By Dr. Mercola

Demand for food at cheaper prices has dramatically altered the entire food chain. Today, food production revolves around efficiency—the ability to produce more for less.

This mindset has significant ramifications for both animal and human health, and the environment.

Today, nearly 65 billion animals worldwide, including cows, chickens, and pigs, are crammed into confined animal feeding operations known as CAFOs. These animals are imprisoned and tortured in crowded, unhealthy, unsanitary, and cruel conditions.

As noted by the Cornucopia Institute,1 the price of chicken has dropped dramatically over the past few decades, becoming the cheapest meat available in the US. As a result, consumption has doubled since 1970.

Seeing how chicken is supposed to be a healthy source of high-quality nutrition, the fact that it has become so affordable might seem to be a great benefit. But there's a major flaw in this equation. As it turns out, it's virtually impossible to mass-produce clean, safe, optimally nutritious foods at rock bottom prices.

CAFOs Are Hotbeds for Disease

A typical poultry CAFO measuring 490 feet by 45 feet can hold at least 30,000 chickens or more. Animal Welfare Guidelines permit a stocking density that gives each full-grown chicken an amount of space equivalent to an 8.5-inch by 11-inch piece of paper.  

An example of a poultry CAFO can be seen in the video above. It's a short clip from the film Food Inc. Sickness is the norm for animals raised in these CAFOs—the large-scale factory farms on which 99 percent of American chickens come from.

These animals are also typically fed genetically engineered (GE) corn and soybeans, which is a far cry from their natural diet of seeds, green plants, insects, and worms.

This unnatural diet further exacerbates disease promulgation. Processing byproducts such as chicken feathers and other animal parts can also be added to the feed.

To prevent the inevitable spread of disease from stress, overcrowding, lack of vitamin D (as CAFO chickens may never see the light of day), and an unnatural diet, the animals are routinely fed antibiotics (hormones, on the other hand, are not permitted in American-raised chickens).

Those antibiotics pose a direct threat to human health, and contaminate the environment when they run off into lakes, rivers, aquifers, and drinking water. According to a landmark "Antibiotic Resistance Threat Report" published by the CDC,2 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.

Research suggests you have a 50/50 chance of buying meat tainted with drug-resistant bacteria when you buy it from your local grocery store. In some cases, the risk may be even greater.

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
  • 39 percent of raw chicken parts

Despite the well-documented health and environmental hazards, most consumers are still unaware that well over 90 percent of all chicken meat and eggs sold in the US come from CAFOs.

Most people are also unaware that these cheap CAFO foods are very different, from a nutritional standpoint, from animals raised on pasture, and that while they may be inexpensive at the checkout line, there are significant hidden costs associated with this kind of food production.

The Hidden Cost of Cheap Chicken

As discussed in the featured article,3 the hidden costs of cheap factory farmed chicken can be divided into three categories:

  • Ethical costs: Research has shown that chickens are not only quite smart, they experience suffering just as animals higher up in the food chain—including you.
  • "Chickens have nervous systems similar to ours, and when we do things to them that are likely to hurt a sensitive creature, they show behavioral and physiological responses that are like ours.

    When stressed or bored, chickens show what scientists call 'stereotypical behavior,' or repeated futile movements, like caged animals who pace back and forth," Cornucopia writes.

  • Environmental costs: CAFOs are notorious for producing massive amounts of offensive waste that disturbs and pollutes the local ecosystem.
  • The featured article references a number of areas in which residents are battling nauseating odors and infestations of flies, rats, mice, intestinal parasites, and other disturbing health effects. As stated by Cornucopia:

    "Tyson produces chicken cheaply because it passes many costs on to others. Some of the cost is paid by people who can't enjoy being outside in their yard because of the flies and have to keep their windows shut because of the stench. Some is paid by kids who can't swim in the local streams. Some is paid by those who have to buy bottled water because their drinking water is polluted. Some is paid by people who want to be able to enjoy a natural environment with all its beauty and rich biological diversity.

    These costs are, in the terms used by economists, 'externalities' because the people who pay them are external to the transaction between the producer and the purchaser... In theory, to eliminate this market failure, Tyson should fully compensate everyone adversely affected by its pollution. Then its chicken would no longer be so cheap."

  • Human health costs: Besides the health ramifications suffered by those who happen to live near a CAFO and are exposed to the environmental contamination caused by these factory farms, cheap CAFO chicken and eggs are also taking a hidden toll on your health when you eat them.
  • In part because their nutrition is inherently inferior; in part because they're contaminated with antibiotics; and in part because they raise your risk of contracting a foodborne illness. Most recently, Foster Farms and Kirkland chicken brands issued recalls4 for Salmonella contamination that has affected hundreds of consumers across America since March 2013.

    Recalled items have "use or freeze by" dates ranging from March 17, 2014 to March 31, 2014. The identifying plant marks on the recalled products are P-6137, P-6137A, or P-7632. You can find this plant mark inside the USDA mark of inspection. One of Foster Farms' processing plants was also shut down by government mandate5 after cockroaches were discovered during a Food Safety inspection. And last fall, yet another of its plants were threatened with closure due to the presence of Salmonella contamination.6

Follow Safe Handling Instructions for Raw Chicken

Your risk of foodborne illness is magnified if you fail to follow safe handling instructions. For example, washing your chicken increases your risk of food poisoning, as it allows dangerous campylobacter bacteria to spread.7, 8 As reported by Fox News:

"When washed, campylobacter from raw chicken can be transferred into water droplets, which may splash onto neighboring surfaces, hands, clothing, and cooking utensils. If the campylobacter bacteria are ingested directly or via unwashed cutting boards and utensils, they can cause campylobacteriosis, characterized by symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, cramping, and fever."

Another important safety tip is to designate separate cutting boards for meat and vegetables. Do not cut vegetables on the same cutting board you just used to prepare your chicken (or other meats). Besides avoiding cross contamination in your kitchen, also make sure you cook the chicken thoroughly, to kill off any potentially harmful bacteria.

The Case Against Factory Farmed Foods

CAFOs represent a corporate-controlled system characterized by large-scale, centralized, low profit-margin production, processing, and distribution systems. It's important to realize that the factory farm system is NOT a system that ensures food safety and protects human health. On the contrary, it makes the food system far more vulnerable to pathogenic contaminations that have the capacity to kill—both the livestock, and the people who eat them.

For example, over the past year, nearly 10 percent of the entire swine population in the US has been wiped out by a highly lethal virus called Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv), which has been—at least in part—traced back to pig's blood used in piglet feed. In this case, the virus does not affect humans. But it's a valuable demonstration of how fragile the system becomes when you veer too far from the natural order of things.

Besides everything mentioned already, the factory feeding model also involves the mixing of animal parts (in this case, blood) from a large number of animals, which is then fed to large numbers of animals—the meat from which in turn are again mixed together in large processing plants, before it's ultimately sold in grocery stores across the nation. All this mixing and cross-contamination allows for pathogens to contaminate huge amounts of food products, and is the reason why a single food contamination can spread so far and wide, affecting people across multiple states.

Processing plant (i.e. plants where meat is cut or milk is pasteurized, for example) are primary culprits when it comes to the spread of pathogens. Due to regulations, traditional farmer-to-consumer practices have been outlawed. Now processors run the show and cut out the farmer's share, which has decimated small farmers and created this industrialized, disease-promoting mess.

Small-Scale Farming Makes for Far Safer Food

The weaknesses of the factory farm model are usually overlooked during food safety discussions. Instead, small-scale raw food producers—and raw dairy producers in particular—are targeted and vilified as sources of dangerous pathogens that threaten human health. Such attacks are completely out of order and do nothing to improve food safety on the whole, as the PRIMARY sources of pathogenic contamination actually originate in CAFOs, large-scale butchering and processing plants, and processed food manufacturing plants, where multiple ingredients are mixed together.

For example, late last year, Chobani Greek yoghurt was recalled following reports of gastrointestinal illness.9 The yogurt, which is pasteurized and not raw, was found to be contaminated with a fungus called Murcor circinelloides. In 2011, Cargill recalled a whopping 36 million pounds of ground turkey10 after an antibiotic-resistant strain of Salmonella in the meat was linked to 107 illnesses and one death.

Remarkably, as explained in a previous Food Safety News article,11 a large-scale meat producer can have 50 percent of its samples test positive for Salmonella, and still get the green light of approval from the USDA! When it hits 51 percent contamination, the meat is tagged "unsafe." But even at that point, USDA testing simply continues until illness is reported. This is factory farmed food safety for you...

Meanwhile, a small organic farmer will notice a health problem with an animal in his herd long before it gets sent for slaughter, and he can then treat that individual animal as necessary. And, should a pathogenic outbreak occur on a farm, the risk of public exposure is limited by the fact that the animal products are sold locally; they're not shipped long distances and mixed in with others. This is why a food borne outbreak on an organic farm may affect one or two people, whereas an outbreak originating from a processing plant can affect hundreds, or even thousands. One pasteurized milk contamination sickened 200,000 people!12

Organic, Pastured Chicken Is Your Best and Safest Alternative

If food safety, optimal nutrition and disease prevention really matters, the way forward is to shift into a socially responsible, small-scale system where independent producers and processors focus on providing food for their local and regional markets. This alternative produces high-quality food, and supports farmers who produce healthy, meat, eggs, and dairy products using humane methods. And it's far easier on the environment.

True free-range chickens and eggs come from hens that roam freely outdoors on a pasture, where they can forage for their natural diet, which includes seeds, green plants, insects, and worms. Keep in mind that when it comes to labels such as "free-range" and "natural," there are loopholes that allow the commercial egg industry to call eggs from their industrial egg laying facilities "free-range," so don't be fooled.

By far, the vast majority of food at your local supermarket comes from these polluting, inhumane farm conglomerations. If you want to stop supporting them, you first need to find a new place to shop. Your best source for pastured chicken (and fresh eggs) is a local farmer that allows his hens to forage freely outdoors. If you live in an urban area, visiting a local farmer's market is typically the quickest route to finding high-quality chicken and eggs. Again, free-range pastured chickens should be allowed outside, and to eat insects. To see how this looks in the real world, please watch my video below with farmer Joel Salatin.

Take Control of Your Health by Joining the Real Food Movement

If you really want to be sure your food is healthy and safe, it would be best to avoid grocery stores as much as possible, as conventionally-raised livestock, including chickens, are far from ideal. The more we all make it a point to only buy food from a source we know and trust, the faster factory farming will become a shameful practice of the past. Farmers and lovers of real food show us that change is possible. Here are a few suggestions for how you can take affirmative action to protect your and your family's health:

  1. Buy local products whenever possible. Otherwise, buy organic and fair-trade products.
  2. Shop at your local farmers market, join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), or buy from local grocers and co-ops committed to selling local foods. 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.
  3. Support restaurants and food vendors that buy locally produced food.
  4. Avoid genetically engineered (GMO) foods. Buying certified organic ensures your food is non-GM.
  5. Cook, can, ferment, dry, and freeze. Return to the basics of cooking, and pass these skills on to your children.
  6. Grow your own garden, or volunteer at a community garden. Teach your children how to garden and where their food comes from.
  7. Volunteer and/or financially support an organization committed to promoting a sustainable food system.
  8. Get involved in your community. Influence what your child eats by engaging the school board. Effect city policies by learning about zoning and attending city council meetings. Learn about the federal policies that affect your food choice, and let your congressperson know what you think.
  9. Spread the word! Share this article with your friends, family, and everyone else you know.




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 Comments (77)

By Dr. Mercola

Up to 80 percent of the US population will experience back pain at some point during their lives. Most often, the problem is mechanical in nature:1 the result of poor posture, repetitive movements, or incorrect lifting, for instance (as opposed to resulting from injury, infection, or serious diseases, like cancer).

If you visit a conventional physician for back pain (which is actually the second most common reason for doctor visits, outnumbered only by upper respiratory infections), you’ll most likely be offered only a superficial treatment.

Pain-relieving drugs are among the most common treatment followed by steroid injections and even surgery. Along with being fraught with side effects, none of these solutions tend to lead to full recovery, leaving many patients still struggling with back pain, often chronically.

This is where the natural remedies that follow can be invaluable. Before you even consider drugs, injections, or surgery, give these 15 natural remedies for back pain a try.2

Try This First: 15 Tips for Natural Back Pain Relief

This list is in no way meant to be comprehensive and all inclusive, but merely therapies that I have encountered or personally used.

1. Chiropractic Care

Seeing a qualified chiropractor is a wise option if you suffer from any type of chronic pain, including back pain. One study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine even revealed that chiropractic care is often better than medication for treating musculoskeletal pain.3

2. Stretching, Especially the Egoscue Method

Participants who took 52-minute stretching classes (which emphasized trunk and leg stretches) received as much back-pain relief as those taking yoga classes.4 The way you stretch matters, however, and static stretching may actually lead to irritation and injury.

Another option is the Egoscue Method, which is a series of very specific posture stretches and special exercises tailored to each person's specific needs. Egoscue helps to restore muscular balance and skeletal alignment and is often used as a natural method of pain relief. Personally, this method worked well for me in eliminating pain I had when I got out of my chair or car.

3. Strength Training

A regular strength-training routine will help strengthen your back and core muscles, which is essential for both relieving pain and preventing injury.

4. Osteopathic Manipulation

Osteopathic manipulation, which may involve moving joints back into place, massaging soft tissue, and helping you relax stressed muscles, was found to reduce chronic low-back pain in a study of 455 people. Participants received eight weeks of either osteopathic manipulation, a sham treatment, or ultrasound therapy.

Sixty-three percent of those who'd had osteopathic manipulation reported a moderate improvement in their pain while half said they had a substantial improvement.5

5. Reduce Your Stress

People with persistent negative thoughts and anxiety are more likely to suffer from back pain.6 The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) borrows from the principles of acupuncture, in that it helps you balance out your subtle energy system.

It helps resolve underlying, often subconscious, negative emotions that may be exacerbating your physical pain. By stimulating (tapping) well-established acupuncture points with your fingertips, you rebalance your energy system, which tends to dissipate pain and relieve stress.

6. Meditation

Meditation can be a powerful pain reliever. Among volunteers who had never meditated before, those who attended four 20-minute classes to learn a meditation technique called focused attention (a form of mindfulness meditation), experienced significant pain relief – a 40 percent reduction in pain intensity and a 57 percent reduction in pain unpleasantness.7

7. Yoga

Yoga, which is particularly useful for promoting flexibility and core muscles, has been proven to be beneficial if you suffer from back pain. People suffering from low-back pain who took one yoga class a week had greater improvements in function than those receiving medicine or physical therapy.8 The Yoga Journal has an online page demonstrating specific poses that may be helpful.9

8. Massage

Massage releases endorphins, which help induce relaxation and relieve pain. Massage therapy for 10 weeks offered greater back-pain relief than usual care, according to one study, and the benefits lasted at least six months.10

9. Acupuncture

Acupuncture can be another useful approach, although in my experience requires a bit more time to achieve results. In one analysis published in the Archives of Internal Medicine,11 researchers concluded that acupuncture has a definite effect in reducing chronic pain, such as back pain and headaches – more so than standard pain treatment.

10. K-Laser Therapy

Several beneficial things happen during K-Laser treatment. First, infrared laser therapy treatment helps reduce pain, reduce inflammation, and enhance tissue healing—both in hard and soft tissues, including muscles, ligaments, or even bones.

These benefits are the result of enhanced microcirculation, as the treatment stimulates red blood cell flow in the treatment area. Venous and lymphatic return is also enhanced, as is oxygenation of those tissues.

Finally, the treatment stimulates the cytochrome oxidase enzyme in your cells' mitochondria. This is really one of the key discoveries in the whole science of laser therapy.

Specifically, injured cells are targeted because damaged cells are more readily accepting of photons of light, whereas healthy cells don't need this extra energy. As explained by Dr. Phil Harrington, who is an expert on the use of K-Laser therapy:

"By stimulating the cytochrome oxidase enzyme, we are utilizing that oxygen in the respiratory chain inside of the mitochondria, producing more ATP for that cell. So regardless of what kind of cell it is, it's going to function at a higher level."

The three infrared wavelengths of the K-Laser target water, hemoglobin, and the enzyme to most efficiently stimulate cellular metabolism. The K-Laser is unique in that it is the only Class 4 therapy laser that utilizes three infrared wavelengths that penetrate deep into the body to reach areas such as your spine and hip.

11. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Talking with a therapist, with a focus on changing your thoughts and behavior, helped relieve back pain after just six weeks. After one year, nearly 60 percent of those who received cognitive-behavioral therapy reported that their pain was gone (compared to 31 percent of those who did not receive therapy).12

12. Tai Chi

A form of Chinese martial arts, tai chi is an ancient form of self-defense that is said to support the balance of "yin and yang" in your body, thereby improving the flow of "qi," or life energy. Often described as "meditation in motion" or "moving meditation," the activity takes your body through a specific set of graceful movements. Your body is constantly in motion and each movement flows right into the next. A 10-week tai chi program has been found to improve pain and disability in people with persistent low-back pain.13

13. Physical Therapy

People who received physical therapy soon after an episode of back pain are less likely to require subsequent medical care than those who seek it at a later time.14

14. Comfrey Root

Comfrey, a perennial shrub, is traditionally used to reduce inflammation as well as heal pulled, sprained, or strained muscles and ligaments. Research shows that ointment containing comfrey extract may lower back pain significantly,15 although you shouldn’t use it longer than 10 days because it can lead to liver damage if used chronically.

15. Aquatic Therapy

Water therapy conducted in a pool is a gentle way to alleviate lower back pain. This is especially useful for people who are sedentary and pregnant women.

Don’t Blame Your Back Pain on the Weather

Does your back pain flare up when it’s hot or humid? New research found that weather parameters, including temperature, relative humidity, air pressure, and precipitation do not increase the risk of a low-back-pain episode.16 According to the study’s lead author:17

“Many patients believe that weather impacts their pain symptoms. However, there are few robust studies investigating weather and pain, specifically research that does not rely on patient recall of the weather… Our findings refute previously held beliefs that certain common weather conditions increase risk of lower back pain.”

So if the weather isn’t the problem, then what is? Poor posture and/or improper movement is to blame for most cases of back pain. Spending most of your day slouched behind a desk or on the couch is a surefire way to develop back pain. Sitting is also an independent risk factor of everything from diabetes to heart disease, and can even take years off your life—even if you exercise regularly! If you spend the majority of your day sitting like I do, then I could not encourage you more strongly to review this article on sitting and intermittent movement, which provides dozens of different mini exercises you can do to interrupt your sitting.

Even though I have always been very fit, I believe my chronic sitting caused me back pain, and these intermittent movement exercises have eliminated it. Proper posture is truly foundational for health and most who live in industrialized cultures have far from ideal posture. By understanding the functional biomechanics of your body, you can learn to optimize the way you move at all times. This in turn effectively prevents aches and pains from developing. An effective method to relearn proper posture is Foundation Training, developed by chiropractor Dr. Eric Goodman to address his own chronic back pain.

Please Beware of Conventional Back-Pain Treatments

Despite it being so common, few people—including specialists—have a clear understanding of how to treat back pain. If you have low back pain and see different specialists, you will get different tests: rheumatologists will order blood tests, neurologists will order nerve impulse tests, and surgeons will order MRIs and CT scans. But no matter what tests you get, you'll probably end up with a prescription for a painkiller and perhaps a spinal fusion -- because the latter is one of the "more lucrative procedures in medicine," according to Shannon Brownlee, author of the book, Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine Is Making Us Sicker and Poorer.

This despite the fact that the best success rate for spinal fusions is a mere 25 percent! According to one 2011 review, more than 17 percent of patients told they needed spinal surgery actually showed no abnormal neurological or radiographic findings that would necessitate surgery.18 A related concern is the fact that lower back pain is also one of the primary reasons why people get hooked on prescription painkillers. Deaths caused by overdosing on painkillers now surpass murders and fatal car accidents in the US, and over the past five years, heroin deaths have increased by 45 percent.19

Officials blame this increase on the rise of addictive prescription drugs such as Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, codeine, and Fentora, all of which are opioids (derivatives of opium). Heroin is simply a cheaper option to these prescription medications. Still, prescription painkillers claim far more lives than illegal street drugs like heroin. According to Gil Kerlikowske, director of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, prescription painkillers were responsible for 16,600 deaths in 2010—well over five times more than those caused by heroin.20

US officials have recently gone on the offensive, stating that narcotic painkillers are a driving force in the rise of substance abuse and lethal overdoses, and that both patients and doctors need to become better informed about their risks. Back pain, in turn, is a driving force behind opioid drug use, which makes it a central focus not just for decreasing disability claims and improving health and quality of life for millions of people, but also for tackling a rapidly growing problem of legal drug abuse and the associated death toll. Please do not let your physician convince you that prescription drugs are your only option for pain relief. I’ve already included nearly two-dozen alternatives in this article, and if you read below you’ll find even more.

14 More Natural Options for Powerful Pain Relief

Below I list 14 more non-drug alternatives for the treatment of pain. Again, this list is in no way meant to represent all of the approaches available; they are simply some of the best strategies I know of. If you are in pain, please try these first, before even thinking about prescription painkillers, steroid injections, or surgery of any kind.

  1. Eliminate or radically reduce most grains and sugars from your diet. Avoiding grains and sugars will lower your insulin and leptin levels and decrease insulin and leptin resistance, which is one of the most important reasons why inflammatory prostaglandins are produced. That is why stopping sugar and sweets is so important to controlling your pain and other types of chronic illnesses.
  2. Take a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fat. My personal favorite is krill oil, which contains highly absorbable phospholipid-bound omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fats are precursors to mediators of inflammation called prostaglandins. (In fact, that is how anti-inflammatory painkillers work, they manipulate prostaglandins.)
  3. Optimize your production of vitamin D by getting regular, appropriate sun exposure, which will work through a variety of different mechanisms to reduce your pain.
  4. Astaxanthin is one of the most effective fat-soluble antioxidants known. It has very potent anti-inflammatory properties and in many cases works far more effectively than anti-inflammatory drugs. Higher doses are typically required and you may need 8 mg or more per day to achieve this benefit.
  5. Ginger: This herb has potent anti-inflammatory activity and offers pain relief and stomach-settling properties. Fresh ginger works well steeped in boiling water as a tea or grated into vegetable juice.
  6. Curcumin: In a study of osteoarthritis patients, those who added 200 mg of curcumin a day to their treatment plan had reduced pain and increased mobility.21 A past study also found that a turmeric extract composed of curcuminoids blocked inflammatory pathways, effectively preventing the overproduction of a protein that triggers swelling and pain.22
  7. Boswellia: Also known as boswellin or "Indian frankincense," this herb contains specific active anti-inflammatory ingredients. This is one of my personal favorites as I have seen it work well with many rheumatoid arthritis patients.
  8. Bromelain: This enzyme, found in pineapples, is a natural anti-inflammatory. It can be taken in supplement form but eating fresh pineapple, including some of the bromelain-rich stem, may also be helpful.
  9. Cetyl myristoleate (CMO): This oil, found in fish and dairy butter, acts as a "joint lubricant" and an anti-inflammatory. I have used this for myself to relieve ganglion cysts and a mild annoying carpal tunnel syndrome that pops up when I type too much on non-ergonomic keyboards. I used a topical preparation for this.
  10. Evening primrose, black currant, and borage oils: These contain the essential fatty acid gamma linolenic acid (GLA), which is useful for treating arthritic pain.
  11. Cayenne cream: Also called capsaicin cream, this spice comes from dried hot peppers. It alleviates pain by depleting the body's supply of substance P, a chemical component of nerve cells that transmits pain signals to your brain.
  12. Medical cannabis has a long history as a natural analgesic.23 At present, 20 US states have legalized cannabis for medical purposes. Its medicinal qualities are due to high amounts (about 10-20 percent) of cannabidiol (CBD), medicinal terpenes, and flavanoids. As discussed in this previous post, varieties of cannabis exist that are very low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—the psychoactive component of marijuana that makes you feel "stoned"—and high in medicinal CBD. The Journal of Pain,24 a publication by the American Pain Society, has a long list of studies on the pain-relieving effects of cannabis.
  13. Hot and cold packs, and other mind-body techniques can also result in astonishing pain relief without any drugs.
  14. Grounding, or walking barefoot on the earth, may also provide a certain measure of pain relief by combating inflammation.


Sources:


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 Comments (39)

By Dr. Mercola

Four in 10 US homes are cell-phone only, meaning they’ve ditched their landlines entirely.1 This is twice the rate in 2009, and a sign of just how integrated cell-phone use is in our culture.

Among certain demographics, the reliance on cell phones as the only household phone is even higher. For instance, more than 65 percent of adults aged 25-29 live in households with only cell phones, along with nearly 60 percent of 30- to 34-year-olds.

The convenience comes at a price, however, especially if you’re planning to have children, or already have them.

Cell Phones Worsen Sperm Quality

A systematic review and meta-analysis looked into the impact of low-level electromagnetic radiation (EMR) – the type emitted by cell phones – on sperm quality, both in the lab and among male patients at fertility clinics.

Their analysis of 10 such studies showed that exposure to EMR from cell phones lowered sperm motility by 8 percent and sperm viability by 9 percent.2 Previous studies have also found that cell phone radiation can affect men's sperm count, and the quality and motility of their sperm. One such study, published in PLOS One found:3

"RF-EMR in both the power density and frequency range of mobile phones enhances mitochondrial reactive oxygen species generation by human spermatozoa, decreasing the motility and vitality of these cells while stimulating DNA base adduct formation and, ultimately DNA fragmentation.

These findings have clear implications for the safety of extensive mobile phone use by males of reproductive age, potentially affecting both their fertility and the health and wellbeing of their offspring."

During the 2013 discussion “Cell Phones & Wi-Fi – Are Children, Fetuses and Fertility at Risk?,” leading experts from top universities further reported:4

“There is a direct relationship between duration of cell phone use and sperm count decline. Sperm count is reduced by half in men who carry cell phones in their pants pockets for four hours per day. The motility of the sperm is also impaired.

The testicular barrier, that protects sperm, is the most sensitive of tissues in the body, and is 100x more absorbent. Besides sperm count and function, the mitochondrial DNA of sperm are damaged 3x more if exposed to cell phone radiation.

…DNA mutations have been linked more to damage on the male side in research from Iceland, the assumption being that male sperm is more vulnerable than female eggs, which are more protected. Mutations increase with the age of the father, and more autism and schizophrenia increase with the age of the father.”

The data suggest men who plan to father children, in particular, may want to reconsider carrying their cell phones on their belts or in their pocket, in close proximity to their reproductive organs. In addition, both men and women have a number of other sensitive organs in that general area, including your liver, kidneys, colon, and bladder—all of which are susceptible to radiation.

Expert Environmental Health Researchers Warns of Wireless Radiation and Cancer Connection

Download Interview Transcript

Dr. Devra Davis, one of the most well-respected and credentialed researchers on the dangers of cell phones, and founder and president of Environmental Health Trust, warned at the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) meeting that Wi-Fi use might cause cancer.

In particular, Dr. Davis warned about the risks to pregnant women and their unborn children, noting that prenatal animal studies have shown exposure to radiation from cell phones:

  • Altered DNA
  • Altered brain metabolism
  • Compromised spinal cords
  • Affected learning abilities

Children’s brains contain more liquid than adults’, which impacts the amount of radiation absorbed (children absorb far more). Among teens who use cell phones from a young age, the risk of brain cancer is about four to five times higher than that of teens who didn’t use cellphones.

Dr. Davis also warned about the increased cancer risks to those who live near cell towers, and even the potential dangers of having Wi-Fi in schools. She said:

We should not rely on proof in a form of death or a disease before taking action… we should rather look at evidence that shows the risks. We now have strong evidence that shows wireless radiation is a possible carcinogen, if not a definite carcinogen.

…A number of well-designed studies indicate that cellphone use increases cancer risk. Cellphones change the brain. Antennas for cellphones are continually searching for signals to send and receive information. The body or brain absorbs about half the radiation emitted from the phone at any time.”

Dr. Davis compared the radiation from cell phones to the radiation from a microwave oven, noting that power level is the only difference. That being said, it’s not an issue of heating per se.

Non-Thermal Biological Health Effects of Cell Phones Exposed

The SAR ("Specific Absorption Rate") value is a measure of the maximum tested power of the cell phone and its potential for heating tissues. The SAR rating itself is nothing new. In fact, the SAR values of phones have been available for some time, typically listed in fine print somewhere in your owner's manual, on the manufacturer's website, and in the FCC's databases.

But the SAR level only measures the power density of a phone, estimating the radiation penetration into the head using a plexiglass head of a simulated 200-pound man. This is just an estimate, and it is only an estimate of one of the components of risk from cell phones – the heat.

It does not gauge the risk from the frequencies of the cell phone, the erratic pulsing and modulation of the signals, or the magnetic fields from batteries, which is sorely needed, since it’s now apparent that cell phones and Wi-Fi trigger changes even without heating tissues.

According to Martin Pall, professor emeritus of biochemistry and basic medical sciences at Washington State University, more than 20,000 publications in the scientific literature show significant biological effects at exposures well within safety standards, including about 4,000 that discuss non-thermal effects.5

Unfortunately, both US and international safety standards are based only on the notion that low-frequency electromagnetic radiation and microwave radiation induce harm by heating.

Dr. Pall found, however, that 23 studies have shown that microwave and other low-frequency EMFs act by activating voltage-gated calcium channels (VGCCs)6 with “most biological effects being due to elevated intracellular calcium, consequent nitric oxide (NO) elevation, and either peroxynitrite or NO signaling.” He reported on a “whole serious of biological changes” that may be produced by microwave exposures via VGCC activation, including:

Oxidative stress Single and double-stranded breaks in cellular DNA Blood-brain barrier breakdown
Greatly depressed melatonin levels and sleep disruption Cancer Male and female infertility
Immune dysfunction Neurological dysfunction Cardiac dysfunction

Impaired Fertility Is Only the Tip of the Iceberg

What experts in the area of the biological effects of electromagnetic frequencies and wireless technologies are finding is that there's virtually no doubt that cell phones and related gadgets are capable of causing not only cancer but also contributing to a wide variety of other conditions, from depression and diabetes to heart irregularities and impaired fertility. Researchers have now identified numerous mechanisms of harm, which explain how electromagnetic fields impact your cells and damage your DNA.

One such expert is Dr. Martin Blank, PhD, one of the most experienced researchers of the cellular and molecular effects of electromagnetic fields in the US. He gave an informative speech at the Commonwealth Club of California program, "The Health Effects of Electromagnetic Fields," co-sponsored by ElectromagneticHealth.org. In it, he explained why your DNA, with its “coil of coils” structure, is especially vulnerable to electromagnetic fields of all kinds. As described in the International Journal of Radiation Biology, April 2011, DNA possesses the two structural characteristics of fractal antennas: electronic conduction, and self-symmetry.7

These properties contribute to greater reactivity of DNA to electromagnetic fields than other tissues, making the long-term consequences of repeated microwave exposures to our genetic material of great concern. Dr. Blank is adamant when he says that there is evidence of harm, and that the harm can be significant. He also points out that the science showing harmful effects has been peer-reviewed, published, and that the results have been replicated, evaluated and "judged by scientists capable of judging it."

An analysis of the range of known mechanisms of action, including DNA effects, was published in November 2010 in "Non-Thermal Effects and Mechanisms of Interaction Between Electromagnetic Fields and Living Matter.”8 Furthermore, the mobile industry's own research in the 13-country Interphone study showed a 40 percent increased risk of brain cancer from 1,640 or more hours of cell phone use,9 and independent Swedish research published in 2007 showed a 540 percent increased risk of brain cancer from greater than 2,000 hours of cell phone use.10

Get Your Cell Phone Out of Your Pocket – And Other Smart Cell Phone Tips

Around the world, many countries are already adopting the Precautionary Principle regarding cell phone use. Russian officials have issued the recommendation that all children under the age of 18 should avoid using cell phones entirely. The UK, Israel, Belgium, Germany, India, France, and Finland also urge citizens to err on the side of caution with respect to their children's use of cell phones. Cell phone dangers will one day likely be as well-known as tobacco dangers, but there's going to be a window when people are extremely vulnerable.

And that window is right now. Children are especially vulnerable to damage from cell phone radiation and should not use them at all (or only for very limited amounts). Men and women who want to have healthy children need to take special precautions to protect their reproductive organs and should not keep phones in their front pockets or close to their abdomens. In the US, public warnings are not yet commonplace, but it's still important to protect yourself – and your children. There is plenty of science showing harm to warrant taking action now, and here’s how:11

  • Children should not play with radiating cell phones. Young children should not use cell phones except in an emergency. While you can put the phone in “airplane mode,” which disconnects it from Wi-Fi and the Internet, the cell phone still emits magnetic fields from the battery, which have also been shown to have equally important biological consequences. In no cases should children sleep with cell phones, and extreme caution is advised for pregnant women or women hoping to conceive due to the profound long-term impact of environmental factors.
  • Limit or eliminate Wi-Fi exposures. If you have a Wi-Fi router, make sure your router is a low-power version, not in a high-use area and keep it turned off as much as possible. Consider putting it on a timer so it is only available during certain hours, and never during sleeping hours.
  • Schools should not have Wi-Fi. Cabled/wired connections do not pose the same risks. If there is Wi-Fi, again, it should be limited to the time when the Wi-Fi is specifically needed and not be operating at other times. Ideally, classrooms, school libraries, and gyms should be Wi-Fi-free.
  • Resume using landline phones whenever possible. Get rid of your portable phone and use your landline. At the very least, don’t keep your cell phone in your bedroom while you sleep. Be aware even landline phones emit magnetic fields from the speaker, and sensitive people can sometimes feel them, especially on long calls and particularly when using trim phones. Old-fashioned desk phone earpieces offer a greater distance between the speaker and your ear that can make a meaningful difference.
  • Keep your cell phone away from your body. Avoid keeping it in your pocket or on your belt. If you’re pregnant, keep your cell phone away from your belly. Keep your phone at the other end of the room or on the seat of the car. Use texting more than talking. A cell phone case for the iPhone is available that filters out a significant portion of radiation (but by no means all the power and frequencies, and other biologically disruptive signal characteristics also remain). There are several options for shielded cell phone cases and holsters at www.EMFSafetyStore.com.
  • Use a wired earpiece or headphones with cell phones. Like with landline phones, some people are impacted by the magnetic fields from the speaker in the ear buds, so choose a model with the greatest distance from your ear, or use air tube technology with no electronics near your ear.
  • Use caution using your cell phone in your car. Signals bounce around inside your vehicle, and your head is the antenna.
  • Opt-out of new utility meters called “smart meters.” Prevent smart meters from being installed in your home whenever possible.
  • Avoid using wireless baby monitors, as they all operate on microwave frequency. Look for the old wired monitors.
  • Know your exposures. You or your community can purchase an RF meter for about $500 to measure RF in homes, schools, churches, etc. See www.EMFSafetyStore.com.
  • Support labeling laws that require cell phone manufacturers to list radiation levels in an obvious place on the packaging and at the retailer.


Sources:


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 Comments (22)

By Dr. Mercola

The United States lags far behind many other nations when it comes to food safety and nutritional recommendations, and this is perhaps particularly true when it comes to raw milk.

The fact is, large dairy farmers operating under the factory farm model simply cannot produce raw milk safe for human consumption.

They're too large, and therefore end up being hotbeds for pathogenic contamination. They also cannot provide enough open pasture for tens of thousands of cows to continually graze on.

Cleanliness and pasture are critical parameters for producing healthy milk fit for raw consumption. So really, the war on raw milk boils down to control—controlling the competition, which is selling a superior product. It's NOT an issue of safety at all.

In fact, several studies have demonstrated the superior safety of raw milk compared to pasteurized, yet the vilification of raw milk continues unabated—science and statistics be damned...

Europeans Can Buy Raw Milk from Vending Machines

In sharp contrast to the US, some European nations sell raw milk in vending machines! And contrary to popular (American) belief, the bodies are NOT piling up as a result. As reported by Modern Farmer:1

"Europe's embrace of raw milk vending machines isn't new. Such daring dispensers of unpasteurized dairy can be found in France, Croatia, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands and, as one map2 shows, all over the place in Italy."

The safety measures are remarkably simple. If the temperature of the milk rises above the regulated level, the machine will stop dispensing milk, and the farmer is notified via text message. The milk spout is sterilized by a UV light between each purchase.

In the US, several states have outright banned the sale of raw milk for fear of contaminated milk despite the fact that, statistically, such fears are completely and udderly unfounded (pun intended).

Research by Dr. Ted Beals, MD,3 featured in the summer 2011 issue of Wise Traditions, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, shows that you are actually about 35,000 times more likely to get sick from other foods than you are from raw milk!

Pasteurized Dairy and Processed Foods Top the List of 'Most Dangerous'

The vast majority of foodborne illnesses in the US are linked to factory farmed and highly processed foods, not raw foods. For example, late last year, Chobani Greek yogurt was recalled following reports of gastrointestinal illness.4 The yogurt, which is pasteurized and not raw, was found to be contaminated with a fungus called Murcor circinelloides.

In 2011, Cargill recalled a whopping 36 million pounds of ground turkey.5 An antibiotic-resistant strain of Salmonella in the meat ended up causing 107 illnesses and one death.

An investigation revealed that this strain of Salmonella had been found four times over the course of one year, yet the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), took no action against the producer. And, from the time the first illness was reported and the recall took effect, five months passed, allowing over a hundred more people to become ill from the contaminated meat.

A major part of the problem is that, despite being in charge of food safety oversight of meat and poultry, the USDA does not have the authority to take action against a meat or poultry producer—even if the permissible limits of pathogenic contamination are repeatedly exceeded.

Clearly, this does not bode well for food safety. As explained in a previous Food Safety News article discussing this case:6

"For example, take ground turkey. When USDA tests for Salmonella, they take individual 1-pound samples on 52 consecutive days of production. Sometimes it takes a year to complete a set — and the establishment gets a heads up that a sample is going to be taken!

In addition, if 26 or fewer are positive, the sample set passes. If more than 26 are positive, the sample set fails.

Basically, these are like open book exams — not pop quizzes — where a 50 percent is still passing! And even when a sample set fails, USDA does another set of testing. And they keep doing testing until a set passes."

What this means is that if 50 percent of the samples are contaminated with disease-causing bacteria, it's deemed "safe." But if it hits 51 percent, it's tagged as "unsafe." And testing simply continues until illness is reported. What sense does this make?

Yet anytime the lack of food safety is discussed, the focus is suddenly turned to raw milk! It's almost as though US agencies are using raw milk as a scapegoat to keep you from looking at the real problem, which is that factory farms produce inherently unsafe foods. It's like a propaganda machine sleight of hand maneuver...

CDC Stance on Raw Milk—As Biased as It Gets

Mark McAfee, CEO of Organic Pastures Dairy and an internationally recognized expert in raw milk production and safety, has on numerous occasions tried to set the record straight with US authorities, to no avail. In a 2012 letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), he writes:7

"As a grade A producer of retailed-approved raw milk in California, I find your raw milk page filled with highly erroneous and very misleading information... In California, we have legal retail-approved raw milk in 400 stores consumed by 75,000 consumers each week. This retail legal raw milk is tested and state inspected and far exceeds pasteurized milk product standards without any heat or processing.

It is clean raw milk from a single source dairy. There have been no deaths from raw milk in California in 37 years. Two years ago, I submitted a FOIA request to the CDC to request data on the two deaths that the CDC database claims were from raw milk. The data I received back from the CDC showed that in fact there had been no death from raw milk at all.

The two deaths had been from illegal Mexican bath tub cheese and not raw milk from any place in America. Why does the CDC persist in publishing this erroneous information? ...The last people to die from milk died from pasteurized milk at Whittier farms in 2007, not from raw milk."

While both the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the CDC warn that raw milk can carry disease-causing bacteria, they completely overlook the fact that these bacteria are the result of industrial farming practices that lead to diseased animals, which may then in turn produce contaminated milk.

They make no distinction whatsoever between disease-riddled factory farmed milk and the milk from clean, healthy, grass-fed cows. This is indeed a key issue, as raw milk from a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) IS dangerous and must be pasteurized in order to be fit to drink, whereas raw milk from cows raised on pasture IS NOT dangerous and DOES NOT need pasteurization. The source of the milk makes all the difference when it comes to raw milk.

What the CDC Doesn't Tell You About Raw Milk Is Worth Knowing...

The CDC also fails to inform visitors in its website that legal raw milk producers oftentimes adhere to stricter safety standards than CAFOs do. California, specifically, has its own special set of standards for raw milk for human consumption, in which farmers must meet or exceed pasteurized milk standards, without pasteurizing.

Instead of giving you the facts, the CDC lists raw milk as one of the riskiest foods in America, without any real proof to back up such a proclamation. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has even called for a complete ban on raw milk because it is so "dangerous." But on what do they base their assumptions? On the CDC's unproven opinion? If safety was truly the issue, then pasteurized dairy would be banned, as that's what's causing the most disease.

So you've got to ask yourself, is this really about our personal safety or the safety of the milk industry? Eating directly from the farm is prohibited by industry so they can control our food supply. They make it very difficult for farmers to sell directly to us, whether dairy products or meat products. They claim this is done for our safety, but it's really just a plot to control our food system.

"The FDA does not mention raw milk on their top 10 most risky foods in America list," McAfee notes. "Pasteurized ice cream and pasteurized cheeses make the top 10 risky foods list... According to the Cornell study performed on CDC data, there were 1,100 illnesses caused by raw milk between 1973 and 2009. There were 422,000 illnesses caused by pasteurized milk. No deaths from raw milk and at least 50 deaths from pasteurized milk or pasteurized cheese—the CDC left out the 29 or more people that died from the pasteurized Jalisco cheese listeria incident in 1985."

Raw Milk Has Many Health Benefits

The CDC, as McAfee notes, is absolutely riddled with bias. While most of it is obvious, some of the bias is hidden by the way the CDC counts its statistics. For example, it counts outbreaks rather than the number of people affected by the outbreak. In one outbreak caused by pasteurized milk, 200,000 people fell ill! Yet it's only counted as one incident. Its website also makes no mention whatsoever to studies showing how raw organic milk differs, nutritionally, from CAFO milk, and how it improves health. For example, raw milk is:

Loaded with healthy bacteria that are good for your gastrointestinal tract High in omega-3 and low omega-6, which is the beneficial ratio between these two essential fats
Full of more than 60 digestive enzymes, growth factors, and immunoglobulins (antibodies). These enzymes are destroyed during pasteurization, making pasteurized milk much harder to digest Loaded with vitamins (A, B, C, D, E, and K) in highly bioavailable forms, and a very balanced blend of minerals (calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and iron) whose absorption is enhanced by live Lactobacilli
Rich in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which fights cancer and boosts metabolism Rich in healthy unoxidized cholesterol
Rich in beneficial raw fats, amino acids, and proteins in a highly bioavailable form, all 100 percent digestible It also contains phosphatase, an enzyme that aids and assists in the absorption of calcium in your bones, and lipase enzyme, which helps to hydrolyze and absorb fats

Pasteurizing milk, on the other hand, destroys enzymes, diminishes vitamins, denatures fragile milk proteins, destroys vitamin B12 and vitamin B6, kills beneficial bacteria, and actually promotes pathogens.

Max Kane's Self-Healing Is a Testament to the Power of Raw Dairy

In the video above, I interview Max Kane, a local raw dairy farmer from whom our office purchases a variety of raw dairy products from. Max was diagnosed with Crohn's disease at the age of 10. Through years of study, he eventually healed himself through nutrition and lifestyle changes. He now consumes only 100 percent raw, 100 percent organic, and 100 percent pasture-raised dairy products. Raw dairy makes up about 50 percent of his diet.

"The cream is perhaps the most important part of the milk because the cream is where all the energy is that's needed to digest the milk protein casein," he explains. "That's why it's important to consume full-fat dairy products instead of non-fat or skim dairy products. The cream is also responsible for regulating the sugar absorption into your blood. It decreases the likelihood of insulin spikes. The cream naturally floats to the top of the milk, and it can be skimmed right off the top. Traditionally, people would use the cream line as a visual aid to help them assess the quality of the milk...

Homogenization [is] an industry process that fractionates the cream molecule, the fat molecule, into small little pieces. This was done for the purpose of making the cream line non-detectable to the human eye... That's how they standardized the milk, by taking away the viewable quality assessment from the consumer, and ultimately left the consumer with no real visual way to assess the quality and the value of the milk."

The quality of grass-fed milk, butter, and yogurt can easily be ascertained by its color. The carotenoids in the plants cows eat on pasture gives grass-fed products a more yellow-orange cast. When cows are raised on dried grass or hay, opposed to fresh-growing grass, you end up with a whiter product, which is an indication of reduced carotenoid and antioxidant content. Raw milk yogurt is also very thick and creamy, compared to pasteurized commercial varieties. The same goes for pastured eggs, which can be ascertained by their deep orange yolk. CAFO chickens, which never go outdoors, and are fed grains rather than bugs and insects, produce eggs with pale yellow yolks.

ABOUT Max Kane - Max Kane was diagnosed with Crohn's disease at the age of 10, and through years of study, healed himself through nutrition and lifestyle changes. 100% of his dairy products and over 50% of his other foods are purchased directly from farms. When it comes to dairy, he only consumes 100% raw, 100% organic, 100% grass-fed. Dairy makes up about 50% of his diet. After realizing the healing power of fresh farm foods, Kane teamed up with Amagisoft to create FarmMatch.com.

ABOUT FarmMatch -- It's free to create an account, but no account is required to use the system.

FarmMatch is built over the Google mapping system and makes local food searchable worldwide, making it easy to find a local farmer. Not only are specific farm products searchable, but products are searchable by quality standards as well… 100% grass-fed, non-GMO, etc. You can connect with farmers and buy online as well. The order management system is consumer funded. Buyers pay a $2.95 fee when placing an order or can opt into a $3.95/month plan that allows unlimited ordering with no $2.95 fees. Through these small affordable consumer fees, FarmMatch delivers a state-of-the-art software suit to every small scale farmer at no charge to the farmer. The FarmMatch business model not only helps individual small farmers, but it also lifts the entire local food movement as a whole.

Join the Fight for Food Freedom

The fight over raw milk stands as a symbol of the much larger fight for food freedom. Who gets to decide what you eat? You? Or the FDA? If the FDA and other government agencies are allowed to impose their view of "safe food" on consumers, raw milk won't be the only thing lost—all food will be pasteurized, irradiated, and genetically engineered. The effort to reclaim our right to buy and consume raw milk is leading the way for everyone who wants to be able to obtain the food of their choice from the source of their choice. So please, get involved! I urge you to get involved with the following action plan to protect your right to choose your own foods:

  1. Get informed: Visit www.farmtoconsumer.org or click here to sign up for action alerts. To review the raw milk laws in your state, see the Farm-to-Consumer.org's Raw Milk Nation page.
  2. Join the fight for your rights: The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) is the only organization of its kind. This 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization provides a legal defense for farmers who are being pursued by the government for distributing foods directly to consumers. Your donations, although not tax deductible, will be used to support the litigation, legislative, and lobbying efforts of the FTCLDF.
  3. Support your local farmers: Getting your raw milk from a local organic farm or co-op is one of the best ways to ensure you're getting high-quality milk. You can locate a raw milk source near you at the Campaign for Real Milk Website. California residents can find raw milk retailers by using the store locator available at www.OrganicPastures.com.




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 Comments (149)

By Dr. Mercola

You've heard the advice before: stay out of the sun or use plenty of sunscreen to block cancer-causing ultraviolet (UV) rays. But while it's true that excessive sun exposure resulting in sunburn may increase ayour risk of skin cancer, it's a fallacy to believe that sun exposure should be avoided altogether.

The key is to find the right balance, where you're exposing plenty of skin to the sun's rays, but not staying out to the point of getting burned. Sun exposure can only be therapeutic when it's done in appropriate and measured timeframes.

Excessive sun exposure provides no benefit and can only result in damage like sunburn, which is an inflammatory response in your skin to UVB overexposure. However, UVB exposure is precisely what you want, in appropriate amounts, because when UVB strikes the surface of your skin, your skin converts a cholesterol derivative into vitamin D3.

The benefits of optimizing your vitamin D stores cannot be overstated, and I've discussed this in a large number of articles spanning more than a decade. Ironically, one of the benefits is actually a significant reduction in cancer risk—both skin cancer and many other types of cancer.


Most recently, researchers1, 2 again confirmed that adequate vitamin D stores increases the survival chances for bowel cancer patients. Another recent study3 found that low vitamin D levels increases the risk for advanced liver fibrosis in patients with hepatitis C.

Research continues to support that vitamin D truly is a "master key" for optimal health and disease prevention. This is why it's so important to strike the right balance. You need sun exposure—but not so much that you burn your skin.

UVAs versus UVBs

So, how can you get the benefits without raising your risk for skin damage? It's important to remember that the sun can either be helpful or harmful depending on what type of ultraviolet light you're getting. The ultraviolet light from the sun comes in two main wavelengths:

  • Ultraviolet A (UVA) Considered the unhealthy wavelength because it penetrates your skin more deeply and cause more free radical damage. Sunblocks containing SPF filter out the beneficial UVB, not these cancer-causing UVAs, unless they also contain a UVA blocking ingredient.
  • As a result, wearing sunscreen may prevent you from burning, as excessive UVBs are the chief cause of sunburn, but you still receive a large amount of skin-damaging radiation. Moreover, UVA rays are constantly available, even on cloudy days.  There are likely some benefits to UVA in moderation that we do not fully understand, as there appears to be with many spectrums emitted from the sun.

  • Ultraviolet B (UVB) – This is the 'healthy' wavelength that helps your skin produce vitamin D. While both UVA and UVB can cause tanning and burning, UVB does so far more rapidly.
  • Contrary to UVAs, which are more readily available, UVB rays are low in morning and evening, and high at midday or solar noon, making this the most optimal time for vitamin D production (roughly between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.). Ironically, this is the timeframe most mainstream experts warn you to stay out of the sun.

What Constitutes 'Safe and Appropriate' Sun Exposure?

As a general rule of thumb, to optimize your vitamin D levels, you need to expose large portions of your skin to the sun – including your legs, back, arms, and chest. For optimal benefit, strive to have at least 40 percent of your skin uncovered.

The key is knowing when to cover back up. You want your skin to turn the lightest shade of pink. This can occur in as little as 10-20 minutes, depending on your skin tone and other factors, such as location and cloud cover.

At that point, you've reached your skin's equilibrium or saturation point, and your body will not produce any more vitamin D. It can take three to six times longer for darkly pigmented skin to reach the equilibrium concentration of skin vitamin D.

You can create as much as 20,000 units of vitamin D per day this way. Best of all, your body has this built-in feedback loop that prevents you from overdosing on the nutrient when you get it via sun exposure.

If you're taking supplemental vitamin D3, not only do you need to get your level tested regularly to ensure you're taking enough to maintain optimal levels (between 50 and 70 ng/ml), you also need to be mindful of increasing your intake of vitamin K2. When using the sun, having and maintaining a tan can serve as a "visual measure" of your vitamin D status.

Healthy Sun Exposure Is Your Best Source of Vitamin D

The charts below display the likelihood of vitamin D synthesis across the U.S. by month.

Technological Aids

According to experts in the field, you can likely get sufficient amounts of UVB radiation when the sun is as low as 30 degrees above the horizon, or whenever the temperature is warm enough to expose large amounts of skin. Dr. Ola Engelsen with the Norwegian Institute for Air Research has noted that the sun must be more than 15 degrees above the horizon during cloudless conditions, in order to provide beneficial UVBs. He also developed a helpful calculator4 that takes a number of factors into consideration to give you an estimate of how many minutes of exposure you need to produce the equivalent of 1,000 IUs of vitamin D.

Sunburn: Signs and Symptoms

It's important to remember that there's no additional benefit to staying in the sun past the point of "pinking." For some light-skinned individuals with minimal previous sun exposure, this could only be a few minutes. You're only raising your risk of sunburn, which is something you definitely want to avoid. The risk of sunburn is higher if you have a lighter complexion. Telltale signs of sunburn include:

  • Redness of the skin or erythema
  • Skin that's warm or hot to the touch
  • Discomfort when skin gets touched or rubbed against clothes
  • Peeling or flaking of the skin
  • Extreme dryness or wrinkling of the skin

These symptoms are frequently not immediately visible, but become obvious a few hours after overexposure. They tend to be most painful in the first 24 hours. Like ordinary burns, sunburns are classified into three degrees: first, second, and third. First- and second-degree sunburns are fairly temporary and are manageable at home. In third-degree sunburns, infection-prone skin blisters, fever, and chills can occur, and immediate medical attention is recommended to avoid complications.

How to Avoid Sunburn in the First Place

The benefits of sun exposure definitely outweigh its risks, but you do need to be smart about it. Taking a few sensible steps to avoid sunburn will ensure you're maximizing the benefits while limiting any potential adverse effects. To continuously enjoy the positive effects of sun exposure without getting burned, I recommend following these safety tips:

  • Protect your face and eyes by wearing a wide-brimmed hat or a cap. The skin around these areas is much thinner than other areas of your body and is more at risk for cosmetic photo damage and premature wrinkling.  If it's too hot to protect your skin by covering with light clothing, be sure to use a broad spectrum sunscreen on your skin - these products often contain zinc.
  • Limit your initial exposure and slowly work your way up. If you are a fairly light-skinned individual who tends to burn easily, limit your initial exposure to just a few minutes, especially if it is in the middle of summer. The more tanned your skin gets, the longer you can stay in the sun without burning. If it is early or late in the season and/or you are a dark-skinned individual, you could likely safely have 30 minutes on your initial exposure.
  • Build an internal sunscreen with beneficial antioxidants. Astaxanthin – a potent antioxidant – has been found to offer effective protection against sun damage when taken as a daily supplement. Do note that it takes a couple of weeks for it to build up in your system, so you cannot simply take it the day you're hitting the beach. Astaxanthin can also be used topically. You can make your own lotion by adding astaxanthin to organic coconut oil, be careful of staining your clothing as astaxanthin is a very dark red. Other helpful antioxidants include proanthocyanidins, resveratrol, and lycopene.
  • Moisturize your skin naturally. Before sunbathing, apply organic coconut oil on the exposed areas of your skin (as noted above, you could add some astaxanthin to the oil for an added measure of protection). This will not only moisturize your skin to prevent dryness, but will also give you additional metabolic benefits.

Eating Your Veggies Helps Protect Your Skin from Sun Damage

The amount of antioxidants you get from your diet actually plays a major role in how you effectively avoid sunburn. The more antioxidants you have in your skin, the lower your risk of getting burned. They act as an internal type of sunscreen and allow you to maximize your sun exposure while minimizing the risks. Carotenoids, for instance, are critical to the photosynthetic process and protect a plant or organism from damage by light and oxygen.

By consuming plants or organisms that contain these pigments, you gain a similar protective benefit. Vitamins A and C are also important – your cells use them to regulate both light absorption and protection against sun overexposure. Besides astaxanthin, which is taken as a supplement, dietary sources of effective antioxidants include whole fresh vegetables and fruits such as raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. Although the exact pathway by which antioxidants help protect your skin from burning has yet to be elucidated, it's most likely related to the antioxidants' anti-inflammatory properties, as sunburn is actually an inflammatory process.

How to Treat Sunburn Naturally

Taking measures to prevent sunburn from occurring is clearly your best course of action. But should you end up getting overexposed, the following strategies can help speed the healing of your skin, and minimize the damage. One of the most effective first-aid strategies I know of is to apply raw aloe vera gel topically to the burn. It's loaded with powerful glyconutrients that accelerate healing. Aloe is also easy to grow if you live in a southern location, and is an excellent medicinal plant to keep in your home garden (or keep one in a pot on your balcony).

You need to be careful of the species as many have very flat leaves with virtually no gel. The best plants have the thickest leaves. They are relatively easy to propagate and you can turn one plant into six or more in under a year. I now have about four dozen aloe vera plants on my property, which I use both for oral and topical use. After cutting the leaf from the plant, you want to first cut off the prickly edges. Then, using a peeler, peel the skin off one side. You can now rub the jelly side directly on your sunburn. For a demonstration, see the following video. Apply it five times a day until your condition improves.

Applying cold compresses to the sunburned area can also help lessen the burning pain. To avoid further irritation, do not wash sunburned skin with harsh soaps. Speaking of water, you also want to make sure to stay properly hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Young children need to be carefully monitored for signs of dehydration.5


Avoid applying petroleum jelly on your sunburn, as it may exacerbate the burn. It is also a petrochemical that is loaded with toxins you don't want in your system. I would suggest never applying petroleum jelly topically. Also, it's inadvisable to take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications or painkillers in most cases, as they may simply worsen your condition. Besides aloe vera, there are plenty of other topical food-based remedies that can help ease the pain and speed healing. For example, you can use:

Potatoes - Potatoes have starch-based compounds that may help soothe sunburn. Chop an uncooked potato into slices, and rub or pat down a piece on your sore sunburned spots. You can also try grating a cold raw potato and applying it as a poultice. Honey - The ancient Egyptians were known to use honey as a topical salve for skin burns. Just make sure you're using high-quality honey, such as raw organic honey, or Manuka honey, which has very potent medicinal qualities. The "Grade A" type honey you find in most grocery stores is more akin to high fructose corn syrup, which is more likely to increase infection, and should never be used to treat topical wounds.
Vinegar - The acetic acid found in vinegar is said to reduce pain, itching, and inflammation. Add a cup of apple cider vinegar into your bath water and soak your burned skin into it. It can also work like a natural aspirin. Simply dab a bit of white vinegar on to your sunburn for 20 minutes of instant pain relief.Green tea - Green tea's catechin and tannic acid help soothe sunburn pain. Soak a couple of tea bags in cool water. You can either use the tea bags themselves as a cold compress on the burnt areas, or wash your face gently with the cold tea extract. Studies also suggest that drinking just two cups of green tea a day can provide additional sun-protective benefits.
Cucumbers - With cucumber's cooling effect, simply putting it on top of your sunburns is guaranteed to provide instant soothing effects. You can also use it as a paste by mashing it and applying it on your skin.Lettuce - To take advantage of lettuce's painkilling benefits, boil its leaves in water. After straining, allow the liquid to cool. Keep it chilled inside the refrigerator. Using clean organic cotton balls, carefully apply the lettuce juice over the affected area.
Calendula - It has natural anti-inflammatory and healing properties that are especially beneficial for burns. Although there are many calendula creams sold in drugstores today, you can make your own calendula poultice using fresh calendula blossoms for faster healing of your sunburns.Coriander oil - For a soothing effect, use it as an essential oil by lightly rubbing it onto your sunburn.

Sunscreens May Do More Harm Than Good

As noted earlier, sunscreens effectively protect against UVB, which is the main cause of sunburn, and are classified into their level of sun protection factor or SPF:

  • SPF 15 - Blocks 93 percent of UVB radiation
  • SPF 30 - Blocks up to 97 percent of UVB radiation
  • SPF 50 - Blocks up to 98 percent of UVB radiation

This means that when you apply sunblock, even at a lower SPF 15, you're effectively eliminating any chance of raising your vitamin D level. And, as mentioned earlier, most sunscreens do not filter out the more damaging UVAs, unless it also contains a UVA block. So you're still being exposed to harmful UVA rays, even if you don't get burned. Besides preventing vitamin D production, sunscreens are problematic for other reasons as well.

Many contain toxic and/or hormone-disrupting ingredients, which migrate through your skin directly into your bloodstream. Products that contain vitamin A and its derivatives, retinol and retinyl palmitate, may also increase the speed at which malignant cells develop. Consumer Reports recently warned6, 7 that parents should stop applying spray-on sunscreens on their kids until more research is done to assess the dangers of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide—two key sunscreen ingredients. According to the report, children may be inhaling these chemicals when the sunscreen is sprayed on.

Vitamin D Performance Testing Can Help Optimize Your Health

In my view, sensible sun exposure is so important for optimal health, you're really doing yourself and your kids a disservice by not learning how to do so safely and effectively. A robust and growing body of research (totaling in the neighborhood of 34,000 studies) clearly shows that vitamin D is absolutely critical for disease prevention. Researchers have pointed out that increasing levels of vitamin D3 among the general population could prevent chronic diseases that claim nearly one million lives throughout the world each year. Incidence of several types of cancer could also be slashed in half.  

This is why I am so excited about the D*Action Project by GrassrootsHealth. It is showing how you can take action today on known science with a consensus of experts without waiting for institutional lethargy. It has shown how by combining the science of measurement (of vitamin D levels) with the personal choice of taking action and, the value of education about individual measures that one can truly be in charge of their own health.

In order to spread this health movement to more communities, the project needs your involvement. To participate, simply purchase the D*Action Measurement Kit and follow the registration instructions included. (Please note that 100 percent of the proceeds from the kits go to fund the research project. I do not charge a single dime as a distributor of the test kits.)

As a participant, you agree to test your vitamin D levels twice a year during a five-year study, and share your health status to demonstrate the public health impact of this nutrient. There is a $65 fee every six months for your sponsorship of this research project, which includes a test kit to be used at home, and electronic reports on your ongoing progress. You will get a follow up email every six months reminding you "it's time for your next test and health survey."

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