Berberine has long been used in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines to help fight off bacteria, viruses and other harmful microorganisms
Its extracts and decoctions were even consumed to help relieve gastrointestinal problems, such as bacterial diarrhea, intestinal parasites and ocular trachoma infections
The ability to activate the AMPK is, perhaps, the most valuable benefit of berberine, since this leads to better metabolism and mitochondrial health, which in turn helps support other physiological processes in the body
Berberine has long been used in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines to help fight off bacteria, viruses and other harmful microorganisms. Its extracts and decoctions were even consumed to help relieve gastrointestinal problems, such as bacterial diarrhea, intestinal parasites and ocular trachoma infections.1
However, recent studies show that there’s actually more to berberine than its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, its potential health benefits make it one of the most powerful supplements today.
What Is Berberine?
Berberine is a bitter-tasting, yellow-colored alkaloid compound that can be extracted from several medicinal herbs and plants.2
Initially known for its potent antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, berberine also plays an essential role on numerous physiological processes in the body, since it’s one of the few chemicals that can activate adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK).
To give you a background, AMPK, which is also known as the “metabolic master switch,” is an enzyme that controls how energy is produced in your body and how it’s used by the cells. By activating this enzyme, berberine helps regulate the biological activities that normalize lipid, glucose and energy imbalances.
The positive effects of berberine to your overall health are relatively similar to the effects of proper diet, exercise and weight loss. While I don’t recommend replacing healthy lifestyle and dietary habits with this supplement, its potential health benefits can make it a worthy addition to your routine.
There are different types of berberine supplements in the market today, with the most common one being berberine hydrochloride (HCL). Its other formulations include berberine sulfate, berberine citrate and berberine phosphate.3
Your body can absorb and use berberine faster than it can be measured by a blood test. It can also form complexes with other compounds, further increasing its absorption rate and fat solubility.4
Natural Sources of Berberine
As mentioned above, berberine is a naturally occurring compound found in several medicinal plants and herbs. It’s usually extracted from the roots, barks, leaves and rhizomes of any of the following plants:5,6,7
Phellodendron (also known as cork tree)
Tinospora cordifolia (also known as Guduchi)
Berberine Provides a Wide Range of Health Benefits
The ability to activate the AMPK is, perhaps, the most valuable benefit of berberine, since this leads to better metabolism and mitochondrial health, which in turn helps support other physiological processes in the body.8 Along with its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, berberine may provide the following health benefits:
Helps control Type 2 diabetes
Berberine may be useful for the management of Type 2 diabetes, as it helps improve insulin sensitivity, reduce the production of glucose in the liver, promote healthy lipid metabolism and stimulate the absorption of glucose in the cells.
Aids in weight loss
Studies show that berberine may help reduce body weight by improving the function of fat-regulating hormones like insulin and leptin.9
It also helps inhibit the growth of fat cells and improve the activity of brown fat, which converts fats into energy.
Helps improve heart health
Berberine may help improve heart health by reducing your risk for diabetes and obesity, which are some of the biggest risk factors for heart disease.
Helps ease depression and anxiety
Studies have shown that berberine may help alleviate depression and anxiety, since it increases the levels of serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain.10,11
Aids in the management of cancer
Studies show that berberine may help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer from worsening by inhibiting tumor growth and cell proliferation.12,13
Helps strengthen the immune system
Berberine may help improve immune function by maintaining healthy gut flora, providing antioxidant properties and activating white blood cells, which are responsible for preventing infections.14
Helps control non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
Research suggests that berberine may be a useful supplement for people with NAFLD, as it helps decrease fat buildup in the liver and regulate hepatic lipid metabolism.15
Some of the other uses for berberine include burns, glaucoma, hepatitis, menopausal symptoms, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and osteoporosis, among others. However, further studies are still needed to confirm its benefits for these conditions.16
Studies Support the Benefits of Berberine for Metabolic Syndrome, Inflammation and Cancer
According to the Natural Medicine Journal, berberine may be considered for three general conditions: metabolic syndrome, inflammation and cancer. The positive effects of berberine for these conditions are also backed by a number of scientific studies, most of which were conducted in recent years.17
For instance, a pilot study done in 2008 compared the efficiency and safety of berberine for the treatment of Type 2 diabetes to that of metformin, a common diabetes drug. Results show that berberine works just as well as metformin when it comes to controlling blood sugar levels. What makes it even better is that it does not cause any life-threatening side effects unlike most diabetic medications.18
Another study published in the Journal of Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders also confirms the positive effects of berberine on metabolic syndrome and insulin sensitivity. According to this study, taking 500 milligrams of berberine daily for a span of three months helped lower systolic blood pressure levels, decrease waistline in females and increase insulin sensitivity.19
Meanwhile, the anti-inflammatory properties of berberine have also been evaluated in several studies. A study published in the Journal of Rhinology states that berberine may help reduce inflammation caused by allergic rhinitis.20 It may also help treat gastrointestinal inflammatory diseases, according to another research published in the American Journal of Physiology.21
The cancer-fighting properties of berberine are also supported by scientific evidence. For example, a study conducted in 2009 found that berberine may help control cancer, as it helps stop the growth of tumor and the spread of cancer cells.22
Finding the Ideal Berberine Dosage for Your Needs
Just because berberine comes from natural sources it doesn’t mean that it’s OK to take in any amount. The ideal dosage for this supplement is around 900 to 1,500 milligrams. Since it has a short half-life, it’s necessary to divide its daily dosage into three separate doses, taken before meals, to maintain stable blood levels.
Make sure that you still consult your physician, though, since the dosage may also depend on your age and health condition. Be careful not to overdose on this supplement, as it may cause undesirable side effects.23
Possible Side Effects That You May Experience When Taking Berberine
Berberine has a remarkable safety profile, and according to a study published in the American Journal of Physiology, it does not exhibit toxicity in the cells.24 Keep in mind, though, that it may still cause a few side effects if taken incorrectly. Some of the side effects that are commonly associated with this supplement include:25
Berberine is possibly unsafe for pregnant and breastfeeding women, since it can be transferred to the infant through breastmilk or by crossing the placenta. Newborn infants who were exposed to berberine are reported to develop kernicterus, a rare type of brain damage.
Berberine may also inhibit the body’s ability to break down other medications, so make sure that you consult your doctor before taking other drugs with this supplement.26
Other Ways to Optimize Your Metabolism and Mitochondrial Health
Taking berberine is not enough to improve your overall health — you need to put in some effort too. In order to maximize the positive effects of this supplement, it’s best to pair it with these healthy lifestyle and dietary habits:
• Follow a ketogenic diet: The ketogenic diet is centered on eating high-fat, low-carb and moderate-protein meals to reach the state of nutritional ketosis, wherein your body burns fat for fuel instead of glucose.
One of the many health benefits of this dietary approach is improved metabolic and mitochondrial function, since it decreases the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and secondary free radicals in your body, which are the primary causes of damaged cells and mitochondrial DNA.
• Exercise regularly:Regular exercise not only promotes the production of new mitochondria, but it also stimulates mitophagy, which is the process of removing damaged mitochondria from the cells to maintain proper cellular function.
• Boost your nutrient levels: Aside from berberine, there are other nutrients that may help support proper mitochondrial function, including ubiquinol, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins. You can increase the levels of these nutrients in your body by eating nutritious foods or taking supplements.
• Avoid eating before bedtime: Eating several hours before bedtime causes your body to produce higher amounts of free radicals, which may damage your mitochondrial DNA, accelerate aging and cause chronic diseases.
• Avoid environmental toxins: The best way to reduce your exposure to toxins is by avoiding artificial products and non-organic foods, as they contain chemicals that may harm your health. As much as possible, eat only organic produce and free-range animal products. You should also use natural cleaning products in your house and avoid materials that are made from plastic.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Berberine
Q: What does berberine do?
A: Berberine is one of the few compounds that can activate AMPK, therefore improving your metabolic and mitochondrial function. This leads to a cascade of health benefits, such as improved insulin sensitivity, better lipid metabolism and lower cholesterol levels. Because of these, studies suggest that berberine may be used for managing diabetes, preventing heart disease and reducing body weight.
Berberine is also good for alleviating gastrointestinal issues, as it helps fight off bacteria, protozoa and fungi with its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. You can even use it topically on wounds to help prevent infections.
Q: Where can I buy berberine?
A: You can buy berberine from drugstores or health shops. However, research shows that some berberine supplements in the market are not as effective as they claim, so make sure that you get one from a trusted organic brand to guarantee its efficiency.27
Q: What is berberine HCL?
A: Berberine HCL is the most common formulation of berberine supplement. Some of the other forms include berberine citrate, berberine sulfate and berberine phosphate.28
Q: How much berberine should I take?
A: The ideal dosage for berberine is around 900 to 1,500 milligrams per day. This dosage is usually divided into three doses, which are taken before meals. Keep in mind, though, that it’s still best to consult your physician regarding the specific dosage of berberine for your needs, since taking incorrect amounts of this supplement may cause side effects.
A cluster of eight dentists and one dental technician from Virginia were diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a chronic and progressive lung disease with no known cure
One of the dentists contacted the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in April 2016, concerned that a number of dentists were all being treated for the same relatively rare disease
The dental workers were 23 times more likely to develop IPF compared to the general population
Mercury used for amalgam fillings is a known lung-damaging agent, and dentists are known to be exposed to mercury vapors in dental office air as well as have higher mercury levels than the general population
By Dr. Mercola
Exposure to hazardous substances while on the job is a reality for many occupations, from farmers and construction workers to firefighters — and dentists. In the latter case, the use of toxic substances like mercury for amalgam fillings is not only dangerous for patients but also for those working with the material in the office.
In fact, a cluster of eight dentists and one dental technician from Virginia were diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a chronic and progressive lung disease with no known cure, and sought treatment at the same specialty clinic in the state from 2000 to 2015.
One of the dentists contacted the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in April 2016, concerned that a number of dentists were all being treated for the same relatively rare disease. While IPF has been associated with certain occupations in the past, especially exposure to certain dusty environments like those that may occur during agricultural work, textile manufacturing or exposure to wood dust,1 dentistry was an entirely new connection.
Dentists 23 Times More Likely to Develop IPF Than General Population
In June 2017, the CDC reviewed medical records from 894 patients diagnosed with IPF and treated at the above-mentioned specialty clinic from September 1996 to June 2017, looking for those with an occupation of dentist, dental hygienist or dental technician. Nine of the patients, or 1 percent, were dental personnel. Considering the small number of dentists in the U.S. relative to the overall population (0.038 percent in 2016), the fact that they represented nearly 1 percent of patients being treated for IPF at one clinic was noteworthy.
In fact, the CDC analysis revealed that the dental workers were 23 times more likely to develop IPF compared to the general population. Seven of the patients died during the study period, and only one of the remaining patients (the dentist who originally contacted the CDC) could be interviewed, which revealed that he had not worn protective equipment during much of his career and later transitioned only to a surgical mask. The CDC reported:2
“The interviewed patient, who had never smoked, reported not wearing a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health-certified respirator during dental activities throughout his 40-year dental practice; he wore a surgical mask for the last 20 years of his dental practice. He reported performing polishing of dental appliances, preparing amalgams and impressions, and developing X-rays using film developing solutions.”
The CDC also queried the National Occupational Respiratory Mortality System for 1999, 2003, 2004 and 2007, which revealed 35 deaths from IPF or related pulmonary diseases in people working in the “office of dentists” and 19 categorized as having the occupation “dentist.” “These findings suggest that a higher rate of IPF might occur among dental personnel than among the general population,” according to the CDC, which also acknowledged:3
“This investigation revealed the first described cluster of dental personnel with diagnosed IPF. The eight dentists identified in this cluster exceeded the number of expected cases, consistent with National Occupational Respiratory Mortality System data regarding IPF mortality and the proportion of U.S. residents who are dentists.
Dentists and other dental personnel experience unique occupational exposures, including exposure to infectious organisms, dusts, gases and fumes. It is possible that occupational exposures contributed to this cluster. After this analysis, another IPF case was diagnosed in a dentist treated at this specialty clinic.”
What Is Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis?
IPF is a disease that causes scar tissues to build up deep in your lungs. This starts in the lungs’ air sac walls, through which air passes into your blood. As the walls thicken with scar tissue, it causes your lungs to stop functioning properly, which means they can no longer get enough oxygen into your bloodstream, brain and body. People with IPF commonly experience shortness of breath, which may first only occur during exercise but eventually progresses to the point where you may feel short of breath even when you’re at rest.
IPF may also cause a dry, hacking cough or uncontrollable coughing, as well as weight loss, fatigue, aching muscles, rapid breathing and rounding of the tips of your fingers or toes, known as clubbing. Eventually, as the disease progresses it leads to respiratory failure, pulmonary hypertension and heart failure; most people survive only three to five years after being diagnosed.
Exposure to environmental pollutants, including inorganic dust (silica and hard metal dusts) and organic dust (bacteria and animal proteins), is known to cause pulmonary fibrosis, as are certain medications, including nitrofurantoin (an antibiotic), amiodarone (a heart medicine) and the chemotherapy drugs methotrexate and bleomycin.4 It’s estimated that 200,000 Americans have IPF.5
Is Exposure to Mercury and Other Toxins to Blame?
While the CDC report maintains an air of surprise about the findings, in reality, when you drill mercury in people’s mouths day after day, while you’re sitting above them inhaling everything, it’s probably going to affect your lungs, as well as your overall health. The fact that the American Dental Association (ADA) has historically defended mercury’s use for fillings, and continues to do so to this day, has surpassed the point of ignorance and reached that of malice.
Mercury is a known lung-damaging agent and, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is “toxic … through inhalation of mercury vapors.”
Acute inhalation of mercury is known to cause inflammation of the lungs and shortness of breath, as well as respiratory failure and death in extreme cases. Over the long term, mercury-induced lung damage may include “increased fibrous tissue in the lung (pulmonary fibrosis), restrictive lung disease and chronic respiratory insufficiency.”6 The World Health Organization (WHO) further states:7
“Mercury is highly toxic and harmful to health. Approximately 80 percent of inhaled mercury vapor is absorbed in the blood through the lungs, causing damages to lungs, kidneys and the nervous, digestive, respiratory and immune systems.
Health effects from excessive mercury exposure include tremors, impaired vision and hearing, paralysis, insomnia, emotional instability, developmental deficits during fetal development, and attention deficit and developmental delays during childhood.”
Meanwhile, mercury is but one lung toxin that dental personnel are exposed to on a near-daily basis. Others include silica, polyvinyl siloxane, alginate and “other compounds with known or potential respiratory toxicity,” the CDC stated.8 But because mercury is the most vaporous of the heavy metals, dental amalgam pollutes dental workplaces full of toxic air — which exposes dentists, dental hygienists, dental assistants and front office staff to eight to 10 hours of dangerous breathing every workday.
A clinic where the dentists regularly place amalgam is a hazardous workplace — but whose hazards are generally left unexplained to the dental staffs, even the pregnant women, which can and does have serious and horrible consequences to the reproductive systems of young women as well as others working in the office. Further, few dental workers employed by pro-mercury dentists are given protective garb or air masks to minimize their exposure to mercury and other toxins.
Air Quality in Dentists’ Offices Is Notoriously Bad
At industrial sites, employees must follow strict protocols to avoid exposure to even tiny amounts of mercury but at dental offices mercury levels may soar — and patients and employees are oblivious to the risks. Alex Hummell, CEO of Mercury Instruments USA Inc., a company that makes equipment to detect airborne levels of mercury, said he’s seen air contamination in dental offices that’s so high, it would be shut down if it were any other office. McClatchy DC reported:9
“‘They would be closing their doors and getting respirators on.’ Instead, [Hummell] said, ‘there are kids running around everywhere. It’s nuts. It’s the exact same toxin, and it’s being treated totally differently. Why is it being allowed to be so unregulated?'”
Despite the known risks, few dental offices monitor their air for mercury levels the way many industrial sites do. It’s so bad that Hummell, a father of five, says he won’t bring his children into just any dentist office, lest they be exposed to mercury even for a second.
In an experiment to determine mercury exposures at a dentist’s office, Hummell found mercury levels up to 30 times the OSHA limit could be released during a procedure to remove mercury fillings. He’s also found that mercury levels rise when a tooth with an old mercury filling is gently brushed. As you might expect, the ADA was not too thrilled to hear about Hummell’s findings. According to McClatchy DC:10
“He [Hummell] said he also showed dentists an American Dental Association pamphlet urging them to periodically monitor their offices for mercury, a circular that mostly drew chuckles and ridicule from the dentists.
‘I got a call the day after the convention from the American Dental Association’s lawyer threatening to take me down if I didn’t stop using their publication,’ Hummell said. ‘I said, ‘I thought the dental association wanted them to know. Right after that, you couldn’t find that publication anywhere … It disappeared from the internet.'”
According to Charlie Brown of Consumers for Dental Choice, “Historically, the ADA has warned dentists about the dangers of mercury in dental offices, but only when the ADA stood to profit.” For example, Brown cites an ADA brochure titled You Owe It to Yourself! Protect Yourself and Your Staff Against the Hazards of Your Profession with the ADA’s Mercury Testing Service.” In the brochure, the ADA acknowledges:
“Office spaces may be contaminated with mercury from leaky amalgam capsules and from the lingering effects of accidental spillage. High speed handpieces and ultrasonic compactors that vaporize mercury can lead to unsuspected inhalation.”
For $75 per person per year, the ADA offered a “complete and confidential” mercury-testing service. There is no evidence that the ADA has continued this mercury testing program. “It appears that the ADA found it more profitable to deny the problem of high mercury levels in dental offices,” explained Brown. Even dental students are at risk, with studies showing dental institutions and hospitals in the Philippines and Pakistan to have hazardous levels of mercury pollutants in the air.
Why Choosing a Mercury-Free Dentist Is so Important
As the health risks of mercury are readily apparent, it’s in everyone’s best interest — patients and providers alike — to opt for mercury-free dental care. According to Consumers for Dental Choice, dental offices that opt to use mercury put dental professionals at risk, as they may come into contact with the poison both directly and indirectly; mercury can even contaminate carpeting and pipes. Exposure to mercury in the workplace has led to:11
Higher levels of mercury in dental workers compared to the general population
Increased health problems, including neurological, neuropsychological, respiratory, cardiac and kidney disorders, in dental professionals compared to the general population
More reproductive problems for female dental professionals compared to the general population
While other countries, including Sweden and Norway, have phased out the use of mercury amalgam fillings completely, in the U.S. only 32 percent to 52 percent of dentists are mercury-free. This means it’s up to you to find a mercury-free dentist when choosing a dental provider for yourself and your family.
Now that about half of American dentists are mercury-free, Consumers for Dental Choice has shifted its focus from supply to demand, and consumer demand for mercury-free dentistry is primarily held back by insurance companies and other third-party payers who mandate continued amalgam use. It’s time to drive home the message that consumers will no longer tolerate the use of mercury amalgams and will not settle for insurance plans and programs that mandate amalgam use. To participate:
1. Check the details of your dental insurance policy. If it fully pays for amalgam while limiting or denying coverage for mercury-free fillings, register your objections with this easy-to-fill-out online form, which you can then email to your insurance company. Please visit the Consumer for Dental Choice Demand Your Choice page to find additional details and tools to help you take a stand against your insurance company’s pro-mercury policies.
2. Next, find another insurance company or plan that pays for mercury-free fillings in all teeth, without exceptions or LEAT clauses.
3. If your current dentist is still using mercury in his or her practice — even if they also offer mercury-free options — seek out a dentist that offers only mercury-free fillings for all patients. And, be sure to inform your dentist about the reason you’re transferring.
The reason for this is because dentists who still use amalgam end up using it on people who rarely have any other choice, either because they cannot afford to pay the difference, or their state or government program dictates they can only receive mercury.
This unfair practice needs to end, and the quicker we can get all dentists to go 100 percent mercury-free, the sooner these programs will be forced to change. So, selecting a 100 percent mercury-free dentist is an altruistic choice on your part, which will help those whose voices are so often ignored. It will also lead to a safer office environment for the patients and staff.
4. If you have mercury fillings, be sure to consult with a biological dentist who is trained in the safe removal of amalgam.
5. Last but not least, spread the word, and urge your family and friends to challenge their insurance companies’ toxic policies and make the switch to a mercury-free dentist as well.
In February 2017, the National Academies of Sciences and Medicine stated DNA in germline cells, such as embryos, eggs and sperm, may be altered to eliminate genetic diseases
Gene-editing technology is moving so fast that innovations are occurring before their full implications are known or fully understood
So far no one has attempted to take the next step — creating pregnancies with genetically engineered embryos, but the early studies are paving the way for it to one day happen
In what’s being described as the “holy grail” of genetic engineering, synthetic biology has been used to create a semi-synthetic organism that stores and retrieves increased genetic information
By Dr. Mercola
As gene-editing technology becomes more advanced, the idea of “designer babies” being created in a lab for those who can afford them is no longer a plot relegated to Hollywood films. It’s becoming a backdrop to the 21st century, bringing with it tough questions about whether it’s ethical to tinker with a baby’s genes and, perhaps even more controversial, whether it’s immoral not to.
At the heart of this issue is CRISPR, or Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat, a technology that allows scientists to go into your DNA and essentially cut and paste it at specified places. Progress is being made in tackling genetic diseases such as sickle-cell anemia and certain forms of blindness and muscular dystrophy, particularly with particularly with the invention of CRISPR-Cas9.1
Will Parents Become Mandated to Gene-Edit Their Babies?
By modifying an enzyme called Cas9, the gene-editing capabilities are significantly improved, in some cases reducing the error rate to “undetectable levels.” While experts have previously said CRISPR and Cas9 should not be used on human babies, a report released in February 2017 by the National Academies of Sciences and Medicine stated DNA in germline cells, such as embryos, eggs and sperm, may be altered to eliminate genetic diseases.2
The stipulation was that the technology be used only to correct disease or disability, not enhance health or ability.3 Many, including retired bioethicist Ronald Green of Dartmouth College, support the use of gene-editing technology for the purpose of eliminating genetic diseases, but what about nondisease conditions like poor impulse control to increase a child’s opportunities in life?
Julian Savulescu, an ethicist at the University of Oxford, told Science News he believes parents would be morally obligated to use gene-editing technology to keep their children healthy.
“If CRISPR could … improve impulse control and give a child a greater range of opportunities, then I’d have to say we have the same moral obligation to use CRISPR as we do to provide education, to provide an adequate diet …”4 Still, there are many concerns with germline gene therapy, which allows inserted genes to be passed on to future generations.
Who will decide, for instance, what conditions are deemed abnormal or worthy of gene editing? Further, the technology can only be done via in vitro fertilization (IVF), putting it out of reach of many people financially and potentially expanding inequality gaps. On the other hand, some argue that countries with national health care could provide free coverage for gene editing, possibly helping to reduce inequalities.5
And where will the proverbial line be drawn? Will people one day choose to create babies with greater intellectual ability, improved physical fitness or a certain color of eyes or hair? Creating genetically enhanced people could also lessen people’s tolerance for those who are different.
Iceland Brags About ‘Eliminating’ Down Syndrome
In Iceland, Down syndrome births are becoming increasingly rare, with just one or two children born with the condition each year, a statistic that’s reported much as a triumph. It’s not, however, that the country has discovered a “cure” for the condition, but rather that they’ve succeeded in nearly eliminating this population of people from the country, a phenomenon some may describe as genocide.
In essence, Down syndrome is disappearing in Iceland, but not by nature or happenstance. In Iceland, up to 85 percent of pregnant women receive prenatal screening tests to detect chromosome abnormalities, including Down syndrome. Close to 100 percent of women who receive a positive result end up terminating their pregnancy, CBS News reported.6
Other countries also have high termination rates for fetuses with Down syndrome: 67 percent in the U.S., 77 percent in France and 98 percent in Denmark, for instance. “Heavy-handed genetic counseling” has been said to play a role in Iceland’s high elimination rate of Down syndrome pregnancies, with one counselor stating, “We don’t look at abortion as murder … We look at it as a thing that we ended. We ended a possible life that may have had huge complications.”7
In the U.S., some states, including North Dakota, Ohio, Indiana and Louisiana, have passed laws prohibiting doctors from performing abortions for the sole reason of a Down syndrome diagnosis. Yet others maintain it’s a woman’s constitutional right to terminate her pregnancy.
“I’m going to be blunt here: That was not the child I wanted,” wrote one woman who says she would have chosen abortion had genetic testing revealed Down syndrome during her pregnancy. “That was not the choice I would have made. You can call me selfish, or worse, but I am in good company. The evidence is clear that most women confronted with the same unhappy alternative would make the same decision.”8
On the other hand, a study that asked people with Down syndrome about their self-perception stated “they share similar hopes and dreams as people without DS [Down syndrome]” and “overall, the overwhelming majority of people with DS surveyed indicate they live happy and fulfilling lives.”9 As the prevalence of not just genetic testing but also the ability to do something about the outcome increases, the questions of which diseases and conditions count as life-threatening or worthy of intervention will only continue to grow.
Synthetic Biology Is the ‘Holy Grail’ of Genetic Engineering
We are better learning how to engineer living systems, for better or worse. In what’s being described as the “holy grail” of genetic engineering, synthetic biology has been used to create a semi-synthetic organism that stores and retrieves increased genetic information. Researchers wrote in the journal Nature:10
“Since at least the last common ancestor of all life on Earth, genetic information has been stored in a four-letter alphabet that is propagated and retrieved by the formation of two base pairs. The central goal of synthetic biology is to create new life forms and functions, and the most general route to this goal is the creation of semi-synthetic organisms whose DNA harbors two additional letters that form a third, unnatural base pair.”
In 2014, researchers including Floyd Romesberg of the Scripps Research Institute, created the first semi-synthetic organism by recreating the genetic material for a strain of E. coli, although the microbe wasn’t stable. In the latest triumph, the researchers were able to create a semi-synthetic organism that not only was stable but could produce artificial proteins similarly to its “unmodified parents.”
The creation brings with it potentially limitless possibilities that semi-synthetic organisms could one day access a range of functions that are not attainable by natural organisms. “In the near term, he [Romesberg] said, scientists could harvest such proteins from synthetic cells and use them to assist with drug delivery, or to make protein therapeutics, like insulin, more effective.” He continued to The Washington Post:11
“But an even more distant — and more enticing — application involves not just the proteins, but the lab-made microbes that produce them: ‘What if you allow the bacteria to harbor this unnatural information retrieve the protein and use it for something interesting?’ Romesberg mused. ‘Could you develop organisms that have new properties’ — like the ability to siphon up oil spills or eat cancer cells? ‘Could we develop cells that can do things their natural counterparts can’t?’”
Technology Will Proceed Despite Unanswered Ethical Questions
Gene-editing technology is moving so fast that innovations are occurring before their full implications are known or fully understood. In 2015, Chinese researchers used CRISPR/Cas9 to edit human embryos — a first.12 That same year in the U.S., the National Institutes of Health does not provide funding for studies on gene-editing technologies in human embryos, stating:13
“The concept of altering the human germline in embryos for clinical purposes has been debated over many years from many different perspectives, and has been viewed almost universally as a line that should not be crossed. Advances in technology have given us an elegant new way of carrying out genome editing, but the strong arguments against engaging in this activity remain.
These include the serious and unquantifiable safety issues, ethical issues presented by altering the germline in a way that affects the next generation without their consent, and a current lack of compelling medical applications justifying the use of CRISPR/Cas9 in embryos.”
Yet, the scientific consensus seems to be changing, such that a number of prominent scientists now agree that clinical trials of human germline editing should proceed, provided they are for purposes of treating series diseases or disabilities. Meanwhile, research has progressed, with researchers correcting a pathogenic gene mutation in human embryos 67 percent of the time in one study14 and, in another, using CRISPR/Cas9 to investigate gene function in the earliest stages of human development.15
A CRISPR clinical trial in people with cancer has also taken place in China, and the technology has been used to edit human embryos made from sperm from men carrying inherited disease mutations. The researchers successfully altered the DNA in a way that would eliminate or correct the genes causing the inherited disease.16 If the embryos were implanted into a womb and allowed to grow, the process would result in the first genetically modified children — and any engineered changes would be passed on to their own children.
So far no one has attempted to take the next step — creating pregnancies with genetically engineered embryos, but the early studies are paving the way for it to one day happen. “We can be certain that, within a few years, gene editing technology will become safe enough for doctors to correct a mutation for cystic fibrosis or Huntington’s disease in a human embryo, and from that embryo produce a healthy child who won’t have to worry about passing on a devastating disease to her children,” Pacific Standard reported.17
“But once we begin correcting genetic diseases with germline editing, there will be no technical barrier to using this technology for less medically urgent needs, as long as would-be parents of genetically enhanced children are willing to conceive by in vitro fertilization.
By that point, advances in the technology will have almost certainly outpaced any ethical debate over how to use it … Even if certain types of germline edits wind up banned in the U.S., they will certainly be available elsewhere in the world.”18
What Does the Future Hold?
As was the case with genetic engineering of food, the technology will continue to progress beyond the reaches of regulation and ethics. Even with barriers in place, the creation of a gene-edited person is likely to be attempted, some say “at any moment.”19 It’s both an exciting and frightening prospect, especially since the technology isn’t perfect and may accidently hit other parts of the genome.
One study searched for unintended mutations, based on a separate study that used CRISPR-Cas9 to restore sight in blind mice by correcting a genetic mutation. The researchers sequenced the entire genome of the CRISPR-edited mice to search for mutations. In addition to the intended genetic edit, they found more than 100 additional deletions and insertions along with more than 1,500 single-nucleotide mutations, with unknown consequences.20
Further, former director of national intelligence James Clapper listed genome editing on the list of “weapons of mass destruction and proliferation,”21 which goes to show what could happen if such technology is misused. While it stands to be a game-changer in the future of human health, in the big picture such gains do not come without potentially catastrophic risks.
There is no doubt in my mind that GMOs and the toxic chemicals used along with them pose a serious threat to the environment and our health, yet government agencies turn a blind eye and refuse to act — and the reason is very clear: They are furthering the interests of the biotech giants.
It is well known that there is a revolving door between government agencies and biotech companies such as Monsanto. Consider the hypocrisy of the FDA. On paper, the U.S. may have the strictest food safety laws in the world governing new food additives, but this agency has repeatedly allowed GMOs and their accompanying pesticides such as Roundup to evade these laws.
In fact, the only legal basis for allowing GE foods to be marketed in the U.S. is the FDA’s claim that these foods are inherently safe, a claim which is patently ridiculous. Documents released as a result of a lawsuit against the FDA reveal that the agency’s own scientists warned their superiors about the detrimental risks of GE foods. But their warnings fell on deaf ears.
The influence of the biotech giants is not limited to the U.S. In a June 2017 article, GMWatch revealed that 26 of the 34 members of the National Advisory Committee on Agricultural Biotechnology of Argentina (CONABIA) are either employed by chemical technology companies or have major conflicts of interest.
You may be aware that Argentina is one of the countries where single-crop fields of GE cotton, corn and soy dominate the countryside. Argentina is also a country facing severe environmental destruction. Argentinians are plagued with health issues, including degenerative diseases and physical deformities. It would appear that the rapid expansion of GE crops and the subsequent decline in national health indicators are intrinsically linked.
Don’t Be Duped by Industry Shills!
Biotech companies’ outrageous attempts to push for their corporate interests extend far beyond the halls of government. In a further effort to hoodwink the public, Monsanto and its cohorts are now zealously spoon-feeding scientists, academics and journalists with questionable studies that depict them in a positive light.
By hiring “third-party experts,” biotech companies are able to take information of dubious validity and present it as independent and authoritative. It’s a shameful practice that is far more common than anyone would like to think. One notorious example of this is Henry Miller, who was thoroughly outed as a Monsanto shill during the 2012 Proposition 37 GMO labeling campaign in California.
Miller, falsely posing as a Stanford professor, promoted GE foods during this campaign. In 2015, he published a paper in Forbes Magazine attacking the findings of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a branch of the World Health Organization, after it classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. After it was revealed that Miller’s work was in fact ghostwritten by Monsanto, Forbes not only fired him, but also removed all of his work from its site.
Industry front groups also abound. The Genetic Literacy Project and the American Council for Science and Health are both Monsanto-funded. Even WebMD, a website that is often presented as a trustworthy source of “independent and objective” health information, is acting as a lackey for Monsanto by using its influence to promote corporate-backed health strategies and products, displaying advertisements and advertorials on Biotech’s behalf, furthering the biotech industry’s agenda — all for the sake of profit.
Monsanto has adopted underhanded tactics to peddle its toxic products, but the company is unable to hide the truth: Genetic engineering will, in no way, shape or form, make the world a better place. It will not solve world hunger. It will not increase farmers’ livelihoods. And it will most certainly not do any good for your health — and may in fact prove to be detrimental.
There’s No Better Time to Act Than NOW — Here’s What You Can Do
So now the question is: Will you continue supporting the corrupt, toxic and unsustainable food system that Monsanto and its industry shills and profit-hungry lackeys have painstakingly crafted? It is largely up to all of us, as consumers, to loosen and break Monsanto’s tight hold on our food supply. The good news is that the tide has been turned.
As consumers worldwide become increasingly aware of the problems linked to GE crops and the toxic chemicals and pesticides used on them, more and more people are proactively refusing to eat these foods. There’s also strong growth in the global organic and grass fed sectors. This just proves one thing: We can make a difference if we steadily work toward the same goal.
One of the best things you can do is to buy your foods from a local farmer who runs a small business and uses diverse methods that promote regenerative agriculture. You can also join a community supported agriculture (CSA) program, where you can buy a “share” of the vegetables produced by the farm, so that you get a regular supply of fresh food. I believe that joining a CSA is a powerful investment not only in your own health, but in that of your local community and economy as well.
In addition, you should also adopt preventive strategies that can help reduce the toxic chemical pollution that assaults your body. I recommend visiting these trustworthy sites for non-GMO food resources in your country:
Monsanto and its allies want you to think that they control everything, but they do not. It’s you, the masses, who hold the power in your hands. Let’s all work together to topple the biotech industry’s house of cards. Remember — it all starts with shopping smart and making the best food purchases for you and your family.
Extreme mood shifts that are accompanied by fluctuating energy levels are the hallmark symptoms of a serious mental illness known as bipolar disorder
Keep in mind that bipolar disorder is a manageable illness. You can still live a happy and fulfilling life even if you’re diagnosed with it, as long as you follow the recommended treatment methods, therapy and healthy lifestyle habits
While it’s perfectly normal for a person to experience shifting feelings of happiness and loneliness every now and then, there are cases wherein these mood shifts become so extreme that they make day-to-day living difficult.
Extreme mood shifts that are accompanied by fluctuating energy levels are the hallmark symptoms of a serious mental illness known as bipolar disorder. If left untreated, bipolar disorder may have a significant impact on various aspects of life, including career, relationships and academic performance. In some cases, sufferers may even commit suicide. In order for you to better understand bipolar disorder, let’s first discuss the basics about mental health and mental illnesses.
A Brief Overview of Mental Health and Mental Illnesses
Mental health refers to your emotional, psychological and social well-being. It basically affects how you make choices, handle relationships, cope with stress and perform activities. There are many factors that may impair your mental health, including trauma, abuse, family history, genes and brain chemistry.1
Mental health problems are more common than you might expect. According to the American Psychiatric Association, 19 percent of U.S. adults are suffering from a form of mental illness, and 1 in 24 adults is diagnosed with a serious mental condition like bipolar disorder.2 There are also different forms of mental health problems. Bipolar disorder is categorized under mood or affective disorders, along with depression and mania. Other categories of mental illnesses include:3
• Anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
• Concurrent disorders, such as addictions and substance abuse
• Personality disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCD) and antisocial personality disorder
These mental illnesses vary in severity. Some are so mild that they do not have any noticeable effects on the daily lives of sufferers, while others become so severe that immediate medical attention is required.4
The Prevalence of Bipolar Disorder: How Many Are Burdened With This Illness?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), bipolar personality disorder is the sixth leading cause of disability,5 affecting around 60 million people worldwide.6 The National Institute of Mental Health also reports that there are around 5.7 million Americans age 18 years old and above who are diagnosed with this condition, and 82.9 percent of these cases are considered severe.7
While bipolar disorder may affect anyone regardless of age, gender, race and social class, statistics show that it’s more common in women than men, with a ratio of approximately 3-to-2. The median age of onset is also 25 years old, although it may occur later in life or during early childhood.8
Despite the prevalence of bipolar disorder, there are still numerous misconceptions and stigma surrounding this mental health problem, making it harder for sufferers to manage their condition successfully.9
Browse These Pages for Useful Information About Bipolar Disorder
If you or a loved one has been experiencing extreme mood shifts that are akin to the symptoms of bipolar disorder, it’s important to consult a doctor or a licensed mental health professional right away for proper diagnosis and treatment. Keep in mind that bipolar disorder is a manageable illness. You can still live a happy and fulfilling life even if you’re diagnosed with it, as long as you follow the recommended treatment methods, therapy and healthy lifestyle habits.
Adequate knowledge about this condition may also help you cope with it more easily and come up with effective ways to take control of your mood swings — or to help someone you know who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Browse these Bipolar Disorder pages to learn more about what causes it, the common symptoms that you may encounter and the possible treatment methods that you can follow.
Researchers from Australia’s national science agency suggest a particular protein in platypus milk with unique antibacterial properties may be useful in the battle against drug resistance
Beyond platypus milk, two other unique branches of research for potentially useful antibiotic compounds involve dirt and Komodo dragon blood
You can do your part in the battle against drug-resistant bacteria by avoiding CAFO meat and using antibiotics only when absolutely necessary to treat bacterial infections; never use antibiotics for viral infections
Because a strong immune system is your best defense against infection, keep in mind your choices around diet, exercise, sleep, stress and vitamin D all play a role in strengthening your immunity, which will help your body fight harmful bacteria
By Dr. Mercola
Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Molecular biologists from Australia’s national science agency say platypus milk may help fight antibiotic resistance.1 This news is surprising in more than one way. First, you may not have realized this iconic ducklike creature, native to Australia, is one of just two living mammals able to both lay eggs and produce milk. (The echidna, or spiny anteater, is the other.)
Second, an unusual “sweating it out” feeding system used by the platypus to nourish its young is thought to be a factor in the unique antibacterial properties discovered in its milk. Given the serious nature of drug resistance and the declining interest of pharmaceutical companies with respect to developing new antibiotics, it makes sense researchers are considering every possible alternative to fight superbugs. Besides platypus milk, researchers are also scouring dirt and testing Komodo dragon blood for antibiotic compounds.
Antibiotic Resistance Is a Serious Issue
The rates of infectious diseases known to be unresponsive to antibiotics continue to skyrocket. Drug-resistance and superbugs are a serious issue that could have dire consequences on human health — including yours. Infection-causing bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses continue to evolve and resist the drugs meant to contain them. The results: About 2 million Americans are diagnosed and 23,000 die each year from drug-resistant infections.2 Similarly, drug-resistant infections kill 25,000 Europeans annually.3
Conservatively, at least 700,000 people worldwide die each year from drug resistance associated with illnesses such as AIDS, bacterial infections, HIV, malaria and tuberculosis (TB).4 Sadly, the numbers may be even higher since incident rates may not be consistently tracked in impoverished areas and refugee camps where the spread of disease and infection can be rampant.
While you may not be able to control the spread of malaria or TB on a faraway continent, you can take responsibility for an aspect of drug resistance that is under your influence — prescription antibiotics requested by and dispensed personally to you, as well as those in your food.
Many Illnesses Do Not Require Antibiotics
Public Health England (PHE) says up to one-fifth of antibiotic prescriptions are written unnecessarily because most of the illnesses would heal on their own without drugs.5 Similarly, in the U.S. the problem of drug resistance centers around improper use of antibiotics, particularly to treat viral infections like the common cold or flu. The overuse of antibiotics in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) is another significant factor contributing to drug resistance.
Even though antibiotics have zero effect on viral infections, many insist on obtaining a prescription anyway. Under most conditions, your body will recover from viral infections when the illness has run its course. Taking antibiotics for viral infections is unnecessary and dangerous since it contributes to the problem of drug resistance.
Said professor Paul Cosford, director for health protection and medical director at PHE, “We don’t often need antibiotics for common conditions. The fact is if you take an antibiotic when you don’t need it then you’re more likely to have an infection the antibiotics [won’t] work for over the coming months.”6
With respect to infections your body can handle, Cosford recommends you get plenty of rest and drink plenty of fluids. His advice is sound because if you use even a single round of antibiotics a year, you are contributing to the development of drug resistance. For that reason, it is best to reserve antibiotics for the treatment of bacterial infections only. About the overuse of antibiotics in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says:7
“Antibiotics are among the most commonly prescribed drugs used in human medicine and can be lifesaving drugs. However, up to 50 percent of the time, antibiotics are not optimally prescribed, often done so when not needed [and given with] incorrect dosing or duration.”
Believe It or Not: Platypus Milk Could Help in the Development of New Antibiotics
In 2010, Australian researchers discovered the milk of a duck-billed platypus might offer a potential solution to the looming problem of antibiotic resistance.8 Now, as presented in the journal Structural Biology Communications,9 researchers from Australia’s national science agency — Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) — have gone a step further to successfully isolate a particular protein in the milk with properties that may be useful in creating antibiotic drugs.
The platypus is one of just two living mammals — called monotremes — able to both lay eggs and produce milk. Because they don’t have teats, platypuses concentrate milk in their belly and then sweat it out to feed their young. “Platypuses are such weird animals that it would make sense for them to have weird biochemistry,” said Janet Newman, Ph.D., lead study author and director of CSIRO’s Collaborative Crystallization Center.10
Given the exposure baby platypuses have to external bacteria, scientists think the unique feeding system contributes to the beneficial antibacterial properties found in the mother’s milk. The antibacterial milk protein seems to act as a first line of defense against potentially harmful bacteria. In analyzing the milk protein, researchers uncovered “a quirk” they say has not been seen in the more than 100,000 different protein structures known to biologists.
Newman and her team discovered a novel three-dimensional fold they dubbed the “Shirley Temple,” after the 1930s American child actress known for her perfect ringlets. The platypus milk protein structure boasts its own curling ringlets. About the research, Newman stated:11,12
“[The shape is] interesting, because it’s the shape of proteins that dictate their function. [T]his discovery increases our knowledge of protein structures in general and will go on to inform other drug-discovery work … By taking a closer look at their milk, we’ve characterized a new protein that has unique antibacterial properties with the potential to save lives.”
Dirt and Komodo Dragon Blood Also Possess Antibiotic Properties
A study published in early 2018 in Nature Microbiology13 highlights another hopeful discovery in the battle against superbugs: antibiotic compounds in dirt. After studying 2,000 soil samples, researchers from New York’s Rockefeller University and New Jersey-based Rutgers University have uncovered a potential new class of antibiotics called malacidins.
In tests with infected lab rats, malacidins were shown to attack and kill many types of superbugs, including the dreaded methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). When applied to cuts in the skin of lab rats, malacidins were not only able to sterilize the wounds, but they also showed zero signs of resistance after three weeks of exposure.14 This marks the first time scientists have successfully identified a bacterial species in dirt with the potential to become a therapeutic drug.
In a separate body of research, scientists from Virginia’s George Mason University (GMU) have uncovered properties in Komodo dragon blood with promise for treating infected wounds. After creating a synthetic compound based on a molecule in the dragon blood known for its antimicrobial activity, scientists discovered it promoted healing in mice bearing infected wounds.15
The 2017 study, published in the journal npj Biofilms and Microbiomes,16 suggests the protein could potentially be developed into an antibiotic. The Komodo dragon, which is found on five islands in Indonesia, has more than 50 bacterial strains in its mouth and rarely succumbs to illness. Due to their blood being filled with proteins called antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) — an infection defense produced by all living creatures — Komodo dragons are also immune to the bites of other dragons.17
“Komodo peptides are unlike any others. The animals have bacteria in their mouth in the wild, they live in a challenging environment and they survive,” says associate professor and principle investigator Barney Bishop, GMU department of chemistry and biochemistry, one of the scientists to first take notice of the unusual peptide characteristics in Komodo blood in 2013. “If we can find out why they’re able to fight bacteria and what makes them so successful, we can use that knowledge to develop antibiotics.”18
Big Pharma Less Interested in Developing New Antibiotics
While the research noted above may seem promising, it is much too early to tell if the antibacterial compounds from platypus milk, dirt and Komodo dragon blood will be successfully transformed into useful human therapies, whether it be antibiotic drugs, topical medications or the like. So far, the research has gone only as far as lab experiments involving mice.
While the early signs are promising, it literally takes years for molecules like malacidins to be developed, tested and approved for use as a medication. According to The New York Times,19 the number of antibiotics approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has steadily declined during the past two decades.
Most large pharmaceutical (Big Pharma) companies, including Pfizer, which was long known for its leadership in the development of antibiotics, have moved on to other more profitable drugs, such as those used in cancer treatment.
Cancer drugs are a source of profitability that life-saving antibiotics most likely will never be. The infrequency of antibiotic use is likely another significant factor in Big Pharma’s waning interest in these drugs. Writing for The New York Times, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, vice provost for global initiatives and chair of the department of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania, said:20
“Unlike drugs for cholesterol or high blood pressure, or insulin for diabetes, which are taken every day for life, antibiotics tend to be given for a short time, a week, or at most, a few months. So, profits have to be made on brief usage.
Furthermore, any new antibiotics that might be developed to fight … drug-resistant bacteria are likely to be used very sparingly under highly controlled circumstances, to slow the development of resistant bacteria and extend their usefulness. This also limits the amount that can be sold.”
The Future of Antibiotic Resistance
While the development of new antibiotics is ongoing and necessary, Emanuel notes, as a society we can take steps now to combat the problem of superbugs and drug resistance. Most of these actions require the involvement of doctors, hospitals, government agencies and policy makers. Emanuel suggests the following:21
Address the overprescribing of antibiotics, half of which are estimated to be unnecessary
Fix the antiquated system currently used to track drug-resistant bacteria
Practice proper handwashing, which is vitally important not only in hospitals but also schools, workplaces and other public spaces
Reduce the amount of antibiotics used in U.S. animal feed, which not only accounts for 80 percent of the total usage of these drugs nationwide but is also a large contributing factor to the problem of antibiotic resistance
About the unsettling trends away from antibiotic research and development, attending physician and professor Helen Boucher, director of the infectious diseases fellowship program at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston and member of the Infectious Diseases Society of America’s Antimicrobial Resistance Committee, says:22
“The problem of antibiotic resistance continues to grow, and our inability to meet the challenge, in particular with antibiotics, is even greater than it was five years ago. We’re coming dangerously close to a time when we [will] have to tell our patients we can’t offer therapies we really think they deserve, such as organ transplants, chemotherapy for cancer or neonatal intensive care.
This is incredibly scary. We don’t want to get to another preantibiotic era. We need a continuous pipeline of antibiotic development so we will continue to have new drugs to meet the challenge of resistance for our children and their children.”
Steps You Can Take to Help Avoid Antibiotic-Resistant Disease
While the problem of antibiotic resistance is an issue requiring high-level, global resolution, the potential impact to you personally is significant and cannot be understated. As such, it’s best to focus on areas you can control. First and foremost, your lifestyle choices determine the health of your immune system and the strength of your immune system influences your ability to resist infections.
Below are some strategies you can use to supercharge your immune system. If you aren’t doing any of these, pick one and get started today. If you’re already making good progress in one or two areas, maybe it’s time to add a third. Also, you may want to download my report about how to protect yourself from super germs.
Be proactive in addressing stress. Because high levels of stress hormones can diminish your immunity, you may want to create a stress management program. Meditation, prayer, yoga and the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) are all excellent strategies for managing stress.
Exercise regularly. Exercise improves the circulation of immune cells in your blood. The more effectively these cells circulate, the more efficient your immune system will be at locating and eliminating pathogens. A well-rounded fitness plan includes core work, high-intensity interval exercise, stretching and weight training.
Get plenty of restorative sleep. Research shows sleep deprivation has the same effect on your immune system as physical stress or disease. It’s impossible to consistently cheat your body of quality sleep and still remain healthy, so make a plan to get around eight hours of sleep a night.
Improve your diet. Avoid foods known to tax your immune system, such as grains, processed foods and sugar. Reduce your net carbohydrates (fructose, grains and sugar), moderate your protein intake and increase your healthy fat intake — focusing on saturated and monounsaturated fats from animal and tropical oil sources.
Optimize your vitamin D level. Studies have shown inadequate vitamin D can increase your risk for MRSA and other infections. Sensible sun exposure at or around midday is your best source of vitamin D. If you are unable to get regular sun exposure, consider taking an oral vitamin D3 supplement along with vitamin K2 and magnesium. Check your levels at least twice a year to ensure you’re in the 60 to 80 nanograms per milliliter range.
An ongoing lawsuit accused one of the most prominent almond growers in the U.S. of fraud, as their almond milk may contain only 2 percent almonds, although most labels don’t report the actual amount
Ingredients used as thickening agents in almond milk often include not-so-healthy carrageenan, guar gum, lecithin and others to give the beverage a milk-like texture
If an entire half-gallon carton of almond milk, such as the plain and unsweetened variety, contains only around 30 almonds, it means an 8-ounce glass would provide only 1 gram of protein and little else, nutrition wise
Whole almonds are a healthier choice than almond milk; one serving of almonds is about a “handful,” equal to about one-quarter cup, providing a wide range of nutrients and antioxidants that include flavonoids and phenolic acids, not to mention protein, fiber and healthy fats.
By Dr. Mercola
Thousands of people have tried one or more of the various alternative-to-cow’s-milk offerings that have been proliferating on store shelves over the last several years, including rice milk, coconut milk, soy milk (which has its own issues) — even hemp and flax milks. As nut milks go, there’s hazelnut and cashew milk, but arguably the most popular is almond milk.
Regardless of whether it’s “original” or wears labels like vanilla or organic or advertises a calorie count on the front, there’s a debate not only about the nutritive value of almond milk but what it requires to make it almond milk.
One of the most recent reasons for the discussion is the probe concerning the number of almonds manufacturers use in a half-gallon carton. As Superfoodly quips, “a decade ago when you bought almond milk, it seems there was a higher likelihood that the actual nut was the first ingredient listed after water,”1 but that’s not always the case.
It turns out that many of the companies manufacturing almond milk aren’t in the habit of divulging how much of the nut they actually put in their “milk” products. U.S. labeling requirements don’t require such disclosure. Then a lawsuit filed in 2015 accused Blue Diamond Growers of fraud, as their almond milk allegedly contained only 2 percent almonds. The plaintiffs ferreted out the percentage of almonds the company used by comparing it with a similar product produced in the U.K. NaturalHealth365 explains:
“Dimitrios Malaxianis and Tracy Albert are suing Blue Diamond Growers, the largest almond processor and marketer in operation at this time. The civil suit claims that Blue Diamond’s Almond Breeze almond milk product has been fraudulently advertised and given the illusion that it contains a substantial amount of almond milk, when this is far from the case.”2
A spokesperson for the Almond Board of California3 said most almond milks offer similar combinations of ingredients in both the U.S. and the U.K. AltHealthWorks contends that while almond milk isn’t loaded with the potential horrors you’ll find in the poorest examples of conventionally produced, factory farmed milk, such as growth hormones and antibiotics, the problem with almond milk is there’s nothing much healthy about it; it contains no more than a handful of almonds. But is that characterization really true?
Good Stuff and Bad Stuff About Dairy Milk Alternatives
Reasons for choosing almond milk over conventionally produced milk often start with dairy milk allergies. Almond milk quickly established itself as a healthy alternative to what AltHealthWorks calls “mass-produced dairy products [that] are simply a mucus-causing, disease-fueling cocktail marketed as the would-be saviors to fight osteoporosis.” All that may be true of mass-produced milk sold at the local supermarket. However:
“How much almond is actually in almond milk? Most manufacturers refuse to answer that question. But from their ingredient labels we do know they are using thickening agents like carrageenan and guar gum, along with emulsifiers like lecithin, which may help disguise how few nuts they’re actually using.”4
Dr. Joanne Tobacman, a “veteran” carrageenan researcher, notes that it’s often responsible for initiating inflammation, which can lead to bleeding ulcers, ulcerative colitis and even trigger diabetes. Carrageenan, Superfoodly explains, is ared seaweed extract that’s become controversial due to research suggesting it may cause gastrointestinal inflammation and other nasty side effects.”5
Many food manufacturers add it to yogurt, frozen dinners, chocolate, soups and ice cream, as well as nutritional supplements and other milk replacement products to give it the right consistency and keep it from separating. People with Crohn’s, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other autoimmune diseases are advised to avoid it, as it can initiate gut problems ranging from inflammation to cancer. Prevention notes:
“Although derived from a natural source, carrageenan appears to be particularly destructive to the digestive system, triggering an immune response similar to that your body has when invaded by pathogens like Salmonella.”6
Other thickening agents you might find in almond milk include xantham gum, locust bean gum, gellan gum and acacia gum. However, the almond milk produced by the top two brands, Silk and Blue Diamond, are (presently) lauded as being GMO free (aka not genetically “tampered with”) and (at least in the U.S.) carrageenan free, according to Healthy Eater.7
Ingredients in Almond Milk Besides Almonds
According to Food Network,8 one serving of almonds is a “handful,” equal to about one-quarter cup. Laid flat, that amount can fit on a 3-by-3-inch sticky note. Almonds provide a wide range of nutrients and antioxidants that include flavonoids and phenolic acids. The nutritional benefits offered include:
“A typical serving of almonds has 160 calories per serving. By comparison, a cup of almond milk contains just about 30 calories. And while a serving of almonds has 14 grams of total fat and 6 grams of protein, a serving of the milk has 2.5 grams of fat and just 1 gram of protein.
In other words, a single serving of almond milk has almost no protein. Compared with plain old almonds, it fares even worse. There is one place where almond milk comes out on top, of course: It has more potassium and more of the vitamins A and D. But almond milk is fortified with these nutrients — they’ve been added during the production process.”9
Nutrition Data10 notes that a daily serving (1 ounce) of almonds provides healthy daily reference intake (DRI) percentages in:
As for “almond milk,” the bottom line is that if an entire half-gallon carton like Blue Diamond’s plain and unsweetened variety contains only around 30 almonds, that means there’s only 1 gram of protein in an 8-ounce glass and not much else, nutrition wise, to speak of.11 At the end of the day, in regard to nutrition, you’d have to drink an entire carton of almond milk in one sitting to get the same nutrients contained in a handful of almonds.
Almond Milk: Label and Product Tweaking
Other popular almond milk producers are finding ways to answer consumer complaints by tweaking their product. In at least one case, it’s how they label their product. Superfoodly reports that soon after Blue Diamond Growers asked for a stay in the legal process after agreeing to a nationwide settlement, Trader Joe’s, which has its own version of the product, changed its label to call it an “almond beverage.” Further:
“Now to be clear, no one knows for sure how many almonds are in Silk almond milk, or Blue Diamond, or So Delicious. Not even the more expensive brands like Califia Farms or New Barn disclose that data. Even today, there is still not proof of exactly what percentage of these products is the namesake ingredient.”12
The percentage of almonds used in Alpro, an almond milk manufacturer in Belgium, is right on the label at 2 percent, so conjecture has it that other companies, including those in the U.S., may be quite similar. For comparison, cow’s milk that you buy at the store contains an approximate ratio of 85 percent milk.
Further, milk alternatives tend to be augmented just like real milk is with vitamin D. Plant-based milk alternative Silk adds calcium carbonate, while Almond Breeze puts in that along with potassium citrate to improve the calcium balance in the body, a multiple university study explains.13 Most brands add calcium, as well.
The Benefits of (Real) Grass Fed Milk and Nutrition-Packed Nuts
Perhaps you’re aware of the problems with milk produced in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOS) — gigantic facilities fraught with contamination and cruelty to animals — but would be interested in gaining the benefits of what “real” grass fed milk provides, such as natural immune boosters and good bacteria that the pasteurization process destroys.
It’s interesting that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) use both fear tactics and misinformation when they caution that raw milk might carry disease-causing bacteria, while at the same time deliberately overlooking the fact that these bacteria are common in diseased CAFO animals as a direct result of industrial farming practices.
Truth be told, many people should not consume dairy whether it is raw or pasteurized, as they are allergic to the milk proteins. Additionally, if you’re insulin resistant, you would likely be better off avoiding raw and pasteurized milk, as it contains the dairy sugar lactose, which can worsen insulin/leptin resistance. If you’re unable to drink raw, pastured, organic milk due to allergies, almond milk can present a relatively tasty alternative.
However, if it’s protein you’re after (often grossly over-indulged via excessive consumption of meat), Harvard Health indicates that a 50-year-old, 140-pound woman should eat about 53 grams of protein a day.14 I recommend limiting protein to about 40 to 70 grams per day, depending on your lean body mass. Remember, the average American consumes anywhere from three to five times as much protein as they need.
Comparing almond milk with the nutrition almonds and other nuts provide, the choice is clear. Your best bet nutritionally is to add a healthy portion of nuts to your diet. They’re the perfect traveling food and easy to place in a baggie in your pocket, your pocketbook, car console, gym bag or sack lunch.
Eating locally means eating what’s in season. This spring, consider adding some of the following superfoods, many of which you may never have heard of before: morel mushrooms, fiddlehead ferns, cherimoya, sorrel, stinging nettles, purslane and wild leeks
Most of these are only available for a short amount of time, and now’s the time to start looking for them
Morel mushrooms are packed with immune-boosting, disease-preventing vitamin D. Fiddleheads are picked from immature, uncoiled ostrich ferns, and have a flavor reminiscent of asparagus
Cherimoyas contain approximately 60 percent of the daily recommended dose of vitamin C and a third of your vitamin B6 needs, while nettles provide healthy amounts of vitamin K and calcium
One cup of sorrel provides more than your daily requirement of vitamins A and C, along with high amounts of potassium and iron; purslane is the omega-3 powerhouse of the plant kingdom
By Dr. Mercola
Eating locally grown foods comes with a bounty of benefits, from fresher foods to saving both money and the environment. One 2007 study from the University of Alberta, Canada, determined that the transportation alone of organic produce actually causes an environmental impact large enough to cancel out many of its benefits.1
If you look, you’ll find that most of the organic fruit and vegetables in your local grocery store come from much farther away than your conventional produce. Fresh produce in most regions of the U.S. actually travel between 1,500 to 2,000 miles on the road. That’s even higher than processed foods, which are shipped an average of 1,346 miles.2 Eating locally grown foods helps eliminate a substantial amount of the carbon footprint associated with food transportation.
Eating locally automatically means eating what’s in season. This spring, consider adding some of the following superfoods,3 many of which you may never have heard of before. Most of these are only available for a short amount of time, and now’s the time to start looking for them.
No. 1: Morel Mushrooms
Morel mushrooms, the tops of which resemble small shower loofahs, are packed with immune-boosting, disease-preventing vitamin D. Its taste has been described as umami, or savory. Rarely cultivated, morel mushrooms are typically wild-harvested and picking the mushrooms is a popular tradition for many.
That said, avoid picking mushrooms in the wild unless you are absolutely sure you know what you’re picking. There are a number of toxic mushrooms, including a species called “false morels,” and it’s easy to get them confused unless you have a lot of experience and know what to look for.
As noted in a recent study,4 “Morels have been in use in traditional medicine for centuries, due to their health-related benefits, and current research demonstrated their anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory bioactivities, in addition to immunostimulatory and antitumor properties.”
Most of the health benefits have been attributed to polysaccharides, along with a number of phytochemicals, primarily phenolic compounds, tocopherols, ascorbic acid and vitamin D. Morel mushrooms are an excellent addition cooked with any side dish and go great with all kinds of meat and fish. Many people enjoy eating them as a side dish on their own, gently sautéed for five to 10 minutes with a pat of butter. Never eat morel mushrooms raw, as they contain trace amounts of a toxin that make some people ill.
No. 2: Fiddlehead Ferns
Chances are you’ve never heard of fiddlehead ferns5,6 unless you’re a frequent visitor of farmers markets and specialty health food stores. As the name implies, the small curly discs are picked from immature, uncoiled ostrich ferns. The taste has been likened to that of asparagus, but with bit more crunch and bitterness. Others say they taste like a mix of asparagus, spinach and broccoli all in one.
High in antioxidants (twice the amount of blueberries) and plant-based omega-3, fiddlehead ferns are a potent anti-inflammatory food.7 They also contain vitamins A and C, both of which are important for healthy vision and immune function. Iron and phosphorous aid red blood cell production and are important for healthy formation of cell membranes and bone, while potassium supports heart health and electrolyte and muscle functions.
Fiddleheads are commonly picked in Maine and Canada, but can often be found in health food stores. Their season is quite brief — two to three weeks at the most. To ensure quality, look for specimens that have tightly coiled heads with stems about 2 inches in length. If picking your own, make sure you know how to identify ostrich ferns, as they are commonly confused with bracken fern — a species known to cause cancer in lab animals.
Also, fiddleheads may cause gastrointestinal upset when consumed raw, so light cooking, just as you would asparagus, is recommended. They can also be pickled for longer shelf life. For instructions, see this spicy pickled fiddleheads’ recipe by The Spruce.8
The following video will help you properly identify edible fiddleheads from the ostrich fern. Consider adding them to dishes that normally call for asparagus. Many recipes suggest eating them steamed or boiled with hollandaise sauce, cooked then chilled and topped with plain mayo, or lightly sautéed and tossed with some butter, lemon, vinegar and Parmesan cheese.
No. 3: Cherimoya
This heart-shaped “dragon-scaled” tropical fruit has a sweet, buttery inside. Select specimens that are hard and green. As avocados, cherimoyas ripen quickly on the counter. Once the skin turns a bronze color and feels soft to the touch, it’s ready to eat. Simply peel and slice. Their flavor has been likened to a combination of banana, papaya and pineapple. Pureed, they can also be added to smoothies.
A single fruit contains approximately 60 percent of the daily recommended dose of vitamin C and a third of your vitamin B6 needs. In Mexico, the fruit has traditionally been used to ease anxiety, thanks to the presence of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which has mild antidepressive effects.
It’s also high in fiber, iron and niacin, and contain powerful compounds shown to combat cancer, malaria and human parasites. Cherimoya provides high amounts of potassium that help control heart rate and blood pressure. Furthermore, it contains more minerals weight per weight than a lot of more common fruits, including apples.
No. 4: Sorrel
Sorrel, also known as spinach dock or narrow-leaved dock, is a perennial leafy herb cultivated around the world. Packed with health benefits and a tangy, lemony flavor, it adds a bit of zing to just about any salad or dish, including creamy soups.
One cup of sorrel provides more than your daily requirement of vitamins A and C, along with high amounts of potassium and iron. Keep in mind that sorrel contains oxalic acid, which is contraindicated for those struggling with or prone to oxalate kidney stones. For most people, small quantities are completely safe and provide valuable health benefits. According to Organic Facts:9
“The health benefits of sorrel include its ability to improve eyesight, slow the aging process, reduce skin infections, strengthen the immune system, and improve digestion. It also builds strong bones, increases circulation, increases energy levels, helps prevent cancer, lowers blood pressure, increases appetite, protects against diabetes, strengthens heart health and improves kidney health.”
No. 5: Stinging Nettles
While typically considered a pesky and painful weed, stinging nettles10 have unique health benefits. (On a side note, should you have them growing in your yard, they’re actually a sign of rich, healthy soil.) Just make sure you use gloves during handling until they’ve been cooked, to avoid a painful rash.
Once blanched or sautéed, they can be safely consumed, providing healthy amounts of vitamin K and calcium. Traditionally, nettles have been valued for its blood purifying properties, and can also be made into tea, said to ease congestion and soothe allergies and asthma.
Nettle tea may also boost milk production if you’re nursing, and helps stimulate your digestive glands, including your intestines, liver, pancreas and gallbladder. To learn more about the health benefits of stinging nettles and the various ways you can use it (including instructions for making nettle tea), see “Nettle: The Stinging Weed That Can Help You Detoxify.”
No. 6: Purslane
Purslane11 (also called duckweed, fatweed, pigweed, pusley, verdolaga, ma chi xian in Chinese, munyeroo or wild portulaca), is the omega-3 powerhouse of the vegetation kingdom, and there’s a high probability it’s growing in your yard right now. According to Mother Earth News, it’s the most reported weed species in the world.12
Purslane looks very much like a miniature jade plant, with fleshy succulent leaves and reddish stems. The stems grow flat to the ground and radiate outward from a single taproot, sometimes forming large, flat circular mats up to 16 inches across. In about mid-July, it develops tiny yellow flowers about one-quarter inch in diameter.
Seeds of purslane are extremely tough, some remaining viable in the soil for 40 years, and it can grow in almost anything, from fertile garden loam to the most arid desert soil — even in your rock driveway. Just be very careful not to confuse purslane with spurge, because they can look similar, and spurge will make you sick. The following video shows how to tell them apart.
Purslane has a stellar omega-3 fatty acid profile, compared to other vegetables, containing anywhere from 300 to 400 milligrams (mg) of omega-3 per cup. It also contains six times more vitamin E than spinach, seven times more beta carotene than carrots, providing about 44 percent of your daily vitamin A needs per 100 grams,13 25 mg of vitamin C per cup, plus magnesium, calcium, iron, riboflavin, potassium, phosphorous and manganese.
Purslane can be eaten either raw or cooked. If you’re planning on eating raw purslane, make sure no pesticides or herbicides have been used nearby. If you’ve been spraying Roundup in your yard, never eat weeds collected from the area. Also avoid them if your neighbor has used Roundup in their yard, as the chemicals can easily drift across property lines.
As a precaution, wash the leaves and stems thoroughly before consuming. Typically, people eat the young purslane leaves and stems to avoid the tougher parts of the plant. For cooked purslane, there are numerous ways to incorporate this herb in your favorite dishes. You can boil it in water for 10 minutes and drain, or simply add it to other recipes to give the dish an added crunch.
No. 7: Ramps
Ramps is a type of wild leek, featuring small white bulbs with hairy roots. While resembling green onions in appearance, their flavor is more akin to garlic. If you’re lucky enough to find them, be sure to get some. Ramps are exceedingly scarce as they’re a slow grower, and are only in season for a few weeks in spring.
Look for specimens that are firm, with bright green leaves. Don’t buy or use them if you notice brown spots or slimy areas. Unwashed and wrapped in a plastic bag, ramps can be refrigerated for up to a week. Ramps are a good source of vitamins A and C, selenium and chromium, the latter of which helps stabilize blood sugar. As for how to use them in your cooking, Organic Authority suggests:14
“[U]se ramps as you would scallions, green onions or leeks. Anything that would pair well with garlic or leeks will love the ramp. Slice them thinly and use sparingly, and also handle them gently, adding them at the end of the cooking process. Think simple to allow ramps to shine: Scrambled into eggs, garnished alongside seafood, mixed into big bowls of pasta, or oven roasted or grilled to perfection.”
How to Find Locally-Grown Food That Is in Season
When you eat locally grown foods, the contents of your shopping bag inevitably change with each passing season. In other words, adjusting what you eat to what’s in season becomes an inescapable fact if you’re going to eat locally-grown foods, and if you keep this in mind, it can become a pleasurable part of your culinary experimentation. Here are some tips for tracking down locally-grown foods that are in season:
If you’re lucky enough to have a local farmers market, that’s the way to go. For a listing of national farmers markets and local food directories, see the USDA’s website. Another great resource is www.localharvest.org.
Another good route for finding local food is to subscribe to a community supported agriculture program (CSA). Some are seasonal while others offer year-round programs. Once you subscribe, many will drop affordable, high quality locally-grown produce right at your door step. For a comprehensive list of CSA’s and a host of other sustainable agriculture programs, check out my Sustainable Agriculture page.
Local farmers are perhaps your best source for seasonal produce. You can search for local farms on www.localharvest.org.
Shop at your local natural food store or health co-op, as many of them get their produce from local farmers.
If everything else fails, shop at your locally owned grocers rather than large chain supermarkets. Many small private grocers also supply produce from local sources.
Eight Signs of High-Quality Food
Last but not least, here are some general tips on what to look for when trying to determine the healthiest foods possible, no matter where you shop. You’ll want to look for foods that are:
Grown without pesticides and chemical fertilizers (organic foods fit this description, but so do some nonorganic foods). If harvesting edible weeds or plants from your garden, make sure no pesticides or herbicides have been applied in the area