By Dr. Mercola
A recent article by CNN1 lists 25 ways to get healthier. Some of the suggestions certainly have merit, but it was more noteworthy for the many ridiculous tips they included, and some of the crucially important ones they neglected.
Actually, no surprises there, as the media is a mere reflection of the corrupted medical paradigm that focuses on treating symptoms rather than addressing the foundational causes of disease.
So, here’s my own list of the top dozen lifestyle strategies I believe can make the biggest difference in your health as they address most of the disruptions that are at the core of most health challenges.
#1. Add Sprouts to Your Diet
One of the most nutritious powerhouses to add to your diet are sprouts. They are an authentic “super” food that many overlook or have long stopped using. In addition to their nutritional profile, sprouts are also easy and fun to grow in your own home as they don’t require an outdoor garden.
They can contain up to 39 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, broccoli 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 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.
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 pea and sunflower sprouts. 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 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.
#2. Make Fermented Vegetables a Daily Staple
The importance of your gut flora and its influence on your health cannot be overstated. Your gut is home to countless bacteria, both beneficial and pathogenic. These bacteria outnumber the cells in your body by at least 10 to one, and maintaining the ideal balance of good and bad bacteria forms the foundation for good health – physical, mental and emotional. In fact, your gut literally serves as your second brain, and even produces more of the neurotransmitter serotonin than your brain does.
Cultured or fermented foods are essential for maintaining a healthy gut. The culturing process produces beneficial microbes, also known as probiotics, which help balance your intestinal flora. Fermented foods are also some of the best chelators available, capable of drawing out a wide range of toxins and heavy metals. Just a quarter to a half a cup of fermented vegetables per day is sufficient for most people. Ideally, you’ll want to include a variety of fermented or cultured foods, as each food will inoculate your gut with a variety of different microorganisms.
To learn how to easily ferment your own vegetables, see my interview with Caroline Barringer, a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and an expert in the preparation of the foods prescribed in Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride's Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) Nutritional Program. We are currently finishing some sophisticated DNA sequencing experiments on our new high dose vitamin K2 probiotic starter culture.
#3. Optimize Your Vitamin D Levels with Appropriate Sun Exposure
Vitamin D, once linked to only bone diseases such as rickets and osteoporosis, is now recognized as a major player in overall human health. There are only 30,000 genes in your body and vitamin D has been shown to influence over 2,000 of them. That’s one of the primary reasons it influences so many diseases, including diabetes, depression, heart disease and cancer, just to name a few. But while many focus on vitamin D supplementation, it's important to realize that the IDEAL way to optimize your vitamin D level is not by taking a pill, but rather allowing your body to do what it is designed to do – create vitamin D from sun exposure (or a safe tanning bed). Sunlight is superior to supplements for a number of reasons:
- It is natural. Our ancestors optimized their vitamin D levels by sun exposure, not by swallowing it in foods. Although vitamin D is in some animal foods, it is in relatively low quantities and to my knowledge there are no known ancestral populations that thrived on oral vitamin D sources
- When you expose your skin to the sun, your skin also synthesizes high amounts of cholesterol sulfate, which is very important for cardiovascular health. In fact, Dr. Stephanie Seneff, believes that high LDL and associated heart disease may in fact be a symptom of cholesterol sulfate deficiency. Sulfur deficiency, in fact, also promotes obesity and related health problems like diabetes
- Most experts believe you cannot overdose when getting your vitamin D from sun exposure, as your body has the ability to self-regulate production and only make what it needs
- When taking a high dose vitamin D supplement, you also need to boost your intake of vitamin K2, either from food or a supplement, in order to maintain the proper ratio. These two nutrients work in tandem, and vitamin K2 deficiency is actually what produces the symptoms of vitamin D toxicity, which includes inappropriate calcification that can lead to hardening of your arteries
- Sunlight has many additional health benefits unrelated to vitamin D production
#4. Intermittent Fasting
It's long been known that calorie restriction can improve metabolic disease risk markers and increase the lifespan of certain animals. More recent research suggests that intermittent fasting can provide the same health benefits as constant calorie restriction, which may be helpful for those who cannot successfully reduce their everyday calorie intake. I believe it’s one of the most powerful interventions out there if you’re struggling with your weight and related health issues. One of the primary reasons for this is because it helps shift your body from burning sugar/carbs to burning fat as its primary fuel.
Research has also shown that fasting can boost your body’s production of human growth hormone (HGH) by as much as 1,300 percent in women and 2,000 percent in men. HGH, commonly referred to as "the fitness hormone," plays an important role in maintaining health, fitness and longevity, including promotion of muscle growth, and boosting fat loss by revving up your metabolism. Other health benefits of intermittent fasting include:
Normalizing your insulin and leptin sensitivity, which is key for optimal health Improving biomarkers of disease Normalizing ghrelin levels, also known as "the hunger hormone" Reducing inflammation and lessening free radical damage Lowering triglyceride levels Preserving memory functioning and learning
A simple way to incorporate intermittent fasting into your lifestyle is to simply time your meals to allow for regular periods of fasting in between. To be effective, the length of your fast must be at least eight hours long. This means eating only between the hours of 11am until 7pm each day, as an example. Essentially, this equates to simply skipping breakfast, and making lunch your first meal of the day instead.
#5. Incorporate High Intensity Interval Training into Your Exercise Routine
Compelling and ever-mounting research shows that the ideal form of exercise is short bursts of high intensity exercise. Not only does it beat conventional cardio as the most effective and efficient form of exercise, it also provides health benefits you simply cannot get from regular aerobics, such as a tremendous boost in human growth hormone (HGH), aka the “fitness hormone,” which is essential for optimal health, strength and vigor.
HIIT has also been shown to significantly improve insulin sensitivity, boost fat loss, and increase muscle growth. Best of all, high intensity exercises are so efficient, you can get all the benefits you need in just a 20-minute session, start to finish, performed twice or a max of three times per week.
The key factor that makes interval training so effective is intensity. To reap maximum results, you need to work out at maximum intensity, with rest periods in between spurts. If you are using exercise equipment, I recommend using a recumbent bicycle or an elliptical machine for your high-intensity interval training, although you certainly can use a treadmill, or sprint anywhere outdoors. (Keep in mind that if you intend to sprint outside, be very careful about stretching prior to sprinting. Also, unless you are already an athlete, I would strongly advise against sprinting, as several people I know became injured doing it the first time that way.)
You can also modify your weight training routine to turn it into a high intensity exercise. This is done by slowing it down. The super-slow movement allows your muscle, at the microscopic level, to access the maximum number of cross-bridges between the protein filaments that produce movement in the muscle. To learn more, check out my interview with Dr. Doug McGuff – an emergency room physician who is also an expert in high-intensity interval training.
An important dietary adjunct that will help you get the most out of your high intensity training is to avoid fructose. If you consume sugar or fructose, especially within two hours post-exercise, you will increase somatostatin (also known as growth hormone-inhibiting hormone), which will in turn obliterate the production of growth hormone that you’d otherwise get from your high intensity exercise. So avoid commercial sports drinks, juices, enhanced water products and any other beverage containing fructose, and stick to pure water. If you need to replenish electrolytes, coconut water is an excellent alternative but it’s only recommended if you’re exercising intensely and sweating profusely. Otherwise, the high sugar content can be counterproductive.
#6. Get High Quality Sleep
Sleep is such an important part of your overall health that no amount of healthful food and exercise can counteract the ill effects of poor sleeping habits. Poor sleep has been linked to a number of health ailments, including short-term memory loss, behavioral problems, weight gain, diabetes, increased risk of heart disease and cancer. Sleep deprivation also prematurely ages you by interfering with your growth hormone production, normally released by your pituitary gland during deep sleep (and during high intensity Peak Fitness exercises discussed above). Growth hormone helps you look and feel younger.
Most people need somewhere around seven to eight hours of sleep per night, but sleep needs are highly individual, and tend to vary depending on your current state of health and stress levels as well. If you still feel sleepy upon waking or feel like you need a nap during the day, you’re probably not getting enough.
Whether you have difficulty falling asleep, waking up too often, or feeling inadequately rested when you wake up in the morning – or maybe you simply want to improve the quality of your sleep – I strongly recommend reviewing my special report on improving your sleep hygiene.
If you feel well-rested in the morning, that's a good sign that your sleep habits are just fine. But if not, you might want to investigate your sleep patterns more closely. ZEO is an innovative sleep measurement device that allows you to perform a personalized 'sleep study' from the comfort of your own home. The beauty of this device is that it lets you evaluate how various factors affect your sleep. For example, you can evaluate how your sleep was affected by a cup of coffee in the afternoon, or how doing computer work past a certain hour impacted your sleep.
You could actually go through my 33 recommendations for improving your sleep and evaluate the effects of each one if you wanted to. I recommend using the less expensive mobile sleep manager as that will allow you scan your brainwaves without transmitting the data until the morning when you awake and manually transfer to your smart phone or tablet via Bluetooth.
#7. Get Grounded
Did you know the energy from the Earth can help you live a healthier life? The concept is known as earthing or grounding, which is nothing more than walking barefoot; grounding your body to the Earth. You can connect any part of your skin to the Earth, but one is especially potent, and that's right in the middle of the ball of your foot; a point known to acupuncturists as Kidney 1 (K1). It's a well-known point that conductively connects to all of the acupuncture meridians and essentially connects to every nook and cranny of your body.
Compelling research shows that lack of grounding has a lot to do with the rise of modern diseases.
When you're grounded, there's a transfer of free electrons from the Earth into your body. And these free electrons are probably the most potent antioxidants known to man. Any free radicals they encounter in your tissues will immediately be electrically neutralized. This occurs because the electrons are negative, while the free radicals are positive, so they cancel each other out.
Another very important discovery, and one of the most recent, is that grounding thins your blood, making it less viscous. This can have a profound impact on cardiovascular disease, which is now the number one killer in the world. Virtually every aspect of cardiovascular disease has been correlated with elevated blood viscosity. It can also help protect against blood clots.
The ideal location for walking barefoot is the beach, close to or in the water, as sea water is a great conductor. Your body also contains mostly water, so it creates a good connection. A close second would be a grassy area, especially if it's covered with dew, which is what you'd find if you walk early in the morning. Concrete is a good conductor as long as it hasn't been sealed; painted concrete does not allow electrons to pass through very well. Materials like asphalt, wood, and typical insulators like plastic or the soles of your shoes, will not allow electrons to pass through and are not suitable for barefoot grounding.
Exercising barefoot outdoors is one of the most wonderful, inexpensive and powerful ways of incorporating earthing into your daily life and will also help speed up tissue repair and ease muscle pain due to strenuous exercise.
#8. Drink Pure Water
Your body requires a constant daily supply of water to fuel all the various waste filtration systems nature has designed to keep your body healthy and free of toxins. Your blood, your kidneys, and your liver all require a source of good clean water to detoxify your body from the toxic exposures you come into contact with every day.
When you give your body water that is filled with toxins leached from plastic, by-products from chlorination, volatile organic compounds, or water that is contaminated by pesticides, fluoride, or prescription drugs, you are asking your body to work twice as hard at detoxification, because it must first detoxify the water you are drinking, before that water can be used to fuel your organs of detoxification!
Clearly, the most efficient way help your body both avoid and eliminate toxins is to provide your body with the cleanest, purest water you can find. This is easily done by installing one or more types of water filtration systems in your house.
If you could only afford one filter, there is no question in most experts' minds that the shower filter is the most important product to buy for water filtration, even more important than filtering your tap water. This is because the damage you incur through your skin and lungs far surpasses the damage done by drinking water (which at least gives your body a fighting chance to eliminate the toxins through your organs of elimination).
An even better solution to the problem of harsh chemicals and toxins in your home's water supply is to install a whole house water filtration system. There's just one water line coming into your house. Putting a filter on this is the easiest and simplest strategy you can implement to take control of your health by ensuring the water and the air in your house is as clean as possible. To learn more about different types of water and water filtration systems, please see my special report on this topic.
#9. Limit Processed Foods and Replace Non-Veggie Carbs with Healthy Fats
Two of the most powerful dietary interventions I know of are 1) limiting or eliminating processed foods and 2) replacing non-vegetable carbohydrates and excess protein with healthful fats. Beneficial fats include avocados, coconut oil, olives, olive oil, butter and nuts. Wild Alaskan salmon is also a powerhouse of nutrition, providing critical omega-3 fats. As a general rule, when you cut down on carbs, you need to increase your fat consumption. Both are sources of much-needed energy, but fats are a source of energy that is far more ideal than carbohydrates. Replacing carbs with more protein is not a wise choice as it can produce similar adverse hormonal changes as burning non-vegetable carbs.
For a comprehensive guide on which foods to eat and which to avoid, see my nutrition plan. Generally speaking, you should be looking to focus your diet on whole, ideally organic and/or locally grown, unprocessed foods. For the best nutrition and health benefits, you will want to eat a good portion of your food raw.
Processed foods are notoriously high in fructose, not to mention artificial additives. All forms of sugar (but fructose in particular) have toxic effects when consumed in excess, and drive multiple disease processes in your body, not the least of which is insulin resistance, a major cause of chronic disease and accelerated aging. Replacing non-vegetable carbs with healthful fats will also optimize your insulin and leptin levels, which is key for maintaining a healthy weight and optimal health.
Most people eat far too much protein. Like many areas of health there is a “Goldilocks” dose that provides most of the benefits and minimal side effects. Dr. Rosedale believes that the ideal amount is about one gram per pound of lean body weight unless you are pregnant or doing competitive athletics. But that is a level that will more than supply your body’s amino acid needs without sacrificing your health.
#10. Avoid Toxins
Volumes of books could be written on modern day toxic exposures, but while it may be impossible to list every possibility, if you avoid the most notorious offenders, you’ll be way ahead of the game. In general, this includes tossing out your toxic household cleaners, personal hygiene products, air fresheners, bug sprays, lawn pesticides, and insecticides, just to name a few, and replacing them with non-toxic alternatives. In terms of specific toxins, some of the most hazardous yet commonly encountered ones include:
- Mercury – found in dental amalgams and fish.
- Fluoride – found in toothpaste, fluoridated water, and non-organic food (due to the widespread use of fluoride-based pesticides. For example, conventionally-grown iceberg lettuce can contain as much as 180 ppm of fluoride – 180 times higher than what's recommended in drinking water).
- EMFs. Electromagnetic field exposures are becoming increasingly pervasive and they can interact unfavorably with your biology. So please review the many previous articles we have written on this subject to learn more.
- Bisphenol-A (BPA) and Bisphenol-S (BPS) – Used in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastics, bisphenols are estrogen mimicking chemicals that can leach into food or drinks from the plastic containers holding them. These chemicals are known to be particularly dangerous for pregnant women, infants and children.
To avoid plastic toxins such as bisphenols, opt for glass over plastic, especially when it comes to products that will come into contact with food or beverages, or those intended for pregnant women, infants and children. This applies to canned goods as well, which are a major source of BPA (and possibly other chemicals) exposure, so whenever you can, choose jarred goods over canned goods, or opt for fresh instead. Another good idea is to ditch plastic teething toys for your little ones and choose natural wood or fabric varieties instead.
- Phthalates – found in soft plastics such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), as well as many toiletries, including shampoo, toothpaste, and cosmetics. Phthalates is one of the most pervasive type of endocrine disrupting chemicals discovered so far, and have been linked to a wide range of developmental and reproductive “gender-bending” effects. Twelve tips for avoiding common sources of phthalates, see this previous article.
#11. Have Great Tools to Address Your Stress
Research has linked emotional stress to a wide variety of health problems, including physical pain, chronic inflammation,2 stillbirths,3 lowered immune function, increased blood pressure, altered brain chemistry, increased tumor growth4 and more. Even the conservative Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 85 percent of all disease has an emotional element.
Clearly, it is not possible or even recommended to eliminate stress entirely. However, you can work to provide your body with tools to compensate for the bioelectrical short-circuiting that can cause serious disruption in many of your body's important systems. By using energy psychology techniques such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), you can reprogram how your body responds to the unavoidable stressors of everyday life so that “the little things” no longer pose such a great threat to your health.
Exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and meditation are also important “release valves” that can help you manage your stress. EFT is akin to acupuncture, which is based on the concept that a vital energy flows through your body along invisible pathways known as meridians. EFT stimulates different energy meridian points in your body by tapping them with your fingertips, while simultaneously using custom-made verbal affirmations. This can be done alone or under the supervision of a qualified therapist.5 Since these stressors are usually connected to physical problems, many people’s diseases and other symptoms can improve or disappear as well.
#12. Replace Drugs with Natural Alternatives that Address the Cause
Last but certainly not least, replacing drugs with natural alternatives, or better yet, addressing the lifestyle factors that are causing your health problem in the first place, are your best bets if you want to avoid becoming a disease- or pharmaceutical-mortality statistic.
Drugs are known to cause well over 125,000 deaths per year in the US when taken correctly as prescribed. This is not so surprising when you consider the average drug label lists 70 potential adverse reactions. Overall, drugs are 62,000 times more likely to kill you than nutritional supplements, and 7,750 times more likely to kill you than herbal remedies. According to the US National Poison Data System,6 the following drug categories are among the most lethal:
Analgesics, sedatives, hypnotics, and antipsychotics Cardiovascular drugs Opioids Acetaminophen combinations Antidepressants Muscle relaxants Anti-inflammatories Antacids Anticoagulants Antihistamines
The vast majority of health problems are in fact responsive to appropriate lifestyle changes – the most important of which have been covered above. Type 2 diabetes, for example, is not only wholly preventable, it’s virtually 100 percent reversible through diet and exercise alone. Even cancer has been shown to be responsive to such measures. Scientists are seriously looking into a number of dietary treatment alternatives, such as ketogenic- and anti-angiogenesis-type diets.
For example, research led by Dr. Dominic D'Agostino has found that when lab animals are fed a carb-free diet, they survive highly aggressive metastatic cancer better than those treated with chemotherapy. The reason a ketogenic diet can have such a dramatic (and rapid) effect on cancer is because all of your body’s cells are fueled by glucose. This includes cancer cells. However, cancer cells have one built-in fatal flaw – they do not have the metabolic flexibility of your regular cells and cannot adapt to use ketone bodies for fuel as all your other cells can.
So, when you alter your diet and become what’s known as “fat-adapted,” your body starts using fat for fuel rather than carbs. When you switch out the carbs for healthy fats, you starve the cancer out, as you’re no longer supplying the necessary fuel – glucose – for their growth. Intermittent fasting, discussed above, is one of the most powerful ways I know of to become fat adapted.
By Dr. Mercola
The fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) diagnostic "bible" – the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM) – is due out in May 2013.
DSM-5 contains an ever-expanding list of mental illnesses, along with detailed criteria that psychiatrists and other mental health professionals use for making diagnoses.
But many critics have emerged, including a group of opponents referred to as the International DSM-5 Response Committee, who are launching a campaign to block the manual’s release, or at least warn practitioners and patients alike to take its definitions of mental illness with a serious grain of salt …
Turning Healthy People Into Mental Illness Patients
According to some, the new version of the manual will label healthy people with a mental condition and make them prime candidates for unnecessary prescriptions of mind-altering antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs.
At the center of the anti-DSM-5 movement is Dr. Allen Frances, author of "Saving Normal: An Insider's Revolt Against Out of Control Psychiatric Diagnosis, DSM-5, Big Pharma and the Medicalization of Ordinary Life."
Dr. Frances actually led the task force that produced the last edition of the manual, DSM-4, which he now believes has resulted in the over-medicalization and over-diagnosis of mental illnesses.
Frances told CNN:1
"What motivates me is the experience of having inadvertently contributed to fads and psycho-diagnosis that have resulted in over-diagnosis and over-treatment … Some of this happened during DSM IV, even though we were more conservative with that document than they've been with DSM-5, with its many changes that are unsupported and, in some cases, quite reckless."
Normal Emotions Classified as Disorders?
The soon-to-be-released DSM-5 contains a myriad of questionable new disorders that could result in turning virtually anyone experiencing normal human life challenges and emotions into a patient.
For instance, “somatic symptom disorder” describes a person who has spent six months or more thinking about and being anxious about their medical issues. This, Frances explained, would incorrectly apply to about one in four people with chronic pain or irritable bowel syndrome, he told CNN.
Then there is "Internet use disorder," which will be recommended as an area that needs further study in DSM-5. Internet use disorder includes many characteristics of any addiction, such as experiencing withdrawal symptoms when the object of addiction is taken away, an inability to control its use, developing a tolerance to it, deceiving family members about its use, and losing interests in other hobbies.
In this case, of course, the object of abuse is the Internet. By making Internet addiction a certifiable mental illness, it then becomes treatable by drugs and billable through insurance companies―and morphs into a "disorder" that is likely something that will stigmatize your health records for the rest of your life.
Millions of Americans, including me, use the Internet on a daily basis, many for hours on end, so the potential treatment market for "Internet use disorder" is huge.
Even Grief is a Mental 'Illness'
Also according to DSM-5, you may actually have an "Adjustment Disorder" related to bereavement if:2
"Following the death of a close family member or close friend, the individual experiences on more days than not intense yearning or longing for the deceased, intense sorrow and emotional pain, or preoccupation with the deceased or the circumstances of the death for at least 12 months (or 6 months for children). The person may also display difficulty accepting the death, intense anger over the loss, a diminished sense of self, a feeling that life is empty, or difficulty planning for the future or engaging in activities or relationships."
These all sound like normal reactions following the death of a loved one, but the DSM-5 also proposes further study for Persistent Complex Bereavement Disorder, with the purpose being to "develop the best empirically-based set of symptoms to characterize individuals with bereavement-related disorders."
Close to 2.5 million Americans die each year, and the number of those experiencing grief as a result is far higher. This is the market the pharmaceutical industry stands to gain, thanks to the APA's trigger-happy attitude when it comes to labeling normal human emotions as psychiatric "disorders."
Many of the Mental Illnesses in the DSM are Subjective
It's almost impossible to see a psychiatrist today without being diagnosed with a mental disorder because so many behavior variations are described as pathology. And you have very high chance – approaching 100% -- of emerging from your psychiatrist's office with a prescription in hand. Writing a prescription is, of course, much faster than engaging in behavioral or lifestyle strategies, but it's also a far more lucrative approach for the conventional model.
What makes this scenario all the more frustrating is the fact that virtually none of the mental disorders described in the DSM can be objectively measured by empirical tests.3 In other words, they're completely subjective. Mental illness symptoms within this manual are arbitrarily assigned by a subjective voting system by a psychiatric panel. So, they're essentially making up diseases to fit the drugs—not the other way around. Following are some actual “diseases” in the DSM:
- Do you shop too much? You might have Compulsive Shopping Disorder.
- Do you have a difficult time with multiplication? You could be suffering from Dyscalculia.
- Spending too much time at the gym? You'd better see someone for your Bigorexia or Muscle Dysmorphia.
- And my favorite—are your terrified by the number 13? You could have Triskaidekaphobia!
Neurologists Say ADHD Drugs Should Not be Used as 'Study Drugs'
Adderall, which contains amphetamine (aka "speed") and dextroamphetamine, is a stimulant drug that is often prescribed to improve attention and focus and reduce impulsiveness and hyperactivity in patients with ADHD.
But because of its stimulant properties, it's become a black-market drug of choice for college kids looking to pull all-nighters to boost their grades. An estimated one in 10 college students abuse Adderall as a way to gain a competitive edge in their studies, often comparing it to athletes who use steroids.4 But the pills have a dark side, often quickly leading to addiction and causing other side effects like mood swings, insomnia, depression and panic attacks.
College students who use Adderall as a "study drug" acquired from the black market is a large enough problem on its own, but in some cases physicians prescribe these drugs to healthy kids for this very same purpose, a trend sometimes called “pediatric neuroenhancement.” The practice has become so commonplace that the American Academy of Neurology has released a formal statement against it, noting:5
“In children and adolescents, neuroenhancement appears to be increasing in parallel to the rising rates of attention-deficit disorder diagnoses and stimulant medication prescriptions, and the opportunities for medication diversion. Pediatric neuroenhancement remains a particularly unsettled and value-laden practice, often without appropriate goals or justification.
Pediatric neuroenhancement presents its own ethical, social, legal, and developmental issues, including the fiduciary responsibility of physicians caring for children, the special integrity of the doctor–child–parent relationship, the vulnerability of children to various forms of coercion, distributive justice in school settings, and the moral obligation of physicians to prevent misuse of medication.… neuroenhancement in legally and developmentally nonautonomous children and adolescents without a diagnosis of a neurologic disorder is not justifiable.”
Even if the drugs do give students a competitive edge against their non-medicated peers, it’s unclear how any physician would consider this worth the risk. Drugs like Adderall are powerful, mind-altering medications linked to growth suppression, increased blood pressure and psychotic episodes. In children, the impacts of their long-term use are completely unknown, although given the drug's addictive nature, it's quite possible these kids could become life-long addicts.
5 Tips to Support Your Mental Health
My heart goes out to you if you, or someone you love, is struggling with mental illness. The solutions offered below will often help you to overcome your battle in the long run, but in no way are they meant to minimize the complicated puzzle of mental illness, or the extreme toll it can take on family units and in some cases extended circles of friends.
Whether you’re facing depression or another mental condition, these strategies have nothing but positive effects and are generally very inexpensive to implement. Plus, they can be used for both children and adults alike, and work great when implemented with your entire family involved.
- Exercise – If you have depression, or even if you just feel down from time to time, exercise is a MUST. The research is overwhelmingly positive in this area, with studies confirming that physical exercise is at least as good as antidepressants for helping people who are depressed. One of the primary ways it does this is by increasing the level of endorphins, the "feel good" hormones, in your brain.
- Address your stress -- Depression is a very serious condition, however it is not a "disease." Rather, it's a sign that your body and your life are out of balance. This is so important to remember, because as soon as you start to view depression as an "illness," you think you need to take a drug to fix it. In reality, all you need to do is return balance to your life, and one of the key ways to doing this is addressing stress.
Meditation or yoga can help. Sometimes all you need to do is get outside for a walk. But in addition to that, I also recommend using a solid support system composed of friends, family and, if necessary, professional counselors, who can help you work through your emotional stress. The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is also often effective.
- Eat a healthy diet -- Another factor that cannot be overlooked is your diet. Foods have an immense impact on your mood and ability to cope and be happy, and eating whole foods as described in my nutrition plan will best support your mental health. Avoiding fructose, sugar and grains will help normalize your insulin and leptin levels, which is another powerful tool in addressing positive mental health.
- Support optimal brain functioning with essential fats -- I also strongly recommend supplementing your diet with a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fat, like krill oil. Omega-3 fats are essential for your optimal brain function, and that includes regulating your mood and fighting depression. In fact, the evidence has become so compelling that some experts in the field encourage all mental health professionals to ensure that their patients suffering from depression have an adequate intake of omega-3 fats.
- Get plenty of sunshine – Making sure you're getting enough sunlight exposure to have healthy vitamin D levels is also a crucial factor in treating depression or keeping it at bay. Vitamin D deficiency is actually more the norm than the exception, and has previously been implicated in both psychiatric and neurological disorders.
Internet Addiction is the New Mental Health Disorder
ADHD Drugs Prescribed to Poor Children to ‘Help’ in School
By Dr. Mercola
I’ve recently written a couple of articles about the exorbitant cost of medical care in the US, which is incompatible with the poor health outcomes of Americans at large.
Americans pay the most for but reap the least amount of benefits from their health care, compared to other industrialized nations. Overcharging and over-treating are two factors contributing to this enormous problem.
Andrew Weil, author of You Can't Afford to Get Sick: Your Guide to Optimum Health and Health Care, recently jumped into the fray with an article on CNN1 and a full one-hour long CNN documentary. The documentary is called Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare, which CNN premiered on March 10. Weil writes:
“The most insistent political question of the past four years has been: How can more Americans get access to medical care?
The federal response was the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Better known as 'Obamacare,' it is a complex mix of insurance changes and tax credits. When the act takes effect on January 1, 2014, it will provide access to insurance to about 30 million people who currently don't have it.
Unfortunately, that was the wrong question. So the looming 'answer' is wrong as well. Here's the right question: How can we improve medical care so that it's worth extending it to more people? In other words, how can we create a health care system that helps people become and stay healthy?”
Disease-Management versus Health Care
I could not agree more with Weil’s statement that the US does not have a health care system; we have a disease-management system.
It’s a system that is wholly dependent on expensive drugs and invasive surgeries, opposed to preventive measures and simpler, less expensive treatment alternatives. In short, it’s a system rooted in an ideal of maximized profits, opposed to helping people maintain or regain their health.
The majority of the diseases we’re trying to “manage” in this manner are lifestyle-related, and if you don’t address this root cause, you’ll never get better. You’re just paying for overpriced band-aids that do absolutely nothing to fix the underlying cause.
As Weil states:
“Making this system more accessible by passing costs to taxpayers will simply spread its failures more broadly.”
Like myself, Weil promotes integrative medicine (IM) as a better alternative to the current system. IM offers a combination of conventional medical therapies and complementary or alternative therapies "for which there is some high-quality scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness."
Placing greater emphasis on prevention, IM fosters long-term health, and when disease does set in, conventional drug and surgery approaches are used sparingly and/or as a last resort.
Our current system does the exact opposite. Drugs and surgery are employed FIRST, and then, when the patient has exhausted all conventional avenues, he or she will sometimes turn to alternative therapies or nutritional interventions out of sheer desperation, on their own (and at their own expense).
Frequently this is what ends up saving that person’s life... Unfortunately, many have been financially ruined by the time they’ve wound their way through the conventional system.
Escape Fire takes a deeper look at the problems inherent with our medical system; the cause of the problems and its devastating effects, and provides some hopeful solutions. Weil issued the following highlights from the film:
- The torturous journey of Sgt. Robert Yates, an injured veteran wounded in Afghanistan. He was prescribed a shopping bag full of prescription medications that left him broken and miserable in body, mind and spirit. Watching Yates begin to regain his health through gentle, low-cost therapies, including meditation and acupuncture, is profoundly moving.
- A look at the revolutionary Safeway Healthy Measures Program. It gives the supermarket chain's employees financial incentives for taking responsibility for their own health, decreasing Safeway's insurance costs significantly while improving participants' well-being.
- The dramatic story of Dr. Erin Martin, an Oregon primary care physician fed up with being pushed to treat patients faster and faster to boost clinic profits. She enrolled in the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine's Fellowship Program to find a better way, explaining that "I'm not interested in getting my productivity up -- I'm interested in helping patients."
Why the Affordable Health Care Act is Unlikely to Benefit Your Health
Last fall, I gave a presentation at Harper College, in which I discussed the Affordable Health Care Act, and why it’s likely to make matters far worse rather than better. It’s important to understand that guaranteed health insurance does NOT equate to guaranteed health care.
A major part of the problem is that the Act does not include any strategies designed to actually prevent illness. It also does not contain any measures to rein in or reduce out-of-control health care costs related to overcharges. Instead it expands an already flawed model of “care” that has been and continues to be a leading cause of both death and bankruptcy in the US.
- Americans spend twice as much on health care per capita than any other country in the world; in fact according to a series of studies by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co, the US spends more on health care than the next 10 biggest spenders combined: Japan, Germany, France, China, the U.K., Italy, Canada, Brazil, Spain, and Australia.
- A review of U.S. healthcare expenses by the Institutes of Medicine2 last year revealed that 30 cents of every dollar spent on medical care is wasted, adding up to $750 billion annually. Exorbitant hospital costs are a leading cause of this overspending
- According to a 2011 report by the global consulting firm Milliman, annual healthcare costs for the average American family of four, if covered by a preferred provider organization, is still a staggering $19,3933
- As opposed to other countries, American laws prevent the government from restraining drug prices. Federal law even prevents the single largest drug buyer - Medicare - from negotiating drug prices
- Overall, Americans pay 50 percent more than other countries for identical drugs. This year alone, the US will spend more than $280 billion on prescription drugs. If Americans paid the same prices other countries pay for the same products, we’d save about $94 billion a year
We Need a Whole New System of Medicine
When it comes to medical charges, you the buyer are completely separated from the seller or provider. There’s absolutely no market feedback to regulate and control the prices that are charged, whether they are related to medications or hospital/treatment charges. For the most part, drug makers and hospitals are allowed to charge as much as they want, which plays a large role on why these charges have gotten so outrageously out of control. This simply does not happen in countries outside of the US.
As a result, more than half, or approximately 60 percent, of all personal bankruptcies in the US are related to medical bills. Even more remarkably, the majority of those bankruptcies are among people WITH health insurance... Weil writes:
“The film [Escape Fire] takes its name from the practice of setting a small fire to clear out nearby brush, allowing a fast-advancing forest fire to pass by harmlessly. Will we be sufficiently clear-eyed and rational to take a similarly bold action to avoid disaster wrought by our dysfunctional health care system? I hope so. In the film, I say, 'The present system doesn't work, and it's going to take us down. We need a whole new kind of medicine.'"
This new system needs to address preventive strategies, and allow for less expensive, less invasive and more health-promoting alternatives as the first line of treatment. This automatically means reduced profits for the medical industry as a whole, but the pharmaceutical industry in particular would have to relinquish its grasp on its greatest cash cow, the American drug consumer.
When you consider how far Big Pharma has gone to manipulate the political system to its advantage, lobbying for laws to protect and bolster its profits even to the detriment of the country as a whole, this is not going to happen overnight. But you don’t have to wait for the system to change. You can take control of your own health in the meantime, and proactively work to protect not only your life but your pocketbook as well. At the end of this article, I will list a few of my top healthy lifestyle considerations, the most important of which is proper food choices.
Most of the Leading Causes of Death are Preventable
Still, there is light at the end of the tunnel because you CAN take control of your health - you don't have to listen to and abide by this system that makes and keeps you sick in order to make multinational corporations wealthy.
The majority of deaths are due to chronic, not acute, disease. And most chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, are largely preventable with simple lifestyle changes. Even infectious diseases like the flu can often be warded off by a healthy way of life. Just imagine the lowered death toll, not to mention costs to the economy, if more people decided to take control of their health … heart disease and cancer alone accounted for 47 percent of deaths in the United States in 2010, and there are many strategies you can implement to lower your risk of these diseases.
The added bonus to this is that the healthier you are, the less you will need to rely on conventional medical care, which is a leading cause of death. So what does a "healthy lifestyle" entail? The following is a short list of the basics expounded upon in my nutrition plan:
- Proper Food Choices
For a comprehensive guide on which foods to eat and which to avoid, see my nutrition plan. It's available for free, and is perhaps one of the most comprehensive and all-inclusive guides on a healthy lifestyle out there. Generally speaking, you should be looking to focus your diet on whole, ideally organic, unprocessed foods that come from healthy, sustainable, ideally local, sources.
For the best nutrition and health benefits, you will want to eat a good portion of your food raw. Nearly as important as knowing which foods to eat more of is knowing which foods to avoid, and topping the list is fructose. Sugar, and fructose in particular, can act as a toxin in and of itself when consumed in excess, and as such drive multiple disease processes in your body, not the least of which is insulin resistance, a major cause of accelerated aging and virtually all chronic disease.
For most people (although there are clearly individual differences), a diet high in healthful fats (as high as 50-70 percent of the calories you eat), moderate amounts of high quality protein, which is far less than the average amount most people eat, with the bulk of carbohydrates coming from vegetables and very low or no carbohydrates from grains and sugars, will set you on the right track toward health.
- Comprehensive Exercise Program, including High-Intensity Exercise
Even if you're eating the healthiest diet in the world, you still need to exercise to reach the highest levels of health, and you need to be exercising effectively, which means including not only core-strengthening exercises, strength training, and stretching but also high-intensity activities into your rotation. High-intensity interval-type training boosts human growth hormone (HGH) production, which is essential for optimal health, strength and vigor. I've discussed the importance of Peak Fitness for your health on numerous occasions, so for more information, please review this previous article.
- Stress Reduction and Positive Thinking
You cannot be optimally healthy if you avoid addressing the emotional component of your health and longevity, as your emotional state plays a role in nearly every physical disease -- from heart disease and depression, to arthritis and cancer. Effective coping mechanisms are a major longevity-promoting factor in part because stress has a direct impact on inflammation, which in turn underlies many of the chronic diseases that kill people prematurely every day. Meditation, prayer, energy psychology tools such as the Emotional Freedom Technique, social support and exercise are all viable options that can help you maintain emotional and mental equilibrium.
- Optimize Vitamin D with Proper Sun Exposure
We have long known that it is best to get your vitamin D from appropriate sun exposure during times when UVB rays are present. Vitamin D plays an important role in preventing numerous illnesses ranging from cancer to the flu.
The important factor when it comes to vitamin D is your serum level, which should ideally be between 50-70 ng/ml year-round. Sun exposure or a safe tanning bed is the preferred method for optimizing vitamin D levels, but a vitamin D3 supplement can be used when necessary. Most adults need about 8,000 IU's of vitamin D a day to achieve serum levels above 40 ng/ml, which is still just below the minimum recommended serum level of 50 ng/ml.
Be aware that if you take supplemental vitamin D, you also need to make sure you're getting enough vitamin K2, as these two nutrients work in tandem to ensure calcium is distributed into the proper areas in your body. Vitamin K2 deficiency is actually what produces the symptoms of vitamin D toxicity, which includes inappropriate calcification that can lead to hardening of your arteries.
While the ideal or optimal ratios between vitamin D and vitamin K2 have yet to be elucidated, Dr. Kate Rheaume-Bleue, author of Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox: How a Little Known Vitamin Could Save Your Life, suggests that for every 1,000 IU's of vitamin D you take, you may benefit from about 100 micrograms of K2, and perhaps as much as 150-200 micrograms (mcg).
Fermented vegetables can be a great source of vitamin K if you ferment your own using the proper starter culture. We recently had samples of high-quality fermented organic vegetables made with our specific starter culture tested, and a two to three ounce serving contained about 500 mcg of vitamin K.
- High Quality Animal-Based Omega-3 Fats
Animal-based omega-3 fat like krill oil is a strong factor in helping people live longer, and many experts believe that it is likely the predominant reason why the Japanese are the longest lived race on the planet.
- Avoid as Many Chemicals, Toxins, and Pollutants as PossibleThis includes tossing out your toxic household cleaners, soaps, personal hygiene products, air fresheners, bug sprays, lawn pesticides, and insecticides, just to name a few, and replacing them with non-toxic alternatives.
Americans are Less Healthy, and Die Sooner Than People in Other Developed Nations
Kills More People Than Heart Disease or Cancer (But Hardly Anyone Knows)
By Dr. Mercola
Americans spend twice as much on health care per capita than any other country in the world; in fact according to a series of studies by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co, the US spends more on health care than the next 10 biggest spenders combined: Japan, Germany, France, China, the U.K., Italy, Canada, Brazil, Spain, and Australia.
Despite that, we rank dead last in terms of quality of care among industrialized countries, and Americans are far sicker and live shorter lives than people in other nations. How is that possible? The short answer is: We’re being fleeced.
In the video above, CNN interviews a family blindsided by medical bills amounting to more than $474,000 after 60-year-old Bob Weinkoff spent just a few days in the ICU, suffering from difficulty breathing.
According to a 2011 report by the global consulting firm Milliman, annual healthcare costs for the average American family of four, if covered by a preferred provider organization, is a staggering $19,393.1
Between 2002 and 2011 alone, the average cost of health care for American families doubled, and since absolutely nothing is being done to rein in the absurd overcharges, there’s every reason to believe costs will continue to skyrocket until the bottom falls out.
Cancer treatments, in particular, have increasingly become exorbitantly expensive, even though no one can explain exactly why it has to cost upwards of $1 million.
By dissecting the medical bills people have received, journalist and author Steven Brill says we can see exactly how and why we are overspending and where the money is going.
Bitter Pill – The Absurd Costs of American Health Care
In a recent Time Magazine interview,2 Brill discussed his very impressive 11-page cover story, Bitter Pill:3 This is one of the longer investigative pieces and thankfully Time made it available for free.
“Simple lab work done during a few days in the hospital can cost more than a car. A trip to the emergency room for chest pains that turn out to be indigestion brings a bill that can exceed the price of a semester at college. When we debate health care policy in America, we seem to jump right to the issue of who should pay the bills, blowing past what should be the first question: Why exactly are the bills so high?”
In his article, Brill gives numerous examples of shocking markups on many hospital charges, such as $1.50 for a generic acetaminophen tablet, when you can buy an entire bottle of 100 tablets for that amount, $18 per Accu-chek diabetes test strip that you can purchase for about 55 cents apiece, or $283.00 for a simple chest X-ray, for which the hospital routinely gets $20.44 for when it treats a Medicare patient.
Most need to know that going to the ER can bankrupt you if you don’t have insurance. One example given in his article was a school bus driver who slipped and fell on her face and went to the ER. Three CT scans cost her nearly $7,000. She was just short of qualifying for Medicare and wound up being billed the full charge, for which Medicare would have only paid $825. But since she didn’t have Medicare, she got the FULL bill.
Even with insurance you can be decimated. The featured story reviews a man in his 50s who had insurance, developed pneumonia and was hospitalized for one month and came out with a nearly $500,000 bill. After insurance coverage, their bill was still over $400,000. This was in part due to the hospital’s policy of not just double billing for items but TRIPLE billing. Lab tests are another large cost and hospitals generate over 70 BILLION dollars every year from this service, while the largest lab tester in the country, Quest Diagnostics, only generates ONE TENTH of those charges, and they most likely do far more tests.
As an example, according to Stamford Hospital’s latest expense report, which each hospital is required to file with the federal Department of Health and Human Services, the hospital’s total expenses for lab work in 2010 were $27.5 million. Its total charges were $293.2 million, meaning it charged patients about 11 times its costs for lab work.
The Chargemaster: What You Need to Know About if You Want to Avoid Medical Bankruptcy
As Brill discovered, each hospital has an internal price list called a chargemaster, which contains every single item you may be given or come in contact with during your hospital stay. That includes the little white paper cup you get your medicine in, every box of tissue and band-aid, even a toy to a child (which many mistake as a “gift”) can be billed at upwards of $200. The problem is, no one quite knows how the prices in the chargemaster are created.
“It would seem to be an important document. However, I quickly found that although every hospital has a chargemaster, officials treat it as if it were an eccentric uncle living in the attic. Whenever I asked, they deflected all conversation away from it...
I soon found that they have good reason to hope that outsiders pay no attention to the chargemaster or the process that produces it. For there seems to be no process, no rationale, behind the core document that is the basis for hundreds of billions of dollars in health care bills... No hospital’s chargemaster prices are consistent with those of any other hospital, nor do they seem to be based on anything objective – like cost – that any hospital executive I spoke with was able to explain. 'They were set in cement a long time ago and just keep going up almost automatically,' says one hospital chief financial officer with a shrug.
...That so few consumers seem to be aware of the chargemaster demonstrates how well the health care industry has steered the debate from why bills are so high to who should pay them... [T]he drag on our overall economy that comes with taxpayers, employers and consumers spending so much more than is spent in any other country for the same product is unsustainable. Health care is eating away at our economy and our treasury.”
There is no real marketplace as such, as you the buyer is completely separated from the seller. There’s absolutely no market feedback to regulate and control the prices that are charged. For the most part the hospitals charge as much as they want, which plays a large role on why these charges have gotten so outrageously out of control. This simply doesn’t happen in countries outside of the US.
This is a Flash-based video and may not be viewable on mobile devices.
About the only defense for the chargemaster rates Brill was able to get was that it has to do with charity. John Gunn, chief operating officer of Sloan-Kettering told Brill:
“We charge those rates so that when we get paid by a [wealthy] uninsured person from overseas, it allows us to serve the poor.”
If this strikes you as nonsense, you’re not alone. Brill found two major holes in that argument. The first one is the most obvious: The hospital is not only charging those rates to wealthy medical tourists or “Saudi Sheiks,” as Brill puts it. These chargemaster rates are billed to average uninsured Americans who aren’t poor enough to qualify for the hospital’s financial assistance program, and don’t qualify for Medicaid.
So in essence, middle-class Americans are being bankrupted to help pay for the poor and the elderly while still allowing the hospital to rake in massive profits and paying their executives some rather astounding salaries. For example, at Montefiore Medical Center, a large nonprofit hospital system in the Bronx, its chief executive has a salary of $4,065,000, the chief financial officer of the hospital makes $3,243,000, the executive vice president rakes in $2,220,000, and the head of the dental department makes a not-so-shabby $1,798,000 per year. Similarly, 14 administrators at New York City’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center are paid over $500,000 a year, including six who make over $1 million.
“Second, there is the jaw-dropping difference between those list prices and the hospitals’ costs, which enables these ostensibly nonprofit institutions to produce high profits even after all the discounts,” Brill writes.
“...[N]o matter how steep the discounts, the chargemaster prices are so high and so devoid of any calculation related to cost that the result is uniquely American: thousands of nonprofit institutions have morphed into high-profit, high-profile businesses that have the best of both worlds. They have become entities akin to low-risk, must-have public utilities that nonetheless pay their operators as if they were high-risk entrepreneurs.
As with the local electric company, customers must have the product and can’t go elsewhere to buy it. They are steered to a hospital by their insurance companies or doctors (whose practices may have a business alliance with the hospital or even be owned by it). Or they end up there because there isn’t any local competition. But unlike with the electric company, no regulator caps hospital profits.”
Hospitals Profit Despite Receiving Only a Small Portion of Billings
Most hospitals end up receiving just 35 percent of what they bill, yet they still manage to make tens of millions of dollars in operating profits each year. Some hospitals, including Sloan-Kettering and MD Anderson, who are tougher in their negotiations with insurance companies, end up getting around 50 percent of their total billings, which quite literally amounts to a fortune. Stamford Hospital reported $63 million in operating profits in 2011, even though about half of their patient base is highly discounted Medicare and Medicaid patients. The actual revenue received, which included all the discounts off the chargemaster, was $495 million.
“That’s a 12.7% operating profit margin, which would be the envy of shareholders of high-service businesses across other sectors of the economy,” Brill writes. “Its nearly half-billion dollars in revenue also makes Stamford Hospital by far the city’s largest business serving only local residents. In fact, the hospital’s revenue exceeded all money paid to the city of Stamford in taxes and fees. The hospital is a bigger business than its host city.”
Medicare is Part of the Problem
Medicare was signed into law in 1965. At the time, the House Ways and Means Committee predicted the program would cost $12 billion in 1990. By the time 1990 rolled around, the actual cost was $110 billion. This year, Medicare costs are estimated to hit nearly $600 billion. As if stuck in an infinity loop, Medicare and Big Pharma (which has successfully manipulated the political system to their unbridled advantage) drive health care costs ever skyward.
As opposed to other countries, American laws actually prevent the government from restraining drug prices. Federal law even prevents the single largest drug buyer – Medicare – from negotiating drug prices. This is a perfect example of how Big Pharma has successfully manipulated laws in such a way that they can operate completely unrestrained in the US, under the flimsy argument that high prices and profits are required in order to fund costly research to develop potentially groundbreaking drugs to treat our ever-proliferating ills.
The only thing Medicare is allowed to do is to add six percent on top of the average sales price drugmakers sell the drug for to hospitals and clinics.
However, Congress does not control what drugmakers charge for their drugs. Pharmaceutical companies are allowed to set their own prices, and when it comes to one-of-a-kind drugs like some cancer drugs, the safeguards built into a free market system disappear, making price setting anything but fair.
Pharmaceutical companies also give rebates to hospitals to create incentive to dispense the drug, as the hospital can then make a greater profit. But since hospitals around the country not only get the same drug at varying rates, and the “average sales price” Medicare bases its payments on doesn’t necessarily reflect these rebates, the base price Medicare uses is oftentimes not very average at all... In some cases, this can result in a hospital still making upwards of 50 percent profit on what Medicare pays for the drug!
In the example Brill includes in his report, a cancer serum called Flebogamma costs the manufacturer an estimated $200-300 to collect, process, test and ship. According to the drugmaker, the average sales price for the drug is $2,003. Sloan-Kettering bills $4,615 for the drug, which Medicare then cuts down to $2,123 ($2,003 plus 6 percent).
“In practice, the average sales price does not appear to be a real average. Two other hospitals I asked reported that after taking into account rebates given by the drug company, they paid an average of $1,650 for the same dose of Flebogamma, and neither hospital had nearly the leverage in the cancer-care marketplace that Sloan-Kettering does. One doctor at Sloan-Kettering guessed that it pays $1,400. ...So even Medicare contributes mightily to hospital profit – and drug-company profit – when it buys drugs,” Brill notes.
Further adding to the problem of unrestrained costs is the fact that Medicare is not allowed to pay attention to comparative-effectiveness research. What this means is that if two drugs are found to be of equal effectiveness but one costs far less, Medicare is not allowed to make the decision to reimburse for the lower priced drug only.
Americans Pay 50 Percent More than Other Countries for Identical Drugs
As a result of laws and regulations preventing the US government from reining in drug prices like other nations do, drugs are wildly overpriced in the US. Overall, Americans pay 50 percent more than other countries for identical drugs. This year alone, the US will spend more than $280 billion on prescription drugs. If Americans paid the same prices other countries pay for the same products, we’d save about $94 billion a year! The explanation given by the pharmaceutical industry when confronted about this price difference is that:
“US profits subsidize the research and development of trailblazing drugs that are developed in the US and then marketed around the world.”
But, as Brill states, should a country with a health-care-spending crisis really subsidize the rest of the developed world? Who made that decision? Furthermore, the numbers tell us Americans really do not need to pay such inflated prices in order to guarantee continued drug research and development:
“According to securities filings of major drug companies, their R&D expenses are generally 15% to 20% of gross revenue... Neither 5% nor 20% is enough to have cut deeply into the pharmaceutical companies’ stellar bottom-line net profits. This is not gross profit, which counts only the cost of producing the drug, but the profit after those R&D expenses are taken into account... All the numbers tell one consistent story: Regulating drug prices the way other countries do would save tens of billions of dollars while still offering profit margins that would keep encouraging the pharmaceutical companies’ quest for the next great drug.”
A New Cottage Industry: Medical-Billing Advocates
A small grassroots-type industry has emerged as a result of shell-shocked patients reaching out for help to understand their medical bills. Referring to themselves as medical-billing advocates, they help you not only read and understand the content of your bills, but also negotiate with the hospital to reduce the charges. Brill quotes Katalin Goencz, a former appeals coordinator in a hospital billing department who now runs her own medical-billing advocacy business from her home in Stamford:
“The hospitals all know the bills are fiction, or at least only a place to start the discussion, so you bargain with them.”
The problem with that, of course, is: what about the people who don’t realize they CAN bargain with a major hospital? And should we really accept “bills of fiction” to begin with? Brill writes:
“Goencz is part of a trade group called the Alliance of Claim Assistant Professionals, which has about 40 members across the country. Another group, Medical Billing Advocates of America, has about 50 members. Each advocate seems to handle 40 to 70 cases a year for the uninsured and those disputing insurance claims. That would be about 5,000 patients a year out of what must be tens of millions of Americans facing these issues – which may help explain why 60% of the personal bankruptcy filings each year are related to medical bills.”
Even with the help of a medical-billing advocate (who of course charges a fee for the service), many uninsured patients still overpay. After all, getting a 50 percent discount on a test billed at $200, which should cost $15 is not necessarily a great bargain, although it’s certainly an improvement if we only take fictional numbers into account. The sad thing is, as mentioned earlier, the overcharges are SO grossly inflated that even if you get the bill cut in half, the hospital still makes out like a bandit!
50 Signs US Health Care System is Gigantic Scam About to Collapse
A recent article lists 50 signs that the US health care system is a gigantic money making scam that is about to collapse.4 This list includes the following amazing statistics:
- This year the American people will spend approximately 2.8 trillion dollars on health care, and it is being projected that Americans will spend 4.5 trillion dollars on health care in 2019
- If the U.S. health care system was a country, it would be the 6th largest economy on the entire planet
- Approximately 60 percent of all personal bankruptcies in the United States are related to medical bills
- The U.S. health care industry has spent more than 5 billion dollars on lobbying our politicians in Washington D.C. since 1998
- The U.S. ambulance industry makes more money each year than the movie industry
Another factor driving this broken health care system is direct-to-consumer drug advertising. According to FiercePharma,5 the pharmaceutical industry spent $2.7 billion on drug ads for TV, magazines, newspapers, radio and billboards over the past 10 years.
“The world's largest drug company, Pfizer, tops the list, spending 23 percent of that $2.7 billion on some of its best-selling drugs. In fact, as the data show, it is generally a company's best-selling drugs that get the greatest spends, suggesting that DTC advertising remains very effective.”
Natural is Better, and Less is More
The U.S. health care system has an awful lot of room for improvement. The United States has the highest infant mortality rate among high income countries, and ranks dead last in terms of life expectancy among 17 affluent nations. You could say wanton greed is killing this nation...
If throwing money into the system isn’t the answer, then how can we improve the health of Americans? The answer is simpler than most care to admit. I don't think anyone in the medical community disagrees with the idea that changing your lifestyle can go a long way toward "fixing" a number of chronic conditions, such as diabetes. As identified by the NIH,6 five life-changing factors that can do this are:
- Following a healthy diet
- Maintaining an optimal body weight
- Engaging in regular physical activity
- Not smoking
- Keeping alcohol use to no more than one drink per day for women, and two drinks per day for men
In a Waking Times article from last year,7 Dr. Dennis Antoine discusses the many lifestyle factors contributing to the rise in cancer incidence, and why we have to stop being so foolish as to think we “don’t know” why cancer has become so commonplace. As a group, chemicals play a major role: chemicals in your water, soil, air, in your clothes and in your home, in your household cleaning products and in the lotions and potions you spray and rub onto your skin, and in the vaccines injected into your body.
He also mentions a few different alternative cancer treatments, such as that by Dr. Max Gerson, who in 1938 discovered he could put cancer patients into remission using vegetables. Alas, there’s ample evidence that the cancer industry is not at all interested in finding cures. Its only interest is finding profitable treatments. Dr. Antoine writes:
“At this time in history, a bill was appropriated for 100 million dollars to anyone who could show promise and results in treating cancer. Dr Gerson in 1946 presented 5 terminal cases and 5 additional patients’ records showing his effective treatment and cure of all of these cases. Well, guess what? The Pepper-Neely bill was defeated by four senators who were medical doctors. Also of note, radio announcer Raymond Gram Swing who was in the room, was as astonished as any of the others and made a broadcast that night detailing these events and Gerson’s effective treatment. Two 2 weeks later, Swing was fired from his job.”
What Constitutes a Healthy Lifestyle?
That's not an impossible list. The great thing about these behavior changes is that they don't cost extra money to do – and they're almost guaranteed to save you money in the long run. I would add a few things to this list, though. Of all the healthy lifestyle strategies I know of that can have a significant impact on your health, normalizing your insulin and leptin levels is probably the most important.
There is no question that this is an absolute necessity if you want to avoid disease and slow down your aging process. That means modifying your diet to avoid excessive amounts of fructose, grains, and other pro-inflammatory ingredients like trans fats. In addition to the items mentioned above, these additional strategies can further help you stay healthy:
- Learn how to effectively cope with stress – Stress has a direct impact on inflammation, which in turn underlies many of the chronic diseases that kill people prematurely every day, so developing effective coping mechanisms is a major longevity-promoting factor.
Meditation, prayer, physical activity and exercise are all viable options that can help you maintain emotional and mental equilibrium. I also strongly believe in using energy psychology tools such as the Emotional Freedom Technique to address deeper, oftentimes hidden emotional problems.
- Optimize Your Vitamin D Levels to between 50 and 70 ng/ml, ideally by exposing enough of your skin to sunshine or a safe tanning bed.
- High-Quality animal-based omega-3 fats – Correcting the ratio of omega-3 to healthful omega-6 fats is a strong factor in helping people live longer. This typically means increasing your intake of animal based omega-3 fats, such as krill oil, while decreasing your intake of damaged omega-6 fats (think trans fats).
- Get most of your antioxidants from foods – Good sources include blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, cherries, beans, and artichokes.
- Use coconut oil – Another excellent anti-aging food is coconut oil, known to reduce your risk of heart disease and Alzheimer's disease, and lower your cholesterol, among other things.
- Avoid as many chemicals, toxins, and pollutants as possible – This includes tossing out your toxic household cleaners, soaps, personal hygiene products, air fresheners, bug sprays, lawn pesticides, and insecticides, just to name a few, and replacing them with non-toxic alternatives.
- Avoid prescription drugs – Pharmaceutical drugs kill thousands of people prematurely every year – as an expected side effect of the action of the drug. And, if you adhere to a healthy lifestyle, you most likely will never need any of them in the first place. However if you are currently taking prescription drugs it is best to work with a trained natural health care professional to help you wean off of them.
Take Control of Your Health
Incorporating these healthy lifestyle guidelines will help set you squarely on the path to optimal health and give you the best shot at living a longer life. Remember, it's never too late to take control of your health, but the sooner you begin, the greater your long-term payoff.
When even a minor illness requiring hospitalization may cost you your child’s college tuition fund, and a severe disease like cancer can bankrupt the entire family, taking control of your health and being proactive about staying healthy is not a luxury, it’s essential.
Clearly, the American health care system is broken and in need of a serious overhaul – NOT in terms of who should pay these padded bills, but rather how can we get a more reasonably priced system that won’t be the leading cause of bankruptcy? At the present rate the current system is unsustainable. However, I suggest you don’t wait for this miracle, and start focusing on simple, inexpensive lifestyle changes that can help prevent some of the most common health problems plaguing the US today.
By Dr. Mercola
Coke says it’s trying to make consumers more aware of the healthy choice beverages Coke makes; critics say Coke is simply doing damage control.
There can be no doubt that soda is one of the primary beverages responsible for skyrocketing obesity rates. As Dr. Sanjay Gupta told CNN:3
"...the scientific community has ...reached a consensus that soft drinks are the one food or beverage that's been demonstrated to cause weight gain and obesity. And if we're going to deal with this obesity epidemic, that's the place to start."
Granted, no one is forcing anyone to drink them, but there simply has not been enough public education about the dangers of excessive fructose consumption. In fact, the industry has fought tooth and nail to minimize or flat out deny these health dangers, very similar to the tobacco industry denying the risk of lung cancer..
A perfect example of this ongoing denial is Coca-Cola’s reply to the video below, The Real Bears, produced by CSPI. The company called the short-film “irresponsible” and “grandstanding” that will not help anyone “understand energy balance.”
I cannot think of any instance where you might need a soda in order to maintain correct “energy balance.” You can achieve optimal health without any added sugar or artificial sweeteners. In fact, if you want to understand energy balance, read up on how to become fat-adapted rather than being a sugar burner. This requires cutting out virtually all added sugars.
Still, their vehement refusal to accept responsibility for leading you astray does not surprise me. Just take a look at the history of Coca-Cola’s advertising, and you’ll quickly realize that this leopard is not about to change its spots anytime soon. Two sites offering this history lesson include Arandilla’s “Coca-Cola Advertising Through the Years” blog4, and NPR’s blog page5, “Vigor, Brain Power and Other Health Claims From Coke’s Advertising Past.”
Now, Coca-Cola, the leading beverage brand in the world, realizes it’s losing the information war and is trying to shift your attention to its 180 different no- and low-calorie beverages. Well, this certainly is NOT going to address the obesity problem. On the contrary, artificial sweeteners have been shown to produce even MORE weight gain than regular sugar and even high fructose corn syrup.
Coke Advocating Flawed, Outdated Calorie-Counting Advice
Evidence of just how behind-the-times Coca-Cola is, their brand new multi-million dollar campaign focuses on the sentiment that:
"...beating obesity will take action by all of us, based on one simple, common-sense fact: All calories count, no matter where they come from. ...And if you eat and drink more calories than you burn off, you'll gain weight."4
This “conventional wisdom” has been firmly debunked by science. Not all calories count equally. And the “calories in, calories out” hypothesis for maintaining weight has equally been shown to be incorrect. It is in fact FAR more important to look at the source of the calories than counting them.
In short, you do not get fat because you eat too many calories and don't exercise enough. You get fat because you eat the wrong kind of calories. At the end of the day, your consumption of carbohydrates, whether in the form of grains and sugars (especially fructose), will determine whether or not you're able to manage your weight and maintain optimal health. This is because these types of carbs (fructose and grains) affect the hormone insulin, which is a very potent fat regulator. Fats and proteins affect insulin to a far lesser degree. Kudos to The Atlantic5 for calling Coca-Cola on its misleading tactics in its recent article titled, Coke’s Unconscionable New Ad:
"Coca-Cola's latest attempt to position itself against the rising tide of concern about the role of sodas in the obesity epidemic is unconscionable, because of this statement: 'All calories count. No matter where they come from including Coca-Cola and everything else with calories.'
For Coca-Cola to suggest that all calories are equal flies in the face of reality as best as we can determine it... Coca-Cola wants us to ignore the considerable research confirming that sugary soda is a major contributor to obesity, and that it has no nutritional value... Coca-Cola could use its considerable advertising muscle to promote healthy exercise, yes, but when it does so as a ploy to confuse the public about the dangers of its products, that's not a public service, that's unethical.”
The video above is from Youtube and is available to the public for information and entertainment purposes only.
Mercola.com does not own and did not produce this video.
Why Calorie Counting Doesn’t Work
Dr. Robert Lustig, an expert on the metabolic fate of sugar, explains that fructose is 'isocaloric but not isometabolic.' This means you can have the same amount of calories from fructose or glucose, fructose and protein, or fructose and fat, but the metabolic effect will be entirely different despite the identical calorie count. This is a crucial point that must be understood.
Fructose is in fact far worse than other carbs because the vast majority of it converts directly to FAT, both in your fatty tissues, and in your liver. And this is why counting calories does not work... As long as you keep eating fructose and grains, you're programming your body to create and store fat.
Furthermore, research by Dr. Richard Johnson, chief of the Division of Renal Diseases and Hypertension at the University of Colorado and author of The Sugar Fix and The Fat Switch, demonstrates that large portions of food and too little exercise are NOT solely responsible for why you are gaining weight. Rather it’s fructose-containing sugars that cause obesity – not by calories, but by turning on your “fat switch,” a powerful biological adaptation that causes cells to accumulate fat in anticipation of scarcity (or hibernation). According to Dr. Johnson, based on his decades of research:
“Those of us who are obese eat more because of a faulty 'switch' and exercise less because of a low energy state. If you can learn how to control the specific 'switch' located in the powerhouse of each of your cells – the mitochondria – you hold the key to fighting obesity.”
According to Beverage Digest, soda consumption in the US has been on a steady decline since 1998.6 A recent article in The Atlantic7 shows consumption of soda “in freefall,” with US consumption having declined by 40 percent since 2003. Unfortunately, many are simply switching to no- or low-cal beverages, which Coca-Cola is now trying to boost, and quite frankly, if I had to choose between these two evils, I’d choose regular soda, as artificial sweeteners are even worse for your long-term health, and have been linked to increased weight gain when compared to calorie-containing sweeteners.
No- or Low-Cal Beverages CONTRIBUTE to Obesity Problem
While soda consumption has gone down, consumption of artificially sweetened “diet” beverages has risen in that same time, according to an October 11, 2012 report by USA Today.8 The industry has effectively convinced people that diet drinks are a healthier choice because they lack any calories. However, if you’re concerned about your weight and health, switching to artificial sweeteners is NOT a wise move.
Mounting research shows that diet soda is not a "guilt-free" treat at all. For example, two studies published in 2011 linked diet soda to poor health outcomes. In one study, people who drank two or more diet sodas a day experienced waist size increases that were six times greater than those of people who didn't drink diet soda. A second study that found that aspartame (NutraSweet) raised blood sugar levels in diabetes-prone mice.
As you may know, your waist size is not only a matter of aesthetics, but also a powerful indicator of a build-up of visceral fat, a dangerous type of fat around your internal organs that is strongly linked with type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Your waist size is a far more accurate predictor of your heart risks than your body mass index (BMI). Nearly eight years ago, research by Sharon P. Fowler, MPH9 (who was also involved in the newer studies noted above) found that your risk of obesity increases by 41 percent for each can of diet soda you drink in a day. Furthermore, for diet soft-drink drinkers, the risk of becoming overweight or obese was:
- 36.5 percent for up to 1/2 can per day
- 57.1 percent for more than 2 cans per day
For regular soft-drink drinkers, the risk of becoming overweight or obese was:
- 26 percent for up to 1/2 can per day
- 32.8 percent for 1 to 2 cans per day
- 47.2 percent for more than 2 cans per day
How Decreasing Sugar Intake Can Impact Body Weight
In related news, recently published research10 shows that decreasing sugar consumption can help you lose weight. The researchers examined outcomes from 71 studies on sugar consumption and body fat. The duration of included studies ranged from two weeks to one year. According to the authors:
“In trials of adults with ad libitum diets (that is, with no strict control of food intake), reduced intake of dietary sugars was associated with a decrease in body weight (0.80 kg/1.8 lb); increased sugars intake was associated with a comparable weight increase (0.75 kg/1.7 lb).
Isoenergetic exchange of dietary sugars with other carbohydrates showed no change in body weight . Trials in children... in relation to intakes of sugar sweetened beverages after one year follow-up in prospective studies, the odds ratio for being overweight or obese increased was 1.55 (1.32 to 1.82) among groups with the highest intake compared with those with the lowest intake. Despite significant heterogeneity in one meta-analysis and potential bias in some trials, sensitivity analyses showed that the trends were consistent and associations remained after these studies were excluded.”
Skyrocketing Obesity is Related to Misleading You on Health Issues
Obesity is the result of inappropriate lifestyle choices, and unfortunately, our government has done an abysmal job at disseminating accurate information about diet and health. It’s one thing for corporations to put out misleading ads – honesty is not in the self-interest of the processed food and beverage industry. It’s another when the government falls in line with for-profit deception and becomes a propagator of corporate propaganda. And this is exactly what has happened... For example, conventional advice that is driving public health in the wrong direction includes:
- Cutting calories: Not all calories are created equal, and counting calories will not help you lose weight if you're consuming the wrong kind of calories
- Choosing diet foods will help you lose weight: Substances like Splenda and aspartame may have zero calories, but your body isn't fooled. When it gets a "sweet" taste, it expects calories to follow, and when this doesn't occur it leads to distortions in your biochemistry that may actually lead to weight gain
- Avoiding saturated fat: The myth that saturated fat causes heart disease has undoubtedly harmed an incalculable number of lives over the past several decades, even though it all began as little more than a scientifically unsupported marketing strategy for Crisco cooking oil. Most people actually need at least 50 percent of their diet to include healthful saturated fats such as organic, pastured eggs, avocados, coconut oil, real butter and grass-fed beef in order to optimize their health
- Reducing your cholesterol to extremely low levels: Cholesterol is actually NOT the major culprit in heart disease or any disease, and the guidelines that dictate what number your cholesterol levels should be to keep you "healthy" are fraught with conflict of interest -- and have never been proven to be good for your health
This is just a tiny sampling of the misleading information on weight and obesity disseminated by our government agencies. A more complete list of conventional health myths could easily fill an entire series of books. The reason behind this sad state of affairs is the fact that the very industries that profit from these lies are the ones funding most of the research; infiltrating our regulatory agencies; and bribing our political officials to support their financially-driven agenda through any number of legal, and at times not so legal, means.
Could Warning Labels Be Part of the Answer?
According to Dr. Harold Goldstein, executive director of the non-profit group The California Center for Public Health Advocacy (CCPHA), “43 percent of the increase in daily calories Americans consumed over the last 30 years came from sugary drinks.” The CCPHA has published a list of seven things soda makers could do to create “meaningful change,” such as11:
- Cease all advertising of sugary drinks to children under 16
- Add warning labels to containers stating the link between soda consumption and obesity, diabetes and tooth decay, just like cigarettes must declare its connection to lung cancer
- Declare number of teaspoons of sugar the container contains, in large print
- Quit marketing sports drinks as healthy beverages
You Can Avoid Becoming a Statistic
Perhaps one of the most powerful scientific discoveries to emerge in the past several years is that the old adage “a calorie is a calorie” is patently false. Furthermore, the idea that in order to lose weight all you have to do is expend more calories than you consume is also false... The research clearly demonstrates that even if you control the number of calories you eat, if those calories come from fructose, you are at increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome, or prediabetes, which includes insulin resistance, fatty liver, high blood pressure and high triglycerides.
Conventional thinking tells us that metabolic syndrome is the outcome of obesity, which is simply the result of eating too many calories and not exercising enough. However, Dr. Johnson’s research, discussed above, shows that a high fructose diet is the key to developing metabolic syndrome, and that as soon as you throw fructose into the mix, “calories in versus calories out” is no longer a functional equation.
In short, avoiding fructose in all its forms, along with other sugars, is imperative in order to avoid “flipping the fat switch” that can trigger your body to accumulate excess fat. So please, do yourself and your family a favor, and don’t get swept up in Coca-Cola’s multi-million dollar ad extravaganza. The entire campaign is based on flawed, inaccurate, misleading, and patently false conventions of thinking.
Let's not forget: Coca-Cola spent $1.2 million to defeat California Proposition 37 last November, which would have required genetically engineered (GE) foods to be labeled as such (which could have included soda containing GE high fructose corn syrup). That, in and of itself, is proof positive that Coca-Cola has no concern for health conscious consumers.
Be Aware: Diet Soda Radically Increases Your Risk of Cancer...
What Happens to Your Body Within an Hour of Drinking a Coke