By Dr. Mercola
Marijuana has been legalized in a number of US states; 20 states have legalized cannabis for medical purposes; two states—Colorado and Washington state—also permit recreational use. Certain forms of cannabis are actually very potent medicine, with few or no psychoactive effects.
In California, medical marijuana has been legal for 18 years. Dr. Allan Frankel, a board-certified internist in California, has treated patients with medical cannabis for the past seven years.
By and large, cannabis is highly favored by people across the US. According to Dr. Frankel, 85-95 percent of Americans are in favor of medical cannabis, and 58-59 percent are in favor of legalizing marijuana.
The federal government, meanwhile, wants to get rid of all medical use of marijuana, which of course begs the question: Why? According to Dr. Frankel, the answer is simple. "They want it. This is a huge market," he says.
And yes, medical cannabis is clearly competition to the pharmaceutical industry, as the cannabis plant can take the place of a wide variety of synthetic drugs, especially for mood and anxiety disorders. The last thing they want is a therapy that's going to take away from their bottom line.
Cannabis as Medicine
Dr. Frankel initially learned about medical cannabis through glaucoma trials and cancer work performed at UCLA in the 70s and early 80s.
"I've always seen it as a medicine," he says. "Eventually, I got interested in it. I thought my tool box was getting too small for typical issues with patients related to anxiety, pain, or the common issues where we just had inadequate medications.
I saw the cannabinoid future was something that was bright. Seven years ago, I kind of picked up my formal white coat and sprayed a little green on it..."
Green Bridge Medical is his professional corporation where he sees patients, performs research, and provides physician and patient education and outreach. For all its benefits, using cannabis in lieu of other medicines has many challenges.
"It's a complicated process, as a physician in particular, working inside the medical system, to work outside the medical system to make these dose-consistent extracts available."
Many may find the idea of medical cannabis abhorrent or somehow "wrong," as we've been indoctrinated to view marijuana as a dangerous gateway drug that will lead you down a path of illicit drug use.
Many fail to realize that prescription drugs actually have FAR greater potential to turn you into "a junkie." Legal drug addiction is also taking lives in record numbers. In the UK, one million people are addicted to over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription painkillers and tranquilizers.
That's significantly more than the number addicted to illegal drugs.1 In the US, there were four times more deaths among women from prescription painkiller overdose than for cocaine and heroin deaths combined in 2010.2
Pharmaceuticals in general are among the leading causes of death in the US, and some medicines have killed tens of thousands of individuals. The painkiller Vioxx is one classic example, which killed over 60,000 before being pulled off the market.
The diabetes drug Avandia is another, and most recently, a study estimated that in a five-year span, some 800,000 people in Europe were killed from inappropriate use of beta-blockers in non-cardiac surgery patients. Deaths attributed to cannabis barely registers in comparison.
"I think that any intervention, regardless of how benign (I would say in my 35 years of medical experience, cannabis should be considered a benign substance overall), there are potential uses and abuses," Dr. Frankel says.
"For me, we're just talking about the real solid indications. The issue of abuse and neglect is there, but I think it's relatively small. I think the claim that it is a gateway drug has been pretty soundly proven not to be correct.
Even if cannabis to some extent is a gateway drug (which I do not believe it is), even if it is, it should be legalized to protect the gateway [drug] issue, because legalization opens up communication."
What's the Difference Between Medical and Non-Medical Marijuana?
According to Dr. Frankel, cannabis has been cultivated in Northern Europe since before the last Ice Age. Even back then, there were two very distinct groups of strains. One is cannabis; the other is hemp. There's plenty of confusion about the similarities and differences between these two plants. While they are subspecies of the same plant species, they look very different, and are extremely different in ways that really matter when it comes to medicinal use.
The thing they have in common is that they both contain cannabidiol (CBD), which has medicinal properties. The amount of CBD however, differs greatly between the two. Dosing, therefore, is dramatically different where you to try to use hemp in lieu of cannabis, as the latter, cannabis, is up to 100-fold more potent. Another difference that appears to matter in terms of its usefulness as medicine relates to differing terpene profiles. Hemp contains very little of these valuable medicinal compounds.
Lastly, there's the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content. THC is the psychoactive component of marijuana; it's the molecule that makes you feel "stoned." (While cannabidiol (CBD) also has certain psychoactive properties, it does NOT produce a high.) By legal definition, hemp cannot have more than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in it. So to summarize:
- Hemp has less value for medicinal uses, as it only contains about four percent CBD and lacks many of the medicinal terpenes and flavonoids. It also contains less than 0.3 percent THC, which means it cannot produce a high or get you stoned. However, for many disease processes, THC is very much indicated and required. So, for many disease processes, CBD alone has much less value.
- Cannabis is potent medicine courtesy of high amounts (about 10-20 percent) of CBD, critical levels of medicinal terpenes, and flavanoids, as well as THC in varying ratios for various diseases. The higher the THC, the more pronounced its psychoactive effects
How Marijuana Got a Bad Rap
"What happened in the '60s and '70s was that due to desires for psychedelia, the changes in the war in Vietnam, and the war on drugs with Nixon, the types of strains that were available and the demand for psychedelia changed. Before we knew it, CBD—due to a lack of 'stoniness'—was bred out of the plant," Dr. Frankel explains.
As a result of growers breeding out the all-important CBD, marijuana became known primarily as a plant that gets you high. Its original medicinal properties and uses largely fell by the wayside. Things are changing however.
"Five years ago, California Physicians, and other groups around the world, didn't really know if we would find CBD-rich strains anymore, but we have. Now there's many different varieties of it. We keep bringing back new CBD rich strains every month or two. These plants genes' haven't seen the light of day for God knows how long."
CBD is currently a Schedule 1 controlled substance, which means:
- The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse
- The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the US
- There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision
There's no doubt that CBD needs to be rescheduled, as each of these three points are blatantly wrong. Dr. Frankel actually thinks cannabis should be de-scheduled altogether, as a plant really does not belong on any schedule of a controlled substance.
"How could we have a plant on a schedule? What if it's an all-THC plant? What if it's an all-CBD? What if we find some other psychoactivity? If you take the Physicians' Desk Reference (PDR) and look at every product, none of them looks like a plant to me. This is the only plant, and it's not just one medicine. One entry with one data ID or MDI cannot be applied for cannabis. For example, we're actually right now making different medicines with cannabis plants based upon harvest time.
As the plants mature, the flowers get darker and darker. There's a traditional time when you're just supposed to pick them. Of course, what we've done is we picked them at different times in large amounts, ground them all together so we can get very representative samples, and see what happens in the last few weeks of flowering. The medicine changes a lot in the last three weeks. You can make more sedating medicine by letting it just stay on the vine three weeks longer. Even how long you let it grow makes it a very different medicine, a noticeably different medicine," he says.
Who's a Good Candidate for Medical Cannabis?
In his medical practice, Dr. Frankel treats a wide variety of patients with medical cannabis, which has become his specialty. Despite the many claims of cannabis performing miracles, he's reluctant to think of it as a cure for anything. Occasionally, however, patients will experience very dramatic results. For example, he has seen tumors virtually disappear in some patients using no other therapy except taking 40 to 60 milligrams of cannabinoids a day. The most common thing he sees in cancer patients, however, are tumors shrinking, or a metastasis disappearing. Sometimes tumors will shrink or vanish, only to reemerge in other areas, months later, and then shrink or vanish again... Other common ailments being treated with cannabis include:
- Mood disorders
- Pain disorders
- Degenerative neurological disorders such as dystonia
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson's disease
- Seizure Disorders
He recounts how two dystonia patients with severe myofascial spasms were able to return to normal life after taking two milligrams of whole-plant CBD three times a day for a little more than one week. This is quite astounding, considering each of them had spent more than a decade undergoing neurosurgeries and taking multiple medications.
Dr. Frankel is very focused on trying to develop accurate dose-consistent medicine. The Patient Access Centers he consults with create a diverse collection of dose-consistent oral-buccal sprays. He also believes it's very important to open up and start talking about dosing—what works, what doesn't. It is his belief that some patients, in large part due to lack of education about the medicine, may be taking 10, or even 100 times higher dosage than is really needed to treat their ailment. Unfortunately, many doctors in this still highly controversial field are afraid to recommend dosages, for fear of the repercussions.
"There's this false notion (I think I can very safely say it's false) that doctors cannot recommend dosage because of this federal [law against] aiding and abetting with cannabis. It's not true. It's just not true," he says. "There are no [cannabis] medications that we dose by body weight. We now have about 120 kids with seizure disorder, and if you look at the surveys, across the board, the average dose is 37 milligrams [of whole-plant CBD] per day, and there's no relationship with body size."
How Can You Obtain Medical Cannabis?
In states where medicinal marijuana is legal, such as California, you can join a collective, which is a legal entity consisting of a group of patients that can grow and share cannabis medicines with each other. By signing up as a member, you gain the right to grow and share your medicine. Dr. Frankel explains:
"A patient or a human being 18 and over or with a parent's consent in California can get a medical cannabis card recommendation letter if they or any physician or doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.) agree. It doesn't have to be for any specific condition. In other states, it's very, specified. In California, there are 12 conditions listed, but then it says 'or any condition agreed upon by the doctor and patient,' which kind of opens it up quite a bit."
[With your medical cannabis card], you have the authority to go to whatever collective you want and pretty much select what medicine you want. Now, that is exactly what the good, the bad, and the ugly is. I love free choice, but we need free choice with education. There's virtually zero education going on in the collectives. I mean, there are random places here and there that make an effort but it's really minimal."
When cannabis is inhaled, smoked, or vaporized, its effects are rapid and short-lasting. Orally, it's the most unpredictable and delayed. When ingesting it, it can take up to two hours to take effect, but if dosed appropriately, you can achieve once-a-day dosing with an edible medicine.
When smoked, as little as 10 mg of CBD acts as a major appetite suppressor. CBD is also an excellent painkiller, particularly for tooth pain when the cannabis oil is applied sublingually or directly onto the tooth. Cannabis oil can also help heal sunburn overnight. CBD is also very effective for anxiety disorders. Just a couple of milligrams of whole-plant CBD can effectively subdue anxiety without causing any kind of mental deficiency or high.
In fact, to determine how much THC in an oral dose would be required to get high, they made liquid edibles with 5mg, 10mg, and 20mg of THC. The lowest dose, 5mg, did not produce a high. The upper two—10 and 20 mg—did. Taking 50-100 mg of oral THC could get you into serious trouble. Paranoia is the most common side effect. Overdosing can also produce nausea and vomiting.
The Power of Raw Cannabis
The video below features some of the top researchers on the healing effects of Cannabis in its raw form. The leaves can be eaten in a salad or juiced.
A British pharmaceutical company called GW Pharmaceuticals has a cannabis product that is distributed in Canada and five other countries. It's a 1:1 CBD-THC whole plant extract. "It's a very good medicine," Dr. Frankel says. "But it's expensive. That's the problem with pharmaceutical [companies]." Dr. Frankel also consults with various states that are interested in growing medicinal CBD, i.e. cannabis with a high CBD content and hemp-level (extremely low) THC. He even gives the CBD seeds away. "I make the offer: if any governor in the 50 states wants, absolutely free – as long as I can do it legally – any of these high-ratio CBD strains, I can make it happen. No cost," he says.
"This is one of the important points I'd to emphasize: I think we're going to find ultimately that CBD is a nutritional supplement for everybody. I think we were all using [cannabis] 100 years ago... I think then, if they had hemp for food, there was CBD in it. Again, I wasn't there, but my guess is that everybody had CBD in their diet up until 100 years ago or so. CBD appears in some of the newest data to help protect your DNA epigenetic layer. That's important stuff for all of the toxins that we have in our environment. I think we have more toxins now, and we're missing one of the major protectants that we used to use for this. That's a double whammy."
The Medical Miracle You'll Get Arrested for Using
Survey Finds Teen Misuse And Abuse Of Prescription Drugs Up 33 Percent Since 2008
By Dr. Mercola
Millions of people experience problems with urination, ranging from incontinence and urgency to nighttime urination. The severity of these symptoms can be mild or debilitating, causing embarrassment or anxiety that keeps people from socializing and enjoying their lives.
Yet, no study has ever determined which lower urinary tract symptom (LUTS) is the most bothersome. Many researchers have simply cited their own area of interest as the most troublesome, shedding little light on which urinary symptoms are in need of the most attention.
Researchers from Finland have changed that, however, with a study that gets to the bottom of bladder symptoms among men and women of all ages.
The Most Troubling Urinary Symptoms? Urinary Urgency and Urgency Incontinence
A survey of 6,000 people in Finland revealed urinary symptoms were common across the board.1 This included:
- The feeling of having to go now, or urinary urgency, in nearly 8%
- Stress incontinence (leaking urine with coughing or exercise) in nearly 7%
- Nighttime voiding (nocturia) in 6%
- Dribbling after urination (post-micturition dribble) in nearly 6%
- Leaking urine before reaching a toilet (urgency incontinence) in 5%
Urination problems tended to differ among men and women, with women experiencing more issues with incontinence and men struggling more often with slow urination or dribbling. Overall, they found urinary urgency was the most common troubling symptom but, individually, urgency incontinence was rated as the most embarrassing problem.
The study's lead researcher, Kari Tikkinen, MD, PhD, explained that some of the most overlooked urinary symptoms are actually those that deserve the most attention:2
"In women, stress incontinence is the condition whose investigation and treatment we should particularly focus on. The symptom occurs in approximately one in eight of all women at a level of severity that causes substantial bother…
In both genders, rushing to the toilet and waking at night-time to urinate were listed as fairly common and troublesome problems – approximately one in twelve people stated they had substantial trouble with rushing to the toilet, and one in seventeen said they had trouble with getting up at night-time to urinate…
According to this study, however, the most common cause of bother among men is post-micturition dribble, which has been usually ignored."
A Closer Look at Some of the Most Common Urinary Symptoms
You've probably heard of the term "overactive bladder," which refers to symptoms such as urinary frequency, urinary urgency, and having urge incontinence, or accidents. It has become a buzzword in recent years as pharmaceutical companies began promoting medications to treat this recently coined condition, urging (primarily) women to seek "help."
Not only are many cases of "overactive bladder" mild – i.e. not requiring treatment – but the term itself may be problematic, according to Tikkinen, who noted:3
"It implies that the cause of the symptoms lies in the bladder, even though this is often not the case."
Certain drugs for overactive bladder (anticholinergics) work by relaxing your bladder muscle to reduce urinary urgency, frequency, and accidents. These drugs may cause side effects like blurred vision, constipation, faster heartbeat, drowsiness, confusion, and memory loss while doing nothing to treat the underlying cause of your urinary troubles. Common causes of urinary symptoms include:4
- Stress Incontinence (leaking urine while laughing, coughing, sneezing, etc.): This is often caused by physical changes resulting from pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause.
- Urge Incontinence (leaking urine after feeling a sudden urge to urinate): This may be caused by abnormal nerve signals that cause bladder spasms and may be associated with certain medical conditions like uncontrolled diabetes and hyperthyroidism. Other health conditions may also impact your bladder nerves and muscles, leading to urge incontinence. This includes multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, stroke, and injury.
- Overactive Bladder: This may be caused by abnormal nerves sending signals to your bladder at the wrong time, causing it to contract and leading to frequent urination, urgency, incontinence, and nighttime urination.
- Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms in Men: These may include urinary hesitancy, weak stream, dribbling or leaking, along with more frequent urination (especially at night). These symptoms may be caused by an enlarged prostate that affects the flow of urine.
How Often Is 'Frequent' Urination?
You may be wondering just what constitutes an actual urination "problem." For starters, if the frequency of your urination is bothersome (i.e. it wakes you up at night or interferes with your ability to carry out your regular activities), you should seek help. The same holds true for feelings of urgency or incontinence that is interfering with your daily life.
Please do not feel embarrassed, as these problems are incredibly common and can often be treated (using non-drug methods), leading to significant improvements in your quality of life.
That said, urinating six to eight times per day is "average." You might go more or less often than that, depending on how much water you drink and how active you are. Increased frequency can be caused by an overactive bladder (involuntary contractions), caffeine, a urinary tract infection (UTI), interstitial cystitis, benign prostate enlargement, diabetes, or certain neurological diseases.
It is important that you urinate when you feel the urge (except if you're undergoing bladder training, as discussed below). Ordinarily, delaying urination can cause bladder overdistension — like overstretching a Slinky such that it can't bounce back. You may habitually postpone urination if you find bathroom breaks inconvenient at work, or if you have Paruresis (also known as Shy Bladder Syndrome, Bashful Bladder, Tinkle Terror, or Pee Anxiety), the fear of urinating in the presence of others. Seven percent of the public suffers from this condition.5
6 Natural Methods for Treating Urinary Symptoms
If you're struggling with urinary symptoms that are interfering with your life, the following methods can be very effective:
- Do Kegels: More women than men might be familiar with this term. A Kegel squeeze is performed by drawing your lower pelvic muscles up and holding them up high and tight. For men who aren't familiar with that term, it's similar to trying to stop urinating in the middle of the flow. This can help to strengthen the muscles that help you hold in and control the flow of urine. Kegels can also help you suppress the need to urinate if you have trouble with frequency.
- Keep a Bladder Diary: This will help you become familiar with your bathroom habits so you can identify a pattern. It may help you develop a plan to visit the bathroom at timed intervals to avoid accidents, as well as help you strategically increase time between bathroom trips as you gain control.
- Bladder Training: The bladder diary is often one step of bladder training, which involves visiting the restroom according to a fixed schedule. When you feel the need to urinate before a scheduled visit, practice Kegels or relaxation exercises like deep breathing to suppress the urge.
- Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment or Chiropractic Adjustments: Research has shown that osteopathic manipulative treatment provided virtually the same therapeutic effect as pelvic floor muscle training (Kegels) in women with lower urinary tract disorders.6
- Limiting Fluids at Certain Times of the Day: If you're getting up during the night to urinate, stop drinking three to four hours before bedtime. Coffee, tea, and alcohol should also be restricted.
- Enlarged Prostate: Men, if you believe an enlarged prostate is causing your urinary symptoms, read these tips for maintaining a healthy prostate.
If you only experience occasional incontinence, wearing a thin absorbent pad may help give you confidence and allow you to go about with your daily schedule without fears of embarrassment. But, ideally, try the safe options above so that you can fully recover. Remember, this is a very common problem that can often be effectively treated, naturally. As the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC) put it: 7
"…many women are afraid to mention their problem. They may have urinary incontinence that can improve with treatment but remain silent sufferers and resort to wearing absorbent undergarments, or diapers. This practice is unfortunate, because diapering can lead to diminished self-esteem, as well as skin irritation and sores. If you are relying on diapers to manage your incontinence, you and your family should discuss with your doctor the possible effectiveness of treatments such as timed voiding and pelvic muscle exercises."
Increasing Selenium Intake Decreases Bladder Cancer Risk
Gee Whiz: Human Urine Is Shown to Be an Effective Agricultural Fertilizer
By Dr. Mercola
Last month, the restaurant chain Chipotle launched an online show on Hulu called Farmed and Dangerous, a four-part satire aimed at revealing the "outrageously twisted and utterly unsustainable world of industrial agriculture" by poking fun at it.
Each of the four episodes is being published by the Huffington Post.1 The first episode, featured above, ran on Monday, February 17.
"We're most interested in using the series to launch conversations around pressing issues in our food system," Huffington Post writes. "Is industrial agriculture the only answer to the planet's food problem? Do you support the use of genetically-modified ingredients in our food? What do you think of Chipotle's anti-industrial farming message and 'values branding' strategy?"2
All important questions to consider these days... One of the main characters in Farmed and Dangerous is Chip Randolph, a young farmer-activist who goes up against a fictional industrial food corporation that has created petroleum-based cow feed, called "petro-pellets"—with devastating results.
While adding petroleum to the feed makes for cheaper food, it also makes the cows spontaneously combust into flames. Through the calamitous twists and turns that ensue, the series indirectly highlights a number of important issues currently facing the food industry.
This includes reliance on fossil fuels, the misuse of drugs in animal farming, and food libel laws that enable the food industry to silence critics. Perhaps one of the catchiest phrases uttered in this mini-series is "Those people died from eating; not starving. That's progress."
While modern agriculture has yet to develop feed that makes cows literally explode, the phrase is still hauntingly relevant when we're talking about factory farming. People are indeed being harmed by the food they eat these days.
Values Branding vs. Product Integration
According to the New York Times:3
"...'Farmed and Dangerous,' billed as a 'Chipotle original series,' hopes to promote the company's concerns about sustainable agriculture and the humane treatment of animals used for meat. This stealth marketing strategy, Chipotle executives say, is not about 'product integration,' but 'values integration.'"
It's interesting to note that Chipotle hasn't always been 100 percent dedicated to the values of sustainable and organic agriculture, but in their defense, the chain has been fairly quick to respond to consumer pressure to remove genetically engineered ingredients, or at the very least be transparent about their use.
Last summer, I wrote about how food activist blogger Vani Hari, better known as "Food Babe," inspired Chipotle to take a closer look at its ingredients. When she began her investigation into Chipotle's food, the restaurant didn't have a list of ingredients on their menus or website, and the corporate headquarters even refused to supply her with one when she contacted them directly.4
"I said, 'But your label says "Food with Integrity."' How am I going to know that it's food with integrity if I can't know the ingredients and I can't read them for myself?" Vani said.
Shortly after publishing an article on her blog, questioning the chain's resistance to releasing a list of its ingredients for closer scrutiny, Chipotle called her. Shortly thereafter, the chain released the lists of ingredients in its meals, and even started labeling genetically engineered (GE) ingredients for full transparency.
They also swapped out some of the GE ingredients, such as soybean oil, replacing it with rice bran oil. And now, they've released Farmed and Dangerous, which may be just what's needed to give these issues some well-needed exposure among the general public.
Is Your Food Supporting or Harming Your Health?
Virtually all of the meat and poultry (beef, pork, chicken, turkey, etc.) found in your local grocery store comes from animals raised in so-called confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). If it wasn't raised in a factory farm, it will typically bear a clear label stating it's "grass-fed" or "USDA 100% organic."
Large-scale factory farming is the cheapest way to raise meat, thereby allowing for the largest profits. But the ultimate price is high, as there's a complete disregard for human health, the environment, and the ethical treatment of animals.
Far from being what most people would consider "a farm," these massive operations are more like industrial warehouses, stocked to the hilt with animals that are quite literally crammed together. Due to the overcrowded, unhygienic conditions in these livestock factories, most of the animals end up getting sick. And whether they're ill or not, they're still routinely given antibiotics and artificial hormones to promote growth.
The natural diet of a cow is plain grass, but CAFO-raised cows are fed pesticide-laden grains and other byproducts instead. Not only does this upset their digestive systems and alter the nutritional makeup of their meat, all of the feed additives also get transferred to you when you eat that meat. The routine use of antibiotics in particular has led to the rapid rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs that now threaten human life.
The factory farm model also directly contributes to Americans' increasing reliance on processed junk foods, which in turn drives the rise in obesity and chronic disease. For the past several decades, the focus has been on creating ever-cheaper foods. Well, you cannot achieve top quality and rock-bottom prices at the same time. Something has to give, and quality nutrition definitely fell by the wayside as technology overtook the food and agricultural industry...
Tainted Meat—Another Health Hazard of the Factory Farm Model
Research suggests you have a 50/50 chance of buying meat tainted with drug-resistant bacteria when you buy meat from your local grocery store. But it may be even worse than that. Last year, using data collected by the federal agency called NARMS (National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System), the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found antibiotic-resistant bacteria in 81 percent of ground turkey, 69 percent of pork chops, 55 percent of ground beef, and 39 percent of raw chicken parts purchased in stores in 2011. EWG nutritionist and the report's lead researcher, Dawn Undurraga, issued the following warning to the public:5
"Consumers should be very concerned that antibiotic-resistant bacteria are now common in the meat aisles of most American supermarkets... These organisms can cause foodborne illnesses and other infections. Worse, they spread antibiotic-resistance, which threatens to bring on a post-antibiotic era where important medicines critical to treating people could become ineffective."
This is no minor concern! According to a landmark "Antibiotic Resistance Threat Report" published by the CDC,6 two million Americans become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year, and at least 23,000 of them die as a direct result of those infections. Even more die from complications.
Rethink Your Shopping Habits to Protect Your Family's Health
I believe the movement toward sustainable food and ethical meat is very important, both in terms of human health and animal welfare. Organic, grass-fed and finished meat that is humanely raised and butchered is really about the only type of meat that is healthy to eat. By purchasing your meat from smaller farms that raise their animals in a humane fashion, according to organic principles, you're promoting the proliferation of such farms, which in the end will benefit everyone, including all the animals. The organic industry also tends to favor far more humane butchering practices, which is another important part of "ethical meat." The following organizations can help you locate farm-fresh foods in your local area that has been raised in a humane, sustainable manner:
- Local Harvest -- This Web site will help you find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.
- Farmers' Markets -- A national listing of farmers' markets.
- Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals -- The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
- Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) -- CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.
- FoodRoutes -- The FoodRoutes "Find Good Food" map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs, and markets near you.
A River Of Waste: The Hazardous Truth About Factory Farms
Research Shows Factory Farms are NOT the Way to Feed the World
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