Total Video Length: 1:50:52
By Dr. Mercola
In the early 1900s, the grasslands of the southern US plains were rapidly plowed up and turned into wheat fields.
The ramifications of this wheat boom can still be felt today, as wheat (along with corn and soybeans) remains one of the most common crops grown in the US. In fact, wheat, along with corn and rice, make up 60 percent of human caloric intake1 -- a dietary shift that is contributing to the rising rates of insulin resistance and its related chronic degenerative diseases now plaguing many developed countries.
These “amber waves of grain” had another unforeseen effect as well, an almost “other worldly” manmade disaster known as The Dust Bowl, which is chronicled in the PBS film.
The Worst Manmade Ecological Disaster in American History
In the early 1900s, farmers swarmed the southern Plains to take advantage of cheap land offers, even though the area – with its high winds, hot summers and frequent droughts – was not well suited for agriculture. During World War I, in particular, wheat was a sought-after commodity. With wheat prices soaring, and promises from land developers that “rain follows the plow,” farmers quickly turned millions of acres of grasslands into wheat fields, paving the way for what would be one of the worst manmade disasters ever recorded.
As History reported:2
“When the drought and Great Depression hit in the early 1930s, the wheat market collapsed. Once the oceans of wheat, which replaced the sea of prairie grass that anchored the topsoil into place, dried up, the land was defenseless against the winds that buffeted the Plains.”
“Black Blizzards” Crossed the Plains
As the natural winds that cross the Plains picked up the dry, plowed-up soil, dense clouds of dust called “black blizzards” covered the region in an unprecedented years-long “storm.”
The Dust Bowl film includes interviews with 26 survivors of these black blizzards, who describe in vivid detail how the dust-filled winds could easily blister your face and carried with them an indescribable feeling of evil.
The dust killed crops and livestock and led to dust pneumonia (called the “brown plague”), bronchitis, coughing, asthma and shortness of breath in those living in the region. With no way to farm and conditions that at times made it treacherous to even venture outside, many were forced to abandon their homes and flee to safety. The worst of the storms reportedly occurred on April 14, 1935, dubbed “Black Sunday.” On that day, a cloud of dust crossed the region that literally turned day into night.
According to the film:3
“Once the winds began picking up dust from the open fields, they grew into dust storms of biblical proportions. Each year the storms grew more ferocious and more frequent, sweeping up millions of tons of earth, covering farms and homes across the Plains with sand, and spreading the dust across the country. Children developed often fatal "dust pneumonia," business owners unable to cope with the financial ruin committed suicide, and thousands of desperate Americans were torn from their homes and forced on the road in an exodus unlike anything the United States has ever seen.”
Static Electricity, Plagues of Grasshoppers and Jackrabbits
The dust clouds themselves weren’t the only hurdles faced by those living in the Dust Bowl. Static electricity also became a major problem in the region, such that “blue flames leapt from barbed wire fences and well-wishers shaking hands could generate a spark so powerful it could knock them to the ground.”4 People driving through the region had to resort to dragging chains from their cars so the static electricity wouldn’t short out their engines.
The ecological disruption, meanwhile, impacted other species as well, unleashing plagues of jackrabbits and grasshoppers across the Plains. History reported:5
“If the dust storms that turned daylight to darkness weren’t apocalyptic enough, seemingly biblical plagues of jackrabbits and grasshoppers descended on the Plains and destroyed whatever meager crops could grow … Thick clouds of grasshoppers — as large as 23,000 insects per acre, according to one estimate — also swept over farms and consumed everything in their wakes.”
About eight years went by before the drought finally ended, saving the Plains from turning into an arid desert, and by the 1940s wheat prices were once again on the rise. A drought in the 1950s once again brought back dust storms to the region, but the damage was minimized by farmers using conservation techniques, as well as 4 million acres of government-owned land that had been restored to grasslands.
Could the Dust Bowl Happen Again?
As we once again struggle with droughts and the laws of nature continue to be manipulated by industrial farms and genetic modification, we could once again be brewing a dust storm of epic proportions … or another manmade ecological disaster that has never before been seen.
While many farmers in the Plains states now rely on irrigation from the Ogallala aquifer to water their crops in times of drought, this underground water reserve is in danger from overuse and, by some estimates, may only be able to keep up with water demands for another 25 years. There are many other warning signs that the poor farming practices being used today could backfire in the form of major environmental disasters as well …
Soil is actually depleting 13% faster than it can be replaced, and we’ve lost 75% of the world's crop varieties in just the last 100 years. Over a billion people in the world have no access to safe drinking water, while 80% of the world’s fresh water supply is used for agriculture.
The Dust Storm May be One of the First Consequences of Monoculture
Monoculture (or monocropping) is defined as the high-yield agricultural practice of growing a single crop year after year on the same land, in the absence of rotation through other crops. Corn, soybeans, wheat, and to some degree rice are the most common crops grown with monocropping techniques. Monocultures are detrimental to the environment for a number of reasons, including the following:
- It damages soil ecology by depleting and reducing the diversity of soil nutrients
- It creates an unbuffered niche for parasitic species to take over, making crops more vulnerable to opportunistic pathogens that can quickly wipe out an entire crop
- It increases dependency on chemical pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics and genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
- It increases reliance on expensive specialized farm equipment and machinery that require heavy use of fossil fuels
- It destroys biodiversity
Monoculture also was responsible for creating the Dust Storm, as wiping out the natural grasslands of the Plains to plant unprecedented amounts of wheat disrupted the entire ecosystem of the region, with disastrous consequences.
It’s imperative to understand that agriculture is a complete 'system' based on inter-related factors, and in order to maintain ecological balance and health, you must understand how that system works as a whole. Any time you change one part of that system, you change the interaction of all the other components, because they work together. It is simply impossible to change just one minor aspect without altering the entire system, which is exactly what happened during the Dust Storm.
Farming Destruction is Occurring Around the World
Areas around the globe have already experienced their own versions of the Dust Storm, fueled by similar assaults on the land. For instance, several thousand years of relentless grazing of domestic animals on mountainous slopes in China left nothing but barren ground. Rains that may have restored the land erode it instead, carrying fertile topsoil down the hillsides, effectively removing any chance for new growth to emerge. On the Loess Plateau in North-Central China, millions of tons of powder-fine silt were swept down into the Yellow River, not only obstructing its flow, but causing massive flooding and the river’s new name: China’s Sorrow.
Likewise, centuries of over-intensive farming in Ethiopia have destroyed nearly every inch of vegetation, leaving wide swaths of bone-dry desert. Heavy flooding has etched deep gullies into the land, sweeping topsoil downward and away with nothing to halt its progress. With not even a drop left for farmers to water their crops, their animals or themselves, the ensuing drought and famine has been catastrophic.
What is encouraging, however, is that both of these regions can give us hope, as they serve as models of how whole ecosystems can be restored through sustainable agricultural practices.
By allowing the land to rest, grasses and other plant species thought to be extinct have re-emerged. In Ethiopia, villagers have planted indigenous trees and vegetation, transforming the severely eroded terrain. Rainfall now absorbs into the ground, feeding a clear stream that flows year-round, aided by the cover of dense vegetation. This has saved the region from desert-induced annihilation and instilled hope for a future of continued sustainability, a lesson that needs to be learned around the globe.
Grazing Livestock to the Rescue?
I was so inspired by the video that I will actually be visiting the Allan Savory Institute in Boulder at his annual conference next month and very much look forward to it. In the TED Talk above, Allan explains how we’re currently encouraging desertification, similar to what nearly occurred during the Dust Bowl. Savory believes the best way to not only stop desertification, but also reverse it, by dramatically increasing the number of grazing livestock.
According to Savory, rising population, land turning into desert at a steady clip (known as desertification), converge to create a “perfect storm” that threatens life on earth. Desertification has long been thought to be caused by livestock, such as sheep and cattle overgrazing and giving off methane. But, according to Savory, we have completely misunderstood the causes of desertification. We’ve failed to realize that in seasonal humidity environments, the soil and vegetation developed with very large numbers of grazing animals meandering through. Along with these herds came ferocious pack-hunting predators. The primary defense against these predators was the herd size.
The larger the herd, the safer the individual animal within the herd. These large herds deposited dung and urine all over the grasses (their food), and so they would keep moving from one area to the next.
This constant movement of large herds naturally prevented overgrazing of plants, while periodic trampling ensured protective covering of the soil. As explained by Savory, grasses must degrade biologically before the next growing season. This easily occurs if the grass is trampled into the ground. If it does not decay biologically, it shifts into oxidation — a very slow process that results in bare soil, which then ends up releasing carbon.
Savory has developed a holistic management and planned grazing system that is now being implemented in select areas on five continents. In one area, increasing grazing cattle numbers by 400 percent, planning the grazing to mimic nature, and integrating the cattle with local elephants, buffalo and giraffes, has achieved remarkable results. I encourage you to view the video, because seeing is believing.
In the US, where corn and soy — much of which are genetically engineered — are rapidly overtaking native grasslands, a return to smaller-scale agriculture, complete with grazing herds, may be necessary for creating a more sustainable food system. Following Savory’s strategy, large herds could be moved across areas in planned grazing patterns, which would be beneficial for the environment, the health of the animals, and subsequently the health of humans consuming those animals.
Permaculture: Working With Nature to Prevent a 21st-Century Dust Storm
Geoff Lawton introduced the permaculture concept in Australia, where rebuilding functional ecosystems from the ground up restores them to their fullest potential. It can create an agricultural heartland even in the desert in as little as 3.5 years, including being fully self-sufficient year-round, cycling its own nutrients without the need for irrigation or artificial fertilizer.
“Permaculture is an ecological design system for sustainability in all aspects of human endeavor. It teaches us how to design natural homes and abundant food production systems, regenerate degraded landscapes and ecosystems, develop ethical economies and communities, and much more. As an ecological design system, permaculture focuses on the interconnections between things more than individual parts.”6
Virginia farmer Joel Salatin is a living example of how incredibly successful and sustainable natural farming can be. He produces beef, chicken, eggs, turkey, rabbits and vegetables. Yet, Joel calls himself a grass-farmer, for it is the grass that transforms the sun into energy that his animals then feed on. By closely observing nature, Joel created a rotational grazing system that not only allows the land to heal but also allows the animals to behave the way the were meant to — expressing their "chicken-ness" or "pig-ness," as Joel would say.
Cows are moved every day, which mimics their natural patterns and promotes revegetation. Sanitation is accomplished by birds. The birds (chickens and turkeys) arrive three days after the cows leave — via the Eggmobile — and scratch around in the pasture, doing what chickens do best.
No pesticides. No herbicides. No antibiotics. No seed spreading. Salatin hasn't planted a seed or purchased a chemical fertilizer in 50 years. He just lets herbivores be herbivores and cooperates with nature, instead of fighting it. It's a different and refreshing philosophy.
Instead of making $150 per acre per year from a crop that produces food for three months, but lays fallow for the rest of the year, he's making $3,000 per acre by rotating crops throughout the year, thereby making use of his land all 12 months — and maintaining its ecological balance at the same time. This generates complementary income streams while protecting the land from ecological disasters like that felt by the southern Plains.
You Can Start in Your Own Backyard!
If we learn just one thing from the Dust Bowl disaster of the ‘30s, it should be that humans can only push nature so far before it pushes back with a vengeance. Wayne Lewis, one of the Dust Bowl survivors, speaking from experience, said:7
“We want it now – and if it makes money now it's a good idea. But if the things we're doing are going to mess up the future it wasn't a good idea. Don't deal on the moment. Take the long-term look at things. It's important that we do the right thing by the soil and the climate. History, is of value only if you learn from it.”
You might not be able to singlehandedly prevent history from repeating itself, but you can make a difference now for yourself, for your family and for your community that might have residual effects by:
- Growing your own vegetables is an increasingly popular concept for thousands of Americans. It can help you save money, involve everyone in the family and help create a store that can last through the winter.
- Organic gardening isn’t something extra you do – in fact it’s quite the opposite. It’s what you don’t do that makes the difference: no chemicals, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides on your plate! When you take control of what you eat, you’ll naturally enjoy better health, ensure and protecting future generations.
- Composting is another way to make what you already have work for you in the future. Save those scraps, from eggshells to coffee filters, and use them to feed your vegetable garden.
How GMO’s Contribute to Environmental Damages
Photographic Adventure Reveals the Frightening Deadness of Genetically Engineered Corn Field
By Dr. Mercola
Surprisingly, despite the dramatically increased risk of cancer and related adverse health effects associated with smoking cigarettes, smoking has actually been found to be associated with a reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative disorder of the central nervous system.
The most obvious symptoms of Parkinson’s are movement-related, e.g. shaking and rigidity. This apparently beneficial link with smoking is often attributed to the nicotine in cigarettes, which is thought to have a potentially neuroprotective effect.
Certain foods contain natural amounts of nicotine, including peppers, which researchers recently found may also reduce the risk of Parkinson’s.
Eating Peppers May Reduce Parkinson’s Risk by 19 Percent
Peppers are a member of the Solanaceae family of vegetables, informally known as nightshades, which also includes tobacco, tomatoes and potatoes.
Upon analyzing the vegetable consumption, tobacco and caffeine use of nearly 500 newly diagnosed Parkinson’s patients as well as a group of healthy controls, researchers found that eating peppers – but not other vegetables in the Solanaceae family -- was associated with a 19 percent lower risk of Parkinson’s.1
The association was strongest among those who had never smoked. Researchers said in a statement:2
“Similar to the many studies that indicate tobacco use might reduce risk of Parkinson's, our findings also suggest a protective effect from nicotine, or perhaps a similar but less toxic chemical, in peppers and tobacco."
Parkinson's disease is a neurological disorder in which neurons in a region of dopamine-producing cells within your brain known as the substantia nigra, required for normal movement, begin to die.
As a disease that currently cannot be cured, prevention of Parkinson’s disease is crucial. Eating a varied whole-foods diet that includes healthful veggies like peppers appears to be one simple way to lower your risk, especially since a lack of folate is also linked to Parkinson’s (and veggies are the only source of this important vitamin; most vitamins contain the semi-synthetic analog known as folic acid).
Caffeine, Omega-3 Fats and Other Dietary Strategies to Help Prevent Parkinson’s
In addition to dietary nicotine, dietary caffeine, such as that from coffee, has also been linked to a lower risk of Parkinson’s. One study even found that the daily caffeine equivalent in two to four cups of coffee may modestly improve Parkinson’s movement symptoms.3
Caffeine, which is doparminergic (stimulates dopamine release), may be one reason why green tea has also been linked to a lower Parkinson’s risk, although one study suggested that it’s green tea’s polyphenols that offer neuroprotection that might benefit Parkinson’s patients.4
Another important consideration are animal-based omega-3 fats, which may protect against Parkinson’s by preventing the misfolding of a protein resulting from a gene mutation in neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's and Huntington's.5 Animal-based omega-3 fats contain two fatty acids crucial to human health, DHA and EPA. Most of the neurological benefits of omega-3 oils are derived from the DHA, which is one of the major building blocks of your brain.
About half of your brain and eyes are made up of fat, much of which is DHA -- making it an essential nutrient for optimal brain function. Your brain activity actually depends greatly upon the functions provided by its outer, fatty waxy membrane to act as an electrical nerve-conduction cable, so adding omega-3 fats to your diet, via wild-caught fish or a supplement like krill oil, is important.
Vitamin D and CoQ10: Two Nutrients for Parkinson’s Protection
There is a correlation between insufficient levels of vitamin D and the development of early Parkinson's disease. It used to be thought that vitamin D deficiency is a symptom of Parkinson's, but recent research squarely implicated vitamin D deficiency as one of the causes of Parkinson's.6
The best way to optimize your vitamin D level is through midday sun exposure or a safe tanning bed as that virtually eliminates any risk of overdose. As a very general guide, you need to expose about 40 percent of your entire body to the sun for approximately 20 minutes between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm, or until your skin turns the lightest shade of pink.
If you’re using an oral supplement, recent studies suggest adults typically need about 8,000 IU’s of oral vitamin D3 per day in order to get serum levels above 40 ng/ml. However, remember that if you take oral vitamin D, you also need to boost your vitamin K2, either through your food choices or a supplement, as this will prevent soft tissue calcification. You can find more details on optimizing your vitamin D levels here.
Another often-overlooked nutritional consideration for Parkinson’s is the antioxidant compound coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), levels of which are often low in people with the disease. One study found that the progression of Parkinson's disease was significantly slower in people taking the highest dose of CoQ10.7 If you’re taking statin cholesterol-lowering drugs, this issue is particularly important as these medications deplete your body of CoQ10, among over 300 other statin linked adverse health effects, making supplementation with CoQ10 (or ideally, the reduced form, called ubiquinol) important.
Environmental Toxins Likely Play a Role in Parkinson’s Development
The risk of Parkinson’s disease clearly increases with exposure to certain environmental toxins. For instance, neurotoxins like pesticides, herbicides and fungicides are substances that have been shown to cause disruptions and/or damage to the neurological system, including your brain. Rotenone and paraquat are two specific pesticides linked to an increased risk of Parkinson's disease, and both are lipophilic, meaning they resist breaking down in water and accumulate in your fat. Both are also known to cross your blood-brain barrier.
Even ambient exposure to pesticides has been found to increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease “considerably.”8
Exposure to industrial solvents, including TCE, a common degreasing agent and dry-cleaning chemical, is also linked to Parkinson’s disease,9 further strengthening the link between this disease and environmental toxins. Along with avoiding the use of solvents and pesticides in your home and garden, eating organic foods as much as possible will help you avoid unnecessary exposure to chemicals like pesticides.
This is all the more important today considering that glyphosate-based herbicides such as Roundup have also been linked to Parkinson’s-related disorders, and these chemical residues can be found in virtually all food containing GMOs.10 Another important and often-overlooked risk factor is “silver” amalgam dental fillings, which contain mercury. Mercury becomes a biochemical train wreck in your body, causing your cell membranes to leak, and inhibits key enzymes your body needs for energy production and removal of toxins. Mercury toxicity can lead to major inflammation and chronic illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease.
Lifestyle Changes are Important in Preventing Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson's disease is still classified as idiopathic, meaning it has no identifiable cause. However, just as researchers identified that eating peppers may be able to lower your risk, and pesticides and other environmental toxins have been shown to increase your risk, there are steps you can take to modify your risk of this disease. To recap some of the most important, as well as add a few additional recommendations:
- Avoid pesticide and insecticide exposure (as well as exposure to other environmental toxins like solvents)
- Exercise regularly. It's one of the best ways to protect against the onset of symptoms of Parkinson's disease
- Get plenty of sunshine to optimize your vitamin D levels
- Eat more vegetables, which are high in folic acid
- Make sure your body has healthy levels of iron and manganese (neither too much nor too little of either)
- Consider supplementing coenzyme Q10 or its reduced form Ubiquinol, which may help to fight the disease
The Hidden Trigger to Alzheimer's and Parkinson's That 75% of People Carry
Is Vitamin D Deficiency Connected to Parkinson's Disease?
By Dr. Mercola
You probably know already that organic foods are good for you. The major problem most people have with organic food is the expense. However, there are several different ways to radically reduce the cost of your food.
Growing your own is probably one of the best, and can be extremely satisfying. I am convinced that growing sprouts is more practical and useful for most people and takes less space and time but it will be a bit longer before I am able to provide a comprehensive article on how to do that.
In the meantime anyone, regardless of space allowance, can also produce their own food. If you have a back yard, you’re blessed indeed. But apartment dwellers can also grow fresh produce. Alex Mitchell’s book The Edible Balcony is an excellent resource.
One of the major benefits of growing your own food is that you have complete control over the end product, from soil composition to chemical exposure.
Whereas a conventionally-grown garden might include the use of chemical fertilizers and potentially toxic insecticides to protect the crop, an organic gardener will forgo the chemicals and feed the soil with natural fertilizers and insect barriers.
The same goes for weed control. While a traditional gardener may apply synthetic herbicides to control weeds, an organic gardener, just like an organic farmer, will use hand weeding and cover crops with mulches to control weeds. For every toxic solution, there’s usually an equally effective non-toxic alternative.
Growing Seedlings Can Give You a Head Start on the Season
While you can certainly wait until the danger of spring frost has passed, and then plant your seeds directly in the soil outdoors, you can get a head start by growing seedlings and then transplanting them into your garden. This can be particularly useful in areas where the growing season is short.
Growing seedlings, which can take between four and 12 weeks to sprout, will allow you to harvest your vegetables four to six weeks earlier than had you planted the seeds directly outdoors.
The University of Maine1 has an excellent web site describing how to grow your seedlings, and which ones are best left for direct-seeding due to their rapid maturation:
“Using transplants instead of direct-seeding is especially important for plants that take a long time to mature or are sensitive to frost, such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and melons.
Some plants (mostly root crops) do not transplant well, or they mature quickly enough that starting seedlings indoors is not necessary. Vegetables that are typically direct-seeded in the garden include beans, beets, carrots, corn, peas, spinach, turnips, and zucchini.”
To get started on your seedlings, you need just a few supplies:
- Fresh seed, ideally heirloom
- Containers, about 2 to 3 1/2-inch deep with adequate drainage holes
- Growing medium. Use fine-textured soilless mix of equal parts of peat moss and vermiculite or perlite. Do not use conventional fertilizers
Now, once your seedlings are grown and the outdoor temperature is 45 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer, the plant will require one to two weeks of “hardening off” before they can be transplanted into the ground, to prevent them from going into shock. This is done by placing them outdoors for just a few hours at a time in a semi-shaded location.
Gradually, over several days, increase the time you leave them outdoors, and gradually increase the amount of direct sunlight they’re exposed to. Transplant your seedlings into your garden in the late afternoon, as the weather starts to cool down (or choose a cloudy day), and water the plants thoroughly. For detailed step-by-step instructions, see the University of Maine’s seedling page2.
The Edible Balcony
In her book The Edible Balcony, Alex Mitchell details how to grow fresh produce in small spaces. Filled with beautiful color photographs throughout, the book helps you determine what might work best for you, depending on your space and location, and guides you through the design basics of a bountiful small-space garden. For example, those who live in a high-rise apartment will undoubtedly have to content with more wind than those who live on the bottom floor. There are solutions for virtually every problem, and in this case, wind-tolerant plants can be used, or you could construct some sort of protective screening.
You can use virtually every square foot of your space, including your lateral space. Hanging baskets are ideal for a wide variety of foods, such as strawberries, leafy greens, runner beans, pea shoots, tomatoes, and a variety of herbs. And instead of flowers, window boxes can hold herbs, greens, radishes, scallions, bush beans, strawberries, chard, and chiles, for example.
While you will obviously need to use pots if you don’t have a garden plot, avoid using many small pots. The smaller the pot, the faster it will dry out. Instead, opt for large yet lightweight containers. You may also want to consider self-watering pots, which will reduce the time you have to spend watering. (You could even make your own. Mitchell shows you how in her book.)
Another excellent tip for the time-pressed gardener is to install a timer to your outside tap, and have a plastic dripping tube connected to the tap. Position one tube over each pot to be watered. Then all you have to do is set the timer to water your plants twice a day for five or ten minutes. Adding a top layer of mulch will also reduce the amount of watering a plant will need. For smaller containers, mix in a handful of water-retaining crystals or gel, as these will help retain moisture. Mitchell’s book contains creative solutions to take advantage of every nook and cranny, and recycle common household items for your garden. Such tips include:
- Attaching horizontal rows of gutters on a wall, which can hold your leafy greens and herbs
- A hanging bottle herb garden, using discarded plastic bottles
- Two or more stacked tires with a plastic bag to hold the soil can make for an excellent planter for plants that like warm soil, such as sweet potatoes and basil
Another excellent tip is provided in Mitchell’s book: An ancient technique called “3 sisters,” used by the Native American Indians, involves planting specific combinations of plants together, as the plants support each other. For example:
“Corn provides something for the beans to climb up, while they in turn add nitrogen to the soil. This benefits the corn and squash, and the latter helpfully shades the roots of the other plants, protecting them from the drying effects of the sun.”
What Kind of Soil Should You Use for Your Potted Garden?
Quality produce begins with healthy soil. This is because the nutrition your plants require is derived from beneficial microorganisms in the soil. These organisms take the mineral material that’s in your soil and convert it into a plant-available form. Without these bioorganisms, your plants cannot get the nutrients they need. According to Mitchell:
“When you first plant anything, you need to buy potting mix. The one you buy depends on what you are growing: annual vegetables, fruit, and flowers are happy with one that is general, soilless, organic and peat-free; acid-loving crops such as blueberries need lime-free compost; while fruit trees and bushes, which will live for many years, will benefit from a soil-based potting mix, which releases its nutrients slowly.”
If you have enough space to create your own compost, I highly recommend picking up Dr. Elaine Ingham’s book, 10 Steps to Gardening with Nature. Dr. Ingham3 is chief research scientist at Rodale Institute, and is an internationally recognized expert on the benefits of sustainable soil science. Her book explains the mechanisms behind how the beneficial microorganisms in the soil benefit your plants, and how to create compost that support your chosen crops. You can also find valuable information and resources on soil health and composting on the Rodale Institute’s website.4
Besides composting, setting up a little worm farm can also help you restore soil health naturally, eliminating the need for synthetic fertilizers. In addition to helping create a valuable compost to help plants grow, worms have also been singled out for their ability to break down toxins like cadmium, lead and other heavy metals, helping to detoxify soil. They do this by optimizing the bacterial content of the soil. Worms also can even break down cardboard waste fibers, making them a potential recycling tool.
While we’re touching on larger-scale gardens, it may be useful to know that shrubs and trees require two-and-a-half to four times less water than a lawn. Amazingly, a typical suburban lawn uses an estimated 10,000 gallons of water each season, above what’s provided by rainfall. So planting an edible garden can kill several birds with one stone; not only can you reduce your food bill while eating the freshest food imaginable, your garden can also reduce your outdoor water usage. To learn more about water conservation, see Audubon’s water conservation page.5
Keeping Weeds and Pests at Bay
Another important aspect of growing your own food is the ability to avoid chemical exposure. American homeowners apply an estimated 78 million pounds of insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides per year to their homes, lawns, and gardens.6 The problem is that these toxic chemicals are toxic not just to the weeds or critters they’re designed to kill. They’re also toxic to beneficial insects, birds, wild animals, pets, young children, and anyone who eats foods to which these toxins have been applied. According to Audubon:7
“In a recent study of pesticide exposure among children living in a major U.S. metropolitan area, traces of garden chemicals were found in 99 percent of the 110 children tested.”
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers 60 percent of herbicides, 90 percent of fungicides, and 30 percent of insecticides to be carcinogenic. Pesticides (used to kill insects) are also notoriously hazardous. Commonly used pesticides have been linked to health problems such as:
Neurotoxicity Endocrine system disruption Cancer Immune system suppression Male infertility and reduced reproductive function Miscarriages
Fortunately, there are safe and effective natural alternatives for virtually every pest problem you come across. For instance, for a homemade garden spray that will discourage most pests, use some mashed garlic paste combined with a little cayenne pepper or horseradish. Add a small amount to a gallon jug of water and let it sit for a day or two, shaking it occasionally. Just spray a small amount onto a few leaves first to make sure it's not so strong that it will burn them.
For more details on these types of natural solutions to pests of all kinds, I recommend the book Dead Snails Leave No Trails by Nancarrow and Taylor, or visit the website BeyondPesticides.org.8 They have a section on do-it-yourself natural solutions9 to a wide range of pest problems along with a resource to find pest management companies that use non-toxic products.10 Mitchell’s book also has a section on how to address a wide variety of specific plant pests.
Sprouts—One of the Most Nutrient Dense Foods, Ideal for Small Spaces
Sprouts are an authentic “super” food that many overlook or have long stopped using. In addition to their superior nutritional profile, sprouts are really easy to grow if you’re an apartment dweller, as they don’t require an outdoor garden.
A powerhouse of nutrition, sprouts can contain up to 30 times the nutrition of organic vegetables grown in your own garden, and allow your body to extract more vitamins, minerals, amino acids and essential fats from the foods you eat. During sprouting, minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, bind to protein, making them more bioavailable. Furthermore, both the quality of the protein and the fiber content of beans, nuts, seeds and grains improves when sprouted. The content of vitamins and essential fatty acids also increase dramatically during the sprouting process.
Sunflower seed and pea sprouts tend to top the list of all the seeds that you can sprout and are typically each about 30 times more nutritious than organic vegetables. While you can sprout a variety of different beans, nuts, seeds and grains, sprouts in general have the following beneficial attributes:
- Support for cell regeneration
- Powerful sources of antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and enzymes that protect against free radical damage
- Alkalinizing effect on your body, which is thought to protect against disease, including cancer (as many tumors are acidic)
- Abundantly rich in oxygen, which can also help protect against abnormal cell growth, viruses and bacteria that cannot survive in an oxygen-rich environment
Planting and Harvesting Sprouts at Home
I used to grow sprouts in Ball jars over 10 years ago but stopped doing that. I am strongly convinced that actually growing them in soil is far easier and produces far more nutritious and abundant food. It is also less time consuming. With Ball jars you need to rinse them several times a day to prevent mold growth. Trays also take up less space. I am now consuming one whole tray you see below every 2-3 days and to produce that much food with Ball jars I would need dozens of jars. I simply don't have the time or patience for that.
I am in the process of compiling more specific detailed videos for future articles but I thought I would whet your appetite and give you a preview with the photos below. For now you can get instructions on how to grow them by viewing a step-by-step guide at rawfoods-livingfoods.com.11
About to plant wheat grass and sunflower seeds - 2 days after soaking
Wheat grass and sunflower seeds – 3 ½ days post germination
Sunflower seeds and pea sprouts – 3 days until ready for harvest
Sunflower seed sprouts and wheat grass - ready to harvest
My two favorites are sunflower sprouts and pea. They provide some of the highest quality protein you can eat. Sprouted sunflower seeds also contain plenty of iron and chlorophyll, the latter of which will help detoxify your blood and liver. Of the seeds, sunflower seeds are among the best in terms of overall nutritional value, and sprouting them will augment their nutrient content by as much as 300 to 1,200 percent! Similarly, sprouting peas will improve the bioavailability of zinc and magnesium.
I have been sprouting them now for a few months and they have radically improved the nutrition of my primary meal, which is a comprehensive salad at lunch. They are a perfect complement to the fermented vegetables. My current salad consists of about half a pound of sunflower sprouts, four ounces of fermented vegetables, half a large red pepper, several tablespoon of raw organic butter, some red onion, a whole avocado and about three ounces of salmon or chicken. It is my primary meal. In the late afternoon, I typically only have macadamia nuts and coconut candy in addition to drinking 16-32 ounces of green vegetable juice. I break it up occasionally by going to a restaurant with friends.
Ready, Set, Garden!
With benefits ranging from fresher, uncontaminated food and cutting your grocery bill, to beautifying your community and educating the next generation, there’s really nothing holding anyone back from creating an edible garden—even if all you have is a couple of window sills or a small balcony. There are tons of creative solutions that will allow you to make the most of even the tiniest space.
Sprouts is one of my favorite tight-space crops, simply because you get so much for so little time, money and effort. It’s hard to find a food that will provide you with so much nutrition. So try it out! Start small, and as you get the hang of it, add another container of something else. Before you know it, large portions of your meals could come straight from your own edible garden.
You want to also make sure you are using only the finest seeds when starting your garden. Picking the types of seeds can go a long way in helping your garden be plentiful and even determines how juicy or hardy your vegetables are. Heirloom seeds are seeds that have been carefully cultivated to produce the best plants possible; they're hardy and bountiful. You can find packages containing 26 of the popular heirloom seeds in my Heirloom Variety Seed Collection, available in my online store.
10 Ways Growing an Organic Garden Can Help Your Health and Budget
Worms Produce Another Kind of Gold for Farmers
By Dr. Mercola
More than 36 percent of Americans share their homes with a dog, and 30 percent with a cat.1 This amounts to more than 70 million pet dogs and 74 million pet cats in the US alone.
This love affair with animals is nothing new; humans have been sharing their lives with companion animals since ancient times, when dogs, domesticated from wolves, may have been used for hunting and protection, and cats, which were often regarded as sacred, helped control pests.
This mutually beneficial relationship continues today; although most Americans no longer depend on dogs for hunting or cats to scavenge mice, we take them in with abandon no less, and even look the other way when they wake us up barking or meowing at 4 am, chew up our slippers or scratch up our new furniture.
Because they provide unconditional love in return, providing a sense of friendship and comfort in a way that is unmatched, sometimes even by humans. And as if you needed another reason to give your pet a hug today, research is also increasingly showing that these furry creatures offer proven benefits to your health.
American Heart Association Says Owning a Pet Benefits Your Heart
According to a new statement released by the American Heart Association (AHA), owning a pet, particularly a dog, may reduce your risk of heart disease.2 The conclusion came following a review of dozens of studies that showed pet owners were in better health than non-pet owners. Highlights of the research included:3
- People with dogs engaged in more walking and more physical activity, and were 54 percent more likely to get the recommended level of physical activity
- Pet ownership is probably associated with a reduction in heart disease risk factors and increased survival among patients
- Owning a pet is linked with lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and a lower incidence of obesity
- Pets can have a positive effect on your body’s reaction to stress, including a decrease in heart rate, blood pressure and adrenaline-like hormone release when a pet is present
While many of the studies did not prove that owning a pet directly reduces heart disease risk, and some of the benefits may be due to the increased activity that dog owners get from walking with or playing with their pets, the researchers concluded:
“Pet ownership, particularly dog ownership, is probably associated with decreased CVD [cardiovascular disease] risk … [and] may have some causal role in reducing CVD risk.”
Pets Benefit Your Health at All Life Stages
Pets have a way of appealing to very diverse groups, from children to the elderly, families to singles. Perhaps this is because they offer advantages for people at all stages of life:
- Children: Owning a pet has been linked to higher levels of self-esteem as well as an ability to function better emotionally in kids.4 Children who live with a dog during their first year of life also have a lower risk of respiratory tract infections and ear infections, and need fewer antibiotics, than children in non-pet homes.5
This may be because dogs track more dirt and bacteria into homes, and this increased exposure to “germs” helps strengthen the immune system. Living with a cat was also linked to health benefits among children.
- Adults: One of the most revealing studies on the health benefits of pets for adults involved New York City stockbrokers who were being treated with medications for high blood pressure. Those who adopted a dog or cat were able to lower their blood pressure significantly more, and felt calmer, than those who did not.6
- Couples: Couples who own pets are less stressed by conflicts and recover quicker when conflicts occur. Pet-owning couples also reported more signs of happiness and sociability than non pet-owning couples.7
- Singles: Singles, as well as those who are widowed, divorced or separated, are increasingly adopting pets because they provide love and a sense of family.8
- Elderly: Two of the biggest hurdles facing the elderly are social isolation and inactivity. Owning a dog not only increased the amount of activity, with dog owners taking twice as many daily walks than non-owners, but also increased social interactions through casual conversations that occurred during the daily walks. Elderly dog owners also report being more satisfied with their social, physical and emotional states.9
Do Cats or Other Pets Give Similar Benefits?
Many of the health benefits of pets focus on dogs, with their tendency to make us get out for more frequent walks as well as their strong sense of emotional devotion to their humans. But cats, too, offer benefits to your health. For starters, many of the above-mentioned studies involved both dogs and cats; for instance, living with either a dog or a cat is linked to lower rates of respiratory infections in kids, and both dogs and cats helped lower blood pressure among stressed-out stockbrokers.
Cat owners, specifically, have even been found to have a 40 percent lower risk of heart attacks than non-owners,10 and a cat’s purr, which gives off low-frequency vibrations, has been called a “natural healing mechanism” that may help strengthen and repair bones, relieve pain and heal wounds.11
Studies involving birds, reptiles, horses and other pets are far less common than those with cats or dogs, however it’s often the emotional connection that leads to the decreased stress responses felt by those when their beloved pet is present. So it stands to reason that any pet with which you feel an emotional bond, whether furry, feathered or finned, can benefit your health on multiple levels.
Health Considerations Shouldn’t be Your Only Motivation for Getting a Pet
Pet owners do seem to have a health advantage over non-owners, but you shouldn’t rush out to adopt a pet solely for this reason. Obviously, having a pet comes with considerable demands on your time and finances, so you must be sure you are fully able to care for a pet, and committed to adding this animal to your family for its lifetime, before proceeding. Even the AHA researchers noted:12
“Despite the likely positive link, people shouldn’t get a pet solely to reduce heart disease risk.”
However, if you are thinking about adding a pet to your family, or if you’re a pet owner already, you can find a guide for bringing home a new dog or cat, along with a treasure trove of additional pet ownership information, at Mercola Healthy Pets.
Every day at Mercola Healthy Pets, Dr. Karen Becker shares her passion for the benefits of proactive, integrative and wellness-oriented pet healthcare, and the value of alternative therapies that are rarely, if ever, discussed in the conventional veterinary community. Now countless animal lovers across the globe are learning about the foundations of pet health and becoming empowered to take the best possible care of their pets, and I urge you to join them if you’re a pet owner, too.
Why Don’t More Retirement Communities Welcome Residents with Pets?
The Positive Power of Pet Ownership …
By Dr. Mercola
A recent study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, BASF Corporation, Pfizer and DSM Nutritional Products found that daily supplementation with a multivitamin significantly reduced the risk of cancer among men.
This particular study used Pfizer’s Centrum brand of multivitamins, which brings in around $1 billion a year in sales (a hefty share of the $40 billion US supplement market).
Undoubtedly, Pfizer will seek to use these study results to claim that taking Centrum multivitamins may help you prevent cancer… a lofty marketing move that has already landed them (and other drug companies) in hot water…
Although it is good to see the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) keeping these companies honest, one of the biggest crimes is actually perfectly legal. These companies are using synthetic vitamins rather than natural ones in virtually all of their products, despite the compelling evidence of the vast superiority of natural versions.
Pfizer Removes False Claims from Multivitamins After a Threatened Lawsuit
Last year CSPI alleged that claims made on the labels of Centrum multivitamin products were deceptive and implied that the supposed health benefits had been scientifically established, when most were from studies not directly applicable to the product. Among the claims at issue were that Pfizer’s multivitamins support:
- Energy and immunity
- Heart health
- Eye health
- Breast and colon health
- Bone health
In a letter to Pfizer Chief Executive Ian Read, CSPI threatened legal action and listed multiple examples of unsubstantiated claims and deception. For instance, regarding the multivitamin’s role in heart health, the letter stated:1
“Pfizer markets Centrum Ultra Men’s, Centrum Cardio, and Centrum Silver with the claim that they support “heart health.”
For example, a recent print advertisement says, “Centrum Cardio is the only complete multivitamin with CoroWise™ phytosterols, an ingredient derived from soybeans that may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol. Centrum Cardio is the multivitamin that's complete and all heart.”(Emphases added.)
However, existing research on the effectiveness of phytosterols has evaluated them in foods, … which help disperse the phytosterols in the GI tract to do their work. There is little or no evidence that the free phytosterols in hard, dry pills have the same effect. In fact, Pfizer has failed to produce any convincing evidence as to their effects in response to previous requests from CSPI.
Therefore, this claim is un-lawful because it lacks prior substantiation and is deceptive.”
In response, Pfizer agreed to drop certain claims related to “breast health” and “colon health” from the labels of its Centrum multivitamins, as well as from their Web site. CSPI subsequently agreed to withdraw their notice of intention to file a lawsuit.
Bayer Also Threatened With Legal Action Over False Multivitamin Claims
Bayer, which manufactures One A Day multivitamins, states on their Web site that taking One a Day is a recommended tip for avoiding breast cancer. CSPI has taken issue with this, and other health claims related to heart disease and more, and has notified Bayer that they will file a lawsuit for violating state consumer protection laws if the deceptive claims are not removed from One A Day marketing materials.
This is the second time since 2009 that CSPI has threatened Bayer with legal action. In 2009, the organization filed a lawsuit against Bayer for claiming that its One A Day Men’s multivitamin with selenium might reduce the risk of prostate cancer, when no research existed to back it up. Bayer also settled a lawsuit in 2010, in which a group of state attorney generals alleged the company was “deceptively leveraging fear of prostate cancer in order to market One A Day to men.”2
Who’s Behind Some of the Largest Multivitamin Brands in the World?
There’s certainly nothing wrong with taking a multivitamin supplement. But when doing so it’s essential to know who’s behind the product you’re trusting with your health. For instance, Pfizer, which makes Centrum multivitamins, is no stranger to lawsuits and has been convicted of fraud and other illegal activities on multiple occasions.
In fact, in 2009, Pfizer paid a $2.3-billion settlement for marketing fraud related to Bextra, Lyrica and other drugs. Charges included marketing drugs to doctors for uses for which they had not been approved and giving kickbacks to doctors and other health care professionals for prescribing their drugs. This was Pfizer's fourth settlement numbering in the multimillions in less than a decade.
Meanwhile, some 3,000 lawsuits have been filed against Bayer in recent years over their genetically modified crops contaminating American rice farms. They have also been fending off lawsuits from angry beekeepers for years now, who allege that Bayer’s neonicotinoid pesticides are killing bees.
Why Are Drug Companies Interested in the Supplement Market?
The drug industry would rather you head out to your physician's office and receive a prescription for a drug to protect your heart and treat diseases. So why are they increasingly buying up the supplement industry? The supplement industry actually represents the drug industry's greatest competition, and as the saying goes, you should keep your friends close and your enemies even closer… By buying up supplement companies, the drug industry stands to benefit in several key ways:
- Supplements as a category are yielding greater sales growth than the overall US economy and represent the greatest threat to drug company profits (the supplement industry is expected to grow at a rate of 9 percent a year through 2015, when it is expected to reach more than $90 billion3 -- as compared to the US economy's dwindling growth rate of 2 percent per year).
- Drug patents are set to expire soon, in great volume, forcing pharmaceutical companies to find replacements for their top moneymaking drugs.
- Pharmaceutical companies can snuff out their competition by paying off politicians to write legislation that makes it too difficult for small competitors (i.e., supplement companies) to survive, and then buying up the large competitors that remain).
These large drug companies actually benefit from the increased regulatory hurdles being imposed upon the supplement industry because it helps them squelch smaller competitors (who, by the way, often offer you better quality goods and services).
Recent acquisitions include:
- Pfizer, which purchased Alacer (the maker of "Emergen-C" vitamin drink mixes) in February 2012 for $360 million
- Bayer acquired Schiff Nutrition International, a leading nutritional supplement company, for $1.2 billion in a 2012 deal
- Procter & Gamble (which is partnered with Teva Pharmaceutical Industries) bought supplement maker New Chapter in March 2012 for $250 million
Can Multivitamins Improve Your Health?
As a consumer interested in taking control of your own health, you have a number of "tools" at your disposal, including access to hundreds of therapeutic vitamins and other nutritional supplements that are available over the counter. Is this a worthwhile avenue to improve your health?
I do believe that dietary supplements -- including vitamins and minerals -- can help compensate for some of the damage your body incurs through living in a contemporary culture. However, it's not wise to use supplements to justify a poor diet or otherwise unhealthful lifestyle. In my experience, no amount of supplements will ever be able to substitute for healthy food choices. And if you’re depending on a pill of any form to lower your risk of cancer, as the above-mentioned study claims for multivitamins, you’re short-changing yourself, as there are far more comprehensive cancer-prevention strategies available at your fingertips…
Assuming you are using them to complement an otherwise healthy lifestyle, a high-quality multivitamin can be useful. Unfortunately, many spend hundreds of dollars a year or more on synthetic vitamins purchased from discount stores, which typically use cheap synthetic isolates.
Isolated synthetic vitamins are far less than optimal. Your body only absorbs a small percentage of an isolate form of vitamins and minerals, and it utilizes even less. Plus, synthetic vitamins often give you massive quantities of some nutrients (often the most inexpensive ones) and insufficient quantities of others.
Nature intended for you to consume food in whole form because all the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and enzymes are together in one package, working synergistically to give your body the nutrition it requires for optimal health. This is why when you choose supplements, you need to look for whole-food supplements -- and steer clear of synthetic vitamins.
How Do You Determine Whether or Not a Supplement Is a Good Choice?
For starters, make sure it has the following characteristics:
- It is as close as possible to its natural (whole food) form.
- Use independent third-party labs that check the raw materials for contaminants and correct dosage.
- Follows industry standards for quality assurance including ISO 9001, ISO 17025 and Good Manufacturing Processes (GMP) certifications.
- The utmost care has been taken in all phases of its production, from growing its ingredients, to manufacturing, testing for potency and quality control.
- It works! I always try to select from companies that have a long track record of providing high-quality products that produce good clinical results.
Remember, if you are interested in optimizing your health, your BEST solution is to choose the highest quality foods possible, and eat a wide variety of whole organic foods. You can use my free nutrition plan and work your way up to the advanced stage. Once you have addressed your diet and are looking for further improvement, odds are you would likely benefit from some supplements, like an animal-based omega-3 supplement and a probiotic, for example. There are many others you could then consider depending on your specific circumstances, including a high-quality multivitamin, additional antioxidant support and others.
If Your Multivitamin Contains These Ingredients - Dump them now..
Over 60 Billion Doses a Year and Not ONE Death, But Still Not Safe?