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Striking Health Benefits of Bee Propolis and Royal Jelly

 

Bees provide a vital function to sustain life on Earth. Without their tireless service through the pollination of trees and crops, we would simply not be able to put food on the table. Through pollination, the simple transfer of grains of pollen from one plant to another, bees fertilize the flowers of crops and other plants, ensuring seed production.

Some plants rely on wind, others are self-pollinating, but most need the services of natural pollinators such as honey bees. In addition to providing benefit to the agricultural industry, they also pollinate wild plants and flowers, helping preserve natural forests and a wealth of flowering plants.

An indirect benefit of honey bees, yet a crucial one, are the wild plants they pollinate which feed numerous animal species. Loss of the honeybee would mean a collapse of the natural ecosystem, beginning with vegetation and ending with the animals that rely on this vegetation as a food supply, including humans.

The process of turning flower nectar into honey is one marvel happening in the beehive. Health benefits from bee products are significant, including bee propolis and royal jelly. However, it is important the products you consume are from a pesticide-free source as products created in the hive are concentrated.

Unfortunately, this becomes more difficult each year as more farmers use neonicotinoids pesticides. In one sampling collected around the world, researchers found 75 percent of honey collected were contaminated with neonicotinoids and 45 percent contained two or more pesticides.1

Honey, Pollen, Propolis and Royal Jelly

In this interview with Chris Kresser, Carly Stein, owner of Bee Keepers Natural, describes the variety of products produced by a healthy hive, the benefits to human health and the necessity for protecting the bee population.

The first product is honey, which is a source of food for the bees, providing the insect with necessary carbohydrates. The honey is rich in enzymes and minerals and raw honey is a powerful antioxidant with natural antiviral properties.

Bee pollen is a product many have been taking for years, and is the main source of protein for the bee, used to fuel their athletic endeavors each day of carrying almost half their body weight in flower pollen back to the hive. Bee pollen is packed with vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B and more protein per gram than any animal product. In essence it is an all-natural, food-based, bioavailable nutrient boost.2

Bees make propolis from tree resin and use it to line the hive as a natural immune system, protecting the insects inside from outside germs. Propolis contains over 300 natural and powerful compounds to support immunity. Bees also line the front entrance of the hive with propolis in order to decontaminate themselves before coming in.

If honey is the carbohydrates, pollen are the proteins and propolis is the immune system, then royal jelly is the superfood of the hive. This is the substance the hive uses to create the queen bee. Within the first three days of development, all larvae are fed royal jelly. Then only one larvae, destined to become the queen, will exclusively eat royal jelly.3

The queen grows significantly larger than the rest of the bees and may lay up to 1,500 eggs a day, while other females do not develop reproductive organs. She can live three to five years, as compared to regular foraging bees, which may live only six to eight weeks.

Royal jelly has been used cross-culturally for decades. Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners use it to improve fertility and as a hormone stabilizer with known immune modulating properties. Western medicine, researchers have evaluated the effects it has on the brain, specifically on focus, memory and reducing the potential of dementia.

Effect of Royal Jelly on Brain Health

Nootropics are substances that may improve cognitive function, specifically executive function such as memory, creativity or motivation. They are sometimes called “smart drugs” as are used to improve mental performance and have gained popularity in a highly competitive society valuing speed and performance. Royal jelly is one of those substances.

Royal jelly is unique in that it contains proteins, sugars, fats and amino acids.4 However, it is the compound acetylcholine in the royal jelly that likely gives it its nootropic effects.

Acetylcholine is an abundant neurotransmitter, found in your central and peripheral nervous system. It helps to activate pain responses, regulates your endocrine system and rapid eye movement sleep function.5 Deficiencies can lead to myasthenia gravis, characterized by muscle weakness.

Although there are foods with an abundance of choline, a precursor to acetylcholine, royal jelly is the only food source containing acetylcholine. This essential nutrient is used by the brain in mood, mental alertness, concentration and memory functions, qualities that dim or are lost with cognitive impairment and dementia.

In fact, acetylcholine activity is a target of Alzheimer drugs that block the breakdown of this neurotransmitter to reduce symptoms.6 Royal jelly has a beneficial role in neural functioning and findings support the potential neuroprotective role of royal jelly.7

Oral administration of royal jelly in an animal model produced a promising avenue for ameliorating neuronal functioning through regeneration of hippocampal granule cells, necessary in the cognitive process.8

In a recent study evaluating the worldwide use of neonicotinoid pesticides and the link to the declining bee populations, researchers found the pesticides had an adverse effect on the acetylcholine the bees produced. The authors believe this is a new discovery of how the neurotoxic effects of the pesticides may be killing honeybees.9

Royal Jelly May Facilitate Stem Cell Research

Three days after a mammalian egg is fertilized, the inner cell mass can be isolated, containing embryonic stem cells designed to develop into a baby. Stem cells are pluripotent, meaning they have the ability to turn into any type of tissue in the mammal from which they came. Adult stem cells are multipotent, meaning they have the ability to form a subset of tissue but are limited.10 

In order for researchers to successfully use embryonic stem cells, they must be kept in their native state as long as possible. Since embryonic stem cells have the potential to grow into different cells serving specialized functions, they are valuable for research.

However, growing embryonic stem cells in the lab creates a challenge as their natural inclination is to quickly move out of their pluripotent state to differentiate. In a recent study11 by Stanford University scientists, the team found royalactin, also known as major royal jelly protein 1, could stop embryonic cell differentiation and keep the cells in their embryonic state for up to 20 generations in culture.

Normally, scientists use an inhibitor factor to prevent differentiation when grown in culture. The researchers also identified a protein with similar qualities found in mammals, which they named Regina. In their next step, the team plans to investigate whether this mammalian equivalent of royalactin has the ability to affect cell regeneration and wound healing in adult animals.12

Propolis, the Original Antibiotic

Stein calls propolis the original antibiotic, in reference to the strong association it has in supporting your immune system through antimicrobial action. Propolis has been used for thousands of years in folk medicine as an antimicrobial and antioxidant, and for its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.

Through the inhibition of the activity of certain enzymes that synthesize glucans from sucrose, bee propolis has been found to prevent the formation of dental plaque.13 Propolis is also used for canker sores and infections caused by bacteria, including tuberculosis and upper respiratory tract infections triggered by viruses.14

Propolis has been used for cancer of the nose and throat, for warts and for the treatment of gastrointestinal problems, including H. pylori infections in people with peptic ulcer disease. Direct application to the skin may be used for wound cleansing, genital herpes, cold sores and minor burns.15

Studies have also found oral care with propolis as a mouthwash in individuals undergoing chemotherapy helps to improve oral health, reducing symptoms of oral mucositis, common in those undergoing chemotherapy.16

In a study17 where a suspension of propolis and zinc was given to children who had recurrent acute otitis media (ear infections), researchers found it significantly reduced the risk for new episodes. Propolis was also proven effective against microbes found in saliva samples from those suffering periodontitis, suggesting it may be used therapeutically to inhibit oral microbial growth.18

A study19 evaluating the efficacy of a natural propolis extract given in cases of acute and chronic rhinopharyngitis in children found it lowered the incidence and sometimes suppressed the viral microbial flora in the upper airways. Another study20 demonstrated propolis extract was an effective treatment against pancreatitis in animals.

Benefits From Propolis at Home

Due to its anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antioxidant properties, propolis may be used to:

  • Promote oral health — Propolis contains antibacterial properties, which may be beneficial for combating gingivitis and other oral problems stemming from the abundance of bacteria in your mouth. The added antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties from propolis may help speed healing of mouth sores and other oral infections.
  • Support skin health — Propolis may be used in dermatological products due to its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. It also assists in wound healing by reducing free radical activity in the skin and promoting collagen production.21 Propolis ointments may be used to promote healing of cold sores, genital herpes and minor burns.
  • Combat infections — Propolis extracts may be taken to aid in recovering from giardiasis, H. pylori infection and oral thrush.

Contraindications and Side Effects

As a natural supplement, propolis and royal jelly are relatively safe for most people as they do not cause toxicity. However, certain contraindications stem from insufficient long-term studies and pre-existing allergies. If you fall into any of the categories below it would be best to avoid the use of these supplements.22

  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women — Due to insufficient studies proving safety during pregnancy and while nursing, it would be best to avoid bee products to avoid potential complications.
  • Asthma — Certain compounds present in propolis may make asthma worse. If you have asthma, avoid propolis supplements and/or products.
  • Bleeding disorders — Patients with blood clotting problems should not use propolis as it may slow blood clotting, increasing your risk of excessive bleeding. Patients who will undergo surgery should also stop taking propolis a few weeks before their scheduled procedure.
  • Allergies to bee byproducts — People with allergies to bee products should avoid propolis, royal jelly, honey and bee pollen.

How You Can Help Improve the Bee Population

Entomologists around the world are tracking the rapidly declining number of insects, and are concerned by the data they're collecting. As noted by the distinguished Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson, Ph.D.:23

"If all humankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed 10,000 years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos."

If you are unsure of how the collapse of bee colonies may affect you, consider when one Whole Food store removed all produce from plants dependent on pollinators, it ended up pulling 52 percent of its produce from the store shelves, including apples, lemons, onions, broccoli and melons.24

More than 700 bee species are headed toward extinction in North America, according to a report from the Center for Biological Diversity.25 A variety of factors influence this decline, not the least of which is the use of pesticides, which significantly alter the population’s growth, which I discussed in “Latest Major Threat to Bees and Trees.”

Over the 2015-2016 winter, more than 28 percent of bee colonies were lost, representing an increase of nearly 6 percent compared to the previous winter. To avoid harming bees and helping other pollinators visiting your garden, eliminate the use of toxic pesticides and lawn chemicals and instead opt for organic weed and pest control alternatives.

Consider growing your own pollinator-friendly plants from organic untreated seeds. Stein points out when you support growers who are growing the right way, using pesticide-free alternatives, it makes a difference. Support your local farmers who are choosing organic, pesticide-free agricultural practices.

Maintaining a hive in your own garden requires only about an hour of your time each week and you'll benefit from your own homegrown, raw honey. Additionally, you can provide your backyard bees with water, as bees get thirsty too. Add a bowl of water surrounded by rocks and mulch so the bees have something to perch on and drink.

Top Reasons to Make Magnesium a Priority

 

30 Tips in 30 Days Designed to Help You Take Control of Your Health

This article is included in Dr. Mercola's All-Time Top 30 Health Tips series. Every day during the month of January, a new tip will be added that will help you take control of your health. Want to see the full list? Click here.

Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in your body and the second most common intracellular cation1 (positively charged ion) after potassium. It's required for the healthy function of most cells in your body, but is especially important for your heart, kidneys and muscles.

According to one scientific review,2 which included studies dating as far back as 1937, low magnesium actually appears to be the greatest predictor of heart disease, and other recent research shows even subclinical magnesium deficiency can compromise your cardiovascular health.3

Low magnesium will also impede your cellular metabolic function and deteriorate mitochondrial function, and as a component necessary for the activation of vitamin D,4,5,6 magnesium deficiency may also hamper your ability to convert vitamin D from sun exposure and/or oral supplementation.

While the reasons for prioritizing magnesium could fill several books, here I'll review how it can benefit a few really common health problems and conditions, starting with its influence over vitamin D.

Magnesium Activates and Regulates Vitamin D

Two studies published last year have shed new light on the interactions between magnesium and vitamin D, warning that low magnesium impedes your body's ability to properly utilize vitamin D, even when it's present.7

As noted by Mohammed Razzaque, professor of pathology at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Pennsylvania, coauthor of the first study published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association in March 2018,8 "By consuming an optimal amount of magnesium, one may be able to lower the risks of vitamin D deficiency, and reduce the dependency on vitamin D supplements."

A second study,9 published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in December 2018, also concluded that your magnesium status plays an important role in your vitamin D status. Overall, people with high magnesium intake were less likely to have low vitamin D. They also had a lower mortality risk from cardiovascular disease and bowel cancer.

As explained by Dr. Qi Dai, professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the lead author of this study, "Magnesium deficiency shuts down the vitamin D synthesis and metabolism pathway."

What's more, magnesium was found to have a regulating effect, raising and lowering vitamin D based on baseline levels. In people who had a baseline vitamin D level of 30 ng/mL (75 nmol/L) or below, magnesium supplementation raised their vitamin D level. However, in those who started out with higher vitamin D levels (50 ng/mL or 125 nmol/L), magnesium supplementation lowered their vitamin D.

Magnesium Is Empirically Recommended for All Migraine Sufferers

According to some statistics,10 migraine is the third most prevalent illness in the world, affecting an estimated 1 billion people. Migraine attacks are typically recurring, of moderate to severe intensity, many times occurring only on one side of your head.

Along with throbbing, piercing or "burning" pain, other common symptoms include nausea, visual disturbances, dizziness, numbness in your extremities or face, and extreme sensitivity to light, sound, smell and touch.11,12 While the root cause for migraines continues to be debated, certain nutritional deficiencies have been found to exacerbate the condition, and magnesium deficiency13,14,15 ranks high on this list, as does vitamin D deficiency.16,17

Research shows migraine sufferers are more likely to suffer from magnesium deficiency than non-migraineurs,18 and since magnesium administration is both easy and safe, researchers have noted that empiric treatment with a magnesium supplement is justified for all migraine sufferers.19

In one placebo-controlled study,20 daily intake of 600 milligrams of magnesium in the form of trimagnesium dicitrate for 12 weeks reduced the frequency of migraine attacks by nearly 42 percent, compared to less than 16 percent in the control group.

In many cases, receiving a high dose of magnesium can also abort an attack in progress. The most effective way to administer magnesium for migraine would be to get an intravenous (IV) infusion. Barring that option, magnesium threonate may be your best option for an oral supplement. It has superior absorbability compared to other forms of magnesium, and its superior ability to cross the blood-brain barrier makes it more likely to have a beneficial effect on your brain.

Magnesium More Effective Than Antidepressants for Depression

Another incredibly common health problem in which magnesium plays an important role is depression, as it acts as a catalyst for mood-regulating neurotransmitters like serotonin. Research21 published in 2015 found a significant association between very low magnesium intake and depression, especially in younger adults.

Research22 published in PLOS ONE demonstrated magnesium supplementation improved mild-to-moderate depression in adults, with beneficial effects occurring within two weeks of treatment. In fact, the effects of magnesium were comparable to prescription SSRIs in terms of effectiveness, but without any of the side effects associated with these drugs.

Participants in the treatment group received a daily dose of 248 milligrams (mg) of elemental magnesium for six weeks, while controls received no treatment. According to the authors, "It works quickly and is well tolerated without the need for close monitoring for toxicity." Emily Tarleton, a graduate student in clinical and translational science and the bionutrition research manager of the University of Vermont's Clinical Research Center, told Science Daily:23

"This is the first randomized clinical trial looking at the effect of magnesium supplementation on symptoms of depression in U.S. adults. The results are very encouraging, given the great need for additional treatment options for depression, and our finding that magnesium supplementation provides a safe, fast and inexpensive approach to controlling depressive symptoms."

Magnesium Improves Brain Plasticity

Memory impairment occurs when the connections (synapses) between brain cells diminish. While many factors can come into play, magnesium is an important one. As noted by Dr. David Perlmutter, a neurologist and fellow of the American College of Nutrition:24

"It has now been discovered that magnesium is a critical player in the activation of nerve channels that are involved in synaptic plasticity. That means that magnesium is critical for the physiological events that are fundamental to the processes of learning and memory.

As it turns out, one form of magnesium, magnesium threonate, has the unique ability to permeate the brain and enhance the receptors that are involved in this process."

The specific brain benefits of magnesium threonate were demonstrated in a 2010 study25 published in the journal Neuron, which found this form of magnesium enhanced "learning abilities, working memory, and short- and long-term memory in rats." According to the authors, "Our findings suggest that an increase in brain magnesium enhances both short-term synaptic facilitation and long-term potentiation and improves learning and memory functions."

Magnesium Boosts Heart Health

Magnesium is also important for heart health. As explained by British cardiologist Dr. Sanjay Gupta,26 magnesium supports heart health via a number of different mechanisms. For starters, it combats inflammation, thereby helping prevent hardening of your arteries and high blood pressure.

It also improves blood flow by relaxing your arteries, and helps prevent your blood from thickening, allowing it to flow more smoothly. All of these basic effects are important for optimal heart function. Indeed, low magnesium has been linked to a higher risk for:

A recent paper in the Open Heart journal warns that even subclinical deficiency can lead to cardiovascular problems. According to the authors:30

"… 'Various studies have shown that at least 300 mg of magnesium must be supplemented to establish a significantly increased serum magnesium concentrations …' In other words, most people need an additional 300 mg of magnesium per day in order to lower their risk of developing numerous chronic diseases.

So while the recommended … recommended dietary allowance [RDA] for magnesium (between 300 and 420 mg /day for most people) may prevent frank magnesium deficiency, it is unlikely to provide optimal health and longevity, which should be the ultimate goal."

Magnesium Is Required for Hundreds of Biochemical Reactions

The importance of magnesium becomes even more evident when you consider it is involved in more than 600 different biochemical reactions in your body, which play important roles in:

Creation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy currency of your body31,32

Metabolism of calcium, potassium, zinc, phosphorous, iron, sodium, hydrochloric acid, acetylcholine and nitric oxide, as well as 300 enzymes, and the activation of thiamine33

Vitamin D activation and regulation

DNA, RNA and protein synthesis and integrity,34 and the creation of chromosomes35

Mitochondrial function and health. Magnesium is required both for increasing the number of mitochondria in your cells and for increasing mitochondrial efficiency

Regulation of blood sugar and insulin sensitivity, which is important for the prevention of Type 2 diabetes36,37,38,39 (In one study,40 prediabetics with the highest magnesium intake reduced their risk for blood sugar and metabolic problems by 71 percent)

Normalizing blood pressure

Detoxification, including the synthesis of glutathione, considered by many to be your body's most powerful antioxidant

Muscle and nerve function, including the action of your heart muscle

Antioxidant defense via a number of different mechanisms, including anti-inflammatory activity and support of endothelial and mitochondrial function41

Maintenance of ionic gradients — keeping intracellular sodium and calcium low and potassium high — and maintaining cellular and tissue integrity42

Catalyzing mood-regulating neurotransmitters like serotonin, which helps prevent anxiety and depression

Lowering the damage from electromagnetic fields (EMF) by blocking voltage gated calcium channels

Supporting healthy brain function. Magnesium acts as a buffer between neuron synapses, particularly those involved with cognitive functions (learning and memory).

Magnesium "sits" on the receptor without activating it, protecting the receptor from overactivation by other neurochemicals, especially glutamate, an excitotoxin that can harm your brain if it accumulates

Providing mental and physical relaxation; considered an important stress antidote43

Preventing headaches by relaxing blood vessels in your brain and acting as a calcium channel blocker44

Other Health Problems Associated With Magnesium Deficiency

Considering the widespread influence of magnesium, it's no great surprise that deficiency can snowball into significant health problems. In addition to what's already been mentioned, other common pathologies associated with magnesium deficiency include:45,46,47

Kidney and liver damage

Recurrent or persistent bacterial infections such as sinus, vaginal, middle ear, lung and throat infections due to low levels of nitric oxide

Fungal infections due to depressed immune function

Impotence (also associated with low nitric oxide levels)

Conditions associated with peroxynitrite damage, such as multiple sclerosis, glaucoma and Alzheimer's disease

Premenstrual syndrome, mood swings, aggression and anxiety

Impaired hearing

Osteoporosis

Muscle cramps and muscle weakness

Type 2 diabetes48,49 — Estimates suggest nearly half of all diabetics are magnesium deficient.50 Low magnesium levels also affect insulin resistance, a precursor to Type 2 diabetes.51 High levels of insulin in the blood, common with insulin resistance, also lead to further loss of magnesium52

Increased risk of death from all causes — One 2016 meta-analysis53 found increasing magnesium intake by 100 mg per day lowered participants' all-cause mortality risk by 10 percent

Are You Deficient in Magnesium?

When it comes to measuring your magnesium level, keep in mind that a regular serum magnesium is a poor choice, as only 1 percent of the magnesium in your body is actually found in your bloodstream. Your best bet is to get an RBC magnesium test (which measures the amount of magnesium in your red blood cells) and track your signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency.

Checking your potassium and calcium levels can also be helpful, as low potassium and calcium are common laboratory signs of magnesium deficiency.54 Among the more common signs and symptoms of magnesium insufficiency are:55,56

Seizures; muscle spasms, especially "charley horses" or spasms in your calf muscle that happen when you stretch your leg, and/or eye twitches

Numbness or tingling in your extremities

Insulin resistance

High blood pressure, heart arrhythmias and/or coronary spasms

Increased number of headaches and/or migraines

Low energy, fatigue and/or loss of appetite

The Trousseau sign57 — To check for this sign, a blood pressure cuff is inflated around your arm. The pressure should be greater than your systolic blood pressure and maintained for three minutes.

By occluding the brachial artery in your arm, spasms in your hand and forearm muscles are induced. If you are magnesium deficient, the lack of blood flow will cause your wrist and metacarpophalangeal joint to flex and your fingers to adduct. For a picture of this hand/wrist position, see Wikipedia58

A more exhaustive list can be found in Dr. Carolyn Dean's blog post, "Gauging Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms,"59 which will give you a checklist to go through every few weeks. This will also help you gauge how much magnesium you need to resolve your deficiency symptoms.

Most People Can Benefit From Magnesium Supplementation

Unfortunately, magnesium insufficiency or deficiency are extremely common around the world, both among adults60 and teens,61 in part due to the fact that most people don't eat enough plant foods.

If you frequently eat processed foods, your risk of deficiency is magnified. However, even if you eat plenty of greens (magnesium is actually part of the chlorophyll molecule responsible for the plant's green color), you are unlikely to get enough, due to most foods being grown in mineral depleted soils.

Magnesium absorption is also dependent on having sufficient amounts of selenium, parathyroid hormone and vitamins B6 and D, and is hindered by excess ethanol, salt, coffee and phosphoric acid in soda.

Sweating, stress, lack of sleep, excessive menstruation, certain drugs (especially diuretics and proton-pump inhibitors) also deplete your body of magnesium.62 For these reasons, most people probably need to take supplemental magnesium. Taking a magnesium supplement is particularly advisable if you:63

Experience symptoms of insufficiency or deficiency64

Have hypertension

Engage in strenuous exercise on a regular basis. Research shows just six to 12 weeks of strenuous physical activity can result in magnesium deficiency,65 likely due to increased magnesium demand in your skeletal muscle

Are taking diuretics or medication for hypertension, especially thiazides, which have been shown to induce undetectable magnesium deficiency66 (while patients may have normal or even high serum magnesium, their bodies are actually depleted of magnesium)

Have had or are planning heart transplant or open heart surgery

Are at risk for or have had a heart attack, or if you experience ventricular arrhythmia

Are insulin resistant or diabetic (as this increases magnesium depletion)

Have congestive heart failure

How to Boost Your Magnesium Level

The RDA for magnesium is around 310 to 420 mg per day depending on your age and sex,67 but many experts believe you may need 600 to 900 mg per day.68 Personally, I believe many may benefit from amounts as high as 1 to 2 grams (1,000 to 2,000 mg) of elemental magnesium per day, as most of us have EMF exposures that simply cannot be mitigated, and the extra magnesium may help lower the damage from that exposure.

When it comes to oral supplementation, my personal preference is magnesium threonate, as it appears to be the most efficient at penetrating cell membranes, including your mitochondria and blood-brain barrier. Other effective ways to boost your magnesium level include:

Taking Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) baths, as the magnesium will effectively absorb through your skin

Using a topical solution — I prepare a supersaturated solution of Epsom salt by dissolving 7 tablespoons of the salt into 6 ounces of water and heating it until all the salt has dissolved. I pour it into a dropper bottle and then apply it to my skin and rub fresh aloe leaves over it to dissolve it. This is an easy and inexpensive way to increase your magnesium and will allow you to get higher dosages into your body without having to deal with its laxative effects.

Magnesium can be taken with or without food. If you're also taking calcium, take them together. If you exercise regularly, consider taking your calcium and magnesium in a ratio of one part calcium to two parts magnesium with your pre-workout meal.

While the ideal ratio of magnesium to calcium is thought to be 1-to-1, most people get far more calcium than magnesium from their diet; hence, your need for supplemental magnesium may be two to three times greater than calcium.

Eat More Magnesium-Rich Foods

Last but not least, while you may still need magnesium supplementation (due to denatured soils), it would certainly be wise to try to get as much magnesium from your diet as possible. Dark-green leafy vegetables lead the pack when it comes to magnesium content, and juicing your greens is an excellent way to boost your intake. Greens with the highest magnesium levels include:

Spinach

Swiss chard

Turnip greens

Beet greens

Collard greens

Broccoli

Brussel sprouts

Kale

Bok Choy

Romaine lettuce

Other foods that are particularly rich in magnesium include:69

Raw cacao nibs and/or unsweetened cocoa powder — One ounce (28.35 grams) or raw cacao nibs contain about 65 mg of magnesium.

Avocados — One cup of avocado on average (values differ depending on whether they come from California or Florida) contains about 44 mg of magnesium. Avocados are also a good source of potassium, which helps offset the hypertensive effects of sodium.

Seeds and nuts — Pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds score among the highest, with one-quarter cup providing an estimated 191 mg, 129 mg and 41 mg of magnesium respectively. Cashews, almonds and Brazil nuts are also good sources; one-fourth cup of cashews contains 89 mg of magnesium.

Herbs and spices — Herbs and spices pack lots of nutrients in small packages and this includes magnesium. Some of the most magnesium-rich varieties are coriander, chives, cumin seed, parsley, mustard seeds, fennel, basil and cloves.

Organic, raw grass fed yogurt and natto — Choose yogurt made from raw organic grass fed milk with no added sugars; 1 cup of natto yields 201 mg of magnesium.

Weekly Health Quiz: Pollution, Diabetes and Meditation

 

1 In plants, this compound triggers the creation of beneficial nitric oxide. When obtained from processed meat, the same compound triggers creation of carcinogenic compounds in your body.

  • Sterols
  • Nitrates

    Nitrates from plants turn into beneficial nitric oxide in your body due to the presence of antioxidants, while nitrites from processed meat turn into carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds due to the presence of proteins and heme. Learn more.

  • Protein
  • Purines

2 The rollout of 5G wireless networks will:

  • Improve cellphone coverage and internet speeds without adding to EMF exposure
  • Decrease overall EMF exposure as it puts out less radiation
  • Dramatically increase exposure to harmful electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation

    5G will not replace current wireless technology but add to it, increasing overall EMF exposure exponentially. Learn more.

  • Result in similar EMF exposure as before as it simply replaces previous wireless technologies

3 Estimates suggest about half of the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) contributing to air pollution comes from:

  • Electric vehicles
  • Plastic waste
  • Fragrance manufacturing
  • Consumer products such as household cleansers

    Air quality evaluation in the Los Angeles area found the amount of VOCs released by consumer products is two to three times greater than previously estimated, and may account for as much as half of all VOC emissions — the other half coming from gasoline-driven cars. Learn more.

4 The following strategy has been scientifically validated as a way to boost health, happiness and life satisfaction:

  • Gratitude

    Practicing gratitude has been scientifically verified as a way to boost happiness and life satisfaction. It also benefits your mental and physical health. Learn more.

  • Narcissism
  • Light therapy
  • Taking nutritional supplements

5 The following strategy has been scientifically shown to reverse Type 2 diabetes in a matter of months, even if you've had diabetes for a decade:

  • Eating a low-fat diet
  • Fasting

    Research confirms that fasting can effectively reverse Type 2 diabetes in a relatively short amount of time. Fasting has also been shown to trigger the regeneration of the pancreas in both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics. Learn more.

  • Nutritional supplementation
  • Aerobic exercise

6 Which of the following industries is the largest user of groundwater, contributing to the draining of aquifers around the globe?

  • Chemical industry
  • Pharmaceutical industry
  • Industrial farming

    Water scarcity is getting worse around the world as aquifers are drained faster than they can be refilled. The most significant contributor to the problem is industrial farming, due to its heavy use of potable water for irrigation. Learn more.

  • Paper industry

7 Meditation has been scientifically shown to have a number of biological effects. The following is not one of them:

  • Stem cell production
  • Cellular regeneration
  • Telomere lengthening
  • Increases in height

    Meditation has been scientifically shown to have a number of biological effects, including the generation of stem cells, and regeneration of cells and telomeres. Learn more.

Top Health Benefits of Eating Tripe

 

When farm animals are used for meats, people often think of flank steaks, rib roasts, T-bones or sirloin. But when the stomach lining is removed to cook dinner, the product is called tripe. It’s comparable to other organ meats such as liver, heart and kidneys, which also offer valuable nutrients.

It’s true that most tripe, which is actually a muscle meat, is derived from cows, but it can also come from sheep, lambs, goats, ducks, chickens or pigs, which is sometimes called “paunch,” which explains another term: offal, not to be confused with the word used synonymously with waste or excrement.

Eaten all over the world, tripe is one of the most common organ meats and requires a slow cooking method for optimal tenderness, but, as The Daily Meal observes, “even then, the chewy texture is an acquired taste.”1 When it comes from a cow, it’s usually from one of the first three of the cow’s four stomachs, each one serving a different function and four “very different” types of tripe:

“Chamber one is called the rumen, and its tripe is called blanket or flat tripe. Chamber two is called the reticulum, and its tripe, honeycomb tripe, is the most common. Chamber three is the omasum, and its tripe is called book tripe; chamber four, the abomasum, gives us the least-commonly used tripe: reed tripe.”2

Famous dishes from around the world feature tripe, such as andouille, a coarsely-ground smoked pork sausage popular in Louisiana’s Cajun population. In France, it’s a gray-colored dish made with tripe and pig intestines. Traditional cuisine in Florence, Italy, includes a slowly-braised Florentine dipping sandwich known as a lampredotto, aka tripe sandwich.

There are several versions of an authentic and somewhat labor-intensive Mexican dish called menudo, aka spicy tripe soup. One features pig’s feet or hominy or both, according to The Spruce Eats.3 A red-colored version is made using dried chilies. It’s also served with tostadas or tortillas to make bolillos.

Menudo soup has the distinction of being served following late-night celebrations such as weddings or holidays as a “cure” for a hangover. According to Pittsburgh’s Post-Gazette, Turkey’s version of menudo is known as iskembe corbasi, made with garlic, lemon and spices.4

Similar soups made from tripe around the world are called chakna in India, dobrada in Portugal, paklay in the Philippines and flaczki in Poland. What all these cultures and countries have in common is that tripe, for many, is a deliciously savory and often nostalgic comfort food.

The Unique Nutrition Profile of Tripe

A 3-ounce serving of tripe contains over 10 micrograms of selenium (15 percent of the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI)), which your cells rely on (along with zinc) for optimal thyroid function, enzyme activity and DNA production. The National Institutes of Health (NIH)5 identifies selenium as an antioxidant that protects against disease-causing free radicals. Livestrong also notes:

“Zinc is a mineral that’s also important for healthy skin, healing of wounds and growth. It's found all over your body — in bones, teeth, hair, skin, liver, muscle and white blood cells …

Another trace mineral in tripe is iron … needed by your body for the production of hemoglobin, the component of red blood cells that carries oxygen to your body’s tissues. Iron is also a vital component in muscle cells and necessary for the formation of many enzymes in your body.”6

Phosphorus is another essential mineral in tripe that works with zinc to nourish your cell membranes. More specifically, phosphorus helps make up phospholipids or fats in these cell membranes. Meanwhile, zinc is part of the makeup of the proteins in your cell membranes. Both zinc and phosphorus support healthy cell communication and have singular jobs as well: Phosphorus nourishes your bones and teeth, while zinc supports immune function.7

You’ll also find several B vitamins in tripe, such as niacin, folate and B12 (aka cobalamin), significant in converting homocysteine to methionine, largely responsible for producing new proteins in your body. The American Journal of Preventive Medicine8 notes that too much homocysteine in your bloodstream could increase your risk for developing cardiovascular disease.

Inadequate B12 intake could cause pernicious anemia, which can cause numbness or tingling in your hands and feet, a smooth and tender tongue, weight loss and weakness.

As a source of choline, beef tripe provides 220 milligrams (mg) in a 4-ounce serving, which is 52 percent of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for women and 40 percent for men. Choline produces compounds essential for tissue function; in fact, lipids containing choline comprise your cell membranes while aiding in cell communication,9 while acetylcholine made from choline stimulates healthy brain function.

Tripe for Weight Loss?

There may even be benefits of eating tripe for people looking to lose weight. With its modicum of carbohydrates, it provides a viable option for your weight-loss plan, as “a low-carb diet lowers insulin levels, which causes the body to burn stored fat for energy and ultimately leads to weight loss,” according to the Mayo Clinic.10 Three ounces of tripe contain 80 calories and just 1.7 grams of carbs.

The Public Health Collaboration11 conducted a randomized, controlled clinical trial during which low-carb diets were compared with low-fat diets, and participants on the low-carb diets lost significantly more weight. In addition, the choline content in tripe helps your body metabolize fats, preventing an accumulation of fat in your liver.

Tripe is an economical source of protein, delivering 10 grams — more than 20 percent of the DRI — in each 3-ounce serving. Tripe also has far less fat compared with the same amount of beef steak, which has 14.5 grams instead of the 3.4 grams from tripe, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.12 Livestrong also notes:

“Protein is a filling nutrient because it slows down the emptying of food from your stomach after you eat, so that you may feel less hungry for the next meal. This may help explain why some high-protein diets appear more effective for weight loss than low-protein diets.”13

Further, a large European study published in the New England Journal of Medicine14 notes that even a modest increase in lean protein combined with a modest reduction in your glycemic index was found to be a healthy way to help with weight loss and maintain a healthy weight.

Healthy Ways to Prepare Tripe

How could tripe be included in a healthy meal plan? Like nearly any other food, tripe can be healthy or harmful depending entirely on how it’s prepared and what it’s served with. Instead of frying it, try healthier preparations such as pressure cooking or poaching. Many people boil it, especially in soups, to make a filling meal that vegetables and herbs can be added to. Pickling it in vinegar is another popular way of preparing tripe.

The best tripe “cuts” are described as dense with a chewy texture, but not as rubbery as stewed calamari. The flavor is mild, and one reason it’s a popular addition to so many dishes is that the meat and the broth that accompanies it absorb the essence of the vegetables, spices and herbs it’s cooked with.

If you’re used to preparing tripe using the boiling method, which requires cooking slowly for long periods, or if you have no idea what to do with it, one way to slow-cook beef tripe is in a pressure cooker. In the featured video, professional chef Cristian Feher explains that of the four stomachs in beef, honeycomb tripe is considered “choice” or premium.

One thing to keep in mind is that once you cook tripe, it shrinks by around 50 to 60 percent. Feher adds 4 cups of water to 3 or 4 pounds of tripe, fresh ground black pepper and a generous amount of sea salt or Himalayan salt. “It tastes absolutely amazing,” Feher says. He adds that you should drain the tripe, as the water it’s cooked in will contain the impurities.

“From here, you can go in all sorts of directions,” he says, recommending a recipe known as mondongo, a Dominican-style tripe stew made with beef tripe, onion, garlic, peppers, carrots, potatoes, tomato sauce and cilantro, per the instructions on Smart Little Cookie.15 Here’s another tasty possibility inspired by The Spruce Eats.16

Caribbean Beef Tripe Soup

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup yellow split peas (soaked overnight)
  • 2 teaspoons grass fed butter or ghee
  • 1 cup diced onions
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme (divided)
  • 2 pounds grass fed cow tripe, cut into pieces
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 6 cups water (plus more to create soup)
  • 1 pound pumpkin or calabaza squash, cut into large chunks
  • 2 pounds green plantains, peeled and cut into 1-inch rounds
  • 6 to 8 okra

Instructions

  1. To prepare, soak 1/2 cup of yellow split peas overnight.
  2. Rinse the tripe well. Heat the oil in a pressure cooker or stock pot, add the onions and sauté until they're translucent (two to three minutes). Add 3 sprigs of thyme and sauté for 1 minute.
  3. Add the tripe, salt and pepper and sauté for four minutes, then add 6 cups water and stir.
  4. Cover the pressure cooker and cook for 45 to 50 minutes. (Time begins from the first whistle.) If using a stockpot, cover it and cook for two to three hours.
  5. Release pressure cooker valve to let out steam and open the pressure cooker. Add the pumpkin, plantains and the remaining thyme, and cook until the plantains are almost melting, with the lid open.
  6. Add the okra, cover and cook for six to eight minutes.
  7. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Stir and serve.

Like most other dishes, tripe soup can be tweaked with favorite ingredients to make the finished product your own, whether it’s spicy or more of a broth than a stew. As The Spruce Eats notes, “Some cooks add carrots, green olives or raisins, while others prefer garlic.”17

One more thing: Use organic, grass fed meat whenever possible, and that includes tripe. Remember that it’s not the whole stomach you’re eating when you serve tripe, but just the lining of the stomach.

Top Reasons to Meditate Daily

 

30 Tips in 30 Days Designed to Help You Take Control of Your Health

This article is included in Dr. Mercola's All-Time Top 30 Health Tips series. Every day during the month of January, a new tip will be added that will help you take control of your health. Want to see the full list? Click here.

Dawson Church, who has done a lot of work on the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) and brought a level of scientific legitimacy to the value of this powerful tool, recently published a new book with the self-explanatory title, "Mind to Matter: The Astonishing Science of How Your Brain Creates Material Reality."

"I was one of those people who was very focused on the effects of energy therapies in the physical body. I did the first triple-lined, randomized control trial showing how EFT affects cortisol levels. I've been very focused on immunoglobulins, brainwaves, hormones and all the things that we can measure in the body," Dawson says.

"I have a friend at Harvard who's a psychiatrist, who told me, 'It's the energy that's making those molecules be the way they are.' I was always a little skeptical about that. But with him and others, [such as] Dean Radin, Rollin McCraty … they all said, 'Dawson, it's the energy. There is really a direct chain of causation between our thoughts and things.'

But I thought, 'When I look at all the links in that chain, I'm sure I'll find a lot of broken links.' I began to look at the studies, the primary research … There were no broken links … It's just remarkable to me how our thoughts literally create things in our bodies and all around us."

Heart Coherence Allows Synchronistic Events to Occur

The term Dawson uses in his book is "synchronicity." And it was a series of synchronicities that led to the writing of this book.

"One of those synchronicities, just one of many, [occurred when] I was writing this chapter on synchronicity. I wanted to understand these things called 'field line resonances.' These are scientific concepts. The earth is like a giant magnet. It has a north pole and a south pole [and] these lines of magnetic flux around the planet.

As a solar wind goes by the Earth, it literally plucks these magnetic force lines like strings on a violin. I wanted to know more about this really fascinating but very complex subject.

I was speaking at a conference with Dr. Joe Dispenza … After my talk, they put me on a science panel. On the science panel was McCraty, who had just done the most remarkable piece of research, the authoritative paper on field line resonance. He told me all about it."

An interesting anecdote on synchronicity described in Dawson's book was how he managed to find a set of keys he lost while snorkeling in Hawaii. He retells the story:

"On this particular day, I snorkeled all over this big bay. I got back to the Jeep, put my hands in my pocket to grab the keys. No keys … So, my keys were lost and I thought I should get back to the water and try and find them.

I spent about an hour [searching]. Now, I didn't panic. That's the big thing. I talk a lot in the book about synchronous mind and being in synchrony with the universe. I got into that state. It's the synchrony of heart coherence; feeling totally fine, no panic.

I swam around this bay looking for them. But again, this is a big bay. I'm looking for two tiny keys lost in the coral 10 to 12 feet deep. There's no logical way of finding them. But my intuition said, 'Let's do this.' As dusk began to fall, a father with three teenage sons got into the water …

My intuition said, 'Just go talk to them.' I said to them, 'I've been noticing you, seeing you dive to the bottom. Did you, by chance, find anything in the coral down there?' The youngest boy held up my keys. The chances of that happening are infinitesimally small.

But when those things happen to you, again and again, it's like the universe saying to you, 'Hey. Pay attention. Something's going on here.' Synchronicity, when we're in sync, when we're in that state of a heart coherence, when we meditate, when we tap away our stress, we enter that space of what I call nonlocal mind.

In the nonlocal mind, we have access to information we don't have at a level of local mind. I begin the book and end the book with this really powerful plea to make that your life. That you aren't living your life just kind of limited by what you see at the commission of your local mind; that you open yourself to meditation every day, and to the mystery of the nonlocal mind …

Nonlocal mind is doing all kinds of miracles in our lives and nature all the time. If we just open ourselves to that level of information, we gain access to levels of consciousness [and] knowing that is far beyond the ones we have at the level of our small, little local minds."

Being in the Flow

This synchronous mind Dawson is talking about is the same as what athletes experience as "being in the flow" or "being in the zone." Using electroencephalography (EEG), researchers have shown that when an athlete is in the flow, their brainwaves are in phase. On the other hand, if you look at the EEG of someone who is angry or frustrated or processing a negative emotion, you find their brain waves are not in step.

"It's not a figure of speech, it's literally a flow state," he says. "You could actually measure the brain[waves], and then recreate that. It's not a mystery anymore. We know the formula. We could reproduce the formula. We can train anybody to acquire that kind of a state."

The book also discusses research showing how our brainwaves affect our biology. Delta frequencies, for example, have been shown to trigger cellular regeneration. Up until a few years ago, we didn't have the equipment to measure really slow delta waves below one cycle per second. Now, there's research showing that telomere regeneration is sparked by ultraslow brainwaves at 0.19 cycles per second.

How do you generate delta brainwaves? Certain types of meditation will get you there. Doing EFT will also generate delta frequencies. Certain theta frequencies, meanwhile, stimulate stem cell production.

According to Dawson, the Schumann frequency of 7.8 hertz is a special frequency generated through meditation that is associated with a number of beneficial changes in your body. This is also why many integrative cancer specialists are now stressing the importance of lowering stress and incorporating meditation in their cancer treatment programs.

A Cancer Story

A woman named Beth Misner is writing a book about her cancer experience, and how she drove her cancer into remission using nothing but energy medicine. In March 2017, she was diagnosed with a 5-centimeter (2-inch) tumor in her right breast. The lymph nodes under her right armpit were also inflamed and full of cancerous cells — a sign that the cancer had spread into her limbic system. They also discovered three areas of concern on her right lung.

Her doctor at MD Anderson in Houston (a famous cancer clinic) wanted to initiate radiation right away, but Misner decided to wait. She eventually decided to address her cancer on the level of energy. She contacted Dawson for advice and suggestions. Dawson recounts what happened next:

"She began to do chi gung intensively. She began to tap intensively. She began to do energy medicine exercises, and got energy medicine treatments. She cleaned up her diet. She got rid of stress in her life. She did a whole bunch of proactive things to shift herself at the energy level.

Now, this is March [when] she gets the diagnosis of MD Anderson. By May, scans showed that all the lymph nodes under her right armpit were completely clear, and the tumor shrunk from 5 centimeters to 1.4 centimeters. One of her doctors said, 'Well, it looks to me like it's just necrotic. It's just dissolving. Her body has removed it.'

She, again, just kept on the energy techniques and later on her bloodwork showed not a trace of cancer in her body. That's the power of using energy. That's why I urge people, whatever your challenge is — it doesn't mean this is the right approach for everybody — but pay attention to stress. Pay attention to energy."

A very important side note here is that you have to make a choice, and it's not necessarily an easy one. If you have chemo and/or radiation, energy work will not be effective, as the treatments are simply too toxic. Metabolic cancer therapies such as cyclical ketosis and fasting, on the other hand, can be very beneficial.

"I'm not saying [energy work] is going to work perfectly for everyone. What I'm saying is look at your energy options. What 'Mind to Matter' shows you is that my consciousness and energy has enormous effect on the matter of your cells. If you're ignoring that leverage point, you're ignoring the biggest possible leverage point of your own health," Dawson says.

How to Get Into a Coherent Flow State

So, how do you get into a coherent state of flow? Lifelong meditators can do it effortlessly, showing that it's a matter of training. Through experimentation, Dawson developed a program he calls EcoMeditation that combines HeartMath's quick coherence technique with tapping and mindfulness.

Dawson cites research showing that EFT can cause a 37 percent drop in cortisol in just one week. And, when cortisol goes down, DHEA goes up, because they make the same two precursors. It also improves many beneficial enzymes. For example, in one week, baseline immunoglobulin levels rose by 113 percent, basically more than doubling immune-functioning markers. It also decreases sympathetic nervous system activation.

"We know now, because we've looked at this in peak performers, athletes, business people, financial experts, in people in meditative monasteries and nunneries and people who are really focused on meditation in the long term.

We know that meditation has these effects, but how do you get there quickly? You can spend an hour with your eyes closed and not be meditating. Or you can spend two minutes and enter a deep state. How do you get there? I'm focused on that really intently now," Dawson says.

Dawson defines meditation as the ability to sustain an alpha state for 15 seconds or more. EcoMeditation can get you into a coherent brain state in about four minutes.

"You essentially are mimicking the breathing, the posture of that 10,000-hour Tibetan monk. If you do what they do, if you mimic with no belief, no spiritual superstructure, and just give the physiological cues to your body, you go into that what we call the 'awakened mind state' just like that," he says.

Seven Steps to Awakened Mind

You can find a series of guided meditations by Church on InsightTimer.com, including entraining yourself with synchronicity and affirming inner peace.

There are seven steps to Dawson's EcoMeditation formula.1 For best results, set aside 20 to 30 minutes for this practice each day. Studies suggest half an hour of meditation daily produces noticeable changes in about a month or two, but even as little as 10 minutes a day can produce shifts in about 10 days. 

1. First, tap each of the EFT acupressure points (see diagram), while holding the intention that you are calm and peaceful. While tapping, say to yourself (out loud or silently), "I release any and all blocks to inner peace. I release all tension in my body. I release anything in my past, present or future that stands between me and inner peace."

eft tapping sequence

Source: EFTuniverse.com, 7 Steps of EcoMeditation

2. Next, relax your tongue on the floor of your mouth. This relaxes the hypoglossal nerve that runs from your tongue into the vagal nerve, which tells your vagal nerve that you aren't under threat. As a result, your whole body starts to relax.

3. Now, picture a large empty space behind your eyes. Simply doing this will put you into an alpha state.

4. Do the HeartMath quick coherence technique, which involves slowing your breathing to six seconds per in-breath and six seconds per out-breath (five breaths per minute).

5. Next, visualize your physical heart, and imagine breathing in and out of your heart. This will put you into a deep state of heart coherence.

6. With each out-breath, imagine a beam of love flowing out from your heart toward a person or place that you love. Hold this image for several breaths. Simply doing this will generate delta, theta and even gamma brainwaves. Gamma is the wave of happiness and integration.

"Most people don't have a gamma flare that lasts more than two seconds," Dawson says. "But after a week of meditation, you live in that state where you're having these flares of integrative brainwaves called gamma at the very top of the band, and then people feel totally wonderful."

7. Lastly, bring the beam of love back into your heart and visualize it flowing into any part of your body that is uncomfortable or in pain. To end the meditation, take three deep six-second breaths., then return your attention to the room and open your eyes.

When to Meditate for Optimal Results, and What To Do When Stress Strikes

Dawson recommends doing your meditation first thing in the morning, and to complement it with EFT during the day whenever stress might rear its ugly head.

"If you wake up and the first thing you turn your attention to is being in that alpha state, that dreamy state and meditating, then you capture all benefits of being in that alpha state … I see this as extending that sleep state out into your waking state," he says.

"[When] you start your day that way, you condition synchronicity. You condition beta thinking … [R]esearchers find that people's problem-solving ability goes up by 260 percent when they're in that state. Their creativity doubles. Their productivity at work increases dramatically. You're now a far more productive human being …

When you're going through the day and [stress gets triggered] … that's when you tap … Usually within two minutes, you will see your subjective units of distress scale go down to a low number, often a zero. Then go about your day. Now, you're much calmer, and you're able to proactively move through your day with this little technique to help yourself recover.

Recovery time is pretty fast. After a while, you develop a different and new homeostasis, where your irritability, your resentment levels, your level of guilt, shame, anger and blame, all of these negative emotions has to go way down."

Meditation Alters Your Brain Structure

According to Dawson, doing this meditation every day, your baseline levels of cortisol and immunoglobulin will begin to improve. Certain feel-good hormones will also increase. Once you get used to feeling good, that then becomes your new normal. This has to do with the neuroplasticity of your brain. Dawson explains:

"Neuroplasticity is like the hardware in our brains — the channels that conduct information, the neurons and the synapses that carry the flow of energy of information in our brains. The ones you use the most get developed … But the speed of this is extraordinary.

Within one hour of repeated stimulation, where there was just one synapse, now there are two. That's in one hour of repeat stimulation. If you stimulate that neural bundle for weeks, days, months and years, it grows much bigger. Eventually, the software of your consciousness literally creates the hardware of your brain."

One stunning story showing just how significantly you can change your brain through meditation is recounted in Chapter 1 of Dawson's book. Graham Phillips, a TV reporter, decided to try an eight-week meditation program given by Monash University. He was a skeptic, and wanted to test it out for himself.

"The experts there … did MRIs on every single region of his brain ... after which he began to meditate regularly and be mindful of the course of his day. After two weeks, he found, behaviorally, he was much less stressed. After eight weeks, he went back into the lab. Again, they spent a whole day going over all of these tests with him. They also got a second MRI to measure the volume of different parts of his brain.

This number sounds too crazy, it's almost like science fiction, but they examined a part of the hippocampus, the dentate gyrus, which is the memory or learning center that has to do with the regulation of emotion … and found it grew by 22.8 percent … So, it's not just a feel-good practice. It's literally reshaping the content inside your skull."

Healing Can Be Learned

Research shows that when you expose cells to a frequency of 7.81 hertz, DNA replication becomes far more efficient. Importantly, certain frequencies stimulate the reproduction of stem cells, while other frequencies cause the stem cells to migrate and adhere where needed.

To use stem cells for healing, those are the three things required: replication, migration and adhesion, and all three can be triggered through meditation. "In the book, I have a list of the conditions that are treated successfully with energy healing," Dawson says.

"The disease is a symptom of the dysregulation of your system. Take cancer, for example. Those cancer cells can't live in a normal healthy body. They only live in a body that is dysregulated. You want to improve all those factors that are dysregulating you, then you'll see a pervasive upwards spiral and good effect on your health generally," he says.

"The more I learn about the body, the more I see that the body is a [self-]healing machine. The body heals naturally. You have to do something pretty radical to stop the body from healing. When you load it up with sugar, stress and things like that, you get in the way of healing.

But your body is just an amazing healing machine, the way cells proliferate. All you have to do is get out of the way. Get out of the way by not stuffing things in your mouth, stuffing things in your mind, stuffing things in your environment that hurt you and don't work for you. If you just quit doing the bad stuff, then your body is naturally going to heal …

Some people do need an external stimulus … Sometimes I will say, 'You need to go an energy healer. You need a boost energetically to get the process going. Go get acupuncture. Go see an energy medicine practitioner. Go see a therapist.' You need that external push for some people's bodies …"

Mind to Matter

To learn more, I highly recommend picking up a copy of "Mind to Matter: The Astonishing Science of How Your Brain Creates Material Reality." In it, Dawson lists 30 lifestyle practices that can make a big difference in your physical and psychological health. You can also find more information — including a free EFT mini-manual and Dawson's published research — on his website, DawsonChurch.com.

"I want to inspire people [to take action]," he says. "You will literally feel yourself changing when you [meditate every day]. That's the biggest gift that you can give yourself. Release that stress. When you do that, your full human potential starts to shine. All those parts of yourself that have been stuck, all those limiting stories you start to let go of, then you can be.

The magnificence of you starts to come through. As you're hooked up to your nonlocal mind in meditation, you get access to ideas, solutions and all kinds of knowledge and wisdom you don't have when you're stuck in the level of local mind.

Then suddenly, your life becomes way easier. You're living in synchrony not just with other people around you, but with the whole universe. That's what I call a synchronous life …

If you're listening to this … please, I'm asking you to raise your hand now and make that commitment to meditating every day. Meditation is free. It's online. Go there. Grab it. Try it out. You will feel the shifts inside of yourself. But do that as your gift for yourself for the new year."

Listeria Infection: Symptoms, Causes and the Dangers It May Pose

 

While sanitation has been improving over the years as more and more information is found on foodborne diseases, millions of people still contract illnesses from wrongly prepared food products, be it from contaminated preparations or incorrect storage. One of the possible conditions is listeria infection, which is caused by the listeria monocytogenes bacterium.

While listeria infections are rare and do not affect a considerable number of the population, it is especially dangerous for pregnant women and immunocompromised individuals, such as the elderly. This article will primarily focus on what listeria is, its symptoms, causes and possible treatment options.

What Is Listeria Infection?

Listeria monocytogenes bacteria are abundant in numerous organic materials, such as soil, spoiling vegetation and animal manure. Once they come into contact with food and are consumed, these bacteria may cause considerable discomfort and even dangerous complications.1

Through evolution, listeria monocytogenes managed to develop a process that allows it to penetrate cell membranes and spread from cell to cell. However, studies show that the process by which the bacteria are spread is extremely crucial. Once this method of proliferation develops inside the human body, the bacteria may attack the central nervous and digestive systems.2

While the primary infection caused by the bacteria is called listeriosis, other independent conditions can stem from this, which include meningitis, intrauterine infection and encephalitis.3 It is often contracted from wrongly processed meats and animal products, as well as contaminated food crops. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 1,600 Americans get listeriosis every year, with about 260 patients eventually succumbing to the condition.4

But even if large numbers of people are exposed to the bacteria, only a few may start showing symptoms. These symptoms, however, fall under the "bimodal distribution of severity." This means that these infections either manifest as mild or severe — only in the extremes.5

Notable Listeria Infection Outbreaks

Outbreaks often occur when two or more people become infected by a foodborne disease from a specific food product. A serious listeria outbreak in the U.S. happened in 2011, stemming from contaminated cantaloupes from Jensen Farms.

While it is regarded as one of the worst outbreaks, infecting 147 people and causing 33 confirmed deaths,6 the worst outbreak in the world was in Africa in 2018, killing 189 people and sickening 982 as of March 2018. About 43 percent of the deaths were newborns infected during gestation, The New York Times said. This outbreak was traced to processed bologna.7

While the cause for the Jensen Farms outbreak is unclear, one of the purported origins was due to a dump truck used to transport cantaloupes to a cattle operation, which eventually contaminated the whole facility.8

The increase in fresh food cases of listeriosis, such as in the cantaloupe recall, shows that listeria infections are not limited to processed, refrigerated or unpasteurized foods. The hygiene in fruit and vegetable propagation may play a role in the massive number of listeria cases.

The most recent listeria outbreak that has affected Austria, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom is actually ongoing. The reason for the outbreak was first traced to frozen corn, but it has since been found to be caused by other types of frozen vegetables. While the recalls have been set, the risk for listeria infections are still present until all the products are removed from the shelves.9

Is Raw Milk Undeservingly Demonized Because of Listeria Scares?

Raw milk is often one of the first food products that figure in the listeria warnings issued by the CDC. This is often accompanied by recommendations that pasteurized milk is the only dairy product safe for human consumption, as it supposedly removes all the risks of bacterial growth. Of course, these recommendations also leave out the fact that pasteurization kills off most of the beneficial enzymes and nutrients found in raw milk.

Aside from that, the warnings against raw milk are blown out of proportion in favor of pasteurized milk, and they also fail to say that the risk of getting a listeria infection in raw milk is almost equal to the risk in pasteurized milk, as these products may still be contaminated through improper handling.10 It all just boils down to the source and storage.

The problem is that most consumers are unaware that there are basically two types of raw milk. CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operations) raw milk is the type of milk specifically produced to be put through the pasteurization process.

Quality control is incredibly lenient in this regard, as the milk goes through extremely harsh processes, to ensure that all types of bacteria are killed off. The second type is raw milk from pasture-raised cows and is required to reach strict standards to ensure safety and quality.11

This bias is appropriately put on display in the 2015 listeria outbreak caused by contaminated batches of Blue Bell Creameries ice cream. Today, Blue Bell Creameries is back in business after the deadly outbreak, while small organic farms are forced to close down operations completely after causing alleged "outbreaks."12

In fact, the Weston A. Price Foundation notes that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has attacked raw milk despite the absence of concrete proof that it has caused listeria outbreaks in the population in the past 40 years or so.13

3 Listeria Infection Symptoms to Look Out For

In non-pregnant individuals, a listeria infection may manifest in different ways, depending on the severity and the spread of the bacteria in the body. Because of the numerous conditions that may arise due to underlying listeriosis, the presence of the following problems may point to this infection:14

  • Febrile gastroenteritis — Listeria may cause gastroenteritis, a noninvasive syndrome. Some of its signs include diarrhea, fever, chills, abdominal pain and nausea.
  • Bacteremia — This refers to the presence of bacteria in the blood. Fever, a rapid heart rate and chills usually accompany this condition.
  • MeningitisIf the listeria bacteria reach the brain, symptoms like muscle aches, a stiff neck, loss of balance and confusion may arise.

If you start to suffer the symptoms above, seek medical help as soon as possible. This will help contain the infection and limit its spread to other systems in the body. This is especially important if you start suffering from psychological and cognitive function problems.

Listeria Infection Symptoms in Infants

While it is important that you remain vigilant of these symptoms at all times, the importance doubles when you're pregnant as it may endanger you and your child.15 There are two types of listeria infections in infants, and they differ depending on the onset of the condition: early-onset and late-onset.

Early-onset listeriosis is usually acquired from the mother, with the infant typically being diagnosed with sepsis within the 24 hours after birth. The cause of late-onset neonatal listeriosis, on the other hand, is unclear and may be because of external factors — it occurs rarely. Some of the symptoms of late-onset listeriosis may not be as straightforward as you'd want them to be, but they include:16

  • Irritability
  • Poor feeding
  • Fever

What Causes Listeria Infection?

Listeria monocytogenes is a pathogenic bacterium that commonly thrives in water, soil and some poultry and livestock products. Compared to other bacteria, listeria monocytogenes is much more resilient, surviving even in refrigerated or frozen conditions. The only surefire ways to remove this bacterium from food products is through cooking and pasteurization.17

If you're not entirely sure what types of foods you should be avoiding or limiting your intake of to drastically lower your risk of a listeria infection, here's a list:18

  • Ready-to-eat meats and hotdogs
  • Refrigerated meat spreads
  • Dairy products from untrustworthy sources
  • Refrigerated smoked seafood
  • Uncooked sprouts

Fresh vegetables and fruits may also cause listeria infections, especially if left unwashed. This is due to the possible contact between the fresh produce and animal manure, which is sometimes used in farming, and can contaminate groundwater sources like rivers and irrigation ditches used on the produce.

Listeria in Pregnancy

While listeria infection usually goes away on its own, this does not mean that it should be ignored in hopes that it will resolve on its own. This is especially important when you get listeriosis during pregnancy, as this opens you up to numerous dangerous side effects and complications. Pregnant women are especially susceptible to listeria infection because the hormone changes happening in their body may compromise their immune system.19

4 Possible Pregnancy Complications That May Arise Due to Listeria Infection

Pregnant women are 20 times more susceptible to this infection, which exposes them to a handful of dangerous complications in both their health and their unborn child's, with the child's being more severe.20 Some of the most common complications that pregnant women can suffer from include:

  • Stillbirths — One documented case of listeria infection causing a stillbirth was thoroughly discussed in the 1966 volume of the Journal of Clinical Pathology. In this specific case, the listeria infection was not apparent in the mother, aside for a slight fever. However, the stillborn child showed numerous evidence pointing to widespread listeria infection, which affected the lungs, spleen and liver.21
  • Miscarriages — The listeria bacteria can alter the placenta's ability to protect the unborn child. This may weaken both the fetus and the mother's reproductive tract, leading to miscarriages early in the pregnancy.22
  • Preterm labor — In a 1993 study in the Zeitschrift fur Geburtshilfe und Perinatologie, scientists found that seven strains of the bacteria had the ability to induce uterine contractions, increasing the risk of premature birth.23
  • Death of newborn — If the listeria infection occurs late into the pregnancy, there is a chance that the symptoms will start appearing in the child upon birth, usually starting with symptoms of meningitis. About 60 percent of babies with infected mothers are born premature. They typically start showing signs within 24 hours. Unfortunately, 20 to 60 percent of these neonatal cases die because of the infection.24

Listeria in the Elderly

Because of their compromised immune system function, caused by either old age or other external factors, the elderly are at a higher risk of suffering from listeriosis. In fact, more than half of the patients who suffer from listeriosis belong to the elderly population.25

In 2009, a rise in listeria infections amongst pensioners and the older generation was observed with the reason being that they were more likely to ignore the use-by dates on the packaging of their food products. In fact, a survey found that approximately 40 percent of the elderly population would knowingly eat dairy products up to three days past the use-by date.26 Their weaker immune system puts them at a higher risk of being more severely affected by the bacteria.

Listeria Treatment: How Can This Infection Be Treated?

Listeria infection treatment largely depends on the severity of the symptoms and the immune strength of the patient. In mild cases, treatment is not required, as the symptoms usually go away on their own. In fact, healthy children, teenagers and adults don't require any type of treatment as their immune systems are efficient enough.

However, because of the risks that listeriosis poses on pregnant women, the elderly and immunosuppressed, these patients often require immediate treatment. While the conventional medical route when it comes to listeria infections is through antibiotics, there are also natural ways that you can help your body recover, such as:

  • Ingest garlic shoot juice — A 2006 study found that a 5 percent concentration of garlic shoot juice had an inhibitory effect on Listeria monocytogenes proliferation. Under the microscope, lysis of both the cytoplasm and cell wall in the bacteria was observed.27
  • Stay hydrated — It's important that you replenish your body's fluid levels to avoid dehydration, as vomiting and diarrhea usually accompany listeriosis. This will help your body recuperate much faster as it will not need to compensate for dehydration. Aside from drinking water, you can try sucking on some ice chips or sipping bone broth.28

Some of the most common antibiotics prescribed for this infection are:

  • Ampicillin is often prescribed alone or in conjunction with other antibiotics, including gentamicin. This antibiotic mainly works by rendering the bacteria unable to create an effective cell wall, eventually leading to their death.29
  • Gentamicin, which is usually administered through injections, is an antibiotic that targets various types of bacteria by inhibiting protein production. This eventually messes up the bacteria's overall processes they need to survive.30

While antibiotics may be the conventional route for the treatment of listeria, it's important that you are aware of the numerous risks of side effects that they pose. In mild cases, antibiotics may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fever. In severe cases, they may cause allergic reactions and anaphylactic shock, which may lead to death.31

If it is absolutely necessary for you to take antibiotics, you can help your body maintain balance by taking probiotics or sporebiotics, which will keep the good bacteria in your gut balanced, as antibiotics cannot differentiate between good and bad bacteria. If you're not familiar with sporebiotic supplements, these are made up of bacillus spores and may help reestablish the gut microbiome and enhance your overall immune function.

Listeria Treatment for Pregnant Mothers

Because of pregnant women's sensitive condition, listeriosis treatment during pregnancy is essential to ensure both the safety of the mother and unborn child. During the onset of the infection, listeriosis may cause vomiting and diarrhea, which may cause excessive loss of water from the body, leading to dehydration. This may cause weakness and other health repercussions.32

If a pregnant woman starts showing signs and symptoms of listeriosis, treatment and testing are often given simultaneously to deal with the presumptive infection as soon as possible. Listeria diagnosis usually consists of blood tests and a placental culture in the event of a delivery. If the tests come back negative, thorough evaluation should be done to determine whether the antibiotics prescribed should be continued for safety.33

Listeria Prevention

Like other infections that stem from food contamination, listeria prevention mainly depends on hygiene and the quality of the food that you are ingesting. While listeria infections may be rare, this does not mean that you can ignore caution and expose yourself to the risk of contracting an infection. To make it easier for you, here are a few tips you can follow to drastically decrease your infection risk:34

  • Avoid drinking dairy products from untrusted sources — While health agencies vilify raw dairy products because they supposedly increase your risk of bacterial infections, the same agencies also fail to note that pasteurized dairy has almost the same risks of contamination with different strains of bacteria as raw dairy. When buying dairy products, it's important that you only get them from trustworthy sources to ensure you're getting the highest quality.
  • Wash utensils and kitchen tools used to handle raw or uncooked ingredients — Avoid interchangeably using utensils between raw foods that are going to be cooked with foods that are going to be eaten fresh.
  • Make sure to separate uncooked meats from vegetables, fruits and cooked foods — Properly storing your food inside the refrigerator may significantly reduce the risk of listeria from getting into foods that do not require cooking.
  • Thoroughly cook meats and other ingredients, and avoid consuming half-cooked or poorly cooked food — Make sure that all your meals are properly and sufficiently cooked, preferably in clean and hygienic environments.
  • Eat ready-to-eat foods immediately, avoiding prolonged exposure to air — While you might be tempted to leave your food unattended and get back to it when time permits, this is a surefire way for listeria bacteria to get into your food.

However, because of the unpredictable way that this type of bacteria spreads from food or other materials, it's important that you strengthen your immune system to combat this infection. Your body's immune response plays an important role in regulating the severity of the infection and its spread in your various systems. Immunocompromised patients manifest worse symptoms because the bacteria easily enter their bloodstream, leading to sepsis.

If you want to nip listeria at the root, you can start with strengthening your immune response through various natural practices, including:

  • If you smoke, stopIn a 2017 study from the Oncotarget journal, cigarette smoking was found to negatively affect innate and adaptive immunity, exposing you to a greater risk of infections, cancers and other diseases. Ironically, while smoking may weaken your immune system, it may also increase autoimmunity risk.35
  • Eat a healthy diet — Numerous vitamins and minerals play a direct role in promoting immune function, including vitamins A, C, D and zinc. Ensuring that your diet has plenty of these nutrients may help shield you or at least significantly reduce your risk of contracting different diseases and infections.36
  • Exercise regularly — Physical activity may influence the immune system as regular exercise was found to provide a certain protective effect. However, it's important that you know your limits as overexertion may lead to an opposite effect.37
  • Get adequate sleep — In a 2015 study from the Journal of Immunology Research, researchers noted that sleep influences the body's ability to fight off infections and other illnesses. They found that lack of sleep significantly dampens the body's immune function.38

4 Side Effects or Complications of Listeriosis

While the infection itself brings patients a handful of painful symptoms, listeriosis, if left undiagnosed and untreated, may also expose you to these complications:

  • Neonatal sepsis — In the event that the mother becomes infected prepartum, the unborn child is at high risk of suffering bacterial septicemia. This may cause respiratory distress, an enlarged liver and decreased muscle tone. The prompt diagnosis and treatment of this complication is crucial to decrease the risk of mortality.39
  • Meningitis — The Listeria monocytogenes bacterium is one of the leading causes of meningitis in the population, trailing behind Streptococcus pneumonia and Neisseria meningitides bacteria.40 Symptoms of meningitis include nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, muscle pain and confusion. In the later parts of the infection, patients may suffer from seizures and fall into a coma.41
  • Brain abscesses — While extremely rare, the listeria monocytogenes bacteria can cause brain abscesses. When the infection becomes widespread, it may reach the brain, allowing pus to accumulate in certain parts of the brain.42
  • Listerial endocarditis — In 7.5 percent of the cases of listeria infection, the bacteria manage to make their way to the heart. This causes inflammation in the heart tissue. About half of the patients who suffer from this end up dying.43

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Listeria Infection

Q: How common is listeria in pregnancy?

A: About 17 percent of pregnant women fall victim to listeria infections annually, exposing them to numerous risks.44

Q: How is listeria treated?

A: Conventional treatment for listeria is through antibiotics, such as gentamicin and ampicillin. However, these medications also come with numerous risks and side effects, including nausea, vomiting and dangerous allergic reactions. It's important to know that there are natural ways to combat this infection, including maintaining a good level of hydration and using garlic shoot juice.45

Q: How does listeria get into food?

A: Listeria may contaminate foods if they are incorrectly stored or if ready-to-eat foods are exposed to contaminated materials or utensils used to prepare uncooked food.

Q: How long does a listeria infection last?

A: The duration of a listeria infection depends on the severity and length of the incubation period. Symptoms of listeria may start to show up between two and 70 days after exposure. 

Q: Is listeria contagious?

A: Listeria is mainly contracted from contaminated food and water. It cannot be transmitted from person to person through proximity.

Q: How do you test for listeria?

A: A listeria infection may be diagnosed through various tests, including blood and spinal fluid. If a pregnant mother shows symptoms of listeriosis and there are no other subsequent conditions that may be causing them, testing and treatment may be given at the same time.

Q: How do you get listeria?

A: You can get listeria from a variety of sources, including contaminated ready-to-eat food products, refrigerated meats and dairy products. While the listeria bacterium is purely foodborne, transmission is possible between the mother and the unborn child.46

Q: How common is listeria?

A: Listeria is present in a lot of foods, specifically those stored in refrigerated environments, like deli meats and ready-to-eat sandwiches.

Q: What temperature kills listeria?

A: The listeria bacteria can be killed off in temperatures greater than 65 degrees Celsius or 149 degrees Fahrenheit.47

Q: Does cooking kill listeria?

A: Listeria is one of the hardest bacteria to kill because it cannot die in low or freezing temperatures. The good news is that listeria can be killed off by cooking, specifically in temperatures higher than 149 degrees Fahrenheit. But while cooking can kill it off, cooked food can be contaminated during storage.

Zucchini Noodles With Rich Tomato Sauce Recipe

 

Pasta is a favorite food enjoyed all over the world, and it’s something that you may eat from time to time as well. The great thing about it is that you can create endless varieties to suit whatever mood you’re in. However, there’s one problem with pasta — it’s made from grains.

 

As you know, I don’t recommend eating grains because they contain gluten, a protein composed of glutenin and gliadin molecules. When these two molecules mix together with water, an elastic bond is formed. The resulting compound prevents you from absorbing nutrients from the other ingredients in your meals properly, which can lead to malabsorption and nutrient deficiencies.

 

So, how can you enjoy pasta without the gluten? Simple: Use zucchini for the noodles, which is high in fiber and various nutrients.

                                                                                   

I’ve featured several zucchini pasta recipes before, but this version, created by Pete Evans, combines it with a rich tomato sauce made from wholesome ingredients such as fresh tomatoes, various herbs and spices. This healthy, easy-to-prepare dish can be a staple of your diet if you enjoy pasta regularly.

 

Ingredients:

 

  • 6 to 10 semi-dried tomatoes
  • 2 organic tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 red capsicum, roughly chopped
  • 6 to 10 green olives, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 1 cup of organic Swiss brown mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1 large handful of organic basil leaves, torn
  • 1 tsp. of finely chopped organic rosemary leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 small red chili, sliced (optional)
  • A squeeze of organic lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 organic zucchinis
  • 1 Tbsp. of finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large handful of organic baby spinach leaves
  • Toasted pine nuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, to serve

 

Procedure:

  1. Place the semi-dried tomatoes in a food processor, along with the fresh tomatoes, capsicum, olives, mushrooms, basil, rosemary, garlic, chili (if using) and lemon juice. Pulse the ingredients until combined, but still chunky. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, drizzle 3 tablespoons of olive oil and then set aside for five to 10 minutes to marinate.
  2. To make the zucchini noodles, thinly slice the zucchinis using a mandolin slicer or a vegetable peeler. Toss the noodles with the remaining oil, the parsley and some of the pepper, and set aside to marinate for five minutes at room temperature.
  3. To serve, combine the noodles with the chunky tomato sauce and baby spinach leaves, then spread the pine nuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds over the meal.

 

Serves: 4 persons

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

 

Zucchini Is a Great Substitute for Flour-Based Pasta Noodles

 

The great thing about zucchini is its versatility. You can use it in different dishes such as salads and soups, or even make zucchini fries for an appetizer. In this recipe, however, zucchini takes center stage as a healthy alternative to pasta noodles.

 

Compared to noodles made from flour, zucchini is loaded with various nutrients, most notably soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber can help slow down digestion, which helps you feel full longer, making it an effective tool for weight control. Insoluble fiber on the other hand, helps digested food move quicker through your intestines, helping regulate bowel elimination. Be sure to eat the skin, because this is where most of its fiber is located.

 

In addition, zucchini is loaded with various antioxidants such as zeaxanthin and lutein. These two compounds work together to help promote eye health. The drawback is that your body cannot produce zeaxanthin and lutein on its own, so you need to get them through your diet. Thus, if you want to maintain your healthy vision, you should consume zucchini regularly.

 

Tomatoes Are a Great Source of Lycopene and Other Vitamins

 

Tomatoes are known for their lycopene content, a compound that gives tomatoes their red color and also happens to be a powerful antioxidant. According to the results of a long-term study that lasted for 12 years, participants (who were middle-aged men) who had high levels of lycopene were 55 percent less likely to have any form of stroke compared to those who had lower levels.[i] Moreover, tomatoes have the following nutrients that can support optimal health:

 

Vitamin A

Manganese

Vitamin B6

Magnesium

Vitamin C

Thiamin

Vitamin E

Niacin

Vitamin K

Copper

Potassium

Fiber

 

 

Herbs Add Flavor and Aroma to This Recipe

 

Herbs are a great way to add appeal to any recipe. Specific herbs offer certain flavors, and a combination of them can add a wonderful kick to the dish’s overall flavor. This recipe makes use of three healthy herbs, namely:

 

  • Basil

     

    Basil is an essential herb that you should always have in your kitchen, not just for its flavor, but for its nutrients as well. It’s known for its sweet, earthy flavor and emits a wonderful aroma when cooked.

     

    Health benefits, however, are where basil truly shines. Just two tablespoons of the herb can provide 29 percent of the daily recommended value for vitamin K. This nutrient is important for recovery, because it can help improve blood clotting whenever you sustain cuts or wounds.

     

    In addition, basil provides good levels of vitamin A, which is an essential antioxidant that can help protect your cell linings from free radical damage, especially your blood vessels. Regular consumption of this vitamin can help lower your risk of various cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attacks and atherosclerosis, as well as help prevent the cholesterol in your blood from oxidizing.

     

  • Parsley

     

    Parsley is usually garnished on top of dishes, and is ignored most of the time. If you’ve been doing this for some time now, you’re doing a great disservice to your health, because this little herb is loaded with nutrients you should not ignore.

     

    For starters, parsley contains a whopping 574 percent of the daily recommended value for vitamin K, and like basil, can help improve blood clotting, in addition to helping promote bone strength and helping limit neuron damage in the brain.

     

    Parsley is rich in iron as well — twice as much as spinach, in fact. This mineral plays an important part in your overall health, because it helps carry oxygen from your lungs to every organ and tissue in your body.

     

  • Rosemary

 

Rosemary is one of the most popular cooking herbs around. Its flavor and aroma lends itself well to a myriad of dishes, such as sandwiches, roasted meats, dips and soups. It’s even used to make infused oil that can be used in aromatherapy.

 

Memory improvement is usually the health benefit attributed to rosemary, especially for the elderly. In one study, 28 senior adults were given varying doses of rosemary, alongside a placebo. The researchers noticed that an optimum dosage of 750 milligrams helped improve cognitive function among the participants, compared to the placebo and higher doses of rosemary.[ii]

 

Aside from memory improvement, rosemary is known for its vitamin A content, which can help with eliminating free radicals, supporting eye health, maintaining healthy skin and helping lower the risk of lung and mouth cancer. Vitamin C is also abundant in rosemary, which can help maintain a healthy immune system and collagen synthesis.

 

About the Author

 

Pete Evans is an internationally renowned chef who has not only cooked for the general public, but also cooked a royal banquet for the Prince and Princess of Denmark, a private dinner for Martha Stewart and even represented his hometown at the gala GʼDay U.S.A. dinner for 600 in NYC. Pete’s career has moved from the kitchen into the lounge room with many TV appearances including Lifestyle Channel’s Home show, Postcards from Home, FISH, My Kitchen Rules and Moveable Feast. 

 

Pete’s latest endeavor, The Paleo Way, is a vibrant health, weight management and fitness program, tailored to a Paleo lifestyle. Its 10-week activation program teaches you the synergy between eating good food, moving your body every day and looking at the positive sides and secrets to a healthier and happier life.

Will Our Time on Earth Be Preserved in Chicken Bones?

 

With each passing year, humans have a greater impact on the environment than the year before. Between 2010 and 2015, the number of contaminated waterways in India more than doubled and by 2015 more than half of the nation's rivers were polluted.

Plastics are polluting the oceans and waterways, and even the micro fibers and microbeads in clothing are increasing the potential for catastrophic environmental and biological consequences.

Every year an estimated 80 billion pieces of clothing are sold worldwide and each year Americans alone throw out 15 million tons of clothing.1 Animal waste from factory farms also pose a significant risk to public health.

Communities near hog concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) have higher mortality rates from anemia, kidney disease, tuberculosis and septicemia. CAFO animals are routinely fed antibiotics, which promotes drug-resistant bacteria.

Poultry products are frequently contaminated with bacteria, including Salmonella, and have even tested positive for drugs that are banned or restricted in U.S. meat, including chloramphenicol, ketamine, phenylbutazone and nitroimidazole.

Geological Passage of Time Marked by Changes to the Earth

A paper in the Royal Society2 proposes we may have geologically entered the age of the chicken.3 In 1669, Nicolaus Steno described two basic geological principles becoming the foundation of an idea that geological processes are uniform in frequency and magnitude.4 This led to the development of a geological time scale, separated into eras, periods and epochs.

Today we are in the Cenozoic era, Quaternary period and Holocene epoch5 — that is until scientists announced the impact humans have had on the Earth has been so profound that a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, must be declared.6

An official expert group presented the recommendation to the International Geological Congress at Cape Town, determining the new epoch should begin in 1950, as it was during this time radioactive elements dispersed across the planet by nuclear bomb tests could define an array of other signals of change.

These signals of significant impact on the Earth included plastic pollution, soot from power stations and the bones left by the global proliferation of the domesticated chicken. The Holocene era marked 12,000 years of steady climate since the last ice age.

However, with striking acceleration of emissions and rising sea levels, experts argue this marks the end of this geological time period. Additional changes include the global mass extinction of species and the transformation of land by deforestation.

Experts continue to argue7 whether we have officially entered the Anthropocene epoch and humans have permanently changed the planet.8 However, despite the argument of whether the name should change, the fact remains humans have made an indelible and infamous mark on the Earth, especially with the industrialization of food manufacture and supply.

Mind-Boggling Number of Chickens Tell a Disturbing Tale

With a combined mass of 23 billion, the global chicken population is nearly three times the human population of the world.9 Nearly 65 billion chickens are consumed each year, and scientists believe this signature fossil of the modern epic may be what the future remembers about humans living today.

As archaeologists sift through the remnants of these years, it might be the broiler chicken that stands out, determining who we were and how humans shaped the world. At any given time, the population of chickens is at least 10 times more than any other bird. The second largest population of birds has an estimated number of 1.5 billion.

However, it isn't just the mind-boggling number of chickens that will speak to the history of this time, but also the animals' shape and genetic changes bred specifically for food. Carys Bennett, an honorary fellow at the University of Leicester and one of the authors of the essay, comments,10 "We have changed the actual biology of the chicken."

Chickens were domesticated nearly 8,000 years ago, simultaneously in China and India. They reached North and South America in the 1500s with the Spanish explorers, but ancient Egyptians were among the first to master artificial incubation, allowing them to raise a larger number of eggs for food.

Prior to the 1920s, poultry was raised for fun in the U.S., mostly as a hobby. Henneries became commercialized operations following World War I and saved the day for thousands of farmers in the Midwest who suffered crop failures, labor shortages and price drops.

By the 1940s the chicken population in every American city was roughly half of the human population, leading to the current factory farms. It has become a sad state of affairs for an animal once revered by the Roman armies and affectionate enough to make a great pet.

Factory farming has represented the chicken's final step as a protein producing commodity when as many as 20,000 to 30,000 broilers are crowded together in a windowless building. Selective breeding has made the broiler so docile even when given access to the outdoors, they prefer hanging out at a mechanized trough for the next delivery of feed.

Today the modern broiler chicken has an average life span of 5 to 9 weeks, and has nearly five times the mass of its ancestors. A genetic mutation has been bred into the animal to make it eat insatiably in order to rapidly gain weight.

However, this rapid weight gain makes the animal subject to numerous bone ailments and, in combination with a diet heavy in grains, the bones have a distinct chemical signature.

The Broiler Designed for an Industrial System of Meat Production

Chickens were once free to roam and peck away at the dirt for bugs and seeds, but are now completely dependent on an industrial system of meat production. Eggs are separated from the hens and artificially incubated where the chicks grow in a climate-controlled shed.

At no older than 9 weeks, the chickens are transported to a slaughterhouse. The authors write most of the chicken is used11 "where most waste products (feathers, manure, blood etc.) are recycled via anaerobic digestion, incineration and rendering into edible by-products, all technology-dependent."

These scientists argue the greatest lasting sign of how we have changed the world will be the broiler chicken in its number and strangeness, as compared to the original animal. The authors go on to write:12

"Modern broiler chickens are morphologically, genetically and isotopically distinct from domestic chickens prior to the mid-20th century. The global range of modern broilers and biomass dominance over all other bird species is a product of human intervention.

As such, broiler chickens vividly symbolize the transformation of the biosphere to fit evolving human consumption patterns, and show clear potential to be a biostratigraphic marker species of the Anthropocene."

Pathogens and Chemical Contaminants in CAFO Chickens

Raw chicken meat is particularly dangerous. Over the years, testing has shown chicken is particularly prone to contamination with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Testing in 200713 found 80 percent of whole chicken broilers had Salmonella and/or Campylobacter, two of the leading causes of foodborne illness.

In 2010, retesting demonstrated modest improvements but just three years later Consumer Reports 14 found 97 percent of the chicken breast tested had harmful bacteria, and half had at least one type of bacteria resistant to three or more antibiotics.

In 2018 a salmonella outbreak in 29 states resulted from chicken contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.15 A small sampling of 24 chickens from four national retailers was tested, finding 88 percent were contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.16

Bacterial Contamination Is Not the Only Challenge to Eating Chicken

In 2017 a story broke that Sanderson Farms' so-called "100% natural chicken" was contaminated with ketamine. This is a drug used by veterinarians, psychiatrists and recreational drug users, known for delivering hallucinogenic effects.

While many chicken producers are actively taking steps to reduce antibiotic use, Sanderson Farms has not, until very recently. In the final months of 2018, the company stated it would discontinue the use of antibiotics Gentamicin and virginiamycin by March 1, 2019.17 Until this announcement they were the only large U.S. chicken producer not committed to curbing the use of medicinally important antibiotics.

However, despite their announcement they did not state whether or not they would allow an independent third-party to verify practices.18 They report they do not use any other medicinally important antibiotics beyond these two, but again do not allow third-party verification.

Sanderson Farms Continues to Push Back on Safer Policies

In 2017, Center for Food Safety and Friends of Earth took Sanderson to court alleging the company's advertisements were false and misleading. After two previous attempts were dismissed, the court has now agreed to hear the case. Kari Hamerschlag, deputy director of food and agriculture at Friends of the Earth, states:19

"After years of misleading the public and denying the public health risks associated with overuse of antibiotics in animal production, we welcome the judges' decision to allow our lawsuit against Sanderson Farms to continue."

At the time the original lawsuit was filed, Sanderson unequivocally denied administration of antibiotics, other chemicals or pesticides listed in the complaint, except for penicillin prescribed to treat sick flocks.20 However, this recent announcement that they would eliminate the use of two medicinally important antibiotics is contradictory to their statement in response to the original lawsuit.

Chickens Are Bigger but Less Nutritious

Broiler chickens are larger, producing more meat, but the meat is less nutritious. Levels of healthy fats in chicken, namely beneficial animal-based omega-3s including DHA, have also changed considerably.

The London Metropolitan University study, written by Michael Crawford Ph.D., of London Metropolitan University,21 found eating 100 grams (about one-quarter pound) of chicken in 1980 would give you 170 milligrams (mg) of DHA, but the same amount of chicken in 2004 would provide just 25 mg.

Omega-6 fats, on the other hand — the kind most Americans get way too much of, courtesy of highly processed vegetable oils — increased, rising from 2,400 mg in 1980 to 6,290 mg in 2004.

Your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio is important to your general health and brain development. The ideal ratio is 1-to-1, but the typical Western diet may be between 1-to-20 and 1-to-50. CAFO chicken, and for that matter CAFO anything, certainly doesn't help anyone achieve their goal. For more information about the nutritional content in chicken see my previous article, "Big Chickens, Little Nutrition."

Choosing Safer Chicken and Eggs Reduces Your Risk

Choosing food from small regenerative farms — not factory farms — is an important health consideration. Seek out antibiotic-free alternatives raised by organic and regenerative farmers. Unfortunately, loopholes allow CAFO raised chicken and eggs to be masqueraded as "free-range" and "organic."

Some of these issues are addressed in the Cornucopia Institute egg report22 and score card,23 which ranks producers according to 28 organic criteria. Ultimately, the best choice is a trusted local farmer where you can get your meat and eggs directly.

Alternatively, consider raising your own backyard chickens, a practice growing in popularity in many U.S. cities. Requirements vary depending upon your geographical area, with zoning restrictions limiting the number of chickens you can raise or requiring quarterly inspections.

Check with your city's regulations before taking the plunge. You might be surprised to find your city already allows raising chickens. If you don't want to raise your own but still want farm fresh eggs, look for high quality organic, pastured eggs raised locally. In urban areas, visit the local health food store to find high-quality local eggs sources.

Farmers markets and food co-ops are another way to meet people who produce your food. When you have face-to-face contact, you can get your questions answered and know exactly what you're buying. Better yet, visit the farm and ask for a tour. If they have nothing to hide, they should be eager to show you their operation.

Top Reasons to Support Groundwater Preservation

 

30 Tips in 30 Days Designed to Help You Take Control of Your Health

This article is included in Dr. Mercola's All-Time Top 30 Health Tips series. Every day during the month of January, a new tip will be added that will help you take control of your health. Want to see the full list? Click here.

Water scarcity is getting worse around the world as aquifers are drained faster than they can be refilled. The most significant contributor to the problem is industrial farming, due to its heavy use of potable water for irrigation.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, about 80 percent of U.S. consumptive water (and more than 90 percent in many Western states) is used for agricultural purposes1 and, worldwide, groundwater is being used up at a faster rate than it can be replenished.

Many Aquifers Are Nearing Depletion

One-third of the largest groundwater aquifers are already nearing depletion,2 with three of the most stressed aquifers being located in areas where political tensions run high as it is.3 To give you an idea of how quickly groundwater is being depleted, consider what's happening in the High Plains Aquifer (also known as the Ogallala) in the American Midwest.

Here, the water level has been dropping by an average of 6 feet per year, while the natural recharge rate is 1 inch or less.4 Once this aquifer is depleted — and many wells have already run dry in the area — 20 percent of the U.S. corn, wheat and cattle output will be lost due to lack of irrigation and water for the animals.

According to James Famiglietti, a senior water scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the majority of our global groundwaters "are past sustainability tipping points,"5 which means it's only a matter of time until we run out of fresh water.

Pollution Threatens Remaining Freshwater Supplies

Precious water sources are also threatened by pollution from large-scale monocrop farms and concentrated animal feeding operations.6 According to a report7 by Environment America, corporate agribusiness is "one of the biggest threats to America's waterways." Tyson Foods Inc. was deemed among the worst, releasing 104.4 million pounds of toxic pollutants into waterways between 2010 and 2014.

Researchers have warned that many lakes around the world are now at grave risk from fertilizer runoff that feeds harmful blue-green algae (cyanobacteria),8,9 and once established, it's far more difficult to get rid of than previously thought. The answer, according to the authors of this study, is better land-use management that addresses fertilizer runoff. Dramatic reductions in fertilizer use are also recommended.

Indeed, the long-term solution to many of our water quality and water scarcity issues is to phase out the use of toxic pesticides, chemical fertilizers and soil additives, and to grow crops and raise food animals in such a way that the farm contributes to the overall health and balance of the environment rather than polluting it and creating a dysfunctional ecosystem.

Pumped Dry

"Pumped Dry: The Global Crisis of Vanishing Groundwater," a documentary by USA Today and The Desert Sun, shows how people are being rudely awakened to the problem as more and more wells are now running dry. As reported by USA Today:10

"Groundwater is disappearing beneath cornfields in Kansas, rice paddies in India, asparagus farms in Peru and orange groves in Morocco. As these critical water reserves are pumped beyond their limits, the threats are mounting for people who depend on aquifers to supply agriculture, sustain economies and provide drinking water.

In some areas, fields have already turned to dust and farmers are struggling. Climate change is projected to increase the stresses on water supplies, and heated disputes are erupting in places where those with deep wells can keep pumping and leave others with dry wells …

These are stories about people on four continents confronting questions of how to safeguard their aquifers for the future — and in some cases, how to cope as the water runs out."

India's Water Crisis

The twin satellites GRACE, which stands for Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, are able to measure water content on Earth by observing changes in the planet's gravitational pull. Data from these satellites reveal groundwater depletion is occurring all-around the globe.

One of these places is India, which has been edging toward a water crisis for decades. The seriousness of the situation is particularly evident in the northern state of Punjab. The areas' five rivers supply water to a large number of irrigation canals.

Still, this surface water accounts for just 27 percent of the areas irrigation needs. The remaining 73 percent comes from groundwater. As a result, the groundwater table is rapidly declining, as water is being pumped out at a faster rate than it is replenished. The decline began in 1979, and has increased exponentially in the decades since.

An elderly Indian woman recounts being able to hit water simply by digging a foot down into the earth when she was a child. Today, some areas have no groundwater available at all. In some cases, farmers have dug up to 60 bore wells on their property without hitting a single drop. In others, farmers have drilled to a depth of 900 feet without hitting water.

Many farmers that do have functioning wells are forced to deepen them every year, in order to maintain irrigation of their fields. Rice, which is typically the most profitable crop for Indian farmers to grow, also requires more water than other traditional crops, creating a delicate Catch-22.

Lack of water has been the death knell for many Indian farmers, who commit suicide when their bore wells stop yielding water. For without water, nothing can grow and, without a viable crop, they have no income and no way to repay their debts and sustain their families.

According to statistics from the Indian National Crime Records Bureau, an average of 32 farmers or farmworkers commit suicide each day. And, while failing wells aren't the only factor contributing to this tragic trend, it's an important one. The state of Maharashtra has the highest farmer suicide rate in the nation, and here, the lack of water is so severe that in many areas rain is the only source of water available for farmers' crops.

The Situation in Kansas

The filmmakers also visit Kansas, an area of the U.S. where farmers are struggling to keep going due to declining groundwater. As noted by Jay Garetson, a farmer in Sublette, Kansas, "Water is the limiting factor in life in general, but southwest Kansas specifically."

GRACE satellite data confirms well data from the U.S. Geological Survey, showing a dramatic decline in groundwater in the high plains Ogallala aquifer, the largest freshwater aquifer in the Western Hemisphere. In the 1960s, farmers began drilling wells for field irrigation. Since then, the water level has steadily declined.

As mentioned earlier, the groundwater in this enormously important aquifer has been dropping by an average of 6 feet per year. Meanwhile, the annual recharge rate is thought to be around half an inch, but no more than 1 inch.11 As noted by one Kansas farmer, "We're now nearing the bottom of that pool of water that in the 50s and 60s we thought was inexhaustible."

Indeed, in some areas of the state, the groundwater has already dried up entirely. Needless to say, in areas where there is no groundwater, you cannot grow food, and once the Ogallala dries up, the heartland of the United States, where a majority of the nation's food is produced, will become a barren wasteland.

The Moroccan Water Struggle

The next stop is Morocco, where many farms have had to shut down operations due to there being no water left. Here, as in India and the U.S., lack of regulation of groundwater resources has led to overexploitation.

According to Laila Mandi with Cadi Ayyad University, the groundwater level in Morocco is decreasing by nearly 10 feet per year. The Souss-Massa, a heavy agricultural area thanks to favorable climate, is among the hardest hit areas. As noted by one farmer in the area who has had to close down his farm, "The people would like to work, but the water is gone."

Peruvian Desert Farmers Face Extinction

In Peru, at the foothills of the Andes mountains, a desert farming district known as Ica boasts a lucrative farming region. According to the former mayor of Ica, Luis Oliva Fernandez Prada, "Ica is destined to be the California of Peru," thanks to its accelerated economic growth. "This place has generated jobs, money for the country, food for the world," Prada says. But in doing so, they're also draining a resource without which they cannot even sustain their own lives.

Most of the food grown here is destined for export, and the water for irrigation is pumped from wells. Here too, the water crisis is rearing its ugly head. Farmer Memerto Cuya Villagaray says the lack of water "is going to make us disappear … Without water, what are we going to do?"

According to Maria Teresa Ore, a professor at Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, they used to be able to hit water at a depth of 3 meters (less than 10 feet). Today, there's no water even at a depth of 300 meters (985 feet). People are so desperate they keep drilling new wells even though it's prohibited.

Jorge Aparcana with the Ica Human Rights Commission comments on the situation, saying, "We're not only destroying the future of the coming generations, but we're also depleting our resources." Historically, Ica has been a producer of dry-zone crops, but in more recent years, that's changed. Driven by profit potential, farmers began growing asparagus, becoming a leading global producer of asparagus.

"It's a crime to plant asparagus in a desert, because it's a very water-intensive crop," Aparcana says. David Bayer, an Ica resident and water activist agrees, saying the growing of asparagus should have been outlawed before it began to protect groundwater supplies. Ore adds, "Having a crop that demands so much water, although it's true that it's very profitable, the environmental and social costs are not justified."

"What worries me is not only the depletion of our natural resources, which we're already seeing," Aparcana says, "but also the deep social exclusion we're experiencing."

Large landlords from Chile, Lima and other areas have moved into Ica, progressively pushing out small farmers and buying up wells, which they then improve and put behind locked fences, preventing anyone from accessing the water. And, since these improved wells are kept running around the clock, they decrease the flow to other, smaller and less efficient wells nearby.

A few years ago, residents began receiving municipal tap water, but the water is only available for about an hour, twice or three times a week. This is the only drinking water they have.

According to Bayer, one of the owners of a large agribusiness told him, "I fear that when people don't have drinking water, they will come onto my farm and burn it down." Aparcana also fears the lack of water is a breeding ground for violence, both criminal and political.

Is California Headed Toward Another Dustbowl Disaster?

Wells are also running dry in California. Many blame the California water crisis on vineyards that pump groundwater for their grapes. One small farmer says her well went dry a month after a nearby vineyard put down a new 1,000-foot well.

According to "Pumped Dry," the water table in California has dropped about 70 feet in the past 10 years; half of that being in the last three to four years alone. In the California Central Valley, the amount of water being drained from underground is actually causing the land to sink, which further inhibits the ground's ability to retain water.

In Porterville, California, a majority of homeowners rely on well water — and all the wells are drying up. Melissa Withnell, board representative and media officer of Tulare County, says the situation is "an absolute emergency." Fifty-five to 60 percent of all dry wells in California are in Tulare County, and a majority of those dry wells are located in Porterville.

What Are the Solutions?

The common theme throughout this investigation is that there's a "free-for-all" mentality at play where the one who can afford to drill the deepest well wins in the short term, but everyone loses in the long term.

According to the experts interviewed in "Pumped Dry," groundwater as a resource needs proper governance and management, including regulations on use, water pricing, more efficient irrigation systems and engineering solutions to improve the refill rate of aquifers.

We also need to make a collective change in how we use water, and how we grow crops. Selecting the most appropriate crops for any given area would result in more efficient water usage, and reduce the amount farmers would have to draw from our aquifers. In short, we need to grow food with less water.

The good news is we already know how to do that, and it's called regenerative agriculture. Unfortunately, this was not addressed in this film, but it's been well-proven that regenerative agriculture biodynamic farming is far more water efficient than industrial farming. To learn how, see "Regenerative Farming — One Solution That Solves Many Problems," or "The Effects of Biodynamic Farming on the Environment and Food Quality."

Dandelion Tea Helps Improve Your Liver Function, Digestion and More

 

Some people think that dandelion is nothing but a pesky weed that can ruin a perfectly groomed garden, while others consider it one of the most useful gifts from nature. While it's true that dandelion may not always grow in the desired location, this resilient plant actually has plenty of health benefits to offer.

In fact, the earliest mention of dandelion as a medicinal herb dates back to the 10th and 11th centuries in the Middle East.1 It was also used in traditional Chinese medicine to ease liver problems and other health issues.2 From its roots to the flowers, almost all parts of the humble dandelion can be used to make tea, soups, coffee and other concoctions that can give your health a boost.

What Is Dandelion Tea?

Dandelion tea is an herbal tea that's made from the roots and leaves of dandelion.3 Some people also use its blossoms to make a tea that's more delicate in flavor.4 Aside from the difference in flavor profile, the nutritional and medicinal value of dandelion tea may also differ depending on the parts that were used to make it.

Dandelion leaf tea is often consumed for its diuretic properties, while tea made from dandelion roots is known for its ability to help stimulate the appetite and relieve liver and gallbladder problems. The flowers and stems of dandelion may also be added into the tea mixture for additional nutrients.5

The flavors and nutritional profile of dandelion tea also depend on the season when the roots or leaves are harvested. Dandelion leaves are usually picked during the spring,6 while the roots are often harvested in autumn or winter, since they're believed to be sweeter during these seasons.7

Since dandelions are widely available and are extremely simple to grow, you can easily harvest them to make a tea of your own from fresh ingredients. You may also opt to buy tea bags made from dried organic dandelion roots or leaves. Whichever part of dandelion you choose to brew, rest assured that you'll get plenty of nutrients from a cup of this herbal drink.

9 Remarkable Health Benefits of Dandelion Tea

With all the publicity that dandelion tea has been getting lately, one of the questions that has probably crossed your mind is, "What exactly is dandelion tea good for?" To answer that question, check out the long list of benefits that you can get from dandelion root or leaf tea:

1. Helps soothe digestive problems — Dandelion tea has been used for centuries to help relieve minor digestive problems, such as heartburn and indigestion. It may also help relieve constipation, since it stimulates bowel movement with its diuretic properties.8

2. Helps maintain proper liver function — Dandelion tea is considered a "liver tonic," since it helps detoxify the liver and improve the flow of bile.9 A recent study also shows that the water-soluble polysaccharides from dandelion root may help protect the liver from hepatic injury.10

3. Helps reduce water retention — Drinking dandelion tea may help reduce bloating, as it can flush out excessive water weight from your body by increasing your urine output. A study conducted in 2009 showed that the first two cups of dandelion tea can cause a significant increase in the frequency of urination within a period of five hours.11

4. Helps improve kidney and gallbladder function — Dandelion tea may help improve the health of your kidneys and reduce your risk of developing gallstones by flushing out toxins, salt and excess water through increased urine production.12

5. Aids in the management of diabetesResearchers suggest that dandelion root may help normalize blood sugar levels and reduce bad cholesterol, so drinking tea made from its extracts may be beneficial for diabetics.13

6. Helps improve heart health — Dandelion leaves are a great source of potassium, so drinking its extract may provide your body with traces of this essential mineral, which is important for your heart health, as it helps regulate heart rate and blood pressure levels.

7. Helps reduce the risk of cancer — At least one study shows that dandelion root extract may help induce apoptosis in cancer cells without affecting the noncancerous cells in your body.14

8. Helps relieve inflammation — Dandelion tea provides anti-inflammatory properties, which may help alleviate swelling and other health issues related to inflammation.15

9. Helps reduce your risk for obesityA study published in the Journal of Nutrition Research and Practice found that dandelion may aid weight loss by inhibiting the activity of pancreatic lipase.16

In addition to the benefits mentioned above, drinking roasted dandelion root tea may be beneficial for coffee lovers who are trying to cut down their caffeine intake, as it tastes relatively similar to coffee.17

Caffeine Content of Roasted Dandelion Root Tea

As mentioned above, roasted dandelion root tea is an excellent natural coffee substitute, hence why it's often called "dandelion coffee." But the question is, does it have any caffeine content?

While it tastes and looks relatively similar to real coffee, roasted dandelion root tea does not contain caffeine, which is why it's great for those who are sensitive to this compound.18,19 However, like coffee, it can also provide plenty of antioxidants, plus other valuable vitamins and minerals.

How to Make a Cup of Fresh Dandelion Tea

Looking for an inexpensive substitute to store-bought dandelion root tea bags? Look no further than the dandelions in your organic garden. You can put these plants to good use by making your own cup of tea. Here's how you can make dandelion tea using its fresh leaves, according to a recipe from Mama's Homestead:20

Ingredients

  • Six dandelion leaves
  • Water

Optional

  • Slice of lemon or orange
  • Raw honey, to sweeten

Procedure

  1. Collect around six pieces of young and tender dandelion leaves. Wash them thoroughly under running water, then pat them dry with a paper towel.
  2. Cut the leaves into small pieces then put them in a cup.
  3. Pour boiling water and steep for five to 10 minutes.

You may opt to drink your dandelion tea as is or serve it with a slice of lemon or orange. You may also sweeten it with honey, but make sure that you only add in a small amount to avoid overloading your body with fructose.

Hearty and Comforting Dandelion Tea Recipe That You Should Try

Aside from making a simple cup of dandelion tea, there are other ways to enjoy this herbal drink. Here's a delicious and comforting chai recipe from The Kitchn that you will surely enjoy sipping on:21

Dandelion and Chicory Chai

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup filtered water
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground roasted dandelion root tea
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground chicory root
  • 2 black peppercorns, cracked
  • 2 green cardamom pods, cracked
  • 1 whole clove
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
  • 1/2 cup raw, unpasteurized milk
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Procedure

  1. Combine the water, dandelion root, chicory root, peppercorns, cardamom, ginger, clove and cinnamon in a saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and then simmer for five minutes.
  2. Add the milk and honey, then increase the heat to medium and bring to a boil. Keep the saucepan uncovered.
  3. Remove the mixture from the heat and strain it into a cup. Discard the solid particles, and serve the drink immediately.

The recipe above is not only rich in flavors, but filled with nutrients too. It takes only a few minutes to make, and is great for a single serving. You can easily double the ingredients if you want to make more for your family or friends.

Here's How You Can Store Dandelion Tea for Later Use

You don't need to brew your dandelion root or leaf tea all at once after harvest, because you can actually preserve and store these ingredients for a long time, as long as you dry them first.

When drying dandelion roots, make sure that you wash each root thoroughly before chopping them into small pieces. You may use a dehydrator to dry the chopped roots, or you may simply place them outside under the hot sun until they're all dried out. Once dry, put the roots in an airtight glass jar and store in a dry place, out of direct sunlight.22,23

Preserving dandelion leaves is easier. You just need to wash the leaves thoroughly and pat them dry with a paper towel. Spread the clean leaves on a tray, and then leave them in a warm room or air cupboard to dry. Be sure to turn the leaves occasionally. After they're all dried up, store them in an airtight glass jar out of direct sunlight.24

Common Side Effects of Dandelion Tea

Dandelion leaf or root tea is considered generally safe to consume. However, it may cause allergic reactions like itching, rashes and runny nose in people who are allergic to ragweed and other related plants, including chamomile, chrysanthemums and marigold.

If you're taking medications or supplements, make sure that you consult your doctor before drinking dandelion tea, as it may interact with several drugs. This herbal drink is also not recommended for people with kidney problems and gallbladder disorders.25

Make Sure That Your Dandelion Tea Comes From Safe and Organic Sources

Making homemade dandelion tea may be fun and inexpensive, but you have to keep in mind that not all dandelions you see on the ground are beneficial for your health. This hardy weed pops up almost anywhere — from your well-kept backyard to the dirty street gutter.

If you're planning to harvest it for consumption, make sure that you use plants grown in a clean area that's free of pesticides, herbicides and other harmful pollutants. As much as possible, avoid those that grow near the roadway, and refrain from brewing the neighborhood dandelions unless you're absolutely sure that chemicals weren't sprayed on them.26

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Dandelion Tea

Q: Is dandelion tea safe?

A: Yes, dandelion tea is generally considered safe for most people, as long as it's consumed in moderate amounts. It's important to note that dandelion tea may trigger an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to dandelion and other related plants. To ensure your safety, consult your physician before drinking this herbal tea.27

Q: How do you drink dandelion tea?

A: Dandelion tea is best enjoyed when it's freshly brewed. You can serve it hot or cold. You may also mix it with other healthy ingredients, such as lemon, cinnamon and honey, for additional flavors and nutrients.28

Q: What does dandelion tea do for the body?

A: Dandelion tea has long been used to help soothe digestive ailments, such as poor appetite, constipation, upset stomach and indigestion. Its diuretic properties also make it useful for reducing water weight and flushing out toxins, salt and excess water from the kidney. Plus, it helps detoxify the liver by increasing the flow of bile.29,30,31

Studies have also shown that dandelion tea may help fight certain types of cancer by killing the cancer cells without affecting the noncancerous ones.32 It may also help regulate blood sugar levels,33 relieve inflammation,34 improve heart health and maintain normal blood pressure levels.35

Q: How do you use dandelion root tea?

A: You can drink dandelion root tea as is or mix it with other herbal preparations to enhance its nutritional value. Roasted dandelion root tea may also be used as a natural substitute for coffee, since they both have the same color and antioxidant properties. The only difference is that dandelion root tea does not contain caffeine.36,37

Q: How often can you drink dandelion tea?

A: You can drink up to three cups of dandelion tea per day.38

Q: Where can you buy dandelion tea?

A: Dandelion tea bags are widely available in groceries and health stores. Store-bought dandelion tea may be a little pricey, though. If you're looking for an inexpensive alternative, you can make your own homemade dandelion tea using dandelion greens and roots that come from safe and organic sources.

Bay Oil: The Essential Oil for Men

 

The leaves of the West Indian bay tree, called "the spice tree" in some areas of the Caribbean, are known for their culinary uses, such as for cooking stews, soups and porridge.1 But did you know that the essential oil derived from these leaves is valuable as well?

Bay essential oil is known to contain antimicrobial compounds and other beneficial properties.2 It also has a spicy and smoky masculine aroma that make it appealing to men. Discover more about this herbal oil by reading the information below.

What Is Bay Oil?

Bay essential oil is obtained from the bay tree (Pimenta racemosa), an evergreen tree that originated in the West Indies,3 but is now harvested in Morocco, Spain and the U.S.4 The bay tree is related to the allspice plant family, and grows up to 12 meters (a little over 39 feet) tall. It possesses long-pointed leaves, with small yellow or white flowers and black nonedible berries.5

Bay oil is often confused with bay laurel essential oil, which comes from the Laurus nobilis plant, native to the Mediterranean region.6 While these two oils share similar qualities, the important thing to remember is they come from two different plants. The bay tree is also different from the bayberry shrub, from which early American settlers produced candles.7

Bay oil is extracted from the fresh leaves of the bay tree through steam distillation. It has a yellow to dark brown color and a strong spicy fragrance, which resembles that of clove oil.8,9

Uses of Bay Oil

West Indies bay oil is frequently used in cosmetics and perfumery.10 In the 20th century, the oil was distilled with rum and water to produce a cologne called "Bay Rum," which became popular among men for its spicy, smoky and woody tones. Unlike other plant oils like rose or geranium oils (which are more feminine), its spicy, smoky and woody tones and masculine aroma makes it a good choice for men.11

Bay oil is also considered an analgesic in aromatherapy, and it helps in relieving rheumatic muscle and joint pain and nerve pain (neuralgia). It may also be used as a massage oil or added to bathwater along with citrus or spice oils to induce a relaxing effect.12 It is added to hair products like shampoos for its ability to promote healthy hair growth and help boost scalp circulation.13 Bay oil, as well as fresh bay leaves, may serve as an insect repellent and air freshener too.14

Composition of Bay Oil

The essential oil of bay owes its analgesic properties to three chemical constituents: eugenol, chavicol (estragole) and myrcene. Because of the presence of eugenol, the oil can cause irritations and should be used under the guidance of an aromatherapy practitioner.15

Benefits of Bay Oil

One of the main benefits of bay oil is its ability to help ease pain brought on by neuralgia, which is severe pain that occurs due to a damaged nerve. It can also assist in stimulating blood vessel contraction, and in alleviating poor circulation.16

Bay oil can help reduce pain from joint and muscle problems (including sprains and arthritis), and alleviate coughs and colds, viral infections and flu. It also functions as a decongestant and can be used to help ease respiratory problems when inhaled.17

Bay oil, along with thyme oil, also shows antifungal activity. In a 2008 study, out of 26 plant species tested, thyme and bay oils were the most effective against Phytophthora cactorum and Cryphonectria parasitica.18

Further research19 has demonstrated the antibacterial effects of bay essential oil, along with nine other essential oils — cinnamon, grapefruit, lemongrass, thyme, clary sage, wintergreen, clove, allspice and camphor. These oils were tested on methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA).

Researchers found that these oils were more efficient in eliminating the bacterial strains than vancomycin, the primary drug used for MRSA and MSSA treatment. West Indies bay oil, as well as bay laurel oil, exhibited bacteria-fighting properties against other pathogenic species, such as Campylobacter, Salmonella, E. coli, and listeria.20

How to Make Bay Oil

Bay essential oil is obtained when the fresh leaves of the bay tree are steam-distilled. The leaves are gathered from a tree aged at least 5 years old. Salt or seawater is often added in the distillation water, which increases the rate of distillation. However, freshwater produces a higher yield.21

How Does Bay Oil Work?

Bay oil is primarily used topically. It can be used as a massage oil, or added to burners and vaporizers. Its effects may vary depending on the amount you use, though. High amounts of bay oil may produce a sedative effect, while smaller amounts can serve as a stimulant.22

Is Bay Oil Safe?

Undiluted essential oils can cause skin irritations, and bay essential oil is no different. Prior to use, it must first be mixed with a carrier oil, such as almond oil, coconut oil or olive oil. Bay oil blends well with several essential oils, including ylang ylang, lavender, black pepper, lemon, grapefruit, geranium and lime oils.23

Any essential oil must first be tested to determine if you're allergic to it, so I recommend doing a skin patch test. Apply a drop of the diluted bay oil on a small portion of your skin, and observe for any adverse effects.

Due to the compound eugenol, it is advisable to use very minute amounts of bay oil. It was found that the oil is not irritating to human skin at 10 percent, but it is still recommended to use topically a maximum concentration of 3 percent.24

Side Effects of Bay Oil

Although bay oil works as an antiseptic and decongestant for respiratory ailments, the oil's eugenol content can irritate your mucous membranes and skin.25 It should be used in moderation or upon the advice of a physician or professional aromatherapist.

The chemical's presence also suggests that the oil may be hepatoxic and may affect blood clotting.26 It should not be used by people suffering from kidney and liver diseases, or those using anticoagulants. It is strictly advised not to apply the pure oil onto sensitive or damaged skin, as it can cause further harm.27

Pregnant or nursing women should avoid using bay oil, even if it's diluted, to prevent any sensitizations. Children and infants should also refrain from using bay oil due to their delicate nature. For more information on bay essential oil or any other plant oils, I would advise you to consult your doctor or a qualified aromatherapist.

Top 12 Tips to Strengthen Gratitude

 

30 Tips in 30 Days Designed to Help You Take Control of Your Health

This article is included in Dr. Mercola's All-Time Top 30 Health Tips series. Every day during the month of January, a new tip will be added that will help you take control of your health. Want to see the full list? Click here.

Keeping a written record of the things you're thankful for is good for your health. That's the conclusion reached by an ever-growing number of published studies showing a wide range of physical benefits. According to Laurie Santos, a psychologist who teaches a science of well-being and happiness course at Yale, focusing on gratitude has become a growing trend in recent years,1 and for good reason.

There's an awful lot of stress and unhappiness in the world, and gratitude is an effective remedy that costs nothing. According to the Harris Poll Happiness Index, just 1 in 3 Americans reports being "very happy."2 Other research suggests nearly 1 in 4 experiences no life enjoyment at all.3

If your joy quotient could use a boost, commit to cultivating gratitude this year. A simple and proven way of doing this is to keep a gratitude journal, in which you document the things you're grateful for each day.

One 2015 study4 found participants who kept a gratitude diary and reflected on what they were grateful for four times a week for three weeks improved their depression, stress and happiness scores. In a more recent study,5 high school students asked to keep gratitude journals over the course of a month also exhibited healthier eating patterns.

Definition of Gratitude

According to Robert Emmons, one of the leading scientific experts on gratitude6 featured in the video above, gratitude has two key components.7 First of all, it's an "affirmation of goodness."

When you feel gratitude, you affirm that you live in a benevolent world. Second, it's a recognition that the source of benevolence comes from outside of yourself; that other people (or higher powers, if you so like) have provided you with "gifts." In Emmons' view, gratitude is "a relationship-strengthening emotion, because it requires us to see how we've been supported and affirmed by other people." If you've decided to keep a gratitude journal, keep the following guidelines in mind:

  • Focus on the benevolence of other people — Doing so will increase your sense of being supported by life and decrease unnecessary anxiety
  • Focus on what you have received rather than what's been withheld
  • Avoid comparing yourself to people you perceive to have more advantages, more things or "better luck," as doing so will erode your sense of security. If you're going to slip into comparisons, contemplate what your life would be like if you didn't have something you currently enjoy

Health Benefits of Gratitude

As noted by Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy,8 an expert in brain and mind health, gratitude has "a health maintenance indication for every major organ system" in your body.9 For example, research shows that gratitude:10,11

Alters your brain in a number of beneficial ways — Examples include triggering release of mood-regulating neurotransmitters12 such as dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine and oxytocin; inhibiting the stress hormone cortisol; and stimulating your hypothalamus (a brain area involved in the regulation of stress) and your ventral tegmental area (part of your brain's reward circuitry that produces pleasurable feelings)13

Increases happiness and life satisfaction14,15

Lowers stress and emotional distress

Improves emotional resiliency16

Reduces symptoms of depression17 — According to one study,18 "Correlation analysis showed that gratitude, depression, peace of mind and rumination were interrelated … Results … suggested that gratitude may … counteract the symptoms of depression by enhancing a state of peace of mind and reducing ruminative thinking"

Reduces pain

Lowers inflammation by inhibiting inflammatory cytokines

Lowers blood sugar

Improves immune function19

Lowers blood pressure

Improves heart health,20 reducing the likelihood of sudden death in patients with congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease

Lowers risk for heart disease21,22 — According to the authors, "Efforts to increase gratitude may be a treatment for improving well-being in heart failure patients' lives and may be of potential clinical value"

Improves general health by encouraging self-care — In one study,23,24 people who kept a gratitude journal reported exercising more and had fewer visits to the doctor

Improves sleep25

Improves interpersonal relationships

Boosts productivity — In one study,26 managers who expressed gratitude saw a 50 percent increase in the employees' performance

Reduces materialism27

Increases generosity28

Science and Practice of Gratitude

In 2011, the Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) at the University of California, in collaboration with Emmons, launched a project called Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude. This project aims to:29

  • Expand the scientific database of gratitude, particularly in the key areas of human health, personal and relational well-being, and developmental science
  • Raise awareness and engage the public in a larger cultural conversation about the meaning and significance of gratitude
  • Promote evidence-based practices of gratitude in educational, medical and organizational settings

The organization has a number of resources you can peruse at your leisure, including The Science of Happiness blog and newsletter,30 and Thnx4, a digital gratitude journal31 where you can record and share the things you're grateful for year-round. There are also many other gratitude journal apps you can download. Last year, Positive Routines rated 11 of the best apps to track your happiness.32 Remember Emmons words:

"Neuroscientist Rick Hanson has said that the brain takes the shape the mind rests upon. Rest your mind upon worry, sadness, annoyance and irritability and it will begin to take the shape neurally of anxiety, depression and anger. Ask your brain to give thanks and it will get better at finding things to be grateful for, and begin to take the shape of gratitude.

Everything we do creates connections within networks of the brain, and the more you repeat something, the stronger those connections get. The mind can change the brain in lasting ways. In other words, what flows through the mind sculpts the brain."

Blocks to Gratitude

Depending on circumstances, gratitude can sometimes be a struggle. However, according to Emmons and the GGSC, materialism is frequently the greatest stumbling block, and it really need not be. As noted in one of the GGSC's newsletters:33

"Seen through the lens of buying and selling, relationships as well as things are viewed as disposable, and gratitude cannot survive this materialistic onslaught … Research has proven that gratitude is essential for happiness, but modern times have regressed gratitude into a mere feeling instead of retaining its historic value, a virtue that leads to action …

[G]ratitude is an action of returning a favor and is not just a sentiment. By the same token, ingratitude is the failure to both acknowledge receiving a favor and refusing to return or repay the favor. Just as gratitude is the queen of the virtues, ingratitude is the king of the vices …

If we fail to choose [gratitude], by default we choose ingratitude. Millions make this choice every day. Why? Provision, whether supernatural or natural, becomes so commonplace that it is easily accepted for granted.

We believe the universe owes us a living. We do not want to be beholden. Losing sight of protection, favors, benefits and blessings renders a person spiritually and morally bankrupt … People who are ungrateful tend to be characterized by an excessive sense of self-importance, arrogance, vanity and an unquenchable need for admiration and approval.

Narcissists reject the ties that bind people into relationships of reciprocity. They expect special favors and feel no need to pay back or pay forward … Without empathy, they cannot appreciate an altruistic gift because they cannot identify with the mental state of the gift-giver."

If entitlement is the hallmark of narcissism, then humility is the antidote and the answer when you struggle with gratitude. As noted by Emmons, "The humble person says that life is a gift to be grateful for, not a right to be claimed. Humility ushers in a grateful response to life."34

So, gratitude isn't a response to receiving "your due," but rather the recognition that life owes you nothing, yet provided you with everything you have anyway — a place to live, family, friends, work, your eyesight, your breath, indeed your very life. When you start seeing everything as a gift, opposed to things you've deserved (for better or worse), your sense of gratitude will begin to swell.

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

10 Other Practical Strategies to Build and Strengthen Gratitude

Aside from keeping a daily gratitude journal and being grateful for the simple, insignificant things around you, there are many other ways to practice gratitude. I've compiled 10 additional suggestions from various experts below. The key is to stay consistent. Find a way to incorporate your chosen method into each week, ideally each day, and stick with it. Place a reminder note on your bathroom mirror if you need to, or schedule it into your calendar along with all of your other important to-do's.

1. Write thank-you notes35 — When thanking someone, be specific and acknowledge the effort and/or cost involved.

This year, make it a point to write thank-you notes or letters in response to each gift or kind act — or simply as a show of gratitude for someone being in your life. To get you started, consider practicing mindful thank yous for seven days straight.

2. Say grace at each meal — Adopting the ritual of saying grace at each meal is a great way to flex your gratitude muscle on a daily basis,36 and will also foster a deeper connection to your food.

While this can be a perfect opportunity to honor a spiritual connection with the divine, you don't have to turn it into a religious speech if you don't want to. You could simply say, "I am grateful for this food, and appreciate all the time and hard work that went into its production, transportation and preparation."

3. Let go of negativity by changing your perception — Disappointment can be a major source of stress, which is known to have far-reaching effects on your health and longevity. In fact, centenarians overwhelmingly cite stress as the most important thing to avoid if you want to live a long and healthy life. Since stress is virtually unavoidable, the key is to develop and strengthen your ability to manage your stress so that it doesn't wear you down over time.

Rather than dwelling on negative events, most centenarians figured out how to let things go, and you can do that too. It takes practice, though. It's a skill that must be honed daily, or however often you're triggered.

A foundational principle to let go of negativity is the realization that the way you feel has little to do with the event itself, and everything to do with your perception of it. Wisdom of the ancients dictate that events are neither good nor bad in and of themselves. It is your belief about the event that upsets you, not the fact that it happened.

As noted by Ryan Holiday, author of "The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living,"37 "The Stoics are saying, 'This happened to me,' is not the same as, 'This happened to me and that's bad.' They're saying if you stop at the first part, you will be much more resilient and much more able to make some good out of anything that happens." And, once you can see the good, you're more apt to feel gratitude.

4. Be mindful of your nonverbal actions — Smiling and hugging are both ways of expressing gratitude, encouragement, excitement, empathy and support. These physical actions also help strengthen your inner experience of positive emotions of all kinds.

5. Give praise — Research38 shows using "other-praising" phrases are far more effective than "self-beneficial" phrases. For example, praising a partner saying, "thank you for going out of your way to do this," is more powerful than a compliment framed in terms of how you benefited, such as "it makes me happy when you do that."

The former resulted in the partner feeling happier and more loving toward the person giving the praise. Also, be mindful of your delivery — say it like you mean it. Establishing eye contact is another tactic that helps you show your sincerity. 

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

7. Create a nightly gratitude ritual — One suggestion is to create a gratitude jar,39 into which the entire family can add notes of gratitude on a daily basis. Any jar or container will do. Simply write a quick note on a small slip of paper and put it into the jar.

Some make an annual (or biannual or even monthly) event out of going through the whole jar, reading each slip out loud. If you have young children, a lovely ritual suggested by Dr. Alison Chen in a Huffington Post article40 is to create a bedtime routine that involves stating what you're grateful for out loud.

8. Spend money on activities instead of things — According to recent research,41 spending money on experiences not only generates more gratitude than material consumption, it also motivates greater generosity. As noted by co-author Amit Kumar, postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Chicago, "People feel fortunate, and because it's a diffuse, untargeted type of gratitude, they're motivated to give back to people in general."42

9. Embrace the idea of having "enough" — According to many who have embraced a more minimalist lifestyle, the key to happiness is learning to appreciate and be grateful for having "enough."

Financial hardship and work stress are two significant contributors to depression and anxiety. The answer is to buy less and appreciate more. Instead of trying to keep up with the Joneses, practice being grateful for the things you already have, and release yourself from the iron grip of advertising, which tells you there's lack in your life.

Many who have adopted the minimalist lifestyle claim they've been able to reduce the amount of time they have to work to pay their bills, freeing up time for volunteer work, creative pursuits and taking care of their personal health, thereby dramatically raising their happiness and life satisfaction. The key here is deciding what "enough" is. Consumption itself is not the problem; unchecked and unnecessary shopping is.

Many times, accumulation of material goods is a symptom that you may be trying to fill a void in your life, yet that void can never be filled by material things. More often than not, the void is silently asking for more love, personal connection, or experiences that bring purpose and passionate engagement. So, make an effort to identify your real, authentic emotional and spiritual needs, and then focus on fulfilling them in ways that does not involve shopping. 

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

 

Are You Surrounded and Stressed by Clutter?

 

When you look around your home, is your mind sidelined by stacks of papers, piles of toys, heaps of laundry and an array of random stuff cluttering up your countertops, desk, dressers and virtually any other flat surface? Clutter is not just an eyesore but something that can have a significant effect on your mind, mood and even your productivity.

You may intrinsically feel the weight of clutter when it surrounds you, but research also bears this out, putting into more concrete terms an otherwise subjective matter. The recent popularity of Marie Kondo, a Japanese organizing consultant, and other decluttering methods is a testimony to the number of people who are affected by too much stuff — and desire to do away with it.

"Clutter is an overabundance of possessions that collectively create chaotic and disorderly living spaces," Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University in Chicago, told The New York Times.1

The truth is, though, that not everyone is affected by clutter in the same way, which is why Ferrari and colleagues questioned three groups of adults in different stages of their life to find out clutter's effects across generations.2

Clutter Linked to Procrastination, Life Dissatisfaction

Ferrari's study involved college students, young adults in their 20s and 30s, and older adults in their 50s. In particular, the researchers were looking at how chronic procrastination may lead to clutter, as putting off getting rid of things you no longer need or want inevitably leads to clutter.

A strong association was found between procrastination and clutter problems in all of the groups, and clutter problems also led to a significant decrease in satisfaction with life among older adults.

The results suggest that having a tendency to procrastinate enables a "lifelong pattern of responses to one's environment that become increasingly maladaptive throughout the life cycle," while at the same time contributes to people putting off the decision to dispose of unnecessary items. According to the study, which is published in Current Psychology:3

"Procrastination and clutter are remarkably common problems for many people. Virtually all adults have spaces in their homes filled with unused, unwanted, or neglected possessions waiting for the possessor to find an opportune time to take action, whether that action is to keep, sell, donate, give away or dispose of those objects.

Disposition of possessions can be an unpleasant task, one that if left undone can create a distressing amount of clutter."

Clutter May Increase Stress Hormones, Especially in Women

Your home can be a peaceful sanctuary or a source of stress. Which one is dictated, in part, by perceived levels of clutter.

Researchers at University of Southern California analyzed 60 dual-income spouses' self-guided home tours for the frequency of words describing clutter, an unfinished home, restfulness or nature.4 Those who spoke of their home more frequently as cluttered or unfinished had higher stressful home scores.

In turn, women with higher stressful home scores tended to be stressed at the start of the day, and stress levels persisted throughout the day, as evidenced by cortisol (stress hormone) levels. On the other hand, women who perceived their homes to be more restorative had cortisol levels that declined throughout the day.

What's more, women living in cluttered homes had increased depressed mood over the course of the day. The opposite held true for women with restorative homes. Overall, women who described their homes as disorderly were more likely to suffer from depressed mood, fatigue in the evening, poor coping skills and difficulty transitioning from work to home.

Men didn't seem to be as stressed out by clutter as women, but this could be because they didn't spend as much time on housework after work as women did. Among men who did more housework, cortisol levels tended to be raised similarly to the women's.5

Clutter Disrupts Your Focus, Contributes to Unhealthy Eating

Entering an environment that's cluttered is like entering a state of chaos. The fact is, your visual system's ability to process information from multiple objects at the same time is limited.

As researchers wrote in the Journal of Neuroscience, "Multiple stimuli present in the visual field at the same time compete for neural representation by mutually suppressing their evoked activity throughout visual cortex, providing a neural correlate for the limited processing capacity of the visual system."6

In other words, when you're in an organized, uncluttered space, your brain has an easier time processing everything that's there, which frees up space to focus on other things.

A cluttered kitchen can also make you more vulnerable to making unhealthy food choices, particularly if you're also in a chaotic frame of mind.7 People with extremely cluttered homes are also 77 percent more likely to be overweight or obese.8

Why Do People Accumulate so Much Stuff?

Getting to the bottom of clutter requires looking into why people have so much stuff in the first place. Most experts on the topic will agree that half the battle lies in accumulating less to begin with, so make a conscious decision about whether you really need to bring a new item into your home.

Not only does buying stuff you don't need have environmental consequences, but it will also end up stored somewhere in your home, where you'll need to expend mental and physical energy cleaning it, moving it and deciding what to do with it. The latter part is harder than it sounds, and people tend to avoid making decisions about getting rid of their stuff for a variety of reasons, including:9

  • A desire to avoid wastefulness
  • Loss of self-identity associated with disposal of the item, especially those associated with personal meaning or attachment
  • Overattachment to items

"Even disposal contemplations that involve seemingly ordinary, mundane possessions can induce feelings of uncertainty and ambivalence. As adults age, they typically amass more possessions, making clutter more problematic for individuals who don't routinely take time to purge," Ferrari and colleagues wrote.10

Digital Clutter Is Similar to Physical Clutter

Is your email inbox in the six figures? Do you have digital files, photos and folders stored in so many different places that you'd be hard pressed to find something important when you need it?

This type of digital clutter creates much of the same anxiety and stress as physical clutter. An unorganized inbox or online photo album, for instance, drains your mental energy and time. And you may feel anxious about how to deal with all of your digital files — what should you keep? Where should you store it? What's safe to delete?

While digital clutter doesn't take up the same physical space as other clutter, and may be easier to detach from, since you can turn off your computer or phone and ignore it if you so choose, you should still make a point to minimize digital clutter in your life.

For starters, be very choosy about giving out your email and try to deal with emails as they come in, responding right away and then deleting. If it's something you need to save for later, move the email to a folder you've created for that purpose.

Overwhelmed by Clutter? Start Small

Clutter can be overwhelming, causing you to avoid going through it and making matters worse as piles get ever larger. There are many ways to get started that will break up the monotonous task into manageable bits:

  • Set a timer for 10 minutes and declutter until the timer goes off, putting items into bags to donate or trash/recycle — if you do this daily, you'll notice a tremendous difference
  • Choose one room, drawer, closet or cabinet and tackle that first
  • Designate several bins for the purpose, labeling them "donate," "trash," "put away" and "recycle" — as you see items out of place in your home, put them in the appropriate bin
  • Start by getting rid of trash
  • Give away one item each day, or fill one trash bag with items to donate once a week or month

If you tend to hold on to items because of a sentimental attachment, Ferrari recommends using a hands-off approach. "If you're going to declutter, don't touch the item. Don't pick it up," he told the Times, "Have somebody else hold the pair of black pants and say, 'Do you need this?' Once you touch the item, you are less likely to get rid of it."11

Get Your Mind in the Right Place

Often, we fail to declutter out of fear that we will miss an item or find a use for it later. You may also feel like you should keep items out of obligation because you paid money for them or received them as a gift. Changing your mindset here is important, because ultimately those items are keeping you from mental peace and calm.

Let go of any items that bring you down mentally or emotionally. Using the one-year rule can help — if you haven't used it in a year, get rid of it. It can help to visualize what you want your space to look like.

Then schedule time to declutter on your calendar so you'll commit to the "appointment." You may want to start with the worst, most stress-inducing spot in your home, because once it's done, you'll feel like you can tackle anything.

Starting with items in plain sight works well. Once you've cleared off countertops, nightstands and dressers, you can move to decluttering your cabinets and drawers. Be sure to designate a spot to handle incoming papers, and anything you don't need (like junk mail) should be recycled immediately.

If you have significant clutter, hiring a professional organizer can help, but resist the urge to start out by buying a bunch of organizational bins and containers. Do the decluttering first, and then choose storage options that fit the items you have remaining. Further, it's not necessary to have professional help — if you tackle clutter one object at a time, you'll still reap great rewards.

For times when you feel resistant to parting with an item, and you can't figure out why, try using the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) to tap away any anxiety, fear or other negative emotions that come up when you think about clearing clutter, and live by these basic ground rules:

Handle an item only once — Once you pick it up, either put it away, give it away or throw it away. Do not simply put it back down again in the same cluttered pile.

If you buy something new, get rid of something old — If you buy a new set of glassware, donate the old set you no longer need. Likewise for new items of clothing, shoes or bedding and even computers, toys and electronics.

You only need one — You probably have multiples of many objects unnecessarily. You only need one wine opener, one set of barbecue tools, one hair dryer and so on. If you have multiple items of the same object that you don't need, be ruthless in getting it down to one.

This applies to items you may need multiples of too, like bedsheets or towels. You may need two or three sets, but do you really need 10?

The more you tend to and remove physical and digital clutter in your life, the more space you'll clear up to focus on what makes you happy. Removing the distracting clutter is a first and necessary step to achieving inner peace, focus and, ultimately, a more satisfying existence.

Scombroid Poisoning Could Be The Most Common Reason For Allergic Reactions to Seafood

 

Seafood include both finned fish and shellfish. Finned fish most commonly associated with allergic reactions include salmon, tuna and halibut.1 Finned fish and shellfish allergies are not related, so being allergic to one doesn’t necessarily mean you are allergic to the other.

A true Immunoglobulin-E (IgE) mediated allergic reaction to finned fish may be life-threatening, as it can trigger anaphylactic shock. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology,2 symptoms of finned fish allergies don’t usually appear until adulthood, and include hives, nausea and vomiting, headaches, wheezing and upper respiratory congestion.

However, a recent review of fish allergies in Emergency Medicine News3 reveals many of the same symptoms result from a different process taking place in the fish, and relates to how it was handled and processed after being caught.

Process of Preserving Fish May Increase Your Risk of Reaction

Not every report of abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, headache and hives 20 to 30 minutes after eating fish are the result of a classic diagnosis of seafood allergy. Although the symptoms may resolve with basic treatment commonly used for an acute allergic reaction, they instead may have been caused by an excess amount of histamine in the fish,4 known as scombroid poisoning.

Fish known to suffer scombroid poisoning include mackerel, albacore tuna, skipjack, blue fish and occasionally salmon. The highest incidence is attributed to tuna and mahi-mahi.

As fish consumption has increased over the past three to four decades, so has the number of histamine fish poisonings. Scombroid poisoning is reported throughout the world and outbreaks occur when a number of individuals are affected from the same source. Although the illness is uncomfortable, to date, no deaths have been reported in the U.S.5

The poisoning is the result of histamine in the flesh of the fish, and is usually self-limited and of short duration. Although many of the symptoms are very similar to an allergic reaction, occasionally sufferers may also experience hypotension (low blood pressure), bronchospasms and respiratory distress.

Since the symptoms are similar to those of an allergic reaction, it is often misdiagnosed as a true IgE-mediated allergy. Interestingly, the review estimates scombroid poisoning may be responsible for up to 40 percent of finned fish seafood allergic reactions occurring in clusters.6

In some cases, the sufferer reports the fish tasted peppery, or that there was a burning sensation in the mouth. Otherwise, the fish will smell or appear fresh and there are no reliable outward signs the fish is not safe to eat.

True Allergy or Bacterial Enzyme Reaction?

Reports of scombroid poisoning started in 1968, but histamine was not proven to be the culprit until 1991. Previously, it was believed histamine ingested orally could not be absorbed through the gut in sufficient amounts to trigger symptoms.

In a true allergic reaction, your immune system overreacts to a protein by producing IgE antibodies. These travel to mast cells causing them to release chemicals that trigger symptoms in the nose, lungs, throat or on the skin. One of these chemicals is histamine.

During scombroid poisoning, your body is not producing the histamine, but is rather poisoned by the amount of histamine in the flesh of the fish. Bacteria normally inside of these fish, including Escherichia coli, Proteus, Klebsiella, Clostridium and Salmonella, contain an enzyme that converts histidine to histamine.

Histidine is an amino acid and part of most proteins. It is also the source from which histamine is derived in the body. The exact type and composition of the bacteria found in the fish will depend upon the geographic location, feeding habits and the handling process once the fish is caught.

The bacteria are unable to convert histidine to histamine when the fish is kept at a temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celcius) or lower. The enzyme, histidine decarboxylase, is inactivated at these temperatures.

However, when the fish is stored at temperatures above 68 F (20 C), it only takes a few hours for enough histamine to be created to cause problems. The histamine is resistant to cooking, smoking, freezing, canning and any subsequent refrigeration.

The Role Histamine Plays In Your Symptoms

One of the common ways of stopping symptoms of scombroid poisoning is to administer antihistamines, which block the action of histamines in the body. Normally histamines are released by mast cells as part of your immune response. Your body also has a system to degrade histamine once it has done its job.

However, some experience a lack of degradation of histamine. This may be the result of a genetic single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) — pronounced “snip.” These are small genetic variations occurring in more than 1 percent of the population.7

An SNP in the AOC1 gene results in a reduction in the enzyme responsible for degrading histamine, thereby making you histamine intolerant. Eating histamine-rich foods — such as in scombroid poisoning — trigger stronger reactions in those who have an SNP in the AOC1 gene. Chronic symptoms you may experience if you have this genetic condition include:8

Difficulty regulating body temperature

Chronic headaches or migraines

Abnormal menstrual cycle

Difficulty falling asleep

Dizziness

Arrhythmia

Anxiety

Nausea/vomiting

Stomach cramps

Hypertension

Hives

Fatigue

Ciguatera Poisoning Associated With Larger Fish

Another type of food poisoning from fish that looks and smells fresh is ciguatera poisoning. Contaminated algae blooms located along a coral reef are eaten by smaller herbivorous fish, and the poisoning then accumulates up the food chain.9

While scombroid poisoning is short-lived and leaves no long-term effects, ciguatera causes additional symptoms, including muscle weakness, joint aches, headaches and low blood pressure. Symptoms can begin within 15 minutes to 24 hours after eating infected fish.10

Most get better in a few days, but some experience symptoms lasting for months or even years.11 It is one of the most commonly reported marine toxins in the world, and is associated with contaminated reef fish such as Barracuda, grouper and snapper. Since contaminated fish have no specific odor, color or taste, it makes identification of potential contamination extremely difficult.12

Clinical diagnosis is often based on a constellation of symptoms related to ingestion of specific products. Symptoms increase in frequency and severity over the first six hours following the initial symptom. Affected major organ systems are the gastrointestinal tract (GI), nervous system and cardiovascular system. GI symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea vomiting and diarrhea.

Neurologically, sufferers may experience loss of sensation near their mouth or on their tongue, and painful sensation in the extremities. One of the most common neurological symptom is paradoxical temperature reversal in which the sufferer experiences cold objects as feeling hot and hot objects as feeling cold.13

Cardiovascular symptoms may include a slower heart rate and pulmonary edema. Management is largely supportive and driven by symptoms as there is no specific treatment for the toxin itself. Although many of the poisonings occur in tropical and subtropical areas, it occurs anywhere these fish are shipped for food.

There's no specific prevention except to limit tropical fish consumption, such as grouper, barracuda, snapper, mackerel and triggerfish, to those that are 4 to 6 pounds, as it is believed they are not large enough to have accumulated enough toxins to make you sick.14

Farmed Fish Not the Answer

In your pursuit of healthy omega-3 fats and in an effort to avoid scombroid poisoning from fish improperly stored after fishing, you may be tempted to eat farmed fish such as salmon, renowned for its high omega-3 content. However you might be surprised to find farmed salmon has more in common with junk food than health food.

In a global assessment of farmed salmon, researchers found 13 persistent organic pollutants.15 Farmed salmon also does not have the nutritional profile of wild-caught Alaskan salmon.

Half a fillet of wild Atlantic salmon contains about 3,996 milligrams (mg) of omega-3 and 341 mg of omega-6.16 Half a fillet of farmed salmon from the Atlantic contains just a bit more omega-3 — 4,961 mg — but an astounding 1,944 mg of omega-6;17 more than 5.5 times more than wild salmon, which further skews rather than corrects most people’s omega-3 to omega-6 ratio.

Aquaculture (fish farms) is promoted as a sustainable solution to overfishing, but in reality creates more problems. For instance, 20 percent of wild-caught fish are ground into fish meal to feed farmed fish, so the industry is contributing heavily to the depletion of wild fish rather than saving it.18

Overcrowded conditions on a salmon farm also leads to fish plagued with rapidly spreading diseases. Kurt Oddekalv, a respected Norwegian environmental activist, warns a number of dangerous pesticides are used to prevent disease-causing pests, one of which is known to have neurotoxic effects on the workers who apply it. Yet it is dumped directly into the water.

These pesticides have an effect on fish DNA, causing genetic mutations and morphological changes.19 Estimates suggest well over half of all farmed cod are deformed20 from the application of these pesticides. As farmed fish deplete resources, escaped female cod are known to mate with wild cod and spread genetic mutations and deformities in wild populations.

Farmed salmon suffer equally disturbing mutations, although less visible. The flesh of farm salmon is brittle and easily breaks apart, a highly abnormal feature. Farmed salmon also contain higher levels of contaminants than those fish found in the wild, in part because of their elevated fat content.21

How to Reduce Your Risk of Poisoning

Wild-caught Alaskan salmon, herring and anchovies are generally safer fish options than others as they contain less pollutants, contaminants and are less likely to carry scombroid or ciguatera poisoning, while still delivering animal-based omega-3 fats necessary for optimal health. The following suggestions may also help you make your choices:

Prevent scombroid — The best way to protect yourself against the production of histamine in finned seafood is to ensure it was processed appropriately after being caught. This is especially important when eating mahi-mahi, salmon or tuna. Histidine conversion to histamine through bacterial enzymatic action occurs if the fish are not immediately frozen at 32 F (0 C) or below.

Report any reaction to seafood you’ve eaten at a restaurant or purchased from the store to your local health department and the facility you purchased it from. When multiple people experience reactions, the seafood should be pulled from public consumption.

Prevent ciguatera — This toxin bioaccumulates up the food chain, originating in smaller herbivorous fish feeding along a coral reef, as they are eaten by larger carnivorous fish.

The toxin occurs in fish found in the tropics and subtropics, some of which may be shipped around the world, including barracuda, grouper and snapper. It’s not possible to determine which fish are contaminated, but eating fish smaller than 6 pounds may reduce your risk of getting sick.

Avoid farmed fish — Wild-caught Alaskan sockeye salmon have a shorter life span and are less likely to be contaminated with environmental pollutants. Don’t confuse this fish with Atlantic caught salmon as Alaskan salmon are not allowed to be farmed. Canned Alaskan salmon is a less expensive alternative.

Other fish containing lower levels of environmental contaminants are small fish with short life cycles, such as herring, sardines and anchovies. Just be sure these are not fished from the Baltic Sea as it is exceptionally polluted.

Ibuprofen Alters Human Physiology

 

Pain is one of the most common reasons people access the health care system. It affects more people than diabetes, heart disease and cancer.1 While it’s the leading cause of disability and a major contributor to rising health care costs, not all pain triggers a doctor’s visit. Some instead choose to use over-the-counter pain killers to treat their pain.

According to an analysis by the National Institutes of Health (NIH),2 more than 25 million American adults suffer from chronic pain lasting three or more months. These are individuals with chronic back pain, headaches or neck pain, and 40 million report severe pain.

According to resent research,3 many are taking dangerously high doses of ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) medications, and 15 percent are taking more than the maximum dose. According to lead author Dr. David Kaufman from Boston University:4

“These drugs can have serious side effects, including gastrointestinal bleeding and heart attacks, and are often taken without medical oversight because many products are available over-the-counter.

The attitude that users can choose their own dose regardless of label directions, along with poor knowledge of dosing limits, is associated with exceeding the daily limit.”

Common over-the-counter pain relievers are not as safe as you may imagine. Although used frequently, they come with a long list of long- and short-term side effects, including hearing loss, heart attack and now an alteration in male testicular physiology.5

Sperm Quality and Quantity Declining Worldwide

According to several studies, sperm counts are plummeting throughout the Western world. An initial study published in 1992, known as The Carlson study,6 was a meta-analysis of 61 studies done worldwide. It found a trend of decreasing sperm count and volume of seminal fluid over a 50-year period ending in 1991.

However, many did not accept the results, based on some limitations of the study. Since the Carlson study, other analyses have produced mixed results. In this latest study7 published in Human Reproduction Update, Dr. Hagai Levine of Hebrew University in Jerusalem conducted a meta-analysis of 185 studies that included nearly 43,000 male participants who provided samples between 1973 and 2011.

The studies were distributed over 40 years and 50 countries. The results showed a decline in sperm concentration of 1.4 percent per year, with an overall drop of 52.4 percent during the study period for men living in industrialized Western countries.8

Total sperm count also declined 1.6 percent per year, and 59.3 percent overall. However, by comparison, there were no significant declines in count or concentrations in men living in South America, Asia and Africa.

This study did not address why sperm count and concentration are plummeting around the world. However, previous studies have demonstrated exposure in utero and after birth to endocrine disrupting chemicals can harm male reproductive system and fertility potential.9

Other factors that can influence sperm count or concentration include body mass index (BMI), temperature, tight underwear, lifestyle choices and geography — even within the U.S., different states and regions have different counts.10 Levine commented on the results, saying:11

"Given the importance of sperm counts for male fertility and human health, this study is an urgent wake-up call for researchers and health authorities around the world to investigate the causes of the sharp ongoing drop in sperm count, with the goal of prevention.”

Ibuprofen Responsible for Compensated Hypogonadism

Concerns over evidence showing sperm quality is falling globally has resulted from studies evaluating count and concentration. Here, the main focus was a different measure of the male reproductive system — testosterone production. Researchers began the study with men under the age of 35 in Denmark and France.

The group was split into two; one took 1,200 mg of ibuprofen each day for six weeks, while the second group took a placebo. The Physician’s Desk Reference (PDR) recommends 400 mg by mouth every four to six hours as needed, and warns adult doses should not exceed 3,200 mg per day.12 

The 1,200 mg dose used in the study may be in the midrange for those using the medication for general aches, pains and fever. However, it is not unusual for those suffering chronic injury to take more than the recommended dose,13 and for doctors to prescribe twice as much for athletes.

Disturbingly, the results showed men who took ibuprofen suffered a condition known as compensated hypogonadism, which occurs when men have normal levels of testosterone in the blood but higher levels of luteinizing hormone (LH), used to regulate the production of testosterone.

The increased levels of LH indicated ibuprofen triggered problems in the testicles, preventing the production of testosterone. Data also showed changes in the pituitary gland, forcing the production of more testosterone.14

The net result were stable levels of testosterone as the body stressed to compensate for the detrimental impact of ibuprofen. The researchers also found compensated hypogonadism triggered a temporary reduction in sperm count.

While this study did not prove an association, the researchers suspect long-term use may lead to primary overt hypogonadism, a condition resulting in reduced libido, changes in mood and decline in muscle mass.15

The researchers wrote ibuprofen appears to affect the hormonal balance in adult men and alters testicular physiology, creating a situation in which the body has to work harder to maintain a normal level of testosterone.16

Low Sperm Counts Are Associated With Increased Risk of Early Death

Compensated hypogonadism and a reduction in fertility may only be the tip of the iceberg when testosterone levels fall. In one study17 performed by a group of Italian researchers, over 4,100 heterosexual men were evaluated for hypogonadism and erectile function.

The data revealed 75 percent of the men appeared to have healthy functioning gonads, 20 percent had overt hypogonadism, and just over 4 percent fell into the category of compensated hypogonadism.

The researchers discovered men in the compensated and overt hypogonadal groups were at higher risk for cardiovascular events than men in the group who had healthy functioning gonads.18

Another study19 from Stanford University School of Medicine found men who had two or more abnormalities in their semen were twice as likely to die over an eight-year period as men who had normal semen. The researchers wrote diabetes also doubles the risk of death. The study's lead author, Michael Eisenberg Ph.D., commented,20 “[H]ere we are seeing the same doubled risk with male infertility, which is relatively understudied.”

Semen Quality Associated With Cardiovascular and Metabolic Changes

A recent study21 from the Endocrine Society shows sperm count is a general marker associated with metabolic alterations, higher cardiovascular risk and low bone mass.

Researchers evaluated semen quality, reproductive function and metabolic risk in over 5,000 men, and found infertile men were likely to have important coexisting health problems or factors impairing quality of life and shortening their lives.

Half of the men with low sperm counts were 1.2 times more likely to have greater body fat, high blood pressure and lipidemia. This group also had a higher frequency of metabolic syndrome, increasing their risk for diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

The data also revealed a 12fold risk of hypogonadism in men with low sperm count. Researchers suggested low sperm count resulting from hypogonadism was associated with poor measures of cardiometabolic health.22

How Testosterone Affects the Whole Body

Testosterone is an androgen hormone produced primarily in the testicles and thought to regulate a number of functions, including bone mass, fat distribution, muscle size and strength, and red cell production.23

In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine,24 researchers tested testosterone supplementation in a group of 400 healthy men, age 20 to 50 years. Participants were seen every four weeks to measure hormone levels and fill out questionnaires to assess physical function, health status, vitality and sexual function.

Body fat and muscle measurements were also taken at the beginning and at the end of the 16-week study. Data revealed the dose of testosterone required to produce different effects in the body varied widely.

As the dose was reduced, participants experienced reductions in lean mass, muscle size and leg press strength. However, increases in body fat were related to declines in estradiol, as small amounts of circulating testosterone are normally converted to estradiol, a form of estrogen.

Both reduced testosterone and estradiol levels were associated with libido and erectile function. The team was led by Dr. Joel Finkelstein from Massachusetts General Hospital, who commented on the results:25

“[T]he biggest surprise was that some of the symptoms routinely attributed to testosterone deficiency are actually partially or almost exclusively caused by the decline in estrogens that is an inseparable result of lower testosterone levels.”

Commonly Used NSAIDs Like Ibuprofen Increase Your Cardiovascular Risk

NSAIDs, like ibuprofen, are prescribed extensively throughout the world. While many consider the medication innocuous, the truth is, by conservative estimates, over 105,000 people are hospitalized each year from the side effects and over 16,000 of those die.26 

Side effects from long-term use range from hearing loss to gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding. Unfortunately, there's no specific antidote for NSAIDs poisoning, which may lead to metabolic acidosis, multiple system organ failure and death. Short-term use of NSAIDs also increase your risk of heart attack when you take the medication consistently.

In 2005,27 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned these drugs may increase your risk of heart attack or stroke. In 201528 they took the additional and unusual step of strengthening this warning based on the advice of an expert panel.

The FDA points out heart attack and stroke risk increases even with short-term use, and while the risk is greater for those who already suffer from heart disease, even those without heart disease may be at risk. In one recent study,29 researchers analyzed over 60,000 cases of myocardial infarction (MI) before concluding NSAIDs were significantly associated with a risk of an acute Michigan.

Specifically, ibuprofen exhibited an additional increased risk of MI between Day Eight and Day 30 of consuming the drug. Some NSAIDs show a single wave of increased risk in the first week. The researchers speculated the differences between the drugs may have been related to the drug's effect on the renal system.30

Additional risks include higher rates of miscarriage when taken in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy,31 atrial fibrillation in those who previously had a myocardioal infarction,32 increased risk of upper and lower GI tract bleeding,33 and increased mucosal permeability and inflammation in the lower GI tract.34 Ibuprofen may also trigger:35

Clotting problems so you bruise or bleed easily

Serious (possibly fatal) liver disease

Ringing in your ears (tinnitus)

Mental or mood changes

Stiff neck

Kidney problems

High blood pressure

Vision changes

Heart failure

Drug-Free Pain Control

Pain control without addressing the underlying physical issue may increase your risk of experiencing side effects from medications you're taking, or lead you to resort to even stronger medications with more dangerous side effects. I strongly recommend you exhaust other, safer options before resorting to consistent use of painkillers, even in the short term.

The truth is many drugs used to treat pain may increase your risk of heart attack, change your brain chemistry and possibly your behavior. Your pain experience is affected by several factors, of which sleep may be the most important. Sleep, pain and depression are a strongly interconnected triad where a change in one impacts the other two. Getting eight hours of quality sleep on a nightly basis may help you cope with the discomfort you experience.

If you have trouble getting to sleep, or staying asleep, you'll want to check out my 33 tips to a better night of sleep. You can also read more about the changes medications make to your brain, and find 19 nondrug solutions for pain relief in my previous article, "Drugs for Physical and Emotional Pain Change Your Brain."

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