By Dr. Mercola
You probably know already that organic foods are good for you. The major problem most people have with organic food is the expense. However, there are several different ways to radically reduce the cost of your food.
Growing your own is probably one of the best, and can be extremely satisfying. I am convinced that growing sprouts is more practical and useful for most people and takes less space and time but it will be a bit longer before I am able to provide a comprehensive article on how to do that.
In the meantime anyone, regardless of space allowance, can also produce their own food. If you have a back yard, you’re blessed indeed. But apartment dwellers can also grow fresh produce. Alex Mitchell’s book The Edible Balcony is an excellent resource.
One of the major benefits of growing your own food is that you have complete control over the end product, from soil composition to chemical exposure.
Whereas a conventionally-grown garden might include the use of chemical fertilizers and potentially toxic insecticides to protect the crop, an organic gardener will forgo the chemicals and feed the soil with natural fertilizers and insect barriers.
The same goes for weed control. While a traditional gardener may apply synthetic herbicides to control weeds, an organic gardener, just like an organic farmer, will use hand weeding and cover crops with mulches to control weeds. For every toxic solution, there’s usually an equally effective non-toxic alternative.
Growing Seedlings Can Give You a Head Start on the Season
While you can certainly wait until the danger of spring frost has passed, and then plant your seeds directly in the soil outdoors, you can get a head start by growing seedlings and then transplanting them into your garden. This can be particularly useful in areas where the growing season is short.
Growing seedlings, which can take between four and 12 weeks to sprout, will allow you to harvest your vegetables four to six weeks earlier than had you planted the seeds directly outdoors.
The University of Maine1 has an excellent web site describing how to grow your seedlings, and which ones are best left for direct-seeding due to their rapid maturation:
“Using transplants instead of direct-seeding is especially important for plants that take a long time to mature or are sensitive to frost, such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and melons.
Some plants (mostly root crops) do not transplant well, or they mature quickly enough that starting seedlings indoors is not necessary. Vegetables that are typically direct-seeded in the garden include beans, beets, carrots, corn, peas, spinach, turnips, and zucchini.”
To get started on your seedlings, you need just a few supplies:
- Fresh seed, ideally heirloom
- Containers, about 2 to 3 1/2-inch deep with adequate drainage holes
- Growing medium. Use fine-textured soilless mix of equal parts of peat moss and vermiculite or perlite. Do not use conventional fertilizers
Now, once your seedlings are grown and the outdoor temperature is 45 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer, the plant will require one to two weeks of “hardening off” before they can be transplanted into the ground, to prevent them from going into shock. This is done by placing them outdoors for just a few hours at a time in a semi-shaded location.
Gradually, over several days, increase the time you leave them outdoors, and gradually increase the amount of direct sunlight they’re exposed to. Transplant your seedlings into your garden in the late afternoon, as the weather starts to cool down (or choose a cloudy day), and water the plants thoroughly. For detailed step-by-step instructions, see the University of Maine’s seedling page2.
The Edible Balcony
In her book The Edible Balcony, Alex Mitchell details how to grow fresh produce in small spaces. Filled with beautiful color photographs throughout, the book helps you determine what might work best for you, depending on your space and location, and guides you through the design basics of a bountiful small-space garden. For example, those who live in a high-rise apartment will undoubtedly have to content with more wind than those who live on the bottom floor. There are solutions for virtually every problem, and in this case, wind-tolerant plants can be used, or you could construct some sort of protective screening.
You can use virtually every square foot of your space, including your lateral space. Hanging baskets are ideal for a wide variety of foods, such as strawberries, leafy greens, runner beans, pea shoots, tomatoes, and a variety of herbs. And instead of flowers, window boxes can hold herbs, greens, radishes, scallions, bush beans, strawberries, chard, and chiles, for example.
While you will obviously need to use pots if you don’t have a garden plot, avoid using many small pots. The smaller the pot, the faster it will dry out. Instead, opt for large yet lightweight containers. You may also want to consider self-watering pots, which will reduce the time you have to spend watering. (You could even make your own. Mitchell shows you how in her book.)
Another excellent tip for the time-pressed gardener is to install a timer to your outside tap, and have a plastic dripping tube connected to the tap. Position one tube over each pot to be watered. Then all you have to do is set the timer to water your plants twice a day for five or ten minutes. Adding a top layer of mulch will also reduce the amount of watering a plant will need. For smaller containers, mix in a handful of water-retaining crystals or gel, as these will help retain moisture. Mitchell’s book contains creative solutions to take advantage of every nook and cranny, and recycle common household items for your garden. Such tips include:
- Attaching horizontal rows of gutters on a wall, which can hold your leafy greens and herbs
- A hanging bottle herb garden, using discarded plastic bottles
- Two or more stacked tires with a plastic bag to hold the soil can make for an excellent planter for plants that like warm soil, such as sweet potatoes and basil
Another excellent tip is provided in Mitchell’s book: An ancient technique called “3 sisters,” used by the Native American Indians, involves planting specific combinations of plants together, as the plants support each other. For example:
“Corn provides something for the beans to climb up, while they in turn add nitrogen to the soil. This benefits the corn and squash, and the latter helpfully shades the roots of the other plants, protecting them from the drying effects of the sun.”
What Kind of Soil Should You Use for Your Potted Garden?
Quality produce begins with healthy soil. This is because the nutrition your plants require is derived from beneficial microorganisms in the soil. These organisms take the mineral material that’s in your soil and convert it into a plant-available form. Without these bioorganisms, your plants cannot get the nutrients they need. According to Mitchell:
“When you first plant anything, you need to buy potting mix. The one you buy depends on what you are growing: annual vegetables, fruit, and flowers are happy with one that is general, soilless, organic and peat-free; acid-loving crops such as blueberries need lime-free compost; while fruit trees and bushes, which will live for many years, will benefit from a soil-based potting mix, which releases its nutrients slowly.”
If you have enough space to create your own compost, I highly recommend picking up Dr. Elaine Ingham’s book, 10 Steps to Gardening with Nature. Dr. Ingham3 is chief research scientist at Rodale Institute, and is an internationally recognized expert on the benefits of sustainable soil science. Her book explains the mechanisms behind how the beneficial microorganisms in the soil benefit your plants, and how to create compost that support your chosen crops. You can also find valuable information and resources on soil health and composting on the Rodale Institute’s website.4
Besides composting, setting up a little worm farm can also help you restore soil health naturally, eliminating the need for synthetic fertilizers. In addition to helping create a valuable compost to help plants grow, worms have also been singled out for their ability to break down toxins like cadmium, lead and other heavy metals, helping to detoxify soil. They do this by optimizing the bacterial content of the soil. Worms also can even break down cardboard waste fibers, making them a potential recycling tool.
While we’re touching on larger-scale gardens, it may be useful to know that shrubs and trees require two-and-a-half to four times less water than a lawn. Amazingly, a typical suburban lawn uses an estimated 10,000 gallons of water each season, above what’s provided by rainfall. So planting an edible garden can kill several birds with one stone; not only can you reduce your food bill while eating the freshest food imaginable, your garden can also reduce your outdoor water usage. To learn more about water conservation, see Audubon’s water conservation page.5
Keeping Weeds and Pests at Bay
Another important aspect of growing your own food is the ability to avoid chemical exposure. American homeowners apply an estimated 78 million pounds of insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides per year to their homes, lawns, and gardens.6 The problem is that these toxic chemicals are toxic not just to the weeds or critters they’re designed to kill. They’re also toxic to beneficial insects, birds, wild animals, pets, young children, and anyone who eats foods to which these toxins have been applied. According to Audubon:7
“In a recent study of pesticide exposure among children living in a major U.S. metropolitan area, traces of garden chemicals were found in 99 percent of the 110 children tested.”
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers 60 percent of herbicides, 90 percent of fungicides, and 30 percent of insecticides to be carcinogenic. Pesticides (used to kill insects) are also notoriously hazardous. Commonly used pesticides have been linked to health problems such as:
Neurotoxicity Endocrine system disruption Cancer Immune system suppression Male infertility and reduced reproductive function Miscarriages
Fortunately, there are safe and effective natural alternatives for virtually every pest problem you come across. For instance, for a homemade garden spray that will discourage most pests, use some mashed garlic paste combined with a little cayenne pepper or horseradish. Add a small amount to a gallon jug of water and let it sit for a day or two, shaking it occasionally. Just spray a small amount onto a few leaves first to make sure it's not so strong that it will burn them.
For more details on these types of natural solutions to pests of all kinds, I recommend the book Dead Snails Leave No Trails by Nancarrow and Taylor, or visit the website BeyondPesticides.org.8 They have a section on do-it-yourself natural solutions9 to a wide range of pest problems along with a resource to find pest management companies that use non-toxic products.10 Mitchell’s book also has a section on how to address a wide variety of specific plant pests.
Sprouts—One of the Most Nutrient Dense Foods, Ideal for Small Spaces
Sprouts are an authentic “super” food that many overlook or have long stopped using. In addition to their superior nutritional profile, sprouts are really easy to grow if you’re an apartment dweller, as they don’t require an outdoor garden.
A powerhouse of nutrition, sprouts can contain up to 30 times the nutrition of organic vegetables grown in your own garden, and allow your body to extract more vitamins, minerals, amino acids and essential fats from the foods you eat. During sprouting, minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, bind to protein, making them more bioavailable. Furthermore, both the quality of the protein and the fiber content of beans, nuts, seeds and grains improves when sprouted. The content of vitamins and essential fatty acids also increase dramatically during the sprouting process.
Sunflower seed and pea sprouts tend to top the list of all the seeds that you can sprout and are typically each about 30 times more nutritious than organic vegetables. While you can sprout a variety of different beans, nuts, seeds and grains, sprouts in general have the following beneficial attributes:
- Support for cell regeneration
- Powerful sources of antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and enzymes that protect against free radical damage
- Alkalinizing effect on your body, which is thought to protect against disease, including cancer (as many tumors are acidic)
- Abundantly rich in oxygen, which can also help protect against abnormal cell growth, viruses and bacteria that cannot survive in an oxygen-rich environment
Planting and Harvesting Sprouts at Home
I used to grow sprouts in Ball jars over 10 years ago but stopped doing that. I am strongly convinced that actually growing them in soil is far easier and produces far more nutritious and abundant food. It is also less time consuming. With Ball jars you need to rinse them several times a day to prevent mold growth. Trays also take up less space. I am now consuming one whole tray you see below every 2-3 days and to produce that much food with Ball jars I would need dozens of jars. I simply don't have the time or patience for that.
I am in the process of compiling more specific detailed videos for future articles but I thought I would whet your appetite and give you a preview with the photos below. For now you can get instructions on how to grow them by viewing a step-by-step guide at rawfoods-livingfoods.com.11
About to plant wheat grass and sunflower seeds - 2 days after soaking
Wheat grass and sunflower seeds – 3 ½ days post germination
Sunflower seeds and pea sprouts – 3 days until ready for harvest
Sunflower seed sprouts and wheat grass - ready to harvest
My two favorites are sunflower sprouts and pea. They provide some of the highest quality protein you can eat. Sprouted sunflower seeds also contain plenty of iron and chlorophyll, the latter of which will help detoxify your blood and liver. Of the seeds, sunflower seeds are among the best in terms of overall nutritional value, and sprouting them will augment their nutrient content by as much as 300 to 1,200 percent! Similarly, sprouting peas will improve the bioavailability of zinc and magnesium.
I have been sprouting them now for a few months and they have radically improved the nutrition of my primary meal, which is a comprehensive salad at lunch. They are a perfect complement to the fermented vegetables. My current salad consists of about half a pound of sunflower sprouts, four ounces of fermented vegetables, half a large red pepper, several tablespoon of raw organic butter, some red onion, a whole avocado and about three ounces of salmon or chicken. It is my primary meal. In the late afternoon, I typically only have macadamia nuts and coconut candy in addition to drinking 16-32 ounces of green vegetable juice. I break it up occasionally by going to a restaurant with friends.
Ready, Set, Garden!
With benefits ranging from fresher, uncontaminated food and cutting your grocery bill, to beautifying your community and educating the next generation, there’s really nothing holding anyone back from creating an edible garden—even if all you have is a couple of window sills or a small balcony. There are tons of creative solutions that will allow you to make the most of even the tiniest space.
Sprouts is one of my favorite tight-space crops, simply because you get so much for so little time, money and effort. It’s hard to find a food that will provide you with so much nutrition. So try it out! Start small, and as you get the hang of it, add another container of something else. Before you know it, large portions of your meals could come straight from your own edible garden.
You want to also make sure you are using only the finest seeds when starting your garden. Picking the types of seeds can go a long way in helping your garden be plentiful and even determines how juicy or hardy your vegetables are. Heirloom seeds are seeds that have been carefully cultivated to produce the best plants possible; they're hardy and bountiful. You can find packages containing 26 of the popular heirloom seeds in my Heirloom Variety Seed Collection, available in my online store.
10 Ways Growing an Organic Garden Can Help Your Health and Budget
Worms Produce Another Kind of Gold for Farmers
By Dr. Mercola
More than 36 percent of Americans share their homes with a dog, and 30 percent with a cat.1 This amounts to more than 70 million pet dogs and 74 million pet cats in the US alone.
This love affair with animals is nothing new; humans have been sharing their lives with companion animals since ancient times, when dogs, domesticated from wolves, may have been used for hunting and protection, and cats, which were often regarded as sacred, helped control pests.
This mutually beneficial relationship continues today; although most Americans no longer depend on dogs for hunting or cats to scavenge mice, we take them in with abandon no less, and even look the other way when they wake us up barking or meowing at 4 am, chew up our slippers or scratch up our new furniture.
Because they provide unconditional love in return, providing a sense of friendship and comfort in a way that is unmatched, sometimes even by humans. And as if you needed another reason to give your pet a hug today, research is also increasingly showing that these furry creatures offer proven benefits to your health.
American Heart Association Says Owning a Pet Benefits Your Heart
According to a new statement released by the American Heart Association (AHA), owning a pet, particularly a dog, may reduce your risk of heart disease.2 The conclusion came following a review of dozens of studies that showed pet owners were in better health than non-pet owners. Highlights of the research included:3
- People with dogs engaged in more walking and more physical activity, and were 54 percent more likely to get the recommended level of physical activity
- Pet ownership is probably associated with a reduction in heart disease risk factors and increased survival among patients
- Owning a pet is linked with lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and a lower incidence of obesity
- Pets can have a positive effect on your body’s reaction to stress, including a decrease in heart rate, blood pressure and adrenaline-like hormone release when a pet is present
While many of the studies did not prove that owning a pet directly reduces heart disease risk, and some of the benefits may be due to the increased activity that dog owners get from walking with or playing with their pets, the researchers concluded:
“Pet ownership, particularly dog ownership, is probably associated with decreased CVD [cardiovascular disease] risk … [and] may have some causal role in reducing CVD risk.”
Pets Benefit Your Health at All Life Stages
Pets have a way of appealing to very diverse groups, from children to the elderly, families to singles. Perhaps this is because they offer advantages for people at all stages of life:
- Children: Owning a pet has been linked to higher levels of self-esteem as well as an ability to function better emotionally in kids.4 Children who live with a dog during their first year of life also have a lower risk of respiratory tract infections and ear infections, and need fewer antibiotics, than children in non-pet homes.5
This may be because dogs track more dirt and bacteria into homes, and this increased exposure to “germs” helps strengthen the immune system. Living with a cat was also linked to health benefits among children.
- Adults: One of the most revealing studies on the health benefits of pets for adults involved New York City stockbrokers who were being treated with medications for high blood pressure. Those who adopted a dog or cat were able to lower their blood pressure significantly more, and felt calmer, than those who did not.6
- Couples: Couples who own pets are less stressed by conflicts and recover quicker when conflicts occur. Pet-owning couples also reported more signs of happiness and sociability than non pet-owning couples.7
- Singles: Singles, as well as those who are widowed, divorced or separated, are increasingly adopting pets because they provide love and a sense of family.8
- Elderly: Two of the biggest hurdles facing the elderly are social isolation and inactivity. Owning a dog not only increased the amount of activity, with dog owners taking twice as many daily walks than non-owners, but also increased social interactions through casual conversations that occurred during the daily walks. Elderly dog owners also report being more satisfied with their social, physical and emotional states.9
Do Cats or Other Pets Give Similar Benefits?
Many of the health benefits of pets focus on dogs, with their tendency to make us get out for more frequent walks as well as their strong sense of emotional devotion to their humans. But cats, too, offer benefits to your health. For starters, many of the above-mentioned studies involved both dogs and cats; for instance, living with either a dog or a cat is linked to lower rates of respiratory infections in kids, and both dogs and cats helped lower blood pressure among stressed-out stockbrokers.
Cat owners, specifically, have even been found to have a 40 percent lower risk of heart attacks than non-owners,10 and a cat’s purr, which gives off low-frequency vibrations, has been called a “natural healing mechanism” that may help strengthen and repair bones, relieve pain and heal wounds.11
Studies involving birds, reptiles, horses and other pets are far less common than those with cats or dogs, however it’s often the emotional connection that leads to the decreased stress responses felt by those when their beloved pet is present. So it stands to reason that any pet with which you feel an emotional bond, whether furry, feathered or finned, can benefit your health on multiple levels.
Health Considerations Shouldn’t be Your Only Motivation for Getting a Pet
Pet owners do seem to have a health advantage over non-owners, but you shouldn’t rush out to adopt a pet solely for this reason. Obviously, having a pet comes with considerable demands on your time and finances, so you must be sure you are fully able to care for a pet, and committed to adding this animal to your family for its lifetime, before proceeding. Even the AHA researchers noted:12
“Despite the likely positive link, people shouldn’t get a pet solely to reduce heart disease risk.”
However, if you are thinking about adding a pet to your family, or if you’re a pet owner already, you can find a guide for bringing home a new dog or cat, along with a treasure trove of additional pet ownership information, at Mercola Healthy Pets.
Every day at Mercola Healthy Pets, Dr. Karen Becker shares her passion for the benefits of proactive, integrative and wellness-oriented pet healthcare, and the value of alternative therapies that are rarely, if ever, discussed in the conventional veterinary community. Now countless animal lovers across the globe are learning about the foundations of pet health and becoming empowered to take the best possible care of their pets, and I urge you to join them if you’re a pet owner, too.
Why Don’t More Retirement Communities Welcome Residents with Pets?
The Positive Power of Pet Ownership …
By Dr. Mercola
A recent study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, BASF Corporation, Pfizer and DSM Nutritional Products found that daily supplementation with a multivitamin significantly reduced the risk of cancer among men.
This particular study used Pfizer’s Centrum brand of multivitamins, which brings in around $1 billion a year in sales (a hefty share of the $40 billion US supplement market).
Undoubtedly, Pfizer will seek to use these study results to claim that taking Centrum multivitamins may help you prevent cancer… a lofty marketing move that has already landed them (and other drug companies) in hot water…
Although it is good to see the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) keeping these companies honest, one of the biggest crimes is actually perfectly legal. These companies are using synthetic vitamins rather than natural ones in virtually all of their products, despite the compelling evidence of the vast superiority of natural versions.
Pfizer Removes False Claims from Multivitamins After a Threatened Lawsuit
Last year CSPI alleged that claims made on the labels of Centrum multivitamin products were deceptive and implied that the supposed health benefits had been scientifically established, when most were from studies not directly applicable to the product. Among the claims at issue were that Pfizer’s multivitamins support:
- Energy and immunity
- Heart health
- Eye health
- Breast and colon health
- Bone health
In a letter to Pfizer Chief Executive Ian Read, CSPI threatened legal action and listed multiple examples of unsubstantiated claims and deception. For instance, regarding the multivitamin’s role in heart health, the letter stated:1
“Pfizer markets Centrum Ultra Men’s, Centrum Cardio, and Centrum Silver with the claim that they support “heart health.”
For example, a recent print advertisement says, “Centrum Cardio is the only complete multivitamin with CoroWise™ phytosterols, an ingredient derived from soybeans that may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol. Centrum Cardio is the multivitamin that's complete and all heart.”(Emphases added.)
However, existing research on the effectiveness of phytosterols has evaluated them in foods, … which help disperse the phytosterols in the GI tract to do their work. There is little or no evidence that the free phytosterols in hard, dry pills have the same effect. In fact, Pfizer has failed to produce any convincing evidence as to their effects in response to previous requests from CSPI.
Therefore, this claim is un-lawful because it lacks prior substantiation and is deceptive.”
In response, Pfizer agreed to drop certain claims related to “breast health” and “colon health” from the labels of its Centrum multivitamins, as well as from their Web site. CSPI subsequently agreed to withdraw their notice of intention to file a lawsuit.
Bayer Also Threatened With Legal Action Over False Multivitamin Claims
Bayer, which manufactures One A Day multivitamins, states on their Web site that taking One a Day is a recommended tip for avoiding breast cancer. CSPI has taken issue with this, and other health claims related to heart disease and more, and has notified Bayer that they will file a lawsuit for violating state consumer protection laws if the deceptive claims are not removed from One A Day marketing materials.
This is the second time since 2009 that CSPI has threatened Bayer with legal action. In 2009, the organization filed a lawsuit against Bayer for claiming that its One A Day Men’s multivitamin with selenium might reduce the risk of prostate cancer, when no research existed to back it up. Bayer also settled a lawsuit in 2010, in which a group of state attorney generals alleged the company was “deceptively leveraging fear of prostate cancer in order to market One A Day to men.”2
Who’s Behind Some of the Largest Multivitamin Brands in the World?
There’s certainly nothing wrong with taking a multivitamin supplement. But when doing so it’s essential to know who’s behind the product you’re trusting with your health. For instance, Pfizer, which makes Centrum multivitamins, is no stranger to lawsuits and has been convicted of fraud and other illegal activities on multiple occasions.
In fact, in 2009, Pfizer paid a $2.3-billion settlement for marketing fraud related to Bextra, Lyrica and other drugs. Charges included marketing drugs to doctors for uses for which they had not been approved and giving kickbacks to doctors and other health care professionals for prescribing their drugs. This was Pfizer's fourth settlement numbering in the multimillions in less than a decade.
Meanwhile, some 3,000 lawsuits have been filed against Bayer in recent years over their genetically modified crops contaminating American rice farms. They have also been fending off lawsuits from angry beekeepers for years now, who allege that Bayer’s neonicotinoid pesticides are killing bees.
Why Are Drug Companies Interested in the Supplement Market?
The drug industry would rather you head out to your physician's office and receive a prescription for a drug to protect your heart and treat diseases. So why are they increasingly buying up the supplement industry? The supplement industry actually represents the drug industry's greatest competition, and as the saying goes, you should keep your friends close and your enemies even closer… By buying up supplement companies, the drug industry stands to benefit in several key ways:
- Supplements as a category are yielding greater sales growth than the overall US economy and represent the greatest threat to drug company profits (the supplement industry is expected to grow at a rate of 9 percent a year through 2015, when it is expected to reach more than $90 billion3 -- as compared to the US economy's dwindling growth rate of 2 percent per year).
- Drug patents are set to expire soon, in great volume, forcing pharmaceutical companies to find replacements for their top moneymaking drugs.
- Pharmaceutical companies can snuff out their competition by paying off politicians to write legislation that makes it too difficult for small competitors (i.e., supplement companies) to survive, and then buying up the large competitors that remain).
These large drug companies actually benefit from the increased regulatory hurdles being imposed upon the supplement industry because it helps them squelch smaller competitors (who, by the way, often offer you better quality goods and services).
Recent acquisitions include:
- Pfizer, which purchased Alacer (the maker of "Emergen-C" vitamin drink mixes) in February 2012 for $360 million
- Bayer acquired Schiff Nutrition International, a leading nutritional supplement company, for $1.2 billion in a 2012 deal
- Procter & Gamble (which is partnered with Teva Pharmaceutical Industries) bought supplement maker New Chapter in March 2012 for $250 million
Can Multivitamins Improve Your Health?
As a consumer interested in taking control of your own health, you have a number of "tools" at your disposal, including access to hundreds of therapeutic vitamins and other nutritional supplements that are available over the counter. Is this a worthwhile avenue to improve your health?
I do believe that dietary supplements -- including vitamins and minerals -- can help compensate for some of the damage your body incurs through living in a contemporary culture. However, it's not wise to use supplements to justify a poor diet or otherwise unhealthful lifestyle. In my experience, no amount of supplements will ever be able to substitute for healthy food choices. And if you’re depending on a pill of any form to lower your risk of cancer, as the above-mentioned study claims for multivitamins, you’re short-changing yourself, as there are far more comprehensive cancer-prevention strategies available at your fingertips…
Assuming you are using them to complement an otherwise healthy lifestyle, a high-quality multivitamin can be useful. Unfortunately, many spend hundreds of dollars a year or more on synthetic vitamins purchased from discount stores, which typically use cheap synthetic isolates.
Isolated synthetic vitamins are far less than optimal. Your body only absorbs a small percentage of an isolate form of vitamins and minerals, and it utilizes even less. Plus, synthetic vitamins often give you massive quantities of some nutrients (often the most inexpensive ones) and insufficient quantities of others.
Nature intended for you to consume food in whole form because all the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and enzymes are together in one package, working synergistically to give your body the nutrition it requires for optimal health. This is why when you choose supplements, you need to look for whole-food supplements -- and steer clear of synthetic vitamins.
How Do You Determine Whether or Not a Supplement Is a Good Choice?
For starters, make sure it has the following characteristics:
- It is as close as possible to its natural (whole food) form.
- Use independent third-party labs that check the raw materials for contaminants and correct dosage.
- Follows industry standards for quality assurance including ISO 9001, ISO 17025 and Good Manufacturing Processes (GMP) certifications.
- The utmost care has been taken in all phases of its production, from growing its ingredients, to manufacturing, testing for potency and quality control.
- It works! I always try to select from companies that have a long track record of providing high-quality products that produce good clinical results.
Remember, if you are interested in optimizing your health, your BEST solution is to choose the highest quality foods possible, and eat a wide variety of whole organic foods. You can use my free nutrition plan and work your way up to the advanced stage. Once you have addressed your diet and are looking for further improvement, odds are you would likely benefit from some supplements, like an animal-based omega-3 supplement and a probiotic, for example. There are many others you could then consider depending on your specific circumstances, including a high-quality multivitamin, additional antioxidant support and others.
If Your Multivitamin Contains These Ingredients - Dump them now..
Over 60 Billion Doses a Year and Not ONE Death, But Still Not Safe?
By Dr. Mercola
The issue of what kind of feminine hygiene products you use is rarely if ever discussed. Yet it’s clearly an important topic for every woman out there.
Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and also the thinnest. Less than 1/10th of an inch separates your body from potential toxins. Worse yet, your skin is highly permeable — especially the skin around your vaginal area, not to mention inside the vagina itself.
This is why attention needs to be paid to the ingredients used in tampons and sanitary pads.
Most items that come in constant contact with your skin will end up in your bloodstream and distributed throughout your body. This is why I'm so fond of saying "don't put anything on your body that you wouldn't eat if you had to."
Putting chemicals on your skin may actually be worse than eating them. When you eat something, the enzymes in your saliva and stomach help to break it down and flush it out of your body.
However, when chemicals come in contact with your skin, they are absorbed straight into your bloodstream without filtering of any kind, going directly to your delicate organs. And once these chemicals find their way into your body, they tend to accumulate over time because you typically lack the necessary enzymes to break them down.
In my opinion, the realm of feminine hygiene can be likened to a "ticking time bomb." Because when you consider your exposure over the course of a lifetime, it really adds up; the average American woman uses up to 16,800 tampons in her lifetime — or as many as 24,360 if she's on estrogen replacement therapy.
And that's just tampons… Many women use countless sanitary pads in place of, or in addition to tampons. When this same 'average' woman has a baby, she may also use maternity and nursing pads.
What’s Really in Those Sanitary Pads and Tampons?
In the featured article1, Andrea Donsky, founder of Naturally Savvy and co-author of Label Lessons: Your Guide to a Healthy Shopping Cart, reveals just how little we are allowed to know about the ingredients used in feminine hygiene products.
In fact, manufacturers of tampons and sanitary pads are not required to disclose the ingredients used because feminine hygiene products are considered “medical devices.”
When Andrea called Procter & Gamble directly to find out what’s in their Always Infinity pads, the only ingredients the service reps could give her were: foam and a patented ingredient called Infinicel2 — a highly absorbent material that can hold up to 10 times its weight.
In the above video, she demonstrates what happens when you burn an organic versus a conventional sanitary pad. The 100% organic cotton pad, made by Natracare, burns slow and clean, leaving virtually no sooty residue at all.
The Always Infinity pad on the other hand, with its mostly undisclosed ingredients, create lots of black smoke and thick residue — indications that the pad may contain dioxins, synthetic fibers and petrochemical additives.
In fact, according to her research, each conventional sanitary pad contains the equivalent of about four plastic bags! With everything we now know about the hazardous nature of plastic chemicals, this alone is cause for concern.
For example, plasticizing chemicals like BPA and BPS disrupt embryonic development and are linked to heart disease and cancer. Phthalates — which give paper tampon applicators that smooth feel and finish — are known to dysregulate gene expression, and DEHP may lead to multiple organ damage. Besides crude oil plastics, conventional sanitary pads can also contain a myriad of other potentially hazardous ingredients, such as odor neutralizers and fragrances. Synthetics and plastic also restrict the free flow of air and can trap heat and dampness, potentially promoting the growth of yeast and bacteria in your vaginal area.
The Price You Pay for ‘Clean’ White Tampons and Pads
Furthermore, to give tampons and pads that pristine, “clean” white look, the fibers used must be bleached. Chlorine is commonly used for this, which can create toxic dioxin and other disinfection-by-products (DBPs) such as trihalomethane. Studies show that dioxin collects in your fatty tissues, and according to a draft report by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), dioxin a serious public health threat that has no "safe" level of exposure! Published reports show that even low or trace levels of dioxins may be linked to:
- Abnormal tissue growth in the abdomen and reproductive organs
- Abnormal cell growth throughout the body
- Immune system suppression
- Hormonal and endocrine system disruption
Meanwhile, the FDA's official stance regarding trace amounts of dioxins is that there are no expected health risks associated with trace amounts of dioxins in tampons... Naturally Savvy notes that 10 years ago, House Representative Carolyn Maloney introduced legislation that would have required research into the potential health risks of any ingredient used in feminine hygiene products, including endometriosis, cervical, ovary and breast cancers. Unfortunately, the legislation did not pass, and it does not appear that any such research has been done.
Could You Be Absorbing GMO’s Via Your Tampons?
Andrea discovered a number of shocking details about the potential hazards posed by tampons and sanitary pads during her research for the book, Label Lessons, such as3:
- Conventional tampons contain pesticides... Cotton crops make up just 2.4 percent of the world’s land, but each year a whopping $2 billion is spent on pesticides to spray this one crop.
- Tampons and pads with odor neutralizers and other artificial fragrances are nothing short of a chemical soup laced with artificial colors, polyester, adhesives, polyethylene (PET), polypropylene, and propylene glycol (PEG), contaminants linked to hormone disruption, cancer, birth defects, dryness, and infertility.
- Conventional tampons most probably contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). According the USDA, 94 percent of all the cotton planted in the US is genetically engineered.
As Andrea questions, is inserting a GMO tampon into your vagina several times every month any different than ingesting GMO food? For all we know it may be worse, considering the fact that your vaginal wall is highly permeable, allowing toxins direct access into your bloodstream — be it pesticide residue or a GMO protein.
Beware of Toxic Shock Syndrome
It’s important to remember that tampons can create a favorable environment for bacteria growth. Micro tears in the vaginal wall from tampons allow bacteria to enter and accumulate. One recognized risk from tampon use is Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), which may be caused by poisonous toxins from either Staphylococcus aureus (staph) or group A streptococcus (strep) bacteria. TSS can be a life-threatening condition, so it’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms. Should any of the following symptoms arise while using tampons during your period, make sure you seek medical help:
Sudden high fever Vomiting Diarrhea Low blood pressure Seizures Rash on palms or soles of feet Muscle aches Redness of your eyes, mouth and/or throat
To minimize your risk of this potentially life-threatening condition:
Avoid super absorbent tampons - choose the lowest absorbency rate to handle your flow Never leave a tampon inserted overnight; use overnight pads instead When inserting a tampon, be extremely careful not to scratch your vaginal lining (avoid plastic applicators) Alternate the use of tampons with sanitary napkins or mini-pads during your period Change tampons at least every 4-6 hours Do not use a tampon between periods
Many of today’s feminine hygiene products are made primarily from rayon, vicose, and cellulose wood fluff pulp… not cotton — let alone organic cotton. Rayon and viscose present a potential danger in part because of their highly absorbent fibers. When used in tampons, these fibers can stick to your vaginal wall, and when you remove the tampon, the loosened fibers stay behind inside your body, thereby raising your risk of TSS.
Fortunately, there are safer alternatives, and since the FDA regulates tampon absorbency, all tampons on the market must meet the same absorption guidelines. According to Dr. Philip Tierno, a Clinical Professor of Microbiology and Pathology at NYU Medical Centre, 100 percent cotton tampons “consistently test under detectable levels for TSS toxins.” Based on her own research, Andrea recommends the following brands of tampons and sanitary pads listed below. I’ve also created an exclusive line of organic cotton feminine hygiene products, which you can find in my online store.
- Diva Cup
- Seventh Generation Chlorine Free Organic Cotton Tampons
- Glad Rags Organic Pads
- Organyc 100% Organic Cotton Tampons
Take Action: Ask for Full Disclosure
To push for full disclosure labelling, Naturally Savvy has created a petition asking Procter & Gamble to disclose the ingredients in their feminine hygiene products. You can sign their petition here.
“Disclosing what’s in the products they make that go in and on women’s bodies should not be optional, it should be mandatory!” she writes. “We need companies to be accountable for the products they manufacture. We need to know ahead of time how to avoid the rayon, pesticide residue, GMO cotton, dioxins, chemical toxins, petrochemicals, and plastic often found in conventional feminine hygiene products. We need to have full disclosure labelling on tampons and pads so, as women, we can make informed decisions when it comes to the products we buy.”
For more information about the potential health risks posed by ingredients commonly used in feminine hygiene products, you may download the book Label Lessons: Your Guide to a Healthy Shopping Cart for free until June 26, 2013.
Dangers of Feminine Hygiene Products that Every Woman Needs to Know
Updated Report on Tampon Warning
By Dr. Mercola
As you're probably aware of by now, there's a war being waged against raw milk. While raw milk sales or distribution are legal in many US states, and progress has been made toward improving access, there’s strong opposition to this trend. Each victory is hard-won.
Our federal health agencies claim to be protecting us from this 'dangerous' product. As you walk down the aisles of junk food at your local grocery store, pass by the liquor section, and watch individuals buying cartons of cigarettes - you have to wonder is this really about our personal safety or the safety of the milk industry.
(A herdshare is a private agreement between a farmer and an individual in which the farmer is paid to take care of an animal, cow for example, that belongs to one or more people. You essentially pay a onetime purchase fee to “buy a share” of a farmer’s herd, which entitles you to the benefits of owning that cow, such as a certain amount of milk each week.)
On May 20, the trial of Wisconsin dairy farmer Vernon Hershberger began at the Sauk County Courthouse. Hershberger is charged with four criminal misdemeanors that could result in a jail sentence of up to 30 months, along with fines totaling more than $10,000.
As previously reported, Hershberger’s farm was targeted by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) for supplying a private buying club with raw milk and other fresh produce.
It’s important to realize that there’s much more at stake than what meets the eye here. As stated in the featured article by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund2:
“DATCP has charged Hershberger with, among other things, operating a retail food establishment without a license. Hershberger repeatedly rejects this, citing that he provides foods only to paid members in a private buying club and is not subject to state food regulations.
“There is more at stake here than just a farmer and his few customers,” says Hershberger, “this is about the fundamental right of farmers and consumers to engage in peaceful, private, mutually consenting agreements for food, without additional oversight.
... “Hershberger, and other farmers around the country, are facing state or federal charges against them for providing fresh foods to wanting individuals. In recent months the FDA has conducted several long undercover sting operations and raids against peaceful farmers and buying clubs that have resulted in farms shutting down and consumers without access to the food they depend on.”
Each day, following the day’s hearings, which began on May 20 and is expected to go on for about a month, supporters are scheduled to gather at the Al Ringling Theater across the street from the Sauk County Courthouse where leaders in the food rights movement will hold live presentations and lectures.
Scheduled speakers include Virginia farmer Joel Salatin, Mountain Man show star Eustace Conway, and food rights organizer from Maine, Deborah Evans.
Raw Grass-Fed Milk is SAFER than Pasteurized, So Why the Persecution?
One of the most common excuses given for why farmers are raided, prosecuted, and shut down is that raw foods may be potentially harmful to human health. But to think that pasteurized milk is safer than raw milk from a healthy, grass-fed cow is simply not true.
And for those of you who have been lucky enough to try this illegal product as raw dairy milk, cheese, and yogurt - you know what an incredible difference there is in taste and texture. Tests have shown substantial nutritional benefits from raw milk as well, over the pasteurized and defatted products you typically find at your grocery store.
While the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that raw milk can carry disease-causing bacteria, what they completely overlook is the fact that these bacteria are the result of industrial farming practices that lead to diseased animals, which may then in turn produce contaminated milk. They make no distinction whatsoever between disease-riddled factory farmed milk and the milk from clean, healthy, grass-fed cows.
The former MUST be pasteurized in order to be safe for consumption. The latter does not. You definitely avoid drinking any raw milk from a conventionally-raised feed-lot cow! But drinking raw milk produced by grass-fed cows from clean, well-run farms, on the other hand, is actually far LESS dangerous than drinking pasteurized milk. In fact, not only does raw milk contain good bacteria that are essential for a healthy digestive system, raw milk also offers protection against disease-causing bacteria.
CDC data3 shows there are about 412 confirmed cases of people getting ill from pasteurized milk each year, while only about 116 illnesses a year are linked to raw milk. And research by Dr. Ted Beals4, MD, featured in the summer 2011 issue of Wise Traditions, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, shows that you are about 35,000 times more likely to get sick from other foods than you are from raw milk!
The science is equally clear on the above points, but that’s not why farmers like Hershberger are getting slapped with criminal charges. The larger issue at stake is the issue of food freedom—the right to sell, buy, and consume fresh food that hasn’t been produced by some multinational conglomerate.
Farmers have been getting a raw deal for some time now, as the dairy industry wants to keep a majority of the profits in their pockets. The local farmer to consumer model is not very beneficial to the big corporations, as they have brought the farmers share of many of these products down to less than 7 cents to the dollar in the retail market. Manufacturers, distributors and retailers are taking the majority of the profits from the farmer's labor.
It’s really nothing more than Mafia strong arm tactics aimed at shutting down the competition. The reason why small-scale organic dairy farms are so threatening to the dairy industry is because they simply cannot produce safe raw milk in a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO). Cows raised under such conditions produce milk that must be pasteurized in order to be safe to drink, as the unnatural diet and environment dramatically alters the nutritional and bacterial composition of the milk.
Why are Farmers Being Jailed while Big Business Gets Off Scot Free?
Meanwhile, real criminal activities that place you and your family’s health at grave risk are being ignored, if not outright condoned, by the same agencies that are trying to jail small-scale farmers like Hershberger. For example, no less than 19 drug companies made AllBusiness.com's Top 100 Corporate Criminals List for the 1990s. Their crimes included defrauding Medicare, Medicaid, and even the FDA; international price-setting; false claims; hiding serious problems with their drugs and, in one case (Ortho, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson), obstruction of justice and eight counts of persuading employees to destroy documents in a federal investigation.
Yet not a single person from any of those companies has seen the inside of a jail cell. Not even when Pfizer was ordered to pay $2.3 billion to resolve criminal and civil charges relating to the painkiller Bextra in 2009, or when GlaxoSmithKline was found guilty in the largest health fraud settlement in US history last year.
Why is it that a company, which is run by individuals, can harm and kill tens of thousands of people and get off paying fines that really amount to pocket change, while small farmers face serious jail time for selling healthful food to willing buyers? We simply must band together to support our local farmers against such injustice, and protect your own right to buy and eat whatever food you see fit for your family.
Join the Fight for Food Freedom
The fight over raw milk stands as a symbol of the much larger fight for food freedom. Who gets to decide what you eat? You? Or the FDA? If the FDA and state agencies are allowed to impose their view of “safe food” on consumers, raw milk won’t be the only thing lost—all food will be pasteurized, irradiated, and genetically engineered. The effort to reclaim our right to buy and consume raw milk is leading the way for everyone who wants to be able to obtain the food of their choice from the source of their choice. So please, get involved! I urge you to get involved with the following action plan to protect your right to choose your own foods:
- Get informed: Visit www.farmtoconsumer.org or click here to sign up for action alerts.
- Join the fight for your rights: The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) is the only organization of its kind. This 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization provides a legal defense for farmers who are being pursued by the government for distributing foods directly to consumers. Your donations, although not tax deductible, will be used to support the litigation, legislative, and lobbying efforts of the FTCLDF. For a summary of FTCLDF’s activities in 2012, see this link.
- Support your local farmers: Buy from local farmers, not the industry that is working with the government to take away your freedoms.
How to Identify a High-Quality Producer of Raw Milk
If you're still unsure of where to find raw milk, you can locate a raw milk source near you at the Campaign for Real Milk Web site5. The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund6 (which helps farmers that have been raided and/or charged with a crime, like Hershberger) also provides a state-by-state review of raw milk laws7.
Getting your raw milk from a local organic farm is one of the best ways to ensure you're getting high quality milk. If you're thinking about purchasing milk from a small farmer, it would be very wise to visit the farm in person. Look around and ask questions, such as:
- Does the farmer and his family drink the milk themselves?
- How long has he been producing raw milk?
- Are the cows clean?
- What conditions are the cows raised in?
- Are there any obvious sanitation questions?
Additionally, look for the following general conditions. If a cow is covered in filth and manure, stinks, is wet and cold and doesn't look particularly comfortable, that could be a warning sign that her milk is less than ideal for raw consumption, even if it's from a small, local farm.
Low pathogenic bacteria count (ie does the farmer test his milk regularly for pathogens?) The milk comes from cows raised naturally, in accordance with the seasons The cows are not given antibiotics and growth hormones to increase milk production The milk is quickly chilled after milking The cows are mainly grass-fed Cows are well cared for
Support Your Local Farmers
Hershberger is just one of many farmers who has been unreasonably harassed and victimized in the war against raw food. There are many other examples. And every year there seems to be one bill or another aimed at taking away your rights to feed your family with whatever foods you see fit. For example, right now a new bill threatens to make herdshare illegal in North Dakota8.
This fight is about much more than just raw milk. It’s a fight for the most fundamental of rights—the right of farmers and consumers to engage in private, mutually consenting agreements for food, without additional oversight. We’re not dealing with drugs here. We’re dealing with FOOD!
Yet while Big Pharma can sell hazardous goods without major repercussions, farmers can’t sell healthful food without being harassed! This must end. One of the best ways you can support this movement is to support your local farmers by buying their food. You can also help make inroads by supporting the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund with a financial pledge.
Why is this "Unsafe" Food Banned When It's 35,000 Times SAFER Than Others?
The War Over Raw Milk