Omega-3 Builds Muscle Mass in Cancer Patients

For cancer patients, supplementation with omega-3 fats could help them maintain and even regain lost muscle mass, according to a new study. Most patients who took a daily supplement for 10 weeks either maintained or gained muscle mass. Patients who didn’t take anything either maintained or lost muscle mass.


MSNBC reports:

“[Omega-3’s] interfere with inflammation, thereby reducing its effect on muscle … Loss of muscle mass and fat is bad for cancer patients because it hampers their ability to respond to cancer treatments.”

Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

If you’ve known anyone with advanced cancer, chances are they have experienced cachexia, also called catabolic wasting. Cachexia, or more precisely cancer anorexia-cachexia syndrome (CACS), is a clinical wasting syndrome characterized by unintended and progressive weight loss. Both muscle and fat tend to be lost.

More than 80 percent of patients with advanced cancer develop cachexia, especially those with solid tumors. Cachexia is more common among children and elderly patients, and it becomes more pronounced as the cancer progresses.

Patients experience anorexia, chronic nausea, early satiety, and changes in how foods taste to them, making previously enjoyed foods less palatable. If you’ve ever had a friend or family member with cachexia, your loved one may have seemed to “waste away” before your very eyes.

Cancer patients can have other adverse effects, associated with the cachexia:

Anemia Hyperlipidemia and insulin resistance
Fatigue and weakness after minimal activity Psychological distress
Systemic inflammation Diminished quality of life

Cachexia is a SERIOUS and complex metabolic syndrome—it is estimated to be responsible for one-fifth to one-third of all cancer deaths.

This may be explained, at least in part, by a 2010 study in mice that showed the wasting can result in damage to the heart. This is quite significant because prior to now, most clinicians believed cachexia did not affect the heart muscle in the way it does skeletal muscle.

This study demonstrated that cancer cachexia impairs heart function by causing “increased fibrosis, disrupted myocardial structure, and altered composition of contractile proteins of cardiac muscle.”

What Causes Cachexia?

It used to be thought that cancer increased your metabolic demand and suppressed your appetite, resulting in malnutrition. However, new research shows there is more to it than that.

Cancer actually alters your metabolism from an anabolic one (muscle building) to a catabolic one (muscle breakdown). Recent research shows that cancer raises your resting metabolic rate, and supplemental general nutrition does not alleviate it.

Today, clinicians believe that tissue wasting results from a variety of tumor products, immune factors, and cytokines.

According to an article in Life Extension:

“The cytokines interleukin-1 (IL-1), IL-6, interferon-gamma, tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), and brain-derived neurotrophic factor appear to increase and play a role in the progression of cachexia in cancer, as well as in other diseases associated with bodily wasting.”

Basically, you end up with an energy deficit, so your body is forced to use your muscles, internal organs and fat for energy. Add to that the ravaging side effects of common cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and it is easy to understand why your loved one looks malnourished and even emaciated.

Numerous Other Studies Show the Positive Effects of Omega-3s on Cachexia

This is not the first study showing that omega-3 fatty acids may help to reverse cancer-induced cachexia. Studies in mice have been very favorable, and studies in humans have been largely favorable.

The “not favorable” human studies often involve treatment with insufficient doses of omega-3 fatty acids, or treatment over too short of a time. Because these studies have been done mostly on late-stage cancer patients (since they are the ones with the worst cachexia), there is a relatively high attrition rate, which skews the results toward “unfavorable.”

The bottom line is, the sooner you bump up your omega-3 levels, the better your long-term outcome will be.

Here are a few of the specific studies:

  • A 2004 study of human patients with advanced malignancy found that, although the majority of patients did not gain weight with the fish oil, a subset of patients had weight stabilization or weight gain. The researchers theorized that the length of time patients receive omega-3 supplementation is a factor—the longer, the more significant the positive effect. They also suggested inadequate dose as the explanation for part of the lack of effect in some patients.
  • A study in 1996 of eighteen human pancreatic cancer patients showed that taking fish oil capsules resulted in less muscle wasting, and many actually gained lean body mass.
  • A 2000 study investigating the effects of a combination of omega-3 fatty acids AND vitamin E found the combination produced a significant immunomodulating effect, and the omega-3 prolonged patient survival.
  • A 1990 scientific study of cachexia-inducing tumors in mice showed that when part of the carbohydrate calories in their diet was replaced by fish oil, their weight loss was inhibited.
  • A 1991 study found that fish oil concentrate inhibited skeletal muscle degradation and even reduced tumor size in mice.

Krill Oil—NOT Fish Oil—Is Your Best Source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The time to begin supplementing your diet with these important fatty acids is NOW, rather that waiting until you have cancer or another serious disease.

The average American diet is seriously deficient in the animal based omega-3 fats, DHA and EPA. Except for certain types of fish, there are very few sources of these important fats.

Unfortunately, fish supplies around the world are found more contaminated every year as increasing numbers of fish test positive for mercury, PCBs, toxic metals like lead and arsenic, and radioactive substances like strontium. If you have cancer, the LAST thing you want to do is place additional stress on your body by taking in toxic heavy metals.

Your safest and most cost effective choice for bumping up your omega-3 fatty acids is taking a high-quality Antarctic krill oil.

Krill oil is superior to fish oil because it contains phospholipids, a very powerful antioxidant called astaxanthin, and omega-3s bonded together in a way that keeps them safe from oxidation and easily absorbed by your body. Krill oil is 48 times more potent than fish oil. Many popular fish oil brands are already oxidized before you open the bottle.

And harvesting krill is more sustainable and earth-friendly than harvesting fish.

Your risk of getting mercury contamination from krill is extremely low, since krill are so small they don’t have the chance to accumulate toxins before being harvested.

Plant based omega-3 sources like flax, hemp and chia are high in ALA and are important sources of nutrients, as we all need ALA. However, the key point to remember is that ALA has to be converted by your body into far more essential EPA and DHA by an enzyme in which the vast majority of us are deficient.

So, I believe it is essential to get some of your omega-3 fatty acids from animal sources.

There are studies that even show ALA from flaxseed can actually increase your risk of cancer. Personally, I regularly include ALA omega-3 plant based foods in my diet, like flax and hemp, but these are always combined with animal-based omega-3 fats.

Other Important Nutritional Aspects, for Those Who Have Cancer

No one wants to battle cancer.

But if you find yourself in this unfortunate position, many of the lifestyle suggestions for preventing cancer apply to treating it as well.

Besides omega-3 fatty acids, you should also address the following:

  • Optimize your vitamin D. Vitamin D influences virtually every cell in your body and is one of nature’s most potent cancer-fighters. Vitamin D is actually able to enter cancer cells and trigger apoptosis (cell death).

    If you have cancer, your vitamin D level should be between 70 and 100 ng/ml. Vitamin D works synergistically with every cancer treatment I’m aware of, with no adverse effects. I invite you to watch my one-hour free lecture on vitamin D to learn how to best optimize your vitamin D level.

  • Eat the right foods for your Nutritional Type. If you are not familiar with this approach, start by taking my FREE Nutritional Type Test here.
  • Avoid sugar, grains, processed foods, chemicals, and artificial sweeteners. Sugar fuels the growth of cancer cells. Normalizing your insulin creates an environment that is unfriendly to cancer cells.
  • Use organic coconut oil every day. Coconut oil is rich in medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), which offer a wide variety of health benefits and may also be effective in preventing or reversing cachexia.
  • Avoid charring your meats. Charcoal or flame broiled meat is linked with increased cancer growth
  • Avoid unfermented soy products. Unfermented soy is high in plant estrogens, or phytoestrogens, also known as isoflavones. In some studies, soy appears to work in concert with human estrogen to increase cell proliferation, which increases mutations and cancerous cells.
  • Drink a quart of organic green vegetable juice daily. Please review my juicing instructions for more detailed information about this.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol, or at least limit your alcoholic drinks to one per day.
  • Drink plenty of pure water every day.
  • Get some sort of exercise daily. Exercise will help you maintain your muscle mass, thereby slowing down cachexia. Realizing cancer can really diminish your energy level, you may have to experiment a bit to find forms of exercise you can tolerate, but it is important to do it, nevertheless. Exercise has been proven to extend the lives of cancer patients.
  • Avoid electromagnetic fields as much as possible. Minimize cell phone use, and make sure your cordless phone base station is as far from your sleeping area as possible. Keep medical radiation exposure as low as possible. Even electric blankets can increase your cancer risk.

Belly Fat is Far More Dangerous than Having a Total BMI in Obese Range

A study on belly fat presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress1, 2 confirms that visceral fat – the type that gathers around your internal organs – is far more dangerous to your health than you might think.

Belly Fat

Story at-a-glance

  • A study on belly fat confirms that visceral fat – the type that gathers around your internal organs – is far more dangerous than having a total BMI in the obese range
  • Cardiovascular deaths in the study were 2.75 times higher for those of normal weight who had big bellies compared to those with both a normal BMI and a normal waist-to-hip ratio
  • Three different measurement techniques are reviewed – all of which are better indicators of disease risk and healthy body size than using BMI, which does not take muscle mass into consideration
  • In his new book, The Fat Switch, Dr. Richard Johnson overturns age old paradigms about diet and obesity by revealing how fructose turns your body into a fat-storage machine – not by way of excess calories but by turning on your “fat switch”

The traditional index of obesity, BMI (body mass index), has been proven to be terribly flawed as having a normal overall BMI and high abdominal obesity was found to be more dangerous than having a total BMI in the obese range.

For example, cardiovascular deaths in the study were 2.75 times higher for those of normal weight who had big bellies compared to those with both a normal BMI and a normal waist-to-hip ratio. It also implies that monitoring one’s belly fat is more important than watching BMI.

According to Medical News Today:3

“Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, M.D., senior author and a cardiologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochestor, explained: ‘We knew from previous research that central obesity is bad, but what is new in this research is that the distribution of the fat is very important even in people with a normal weight.

This group has the highest death rate, even higher than those who are considered obese based on body mass index. From a public health perspective, this is a significant finding.’

…Dr. Lopez-Jimenez wants readers to understand that even though their body mass index might be normal, it doesn’t mean they have a low risk of heart disease. People can determine their risks by getting a waist-to-hip measurement, because where fat is distributed on the body can tell a lot, even if people have normal body weights.”

Your Ideal “Weight” is Not Necessarily Based on Pounds…

There are a number of methods for calculating your ideal body size. The study above used waist-to-hip measurement. This is done by measuring the circumference of your hips at the widest part, across your buttocks. Then measure your waist at the smallest circumference of your natural waist, just above your belly button. Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement to get the ratio.

The University of Maryland offers a handy online waist-to-hip ratio calculator you can use, which also tells you whether or not you might be at an increased risk for heart disease. The featured study used the following waist-to-hip ratio designations:

  • Normal = 0.85 or below in women, and 0.90 or below in men
  • High = 0.85 or greater in women, and 0.90 or greater in men

Another even simpler method to figure out if you have a weight problem is to measure only your waist circumference (the distance around the smallest area below the rib cage and above your belly button). Waist circumference is the easiest anthropometric measure of total body fat.

Either of these methods are far better than BMI for judging disease risk, as BMI fails to factor in how muscular you are. BMI also cannot give you an indication of your intra-abdominal fat mass.

Waist size, on the other hand, gives a good indication of the amount of fat you’re carrying, particularly around the stomach area. Abdominal fat is considered an important risk factor for cardiovascular diseases such as coronary heart disease and stroke. Your waist size is also a powerful indicator of insulin sensitivity, as studies clearly show that measuring your waist size is one of the most powerful ways to predict your risk for diabetes. If you’re not sure if you have a healthy waist circumference, a general guide is:

  • For men, between 37 and 40 inches is overweight and more than 40 inches is obese
  • For women, between 31.5 and 34.6 inches is overweight, and more than 34.6 inches is obese

Body Fat Percentage – Another Way to Gauge Ideal Body Size

Yet another tool, which many experts are now leaning toward as the most accurate measure of obesity, is body fat percentage. As it sounds, this is simply the percentage of fat your body contains, and it can be a powerful indicator of your health.

  • Too much body fat is linked to chronic health problems like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
  • Too little body fat is also problematic and can cause your body to enter a catabolic state, where muscle protein is used as fuel.

A general guideline from the American Council on Exercise is as follows:

Classification Women (percent fat) Men (percent fat)
Essential Fat 10-13 percent 2-5 percent
Athletes 14-20 percent 6-13 percent
Fitness 21-24 percent 14-17 percent
Acceptable 25-31 percent 18-24 percent
Obese 32 percent and higher 25 percent and higher


Body fat calipers are one of the most trusted and most accurate ways to measure body fat. A body fat or skinfold caliper is a lightweight, hand-held device that quickly and easily measures the thickness of a fold of your skin with its underlying layer of fat. Taken at three very specific locations on your body, these readings can help you estimate the total percent of body fat within your entire body.

You can also use a digital scale that determines body fat, which is what I use personally. I use an Eat Smart Precision GetFit Body Fat Scale that I picked up from Amazon for around $50. Although many body fat measurements can be inaccurate, they are nearly all more accurate than BMI, and are particularly useful to determine whether you are gaining or losing fat. Although the absolute value may be off, the direction you are going (whether your body fat is going up or down) will be very accurate, and this is an incredibly useful measure of whether you’re nearing your health goals or not.

Remember that it is FAR better to monitor your body fat percentage than it is your total weight, as the body fat percentage is what dictates metabolic health or dysfunction – not your total weight.


Does Reducing Fructose Intake Matter If You Want to Lose Weight?

A recent study published in the Nutrition Journal4 has brought questions about the health impact of high fructose corn syrup versus sugar back to the fore. The authors claim their findings indicate there’s no difference between regular sugar and high fructose corn syrup on weight loss. Dr. Richard Johnson, author of The Sugar Fix, and The Fat Switch (which I’ll discuss in a moment), sent me the following rebuttal to share with you.

A recent study from James Rippe’s group reported in the Nutrition Journal that low calorie diets caused equivalent weight loss regardless of the content of sugar or high fructose corn syrup. The study involved randomizing 267 overweight adults to receive low calorie diets containing either:

  • 10 percent of the calories as sugar (sucrose)
  • 20 percent as sugar (sucrose)
  • 10 percent as high fructose corn syrup, or
  • 20 percent high fructose corn syrup

Each group was given a diet calculated to reduce total calorie intake by 500 calories, and all groups were enrolled in an exercise program. At the end of 12 weeks all low-calorie groups showed similar decreases in weight. The authors concluded that the key aspect for weight loss is caloric restriction and not the content of fructose in the food. They also said that diets containing sucrose and high fructose corn syrup acted no differently from each other.

Why the Fructose Content of Food Counts

Let us address two issues that this study raises. The first question is whether it matters to reduce the intake of added sugars when you go on a diet. The second question is whether there is any real difference between table sugar (sucrose) and high fructose corn syrup.

    1. Does reducing sugar content matter? It is true that weight is largely governed by the law of thermodynamics, and that to lose weight the most effective way is to reduce food intake. This is why any diet that reduces calories will be effective at weight loss. However, reducing intake of added sugars, such as from table sugar (sucrose) or high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), does matter. These sugars contain fructose, and fructose has been shown to encourage weight gain because fructose can induce resistance to leptin, a hormone that controls appetite.

When fructose is fed to animals, they lose their ability to control their appetite. Restricting fructose intake can lead to a recovery of leptin sensitivity. This may be one reason low carb diets encourage weight loss, as they are essentially low fructose diets.

However, the problem with the study by Rippe is that all four diets consisted of an equivalent reduction in calories – so the benefit of reducing fructose on weight would have been largely obscured. However, we can see trends of a benefit – in that the two diets that contained 10 percent sucrose or HFCS showed a 3.3 and 4.15 kg weight loss, whereas the two diets that contained 20 percent HFCS or sucrose only had a 2.4 and 1.9 kg weight loss. This is likely because the diets lower in fructose were able to satisfy the appetite more effectively and likely did lead to some differences in energy intake.

Of greater concern is not weight, but the effects of fructose on body composition, fatty liver and insulin resistance. Fructose can rapidly induce metabolic syndrome and fatty liver that is not observed in animals fed the same number of calories as glucose or starch.

Weight gain is driven more by calories, but fatty liver and insulin resistance are driven more by fructose. In this study, the authors did not look at fatty liver or insulin resistance as outcomes. However, they did measure changes in fat percentage – again we see similar trends, with a reduction of 1.5 to 2.4 percent of fat in the 10 percent sucrose and HFCS groups, and a reduction of 1.1 to 1.3 percent of fat in the 20 percent sucrose and HFCS groups.

Thus, these studies suggest that reducing calories may reduce weight, but the content of fructose does matter.

Indeed, it is a shame that the authors did not include a hypocaloric diet with high sugar content. For example, some adolescents are ingesting 30 percent of their diet as added sugars. We found that laboratory rats given a diet of 40 percent sugar developed frank diabetes and fatty liver even when they were calorically restricted. We therefore need to rethink about the question of whether calories are just calories. Calories are important when it comes to weight, but the type of calorie can make a big difference on how it affects our risk for fat accumulation and diabetes.

    1. Are there differences between sugar and HFCS? The study by Rippe’s group also implies that HFCS and sugar are relatively equivalent in their effects. For sure, both contain fructose and can induce metabolic syndrome and weight gain in animals. However, there are several differences that suggest that HFCS may be slightly worse.

First, soft drinks containing HFCS do contain more fructose than soft drinks with the equivalent amount of sucrose, in part because of the higher fructose content in HFCS. Our group found that this translates into higher blood fructose levels and higher blood pressure following ingestion. More recently, Michael Goran’s group found that the percentage of fructose in HFCS-containing drinks is often higher than labeled, and may contain as much as 65 percent fructose.

Second, there may also be differences in how the fructose is absorbed between the two drinks. Thus, HFCS may result in faster absorption of the fructose since the fructose is not bound, whereas sucrose must first be degraded to glucose and fructose in the gut before it is absorbed. Our group found that mixtures of fructose and glucose led to worse fatty liver in laboratory animals than equivalent amounts of sucrose. Clearly more studies are needed, but the evidence does suggest that there are likely biological differences in these two added sugars.

In summary, we would recommend reducing intake of added sugars, both from sucrose and from HFCS, in any dietary plan. Reducing natural fruit intake is less necessary for while these fruits also contain fructose, they also contain many excellent nutrients that help combat the effects of fructose. More studies are needed to determine if the biological differences between HFCS and sucrose are clinically important.

‘Fat Switch’ May be Key to Turning Off Obesity

If you have ever struggled losing weight and keeping it off, you already know what a challenge that can be. Dr. Johnson’s new book, The Fat Switch, presents a groundbreaking approach to preventing and reversing obesity. Dr. Johnson asked me to publish his book to help spread the word and we hope to do just that. It’s the first book we’ve published that I did not write, because I felt it shared a powerful message on a very important topic that is central to the work we teach on this site.

I firmly believe that understanding how fructose influences your fat metabolism by activating your “fat switch” is key for achieving optimal weight and health. According to Dr. Johnson, based on his decades of research:

“Those of us who are obese eat more because of a faulty ‘switch’ and exercise less because of a low energy state. If you can learn how to control the specific ‘switch’ located in the powerhouse of each of your cells – the mitochondria – you hold the key to fighting obesity.”

I highly recommend picking up a copy of this book, which has been described as the “Holy Grail” for those struggling with their weight. In it, Dr. Johnson explains the details behind these five basic truths:

  1. Large portions of food and too little exercise are not solely responsible for why you are gaining weight
  2. Metabolic Syndrome is a normal condition that animals undergo to store fat
  3. Uric acid is increased by specific foods and causally contributes to obesity and insulin resistance
  4. Fructose-containing sugars cause obesity not by calories, but by turning on the fat switch
  5. Effective treatment of obesity requires turning off your fat switch and improving the function of your cells’ mitochondria

How Biological Survival Mechanisms Influence Your Weight

While Dr. Johnson is a kidney expert, his research has led him into areas the typical nephrologist will never delve into. In The Fat Switch, he explains how biological survival mechanisms influence body weight in previously unsuspected ways. In the first official review of the book, published in the University of Colorado Hospital magazine, The Insider, Todd Neff writes:

“Uric acid is best known for causing gout, a type of arthritis caused by buildup of uric acid crystals in joints. But the more Johnson and his team looked at uric acid, the more havoc the acid appeared to wreak. In research pending publication, Miguel Lanaspa and Johnson have fingered uric acid as a culprit in obesity.

Uric acid comes from the breakdown of the cellular fuel ATP (produced by the mitochondria) as well as the breakdown of DNA and RNA, primarily from foods. But this breakdown doesn’t have to yield uric acid, Johnson and Lanaspa found. There’s a fork in the metabolic road, with only one of the paths leading to uric acid.

It’s a rocky path. Uric acid stresses mitochondria, which leads mitochondria to boost fat synthesis while burning less energy, Johnson and colleagues have found. The implication is that the same amount of food builds fat into – and saps energy from – people on the uric acid pathway, Johnson and colleagues found.

‘Too much food intake plus too little exercise equals Fat,’ Johnson wrote. ‘However, our work suggests the interpretation is different. Obesity is not from gluttony and idleness, but rather because we have activated the same program all animals use to increase fat stores.'”

How is this biological “fat-storage program” activated? In short: fructose consumption.

Fructose, regardless of its source (although in the modern diet, the vast majority of it comes from processed foods and beverages), is acted on by the enzyme fructokinase in your cells. This enzyme is needed for your body to extract the energy from the fructose. But before getting to that energy, the fructokinase uses up ATP – the fuel in your cells – which activates the fat-storing uric acid metabolic pathway.

So while diet and exercise are still important factors, consumption of fructose appears to have an overriding impact on whether or not your body will hold on to and keep adding to its fat stores or not – despite your best efforts at eating well and exercising.

Watch the video discussion. URL:

How Biological Survival Mechanisms Influence Your Weight

While Dr. Johnson is a kidney expert, his research has led him into areas the typical nephrologist will never delve into. In The Fat Switch, he explains how biological survival mechanisms influence body weight in previously unsuspected ways. In the first official review of the book, published in the University of Colorado Hospital magazine, The Insider, Todd Neff writes:

“Uric acid is best known for causing gout, a type of arthritis caused by buildup of uric acid crystals in joints. But the more Johnson and his team looked at uric acid, the more havoc the acid appeared to wreak. In research pending publication, Miguel Lanaspa and Johnson have fingered uric acid as a culprit in obesity.

Uric acid comes from the breakdown of the cellular fuel ATP (produced by the mitochondria) as well as the breakdown of DNA and RNA, primarily from foods. But this breakdown doesn’t have to yield uric acid, Johnson and Lanaspa found. There’s a fork in the metabolic road, with only one of the paths leading to uric acid.

It’s a rocky path. Uric acid stresses mitochondria, which leads mitochondria to boost fat synthesis while burning less energy, Johnson and colleagues have found. The implication is that the same amount of food builds fat into – and saps energy from – people on the uric acid pathway, Johnson and colleagues found.

‘Too much food intake plus too little exercise equals Fat,’ Johnson wrote. ‘However, our work suggests the interpretation is different. Obesity is not from gluttony and idleness, but rather because we have activated the same program all animals use to increase fat stores.'”

How is this biological “fat-storage program” activated? In short: fructose consumption.

Fructose, regardless of its source (although in the modern diet, the vast majority of it comes from processed foods and beverages), is acted on by the enzyme fructokinase in your cells. This enzyme is needed for your body to extract the energy from the fructose. But before getting to that energy, the fructokinase uses up ATP – the fuel in your cells – which activates the fat-storing uric acid metabolic pathway.

So while diet and exercise are still important factors, consumption of fructose appears to have an overriding impact on whether or not your body will hold on to and keep adding to its fat stores or not – despite your best efforts at eating well and exercising.

Watch the video discussion. URL:

Workouts Sculpt Heart As Well As Muscles

Exercise can cause structural changes in the heart — and the changes can vary depending on the type of exercise.

Researchers found that endurance athletes showed an increase in the size of both their left and right ventricles after 90 days of team training. However, athletes who only did strength training had excessive growth in their left ventricles, but no change at all in their right ventricle size.

In addition, the ability of the left ventricle to fully relax between beats (diastolic function) was enhanced in the endurance athletes, but it worsened in the strength trainers.

It is possible that this could point the way towards tailored recommendations for rehabilitation and recreational exercise for people with heart problems.

Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

This is an interesting study in that it shows how various types of exercise affect the structure of your heart in different ways.

It also shows that you’re not necessarily “born” to be a good athlete because you were born with a bigger or stronger heart, but that it’s the type of training you choose that has the most influence on your performance by building an “athletic heart.”

Athletes are Built Not Born

In this study, the endurance group consisted of long-distance rowers, whose exercise regimen consisted of daily running, cycling, swimming, rowing or using an aerobic machine with sustained effort for at least 20 minutes a day.

The strength training group was American-style football players doing weight lifting, plyometric exercises (explosive movements to develop muscular power) and sprint running drills.

After three months of organized team training, they found there were significant training-specific changes in the athletes’ heart structure and function.

While left ventricle mass increased in both groups, the endurance athletes had better diastolic function in their left ventricle, and enlargement and more efficient contraction and relaxation in both sides of the lower chambers of the heart (atria).

The strength-trained athletes, on the other hand, actually had hypertrophy, or excessive growth, in the muscle of the left ventricle, and reduced diastolic function, with no other structural changes.

Is Your Exercise Prescription Up to Date?

For a change, I agree with the idea to use this type of research to influence and fine-tune your “exercise prescription.” Exercise is a critical component of good health, especially as you age, and a good way of looking at it is to view it as a drug that needs to be precisely prescribed for maximum benefit.

Most Americans suffer from an “exercise deficiency,” which contributes to two-thirds of the U.S. population being overweight, and tens of millions of others with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes; all of whom desperately need more exercise to control their underlying condition.

Exercise is simply one of the most powerful tools available to drop your insulin levels, and elevated insulin levels are one of the primary drivers for these types of illnesses and weight gain. It is my belief that properly performed exercise is far more powerful for controlling these symptoms than any drug yet developed.

What Type of Exercise Regimen Do YOU Need? 

A TRULY effective, well-rounded exercise program must involve all three types of exercise, taking into account exercise intensity and duration for your individual fitness level and goals:

  1. aerobic, endurance workouts (lowers blood pressure)
  2. strength training (helps ease muscle and joint pain)
  3. interval-type training that includes short bursts of activity at very high intensity that is individualized for your specific fitness level (burns fat)

Interval training — where you break your exercise session into segments with a rest period in-between — has been proven especially effective at burning greater amounts of fat than one single hour-long session. Newer studies on the specific benefits of interval training also suggest that it may actually provide MORE protection against heart attacks than long durational aerobic type exercises. So, I wouldn’t trade in interval training for endurance-style training only.

Even though it wasn’t mentioned or included in the study above, high-intensity interval exercises have been shown to DOUBLE the endurance in 75 percent of test subjects, compared to those who did traditional endurance training only! (So just imagine the benefits of interval training compared to doing nothing but pumping iron.)

My personal experience would support that as I have been a long distance runner for the last 40 years, and my heart is so large I have left ventricular hypertrophy on EKG and chest X ray evaluation.  This is not pathological in my case but a healthy response to exercise.

I now incorporate interval training in the form of sprints, and strength training through pull-ups, push-ups and dips, rounded out with a game of singles tennis whenever I can. Tennis has become one of my passions. I’m now taking lessons twice a week, working my way up to a 3.5 player, and hope to be a 4.0 someday. It’s just great fun; something I look forward to each week.

Avoid This Common Pitfall When Starting a New Exercise Routine 

Now, if you are overweight or out of shape, you can start with walking. Most heavy people start with walking and it’s an excellent choice, as it is low-risk and inexpensive.

The major problem with walking, however, is that many people become fit relatively rapidly but don’t increase the intensity of the workouts as they become more fit.

Remember that once you become comfortable with your routine, you need to increase the intensity in order to continue reaping the benefits.

Push the intensity of your workouts so you are going just hard enough to where it’s difficult to carry on a conversation with someone next to you. If you can easily talk to someone you simply are not going hard enough to give your body the benefits it needs. An additional benefit of this technique is that you don’t need to monitor your heart rate to make sure you’re exercising at peak intensity.

Remember to Listen to Your Body

One of the key principles I teach and believe in is to listen to your body.

If your body will not allow you to exercise, either due to pain or worsening of your underlying condition, then you have no practical option but to honor your body’s signals and exercise less or not at all.

Even though your body desperately needs the exercise to improve, you will only get worse if you violate your current limitations. So you may have to start with as little as just minutes a day. That’s okay.

Apply the Take Control of Your Health Program and as your body gradually improves so will your tolerance to exercise, so continue to push yourself until you reach the daily 90-minute level.

Need Inspiration? Remember All the Benefits!

Even if you have no aspirations of becoming a professional athlete, the benefits of even small amounts of exercise are far too valuable to ignore. Aside from developing a stronger “athletic heart,” exercise will also help you:

  • Sleep better
  • Lose weight, gain weight, or maintain weight, depending on your needs
  • Improve your resistance to fight infections
  • Lower your risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes
  • Help your brain work better, making you smarter

Do You Need Help Getting Motivated?

If you are having trouble motivating yourself to exercise, the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) can help. EFT is a form of psychological acupuncture treatment I recommend in order to optimize your emotional health.

It can help you remove the mental or emotional blocks that prevent you from successfully implementing your program. You can learn the technique with my free manual and discover more about the connection between your emotional well-being and your overall health.

You can also combine EFT with Medical Hypnosis to create an unconscious desire to exercise every day. This is session six on the hypnosis program I recommend for long term weight loss.

Can Inflammation in Your Gut Be the Root of Your Depression?

Recent studies have shown that inflammation may be involved in the pathogenesis of depression. In fact, some research has demonstrated that depression is frequently associated with gastrointestinal inflammations and autoimmune diseases as well as with other ailments in which chronic low-grade inflammation is a significant contributing factor.

Can Inflammation in Your Gut Be the Root of Your Depression?

Story at-a-glance

  • Depression may be a neuropsychiatric manifestation of a chronic inflammation in your gut
  • Treating gastrointestinal inflammation may help improve depression and related diseases
  • By optimizing your gut health and levels of inflammation with probiotics, fermented foods, vitamin D and omega-3 fats, you may be able to relieve symptoms of depression and other neurological diseases
  • An increasing number of clinical studies have shown that <strong>treating gastrointestinal inflammation with probiotics, vitamin B, vitamin D and <a href=””>omega-3 fats</a> may also improve depression symptoms</strong> and quality of life by attenuating proinflammatory stimuli to your brain

It is possible that depression could be a neuropsychiatric manifestation of a chronic inflammatory syndrome. And the primary cause of inflammation may be the dysfunction of the “gut-brain axis”.

According to a study reprinted on the website Green Med Info:

“… [A]n increasing number of clinical studies have shown that treating gastrointestinal inflammations with probiotics, vitamin B, D and omega 3 fatty acids, through attenuating proinflammatory stimuli to brain, may also improve depression symptoms and quality of life. All these findings justify an assumption that treating gastrointestinal inflammations may improve the efficacy of the currently used treatment modalities of depression and related diseases.”

By Dr. Mercola

The notion that inflammation in your gut could be linked to your symptoms of depression may sound far-fetched, but it actually makes perfect sense when you understand the intricate connection between your brain and your digestive tract.

Perhaps the simplest example to use is getting butterflies in your stomach when you’re nervous, thus your thoughts, i.e. brain, are manifesting symptoms in your gut. But another route of connection is via low-grade inflammation, which is a significant contributing factor to numerous diseases that often occur alongside depression, and may, in fact, be manifesting your depressive symptoms.

Is Depression the Result of Chronic Inflammation?

A recent review has pointed out several mechanisms by which gastrointestinal inflammation may play a critical role in the development of depression.

Among them:

    1. Depression is often found alongside gastrointestinal inflammations and autoimmune diseases as well as with cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, type 2-diabetes and also cancer, in which chronic low-grade inflammation is a significant contributing factor. Thus researchers suggested “depression may be a neuropsychiatric manifestation of a chronic inflammatory syndrome.”
    2. Research suggests the primary cause of inflammation may be dysfunction of the “gut-brain axis.” Your gut is literally your second brain — created from the identical tissue as your brain during gestation — and contains larger amounts of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is associated with mood control.

It’s important to understand that your gut bacteria are an active and integrated part of your body, and as such are heavily dependent on your diet and vulnerable to your lifestyle. If you consume a lot of processed foods and sweetened drinks, for instance, your gut bacteria are likely going to be severely compromised because processed foods in general will destroy healthy microflora and sugars of all kinds feed bad bacteria and yeast, as well as promote systemic inflammation.

  1. An increasing number of clinical studies have shown that treating gastrointestinal inflammation with probiotics, vitamin B, vitamin D and omega-3 fats may also improve depression symptoms and quality of life by attenuating proinflammatory stimuli to your brain.

What this all boils down to is that chronic inflammation in your body disrupts the normal functioning of many bodily systems, and can wreak havoc on your brain. But it appears inflammation may be more than just another risk factor for depression; it may in fact be THE risk factor that underlies all others. Although this refers to postpartum depression, the inflammatory response is the same in its impact on all forms of depression.

Published in the International Breastfeeding Journal, researchers stated:

“The old paradigm described inflammation as simply one of many risk factors for depression. The new paradigm is based on more recent research that has indicated that physical and psychological stressors increase inflammation. These recent studies constitute an important shift in the depression paradigm: inflammation is not simply a risk factor; it is the risk factor that underlies all the others.

Moreover, inflammation explains why psychosocial, behavioral and physical risk factors increase the risk of depression. This is true for depression in general and for postpartum depression in particular.

Puerperal women are especially vulnerable to these effects because their levels of proinflammatory cytokines significantly increase during the last trimester of pregnancy — a time when they are also at high risk for depression.Moreover, common experiences of new motherhood, such as sleep disturbance, postpartum pain, and past or current psychological trauma, act as stressors that cause proinflammatory cytokine levels to rise.”

This is Why Sugar is Also a Major Factor in Depression

There’s a great book on this subject, The Sugar Blues, written by William Duffy more than 35 years ago, that delves into the sugar-depression link in great detail. The central argument Duffy makes in the book is that sugar is an extremely health-harming addictive drug, and that simply making that one dietary change — eliminating as much sugar as possible — can have a profoundly beneficial impact on your mental health. He even advocated eliminating sugar from the diet of the mentally ill, stating it could be an effective treatment in and of itself for some people.

It’s become increasingly clear that one route by which sugar is so detrimental to your mental health is because sugar consumption triggers a cascade of chemical reactions in your body that promote chronic inflammation. Further, excess sugar and fructose will distort the ratio of good to bad bacteria in your gut, which also plays an integral role in your mental health.  Sugar does this by serving as a fertilizer/fuel for pathogenic bacteria, yeast and fungi that negatively inhibit the beneficial bacteria in your gut.

For instance, recent research showed the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus was found to have a marked effect on GABA levels in certain brain regions and lowered the stress-induced hormone corticosterone, resulting in reduced anxiety- and depression-related behavior. But if you consume a lot of processed foods and sweetened drinks (which are typically fructose-heavy), your gut bacteria are likely going to be severely compromised and so is your mental health! So the dietary answer for treating depression is to severely limit sugars, especially fructose, as well as grains.

It’s worth noting that sugar can also lead to excessive insulin release that can lead to hypoglycemia, which, in turn, causes your brain to secrete glutamate in levels that can cause agitation, depression, anger, anxiety, panic attacks and an increase in suicide risk.

So radically reducing your sugar intake, especially fructose, to less than 25 grams per day will be one of the most powerful interventions for dealing with depression, as well as fighting chronic inflammation and supporting healthy gut bacteria. Consuming more than 25 grams of fructose a day will clearly push your brain biochemistry, and your overall health, in the wrong direction.

Relieving Gastrointestinal Inflammation May Ease Your Depressive Symptoms

We discussed the importance of limiting sugar and fructose, which is one of the primary ways to treat gastrointestinal inflammation, above. You will also want to be sure your gut is regularly “reseeded” with good bacteria, or probiotics, which are the foundation of a healthy gastrointestinal tract.

My recommendations for optimizing your gut bacteria are as follows:

    • Fermented foods are still the best route to optimal digestive health, as long as you eat the traditionally made, unpasteurized versions. Healthy choices include lassi (an Indian yoghurt drink, traditionally enjoyed before dinner), fermented raw (unpasteurrized) grass-fed organic milk such as kefir, various pickled fermentations of cabbage, turnips, eggplant, cucumbers, onions, squash and carrots, and natto (fermented soy).

If you regularly eat fermented foods such as these that, again, have not been pasteurized (pasteurization kills the naturally occurring probiotics), your healthy gut bacteria will thrive.

  • Probiotic supplement. Although I’m not a major proponent of taking many supplements (as I believe the majority of your nutrients need to come from food), probiotics are definitely an exception. I have used many different brands over the past 15 years and there are many good ones out there.
  • If you do not eat fermented foods, taking a high-quality probiotic supplement certainly makes a lot of sense considering how important they are to optimizing your mental health.

Probiotics have a direct effect on brain chemistry, transmitting mood- and behavior-regulating signals to your brain via the vagus nerve, which is yet another reason why your intestinal health can have such a profound influence on your mental health, and vice versa. Two other important factors to treat gastrointestinal inflammation and also help relieve depression are:

There’s a wealth of evidence showing gastrointestinal involvement in a variety of neurological disease. With this in mind, it should also be crystal clear that nourishing your gut flora with good bacteria is extremely important, from cradle to old age, because in a very real sense you have two brains, one inside your skull and one in your gut, and each needs its own vital nourishment.

Simple Acne Treatment Works by Helping Your Gut Brain Connection

A recent paper sought to provide a historical perspective to the contemporary investigations and clinical implications of the gut-brain-skin connection in acne. It found that many aspects of Stokes and Pillsbury’s unifying theory have recently been validated.


According to the paper, as reported by Green Med Info:

“The ability of the gut microbiota and oral probiotics to influence systemic inflammation, oxidative stress, glycemic control, tissue lipid content and even mood itself, may have important implications in acne. The intestinal microflora may also provide a twist to the developing diet and acne research.”

Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

What could your gut possibly have to do with your skin, and specifically acne? Far more than you might think, and it makes perfect sense that your skin would be impacted by your intestinal microflora and also your brain once you get a bit of background into how they are all intricately interconnected.

You’ve probably already experienced your “brain-skin” connection; for instance, when your face flushes because you feel embarrassed, or you get an acne breakout due to stress. Well, there’s also a “gut-brain” connection, and therein lies the key to unraveling how the simple action of optimizing your gut bacteria could pave your way to clearer, acne-free skin.

What is the Gut-Brain Connection?

The study in Gut Pathogens explains that research by dermatologists John Stokes and Donald Pillsbury conducted more than 70 years ago may have recently been validated. They posited that your emotions could alter the microflora in your intestines, which could therefore contribute to systemic inflammation that could exacerbate acne and other skin conditions.

The researchers noted:

“Experimental studies show that psychological stress stagnates normal small intestinal transit time, encourages overgrowth of bacteria, and compromises the intestinal barrier. SIBO [small intestinal bacterial over growth] is strongly associated with depression and anxiety, while eradication of SIBO improves emotional symptoms.

Although the frequency of SIBO in acne vulgaris has not yet been investigated, a recent report indicates that SIBO is 10 times more prevalent in those with acne rosacea vs. healthy controls. Correction of SIBO leads to marked clinical improvement in patients with rosacea.”

Indeed, most people fail to realize that your gut is quite literally your second brain, and in addition to digesting your food actually has the ability to significantly influence your:

  • Mind
  • Mood
  • Behavior

It’s not a widely understood or emphasized fact, but studies have repeatedly shown that a healthy gut reinforces a positive outlook and behavior, while depression and a variety of behavioral problems have been linked to an imbalance or lack of gut bacteria.

For example, a recent animal study published in the journal Neurogastroenterology & Motility found that mice lacking gut bacteria behave differently from normal mice, engaging in what would be referred to as “high-risk behavior.” This altered behavior was accompanied by neurochemical changes in the mouse brain. According to the authors, your gut flora plays a role in the communication between your gut and your brain.

This is supported by research by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, who explains that in children with Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS), the toxicity flowing from their gut throughout their bodies and into their brains, clogs the brain with toxicity, preventing it from performing its normal function and processing sensory information. You can also view the riveting interview I recently did with her that reviewed the connection between autism and gut flora.

GAPS may manifest as a conglomerate of symptoms that can fit the diagnosis of autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other neurological issues, including depression.

The intrinsic connection between your gut and your brain becomes easier to understand once you know that your brain and gut are actually created out of the same type of tissue.  During fetal development, one part turns into your central nervous system while the other develops into your enteric nervous system. These two systems are connected via the vagus nerve — the tenth cranial nerve that runs from your brain stem down to your abdomen. This is what connects your two brains together. Your gut and brain actually work in tandem, each influencing the other as well as numerous other aspects of your health, including your skin.

Your Gut and Your Brain Also Influence Your Skin

Your skin may seem like an entirely separate organ from your brain or your intestines, but they are intricately intertwined. Emotional stress is proven to exacerbate acne, and your gut bacteria are proven to impact your emotions.

Further, your gut microflora may also influence your skin more directly, as signals from these gut microorganisms are sent throughout your body and interact with organisms in your skin and gut mucosa. Researchers are now looking into how these interactions can help with skin conditions like dryness, improve collagen, or stabilize the microflora on your skin to help with irritations.

This is why there are already a handful of functional probiotic products for the skin on the market. The popular cosmetic company Clinique released a “redness solutions makeup” last year that touts probiotic technology that “helps strengthen skin’s barrier.” Probiotic soaps, lotions and other personal care products are also available at many health food stores. Research is still emerging as to precisely how probiotics interact with your skin, as well as which strains are most beneficial and whether topical or oral applications work best, but the promise is definitely there.

As the researchers noted in Gut Pathogens:

“The lines of communication, as mediated by gut microbes, may be direct and indirect — ultimately influencing the degree of acne by a systemic effect on inflammation, oxidative stress, glycemic control, tissue lipid levels, pathogenic bacteria, as well as levels of neuropeptides and mood-regulating neurotransmitters.

It was not the contention of Stokes and Pillsbury, nor is it ours, that acne is a disease of the gastrointestinal tract. Yet, there appears to be more than enough supportive evidence to suggest that gut microbes, and the integrity of the gastrointestinal tract itself, are contributing factors in the acne process.”

Dietary Considerations to be Aware Of

I’ve long stated that poor diet is a major factor in the cause of acne, and this also ties in with the gut connection. When you eat  grain carbohydrates and sugar, it causes a surge of insulin and an insulin-like growth factor called IGF-1 in your body. This can lead to an excess of male hormones, which cause your pores to secrete sebum, a greasy substance that attracts acne-promoting bacteria. Additionally, IGF-1 causes skin cells known as keratinocytes to multiply, a process that is also associated with acne.

Additionally, these very same foods — refined carbs, such as fructose, sugar and grains — will also increase inflammation in your body, which may trigger acne, and at the same time they will also wreak havoc on the makeup of your intestinal bacteria.

In fact, avoiding sugar, including fructose, and processed foods (which virtually all contain added sugar and fructose) is one of my top recommendations to optimize your gut bacteria, as the sugars serve as fuel for the growth of pathogenic anaerobic bacteria, fungi and yeast, and competitively inhibit your good bacteria, tending to crowd them out of their appropriate niche.

So this is yet another way that your gut bacteria, via your diet, can influence your skin. When you eat a healthy diet like my comprehensive nutrition plan, which is low in sugars and processed foods, it automatically helps enable the beneficial bacteria in your gut to flourish.

How to Best Optimize Your Gut Bacteria for Acne Prevention

If you eat many processed foods your gut bacteria are going to be compromised because processed foods in general will destroy healthy microflora and feed bad bacteria and yeast. But your gut bacteria are also very sensitive to:

  • Antibiotics
  • Chlorinated water
  • Antibacterial soap
  • Agricultural chemicals
  • Pollution

Because virtually all of us are exposed to these at least occasionally, ensuring your gut bacteria remain balanced should be considered an ongoing process. Cultured foods like raw milk yogurt and kefir, some cheeses, and sauerkraut are good sources of natural, healthy bacteria, provided they are made from raw milk and not pasteurized.

If you do not eat fermented foods on a regular basis, taking a high-quality probiotic supplement is definitely recommended to help optimize your body’s good bacteria, with potential secondary benefits to your skin as well.

The Healing Power of Probiotics Impresses Researchers

A breakthrough study has revealed for the first time that probiotic bacteria appear to affect gene activity and cellular reactions in the human intestine.


According to

“Consumption of a dairy drink containing three strains of probiotic bacteria was associated with changes in the activity of hundreds of genes, with the changes resembling the effects of certain medicines in the human body, including medicines that positively influence the immune system and those for lowering blood pressure.”

“Probiotics cause a local reaction in the mucosa of the small intestines,” said Prof Michiel Kleerebezem of NIZO food research. “These effects are similar to the effects of components that the pharmaceutical industry applies to medicines, but less strong.”

Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

Probiotics are friendly bacteria that help your body to thrive on multiple levels. In Greek, the term means “for life,” and the myriad of research surrounding these healthful microorganisms suggests that they are, in fact, an integral part of your well-being.

Far from simply helping your body to better digest and assimilate your food (which they do very well), probiotics influence the activity of hundreds of your genes, helping them to express in a positive, disease-fighting manner.

Among the many probiotic effects uncovered by this latest study were changes that positively influence your immune system and help lower blood pressure. In fact, the researchers noted that probiotics lead to changes similar to those sought after by the pharmaceutical industry, yet with probiotics there are no negative side effects whatsoever.

Probiotics Positively Influence Your Genes

One of the most cutting-edge fields of medicine is epigenetics, which has shown that your lifestyle plays a significant role in how your genes are expressed. The widely accepted dogma that your genes control your health destiny is now being completely uprooted, as your genetic code is not set in stone. Rather it is constantly changing based on factors like your diet and stress levels.

For instance, eating broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, garlic and onions helps to activate tumor suppressor genes that fight cancer.

Likewise, researchers revealed that drinking a probiotic-rich beverage influenced the activity of hundreds of your genes in a positive manner.

To put it simply, the more dietary and lifestyle habits you engage in that positively influence your genetic expression, the more protection you’ll naturally receive against a host of chronic illnesses.

Epigenetic therapy, which is essentially the curing of disease by epigenetic manipulation, involves changing the instructions to your cells — reactivating desirable genes and deactivating undesirable ones. This emerging field, now in its infancy, may represent the future of medicine.

But you can start to take advantage of it now by incorporating probiotics and other foods into your diet that help support healthful genetic expression.

Did You Know You Can Get Probiotics from Foods?

Probiotic supplements are widely available, and if you choose a high-quality version are very effective in helping to “reseed” your intestinal tract with good bacteria.

Though I rarely recommend taking supplements on a regular basis, a high-quality probiotic is one of my exceptions. In fact, it’s the one supplement recommended to all new patients in my clinic.

That said, way before the invention of the probiotic supplement cultures were benefiting from probiotics by way of cultured, or fermented, foods.

Cultured foods like yogurt, some cheeses, and sauerkraut are good sources of natural, healthy bacteria, provided they are not pasteurized. And fermented foods, such as natto, can give your body the similar benefits of consuming a whole bottle of good bacteria, at a fraction of the cost.

One of the best and least expensive ways to get healthy bacteria through your diet is to obtain raw milk and convert it to kefir, which is really easy to make at home. All you need is one half packet of kefir start granules in a quart of raw milk, which you leave at room temperature overnight. By the time you wake up in the morning you will likely have kefir. If it hasn’t obtained the consistency of yogurt you might want to set it out a bit longer and then store it in the fridge.

A quart of kefir has far more active bacteria than you can possibly purchase in any probiotics supplement, and it is very economical as you can reuse the kefir from the original quart of milk about 10 times before you need to start a new culture pack. Just one starter package of kefir granules can convert about 50 gallons of milk to kefir.

This is a far healthier, and far more economical, way to nourish your body with probiotics than buying any of the commercial probiotic beverages on the market. These typically contain added sugars and are made using pasteurized milk, which I don’t recommend drinking.

Cultured foods should be a regular part of your diet, and if you eat them enough you will keep your digestive tract well supplied with good bacteria. There may still be times when a probiotic supplement is necessary, such as when you stray from your healthy diet and consume excess grains or sugar, if you have to take antibiotics, when traveling to foreign countries or when eating at suspicious restaurants.

I’ve also found that using a high-quality probiotic every 30-60 days will typically help maintain a well-functioning digestive system. But use the supplement as it’s intended — as a “supplement” to, not a replacement for, cultured foods.

Probiotics Provide Whole-Body Benefits

The latest research on probiotics’ influence on your genes only serves to further support their role in your overall health.

For instance, beneficial bacteria have a lifelong, powerful effect on your gut’s immune system and your systemic immune system as well. The bacteria play a crucial role in the development and operation of the mucosal immune system in your digestive tract. They also aid in the production of antibodies to pathogens.

Friendly bacteria train your immune system to distinguish between pathogens and non-harmful antigens, and to respond appropriately. This important function prevents your immune system from overreacting to non-harmful antigens, which is the genesis of allergies.

Probiotics can even help to normalize your weight. One study found that obese people were able to reduce their abdominal fat by nearly 5 percent, and their subcutaneous fat by over 3 percent, just be drinking a probiotic-rich fermented milk beverage for 12 weeks.

As you can see, probiotics perform a wide variety of functions, which renders them useful and beneficial for a number of health concerns, some of which are still being uncovered. And because adding probiotics to your diet is so easy, by way of cultured foods and/or supplements, it’s one step I highly encourage you to take on your journey to optimal health.

GE Crops and Unsustainable Agricultural Practices are Destroying our Planet’s Soil and Food Supply

Story at-a-glance

  • Genetically engineered crops and food products pose a threat to your health, resistance to disease, soil, and the global food supply
  • GE seed wars in India have resulted in a group of Indian scientists being found guilty of infecting and hiding the fact that indigenously created Bt cotton contained a Monsanto gene in a rush to get the seed to market
  • A new study shows glyphosate (from GE feed) alters the gut flora in poultry; pathogenic bacteria like Salmonella and Botulism are strengthened, while beneficial bacteria are weakened, which is a setup for making you sick from poultry consumption
  • The world may be running out of topsoil, as soil is being lost at 10 to 40 times the rate it can be replenished
  • Cultivation of GE crops may be a major contributor by adversely altering soil’s ecological balance and fertility, possibly irreversibly; DNA from GE organisms is not readily broken down by soil microbes, and this foreign DNA can mix with the DNA of these microbes to create bizarre strains, toxins, and otherwise interfere with the biological system that controls soil’s fertility

Genetically engineered crops and food products pose a threat to your health, resistance to disease, soil, and the global food supply. The biotech industry is riddled with corruption as companies clamor to sink their claws into the marketplace first, to get their seeds into farmers’ fields ahead of the rest.

This pervasive corporate rush to profit at any cost places all of humanity at risk, as the industry barrels ahead without even questioning the consequences of their technology. Industry leaders have failed to slow down long enough to even ponder the long-term consequences of irreversibly manipulating the DNA of your food. And what independent researchers are finding in this regard is truly disturbing and is probably just the tip of the iceberg in this genetics experiment of unprecedented scale.

When you see the term “biotech industry,” you might automatically think of Monsanto, the world’s Big Dog when it comes to GE seed. Monsanto has shown it will stop at nothing to bully its way across the globe, leaving a trail of planetary devastation in its wake.

Monsanto’s unsavory behavior even resulted in Forbes Magazine’s retraction of naming Monsanto “Company of the Year” in 2009, admitting they were “wrong on Monsanto… really wrong,” citing not only the problems with resistant superweeds but also investigations of antitrust issues and a potential flop in an expensive new variety of GE corn seed. But these high-tech seed wars have now gone global, extending well beyond our Western borders, and there is no better illustration than the latest scandal in India.

GE Scientists in India Found Guilty of Fraud and Cover Up

A group of scientists from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS) have been found guilty of infecting and subsequently hiding the fact that indigenously created Bt cotton contained a Monsanto gene1. The variety, called BNBt, was supposed to be a cheaper alternative to the other Indian Bt cotton hybrids. Shortly after its release in 2009, its sales were suspended, and then hearings commenced.

It’s now been determined that the Indian scientists intentionally contaminated the GE cotton seed, because “accidental contamination cannot explain what happened.” ICAR condemned the scientists’ actions as “unethical, unscientific, and irresponsible.” It appears these shenanigans occurred in order to somehow speed up the seed’s release into India’s Bt cotton marketplace.2

The hearing’s outcome falls on the heels of a major decision in October 2012 by a committee, appointed by India’s Supreme Court, to end all GE field trials until certain conditions have been met. The Committee also recommended a 10-year moratorium on field trials of all Bt food crops and a moratorium on field trials of herbicide-tolerant crops until an independent assessment has performed.

Perhaps India has finally had enough. Over the past 16 years, more than a quarter of a million Indian farmers have committed suicide after being convinced to plant Monsanto’s genetically engineered seeds (especially Bt cotton), then having their crops fail, leaving them in financial ruin. Could this be a harbinger of times to come in the United States?


Latest Study Shows Roundup Creates Botulism Breeding Ground in Poultry

A new German study3 by the Institute of Bacteriology and Mycology examined the effects of glyphosate, the active agent in Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, on the gut microbes of poultry. Some birds are heavily exposed to glyphosate when fed genetically engineered feed. The study’s findings are quite alarming. Researchers found that highly pathogenic bacteria resisted glyphosate, whereas beneficial bacteria likely succumbed to it.

What does this mean for you and me?

The essential implication is that poultry fed GE corn or soy would fall victim to dysbiosis, meaning unhealthy changes in their gut flora that threaten the health of the birds, as well as anyone consuming them. The good bacteria in the poultry gut, such as Enterococcus, Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus, are killed off, allowing the pathogenic or disease causing bacteria to flourish. Varieties such as Salmonella and Clostridium are very dangerous pathogens for humans. Clostridia bacteria are some of the deadliest, with strains including C. tetani (tetanus) and C. botulinum (botulism).

Chickens bred in CAFOs are already routinely fed antibiotics, arsenic, and even antidepressants, all of which have serious adverse health consequences. But this new study suggests CAFO chickens exposed to glyphosate may become breeding grounds for Botulism, Salmonella and other major pathogenic organisms.4

The implications of this become even clearer when you consider the recently released findings of a decade-long feeding study that showed GE feed can cause significant changes in the digestive systems, immune systems, and major organs (including liver, kidneys, pancreas, genitals and others) of rats, mice, pigs and salmon. If it’s doing all of that to animals and fish, what’s it doing to you? Clearly, the conventional agribusiness food system has emerged as a major threat to your health. But it may also be contributing to an even greater problem: the destruction of the world’s topsoil.

The World is Running Out of Topsoil

The world may be running out of usable topsoil, the layer that allows plants to grow. According to an article in Time World5, soil erosion and degradation rates suggest we have only about 60 remaining years of topsoil. Forty percent of the world’s agricultural soil is now classified as either degraded or seriously degraded; the latter means that 70 percent of the topsoil is gone. Our soil is being lost at 10 to 40 times the rate it can be replenished, and our food production systems are to blame, which epitomizes the term “unsustainable.” It takes decades or even centuries to regenerate significant levels of soil.

Agriculture accounts for 70 percent of our fresh water use. When the soil is unfit, water is wasted—it washes right through the soil and past the plant’s root system. We already have a global water shortage that’s projected to worsen over the next 20 to 30 years, so this is the last thing we need to compound it. Soil degradation is projected to cause 30 percent loss in food production over the next 20 to 50 years—while our global food demands are expected to increase by 50 percent over this span of time.

Many don’t realize that soil is alive and has an incredible diversity of microorganisms. One handful of soil contains more microbes than the number of people who have ever lived on our planet.

These organisms create a powerful synergy with the plants and recycle organic material, making the soil more resilient and better at holding water and nutrients, and better at nurturing plants. Microbes need carbon for food, and we’re depleting our soil of this element by using chemical fertilizers, overgrazing, over-ploughing, and burning stubble in fields to accelerate crop turnover. Add to this genetically engineered crops, and our soil is dealt another deathblow.

GE Crops Help Destroy Soil Fertility—Possibly Irreversibly

The latest science seems to suggest genetically engineered plant cultivation may seriously disrupt soil ecology by reducing microbial diversity, which decreases soil fertility over time—possibly irreversibly.6

As GE plants increasingly take over the major food-producing areas of the world, including the U.S., China, India, Argentina and Brazil, reduced soil fertility could lead to famine on a scale never previously seen. The mechanisms for this are just beginning to be understood, and what was recently only theory has inched closer to reality as science shines more light on the consequences of introducing genetically engineered organisms into the soil.

The mechanism goes something like this…

Special genetic elements (vector DNA) are present in all GE plants. This vector DNA enables unrelated microorganism species to mate, but can also be transferred to soil microorganisms. Soil fertility depends on the presence of a diverse blend of microorganisms, all serving different roles in balancing and optimizing the soil. But when unrelated species mate, the soil ecosystem loses diversity, which is proven to damage fertility.

Until recently, the transfer of genes between GE plants and soil bacteria was only theoretical. However, this mechanism has now been demonstrated by science, and it’s our soil’s worst nightmare. It should be noted that this same process of gene transfer has been shown to occur in your gastrointestinal tract when you eat GE foods—turning your intestines into a virtual pesticide factory.

Horizontal Gene Transfer Is Now Proven By Science

The following complications underscore the seriousness of the dangers introduced by cultivation of GE crops:

  • DNA from GE plants is not readily broken down in the soil and can be taken up by soil particles and microbes. The accumulation of foreign DNA may lead to a cumulative loss of soil diversity over repeated harvests.
  • Unlike the claims of Monsanto when it first approved GM crops, Bt genes (Bacillus thuringiensis) are not broken down, for the reasons already stated, so can accumulate in soil and potentially produce Bt toxins. These toxins may build up in the soil, further damaging the organisms crucial for soil fertility. Research from the New York University7 confirms that Bt toxins are not broken down by soil microbes and do indeed accumulate in soil; the toxins maintain their ability to kill insects, potentially creating superbugs that further endanger the ecosystem.
  • GE DNA is able to merge with the DNA of other organisms to create new varieties of soil microorganisms that disrupt the ecological balance. These new organisms, if virulent enough, could spread widely via wind erosion and ground water to compromise soil fertility on a broader scale.
  • A Swiss study8 showed that adult earthworms feeding on transgenic Bt corn lost 18 percent of their initial weight, suggesting GE DNA may have long-term toxic effects on earthworms. Earthworms are major decomposers of dead and organic matter in the soil and are major contributors to the recycling of nutrients. An earlier study9 showed that both earthworms and collembolans (another small soil-dwelling invertebrate) can be adversely affected by Bt crops.
  • Its also been shown that glyphosate can be toxic to rhizobia, a nitrogen-fixing bacterium10. Nitrogen fixing bacteria are important because nitrogen is the nutrient most commonly deficient in soil.

GE crops are adversely affecting our soil biology in numerous ways. There are differences observed in the bacteria occupying plant roots and changes in nutrient availability. Many studies show glyphosate can have toxic effects on microorganisms and can stimulate them to germinate spores and colonize root systems. Glyphosate has also been shown to immobilize manganese, an essential plant nutrient. Overall, glyphosate diminishes the health and nutritional value of the plants it’s sprayed on, as well as the soil.

The two main types of GE foods—herbicide-tolerant crops and pesticide-producing crops—are both imprecise technologies riddled with unintended consequences, including hundreds to thousands of genetic mutations that have unknown effects on human health. Glyphosate and GE crops may be leading the human race over a cliff, as Dr. Don Huber explains in the following interview.

Watch the video discussion. URL:



Act Now to Stop Genetically Engineered Fish from Receiving Approval

By Dr. Mercola

On December 21, 2012 — while everyone was busying themselves with preparations for holiday festivities—the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took a giant step closer toward the final approval of the first genetically engineered (GE) fish food — a salmon designed to grow abnormally fast.1

It’s a move that many, including myself, have worried might happen, and it now appears the first GE fish could reach your dinner plate within the next year or two, unless a sufficiently strong opposition is mounted.

According to the FDA,2 the GE salmon is “as safe as food from conventional Atlantic salmon,” but many have brought up significant flaws and limitations of the environmental assessment (EA) on which this conclusion is drawn. The FDA’s draft EA3 is now open for public comment.

Genetically Engineered Fish

Story at-a-glance

  • The FDA is getting closer to issuing final approval of the first genetically engineered food animal—a salmon designed to grow up to five times faster than normal. The draft environmental assessment is now open for public comment for 60 days
  • FDA has allowed this GE fish to move forward based on tests of allergenicity of only six engineered fish, and those tests actually did show an increase in allergy-causing potential
  • The environmental risks are also tremendous. In a previous Purdue University computer model that tracked the effects of releasing just 60 “Frankenfish” into a population of 60,000, there was a complete extinction of the normal fish in just 40 fish generations
  • Alaska’s congressional delegation is united in its opposition against the approval of AquaBounty’s GE salmon, and Rep. Don Young has announced a plan to introduce legislation that will, at minimum, require GE salmon to be labeled

What are the Potential Dangers Associated with GE Salmon?

According to Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety:4

“The GE salmon has no socially redeeming value. It’s bad for the consumer, bad for the salmon industry and bad for the environment. F.D.A.’s decision is premature and misguided.”

Two years ago, GMO expert Jeffrey Smith, founder of the Institute for Responsible Technology, called the potential approval of genetically engineered salmon “a move that will go down in history as one of the most asinine and dangerous ever made by our government.” According to Smith, evidence5 suggests the buffed-up salmon might have higher levels of a potentially cancer promoting hormone, IGF-1, more antibiotics, and more of potentially life-threatening allergen(s).

In a recent statement, Michael Hansen PhD, Senior Scientist with Consumers Union said:6

“The Environmental Assessment (EA) states that the FDA has found that the salmon is safe to eat. However, we are deeply concerned that the potential of these fish to cause allergic reactions has not been adequately researched. FDA has allowed this fish to move forward based on tests of allergenicity of only six engineered fish — tests that actually did show an increase in allergy-causing potential.” [Emphasis mine]

But that’s not all. The salmon — which contains a spliced-in growth hormone gene that makes it grow up to five times faster, reaching market size in about 18 months instead of three years — poses a significant threat to the environment and natural fish stocks as well. According to a Purdue University computer model that tracked the effects of releasing just 60 “Frankenfish” into a population of 60,000, there was a complete extinction of the normal fish in just 40 fish generations. It appears the larger size, which attracted mates more easily, combined with a slight reduction in survival rates, was a killer combination. Furthermore, according to Jeffrey Smith, Canadian scientists also engineered their own set of fast growing salmon and tested their behavior in tanks with other fish.

“When there was sufficient food, all was fine. When food stocks decreased, the Frankenfish freaked,” he says. “They became cannibals, attacking and killing other fish — whether GE or natural. Their unexpected behavior resulted in population crashes or complete extinctions in the fish tanks. The study also suggested that if released, these ravenous aggressive salmon would pursue and consume other types of fish.”

The FDA pooh-pooh’s such fears. As reported by the New York Times:7

“The agency [FDA] said the chance this would happen was ‘extremely remote.’ It said the salmon would be raised in inland tanks with multiple barriers to escape. Even if some fish did escape, the nearby bodies of water would be too hot or salty for their survival. And reproduction would be unlikely because the fish would be sterilized, though the sterilization technique is not foolproof.”

The issue of the sterility of the fish is a can of worms in and of itself. According to Hansen:

“…We are also concerned that FDA puts great weight, in their finding of ‘no significant impact,’ on the fact that the engineered salmon would be sterile females. However FDA indicates that only 95 percent of the salmon may be sterile, and the rest fertile. When you are talking about millions of fish, even one percent comes to thousands of fish. Moreover, perhaps even more important, the fish at the egg production facility in Prince Edward Island, Canada would obviously not be sterile — otherwise they could not produce eggs…”

And what about the promise that these GE salmon will be firmly landlocked, with no possibility of escape? This may sound good and well to some people, but it’s important to remember how the process typically ends up working — “give them an inch and they’ll take a mile,” as the saying goes. George Leonard, writing for the National Geographic recently addressed this with the following statement:8

“While this initial application to grow GE salmon is for land-based facilities, the prospect of even larger profits from growing GE salmon in the ocean will certainly create pressure for approval in these more environmentally risky systems in the future.

The U.S. is poorly equipped to deal with this future scenario. In June 2011, NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco released a National Aquaculture Policy to guide how marine aquaculture proceeds in our ocean waters. While the policy includes some strong environmental provisions, it does not categorically prohibit the growing of GE fish in the ocean. It should.

Given FDA’s action yesterday and NOAA’s failure to prohibit GE fish in its aquaculture policy, the time has come for Congress to intervene. Congress should work to pass Senator Mark Begich’s PEGASUS Act or similar legislation that requires FDA to take the environmental risks seriously before approving GE fish. If Congress doesn’t act soon, the nation’s ocean may suffer from FDA’s efforts to chart a course for GE salmon.”

Environmental Assessment ‘Woefully Inadequate,’ Scientist Says

The video above is two years old, but the arguments made in it remain unchanged. The video features Michael Hanson, a brilliant senior scientist with the Consumers Union (the publisher of Consumers Reports), and Val Giddings, a biotechnology consultant to various governments and companies. One major concern is that the containment systems designed to segregate these fish from wild fish could fail. I am convinced this is the MAJOR argument against the approval of these GE fish, not the allergencity of them. As explained by Hanson, the fact that the FDA is only looking at two facilities, both outside the United States, and that they’ve only performed an environmental assessment on ONE facility, specifically located on Prince Edward Island (PEI), is of major concern. There’s no assessment of the environmental impact if the fish are produced elsewhere.

In his 2010 comments to the FDA Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee Meeting, he stated:9

“A fundamental problem with all the phenotypic characterization data, and indeed all the nutritional and food safety assessment data, is that they all come from GE Salmon raised in the PEI facility, not at the facility in Panama. FDA admits that the culture/husbandry conditions at the facility in Panama will likely differ significantly from the conditions at the PEI facility with unknown effect on the GE salmon’s phenotype but then concludes that it has no concerns with the different culture conditions: ‘the culture (e.g., water temperature, pH, alkalinity, etc.) were likely to be significantly different from the facility at PEI as a result of differences in, among others, water surface, facility design, and environmental factors due to geographic location. …the effect of the difference between the PEI and Panama facilities, especially temperature, on the resulting AquAdvantage phenotype is unknown.

Conclusion: The husbandry and rearing conditions at the PEI and Panama facilities do no present concerns with respect to animal health.’

We do not understand how FDA can conclude, in the absence of any data on the phenotype of GE salmon raised at the Panama facility, that there are no animal health concerns with GE salmon raised at the Panama facility. This lack of data is highly problematic as the GE salmon that consumers will be exposed to will be those grown at the Panama facility. FDA appears willing to conclude that there are no animal or human safety problems from AquAdvantage salmon raised in Panama based on no data at all…”

Furthermore, another major concern that environmental activists have is that if the fish accidentally get out into the wild, they’re more aggressive; they feed more, and can easily outcompete not only other salmon but any local fish. As mentioned earlier, Canadian researchers showed this to be the case — when food supply was scarce, the GE salmon turned cannibalistic, resulting in complete extinctions within the fish tanks…

The approval of these salmon is just the beginning, and for that very reason, we should insist on caution and the strictest, most detailed scientific inquiry possible, and this is simply NOT the case here… As Giddings says, if these fish are approved, “it will demonstrate that there’s a functional regulatory system that is able to look at the data and make a reasoned, science-based decision based on the data,” and this would naturally open the door to the introduction of other genetically engineered animal-based foods. According to Hanson, the scientific bar should be set very high when it comes to evaluating the health- and environmental impact of GE animals, but the FDA is “setting it about an inch off the floor.”

Breakdown of the Federal Government’s Science Integrity Process

Forbes magazine10 recently ran an article questioning whether the federal government’s science integrity process has completely broken down as the White House administration stands accused of openly meddling with the approval of the controversial Frankenfish.

Two years ago, the FDA promised to release the environmental assessment of AquaBounty’s modified salmon “within weeks.” But it didn’t… A draft assessment was eventually produced, dated April 19, 2012, but it ended up not being released. Why? According to Forbes, the draft was blocked on orders from the White House, and subsequently delayed seven months — presumably to protect President Obama’s reelection efforts.

“Genetically modified plants and animals are controversial among the president’s political base, which was thought critical to his reelection efforts during a low point in the president’s popularity,” Forbes writes.11

“…According to sources, the White House political block — a direct violation of numerous ethics regulations and possibly of federal laws — was instituted over the objections of scientists at the FDA, but with the awareness of HHS Secretary Sibelius, her senior adviser Andrea Palm and the Office of Science and Technology Policy and its director John Holdren, who is responsible for enforcing ‘science integrity’ across government agencies. The OSTP had overseen an inter-agency review process that was completed by early spring. According to sources, Holdren stood by as the White House openly meddled.

The revelations have come as an embarrassment to the administration, say sources. As president, Barack Obama had pledged to change ‘the posture of our federal government from being one of the most anti-science administrations in American history to one that embraces science and technology.’ To publicly guarantee that, the White House had issued a science integrity memorandum in 2009 pledging, ‘Political officials should not suppress or alter scientific or technological findings and conclusions,’ and putting Holdren in charge of enforcement.

FDA scientists and staffers say they were instructed not to discuss the decision to approve the salmon — a violation of the agency’s scientific integrity guidelines adopted last February that require the FDA to shield its staff from ‘political influence’ and to allow officials and scientists to ‘communicate their personal scientific or policy views to the public, even when those views differ from official Agency opinions.'”

Will Congress Protect You From this Potentially Hazardous Food?

Fortunately, some congressional members are not sitting idly by, waiting for the devastation to take place. Alaska’s congressional delegation is united in its opposition against the approval of AquaBounty’s GE salmon,12 Senator Mark Begich calls the notion that GE salmon is safe for human consumption and our oceans “a joke,” and Senator Lisa Murkowski has stated:

“I am concerned with the recent news that FDA is moving forward with the approval of genetically modified fish. This is especially troubling as the agency is ignoring the opposition by salmon and fishing groups, as well as more than 300 environmental, consumer and health organizations.”

Of course, another major area of concern is, if the salmon is approved, whether you will be able to know when you’re buying it, since GE foods are still not required to be labeled. Consumer advocates are concerned about how large the no-labeling problem will grow, since genetically engineered beef, pork and other fish are next in line behind salmon for FDA consideration. For example, Science Nordic13 has announced its intentions to create a salmon with higher omega-3 content than regular salmon. In response to these growing concerns, Rep. Don Young recently announced a plan to introduce legislation that will, at minimum, require GE salmon to be labelled.14

Action Items to Stop Approval of GE Salmon

Without labeling, there’s no way for you to tell how the food you eat was grown, and while this is bad enough as it relates to GE corn, soy, sugar, and other common food ingredients, it’s an issue that will become increasingly important with the introduction of animal foods where the entire animal itself has been genetically altered.

I believe the old adage that “you are what you eat” is rooted in basic truth, and I for one do not think there’s any possible way to achieve the same health benefits from a genetically altered food source as from “the real deal” produced by nature. These are remarkable times, but it’s become quite clear that we must vigorously protect and defend natural foods of all kinds. We cannot afford to stick our heads in the sand and hope for the best on this issue.

‘Good’ Bacteria Prevent Repeat Ear Infections

An experimental therapy that replenishes “good” bacteria appears to reduce recurrences and complications of a common childhood ear infection.

Each year millions of children receive antibiotics for a middle ear infection called otitis media, but the infection often reappears after treatment.

One possible reason that otitis media is so hard to eliminate is that the antibiotics used to treat it strike a wide swath, killing not only infection-causing bacteria, or flora, but also helpful bacteria that form a part of the body’s natural defense system.

Therapies that boost helpful bacteria may not only keep otitis media at bay, but also prevent harmful bacteria from becoming resistant to antibiotics by reducing the need for the drugs. This is a new way of looking at the normal flora as a defense against infections.

The study involved 130 children aged 6 months to 6 years who had a history of recurrent otitis media. All of the children received a 10-day course of antibiotics to treat the infection.

After completing the antibiotic treatment, half of the children received a nasal spray containing beneficial bacteria (alpha-streptococci) for 10 days. About 2 months later, these children received another 10-day course of the spray. The remaining children received two cycles of a placebo spray that did not contain any bacteria.

Otitis media was significantly less likely to recur in children treated with the bacterial spray, the report indicates. Forty-two percent of these children did not develop another ear infection during the 3-month study, compared with just 22% of children who received the placebo spray.

The bacterial spray also appeared to reduce cases of otitis media that cause secretions. The secretions occurred in 31% of the bacterial spray group, compared with 56% of other children.

British Medical Journal January 27, 2001;322:210-212

New Study Shows Antibiotics Have Little Impact on Child Ear Infections

A study found that 80 out of 100 children, if given only medication to reduce pain or fever, would recover from an acute ear infection within a few days. If they were given antibiotics instead, the number would rise only to 92 — and 3 to 10 of the children would develop a rash, while 5 to 10 would develop diarrhea.

According to CNN:

“Using antibiotics only when absolutely necessary may allow continued use of antibiotics for future generations, because overuse of the drugs is contributing to antibiotic resistance …”

Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

Millions of children visit doctors for ear infections each year. This happens to be the most common reason why kids are prescribed antibiotics. Yet, new studies suggest these drugs do virtually nothing to help most kids recover faster.

In the latest study, 80 out of 100 children recovered from ear infections in a few days without antibiotics. When the drugs were given, the number of kids who recovered rose by only 12 children, plus an additional three to 20 would also develop side effects related to the antibiotics, such as rash or diarrhea — largely canceling out the almost non-existent benefit.

While one of the most common types of childhood ear infections, acute otitis media, may be caused by bacteria, it can be caused by a virus too, which won’t be impacted by antibiotics.

Another type, otitis media with effusion, or fluid in the ear, is also caused by a virus, making antibiotics useless for this type of ear infection as well.

Doctors Were Warned to Stop Prescribing Antibiotics for Ear Infections Years Ago

Both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Family Physicians have recommended since 2004 that doctors hold off on prescribing antibiotics for ear infections, at least initially.

But even as the number of certain types of ear infection cases have decreased in recent years, the number of antibiotics prescribed have held constant. As the American Academy of Pediatrics states:

“While the number of office visits for otitis media with effusion – middle ear fluid – (OME) have decreased over the past decade from 25 million in 1990 to just 16 million in 2000, the number of antibiotic prescriptions to treat AOM has remained constant. At the same time, concerns about the rising rate of antibiotic — or antibacterial — use and resistance have emerged.”

AAP recommends that doctors give parents the option of letting their children fight the infection on their own for 48-72 hours, only starting antibiotics if the symptoms do not improve.

Yes, despite this warning and studies that came out over a decade ago saying the routine use of antibiotics for pediatric ear infections produces little health benefit while contributing to the spread of drug-resistant bacteria — the drugs are still widely over-prescribed for this purpose.

Why You Should Think Twice Before Giving Your Child an Antibiotic

It’s easy to believe that one round of antibiotics won’t hurt your child.. In fact, many believe it’s absolutely necessary for nearly all infections, especially for those in their children.

But bacteria are rapidly growing accustomed to this antibiotic exposure, and they’re quickly developing resistance. Antibiotic-resistant infections now claim more lives each year than the “modern plague” of AIDS, and the U.S. health care system spends nearly $2 billion a year to treat these drug-resistant bacteria.

As long as we continue using potent antibiotics for minor infections or those caused by viruses, this trend of creating ever more resistant strains of infections will continue.

Keep in mind that, according to a large meta-analysis, the health risk from over-use of antibiotics is also a very personal one, as opposed to simply raising the occurrence of antibiotic resistance in the general population over time.

Whenever you use an antibiotic, you’re increasing your susceptibility to developing infections with resistance to that antibiotic, resistance that can last up to a year — and you can become the carrier of this resistant bug, and spread it to others.

In fact, a 1997 JAMA study found that frequent use of antibiotics for common ear infections raises risks that children will harbor drug-resistant bacteria during subsequent illness. The researchers found that children whose previous ear infections were treated with antibiotics had a rate of Ampicillin (amoxicillin)-resistant bacteria that was three times higher during subsequent ear infections.

In extreme cases, deaths from drug-resistant meningitis have been linked to built-up antibiotic resistance traced to previous treatment for ear infection.

What Should You do if Your Child Gets an Ear Infection?

First, watchful waiting is a solid strategy before asking your doctor for a prescription. The majority of kids will get better in 48-72 hours with no antibiotics necessary. During this time, you can try the following solutions, which work remarkably well in treating acute ear infections:

  • Make garlic ear drops. Ear drops that include extracts of garlic may help reduce the pain of middle-ear infections in children. You can make your own at home by crushing a clove of FRESH raw garlic and dissolving it in some olive oil. Put a few drops of oil in the ear canal, as long as the ear drum is not perforated.
  • Use breast milk for ear drops. If you have access to breast milk, put a few drops of breast milk in the ear canal every few hours. This usually works to clear up the infection within 24 to 48 hours and is far safer, less expensive and a better solution than putting your child on antibiotics.
  • Apply a poultice. Application of warmth behind the ear can be used to mobilize the post-auricular lymph chain and vasculature and to draw congestion away from the inflamed area of the middle ear.To do this, heat half of an onion in a toaster oven for a few minutes, until it is warm but not intolerably hot. You could test it by applying to your own ear or inner forearm for several seconds. Next, wrap the onion in cheesecloth or thin dishcloth, and apply the largest side (the cut side, for maximum surface area) to the area just behind the ear.

If your child is not improving or is getting worse after 72 hours, then antibiotics may be required in some severe cases. Make sure you are working with a health care practitioner who is aware of the risks of antibiotic overuse and will work with you to provide alternative options as much as possible.

If your child does take antibiotics, make sure they replenish their supply of beneficial bacteria by taking a high-quality probiotic after the round is complete.