By Dr. Mercola
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils to support physical health and well-being. Essential oils carry biologically active volatile compounds of flowers and plants in a highly concentrated form. They are, in many ways, the essence of the plant and can provide therapeutic benefits in very small amounts.
The particles in essential oils, which come from flowers, twigs, leaves, or bark, can be inhaled, prompting various beneficial effects. As noted by the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA):1
“It [Aromatherapy] seeks to unify physiological, psychological and spiritual processes to enhance an individual’s innate healing process.”
There are about as many uses for aromatherapy as there are essential oils, but one of the most exciting areas of research is for anxiety, with research showing essential oils may help relieve symptoms without the side effects of anxiety drugs.
Aromatherapy May Help Lessen Anxiety Naturally
For an estimated 40 million US adults, feelings of anxiety may occur even when there’s no real threat, causing unnecessary stress and emotional pain.
Unfortunately, most people who suffer with anxiety either do nothing or resort to pharmaceutical drugs – many of which are ineffective and capable of destroying your health and sanity further. Commonly prescribed drugs include benzodiazepine drugs like Ativan, Xanax, and Valium.
Many of these anti-anxiety drugs exert a calming effect by boosting the action of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the same way as opioids (heroin) and cannabinoids (cannabis) do.
This in turn activates the gratification hormone, dopamine, in your brain. Since the identical brain "reward pathways" are used by both types of drugs, they can be equally addictive and also may cause side effects like memory loss, hip fractures, impaired thinking, and dizziness.
Ironically, the symptoms of withdrawal from many of these anxiety medications include extreme states of anxiety – some of which are far worse than the original symptoms that justified treatment in the first place. Clearly a safe, natural alternative for treating anxiety is needed, and aromatherapy may be one such option worth trying. Research shows:
- A systematic review of 16 randomized controlled trials examining the anxiolytic (anxiety-inhibiting) effects of aromatherapy among people with anxiety symptoms showed that most of the studies indicated positive effects to quell anxiety (and no adverse events were reported).2
- People exposed to bergamot essential oil aromatherapy prior to surgery had a greater reduction in pre-operative anxiety than those in control groups.3
- Sweet orange oil has been found to have anxiety-inhibiting effects in humans, supporting its common use as a tranquilizer by aromatherapists.4
- Ambient odors of orange and lavender reduced anxiety and improved mood in patients waiting for dental treatment.5
- Compared to the controls, women who were exposed to orange odor in a dental office had a lower level of anxiety, a more positive mood, and a higher level of calmness. Researchers concluded, “exposure to ambient odor of orange has a relaxant effect.”6
Which Essential Oils Work Best for Anxiety? (And How to Use Them)
If you’re interested in trying out this natural form of anxiety relief, any of the following essential oils would be a good starting point. These are all popular anxiety-inhibiting oils:7
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)8 Rose (Rosa damascena) Orange (Citrus sinensis) Bergamot (Citrus aurantium) Lemon (Citrus limon)9 Sandalwood (Santalum album) Clary sage (Salvia sclarea) Roman chamomile (Anthemis nobilis) Rose-scented geranium (Pelargonium spp.)
There are a number of ways to use aromatherapy. If you have a serious condition, you may want to contact an experienced aromatherapist who can help guide you. Certain essential oils can cause photosensitization (making your skin more sensitive to the sun) or allergic reaction and others should not be used on pregnant women, so it’s important to be familiar with an essential oil before using it. That said, you can try to use essential oils at home via the following methods:10
- Indirect inhalation of essential oils using a room diffuser or placing drops nearby
- Direct inhalation of essential oils using an individual inhaler with drops floated on top of hot water (this is popular for treating sinus headaches)
- Aromatherapy massage, in which essential oils are diluted in a carrier oil and massaged into your skin
- Applying essential oils to your skin by combining them with lotion, bath salts, or dressings
Anxiety, of course, is only one use for aromatherapy. Other potential uses include:
- Green apple scent for migraines: One study found that the scent significantly relieved migraine pain. This may also work with other scents that you enjoy, so consulting with an aromatherapist might be beneficial.
- Peppermint for memory: The aroma of peppermint has been shown to enhance memory and increase alertness.
- Nausea and vomiting: A blend of peppermint, ginger, spearmint, and lavender essential oils has been found to help relieve post-operative nausea.11
- Lavender for pain relief: Lavender aromatherapy has been shown to lessen pain following needle insertion.12
Additional Natural Treatments for Anxiety
Energy psychology techniques, such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), can be very effective by helping you to actually reprogram your body’s reactions to the unavoidable stressors of everyday life. This includes both real and imagined stressors, which can be significant sources of anxiety. 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. Although not necessary, you can even use EFT along with aromatherapy if you like.
This can be done by yourself or under the supervision of a qualified therapist, either in person or via online video services, like Skype, FaceTime, or Google Hangouts. In the following video, EFT therapist Julie Schiffman discusses EFT for stress and anxiety relief. Please keep in mind that while anyone can learn to do EFT at home, self-treatment for serious issues like persistent anxiety is dangerous and NOT recommended.
It is dangerous because it will allow you to falsely conclude that EFT does not work when nothing could be further from the truth. For serious or complex issues, you need someone to guide you through the process, as it typically takes years of training to develop the skill to tap on and relieve deep-seated, significant issues.
If you suffer from anxiety, it would be wise to look into nourishing your gut flora, and the best way to do this is to regularly consume traditionally fermented foods, which are naturally rich in beneficial bacteria. Pasteurized versions will NOT have the same benefits, as the pasteurization process destroys many, if not all, of the naturally occurring probiotics. So you will need to seek out traditionally fermented, unpasteurized foods like fermented vegetables, or make them yourself. Additionally, your diet should include a high-quality source of animal-based omega-3 fats, like krill oil. The omega-3 fats EPA and DHA play an important role in your emotional well-being, and research has shown a dramatic 20 percent reduction in anxiety among med students taking omega-3s.13
In addition to the creation of new neurons, including those that release the calming neurotransmitter GABA, exercise boosts levels of potent brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which may help buffer some of the effects of stress. Many avid exercisers also feel a sense of euphoria after a workout, sometimes known as the “runner’s high.” It can be quite addictive, in a good way, once you experience just how good it feels to get your heart rate up and your body moving.
If you struggle with anxiety, you really can’t go wrong with starting a comprehensive exercise program – virtually any physical activity is likely to have positive effects, especially if it’s challenging enough. That said, Duke University researchers recently published a review of more than 100 studies that found yoga appears to be particularly beneficial for mental health,14 although I also recommend high-intensity interval training like Peak Fitness and resistance training, in addition to flexibility and core-building exercises like yoga or Foundation Training.
The Power of Peppermint: 21 Health Benefits Revealed
How Exercise Can Calm Anxiety
By Dr. Mercola
Magnesium is a crucially important mineral for optimal health, performing a wide array of biological functions, including playing an important role in bone health. In fact, of the 25 grams of magnesium found in an average adult, up to 60 percent of it is found in your bones.1
Multiple studies have shown that higher magnesium intake is associated with a higher bone mineral density in both men and women,2 and recent research from Norway has even found an association between magnesium in drinking water and risk of hip fractures.
Magnesium May Lower Your Risk of Hip Fractures
Norway, like the US, has a high rate of hip fractures, but the researchers noted that its incidence varies by region, with those living in urban areas more likely to have hip fractures than those in rural locales. They suggested this could be due to naturally varying levels of minerals like magnesium in the drinking water, although this didn't turn out to be the case.
What they did find, however, was that while concentrations of magnesium (and calcium) in drinking water were generally low, there was an inverse association between concentration of magnesium and risk of hip fracture in both men and women.3 The researchers concluded:
"Magnesium in drinking water may have a protective role against hip fractures."
The finding is significant considering how debilitating a hip fracture can be, especially among the elderly. A broken hip carries a great risk of complications and usually requires prolonged specialized care for recovery. It's estimated that 25 percent of elderly people suffering a hip fracture die as a direct result.4
Magnesium Is Involved in Bone Formation and Health
It's estimated that 80 percent of Americans are deficient in magnesium, which could have a dramatic influence on bone health. Magnesium influences activities of both osteoblasts (cells responsible for bone formation) and osteoclasts (the cells that break down your bone).
Magnesium is thought to play a role in preventing and fighting osteoporosis. According to the National Office of Dietary Supplements:5
"Magnesium also affects the concentrations of both parathyroid hormone and the active form of vitamin D, which are major regulators of bone homeostasis…
Research has found that women with osteoporosis have lower serum magnesium levels than women with osteopenia and those who do not have osteoporosis or osteopenia. These and other findings indicate that magnesium deficiency might be a risk factor for osteoporosis."
In fact, one study found that postmenopausal women with osteoporosis were able to suppress bone turnover (which suggests bone loss decreased) just by taking 290 mg/day of magnesium for 30 days.6
Your Calcium-Magnesium Ratio: Are You Taking Too Much Calcium?
Over the past 30 years, women have been told to take supplemental calcium to avoid osteoporosis. Many foods have also been fortified with extra calcium to prevent calcium deficiency among the general population.
Despite such measures, osteoporosis has continued to climb, and this could be, in part, because of an imbalanced calcium-magnesium ratio. According to Carolyn Dean, a medical and naturopathic doctor:
"I've heard statistics like a 700 percent rise in osteoporosis in a 10-year period, even while taking all this calcium. The myth that's been created about calcium is that we need twice as much calcium as we do magnesium. Most of the supplements reflect this. We've got a situation where people are taking 1,200 to 1,500 milligrams of calcium and maybe a few hundred milligrams of magnesium.
The 2:1 ratio—that was a mistake; a mistaken translation from French researcher Jean Durlach, who said never ever go beyond two parts calcium to one part magnesium in your food, water, or supplement intake combined."
This was misinterpreted as meaning a 2:1 ratio was an appropriate ratio, which it's not. A more appropriate ratio of calcium to magnesium is 1:1. This may not only pose a risk to your bones but also to your heart. If you have too much calcium and not enough magnesium, your muscles will tend to go into spasm.
So excessive amounts of calcium without the counterbalance of magnesium can lead to a heart attack and sudden death. Quite simply, with insufficient amounts of magnesium, your heart simply cannot function properly.
For Optimal Bone and Heart Health, You've Got to Balance Magnesium with Vitamins K2 and D
When balancing calcium and magnesium also keep in mind that these must be balanced with vitamins K2 and D. These four nutrients perform an intricate dance together, with one supporting the other. Lack of balance between these nutrients is why calcium supplements have become associated with increased risk of heart attacks and stroke, and why some people experience vitamin D toxicity.
Part of the explanation for these adverse side effects is that vitamin K2 keeps calcium in its appropriate place. If you're K2 deficient, added calcium can cause more problems than it solves, by accumulating in the wrong places, like soft tissue.
Similarly, if you opt for oral vitamin D, you need to also consume it in your food or take supplemental vitamin K2 and more magnesium. Taking mega doses of vitamin D supplements without sufficient amounts of K2 and magnesium can lead to vitamin D toxicity and magnesium deficiency symptoms, which include inappropriate calcification that may damage your heart.
Magnesium and vitamin K2 complement each other, as magnesium helps lower blood pressure, which is an important component of heart disease. So, all in all, anytime you're taking any of the following: magnesium, calcium, vitamin D3, or vitamin K2, you need to take all the others into consideration as well, since these all work synergistically with one another.
What Else Is Magnesium Good For?
It would be misleading to simply classify magnesium as a mineral for your bones or your heart. Researchers have now detected 3,751 magnesium-binding sites on human proteins, indicating that its role in human health and disease may have been vastly underestimated.7 Magnesium is also found in more than 300 different enzymes in your body and plays a role in your body's detoxification processes, making it important for helping to prevent damage from environmental chemicals, heavy metals, and other toxins. Even glutathione, your body's most powerful antioxidant that has even been called "the master antioxidant," requires magnesium for its synthesis. Recent research also showed that higher intakes of dietary magnesium were associated with a lower risk of colorectal tumors.8 To date more than 100 health benefits of magnesium have been identified so far, including therapeutic benefits for:9
Fibromyalgia Atrial fibrillation Type 2 diabetes Premenstrual syndrome Cardiovascular disease Migraine Aging Mortality
Watching Out for Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency
There's no lab test that will give you a truly accurate reading of the magnesium status in your tissues. Only one percent of the magnesium in your body is distributed in your blood, making a simple sample of magnesium from a blood test highly inaccurate. Some specialty labs do provide an RBC magnesium test, which is reasonably accurate, and other tests that your doctor can use to evaluate your magnesium status include a 24-hour urine test or a sublingual epithelial test. Still, these can only give you an estimation of your levels, and doctors typically need to evaluate them in conjunction with the symptoms you exhibit.
If you suspect you're not getting enough magnesium, you should keep a watchful eye out for symptoms of deficiency. If you eat a poor diet, including one that's mostly processed foods, this could apply to you. Further, if any of these conditions below apply to you, you may want to take extra precautions to make sure you're getting a sufficient amount of magnesium in your diet, or, if needed, from a magnesium supplement, in order to avoid magnesium deficiency.>
An unhealthy digestive system, which impairs your body's ability to absorb magnesium (Crohn's disease, leaky gut, etc.) Alcoholism -- up to 60 percent of alcoholics have low blood levels of magnesium10 Unhealthy kidneys, which contribute to excessive loss of magnesium in urine Age -- older adults are more likely to be magnesium deficient because absorption decreases with age and the elderly are more likely to take medications that can interfere with absorption Diabetes, especially if it's poorly controlled, may lead to increased magnesium loss in urine Certain medications -- diuretics, antibiotics, and medications used to treat cancer can all result in magnesium deficiency
In her book, The Magnesium Miracle, Dr. Dean lists 100 factors that will help you decide whether or not you might be deficient. Early signs of magnesium deficiency to watch out for include loss of appetite, headache, nausea, fatigue, and weakness. An ongoing magnesium deficiency can lead to more serious symptoms, including:
Numbness and tingling Muscle contractions and cramps Seizures Personality changes Abnormal heart rhythms Coronary spasms
What Are the Best Dietary Sources of Magnesium?
Many people are low in magnesium. In order to ensure you're getting enough, you first need to be sure you're eating a varied, whole-food diet like the one described in my nutrition plan. Green leafy vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard are excellent sources of magnesium, as are some beans, nuts, and seeds, like almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds. Avocados are also a good source. Juicing your vegetables is an excellent option to ensure you're getting enough of them in your diet.
One important point to mention, though, is that the levels of magnesium in your food are dependent on the levels of magnesium in the soil where they're grown. Organic foods may have more magnesium, as most fertilizer used on conventional farms relies heavily on nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium instead of magnesium. Another one of the major benefits of getting your nutrients from a varied whole-food diet is that you're far less likely to end up with too much of one nutrient at the expense of others. Foods in general contain all the cofactors and needed co-nutrients in the proper amounts for optimal health, which takes out the guesswork. When you're using supplements, you need to become a bit savvier about how nutrients influence and synergistically affect each other.
In case you're interested, another way to improve your magnesium status is to take regular Epsom salt baths or foot baths. Epsom salt is a magnesium sulfate that can be absorbed into your body directly through your skin. Magnesium oil (from magnesium chloride) can also be used for topical application and absorption.
The 8 Forms of Magnesium Supplements: What Type Is Best?
If you opt for a magnesium supplement, be aware that there are several different forms of magnesium. The reason for the wide variety of magnesium supplements on the market is because the magnesium must be bound to another substance. There's no such thing as a 100% magnesium compound supplement (except pico-ionic magnesium). The substance used in any given supplement compound can affect the absorption and bioavailability of the magnesium, and may provide slightly different, or targeted, health benefits. Following is a general guide to help you sort through the eight different formulas you're likely to come across:
Magnesium glycinate is a chelated form of magnesium that tends to provide the highest levels of absorption and bioavailability and is typically considered ideal for those who are trying to correct a deficiency Magnesium threonate is a newer, emerging type of magnesium supplement that appears promising, primarily due to its superior ability to penetrate the mitochondrial membrane Magnesium chloride / magnesium lactate contain only 12 percent magnesium, but has better absorption than others, such as magnesium oxide, which contains five times more magnesium Magnesium sulfate / magnesium hydroxide (milk of magnesia) are typically used as a laxative. Be aware that it's easy to overdose on these, so ONLY take as directed Magnesium carbonate, which has antacid properties, contains 45 percent magnesium Magnesium taurate contains a combination of magnesium and taurine, an amino acid. Together, they tend to provide a calming effect on your body and mind Magnesium citrate is magnesium with citric acid, which has laxative properties Magnesium oxide is a non-chelated type of magnesium, bound to negatively charged oxygen (oxide). It contains 60 percent magnesium and has stool-softening properties
Magnesium—The Missing Link to Better Health
Magnesium: How This Important Mineral Reduces Your Risk of Cancer
By Dr. Mercola
Deaths caused by overdosing on painkillers now surpass murders and fatal car accidents in the US. America's rising drug problem recently received renewed attention following the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman.1
The 46-year-old Oscar-winning actor died from a heroin overdose on February 2. Last year, Hoffman entered rehab when addiction to prescription painkillers led him to switch to heroin. US officials now acknowledge that narcotic painkillers are in fact a driving force in the rise of substance abuse and lethal overdoses.
Over the past five years alone, heroin deaths have increased by 45 percent2--an increase that officials blame on the rise of addictive prescription drugs such as Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, codeine, and Fentora, all of which are opioids.
The reason for the resurgence of heroin is in large part due to it being less expensive than its prescription counterparts. According to Gil Kerlikowske, director of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy:3
"The use of opioids -- a group of drugs that includes heroin and prescription painkillers -- is having a devastating impact on public health and safety in communities across the nation.
In 2010, approximately 100 Americans died from overdoses every day. Prescription painkillers were involved in more than 16,600 deaths that year, and heroin was involved in about 3,000 deaths."
Prescription Medications Are the New Gateway Drugs
Many are still under the illusion that prescription drugs are somehow safer than street drugs, but it's important to realize that prescription medications like hydrocodone and oxycodone are opioids—just like heroin.
As explained by Dr. Wilson Compton,4 deputy director of the US National Institute on Drug Abuse, heroin, morphine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone "are all classified as opioids because they exert their effect by attaching to the opioid receptor found in our brain and spinal cord."
They also create a temporary feeling of euphoria, followed by dysphoria, which can easily lead to addiction. Some people end up taking increasingly larger doses in order to regain the euphoric effect, or escape the unhappiness caused by withdrawal. Others find they need to continue taking the drugs not only to reduce withdrawal symptoms but to simply feel normal.
Opioids also depress your heart rate and breathing. Large doses can cause sedation and slowed breathing to the point that breathing stops altogether, resulting in death.5
According to a 2013 US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration report, nearly 80 percent of people who recently started using heroin had previously used prescription painkillers. As reported by WebMD:6
"To break this link, the federal government has begun to crack down on 'pill mills' and doctors who over-prescribe narcotic painkillers. It has also developed education programs for doctors and patients on prescribing painkillers and disposing of unused prescriptions."
Shocking Report: More Than 14 Percent of Pregnant Women Prescribed Opioids!
Do you ever occasionally wonder about the fantastic lack of common sense among prescribing physicians? According to one recent study,7 more than 14 percent of pregnant women were prescribed opioid drugs during their pregnancy.
The paper called for more research to assess the risks to the fetus, in light of such surprisingly high prescription rates. But truly, knowing the risks involved in adults, how could anyone in their right mind imagine the risks to an unborn child might be anything but harmful?
Back pain—a problem most pregnant women have to deal with—was the most commonly cited reason for the prescription. Narcotics were also prescribed for complaints of abdominal pains, migraine, joint pains, and fibromyalgia. As reported by Medical News Today:8
"The study looked at data from a research database of more than 530,000 pregnant women enrolled in a commercial insurance plan who delivered their babies between 2005 and 2011. Their median age was 31... Of the more than 530,000 pregnant women, 76,742, or 14.4 percent, were prescribed opioids at some point in their pregnancy...
[A] US National Birth Defects Prevention Study (1997-2005) found associations between codeine and other opioids with birth defects, including atrial and ventricular septal defects, hypoplastic left heart syndrome, spina bifida, and gastroschisis in newborns. Additionally, the US national study cites that when opioids are used long-term during pregnancy, 'there is a known risk for neonatal opioid dependence and subsequent withdrawal symptoms in the first few days of life.'"
FDA Finally Clamps Down on Painkiller Prescriptions
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently recommended tighter controls on painkiller prescriptions,9, 10 and has announced its intention to reclassify hydrocodone-containing painkillers from a Schedule III to a Schedule II drug. The drug schedule system classifies medications based on their potential for abuse and addiction, as well as other medical criteria.
The reclassification will affect how hydrocodone-containing drugs can be prescribed and refilled. Doctors will only be allowed to prescribe a 90-day supply of the drug per prescription, and they will no longer be permitted to phone in refills; rather the patient has to bring the prescription with them to the pharmacy.
The new regulations are expected to take effect sometime this year. Ironically enough, while talking about the need for stricter controls and less addictive painkillers, it recently approved the first drug containing pure hydrocodone for the US market, called Zohydro ER (Zogenix). All other hydrocodone-containing painkillers on the market are mixed with other non-addictive ingredients. Zohydro ER was approved for patients who need around-the-clock pain relief. As reported by Bloomberg at the end of October last year:11
"The approval came as a surprise since an FDA panel of outside advisers gave the drug an overwhelmingly negative review last year. The panel of pain specialists voted 11-2, with one abstention, against approving the drug. It questioned the need for a new form of one of most widely-abused prescription drugs in the United States. The approval also came a day after the FDA said it would support stronger restrictions on combination drugs containing hydrocodone."
Do You Really Need a Narcotic Pain Killer?
I strongly recommend exhausting your options before resorting to a narcotic pain reliever. It's quite clear that these drugs are being overprescribed, and can easily lead you into addiction and other, more illicit drug use. I strongly suspect that the overreliance on them as a first line of defense for pain is a major part of the problem. Remember, no matter what type of painkiller you choose, it will come with potentially serious risks to your health. I believe there are better alternatives. If you are suffering from pain, whether acute or chronic, I recommend working with a knowledgeable health care practitioner to determine what's really triggering your pain, and then address the underlying cause. Remember, along with exposing you to potentially deadly risks, medications only provide symptomatic relief. They do NOT address the underlying cause of your pain.
13 Non-Drug Solutions for Pain Relief
The following options provide excellent pain relief without any of the health hazards that prescription (and even over-the-counter) painkillers carry. If you are in pain, try these first, before even thinking about prescription painkillers of any kind.
- Eliminate or radically reduce processed foods, grains, and sugars from your diet. Avoiding grains and sugars will lower your insulin and leptin levels and decrease insulin and leptin resistance, which is one of the most important reasons why inflammatory prostaglandins are produced. That is why stopping sugar and sweets is so important to controlling your pain and other types of chronic illnesses.
- Start taking a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fat. My personal favorite is krill oil. Omega-3 fats are precursors to mediators of inflammation called prostaglandins. (In fact, that is how anti-inflammatory painkillers work; they manipulate prostaglandins.)
- Optimize your production of vitamin D by getting regular, appropriate sun or safe tanning bed exposure, which will work through a variety of different mechanisms to reduce your pain.
- Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is a drug-free approach for pain management of all kinds. EFT borrows from the principles of acupuncture, in that it helps you balance out your subtle energy system. It helps resolve underlying, often subconscious, negative emotions that may be exacerbating your physical pain. By stimulating (tapping) well-established acupuncture points with your fingertips, you rebalance your energy system, which tends to dissipate pain.
- Astaxanthin is one of the most effective fat-soluble antioxidants known. It has very potent anti-inflammatory properties and in many cases works far more effectively than anti-inflammatory drugs. Higher doses are typically required and one may need 8 mg or more per day to achieve this benefit.
- Ginger: This herb has potent anti-inflammatory activity and offers pain relief and stomach-settling properties. Fresh ginger works well steeped in boiling water as a tea or grated into vegetable juice.
- Curcumin: In a study of osteoarthritis patients, those who added 200 mg of curcumin a day to their treatment plan had reduced pain and increased mobility.12 A past study also found that a turmeric extract composed of curcuminoids blocked inflammatory pathways, effectively preventing the overproduction of a protein that triggers swelling and pain.13
- Boswellia: Also known as boswellin or "Indian frankincense," this herb contains specific active anti-inflammatory ingredients. This is one of my personal favorites as I have seen it work well with many rheumatoid arthritis patients.
- Bromelain: This enzyme, found in pineapples, is a natural anti-inflammatory. It can be taken in supplement form but eating fresh pineapple, including some of the bromelain-rich stem, may also be helpful.
- Cetyl Myristoleate (CMO): This oil, found in fish and dairy butter, acts as a "joint lubricant" and an anti-inflammatory. I have used this for myself to relieve ganglion cysts and a mild annoying carpal tunnel syndrome that pops up when I type too much on non-ergonomic keyboards. I used a topical preparation for this.
- Evening Primrose, Black Currant, and Borage Oils: These contain the essential fatty acid gamma linolenic acid (GLA), which is useful for treating arthritic pain.
- Cayenne Cream: Also called capsaicin cream, this spice comes from dried hot peppers. It alleviates pain by depleting the body's supply of substance P, a chemical component of nerve cells that transmits pain signals to your brain.
- Methods such as yoga, Foundation Training, acupuncture, meditation,14 hot and cold packs, and other mind-body techniques can also result in astonishing pain relief without any drugs.
13 Mind-Body Techniques That Can Help Ease Pain
A Review of Four Core Routines and Their Effectiveness for Preventing or Treating Back Pain
By Dr. Mercola
In what could easily be classified as one of the US Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) worst decisions yet, a final rule released by the EPA earlier this month creates an exemption for residue tolerance levels of genetically modified (GM) Bt toxin in GM soy foods and feed.1
Essentially, the Agency has approved unlimited residues of GM Bt toxin in your food! Generally, one of the EPA's regular responsibilities is to set a tolerance, or maximum residue limit, for pesticide residues on food, which are designed to protect you from harmful levels of pesticides.
By exempting Bt toxin residues from this, it "eliminates the need to establish a maximum permissible level for residues" of this pesticide when it's incorporated into the plant. In other words, pesticide companies like Monsanto can incorporate as much as they want into your food… and that's all right with the EPA.
How Can the EPA Claim Bt Residues Are Safe?
According to the EPA, they are "reasonably certain" that no harm will result from Americans consuming copious amounts of Bt-tainted foods (while this final rule relates to soy, similar exemptions for corn, cotton, and other foods have already been approved). The Agency stated:2
"…there is a reasonable certainty that no harm will result from aggregate exposure to the pesticide chemical residue, including all anticipated dietary exposures and all other exposures [including drinking water] for which there is reliable information."
However, the EPA's assurances do little to quell the fact that in 2011, doctors at Sherbrooke University Hospital in Quebec found Bt-toxin in the blood of:3
- 93 percent of pregnant women tested
- 80 percent of umbilical blood in their babies
- 67 percent of non-pregnant women
The study authors speculated that the Bt toxin was likely consumed in the normal diet of the Canadian middle class—which makes sense when you consider that GM corn is present in the vast majority of all processed foods and drinks in the form of high fructose corn syrup, corn oil, and other corn products.
They also suggested that the toxin may have come from eating meat from animals fed Bt corn, which most livestock raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are.
These shocking results also raise the frightening possibility that eating Bt corn might actually turn your intestinal flora into a sort of "living pesticide factory," essentially manufacturing Bt toxin from within your digestive system on a continuing basis through the transference of the Bt-producing gene to your gut bacteria.
What makes this all the more relevant is that Monsanto and the EPA swore that the Bt toxin produced inside the plant would be completely destroyed in the human digestive system and would not have any impact at all on consumers. Turns out they were wrong…
The EPA Is Ignoring Another Crucial Fact: The Bt Toxin Is INSIDE the Plant
There is a major problem with the EPA's assertion that Bt crops are safe, and that is their decision to regard Bt toxin sprayed on plants as the same as plants genetically modified to produce Bt toxin from within. The two are not the same, nor are they equally safe, as the EPA would have you believe. As the EPA puts it:
"Bacillus thuringiensis, or simply Bt, is a naturally occurring soil bacterium that, when sprayed on plants, is toxic to certain pest insects. For years, farmers and home gardeners have used Bt as a microbial spray pesticide to control caterpillars, certain types of beetles, as well as mosquitoes and black flies."
Bt toxin has, in fact, been used in organic agriculture for decades as a natural pesticide. But this is very different from the way Bt toxin is being used in GM crops like corn and soy. As the EPA explains:
"More recently, scientists have developed techniques by which traits from the Bt bacterium, including its ability to resist pests, can be introduced into a plant. Specifically, scientists have identified the gene that produces the toxin in Bt and, through the use of biotechnology, have incorporated it into the genetic material of several plants. These Bt plants, which include corn, cotton, and potatoes, now synthesize their own bacterial protein to kill pests."
GM Bt Toxins Are Not the Same as Topically Applied Bt Spray
Because farmers have used Bt toxin from soil bacteria as a natural pesticide for many years, biotech companies (and now the EPA) have claimed that Bt toxin has a "history of safe use in agriculture."
But there's a major difference between spraying it on plants, where it biodegrades in sunlight and can be carefully washed off, and genetically altering the plant to produce it internally. As reported by Colorado State University:4
"Bt is susceptible to degradation by sunlight. Most formulations persist on foliage less than a week following application. Some of the newer strains developed for leaf beetle control become ineffective in about 24 hours."
In other words, when Bt is applied to plants topically, it degrades quickly in the sunlight – typically after one week it is broken down (and sometimes as soon as 24 hours). GM Bt crops, however, have the Bt-toxin gene built-in, so the toxin is not broken down and cannot be washed off. You simply cannot avoid consuming it.
This is concerning, because even when natural Bt toxin was fed to mice, they had tissue damage, immune responses as powerful as those to cholera toxin and even started reacting to other foods that were formerly harmless. According to Jeffrey Smith, executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology:
"Farm workers exposed to Bt also showed immune responses. The EPA's own expert Scientific Advisory Panel said that these mouse and farm worker studies 'suggest that Bt proteins could act as antigenic and allergenic sources.'
But the EPA ignored the warnings. They also overlooked studies showing that about 500 people in Washington state and Vancouver showed allergic and flu-like symptoms when they were exposed to the spray when it was used to kill gypsy moths."
Furthermore, the plant-produced version of the poison is thousands of times more concentrated than the spray. So if Bt genes are indeed capable of transferring horizontally to the bacteria colonizing the human digestive tract, scientists believe it could reasonably result in:
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Autoimmune diseases
- Food allergies
- Childhood learning disorders
GM Toxin May Trigger Immune Responses and Create Super-Pests
There's already plenty of evidence showing that the Bt toxin produced in GM corn (and soy and cotton plants) is toxic to humans and mammals and triggers immune system responses. For example, in government-sponsored research in Italy, mice fed Monsanto's Bt corn showed a wide range of immune responses, such as:5
- Elevated IgE and IgG antibodies, which are typically associated with allergies and infections
- An increase in cytokines, which are associated with allergic and inflammatory responses. The specific cytokines (interleukins) that were found to be elevated are also higher in humans who suffer from a wide range of disorders, from arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease to MS and cancer
- Elevated T cells (gamma delta), which are increased in people with asthma, and in children with food allergies, juvenile arthritis, and connective tissue diseases
Rats fed another of Monsanto's Bt corn varieties called MON 863, also experienced an activation of their immune systems, showing higher numbers of basophils, lymphocytes, and white blood cells.6 These can indicate possible allergies, infections, toxins, and various disease states including cancer. There were also signs of liver and kidney toxicity. Aside from the potential human health risks, the EPA is apparently also ignoring those to the environment. Reduced insecticide use has been touted as one of the significant benefits of GM crops like Bt corn. But they do not include the Bt toxin produced in every cell of GM Bt crops as part of the total human pesticide exposure (and now there will not even be any type of required upper limit).
This is arguably criminal misrepresentation! These unnaturally modified GM crops have led to resistance, both in weeds and pests, leaving farmers to struggle with an increasingly difficult situation. Now, instead of the reduction in insecticide use that has been promised, the use of insecticides is on the rise as farmers try to find some solution for these resistant pests.
A scientific advisory panel to the EPA actually urged that large refuges of non-Bt corn be required in order to help prevent resistance. They suggested that only half of a farmer's corn acres be planted with Bt corn. The EPA, as they often do, went against the advisory panel's advice and instead sided with Monsanto. They allowed Bt corn to be planted on 80 percent of their corn acreage, and, in 2011, the first report of field-evolved resistance to Bt toxin by the western corn rootworm was published,7 with resistance only set to worsen in the years ahead.
EPA Also Approved an Increase in Food Residues of Glyphosate
If there were any doubt whose side the EPA is on, last year they also raised the allowed residue limits of glyphosate in food and feed crops. Glyphosate — the active ingredient in Monsanto's broad-spectrum herbicide Roundup – has also been linked to human and environmental harms.
According to one study, glyphosate residues, found in most commonly consumed foods in the Western diet courtesy of GM sugar, corn, soy, and wheat, "enhance the damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and toxins in the environment to disrupt normal body functions and induce disease."8
Despite the evidence – and the growing incidence of glyphosate-resistant weeds and pests -- the EPA concluded that "there is a reasonable certainly that no harm will result to the general population or to infants and children from aggregate exposure to glyphosate residues." Sound familiar? It's virtually the same false reassurance they issued this month upon allowing unlimited amounts of Monsanto's GM Bt toxin in your food supply.
We're Donating Our Sales Today to Help Fight the Spread of GM Crops in Jackson County, Oregon
A ballot measure to prohibit GM crops in Jackson County, Oregon has been introduced by organic farmers, who are afraid that GM sugar beets will taint their organic crops through cross-pollination. Jackson County is a major source of GM sugar beet seeds, which are used to produce a significant portion of commercial sugar beet seed used across the United States.
The measure will appear before Jackson County voters on the May primary ballot – so if you live in this area, please get out to vote. In the meantime, the sugar industry and other agribusiness giants have come out in droves to try to defeat the measure. Already, the opposition has donated tens of thousands of dollars to mount an pro-GMO campaign, including:9
- $25,000 from the Oregon Farm Bureau
- $20,000 from the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative
- $10,000 from American Crystal Sugar, Co.
- $10,000 from Sidney Sugars
To date, the organic farmers supporting the GM ban have not reported any raised money to defeat this corporate opposition – so we want to help them get started. [February 28 update: To date, GMO Free Jackson County PAC has raised $23,320 for their campaign.]
Today, we are trying to raise $15,000 through sales to donate to the campaign against GM crops in Jackson County. If you've been meaning to make a purchase, today is the day to do so to help this important campaign. If GM crops are banned in Jackson County, it could be a turning point for the US, with other regions soon following suit. You may also make a donation directly to the Vote YES on Measure 15-119 here.
And as always, I encourage you to continue educating yourself about genetically modified foods, and to share what you've learned with family and friends. Remember, unless a food is certified organic, you can assume it contains GM ingredients if it contains sugar from sugar beet, soy, or corn, or any of their derivatives.
How Genetically Engineered Foods Will Be Eradicated
Will Detection of Unapproved Genetically Modified Wheat Decimate US Economy?
By Dr. Mercola
Eliminating grain carbs is one of the best and easiest ways to normalize your weight and support your health, but when you cut down on non-vegetable carbs, you need to increase your intake of healthy fats.
Avocados are an excellent source. They're especially rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat that is easily burned for energy, which you need more of once you start to remove those carbs.
Improved weight management is in fact one of the health benefits of avocado consumption, according to recent research, and its high-fat, low-sugar content is part and parcel of this effect.
On most days, I will add a whole avocado to my salad, which I eat for lunch. This increases my healthy fat and calorie intake without seriously increasing my protein or carbohydrate intake. Since avocados are also high in potassium, they will also help balance your vitally important potassium to sodium ratio.
Avocado for Lunch May Help You Manage Your Weight
According to research published in the Nutrition Journal,1 eating just one-half of a fresh avocado with lunch may satiate you if you're overweight, which will help prevent unnecessary snacking later.2
The study also found that avocados appear helpful for regulating blood sugar levels, which is important for most people, considering that one in four American are either diabetic or pre-diabetic. As reported by the featured article in Medical News Today:3
"For their study, the researchers wanted to see how avocado consumption impacted a person's satiety, blood sugar and insulin response, and food consumption following a meal.
The investigators recruited 26 healthy, overweight adults. Over five sessions, participants were required to eat their normal breakfast followed by one of three lunch test meals. These were:
- A standard lunch with no avocado
- A lunch containing avocado (the avocado replaced other foods), or
- A standard lunch with half of a fresh avocado added"
Over the next five hours, the participants were asked to rate their appetite using a visual analog scale. Blood glucose and insulin were also measured before lunch and at specific intervals over three hours following their meal.
Those in the latter group, who ate half an avocado with their standard lunch, reported being 40 percent less hungry three hours after their meal, and 28 percent less hungry at the five-hour mark, compared to those who did not eat avocado for lunch. They also reported feeling 26 percent more satiated after their meal compared to those who didn't eat avocado.
Why Majority of People Could Benefit from Eating Avocado
This is not very surprising when you consider that frequent hunger is oftentimes a major clue that you're not eating correctly. As a general rule, most people likely need upwards of 50-85 percent healthy fat in their diet, along with high amounts of vegetable carbs, moderate-to-low amounts of high-quality protein, and very little, if any, non-vegetable or grain carbs.
Fat is far more satiating than carbs, so if you have cut down on carbs and feel ravenous, thinking you "can't do without the carbs," remember this is a sign that you haven't replaced them with sufficient amounts of fat. You do want to make sure you're adding the correct types of fat though. Sources of healthy fats include:
Olives and olive oil Coconuts and coconut oil, as well as other unheated organic nut oils Butter made from raw grass-fed organic milk Raw nuts, particularly macadamia nuts Organic pastured egg yolks Grass-fed and finished meats
The featured study also found that even though the addition of half an avocado increased the participants' calorie intake, it did not cause an increase in blood sugar levels, beyond what was observed in those eating the standard lunch. This is one of the major benefits of replacing non-vegetable carbs with healthy fats of all kinds, as fats in general do not negatively affect your blood sugar and insulin levels.
The Importance of Maintaining Optimal Sodium-Potassium Ratio
As mentioned earlier, avocados are also high in potassium, and may in fact be ideal for helping you balance your potassium to sodium ratio, which is critical for optimal health and disease prevention. Imbalance in this ratio can not only lead to hypertension (high blood pressure) but also contribute to a number of other diseases, including:
Heart disease and stroke Memory decline Osteoporosis Ulcers and stomach cancer Kidney stones Cataracts Erectile dysfunction Rheumatoid arthritis
Heart disease, which is the second leading killer of Americans, is perhaps of particular concern. According to a 2011 federal study into sodium and potassium intake, those at greatest risk of cardiovascular disease were those who got a combination of too much sodium along with too little potassium.
According to Dr. Elena Kuklina, one of the lead authors of the study at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), potassium may actually neutralize the heart-damaging effects of salt. Tellingly, those who ate a lot of salt and very little potassium were more than twice as likely to die from a heart attack as those who ate about equal amounts of both nutrients.
According to a 1985 article in The New England Journal of Medicine, titled "Paleolithic Nutrition," our ancient ancestors got about 11,000 mg of potassium a day, and about 700 mg of sodium. This equates to nearly 16 times more potassium than sodium. Compare that to the Standard American Diet where daily potassium consumption averages about 2,500 mg (the RDA is 4,700 mg/day), along with 3,600 mg of sodium.
The easiest way to achieve this imbalance is by consuming a diet of processed foods, which are notoriously low in potassium, while being high in both sodium and fructose—another dietary factor that is clearly associated with chronic disease, including heart disease. Bananas are typically recommended for their high potassium content. But with twice the potassium of a banana, and a minimal amount of fructose, avocados are an obviously better choice. When you add in the heart-healthy fats found in avocado, it stands out as a near-perfect food all around.
Avocado May Also Help Preserve Your Heart Health
Previous research also suggests avocado may be among the healthiest foods you can eat to protect your heart and cardiovascular health. One such study, published in November, 2012,4 found that eating one-half of a fresh medium Hass avocado with a hamburger (made with 90 percent lean beef) significantly inhibited the production of the inflammatory compound Interleukin-6 (IL-6), compared to eating a burger without fresh avocado.
Also, just like avocado does not raise your blood sugar levels, fresh avocado did not increase triglyceride levels beyond what was observed when eating the burger alone, despite the avocado supplying extra fat and calories. According to lead author David Heber, MD, PhD, the findings offer "promising clues" about avocado's ability to benefit vascular function and heart health.
Researchers have also concluded that avocado can help improve lipid profiles in both healthy individuals and those with mild hypercholesterolemia (elevated cholesterol levels). In one such study,5 healthy individuals saw a 16 percent decrease of serum total cholesterol level following a one-week long diet high in monounsaturated fat from avocados. In those with elevated cholesterol levels, the avocado diet resulted in a 17 percent decrease of serum total cholesterol, and a 22 percent decrease of both LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides, along with an 11 percent increase of the so-called "good" HDL cholesterol.
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Avocado—A Powerhouse of Good Nutrition
According to the California Avocado Commission, a medium Hass avocado contains about:
- 22.5 grams of fat, two-thirds of which is monounsaturated
- 3 grams of total carbohydrate
- Less than one gram of fructose per one ounce serving
The fact that avocados are so low in fructose is another great boon of this fruit. They also provide close to 20 essential health-boosting nutrients, including:
- Fiber (approximately eight percent of your daily recommended fiber intake)
- Potassium (more than twice the amount found in a banana)
- Vitamin E
- Folic acid
Due to its beneficial raw fat content, avocado also enables your body to more efficiently absorb fat-soluble nutrients (such as alpha- and beta-carotene, and lutein) from any other food eaten in conjunction with it. One 2005 study,6 found that adding avocado to salad allowed the volunteers to absorb three to five times more carotenoids antioxidant molecules, which help protect your body against free radical damage!
New Avocado Research
Dave Kekich is one of my good friends and he recently told me about an exciting phytonutrient called mannaheptulose, found in UNRIPENED avocados. It seems to have many benefits that are ascribed to calorie restriction, but also seems to be really useful for increasing strength and endurance. What I really like about it is that it’s not a supplement. What I have recently started doing is cutting up an unripe avocado into about 20 parts and freezing them. Then once a day I take out a piece and chew it.
How Avocados are Made
This short documentary reveals the integral role of bees and butterflies in the production of avocados, as well as the importance of other complex ecosystems in the fruiting process.
Good News: Even Conventionally-Grown Avocados Are Free of Harmful Chemicals
Avocados are also one of the safest fruits in terms of chemical contamination,7 which means there's virtually no need to spend extra money on organic varieties. I even sent out more than six dozen samples of organic and conventionally-grown avocados for independent toxicology testing,8 and the results showed no detectable presence of herbicides or phenoxy herbicides in or on either variety .The avocados I sent in were from a variety of growers in different countries, sold in several major grocery stores, including Whole Foods, and they all tested free and clear of harmful chemicals. Moreover, should they have been exposed to some form pesticide, the thick skin will protect the inner fruit of the avocado from the chemicals. Either way, the extremely low risk of toxic contamination makes avocados a clear winner, and I strongly recommend making them a key part of your diet.
The Best Way to Peel an Avocado
Speaking of the skin, how you de-skin your avocado can affect how much of its valuable phytonutrients you get out of it. UCLA research has shown that the greatest concentration of beneficial carotenoids, for example, is located in the dark green fruit closest to the inside of the peel. In 2010, the California Avocado Commission issued guidelines for getting the most out of your avocado by peeling it the right way,9 To preserve the area with the greatest concentration of antioxidants, you're best off peeling the avocado with your hands, as you would a banana:
- First, cut the avocado length-wise, around the seed
- Holding each half, twist them in the opposite directions to separate them from the seed
- Remove the seed
- Cut each half, lengthwise
- Next, using your thumb and index finger, simply peel the skin off each piece
Avocado Is a Great Staple Food
I typically have an avocado every day and harvest many of them from my avocado tree. The easiest way to eat an avocado is raw, either added to your salad, which is what I typically do, or you can eat them alone. A dash of Himalayan salt and some ground pepper will spice up the flavor, if you like. But there are many other ways to include avocado in your diet as well. For example, you can:
- Use avocado as a fat replacement in baking. Simply replace the fat called for (such as oil, butter or shortening) with an equal amount of avocado
- Use it as a first food for babies, in lieu of processed baby food
- Add it to soups
For hundreds of unique recipes that include avocado—from salads to dessert whip and everything in between—check out the California Avocado Commission's Website.10 If optimal health and weight is your goal, there's no getting around your diet. And contrary to popular belief, it's the sugar and fructose in your diet that is packing on unwanted pounds—not the fat! So, if you want to lose weight, you really need to pay careful attention to avoid sugars, and that includes all grains, even organic ones, as all grains quickly break down into sugar in your body.
Replace them instead with healthful fats such as avocado, and you'll be off to a good start. Avocados also provide close to 20 essential health-boosting nutrients, and enable your body to more efficiently absorb fat-soluble nutrients in other foods eaten in conjunction with it, so it's an excellent choice as a fat replacement or addition to virtually any dish. All in all, avocado may be one of the most beneficial superfoods out there, and may be particularly valuable if you're struggling with insulin and leptin resistance, diabetes, or any other risk factors for heart disease.
What Are Avocados Good For?
The Many Health Benefits of Avocado