By Dr. Mercola
Depriving your body of sleep can lead to some very serious—and surprising—health effects, including widespread pain, which is a primary feature of fibromyalgia.
According to recent research from Great Britain, poor or insufficient sleep was actually the strongest predictor for pain in adults over 50. Other predictors for widespread pain included anxiety, poor physical health, cognitive problems, and osteoarthritis. Senior author Ross Wilkie told Reuters Health:1
"In older adults, widespread pain, that is pain that affects multiple sites in the body, is common and is associated with morbidity and disability including poor mental health and reduced physical functioning...Non-restorative sleep was the strongest predictor of new onset widespread pain..."
Poor sleep can actually impact virtually every aspect of your health, and the reason for this is because your circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle) actually "drives" the rhythms of biological activity at the cellular level.
Hence disruptions tend to cascade outward throughout your entire body. For example, besides making you more susceptible to physical aches and pains, interrupted or impaired sleep can also:
- Increase your risk of heart disease and cancer
- Harm your brain by halting new neuron production. Sleep deprivation can increase levels of corticosterone (a stress hormone), resulting in fewer new brain cells being created in your hippocampus
- Contribute to a pre-diabetic state, making you feel hungry even if you've already eaten, which can lead to weight gain
- Contribute to premature aging by interfering with your growth hormone production, normally released by your pituitary gland during deep sleep (and during certain types of exercise, such as high-intensity interval training)
- Increase your risk of dying from any cause
Three Factors to Determine How Restorative Your Sleep Is
There are many reasons for why you might not sleep well through the night or get enough sleep. Among the most common culprits are not getting enough natural sunlight during the day, combined with too much artificial light well into the evening.
Something as simple as keeping your bedroom too warm is another frequent mistake that can lead to tossing and turning. Then there's the issue of being overweight, which increases your risk of sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, which I'll discuss more in a moment.
Earlier this year, I interviewed Dan Pardi on the topic of how to get restorative, health-promoting sleep. Pardi is a researcher who works with the Behavioral Sciences Department at Stanford University and the Departments of Neurology and Endocrinology at Leiden University in the Netherlands. According to Pardi, the following three factors are key to determining how restorative your sleep is:
- Duration— i.e. the number of hours you sleep. Sleep requirements are highly individual, and can change from one day to the next, depending on factors like stress, physical exertion, illness, and pregnancy, just to name a few. But, on average, most people need about eight hours of sleep per night.
- Timing—i.e. the habit of going to bed at approximately the same time each night. Even if the duration of sleep is the same, when the timing of your sleep is shifted, it's not going to be as restorative.
- Intensity—This has to do with the different stages that your brain and body goes through over the course of the night, the sequence of them, and how those stages are linked.
Some medications will suppress certain phases of sleep, and certain conditions like sleep apnea will lead to fragmented sleep. With these scenarios, even if you're sleeping for an adequate duration and have consistent timing, your sleep will not be as restorative.
One of the easiest ways to gauge whether you've slept enough is to assess your level of sleepiness the next day. For example, if you had the opportunity, would you be able to take a nap? Do you need caffeine to keep you going? Answering yes to these two questions would indicate you need more and/or better sleep.
The Importance of Getting Bright Light During the Day
I believe that a MAJOR part of why so many people are sleeping so poorly is linked to modern day living, which keeps you indoors for the greater part of the day, and allows you to spend long evenings in brightly lit rooms. The natural cycle of light and darkness plays a critical role in your waking/sleep cycle, and deviating from this natural rhythm can have serious health ramifications.
Studies have shown that poor lighting in the workplace triggers headaches, stress, fatigue, and strained watery eyes, not to mention inferior work production. Conversely, companies that have switched to full-spectrum lights report improved employee morale, greater productivity, reduced errors, and decreased absenteeism. Some experts even believe that "malillumination" is to light what malnutrition is to food, and spending the larger portion of each day indoors essentially puts you in a state of "light deficiency."
When full-spectrum light enters your eyes, it not only goes to your visual centers enabling you to see, it also goes to your brain's hypothalamus where it affects your entire body. Your hypothalamus controls body temperature, hunger and thirst, water balance, and blood pressure. It also controls your body's master gland, the pituitary, which secretes many essential hormones, including those that influence your mood.
Light also serves as the major synchronizer of your "master clock." This master clock is a group of cells in your brain called the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN). As a group, these nuclei synchronize to the light-dark cycle of your environment when light enters your eyes. You also have other biological clocks throughout your body, and those clocks subsequently synchronize to your master clock. In essence, there are two levels of synchronizations taking place within your body in response to sunlight:
- Your master clock synchronizes with the environment
- Your other body clocks synchronize with the master clock
To maintain healthy "master clock" timing, you want to make sure you're getting bright light exposure during the day. Many indoor environments simply aren't intense enough to maintain the needed synchronization. So-called "anchor light" anchors your rhythm, causing it to be less fragile, so that light at night has less of an ability to shift your rhythm. As for how much light exposure you need, Pardi says the first 30-60 minutes of outdoor light exposure creates about 80 percent of the needed anchoring effect.
Nighttime Light Exposure Is Also Detrimental for Sleep and Health
Just as your body requires bright-light exposure during the day, it requires pitch-blackness at night to function optimally. When you turn on a light at night, you immediately send your brain misinformation about the light-dark cycle. The only thing your brain interprets light to be is "day." Believing daytime has arrived, your biological clock instructs your pineal gland to immediately cease its production of the hormone melatonin – a significant blow to your health, especially if you're ill, as melatonin produces a number of health benefits in terms of your immune system.
In addition, melatonin helps you fall asleep and bestows a feeling of overall comfort and well-being, and it has proven to have an impressive array of anti-cancer benefits.2 Needless to say, suppressing this essential hormone by excessive light exposure before bedtime is the last thing you want to do if you have trouble sleeping, or struggle with any kind of health problem or illness.
Moderate Weight Loss Can Help Prevent Sleep Apnea
Certain health ailments can certainly affect your quality of sleep. Sleep apnea, for example, is a very common problem that can hinder any attempts at getting more restorative sleep. Apnea is a Greek word that means "breathe." Sleep apnea is the inability to breathe properly, or the limitation of breath or breathing, during sleep. There are three general types of apnea described in the literature:
- Central sleep apnea (CSA), which typically relates to your diaphragm and chest wall and an inability to properly pull air in
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which relates to an obstruction of your airway that begins in your nose and ends in your lungs
- Mixed apnea is a combination of both
Obstructive sleep apnea consists of the frequent collapse of the airway during sleep, making it difficult to breathe for periods lasting as long as 10 seconds. Those with a severe form of the disorder have at least 30 disruptions per hour. Not only do these breathing disruptions interfere with sleep, leaving you unusually tired the next day, it also reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood, which can impair the function of internal organs and/or exacerbate other health conditions you may have.
The condition is closely linked to metabolic health problems such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, and according to recent research,3 even a modest weight reduction can halt the progression of obstructive sleep apnea. Shedding excess pounds might even cure it, according to this five-year long study. As reported by Medical News Today:4
"The study focused on the effects of weight loss on OSA [obstructive sleep apnea] and demonstrated, for the first time, that a sustained weight loss of just five percent was enough to prevent the disease from worsening and even cure it in a long-term follow-up."
You Don't Have to Be Obese to Suffer from Sleep Apnea
While sleep apnea is thought to be primarily associated with obesity, many patients diagnosed with sleep apnea today do not have a weight problem. As it turns out, the shape and size of your mouth, and the positioning of your tongue, can also play a significant role.
According to Dr. Arthur Strauss, a dental physician and a diplomat of the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine, our mouths have progressively gotten smaller through the generations due to lack of breastfeeding and poor nutrition. Breastfeeding actually helps expand the size of your child's palate and helps move the jaw further forward – two factors that help prevent sleep apnea by creating more room for breathing. Diet is also important. Dr. Weston Price's pioneering work showed how diet can affect your entire mouth, not just your teeth.
If your sleep apnea is related to your tongue or jaw position, specialty trained dentists can design a custom oral appliance to address the issue. These include mandibular repositioning devices, designed to shift your jaw forward, while others help hold your tongue forward without moving your jaw. However, sleep apnea relief may also be found in the form of speech therapy treatment called oral myofunctional therapy, which helps to re-pattern your oral and facial muscles. For more information about this, please see my previous interview with Joy Moeller, who is a leading expert in this form of therapy in the US.
Quick Tips for Improving Your Sleep Quality
Small adjustments to your daily routine and sleeping area can go a long way to ensure uninterrupted, restful sleep. I suggest you read through my full set of 33 healthy sleep guidelines for all of the details, but to start, consider implementing the following changes:
- Get some sun in the morning. Your circadian system needs bright light to reset itself. Ten to 15 minutes of morning sunlight will send a strong message to your internal clock that day has arrived, making it less likely to be confused by weaker light signals during the night.
- Get at least 30 minutes of BRIGHT sun exposure mid-day. Remember, your pineal gland produces melatonin roughly in approximation to the contrast of bright sun exposure in the day and complete darkness at night. If you work indoors, make a point to get outdoors for at least a total of 30-60 minutes during the brightest portion of the day.
- Avoid watching TV or using your computer in the evening, at least an hour or so before going to bed. These devices emit blue light, which tricks your brain into thinking it's still daytime. Normally your brain starts secreting melatonin between 9 and 10 pm, and these devices emit light that may stifle that process.
- Sleep in complete darkness, or as close to it as possible. Even the slightest bit of light in your bedroom can disrupt your biological clock and your pineal gland's melatonin production. This means that even the tiny glow from your clock radio could be interfering with your sleep, so cover your alarm clock up at night or get rid of it altogether. The ideal light tone for any clock you keep on all night is a reddish amber, certainly not blue or green. The red and amber will interfere least with your melatonin production. I also recommend covering your windows with thick drapes or blackout shades if you can afford them. Alternatively, wear an eye mask while you sleep.
- Install a low-wattage yellow, orange or red light bulb if you need a source of light for navigation at night. Light in these bandwidths does not shut down melatonin production in the way that white and blue bandwidth light does. Salt lamps are handy for this purpose.
- Keep the temperature in your bedroom at or below 70 degrees F (21 degrees Celsius). Many people keep their homes and particularly their upstairs bedrooms too warm. Studies show that the optimal room temperature for sleep is quite cool, between 60 to 68 degrees F (15.5 to 20 C). Keeping your room cooler or hotter can lead to restless sleep.
- Check your bedroom for electro-magnetic fields (EMFs). These can also disrupt your pineal gland's production of melatonin and serotonin, and may have other negative effects as well. To do this, you need a gauss meter. You can find various models online, starting around $50 to $200. Some experts even recommend pulling your circuit breaker before bed to kill all power in your house.
- Move alarm clocks and other electrical devices away from your head. If these devices must be used, keep them as far away from your bed as possible, preferably at least three feet.
What Happens to Your Body If You Don’t Let It Sleep
How the Cycles of Light and Darkness Affect Your Health and Wellbeing
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
Good oral hygiene is even more important than previously thought. Pathogenic microorganisms and their toxins can harm more than just your mouth when they circulate through your bloodstream—they can potentially cause secondary infections and chronic inflammation throughout your body.
The fact that oral pathogens can make their way to distant parts of your anatomy and cause serious problems has been known for many years.
Even dentists would agree that bacteria can pass from your gums into your bloodstream and on to your heart, which is why some still prescribe oral antibiotics to a few select patients with a particularly high risk for endocarditis, particularly if they have gingivitis.1
But it appears that the rare case of endocarditis is only the tip of the iceberg. Several studies now show that these oral pathogens—viruses as well as bacteria—may be linked to certain cancers, making it even more important to do take every step possible to ensure your teeth and gums stay healthy.
Poor Oral Health Is a Risk Factor for Oropharyngeal Cancers
The human papillomavirus (HPV),2 some strains of which are associated with cervical cancer if left untreated for long periods of time, has similarly been linked to vaginal, vulvar, penile, anal, and oropharyngeal cancers (cancers of the throat, tonsils, and base of tongue).
Hence the ridiculous recommendation to vaccinate boys with the notorious HPV vaccine, Gardasil, which is riddled with dangerous side effects and other problems. A new study published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research reports:3
"Poor oral health, which includes dental problems and gum disease, is an independent risk factor for oral HPV infection, and by extension, could also contribute to oral cancers."
In this study, participants with poor oral health had a 56 percent higher rate of HPV infection than those with healthy mouths. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that about 60 percent of oropharyngeal cancers are related to HPV,4 but according to the latest study, it could be as high as 80 percent.
The researchers speculate that good oral hygiene could help prevent HPV infection, thereby lowing your risk for oropharyngeal and other cancers. Human papillomavirus is actually a group of more than 100 viruses. Of those 100, about 40 are sexually transmitted, and 15 of those are the types most often associated with cervical cancers and genital warts.5
It is important to note that more than 90 percent of women infected with HPV clear the infection naturally within two years, at which point their cervical cells return to normal. It is only when the HPV virus lingers for many years (that is, becomes chronic) that abnormal cervical cells could turn into cancer.
This is why regularly scheduled PAP smears prevent cervical cancer deaths far more effectively than the HPV vaccine ever will, because they allow a sufficient amount of time to find and treat any cervical abnormalities.
Viruses Cause 15 to 20 Percent of All Cancers
It is interesting to note that HPV isn't the only virus linked to cancer—in fact, it is estimated that 15 to 20 percent of all cancers are caused by viruses!6 Many viruses trigger cancer by suppressing your immune system and/or altering your genes. The following viruses are known to play a major role in certain types of cancer:7
- EBV (Epstein-Barr virus) increases your risk for nasopharyngeal cancer, certain lymphomas and stomach cancer
- Hepatitis B and C are linked to liver cancer
- HIV is associated with invasive cervical cancer, lymphoma, lung cancer, liver cancer, anal cancer, oropharyngeal cancer, skin cancer and Kaposi's sarcoma; Herpes virus 8 is also thought to be involved with almost all cases of Kaposi's sarcoma
Three New Studies Prove Oral Bacteria Can Cause Colorectal Cancer
There is one bacterium that has been causing a great deal of trouble with people's health: Fusobacterium nucleatum, a spindle-shaped anaerobic bacterium commonly found in dental plaque. F. nucleatum is abundant in your mouth and able to coaggregate with other species.8 Three recent studies have linked F. nucleatum with serious health problems:
- Case Western Reserve University researchers found that some malignant colorectal tumors are caused by F. nucleatum9
- Harvard researchers also established a link between F. nucleatum and the initiation of colorectal tumors10
- A study in Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that oral F. nucleatum can lead to intrauterine infection and even stillbirth11
The first two studies establish an actual causal link between this bacteria and colorectal cancer. The bacteria trigger inflammation and also activate the cancer growth genes and the signals required for angiogenesis to occur (a tumor's blood supply). Normally, F. nucleatum is not prevalent in your gut, but if your microbial balance is off—which can happen in your mouth, as well as in your gut—then it's able to invade and colonize. F. nucleatum has been found in gut mucosal biopsies that show inflammation and in biopsies of colorectal tumors.12
The third study discusses an unusual case of a mother losing her baby to stillbirth due to an intrauterine infection, directly resulting from gingivitis. The bacteria moved from her mouth to her uterus because her immune system was weakened by a respiratory infection. Other studies have shown these bacteria to cause stillbirths in mice, but this was the first documented human case.13
All of these studies unequivocally show that bacterial imbalances and dysbiosis can contribute to inflammation in your body and activate cancer genes. Therefore, the bacteria in your mouth deserve as much care and attention as the ones in your gut. Not surprisingly, they're interrelated, and as you improve your gut flora, the flora in your mouth improves accordingly. I experienced this myself. When I started consuming fermented vegetables, it only took a few months before I was able to reduce the frequency of my visits to my dental hygienist for a persistent plaque problem.
Another Danger: A Mouthful of Mercury
Besides oral hygiene, which I'll be discussing shortly, there are two other dental-related concerns you may need to address: mercury amalgams and fluoride. The average American has eight mercury amalgams (fillings), falsely described as "silver" fillings. This misleading label has been purposely used to keep you in the dark about the exact composition of the fillings, which are actually about 50 percent mercury. Mercury is a toxic heavy metal that can poison your brain, central nervous system and kidneys. Children and fetuses, whose brains are still developing, are most at risk—but anyone can be adversely impacted.
Mercury is such a potent toxin that just one drop in a lake would poison the lake to the extent that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would ban fishing in it. Yet, they claim that carrying around a mouthful of mercury fillings has no harmful effects. If you have mercury amalgams, it would be advisable to consult a holistic, mercury-free dentist.
Steer Clear of Fluoride in Any Form
If you are using fluoridated toothpaste, you may want to consider tossing it out and replacing it it with a safe one. In the mornings, you could use toothpaste containing calcium and phosphate salts, or even hydroxyapatite, which can help remineralize your teeth. Baking soda will help promote beneficial bacteria in your mouth by neutralizing the acid that pathogenic bacteria thrive in. I use an oral irrigator with baking soda twice a day and follow with coconut oil pulling for 20 minutes.
Fluoride is of little or no benefit to your teeth and poses serious health risks, including immune dysfunction, endocrine disruption, increased risk of fractures, arthritis, infertility, and many more.
Toothpaste isn't the only source of fluoride—it is present in growing numbers of non-organic foods from pesticide residue (including iceberg lettuce). And fluoride continues to be added to many municipal water supplies in the United States. Water fluoridation has come under increasing scrutiny as health concerns, lack of efficacy in preventing tooth decay and ethical issues of administering chemicals via the water supply have surfaced. For more information on fluoride, please watch the presentation by Michael Connett, an attorney with the Fluoride Action Network in this previous article.
Four Strategies for Improving Your Oral Health
The latest research uncovering the connection between the microorganisms in your mouth and cancer make it extraordinarily clear that oral hygiene is a necessary prerequisite if you want to be healthy. Major problems can result from the overgrowth of opportunistic oral pathogens, including oropharyngeal cancers, colorectal cancer, and if you're an expectant mother, even the tragedy of stillbirth. In addition to avoiding fluoride and mercury fillings, my top four recommendations for optimizing your oral health are as follows:
- Consume a traditional diet: fresh fruits and vegetables, grass-pastured meats, poultry, eggs, and dairy; nuts and seeds; minimal consumption of sugar and processed food
- Add in some naturally fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, pickles, kimchee, yogurt, kefir
- Proper brushing and flossing
- Oil pulling
A traditional diet will help balance both your oral and gastrointestinal flora, but it may not be enough to guarantee perfect oral health. I've struggled with plaque for years, and it wasn't until I added fermented foods and oil pulling that I began to make progress with the problem. The addition of fermented foods decreased my plaque by 50 percent and made it much softer, and the oil pulling has improved it further.
Oil Pulling Is Like Giving Your Teeth an 'Oil Change'
Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic practice dating back thousands of years. When it harnesses the antimicrobial power of coconut oil, you have one very powerful tool! The high lauric content of coconut oil makes it a strong inhibitor of a wide range of pathogenic organisms, from viruses to bacteria to protozoa. Researchers in Ireland found that coconut oil treated with enzymes, in a process similar to digestion, strongly inhibits Streptococcus bacteria, which are common oral residents that can lead to plaque buildup, cavities, and gum disease.
Oil pulling can lessen your toxic load by pulling out pathogens and preventing their spread to other areas of your body. When done correctly, oil pulling has a significant cleansing, detoxifying and healing effect. Oil pullers have reported rapid relief from systemic health problems such as arthritis, diabetes and heart disease. Sesame oil is traditionally recommended, but it has a relatively high concentration of omega-6 oils. Therefore, I believe coconut oil is far superior, and to me it tastes better. But from a mechanical and biophysical perspective, both oils likely work.
Oil pulling is simple. Basically, it involves rinsing your mouth with about a tablespoon of coconut oil, much like you would using a mouthwash. The oil is "worked" around your mouth by pushing, pulling, and drawing it through your teeth for a period of about 15 minutes. If you are obsessive like me, you can go for 30-45 minutes. This process allows the oil to neutralize and "pull out" bacteria, viruses, fungi and other debris. After working the oil around for 15 minutes, spit it out and rinse your mouth with water. Do NOT swallow the oil as it's loaded with bacteria and toxins. Naturopathic physician and coconut oil expert Bruce Fife compares the benefits of oil pulling to changing the oil in your car:14
"It acts much like the oil you put in your car engine. The oil picks up dirt and grime. When you drain the oil, it pulls out the dirt and grime with it, leaving the engine relatively clean. Consequently, the engine runs smoother and lasts longer. Likewise, when we expel harmful substances from our bodies our health is improved and we run smoother and last longer."
Your Diet Is Key to Reducing Chronic Inflammation
The running thread linking a wide variety of common health problems, including cancer, is chronic inflammation in your body – regardless of whether it originates in your mouth or not. Clearly, addressing your oral health is an important step, but it really all starts with your diet.
Your diet can make or break your teeth, as it were, and has a profound effect on your overall level of inflammation. Therefore, to optimize your health and prevent many of the diseases listed above, you'll want to evaluate your lifestyle to ensure you're doing everything you can to prevent chronic inflammation from occurring. To reduce or prevent inflammation in your body, you'll want to avoid the following dietary culprits:
- Sugar/fructose and grains
- Oxidized cholesterol (cholesterol that has gone rancid, such as that from overcooked, scrambled eggs)
- Foods cooked at high temperatures
- Trans fats
Beyond that, brushing with baking soda and using oil pulling can help address the bacterial balance in your mouth. The most important factor, however, is to regularly reseed your gut with beneficial bacteria, i.e. probiotics. Fermented vegetables and other traditionally fermented foods are an ideal source, but if you don't eat fermented foods, then a high-quality probiotic is certainly recommended.
Dr. Oz Investigates the Hazards of Dental Amalgams
Major Victory as Portland, Oregon Votes NO on Water Fluoridation
By Dr. Mercola
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) was established in 1970 as the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, which was originally chartered by Abraham Lincoln in 1863.
As a non-profit, non-governmental organization, the IOM has a theoretically noble goal – to conduct research and provide supposedly unbiased, independent information about health to both the government and the private sector.
As IOM puts it: "The IOM asks and answers the nation's most pressing questions about health and health care."
To date we have seen some useful reports come out of the IOM, such as one review of more than 1,000 vaccine studies that found convincing evidence of 14 health outcomes -- including seizures, inflammation of the brain, and fainting -- that can be caused by certain vaccines.1
In 2011, the IOM admitted, "Vaccines are not free from side effects, or 'adverse effects'" and noted that "for the vast majority [of these effects] the evidence is inadequate to accept or reject a causal relationship."
This is the type of information that the US desperately needs to prompt further investigations into issues not only involving vaccines but also countless other areas of health and medicine. We need studies that are truly unbiased, that will allow for open, informed discussions about health care and true disease prevention.
Unfortunately, the IOM is getting a new president, cardiologist Victor Dzau, and he comes with a lot of "baggage" – from ties to multiple pharmaceutical companies to serving on the board at PepsiCo. This physician-businessman is likely to flood the IOM with conflicts of interest that may make unbiased IOM reports a thing of the past.
Who Is Victor Dzau, the IOM's New President?
Victor Dzau is currently the chancellor for health affairs at Duke University and the CEO of the Duke University Health System. Before that, he served as the chair of the department of medicine and director of research at Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Hersey Professor of the Theory and Practice of Physic (Medicine) at Harvard Medical School. He was also the chair of the department of medicine at Stanford University.
It's an impressive resume that will only be bolstered by the six-year appointment as president of the IOM, which is set to begin on July 1, 2014… However, don't let his strong academic ties bedazzle you…
In a 2010 Lancet paper, Dzau says his vision for global "health science" is driven by a "public-private financial partnership" between academic institutions and governments.2 Unfortunately, large U.S. universities – who have long maintained close ties with Big Pharma – are now increasingly creating very lucrative "public-private partnerships" with government, which creates a major conflict of interest.
Already, Dzau's work at Duke University has a long history of funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which accepts a great deal of money from Big Pharma and is deeply enmeshed with the industry, as well as vaccine development research. For instance:
- In July 2005, the Duke Center for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology was opened with a $300-million, 7-year-funding commitment from NIH3
- In 2006, a top-level secure biocontainment lab was opened at the Duke Human Vaccine Institute, which is developing HIV, TB, influenza, and Dengue vaccines4 (the Duke Human Vaccine Institute was also started with NIH money5)
- In 2012, Duke got another $139 million from NIH to develop an HIV vaccine6
- In 2012, Dzau also delivered an "order" to Duke University students to get the flu shot7
Dzau Became a Multimillionaire by Virtue of His Corporate Ties
In 2010, a group of Duke students protested the hefty compensation being given to some Duke officials, Dzau included. He received more than $2.2 million in total compensation from Duke in 2009, an amount some felt was excessive especially when financial difficulties were being reported at the University. However, that figure is nothing compared to the compensation Dzau is receiving from his corporate connections outside of Duke. As reported by Forbes,8 Dzau served on several corporate boards in 2009, including:
- Alnylam Pharmaceuticals: Dzau received more than $234,000 in compensation in 2009, along with owning more than $424,000 worth of company shares
- Genzyme (a biotechnology company now owned by Sanofi): Dzau received nearly $413,000 in compensation plus owned shares worth more than $5.3 million
- Medtronic (a medical devices company): Dzau received nearly $174,000 in compensation plus owned shares worth nearly $494,000
- PepsiCo: Dzau received $260,000 in compensation and owned shares worth more than $1.6 million
In case you lost count, this amounts to more than $1 million in compensation from serving as a director for these companies, in addition to stock valued at more than $7.8 million… and that's in addition to the $2.2 million from Duke. And, remember, these are 2009 figures. Today, it's estimated that Dzau owns:9
- 90,000 shares of stock in Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, worth more than $8 million
- More than 25,000 shares of Medtronic stock, worth more than $1.4 million
- More than 36,000 shares of PepsiCo stock, worth more than $2.8 million
How Can IOM Provide Unbiased National Health Advice with Corporate-Backed Leaders?
The issue here, of course, isn't how much money Dzau has… it's how a person with such extensive corporate board memberships can realistically uphold the IOM promise of providing unbiased health information. As reported by Health Care Renewal:
"Even though Dr. Dzau will apparently exit his board memberships before he becomes IOM President, the IOM has been providing such analysis and recommendations under the supervision of a Council member who had fiduciary duties to the stockholders of two pharmaceutical companies, a medical device company, and a company that makes sugar-laden soft drinks and snack foods. It will continue to provide such analysis and recommendations under the supervision of a President who became a multimillionaire by virtue of the stock holdings he acquired through his board positions."
Dr. Paul Offit Was Elected to the IOM in 2011
And Dzau isn't the only IOM official with a questionable background… Dr. Offit, who became an IOM member in 2011, has similarly concerning conflicts of interest to Dzau. Dr. Offit received a reported $350,000 grant from Merck to develop a rotavirus vaccine, and has served on the scientific advisory board for Merck. He received another estimated $6 million when Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) sold the patent for the RotaTeq vaccine he developed. He was also on the CDC advisory board that approved the addition of a rotavirus vaccine to the US National Immunization Program (NIP) in 1998—a decision that paid off handsomely.
The original rotavirus vaccine added to the NIP, which was made by a competitor, was pulled from the market due to adverse effects. The RotaTeq vaccine replaced it, and he continues to receive royalty payments from the sale of RotaTeq to this day. (According to Wired Magazine,10 Merck's revenue from RotaTeq was $665 million in 2008 alone, of which Offit and his RotaTeq co-creators are said to receive a percentage.)
In 2005, Merck, CHOP, and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine announced the creation of the Maurice R. Hilleman Chair in Vaccinology. The chair, paid for by Merck, went to Dr. Offit, who still holds it to this day. In addition to his faculty salary at CHOP, he gets another $90,000 a year from this Merck-endowed chair. Offit has been severely criticized for his blatant conflicts of interest in the past and is also notorious for his claim that infants can tolerate 10,000 vaccines at once.
Last year, he was also a primary figurehead behind a flurry of media reports that told readers to beware, if not outright be afraid, of taking supplements.
Unfortunately, the revolving doors between academia, government, and industry have effectively led to a situation where it's now extremely difficult, if not impossible, to trust conventional health advice from the federal government — including that supported by non-profits like IOM, which is supposed to be independent -- due to this massive collusion.
The Fix Is In: You've Got to Look Out for Your Own Health
Unfortunately today, even organizations that appear to be an independent "trusted" source for health information are typically very much intertwined with and beholden to industry, including Big Pharma and junk-food giants, and their health recommendations reflect this.
For instance, NIH's Web site, NIH.gov, is the most visited health content site online, but NIH is deeply enmeshed with the pharmaceutical industry. The second most-visited site, WebMD, is also not the independent informational site many believe it to be. They rely heavily on advertising dollars from the drug industry in order to keep afloat, and at one point were featuring a screening test for depression, sponsored by drug maker Eli Lilly, that would tell you that you were at risk for the condition even if you checked "no" to every symptom in the test.
This is precisely the reason why I've instead committed to selling a limited number of well-researched and independently tested products that I personally believe in, in order to remain independent and unbiased -- free from the spoken or unspoken demands of advertisers. And now, as the fourth most-visited health content site, and the number one most-visited natural health site, Mercola.com remains one of the only truly independent informational sources on the Web.
When it comes to your health, you simply cannot accept claims at their face value... You've got to dig below the surface and use all the resources available to you, including your own common sense and reason, true independent experts' advice, and other's experiences, to determine what medical treatment or advice will be best for you in any given situation.
Collusion Between Pharmaceutical Industry and Government Deepens
Why is Massive Conflict of Interest Allowed in Government Health Recommendations?
By Dr. Mercola
You may be aware that bees are dying in large numbers across the globe, courtesy of the ever-increasing presence of toxins in our environment. But did you know that the monarch butterfly is also becoming endangered, and for the same reason?
As reported by the New York Times:1
"Hoping to focus attention on the plight of the monarch butterfly at a North American summit meeting... a group of prominent scientists and writers urged the leaders of Mexico, the United States and Canada to commit to restoring the habitat that supports the insect's extraordinary migration across the continent.
Calling the situation facing the butterfly 'grim,' the group issued a letter that outlined a proposal to plant milkweed, the monarch caterpillar's only food source, along its migratory route in Canada and the United States."
Immediate Action Needed to Save the Monarch Butterfly
One of the major reasons for the dramatically diminishing numbers of monarch butterflies is that so many of the milkweed plants typically present in fields have been eliminated as farmers have switched over to planting genetically engineered corn and soy. (Land areas used to grow corn in the US have expanded by about 25 percent since 2007.)
The proposal calls for planting milkweed all along the migratory path through the US; between fields, in ditches, along roadsides, and in public areas, to ensure sufficient food for the monarchs, and a place to lay their eggs. The group also recommends subsidizing farmers who do not use herbicides on their land.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is also petitioning the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement tougher rules for the weed killer glyphosate, and to do so sooner rather than later.
The agency is scheduled to complete a review of glyphosate rules next year, but the NRDC is asking the EPA to take immediate action, given the rapid decline of the monarchs. As reported by the Los Angeles Times:2
"The petition asks the EPA to consider preventing the use of glyphosate and other weed killers along highways and utility rights of way where milkweed could grow freely without interfering with maintenance or emergency crews.
It also asks that farmers be required to establish herbicide-free safety zones in or around their fields, and urges the EPA to ensure that any new safeguards on glyphosate don't lead simply to more use of other weed killers that would be equally bad for monarchs and may pose health risks."
The Plight of the Monarchs
A recent article in the World Post,3 written by Mexican environmental activist Homero Aridjis, sheds further light on just how dire the situation is. Having spent every childhood winter in Contepec, Michoacan admiring the arriving flocks of monarchs, he has personally noticed the dramatic decline in the gorgeous orange and black butterflies.
In 1986, Aridjis petitioned the Mexican President to protect monarch habitats, which resulted in the creation of the Monarch Butterfly Special Biosphere Reserve. In 2000, the reserve was enlarged, and additional protection was added for other butterfly colonies as well. Mexico has also set limitations on logging in and around the butterfly reserve, to help preserve the butterfly population. Alas, such measures are not enough.
As Aridjis notes, excessive use of toxic agricultural chemicals across America's Corn Belt plays an absolutely critical role in the declining numbers of these beautiful creatures, as each year the butterflies migrate through this area of the US.
Milkweed,4 a perennial plant that used to be common across American prairies, is the only plant on which the adult monarch will lay its eggs. Once the larvae hatches, the caterpillar will eat the plant. Without milkweed along its migratory path, the monarch cannot reproduce. Aridjis writes:5
"I was born in 1940 and grew up with (and wrote about) the monarchs, but it was only in 1975 that their overwintering forests in central Mexico's Transvolcanic Belt were 'discovered' by Canadian scientists.
On Jan. 29, news was released of a dramatic plunge in the monarch butterfly population that overwinters in Mexico after flying thousands of miles south from the northern and eastern United States and southern Canada.
This season's population, calculated by measuring the area of occupied trees, covers a tiny 0.67 hectares -- the smallest ever since these measurements began 20 years ago -- and a huge drop from the 1996 high of 21 hectares. The population has plummeted from an estimated 1 billion in 1996 to 33 million this year, scattered over seven sites. There have been no monarchs in Contepec for years."
Monarch Decline and Changes in U.S. Agriculture Figures from EH Williams Feb 7. 2014. Decline in monarch overwintering area compared to rise in US acreage planted in corn and rise is usage of glyphosate herbicide. To compare these on a similar scale, the monarch hectares have been multiplied by 5, and the glyphosate usage has been divided by 2 data sources: www.epa.gov/opp00001/pestsales/, www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/agricultural-baseline-database/
Glyphosate Destroys More Than Just Monarch Breeding Grounds
The environmental destruction caused by glyphosate certainly does not end with the eradication of milkweed, which are critical for monarch breeding and feeding. This chemical, the toxicity of which has been vastly underestimated since its introduction into agriculture, absolutely devastates the soil microbiome. Killing microorganisms is in fact one of glyphosate's primary mechanisms of action, as it is patented as an antibiotic. Glyphosate is also a potent chelator that sequesters valuable minerals, rendering them inaccessible and unusable for the plant. It ties up minerals like manganese, zinc, and iron, which are essential for the plant's immune system and growth.
These minerals are also important for human health. Another problem, which applies to both genetically engineered (GE) and conventional hybridized plants, is that when a plant is altered it may lose its ability to emit the correct signals to warn its neighbors about impending attacks. Hence, they become more vulnerable to infestations.
Then there's the issue of rapid resistance developing among weeds... In some areas, highly invasive and crop-destroying superweeds are taking over valuable farm land. This was yet another possibility that was initially pooh-pooh'd by Monsanto. Industry assurances aside, glyphosate resistance has now become an undisputable fact.
But rather than acknowledging its role in creating the problem, Monsanto and other chemical producers have simply started working on herbicide formulations that are even MORE toxic, and developing new crops that are resistant to a different set of chemicals, including 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), which is one of the primary ingredients in Agent Orange!
How Glyphosate Affects Your Health
Just as glyphosate decimates soil bacteria that are critical for plant health and nutrient uptake, the chemical also destroys the microbiome found in the gut of animals and humans. This effect appears to be the missing link that explains the detrimental health effects associated with genetically engineered foods. Recent research even suggests that glyphosate may be the most important factor in the development of multiple chronic diseases and conditions that have become prevalent in Westernized societies. This includes but is not limited to:
Autism Gastrointestinal diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, chronic diarrhea, colitis, and Crohn's disease Obesity Allergies Cardiovascular disease Depression Cancer Infertility Alzheimer's disease Parkinson's disease Multiple sclerosis ALS and more
The impact of gut bacteria on your health is becoming widely known. And here, we see how your gut bacteria once again play a crucial role in explaining why and how glyphosate causes health problems in both animals and humans. According to this revealing study, published in the journal Entropy6 last year:
"Glyphosate's claimed mechanism of action in plants is the disruption of the shikimate pathway, which is involved with the synthesis of the essential aromatic amino acids, phenylalanine, tyrosine, and tryptophan. The currently accepted dogma is that glyphosate is not harmful to humans or to any mammals because the shikimate pathway is absent in all animals.
However, this pathway is present in gut bacteria, which play an important and heretofore largely overlooked role in human physiology through an integrated biosemiotic relationship with the human host. In addition to aiding digestion, the gut microbiota synthesize vitamins, detoxify xenobiotics, and participitate in immune system homeostasis and gastrointestinal tract permeability. Furthermore, dietary factors modulate the microbial composition of the gut."
Time to Choose Between Monsanto and Monarchs
The Center for Food Safety has created a petition urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), US Department of Agriculture (USDA), and President Obama to protect the monarchs' breeding habitat by halting the approval of Monsanto Roundup Ready™ and other glyphosate-resistant and pesticide-promoting genetically engineered crops. Please take a moment to sign the petition right now.
You can also make a difference by planting milkweed in your own garden to make up for the loss of milkweed caused by the sprawl of urban development.
Ending Glyphosate Use Is Critical for All Life on Planet Earth
Besides protecting the monarch butterfly, there are many other reasons to insist on the removal of glyphosate from agricultural use. The documented harmful effects of glyphosate extend not just to critical pollinating insects like bees and butterflies, but also to soil, plant, animal, and human health. It's becoming increasingly clear that Monsanto's glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup is doing FAR more harm than anyone ever expected, and it's time to put on the brakes before it's too late.
On numerous occasions, I've stated that the differences between industrial farming and organic farming, using time-tested all-natural methods, are so vast that the foods produced by the former cannot be equated to the foods produced by the latter. Use of genetically engineered plants only deepens the many problems associated with conventional, chemical-heavy farming. The environmental effects are also 180 degrees opposed, as industrial farming contributes to every form of environmental devastation, while organic farming methods restore the environment and invigorate and support the ecosystem—of which humans are an integral part, I might add.
Many equate modern techniques with "progress," when in fact most of our technological advancements are now threatening to destroy us right along with the planet as a whole... Think about this: nearly one BILLION pounds of Roundup is used each year for conventional crop production. Knowing what we now know about the toxicity of glyphosate (as well as glyphosate-based formulations that can be even more toxic than glyphosate alone), it's quite clear we're well on our way toward disaster.
Genetically engineered (GE) crops are typically the most heavily sprayed, as so-called Roundup Ready crops are designed to withstand otherwise lethal doses of this chemical. The contamination issue is yet another valid reason for avoiding conventionally-grown foods in general, and genetically engineered (GE) foods in particular. And since genetically engineered foods tend to contain far higher levels of contamination, it's also another reason for labeling foods that contain GE ingredients.
Monsanto’s Roundup Herbicide May Be Most Important Factor in Development of Autism and Other Chronic Disease
Toxicology Expert Speaks Out About Roundup and GMOs