comforting you like a cool breeze on a hot day. Love, connection and acceptance are your birthright. To claim them you need only look within yourself."19
Notice — and Change — Your Critical Inner Voice
Another strategy for being kind to yourself is making a point to think about your inner voice. Is it negative? Positive? Supportive? Critical? Try to rephrase negative thoughts into gentler ones, and think what your thoughts would sound like if they were told to you by a supportive friend. Try to avoid ruminating on your negative feelings and do not identify with them, but also do not ignore them.
By embracing your negative thoughts, you can begin to soften their blow and experience them without self-criticism. If you begin to feel overwhelmed or anxious that you're not progressing fast enough, remember to be kind to yourself about learning to have more self-compassion. Neff explained:20
"And if we ever feel overwhelmed by difficult emotions, the most self-compassionate response may be to pull back temporarily — focus on the breath, the sensation of the soles of our feet on the ground, or engage in ordinary, behavioral acts of self-care such as having a cup of tea or petting the cat.
By doing so we reinforce the habit of self-compassion — giving ourselves what we need in the moment — planting seeds that will eventually blossom and grow."
Sometimes, being kind to yourself may be as simple as getting a massage or indulging yourself with a good book. Other times, you may need to redirect your inner voice to sound the way you would treat a good friend. Be at least as kind to yourself as you would be to a friend or even a stranger, and make a point to notice when you're being unkind to yourself, as this is the first step to turning it around.
While this may feel strange at first, the more you practice being compassionate to yourself, the easier the habit will become. If you're unsure where you fall on the self-compassion scale, the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion has a self-compassion test you can take to reveal whether you're low, moderate or high in self-compassion.21
Self-Compassion Is Not the Same as Self-Pity or Self-Indulgence
Most people will benefit greatly from practicing greater kindness and love toward themselves, but there is one important caveat: Please do not confuse self-compassion with self-pity or self-indulgence.
Self-pity allows you to become wrapped up in your negative emotions and can be an isolating experience. Self-indulgence, such as eating a hot fudge sundae and lounging on the couch, is often confused with self-compassion as well, but there are distinct differences.
"Remember that being compassionate to oneself means that you want to be happy and healthy in the long term," notes the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion.
"In many cases, just giving oneself pleasure may harm well-being (such as taking drugs, overeating, being a couch potato), while giving yourself health and lasting happiness often involves a certain amount of displeasure (such as quitting smoking, dieting, exercising)."22 So be mindful that in treating yourself gently and with kindness, you still make positive choices to facilitate good health and well-being.
You've probably watched cat videos where catnip is involved. This herb, as most pet lovers know, is extremely popular with cats. Owners usually use catnip to keep their cats relaxed, while some simply enjoy watching their cats' antics once they start reacting to the herb.
But aside from its hilarious and harmless effect on cats, what else is catnip good for? Keep reading and you'll discover the various health benefits of this herb for both cats and humans.
Catnip is a perennial plant that typically grows 25 to 40 centimeters tall, or roughly about 10 to 16 inches. It is believed that catnip originated from Europe and was only introduced to American soil when European settlements were established.1
Today, catnip is freely cultivated as a common garden plant and is usually found in pastures, fencerows and barnyards. The plant has distinct heart-shaped leaves with serrated edges that emit a minty odor when either crushed or bruised. Its small flowers grow in clusters, with their color ranging from white to lavender.2
But how does catnip work, and why do cats enjoy it so much? Catnip's mesmerizing effects may be because of nepetalactone, a chemical substance that triggers a euphoric state in felines.3 The effect depends on how you introduce it to your pet's system. Sniffing the leaves triggers a stimulant effect, while eating them may have a sedative-like effect in your cat.4
The catnip plant has numerous benefits for both felines and people. In humans, it may:
- Help with digestive discomfort — Catnip may be used to ease tension in the smooth muscles of the stomach. This helps stop the spasms that usually cause stomachaches and any digestive pain.5
- Promote relaxation — German scientists note that nepetalactone isomers found in catnip function similarly to the sedative components of valerian root. This may help alleviate anxiety symptoms and promote better sleep quality.6
- Helps fight off infections — A 2012 study showed that catnip has antimicrobial properties that may be effective against foodborne pathogens, including Shigella and Salmonella. It works through its bactericidal and bacteriostatic activities.7
- Function as a menstrual aid — For years, catnip has been used to promote better menstrual flow, helping lessen abdominal cramps and other discomforts that usually accompany the menstrual cycle.8
Catnip has also been observed to have antiseptic, carminative and tonic properties.9 However, more studies are required to fully understand the mechanism by which this herb affects the various systems of the human body. Meanwhile, here are ways on how you can use catnip for your feline companions:
• Serves as both a sedative and a stimulant — Depending on how your cat ingests catnip, it can make your pet either hyper or sedated. Catnip may help keep your cats relaxed during events that may trigger extreme anxiety.10
• Relieves cat flatulence — Just like in humans, catnip may be beneficial for cats who are suffering from flatulence caused by a variety of factors, such as their diet, accidental swallowing of air and malabsorption.11 Cat flatulence may also be brought on by stress.
Catnip is a carminative,12 which means that it promotes the removal of gas from the intestines. It also helps remove cats from a stressed state,13 which may be a cause of gas in felines.14
• Helps with skin conditions — Cats are prone to various skin conditions and irritations, some caused by allergies.15 Giving your pet a catnip tea bath will not only help soothe their irritated skin but may also help ward off fleas and ticks.16,17 Catnip has been proven to be more effective in repelling insects than DEET.18
The catnip plant can be transformed into different products with various uses. The herb can be sold dried or as a tea or tincture. Dried catnip may be sprinkled on scratching posts and pet beds to encourage your cat to use these items.19 Some pet toy companies also use catnip as fillers to keep cats interested in their toys.20
In humans, the tea made from dried catnip can work as a remedy for stomachache and infant colic.21 If you are interested in trying catnip tea, use the recipe below from the website New Life on a Homestead:22
- 1 tablespoon Chamomile-Catnip-Lemon Balm mixture
- 1 cup water
- Raw honey, to taste
- Create a combination of dried chamomile, catnip and lemon balm by mixing one part chamomile, two parts catnip and one part lemon balm.
- Store the mixture in an airtight container to preserve flavor and quality.
- To brew tea, add 1 tablespoon of the mixture to 1 cup of hot water.
- Let it steep for 15 to 20 minutes. Add honey to taste. Serve.
Catnip essential oil can be used medicinally or as an insect repellent. It also has relaxant, antispasmodic and allelopathic properties.23 Some of the benefits of catnip oil include:
- Repels mosquitoes — A 2011 study out of Iowa State University compared the effectiveness of catnip essential oil to that of DEET. The results showed that catnip essential oil had better spatial repellency than DEET, which only worked when used in high amounts.24
- Enhances mood — Catnip oil may mitigate certain anxiety symptoms like nightmares and restlessness. For nervous states, catnip does well when mixed with chamomile, lavender and lemon balm.25
- Aids in detox — Catnip oil has stimulant and diaphoretic properties, which help in detoxification. It also helps in ridding the body of harmful substances.26
Catnip oil is also rich in carvacrol and thymol, which are known for their antibacterial properties. Because of these components, catnip oil may be used as a traditional treatment for helping ease colds, flus and even bronchitis.27
The common method for making catnip oil is distillation, but you can also make your own infusion. I highly recommend that you buy organic catnip or use catnip that you've grown in your own backyard to be sure that no harmful fertilizers or pesticides were used in growing the plant.
Immerse the chopped leaves in coconut or olive oil (use high-quality olive oil because most of the oils that are sold in the market are adulterated with a distilled form of olive oil or other types of oil) and heat the concoction at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for two to three hours. Let cool and strain out the leaves. You can put the oil in small containers and store it in the refrigerator.28
Catnip plants thrive best in full sun, so make sure that you reserve a place for them where they don't get covered in other plants' shade. The soil where they're planted should also be well-drained. Because of their hardy characteristic, catnip plants may also thrive in poor soil but may not get to grow to their full plant size.
However, because this plant is highly susceptible to getting rolled on and damaged by roaming cats, protective measures are needed. You can stop your cats from attacking your plants by putting an ornamental birdcage over your catnip plants or keeping them in hanging baskets so they're at a safe distance from your cats.29
One of the questions that cat owners often ask first is, "Is catnip safe?" The good news is that this herb is safe for cats and has only minor effects on the feline's behavior, for a limited amount of time.
Note as well that not all cats are attracted to catnip. Only roughly 50 percent of the feline population is affected by its scent, so don't be alarmed if your kitty isn't attracted to the herb.30 Cats that are attracted to catnip, on the other hand, should be supervised when introduced to the plant, as excessive catnip ingestion may lead to mild diarrhea and vomiting.31
Catnip should be avoided by pregnant women because ingesting or using it can stimulate the uterus. It may trigger a miscarriage or early labor, so don't use this herb when pregnant or if you're planning to conceive.32
There are multiple reasons you should not start smoking, or you should quit. Despite decades of warnings by the U.S. Surgeon General, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to call tobacco the “single largest preventable cause of cancer and disease in the United States.”1
Today, cigarette smoking kills more than 480,000 people every year and nearly 41,000 from exposure to secondhand smoke.2 There are short-term and long-term side effects. Smoking stains your teeth, changes your physical appearance and increases your risk of gum disease and tooth loss.
After years of smoking, you'll experience irreversible health damage to your heart, brain, respiratory system and reproductive health. The good news is when you stop smoking the beneficial changes begin in the first 24 hours and continue to mount over the coming days, weeks and years as your body clears out the damage done by nicotine and hundreds of other chemicals.3
Smoking also severely impacts the environment. While you might have thought cigarettes were completely biodegradable, it turns out the filters are made of plastic — not paper or biodegradable fibers — that can take up to 10 years to decompose.4
Marketing Tool Greatest Contributor to Plastic Pollution
In the 1950s, fears of lung cancer emerged. At this point cigarette companies initiated a shift in design from unfiltered to filtered cigarettes in an effort to allay fears of consumers.5 Tobacco smoke from cigarettes contain nearly 250 harmful chemicals, including heavy metals, arsenic, benzene, formaldehyde and polonium-210, a radioactive chemical element.6
Cigarette filters were reportedly engineered to reduce lung cancer by blocking toxic exposure. However, this created a problem for cigarette companies as the filter also reduced the smoker’s level of satisfaction with the cigarette.
In response, the companies redesigned the filters so they were not as effective, essentially creating a marketing tool in an attempt to assure smokers of the health benefits associated with filters, while still giving the smoker the nicotine hit. These claims were called fraudulent by the World Health Organization (WHO).7
While filters do block some toxins, they also make smoking smoother, encouraging smokers to puff more frequently and smoke more cigarettes. The tobacco industry recruited smokers under the guise that filtered cigarettes would protect their health.
However, when scientists analyzed the number of lung cancers based on the year of birth, they found the most common type of lung cancer in the 1960s and 1970s was squamous cell carcinoma, accounting for two-thirds of the cases. Today, with an increasing number smoking filtered cigarettes, the rate of adenocarcinoma is increasing.8
Dr. David Wilson, pulmonologist at the University of Pittsburgh, comments the survival rates of the two types are nearly the same, demonstrating there is no persuasive evidence filters “have a beneficial impact on overall lung cancer survival."9 However, while the filters don't improve a smoker's health, they do have a significant negative impact on the environment.
European Union Cracks Down on Plastics and Cigarette Butts
Although plastic straws and bags receive widespread attention, an even larger problem are the plastic filters on cigarette butts. Today, they rank as the most littered item in the world. Nearly 6 trillion cigarettes are manufactured each year and over 90 percent of them contain plastic filters.10
Some cities have levied fees on cigarette packets to fund street cleaning, and others have levied fees against those who litter. Although some experts advocate for the development and implementation of biodegradable filters, others believe these also contain toxins that take a long time to degrade, and biodegradable cigarettes may increase littering as smokers feel “permitted” to drop them into the environment.
In late 2018, the European Parliament11 proposed widespread reduction in plastic use, including reducing plastic in tobacco products by 50 percent by 2025, bumping this to 80 percent by 2030. These targets were later rejected in lieu of tobacco companies being made responsible for funding campaigns to raise awareness about the problem of cigarette butt litter.
More recently, the European Chemical Agency12 proposed phasing out over 39,000 tons of plastics per year intentionally added into the environment, beginning in 2020. These include microplastic fibers and fragments in cigarette filters, cosmetics, detergents and coatings.13
This draft targets microplastics not considered necessary, but have been added for convenience or profit. Although the U.K. imposed a limited ban on plastic microbeads, the measure by the European Union is more comprehensive.
A scientific committee will review the proposal for slightly over a year before sending their opinion to the European Commission. At that time, the Commission will have three months to prepare legislation and it could take up to eight months after this before the use restrictions would come into force.14
WHO Calls Cigarette Butts the Most Acceptable Form of Littering
The Truth Initiative15 believes visible cigarette litter is so commonplace, even in areas where smoking rates have gone down, in part because they take so many years to decompose. Even under the most optimal conditions, it takes at least nine months for a cigarette butt to decompose and in many cases it takes years.
Unfortunately, littering is also one of the most common ways smokers dispose of their butts. Some communities have attempted to curb cigarette litter with disposable receptacles and smoke-free policies. But, littering is so common nearly 75 percent of smokers report doing it and studies estimate as much as 65 percent of all cigarette butts are littered.16
According to the WHO,17 tossing a cigarette butt out your car window or on the ground is one of the most acceptable forms of littering. Many are stubbed out on the pavement or dropped into gutters where they're carried through storm drains to rivers, streams and oceans.
Decreasing smoking rates may contribute to a lack of public awareness, especially in geographical areas more prone to experiencing a reduction in smoking rates. Santa Cruz County Tobacco Education Coalition Cochair, Rachel Kippen, comments:18
“Most of us have used a plastic bag or plastic straw, so we feel a sense of responsibility for how those products are revised, reused or recycled to be more environmentally friendly. However, most of us don’t smoke. In fact, less than 12 percent of California residents smoke. That leaves 88 percent wondering how to make a difference.”
According to Ocean Conservancy, the results of the 2017 International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) reports for the first time, in more than 30 years of the ICC, the top 10 items collected around the world were made of plastic.19
More than 780,000 volunteers in more than 100 countries collected 20.5 million pounds of trash. Cigarette butts topped a list that also included food wrappers, plastic beverage bottles, bottle caps and plastic grocery bags.
Plastics Damaging and Killing Aquatic Life
In a recent study published in the BMJ,20 scientists evaluated the effect cigarette butts are having on aquatic life. They placed fish in water where cigarette butts had been soaked and then removed. After four days, half the fish had died, demonstrating deadly toxins from the butts seep into the environment.21
Small pieces of plastic found in fibers or fragments and microbeads are also making their way into wild-caught and farmed fish alike. Fish appear to be confused by small plastic debris in the ocean and seek it out for food. In one study, scientists found behavioral evidence marine organisms are attracted to the chemical signature in plastic debris.22
Fish that feed by filtering sea water for plankton are ingesting large amounts of plastic, blocking their ability to absorb nutrients and having toxic side effects.23 By examining the bodies of beached whales, scientists have found large pieces of plastic, but the effects of microplastics, though less obvious, may be just as harmful.
According to the United Nations, at least 800 species around the world are affected by marine debris, 80 percent of which is plastic. Not all damage is done from ingestion as sea creatures can also become entangled in plastic debris, causing suffocation, starvation and drowning. A recent study found sea turtles ingesting just 14 pieces of plastic have an increased risk of death.24
Fish in the Pacific Northwest eat up to 24,000 tons of plastic each year, causing intestinal injury and death. The plastic also bioaccumulates up the food chain, often landing on your food plate. In a recent study25 of California fish markets, researchers found 25 percent of fish had plastic microfibers in their gut.
Microplastics Found in Tap Water, Bottled Water and Food Sources
Research commissioned by media outlet Orb revealed alarming data about plastic pollution in tap water, with 83 percent of samples tested worldwide coming back as contaminated. In the U.S., 94 percent of tap water samples were found to contain plastic — the most out of all the locations tested.26
For example, 16 fibers in tap water taken at the visitor’s center in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., along with fibers in samples taken from Trump Tower in New York, were part of the findings. Plastic fibers were also found in water taken from Indonesia, India, Ecuador, Uganda, England and Lebanon.
Orb noted six primary sources of “invisible plastics,”27 one of which is synthetic microfibers from clothing, up to 1 million tons of which are released during washing each year. It’s unknown what the environmental effects of microfiber pollution may be, but their irregular shape may make them harder for marine life to excrete than other microplastics such as microbeads.
Researchers at the State University of New York also tested 259 bottles of 11 popular bottled water brands for the presence of microscopic plastic.28 Brands included Aquafina, Nestle Pure Life, Evian, Dasani and San Pelligerino. On average, the bottled water tested contained 325 pieces of microplastic per liter; just over 10 of those pieces were at least 100 microns in size, the rest were smaller.
Much of the research on microplastic pollution focuses on marine environments, but the toxins are also likely accumulating on land. According to research published in Science of the Total Environment,29 “Annual plastic release to land is estimated at four to 23 times that released to oceans.”
The use of sewage sludge, or biosolids, as fertilizer may be particularly problematic, as it is basically made up of whatever’s left over after sewage is treated and processed.
Become Part of the Solution Instead of Part of the Problem
On a global scale, a variety of efforts are underway to curb plastic waste and pollution. From turning plastic waste into liquid fuel to creating synthetic fibers that don’t shed, enterprising entrepreneurs are seeking ways to keep plastics out of the environment. Some manufacturers are also looking to create easily recycled packaging materials.30
You can take a stand on an individual level, making a conscious choice to use less plastic and stop littering. To become part of the solution instead of part of the problem, consider taking the following steps:31
Stop the litter — If you smoke, consider stopping. While it is a difficult addiction to break, it is also a dangerous habit to continue. Don’t throw cigarette butts or any other litter out your car window or on the ground.
Avoid using plastic bags — This includes plastic sandwich bags. Consider purchasing reusable produce bags for produce you purchase at the store or farmers market and insulated reusable grocery bags for your shopping.
Avoid disposable straws — Choose reusable straws made from widely available stainless steel, bamboo and even glass.
Wash synthetic clothes less frequently — When you do wash, use a gentle cycle to reduce the number of fibers released; consider using products to catch laundry fibers in your washing machine.
Choose a nonplastic toothbrush — Alternatives include toothbrushes made from bamboo or flax.
Avoid disposable plastic bottles — Bring your own reusable glass bottle instead, reducing plastic waste and your exposure to plastic pollution.
Washing paint brushes — Capture rinse water in a jar and dispose of it at your local landfill in designated spots for paint (don’t let it go down the drain).
Make your own paint — You can make your own milk paint instead of plastic-based latex and acrylics by “add[ing] lemon juice to skim milk and filter out the curd, adding natural pigment to what is left.”32
Many women don't consider how feminine hygiene products are made. If the brand says cotton on the label, most automatically think it's safe. Since feminine hygiene products are classified as medical devices, companies do not have to release materials used in the product. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only regulates tampon absorbency, so all must meet the same guidelines.
Any chemicals, fragrances or plastics used in the manufacturing of the product do not have to be disclosed. However, these products sit right up against your skin, the largest organ in your body and also the thinnest. Less than one-tenth inch separates your body from potential toxins. What’s worse, the skin around your vaginal area is highly permeable.
Medication patches are used to deliver drugs through the skin, which is why I'm fond of saying, “Don't put anything on your body that you wouldn't eat if you had to.” When chemicals come in direct contact with your skin they are absorbed straight into your bloodstream, without the benefit of being filtered through your gastrointestinal tract.
According to Girls Helping Girls Period,1 approximately 70 percent of menstruating women use tampons, amounting to more than 16,000 tampons during her lifetime. But, there's been very little research to confirm or refute their safety.
Alexandra Scranton, Women's Voices for the Earth’s director of science and research, says tampons2 "are not just your average cosmetics because they are used on an exceptionally sensitive and absorbent part of a woman's body.”
Tampons, Pads and Diapers Polluted With Phthalates and VOCs
A recent study published in Reproductive Toxicology3 confirms the results of a previous study4 from 2014 demonstrating how the feminine care industry sells products containing harmful chemicals, including pesticides, fragrances, dyes and preservatives.
In this most recent study,5 researchers measured three volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and four phthalates in commercial sanitary pads and diapers. The air inside the packaging was also measured and contained as high as 5.9 parts per billion (ppb) of VOCs.
The researchers found a considerable variability in measurements of VOCs and phthalates between brands. Researchers and advocates believe this uncovers a significant gap in regulation of diapers and is characteristic of societies’ discomfort discussing women's reproductive health. However, the authors believe:6
"The physical location of the exposure site, the high absorption rate of the genitalia for chemicals, and the long-term exposure period demand a thorough investigation on the potential impact of the exposure to VOCs and phthalates."
Sanitary pads and diapers are made of synthetic plastics, and while the study did not name the brands tested, products were collected from Japan, Finland, France, Greece and the United States. The researchers found the VOC methylene chloride in two brands of sanitary pads, toluene in nine, and xylene in all 11 brands tested.
In testing for phthalates, they found two types in all 11 brands of sanitary pads and all four brands of diapers. All four brands of diapers tested also contained the VOCs toluene and xylene. Scranton, who was not a part of the study, pointed out there were significant differences between the brands, when it came to the levels of the compounds found.
She believes these differences indicate there are a variety of ways to manufacture pads and diapers, and there is something intentionally being done during manufacturing to increase the levels of toxins.7 For instance, there was nearly a 6,000fold difference in levels of VOCs between brands and a 130fold difference between the highest levels of phthalates in sanitary pads and the lowest.
Women Exposed to Toxins at Least 7.5 Years of Their Lives
Used internally, the absorption of chemicals from tampons serves as a direct route to the bloodstream. In the 2014 report by Women's Voices for the Earth, researchers found contaminants in tampons could include dioxins, furans and pesticide residue, as well as meltdown polymers, super absorbent shells and chemically stiffened fibers.8
Depending upon the number of hours a tampon is used, the average 16,000 tampons used in a woman's lifetime may amount to between 7.5 and 10 years. This is a phenomenal amount of time to have products manufactured with toxic substances directly against permeable membranes.
The manufacturer’s aim is to produce a low-cost, highly absorbent material to satisfy their consumers and increase financial gain. This aim ultimately led to toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a complication from infection with Staphylococcal or Streptococcal infection.
The commercial tampon hit the shelves in 1930 and by 1970 manufacturers were in a race to give tampons an edge over sanitary pads.9 Deodorant tampons, plastic domed applicators and ultra-absorbent products were manufactured and released.
In 1978, Procter & Gamble began selling Rely, made of a fully synthetic, hyperabsorbent food-grade thickener. By May 1980 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had 55 cases of TSS reported, with the number continuing to mount.10
By June 1981 researchers had identified continuous use of tampons as a risk factor and found a link between the ultra-absorbent Rely tampon and the outbreak of cases.
However, even after Rely was taken off the shelves, women continued to suffer from TSS, and reports of TSS and allergic reactions have led to a growing movement for transparency and disclosure of ingredients in both the U.S. and abroad.
Toxic Shock Syndrome
Today's tampons contain a blend of cotton, rayon and synthetic fibers. Most cotton is genetically engineered (GE), and while the risks are unknown, inserting GE cotton into your vagina several times each month is likely no different from ingesting GE food. Pesticide contamination and any number of undisclosed chemicals and by-products also contribute to your risk of exposure to toxins.
It's important to remember, regardless of what they're made of, tampons create a favorable environment for bacterial growth and micro tears in the vaginal wall, allowing bacteria to enter your body and accumulate. TSS can be life-threatening and is not predictable.
Read more about some of the other mystery ingredients in tampons, why your tampons are white, how to identify the symptoms of TSS and how to reduce your potential for experiencing the condition, in my previous article, “This Life-Threatening "Tampon Syndrome" Has Increased 5 Times Over Recent Months.”
Babies Exposed to Toxins by Diaper Manufacturers
Dr. Leo Trasande, professor in the department of pediatrics, environmental medicine and population health at New York University and a renowned leader in children's environmental health, comments on the effects of these chemicals in this short video. (He was not part of the study.)
Samples of diapers for the featured study were gathered recently and indicate the focus on phthalates in children's toys has not reached the manufacturing process for diapers.
Trasande believes11 very few studies have looked at infant exposure to these chemicals but points out exposure directly to the genitals is worrisome, since phthalates have a history of inhibiting male sex hormone testosterone.
Phthalates have also been associated with abnormal genital development in boys with prenatal exposure. Although health advocates have asked for stricter regulation on baby diapers for years, they are not considered medical devices by the FDA and therefore do not need to undergo medical testing to prove their safety.
The cost of using disposable diapers does not end there. It's estimated a baby will use between 6,500 and 10,000 diapers before potty training at around 30 months of age. This can cost nearly $3,000 per child if you use disposable diapers and wipes.12
This generates 7.6 billion pounds of garbage and accounts for the third largest consumer item in landfills. It takes hundreds of years for disposable diapers to decompose when exposed to the sunlight and air, but since they are dumped into landfills and covered, experts are unsure how many years it could actually take, or how much of the toxins used in manufacturing reaches groundwater supplies.
Exposure to VOCs and Phthalates Have Short- and Long-Term Health Consequences
Many of the smells you associate with new carpet, new cars and some cleaning supplies are a sure sign the products are releasing toxic VOCs linked to headaches, nausea, nerve problems and irritation of your eyes, nose and throat. In the long term, VOCs have been linked to an increased risk of cancer in animal studies and reduction in lung function in humans.
Unfortunately, these chemicals are not only found in tampons, sanitary pads and diapers, but also in makeup, perfume and plastics. In other words, VOCs are in a number of products you likely use every day, and contribute to a rising problem with indoor air pollution that may be as dangerous, or more, than outdoor air pollution.
In one study13 with over 6,000 participants, researchers found women who used commercial cleaning solutions as seldom as once a week for 20 years experienced accelerated decline in lung function equivalent to those who had smoked a pack a day of cigarettes for 20 years.
Phthalates are endocrine disruptors and found in everything from cosmetics to shower curtains, food and household cleaners. They're used to make plastics more flexible and durable, but are not strongly bound to the product. With heat, they tend to leach out and dissipate. Tampons and diapers increase your risk of exposure, as they spend hours up against your body, at nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Chemicals that disrupt the endocrine system have been linked with testicular cancer, low sperm counts, genital malformations and infertility in a number of animal species. Pregnant women exposed to phthalates also experience an increased risk of miscarriage.14 Other studies found pregnant women with high levels of phthalates delivered babies at higher risk of developing asthma.15
Phthalates are also found in paperboard, cellophane and plastics that come into contact with food. Despite overwhelming demonstration of toxic effects on adults, children and developing babies, the use of endocrine disrupting chemicals is perfectly legal.
Consider Using Reusable Applicators and Organic Cotton Protection
Switching to organic cotton protection for your menstrual periods and for your baby’s diapers reduces your exposure to ubiquitous chemicals known to accumulate in your body and trigger dangerous health conditions. By reducing your exposure you potentially reduce your risk of disease.
Dame is one company committed to innovating feminine care, including the development of a reusable tampon. Celia Pool, cofounder of Dame, explained the criteria they used to create the product:16
“We ensured the design was familiar and intuitive, so women did not have to compromise on the convenience of established rituals. For example, we knew that hygiene could be a significant barrier to entry, so we worked with leading microbiologists and medical engineers and used the best medical grade, antimicrobial materials on the market.
As a result, the consumer only has to rinse the applicator in cold water after use to keep it clean. These are simple steps, requiring minimal habit change, but that in turn contribute to significant environmental change.”
Along with phthalates, dioxins, furans, VOCs and a number of other chemicals, the products are bleached to make them white. It is not necessary to take chances with questionable materials. My Premium Personal Care line includes organic cotton tampons, panty liners and sanitary pads with organic cotton, without chlorine, synthetic materials, perfumes or scents.
Also consider switching to organic cotton cloth diapers for your baby. They are a great way to save money, reduce waste and save multiple trips to the store. Pocket diapers have a waterproof, reusable outer cover accommodating a hemp liner and allowing you to customize absorbency. Organic cloth diapers are eco-friendly, sustainable and versatile.17
Despite the controversy swirling around Facebook and its founder Mark Zuckerberg in recent years, the social media platform keeps growing. As of December 31, 2018, Facebook had 2.32 billion active users1 around the world, up from 2.27 billion2 at the end of the third quarter that year.
This does include an estimated 83 million fake profiles,3 though, which is just one of the many hazards of Facebook. It should come as no surprise at this point that Facebook is monetizing your involvement with the site.4 As the saying goes, "There's no free lunch," and this certainly applies here.
Facebook Primary 'Product' Is You
Your hobbies, habits and preferences are meticulously tracked by the site,5 and your personal data is then sold to whomever wants access to it — ostensibly for targeted marketing purposes, but there are no real safeguards in place to prevent scammers and even political agents from using the data, as detailed in Frontline's "The Facebook Dilemma," featured above.
In it, Frontline PBS correspondent James Jacoby investigates Facebook's influence over the democracy of nations, and the lax privacy parameters that allowed for tens of millions of users' data to be siphoned off and used in an effort to influence the U.S. elections.
The problem is, Facebook has repeatedly been caught mishandling users' data and/or lying about its collection practices, and it seems precious little is being done to really correct these shortcomings.
Its entire profit model is based on the selling of personal information that facilitates everything from targeted advertising to targeted fraud. For individuals who start using Facebook at a young age, the lifetime data harvest is likely to be inconceivably large, giving those who buy or otherwise access that information an extraordinarily comprehensive picture of the individual in question.
Facebook even has the ability to access your computer or smartphone's microphone without your knowledge.6 If you suddenly find yourself on the receiving end of ads for products or services you just spoke about out loud, chances are one or more apps are linked into your microphone and are eavesdropping.
The Origin of Facebook Speaks Volumes
While Zuckerberg insists that Facebook was created "to make the world more open and connected," and "give people the power to build community,"7 his early foray into social media could hardly be called altruistic.
A front-runner to Facebook was a "hot or not" site called FaceMash,8 where people voted on the attractiveness of Harvard students' photos — photos which, according to Tech Crunch, were obtained and used without permission.9 As noted in Tech Crunch:10
"Blogging about what you were doing as you did it, you wrote:11 'I almost want to put some of these faces next to pictures of some farm animals and have people vote on which is more attractive.' Just in case there was any doubt as to the ugly nature of your intention.
The seeds of Facebook's global business were thus sown in a crude and consentless game of clickbait whose idea titillated you so much you thought nothing of breaching security, privacy, copyright and decency norms just to grab a few eyeballs …
[T]he core DNA of Facebook's business sits in that frat boy discovery where your eureka internet moment was finding you could win the attention jackpot by pitting people against each other."
Indeed, the Frontline report starts out showing early video footage of Zuckerberg in his first office, complete with a beer keg and graffiti on the walls, talking about the surprising success of his social media platform. At the time, in 2005, Facebook had just hit 3 million users.
The video also shows Zuckerberg giving an early Harvard lecture, in which he states that it's "more useful to make things happen and apologize later than it is to make sure you dot all your i's now, and not get stuff done." As noted by Roger McNamee, an early Facebook investor, it was Zuckerberg's "renegade philosophy and disrespect for authority that led to the Facebook motto, 'Move fast and break things.'"
While that motto speaks volumes today, "It wasn't that they intended to do harm, as much as they were unconcerned about the possibility that harm would result," McNamee says. Today, one has to wonder whether lack of concern is truly the core problem. Increasingly, it appears Facebook's leadership know exactly what they're doing, and the harm — especially the harm they expose users to — appears intentional.
Facebook Fact-Checkers Have Lost Trust in the Site
In a December 2018 article in The Guardian,12 Sam Levin reported that a number of journalists hired as fact-checkers for the site have quit, saying "the company has ignored their concerns and failed to use their expertise to combat misinformation."
One of them, Brooke Binkowski, told Levin that Facebook is "not taking anything seriously," and "are more interested in making themselves look good and passing the buck."13 She also said she "strongly believe[s] that they are spreading fake news on behalf of hostile foreign powers and authoritarian governments as part of their business model."
Binkowski used to be the managing editor of Snopes, a fact-checking site partnered with Facebook for two years. She has since quit Snopes and started her own fact-checking site. Another Snopes content manager also left the company due to frustrations over Snopes dealings with Facebook, saying she thought Facebook was trying to give the "appearance of trying to prevent damage without actually doing anything."
She also discovered Snopes was being paid by Facebook, which she felt was "really gross," as the two companies "have completely different missions." The fact that Snopes employees are disgusted over Facebook's apparent disinterest in the facts seems ironic in and of itself, considering Snopes itself has repeatedly come under fire for being ill-equipped to discern facts from lies due to apparent biases.
Most recently, Snopes' fact-checking of a vaccine injury report by former CBS correspondent Sharyl Attkisson got an "F," as they were clearly going to great lengths to simply discredit the report and not actually looking at the factual basis behind it.
According to Attkisson, "[T]he Snopes article debunks claims that were never made and uses one-sided references as its sources — other propagandists — without disclosing their vaccine industry ties."14 The fact of the matter is, Snopes engages in massive censorship of natural health, and promotes industry talking points regardless of what the scientific reality is.
Facebook Accused of Creating Propaganda
Facebook is also accused of hiring Definers Public Affairs, a PR firm whose use of "anti-Semitic narrative to discredit critics" — in this case a group of protesters called Freedom From Facebook — created "the same kind of propaganda fact-checkers regularly debunk."15
According to The Guardian,16 Facebook's media partners (about 40 in all, located across the globe) are split in their views about their fact-checking relationship with Facebook. While some believe it's a positive step, others claim to have:
" … [G]rown increasingly resentful of Facebook, especially following revelations that the company had paid a consulting firm to go after opponents by publicizing their association with billionaire Jewish philanthropist George Soros.
The attacks fed into a well-known conspiracy theory about Soros being the hidden hand behind all manner of liberal causes and global events. It was later revealed that Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer, had directed her staff to research Soros' financial interests after he publicly criticized the company.
'Why should we trust Facebook when it's pushing the same rumors that its own fact-checkers are calling fake news?' said a current Facebook fact-checker … 'It's worth asking how do they treat stories about George Soros on the platform knowing they specifically pay people to try to link political enemies to him?'"
A November 15, 2018, article in Tech Crunch reported on the PR scandal, saying:17
"Facebook is facing calls to conduct an external investigation into its own lobbying and PR activities by an aide to billionaire George Soros …
The call follows an explosive investigation, published yesterday by the New York Times based on interviews with more than 50 sources on the company, which paints an ugly picture of how Facebook's leadership team responded to growing pressure over election interference … including by engaging an external firm to lobby aggressively on its behalf."
Facebook leaders deny the allegations — Zuckerberg going so far as to claim he didn't even know his company was working with Definers, or who had hired them.18 Facebook reportedly severed ties with the PR firm shortly after the publication of The New York Times article.
This call for an investigation into Facebook's PR activities came on the heels of a call for a privacy audit by the European parliament, following the revelation that Facebook allowed Cambridge Analytica to misuse users' data in an effort to influence the U.S. presidential election. November 16, 2018, Wired added to the ongoing story, stating:19
"Freedom From Facebook has garnered renewed attention this week, after The New York Times revealed that Facebook employed an opposition firm called Definers to fight the group Definers reportedly urged journalists to find links between Freedom From Facebook and billionaire philanthropist George Soros, a frequent target of far-right, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.
That direct connection didn't materialize. But where Freedom From Facebook did come from — and how Facebook countered it — does illustrate how seemingly grassroots movements in Washington aren't always what they first appear."
According to Wired, Freedom From Facebook was the idea of former hedge fund executive David Magerman, who approached the Open Markets Institute, a think tank headed by Barry Lynn, an outspoken critic of monopolies such as Google and Facebook.
The group has also formed coalitions with other progressive groups, including Citizens Against Monopoly (a nonprofit founded by Open Markets Institute), Jewish Voice for Peace and the Communications Workers of America. In all, the Freedom From Facebook coalition now includes a dozen groups, all of which, according to Open Markets Institute director Sarah Miller, "organize around this fundamental principle that Facebook is too powerful."
Facebook Fact-Checkers Charged With Protecting Views of Advertisers
According to Binkowski, Facebook was also "pushing reporters to prioritize debunking misinformation that affected Facebook advertisers."20 This comes as no surprise to me, seeing how my site has been on the receiving end of that agenda.
Below is a screenshot of a Facebook post for one of my Splenda articles, which based on "fact-checking" by Snopes was classified as "False,"21 thereby reducing its potential views by an average of 80 percent.22 This despite the fact that I'm reporting published, peer-reviewed science.
NewsGuard — Another Biased Arbiter of Truth
Another fact-checking site that is positioning itself as a global arbiter of credibility is NewsGuard. A recent article23 in Slate highlights the ramifications of getting a poor NewsGuard rating, as the company has partnered with Microsoft to incorporate its ratings as a feature in Microsoft's Edge browser.
If a user has the setting enabled, each and every search result, plus all media posts in their Facebook and Twitter feeds, will display NewsGuard's credibility rating of the site in question. NewsGuard has also partnered with the public library system, so that all library computers will display the ratings.
The Daily Mail Online — one of the world's largest online newspapers — scored just 3 out of 9 possible criteria, earning them a "red" NewsGuard label, which warns readers that "This website generally fails to maintain basic standards of accuracy and accountability."
A spokesman for the Daily Mail said, "We have only very recently become aware of the NewsGuard startup and are in discussions with them to have this egregiously erroneous classification resolved as soon as possible." As noted by Slate:
"[W]hat does it mean if NewsGuard, or another fledgling credibility-rating project, begins to wield outsize influence over which news organizations garner the most trust on the internet? …
[T]he Mail's run-in with NewsGuard may presage a new phase: one in which the big tech platforms' algorithms begin to incorporate measures of a news outlet's trustworthiness, while a handful of startups and nonprofits vie to be the arbiters behind those ratings.
The trust industry is quietly taking shape. Should we trust it? … It's … possible to imagine a nightmare scenario in which the ratings authorities become too powerful, their subjective decisions baked into every algorithm and profoundly shaping what people read.
Media companies would try to game the green shields the same way they gamed Facebook's algorithm — or worse, curry favor or influence behind the scenes."
The Credibility War — The Latest Attempt to Stifle Big Business Competition
Indeed, I would argue there's simply no way one can trust any given organization or company to dictate credibility and preside over what's true and what's not. There are typically two or more sides to any story, and money can easily tip the scales on which side gets to be "true" and which is deemed "false."
In the case of NewsGuard, one does not need to have prophetic vision to see the future writing on the wall. All you have to do is take a look at where its funding is coming from, and you'll realize the organization is ripe with bias already.
Aside from internet giants Microsoft24 and Google — one of the largest monopolies in the world — NewsGuard is backed by companies that are involved in advertising and marketing of pharmaceutical products, cigarettes and unhealthy junk food to kids.25,26,27,28,29,30,31,32,33 (To learn more, see "The New Plan to Censor Health Websites.")
Are we really to believe that the profit preferences of such entities will have no influence on NewsGuard's ratings of individuals, organizations and companies that criticize the safety or effectiveness of those products?
In the final analysis, it appears NewsGuard is just another big business aimed at keeping the chemical, drug and food industries, as well as mainstream media, intact by discrediting and eliminating unwanted competition, which likely includes yours truly and many others who empower you with information that helps you take control of your health.
Is It Time to Forget Facebook? Take the Survey Below and Let Me Know.
Over time, I've become increasingly disenchanted with Facebook myself, and I wonder if perhaps I'm doing more harm than good by being a part of it. There's no denying that by being on Facebook, you're exposing yourself to privacy intrusions.
Then again, as described by Tech Crunch,34 these intrusions will continue to occur even after you close your Facebook account, and take place even if you never had one in the first place. In the end, it seems the very existence of Facebook is the problem. As Tech Crunch notes, "Essentially, Facebook's founder is saying that the price for Facebook's existence is pervasive surveillance of everyone, everywhere, with or without your permission."
You may want to consider taking a sabbatical from Facebook. According to a recent study35 by researchers at New York University and Stanford, Facebook users report feeling happier and more satisfied with life after leaving the platform for a month. They were also less likely to report feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness — a finding that supports the idea that social media is a poor substitute for actual face-to-face interactions.
Still, I'm seriously considering leaving the platform, and devising other ways to stay in touch with readers. Before I do that, however, I am conducting a survey below to get a feel for what you think about my presence there. Take the survey now to let me know your thoughts.
According to the latest statistics1 by the American Heart Association (AHA), nearly half (48 percent) of all American adults have some form of cardiovascular disease (CVD) — a classification that includes high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, heart failure and stroke — and deaths from CVD are again on the rise, after decades of being on the decline.
In 2016, there were 840,678 recorded deaths from CVD in the U.S., up from 836,546 the year before. The rise in prevalence of CVD, however, is primarily driven by updated blood pressure guidelines, which as of 2017 identify a blood pressure over 130/80 mm Hg as hypertensive, whereas before the cutoff was 140/90 mm Hg.
According to the AHA, about 80 percent of CVD cases could be prevented by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, which includes lowering high blood pressure and high cholesterol, controlling Type 2 diabetes, avoiding smoking, exercising and maintaining a healthy weight.
To this, the AHA has now also added the recommendation to get a minimum of seven hours of sleep each night. Blood pressure remains a primary focus, however. Volunteer president of the AHA said in a press release:2
"As one of the most common and dangerous risk factors for heart disease and stroke, this overwhelming presence of high blood pressure can't be dismissed from the equation in our fight against cardiovascular disease.
Research has shown that eliminating high blood pressure could have a larger impact on CVD deaths than the elimination of all other risk factors among women and all except smoking among men."
Cholesterol Is Not a Culprit in CVD
While I agree with four of the AHA's suggestions, high cholesterol has been repeatedly found to not be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and higher cholesterol may actually be healthier than lower levels. Three to some degree interrelated factors that have a far greater influence on your cardiovascular health are:
Elevated iron levels will significantly contribute to inflammation, but even if your iron is normal, chronic inflammation can be caused by a wide range of factors, starting with your diet. Your diet is also the key factor at play when it comes to your insulin level, and can worsen the effects of iron overload.
High Iron Significantly Raises Your Risk of CVD
Most people, including doctors, fail to recognize that excess iron causes significant biological harm. When iron reacts with hydrogen peroxide, which is produced as a normal part of energy production in your mitochondria, hydroxyl free radicals are formed. These are among the most damaging free radicals known, causing severe mitochondrial dysfunction, which in turn is at the heart of most chronic degenerative diseases.
Importantly, elevated ferritin has been linked to dysfunctional glucose metabolism,4 raising the risk of diabetes fivefold in men and fourfold in women, a magnitude of correlation similar to that of obesity.5 High ferritin also doubles your risk of metabolic syndrome,6 a condition associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.
If you eat excessive processed foods and net carbs (total carbs minus fiber) the situation is further exacerbated, as burning carbs as your primary fuel can add another 30 to 40 percent more reactive oxygen species on top of the hydroxyl free radicals generated by the presence of high iron.
A meta-analysis7 published in 2013 found that 27 of 55 published studies demonstrated a positive relationship between iron and CVD, with higher iron levels being linked to higher risk of disease. Twenty of the studies found no significant relationship, and only eight reported a negative relationship, with higher iron levels being associated with lower risk of disease.
For example, a Scandinavian study found elevated ferritin levels raised men's risk of heart attack two- to threefold. In another, people with high ferritin were five times more likely to suffer a heart attack than those with normal levels.
A third found elevated ferritin doubled the risk of heart attack. Importantly, in this study they found that each 1 percent increase in ferritin raised the risk of heart attack by 4 percent, and the only risk factor that weighed heavier than ferritin was smoking.
Canadian scientists have also evaluated the link between serum iron (opposed to serum ferritin) to heart attack risk, as ferritin is not a perfect marker for iron status. They too found that higher iron raised the risk of heart attack in men twofold, and fivefold in women.
Two Tests That Reveal More About Your CVD Risk Than Cholesterol
Rather than focusing on cholesterol, two tests that are far more important for assessing your CVD risk are the serum ferritin and gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT) tests. The GGT test can be used as a screening marker for excess free iron and is a great indicator of your sudden cardiac death risk. The recommended, ideal levels, of ferritin and GGT are as follows:
• Ferritin — Adult men and nonmenstruating women: 30 to 40 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) or 75 to 100 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L8).
The most commonly used threshold for iron deficiency in clinical studies is 12 to 15 ng/mL (30 to 37 nmol/L).9 You do not want to be below 20 ng/mL (50 nmol/L) or above 80 ng/mL (200 nmol/L). High iron during pregnancy is also problematic; having a level of 60 or 70 ng/mL (150 or 175 nmol/L) is associated with greater odds of poor pregnancy outcomes.
• GGT — Below 16 units per liter (U/L) for men and below 9 U/L for women. Above 25 U/L for men and 18 U/L for women, your risk of chronic disease increases significantly.
Ferritin and GGT are interactive, and low GGT tends to be protective against higher ferritin. So, if your GGT is low, you're largely protected even if your ferritin is a bit higher than ideal. Still, it would still be wise to take steps to lower your ferritin to a more ideal level. On the other hand, even if your ferritin is low, having elevated GGT levels is cause for concern and needs to be addressed.
Other tests that can help you evaluate your CVD risk include an NMR LipoProfile, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, fasting insulin, fasting blood sugar, your HDL/cholesterol ratio and triglyceride/HDL ratio. For more information about these tests, "Cholesterol Does Not Cause Heart Disease."
How to Lower Your Iron and GGT
If your iron level is too high, the easiest way to lower it is to donate blood two or three times a year. If you have severe overload you may need to do more regular phlebotomies. Regular sauna use, which is an effective form of detoxification, is also helpful, as is avoiding red meat.
To lower your GGT, you'll need to implement strategies that boost glutathione, as GGT is inversely related to glutathione. As your GGT level rises, your glutathione goes down. The amino acid cysteine, found in whey protein, poultry and eggs, plays an important role in your body's production of glutathione. Red meat, which does not contain cysteine, will tend to raise GGT, as will alcohol, so both should be avoided.10
Research also suggests eating at least 10 servings of fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C, fiber, beta-carotene, anthocyanins and folate per week can help reduce GGT.11
General detoxification is another important component if your GGT is high, as your liver's job is to remove toxins from your body. The fact that your GGT is elevated means your liver is under stress. For additional tips on how to lower chronic inflammation, see "Cholesterol Isn't the Problem in Heart Disease; Inflammation Is."
The Role Insulin Plays in Heart Disease
According to Dr. Thomas Dayspring, a lipidologist (expert on cholesterol), most heart attacks are due to insulin resistance. In the video above, biochemical engineer Ivor Cummins explains the role insulin resistance plays in heart disease, and why cholesterol is not the problem.12
In simple layman's terms Cummins demonstrates the connection between the metabolic functionality of adipose fat — which actually acts as a signaling organ — and insulin sensitivity, and how and why:
- A metabolically healthy normal weight (MHNW) person who has good insulin sensitivity has a low risk level for cardiovascular disease (CVD)
- A metabolically obese yet normal weight (MONW) individual who is insulin resistant has a high risk
- A metabolically unhealthy obese (MUO) individual who is insulin resistant also has a high risk
- But a metabolically healthy obese (MHO) individual who has good insulin sensitivity is at low risk for CVD
In other words, there's healthy body fat and unhealthy body fat, or put another way, fat that protects your health and fat that promotes disease. The key difference is the presence or absence of insulin sensitivity. The higher your insulin resistance, the worse markers such as fasting insulin, triglyceride-HDL ratio and HbA1c will be, suggesting you're at increased risk for diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
Recent research has shown that two specific metrics — circulating adiponectin and macrophages — can with near 100 percent accuracy predict your obese phenotype, meaning whether you're obese insulin sensitive or obese insulin resistant. But what makes one person insulin sensitive and another insulin resistant? This is where your diet comes into play.
More often than not, excessive amounts of glucose from net carbs (total carbohydrates minus fiber) are what set the disease process into motion by causing your insulin level to spike. When repeated over time, your adipose fat tissue begins to lose its systemic signaling capabilities, precipitating insulin resistance.
Eventually, the high sugar load will cause your pancreas to diminish its production of insulin, and the hyperinsulinemia that prevented lipolysis of triglycerides in your fat cells will cease. Subsequently, your liver will begin to output glucose even when you're not eating, and this is when your blood glucose finally begins to skyrocket.
Prior to this, the elevated insulin actually kept the blood glucose in check. But as insulin production drops, there's nothing to prevent the blood glucose from rising anymore.
Eighty Percent of Americans Are Insulin Resistant to Some Degree
The late Dr. Joseph Kraft, former chairman of the department of clinical pathology and nuclear medicine at St. Joseph's Hospital in Chicago, wrote the book "Diabetes Epidemic and You: Should Everyone Be Tested?" In it, he presents data that suggests 80 percent of Americans are in fact insulin resistant, or have "diabetes in situ."
Based on data from 14,000 patients,13 Kraft developed a powerful predictive test for diabetes.14 He would have the patient drink 75 grams of glucose, and then measure their insulin response over time, at half-hour intervals for up to five hours.
He noticed five distinctive patterns suggesting that a vast majority of people were already diabetic, even though their fasting glucose was normal. Only 20 percent of patients had healthy post-prandial insulin sensitivity and low diabetes risk. According to Kraft, "Those with cardiovascular disease not identified with diabetes … are simply undiagnosed."
One of the take-home messages here is that insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia (a condition marked by excess insulin in your blood relative to your level of glucose) are two sides of the same coin, as they drive and promote each other. In other words, if you have hyperinsulinemia, you are essentially insulin resistant and on your way toward developing Type 2 diabetes.
In summary, both insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia promote fatty liver and high blood glucose, and both of those in turn promote atherosclerosis. High blood pressure is another side effect of insulin resistance that drives atherosclerosis by placing stress on your arteries. As noted by Cummins, most idiopathic hypertension (high blood pressure with no known cause) is now thought to be caused by hyperinsulinemia.
Hyperinsulinemia/insulin resistance promotes inflammation, causing your visceral fat to release inflammatory cytokines and systemic signaling molecules. Over time, your visceral fat becomes increasingly resistant as well, causing the systemic signaling to falter. Taken as a whole, this cascade of events drives atherogenic dyslipidemia, characterized by the now familiar culprits: high LDL cholesterol, oxidized LDL and triglycerides, and low HDL.
According to Cummins, while high LDL is a very erratic marker for heart disease risk, an elevated LDL "particle count" is actually a very good marker for insulin resistance. Thus, the LDL metrics should be more thought of as indicative of inflammatory issues, and not as the LDL itself being the problem. In their entirety, all of these factors are what flag the development of heart disease.
Three Underlying Causes of Heart Attacks
High cholesterol and blocked arteries are also the conventional explanation for why heart attacks occur.
Alas, there's plenty of evidence refuting these notions. In his 2004 book, "The Etiopathogenesis of Coronary Heart Disease,"15 the late Dr. Giorgio Baroldi wrote that the largest study done on heart attack incidence revealed only 41 percent of people who have a heart attack actually have a blocked artery and, of those, 50 percent of the blockages occur after the heart attack, not prior to it.
This means at least 80 percent of heart attacks are not associated with blocked arteries at all. According to Dr. Thomas Cowan, a practicing physician, founding board member of the Weston A. Price Foundation and author of "Human Heart, Cosmic Heart," three of the core, underlying issues that cause heart attacks are:
1. Decreased parasympathetic tone followed by sympathetic nervous system activation — Common causes for this include chronic stress, poor sleep, high blood pressure, diabetes, a high-sugar, low-fat type of diet, smoking and factors that contribute to low mitochondrial function. (In my book, "Fat for Fuel," I address a number of factors that suppress mitochondrial function, thereby leading to low sympathetic tone.)
2. Collateral circulation failure (lack of microcirculation to the heart) — To understand how the blood flows to and through your heart, check out the Riddle's Solution section on heartattacknew.com's FAQ page.16 There, you'll find detailed images of what the actual blood flow looks like.
Contrary to popular belief, blood flow is not restricted to just two, three or four coronary arteries (opinions differ on the actual number). Rather, you have a multitude of smaller blood vessels — capillaries — feeding blood into your heart, and if one or more of your main arteries get blocked, your body will automatically sprout new blood vessels to make up for the reduced flow.
In other words, your body performs its own bypass. According to Cowan, your body is "perfectly capable of bringing the blood to whatever area of the heart it needs, and as long as your capillary network is intact, you will be protected from having a heart attack."
Not surprisingly, the same factors that cause low sympathetic tone also lead to loss of microcirculation. For example, smoking has a corrosive effect on microcirculation, not just in your extremities but also your heart. A high-sugar, low-fat diet, prediabetes and diabetes, and chronic inflammation also reduce microcirculation.
One of the most effective ways to encourage and improve microcirculation is physical movement, so chronic inactivity will also deteriorate your body's ability to maintain healthy microcirculation.
Another highly effective and noninvasive treatment option that will help improve microcirculation to your heart is enhanced external counterpulsation (EECP). It's a Medicare insurance-approved therapy, and studies show EECP alone can relieve about 80 percent of angina. EECP works by inflating compression cuffs on your thighs and calves that are synchronized with your EKG.
When your heart is in diastole (relaxed), the balloons inflate, forcing blood toward your heart, thereby forcing the growth of new capillaries. It's a really powerful and safe alternative to coronary bypass surgery for most people. Rather than bypassing one or two large arteries, you create thousands of new capillary beds that supply even more blood than the bypassed vessels. To find a provider, visit EECP.com.17
3. Lactic acid buildup in the heart muscle due to impaired mitochondrial function — In essence, angina is a symptom of poor mitochondrial function, causing a buildup of lactic acid that triggers cramps and pain. When this pain and cramping occurs in your heart, it's called angina. The lactic acid buildup also restricts blood flow and makes the tissue more toxic.
Eventually, as the lactic acid continues to build up, it eventually starts interfering with the ability of calcium to get into the heart muscle. This in turn renders your heart unable to contract, which is exactly what you see on a stress echo or a nuclear thallium scan.
Statins Do More Harm Than Good for Your Heart
Unfortunately, we're wasting tens of billions of dollars on ineffective treatments and surgical procedures for heart disease in the U.S. Among them are statin drugs to lower cholesterol.
While these drugs may decrease the frequency of mild heart attacks, they will not necessarily lower your risk of heart disease or death from a major heart attack because of the damage they cause to your muscles, including your heart muscle.
Importantly, statins deplete your body of CoQ10, vitamin K2, dolichol and selenium, thereby threatening your heart and overall health even further. Statins' ability to lower the risk of minor heart attacks may actually be related to their ability to lower C-reactive protein, far more so than the lowering of cholesterol.
However, according to Dr. Duane Graveline, who himself was a victim of statin side effects and ultimately died from complications related to statin use, you only need one-tenth of the dosage, say 2 milligrams (mg) rather than 20 mg to get this anti-inflammatory benefit, and there are far safer and more effective ways to lower inflammation than taking a statin, even at a low dosage.
Statistics Reveal Stents Are Poor Solutions for CVD
Stents, a commonly performed surgical procedure used to remediate damage from coronary artery disease, are another often ill-advised "remedy" for heart disease. Three studies18,19,20 published in 2017 and 2018 reveal just how ineffective this procedure is. There are a number of parameters that are crucial for evaluating the efficacy of a treatment for heart disease, including:
- Mortality — Will the patient actually live longer as a result of that intervention?
- The risk of heart attack as a result of the intervention
- Alleviation of angina (chest pain)
Earlier research had already dismissed the use of percutaneous interventions (PCI) for most of these parameters, showing the use of stents had no impact on long-term rates of death, nonfatal myocardial infarctions (MI) or hospitalization rates for acute coronary syndrome.
The sole indication left for the use of stents was angina, as some of the findings showed it helped reduce prevalence of chest pain. Alas, these studies show even this parameter is unaffected by stent placement.
In one of these studies,21 200 participants with severe single vessel blockage were selected. During the initial six weeks, all patients underwent an exercise test followed by intensive medical treatment, after which they were randomly assigned to two groups.
The first underwent a 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. At the conclusion of the six weeks, patients again underwent an exercise test and were questioned about their symptoms.
Lo and behold, there was no difference in chest pain (angina) between the treatment group and the sham group. Both groups experienced nearly identical improvements in exercise tolerance and no difference in reported improvements of their symptoms.
How to Protect Yourself Against CVD
In summary, to protect yourself against CVD, you'll want to implement strategies that:
- Lower your insulin resistance and restore your insulin sensitivity
- Increase your parasympathetic tone and deactivate your sympathetic nervous system
- Improve microcirculation to your heart
- Improve your mitochondrial function
Here are a number of suggestions that can help you accomplish these things:
Avoid environmental pollutants and toxins, including smoking, vaping, heavy metals, herbicides and pesticides, especially glyphosate.
Minimize your exposure to electromagnetic fields and wireless radiation from cellphones, Wi-Fi, routers, smart meters and more, as this kind of radiation has been shown to cause serious free radical damage and mitochondrial dysfunction.
Eat an unprocessed whole food-based diet low in net carbs and high in healthy fats. A ketogenic diet — which is very low in net carbohydrates and high in healthy fats — is key for boosting mitochondrial function.
When your body is able to burn fat for fuel, your liver creates water-soluble fats called ketones that burn far more efficiently than carbs, thereby creating fewer reactive oxygen species and secondary free radicals. Ketones also decrease inflammation and improve glucose metabolism.22
Eat nitrate-rich foods to help normalize your blood pressure. Good sources include arugula, cilantro, rhubarb, butter leaf lettuce, mesclun mixed greens, beet greens, fresh beet juice, kvass (fermented beet juice) and fermented beet powder.
Get plenty of nonexercise movement each day; walk more and incorporate higher intensity exercise as your health allows.
Intermittently fast. After you've become accustomed to intermittently fasting for 16 to 18 hours, you can try a stricter fast once or twice a week, when you eat a 300- to 800-calorie meal loaded with detox supporting nutrients, followed by a 24-hour fast. So, in essence, you're then only eating one 300- to 800-calorie meal in 42 hours.
If you have heart disease, consider EECP. To find a provider, see EECP.com.23
If you have heart disease, you may also consider taking g-strophanthin, an adrenal hormone that helps create more parasympathetic nervous system neurotransmitters, thereby supporting your parasympathetic nervous system. It also helps flush out lactic acid. Strophanthus is the name of the plant, the active ingredient of which is called g-strophanthin in Europe, and ouabain in the United States.
Get sensible sun exposure to optimize your vitamin D status and/or take an oral vitamin D3 supplement with magnesium and vitamin K2.
Implement heart-based wellness practices such as connecting with loved ones and practicing gratitude.
Some of these strategies are also part of Dr. Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease — a lifestyle-based program that can be boiled down to "Eat well, move more, stress less and love more." This highly effective program is approved for reimbursement under Medicare's intensive cardiac rehabilitation program and many insurance companies.
Ornish details the program in his book, "Undo It! How Simple Lifestyle Changes Can Reverse Most Chronic Diseases." If you would like further guidance, you can find a listing of all the sites that have been trained and certified to teach the program on Ornish.com, along with support groups you can attend free of charge. At present, there are facilities offering the program in 18 states.