By Dr. Mercola
Depression is a very serious health problem and can be terminal, as up to 30,000 people who are depressed commit suicide every year. But are antidepressants the best approach?
Contrary to popular belief, there are safer—and oftentimes far more effective—alternatives to the drug route, as explained here by Dr. Hyla Cass, a practicing psychiatrist who uses integrative medicine.
Dr. Cass appears regularly on TV and radio shows, and is an associate editor of Total Health Magazine. She also serves on the boards of California Citizens for Health and the American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM), of which I was a member for some time.
Her father was a doctor, practicing out of their home in Toronto, so Dr. Cass was exposed to medicine first hand from a very early age. Her father’s old-fashioned medical values of personal care and attention was the model of healing after which she eventually modeled her own career.
“Doctors really relied on their own judgment then. It wasn’t just a pill for every ill,” she notes. “In my own practice, I began to notice that what people ate and how they lived actually influenced their health.
People who were eating junk were not doing very well. People who were eating healthier, more natural foods, actually were feeling better, doing better, were healthier (have less colds, flus and all the rest), and even, were nicer people to be around!”
Why Focus on Natural Interventions for Depression?
Early on, Dr. Cass began searching for other doctors of like mind, and discovered a mentor in Dr. Abram Hoffer, the co-founder of “orthomolecular medicine.” This refers to the concept of nutritional deficiencies being a source of mental illness, and the right nutrients or molecules can correct the problem.
“While I was in my residency at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, I began to notice that medications had side effects... It would be okay if the side effects were worth it, but most of the time they weren’t...”
Side effects of antidepressants run the gamut from sexual side effects to lack of emotions or “emotional flatness,” restlessness, sleep disturbances, brain damage, and thoughts (and actions, tragically) of suicide, and even homicide. Virtually all of the school and mass shooters, for example, have been on antidepressants.
“You could say, “Well, of course, they were on antidepressants. They were disturbed and that’s why they did the shooting.” But a comparable number of people who were not on antidepressants and having similar problems did not become school shooters,” Dr. Cass notes.
“The difference was, first of all, they were genetically predisposed to have that reaction to the medications -- but nobody’s looking at genetics when they prescribe medication.
These shooters were either just newly on medication, or had just had some sort of change in their medications or dosage; ie regardless of details, there was something going on with their medications before the event. And that’s a terrible tragedy. A lot of this information has been suppressed, too.”
Nutrition Is Essential for Proper Brain Function
Long before holistic health became a catch phrase, Dr. Cass began pursuing the use of nutritional supplements rather than medication, and lo and behold, her patients improved.
A huge drawback of the conventional mental health care system is that few doctors have the time, or take the time, to sort out the root of the problem with each patient. It’s a lot easier to simply write a drug prescription. Dr. Cass, on the other hand, takes the time to focus on finding, and then treating, the root cause.
“It’s so scary when you think of what these medications do. They’re not to be handed out the way they are. That really is disturbing to me. People think, “My doctor knows what he or she is doing.” Well, that’s not always true. I think it’s up to people to educate themselves,” she says.
“At Cedars-Sinai I was trained in a more psychoanalytic way. That’s actually good. It’s a Freudian model. I don’t practice that way now, but it was a good basis; understanding that there’s an unconscious and that we have scripts in us that are outside of our regular awareness.
And when we make them conscious, we actually are liberated . We can go on and live more fulfilling lives. I began looking first of all, at their psyche, but also at their lifestyle – what they were eating and drinking,and their attitudes. So many things go into being healthy.”
The Placebo Effect in Action
People can get quite defensive when you mention that antidepressants may be doing more harm than good, and that there are better alternatives. Many insist their whole life changed for the better once they started taking an antidepressant, and they cannot conceive living without it.
According to Dr. Cass, this can often be the placebo effect in action. You are in essence healed by your belief. If you think the drug will work, it likely will. But the same power of belief could be applied to virtually any other treatment modality, including a sugar pill.
One 2010 study1 concluded that there is very little evidence to suggest antidepressants benefit people with mild to moderate depression, as these drugs work no better than a placebo in at least 80 percent of cases.
An earlier meta-analysis2 published in PLoS Medicine also concluded that the difference between antidepressants and placebo pills is very small. Other research3 into the placebo effect noted that “the placebo effect is an unacknowledged partner for powerful medications.”
"Here we are with these miracle bodies. What we have to do is feed them right and treat them right, and we'll get the most wonderful results," Dr. Cass says.
“On the other hand, if we overuse or misuse medication, which is often the case, you’re just going to cause these side effects, some of them very dangerous, and won’t ever deal with the root cause.
We need to look at psychodynamics. But we also must take a look at nutritional status. Is there an infection? Is there toxicity? Is there a Vitamin B12 deficiency? Is there an iron deficiency anemia? There are so many medical issues that actually appear as depression.
When a doctor just hands you a prescription for an SSRI, they are not doing you a favor unless they’ve first given you a thorough medical workup, looking hormonal imbalance including thyroid or adrenal, or gluten sensitivity, to name a few of the possible causes.”
Gluten Sensitivity—A Common But Hidden Cause of Depression
You may not have realized this, but the gluten level in our grains is much higher today than it ever was before, thanks to various breeding techniques, and gluten can produce depression if you're sensitive to it. In such a case, the key is to remove gluten from your diet entirely. You cannot simply cut down. It must be removed completely. In Dr. Cass' practice, she's seen many people recover from severe depression when going gluten-free.
“They start to feel better, their mood improves. The depression, it turned out was really due to gluten sensitivity. And you may ask, “How can gluten affect your brain like that? What is going on?” It has to do with inflammation,” she explains. “When gluten is inflaming your gut, it’s also inflaming your brain. Whatever’s going on in your gut is also going on in your brain. They’re very connected.
The gut is the second brain. In fact, there are more serotonin receptors in the gut than anywhere else in the whole body. What I’m saying is, to summarize, it can be gluten sensitivity, thyroid imbalance, anemia, some kind of infection, Lyme disease, or chronic fatigue syndrome. Many medical issues will show up as depression. Depression is a symptom. Depression is not a condition. It’s not an illness; it’s simply a symptom...
We have this three-pound sophisticated organ, the brain,, the control center of our whole body, and it does not get evaluated. No one looks at it. You have a symptom of depression, anxiety, or insomnia, and you get a prescription. That’s crazy. That is not good medicine. I’m saying I’m not even practicing alternative medicine; I’m practicing good medicine.”
An important issue to address is junk food, which also promotes gut inflammation. So one of the first steps in addressing problems like anxiety and depression is to clean up your diet and address your gut health. Otherwise, you’ll have virtually no chance of getting healthy emotionally and mentally. As noted by Dr. Cass, there are times when temporary use of an antidepressant may be warranted, but such occasions are really quite rare.
"I think that if we use the right doses of specific herbs and supplements, and get exactly the right diagnosis, the right biological, biochemical diagnosis, we probably won't need to use the meds," she says.
High Dose Niacin for Psychosis
Before he attended medical school, the mentor I mentioned, Dr. Abram Hoffer, received a PhD in biochemistry specializing in vitamin B research. So when he became director of the largest psychiatric hospital in Saskatchewan, he used his knowledge to research the administration of high doses of niacin (vitamin B3) to schizophrenic patients.
Amazingly, he was able to get many of these very ill mental patients well enough to be released, get married and go on to lead normal lives. It turns out that pellagra, a disorder caused by niacin deficiency, produces the same psychiatric symptoms such as irrational anger, feelings of persecution, mania, and dementia that were found in many of these “ hopelessly incurable” patients. The cure was giving them the deficient B vitamin. Sadly, despite “performing miracles” on these hard-to-treat patients, Dr. Hoffer’s ground-breaking research was discredited by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), which was sadly more interested in promoting drugs.
“As long as the patients continued to take their niacin, as well as vitamin C, they were OK. On the other hand, nowadays if psychotic patients stop their medication, they may or may not relapse. This brings up another issue; we’re seeing more relapses than we used to in psychosis and depression. It may be due to the meds. Before people were on meds to the extent that they are, they would have a depressive episode, [then] recover and not necessarily have another one...But we’re now having far more chronically relapsing depression and psychosis than before the introduction of medication.
Moreover, we’re having more bipolar illness than we ever had. Something is going on. The medications are actually changing the brain. This is what is so scary. We have people who start off being depressed, being put on antidepressants for their depression, end up becoming bipolar, and then they’re placed on a whole cocktail of medications. And they’re kept on that cocktail indefinitely, which frequently ends their ability to function normally.”
How to Revert from Antidepressants to More Natural Treatments
If you’re currently on an antidepressant and want to get off it, ideally you’ll want to have the cooperation of your prescribing physician. Some doctors are happy to help you to withdraw if they know that you’re going to be responsible about it. Others may not want to bother, or they don’t believe that you can get off the medication. As noted by Dr. Cass, you may need to do some reading in order to be better prepared. Dr. Joseph Glennmullen from Harvard wrote a very helpful book on how to withdraw called The Antidepressant Solution.
You can also turn to an organization with a referral list of doctors who practice more biologically or naturally, such as the American College for Advancement in Medicine www.ACAM.org. Also, it doesn’t make much sense to withdraw unless you’re implementing some other strategy to address the cause of your depression. In summary, Dr. Cass suggests keeping the following guidelines in mind:
Under your prescribing physician's supervision, start lowering the dosage of the antidepressant you're taking. There are protocols for gradually reducing the dose of the medication that your doctor should be well aware of. At the same time, start taking a multivitamin. Start taking low doses. If you're quitting an SSRI under doctor supervision, you can go on a low dose of 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). For bipolar patients, Dr. Cass and other holistic psychiatrists may prescribe nutritional supplements such as fish oil (omega-3 fats), inositol, tryptophan, and others, depending on the individual's need. Bipolar symptoms can also be related to Lyme disease, so if Lyme infection is present, that needs to be addressed, also by a more functionally oriented doctor. Chronic inflammation in general appears to be a significant underlying factor causing symptoms of depression, so keeping inflammation in check is an important part of any effective treatment plan. If you're gluten sensitive, you will need to remove all gluten from your diet. A food sensitivity test can help ascertain this. Vitamin D deficiency is another important biological factor that can play a significant role in mental health. A double-blind randomized trial4 published in 2008 concluded that: "It appears to be a relation between serum levels of 25(OH)D and symptoms of depression. Supplementation with high doses of vitamin D seems to ameliorate these symptoms indicating a possible causal relationship." Recent research5 also claims that low vitamin D levels appear to be associated with suicide attempts. Ideally, maintain your vitamin D level between 50-70 ng/ml year-round. Unbalanced gut flora have also been identified as a significant contributing factor to depression, so be sure to optimize your gut health, either by regularly eating traditionally fermented foods, or taking a high quality probiotic. Make sure you’re getting enough high quality sleep, as sleep is essential for optimal mood and mental health. A fitness tracker that tracks your sleep can be a useful tool. The inability to fall asleep and stay asleep can be due to elevated cortisol levels, so if you have trouble sleeping, you may want to get your saliva cortisol level tested with an Adrenal Stress Index test. If you’re already taking hormones, you can try applying a small dab of progesterone cream on your neck or face when you awaken during the night and can’t call back to sleep. Another alternative is to take adaptogens, herbal products that help lower cortisol and adjust your body to stress. There are also other excellent herbs and amino acids that help you to fall asleep and stay asleep. Meditation can also help. A new piece of technology that can be quite useful is a headband sensor called Muse.6 It gives you real-time feedback on your brain wave frequencies, which can help train you to enter into deeper states of relaxation and meditation. I've been using it for 15 minutes twice a day for about six months, and I've noticed some really impressive improvements. Slowing your breathing through meditation and/or using the Buteyko breathing technique also increases your partial pressure of carbon dioxide (CO2), which has enormous psychological benefits. Other helpful tools to ease symptoms of depression and anxiety include Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). EFT is well-studied, and recent research found it significantly increased positive emotions, such as hope and enjoyment, and decreased negative emotional states like anger and shame. Another recent review found statistically significant benefits in using EFT for anxiety, depression, PTSD, and phobias.
Many 'Depressed' Women Are Actually in Perimenopause
Amazingly, 23 percent of women over the age of 40 are on antidepressants. According to Dr. Cass, this is likely due to misdiagnosis of perimenopause or other hormonal imbalances. Women are entering perimenopause at younger ages these days; some even before the age of 40, and this phase can last for years.
“Women who have never had PMS or mild PMS are suddenly having bad PMS. They are feeling depressed and irritable. They’re yelling at their kids and their partners. They’re having a very hard time. They may be fatigued and feeling like they’re falling apart. What do they do? They go to their doctor, and guess what they get? They get a prescription for an antidepressant. Guess what they shouldn’t get? An antidepressant.
They need to get their hormones balanced. Start with all the usual things: good diet, make sure your liver is able to detoxify properly so you may need some liver supportive herbs like milk thistle or bupleurum. There are also well-researched herbs for menopausal and PMS symptoms like dong quai, black cohosh and vitex.
You can also move into bioidentical hormones. [They are] very safe, particularly progesterone. Very safe. When these women get the hormones that they need, they stop feeling anxious and irritable, and start to feel good again. Their PMS goes away. And it doesn’t take long: one or two cycles and they are likely feeling great. They have a whole new lease on life.”
For more information, please see Dr. Cass’ website, CassMD.com. She has also authored four books on these subjects: Natural Highs, 8 Weeks to Vibrant Health, and The Addicted Brain: How to Break Free, which details how to get off addictive substances including medications. Another book, Supplement Your Prescription, deals with detecting and treating the nutrient deficiencies caused by medications. All four books are available on her website. She also has a special report called Reclaim Your Brain, available for free on her site, in which she discusses the different nutritional substances you can use to address conditions like anxiety, depression, and lagging memory.
Reversing Depression Without Antidepressants
Advances in Understanding of Depression Offers New Hope
By Dr. Mercola
Organic, free-range eggs are one of the best foods you can eat, morning, noon, or night. The way you cook them makes a big difference in their nutritional value, however, as does their source.
My advanced nutrition plan recommends eating your eggs raw, provided they come from a high-quality source, and this is because it’s the best way to preserve their valuable nutrients.
A simple way to do this is to incorporate whole organic raw eggs into a morning smoothie; you won’t even know they’re there. Just be sure to add them in after the blending (just stir them in gently with a spoon) to avoid damaging their proteins or molecular structure.
Next to Raw, Poached Eggs Are Best
In my beginner nutrition plan, eggs are still included and you can prepare them any way you like them. That being said, the less you cook them, the better. Scrambled or fried eggs are the worst, as this oxidizes the cholesterol in the egg yolk.
If you have high cholesterol this could pose a problem, as oxidized cholesterol may cause some damage in your body. Egg yolks also contain valuable antioxidants, which are reduced by as much as 50 percent when the egg is fried or boiled. Microwaving your eggs will result in an even greater reduction in antioxidant content.
Heat will also alter the chemical composition of the egg protein, which can easily lead to allergic reactions. When consumed in their raw state, the incidence of egg allergy is very rare. If you choose not to eat your eggs raw, poached or soft-boiled would be the next best option.
This leaves the yolk still runny and the cooking method is gentle enough to preserve many of the nutrients and antioxidants.
What Makes Eggs So Good for You?
If you eat them in the healthiest forms (i.e. raw or poached), you can easily eat one dozen eggs per week as a simple and cost-effective way to add valuable nutrition to your diet. Each egg contains about six grams of high-quality protein, and two raw egg yolks have antioxidant properties equivalent to half a serving of cranberries (25 grams), and almost twice as many as an apple.1
Eggs also contain choline, selenium, biotin, B vitamins, phosphorus, and more, making them are one of the healthiest foods you can eat. And, contrary to popular belief, eating eggs may actually help prevent disease, including heart disease. For example, previous studies have found:
- Consumption of more than six eggs per week does not increase the risk of stroke and ischemic stroke2
- Eating two eggs a day does not adversely affect endothelial function (an aggregate measure of cardiac risk) in healthy adults, supporting the view that dietary cholesterol may be less detrimental to cardiovascular health than previously thought3
- Proteins in cooked eggs are converted by gastrointestinal enzymes, producing peptides that act as ACE inhibitors (common prescription medications for lowering blood pressure)4
- A survey of South Carolina adults found no correlation of blood cholesterol levels with "bad" dietary habits, such as use of red meat, animal fats, fried foods, butter, eggs, whole milk, bacon, sausage, and cheese5
High-Quality Eggs Are Important for Nutrition and Safety
The best eggs are those that come from hens with access to the outdoors, who are allowed to roam and eat their natural diet. Free-range eggs are far more nutritious than commercially raised eggs.
In one egg-testing project, Mother Earth News compared the official US Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrient data for commercial eggs with eggs from hens raised on pasture and found that the latter typically contains:6
- 1/3 less cholesterol
- ¼ less saturated fat
- 2/3 more vitamin A
- 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
- 3 times more vitamin E and 7 times more beta carotene
The dramatically superior nutrient levels are most likely the result of the differences in diet between free ranging, pastured hens and commercially farmed hens. If you’re purchasing your eggs from a supermarket, be aware that labels can be very deceptive.
The definitions of "free-range" are such that the commercial egg industry can run industrial farm egg-laying facilities and still call them "free-range" eggs, despite the fact that the birds' foraging conditions are far from what you'd call natural.
In addition, conventionally raised eggs are far more likely to be contaminated with disease-causing bacteria such as salmonella, which is why, if you're eating raw eggs, they MUST be organic pastured eggs.
Poached Eggs with Collard Greens and Shiitake Mushrooms
Today’s recipe is adapted from The George Mateljan Foundation’s Poached Eggs Over Collard Greens & Shiitake Mushrooms.7 It’s an excellent combination, both in flavor and nutrition.
Collard greens contain glucosinolates called glucobrassicin that can convert into an isothiocyanate molecule called indole-3-carbinol, or I3C, a compound with the ability to activate and prevent an inflammatory response at its earliest stage.8
Other phytonutrients in collard greens, specifically diindolylmethane and sulforaphane, have been clinically proven to combat breast, prostate, ovarian, cervical, and colon cancer cells, help prevent their growth and even help prevent them from forming in the first place.9
Also noteworthy, collard greens are especially high in fiber, with more than 7 grams per cup, making them ideal for digestive support. They’re also particularly useful for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels.10
Shiitake mushrooms are another veritable superfood. They contain a number of health-stimulating agents, including lentinan, which has been isolated and used to treat stomach and other cancers due to its anti-tumor properties. It has also been found to protect your liver,11 relieve other stomach ailments (hyperacidity, gallstones, ulcers), anemia, ascites, and pleural effusion.
In another study, adding one or two servings of dried shiitake mushrooms was found to have a beneficial, modulating effect on immune system function.12 So by eating the delicious recipe that follows, you’ll be flooding your body with the nutrients it craves to maintain and reach optimal health.
Poached Eggs over Collard Greens with Fresh Mushrooms
Prep and Cook Time: 20 minutes
- 6 cups chopped collard greens
- 1 medium onion
- 6 fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed
- 4 fresh organic, free-range eggs
- About 4 cups water
- 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
- 3 medium pressed garlic cloves
- 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and white pepper to taste
- Slice onions and press garlic and let sit for 5-10 minutes to bring out their health-promoting benefits.
- Bring 2 inches of water to a boil in a steamer pot.
- Rinse greens well. Roll or stack leaves and cut into 1/4-inch slices and cut again crosswise. Let sit for 5-10 minutes.
- Steam collard greens, mushrooms, onion, and garlic together for 5 minutes.
- While steaming greens, get ready for poaching eggs by bringing water and vinegar to a fast simmer in a small, shallow pan. You can start on high heat, and once it comes to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer before adding eggs. Make sure there is enough water to cover eggs.
- Mix together lemon juice, ginger, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.
- Poach eggs until desired doneness. This will take about 5 minutes, or just until the white is set and the yolk has filmed over.
- Remove vegetables from steamer and toss with dressing. Remove eggs from water with a slotted spoon and place on plate of tossed greens.
Healthy Shiitake Sautéed Mushroom Recipe
What Makes This Healthy Breakfast Recipe Good for You?
By Dr. Mercola
Insects, fish, and non-human mammals all have pheromones, which are chemical signals that influence the behavior or physiology of other members of the same species. Pheromones may, for instance, divulge an animal’s age, gender, and emotional state, along with their social and reproductive status.
Whether or not humans release pheromones, and what role they play considering humans have multiple other systems to acquire information, is a subject of debate and considerable research.
While the underpinnings of human pheromones are still being discovered, it’s clear that humans do communicate on a chemical level and, according to The Monell Chemical Senses Center, “It’s much more than we thought.”1
Pheromones Likely Influence Sexual Attraction
If you’ve ever found yourself inexplicably attracted to a stranger you’ve just met, it could very well be their chemical signals that you find irresistible. Humans tend to be attracted to those with a dissimilar genetic make-up to themselves, which is signaled by subtle odors (though you probably don’t consciously recognize).
This ensures genetic diversity for the species. For instance, it’s thought that each of us has a unique “signature smell” due to a collection of proteins called the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). MHCs help to regulate your immune system, and there’s evidence that they also play a role in your selection of a mate.
Ideally, you would select a partner with MHCs quite different from your own, as this would diversify your child’s immune system, making them better equipped to fight off pathogens.
In one study, women sniffed shirts worn by men and selected those which they’d most like to socialize with. The women tended to choose men with dissimilar MHC… except when they were taking birth control pills.
When a woman is on the Pill, her odor preferences change. The Pill essentially mimics pregnancy, and when a woman is pregnant, she tends to prefer the scent of men with similar MHC as her own—perhaps as a biological cue to now seek out and bond with supportive family members as opposed to potential mates.
What this means is that when you're taking a hormonal contraceptive, you interfere with your biology and risk producing a hormonal imbalance that might make you more attracted to men with similar chemical makeup.
If you were on the pill when you met your mate, you might, therefore, feel less attracted to him when you stop taking it. The study’s lead author noted:2
“Choosing a non-hormonal barrier method of contraception for a few months before getting married might be one way for a woman to check or reassure herself that she’s still attracted to her partner.”
Scientific Proof of ‘Chemical Attraction’
There are many fascinating studies that show there really can be an unconscious chemistry between two people. Often, this appears related to estrus, or the time in a women’s menstrual cycle when she’s most fertile and able to conceive.
One study involved professional lap dancers in a gentlemen’s club. The women earned the most tips just prior to ovulation, the most fertile period, and the least tips during menstruation.3 Women taking birth control pills, however, did not show a significant difference in tips throughout their cycle.
A separate study involved men smelling t-shirts worn by women who were about to ovulate. The men had higher testosterone levels than when they smelled t-shirts from women not about to ovulate or those with a control scent.
According to the study:4
“Hence, olfactory cues signaling women's levels of reproductive fertility were associated with specific endocrinological responses in men--responses that have been linked to sexual behavior and the initiation of romantic courtship.”
There are actually a growing number of studies showing that scent communication may play a central role in mating… not just in non-human mammals but in humans as well. For instance, men may perceive women's “high-fertility body scents” (collected near ovulation) as more attractive than their low-fertility body scents.5
A Woman’s Fertility Status May Influence a Man’s Behavior
Research even shows that subtle signs of women’s fertility influences men’s mating cognition and behavior and facilitates “psychological and behavioral processes associated with the pursuit of a sexual partner.” According to one series of studies:6
“In Study 1, men exposed to the scent of a woman near peak levels of fertility displayed increased accessibility to sexual concepts. Study 2 demonstrated that, among men who reported being sensitive to odors, scent cues of fertility triggered heightened perceptions of women's sexual arousal.
Study 3 revealed that, in a face-to-face interaction, high levels of female fertility were associated with a greater tendency for men to make risky decisions and to behaviorally mimic a female partner. Hence, subtle cues of fertility led to a cascade of mating-related processes-from lower order cognition to overt behavior-that reflected heightened mating motivation.”
The opposite may also hold true, in that women who smelled men’s sweat reported feeling less tense and more relaxed than women who smelled a placebo. Researchers also detected a shift in luteinizing hormone, which typically surge just prior to ovulation (but also peaks hundreds of times during the menstrual cycle).7
6 Weird Facts About Kissing
While we’re on the topic of attraction, you may be surprised to learn that that first kiss (or the many after) may serve a very important purpose. Actually, it may serve multiple purposes. As reported in TIME:8
1. Kissing May Build Your Immunity
A 10-second kiss may transfer 80 million germs from one mouth to another. As you pass these bugs around, your body can build up immunity to them. One such “bug” is cytomegalovirus, which lurks in saliva. It normally causes no problems, but it can be extremely dangerous if caught while pregnant and can kill unborn babies or cause birth defects.
Research suggests that kissing the same person for about six months may provide optimum protection and allow women time to build up immunity against cytomegalovirus. Writing in the journal Medical Hypotheses, researcher Dr. Colin Hendrie from the University of Leeds said:9
“Female inoculation with a specific male's cytomegalovirus is most efficiently achieved through mouth-to-mouth contact and saliva exchange, particularly where the flow of saliva is from the male to the typically shorter female.”
2. Kissing Is Another Way to Assess Your Potential Mate
Women rate kissing differently at different points in their menstrual cycle. When they’re close to ovulation, romantic kissing is rated as more important.10
3. It May Boost Libido
French kissing is enjoyed by both men and women in long-term relationships, but in short-term relationships it’s the men who tend to prefer it. According to Laura Berman, PhD, assistant clinical professor of ob-gyn and psychiatry at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University: “One theory is that their saliva transfers testosterone to the woman, which in turn increases her sexual desire.”
4. Boost Your Mood
Kissing triggers the release of feel-good chemicals like endorphins while lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
5. Strengthen Your Relationship
People who report frequent kissing have greater levels of sexual satisfaction in their relationship. Men who kiss frequently also report feeling three times happier in their relationship than men who do not.
6. The Longest Kiss…
The longest kiss award goes to Ekkachai Tiranarat and Laksana Tiranarat, who kissed for 58 hours, 35 minutes, and 58 seconds in 2013!
Beyond Romance: Chemical Signals May Influence Mood, Social Support and More
Chemical signals aren’t only reserved for attracting a mate. They influence a complex array of biological processes and human relationships. For instance:
- Women who sniffed fear-induced sweat became more mentally alert and intelligent, according to a study in Chemical Senses.11 According to researchers, “Humans distinguish between fear and other emotional chemosignals based on olfactory cues.”
- Women who sniffed the scent of 2-day-old babies had increased activity in the reward-related areas of their brain.12
- Exposure to other women’s pheromones may cause women’s menstrual cycles to speed up or slow down.13
- Odors collected from pads in the underarm and breast area of breastfeeding women changed menstrual cycle length and sexual motivation in other women.14
- Chemical communication may convey social support, for instance among a support group for breastfeeding women.15
So while it seems clear that chemical signals, including pheromones, play a role in sexual attraction and finding a mate, they likely influence other key relationships as well, such as those between you and your child and, possibly, even close friends. These signals may help you avoid potentially threatening situations and may one day even be harnessed to help diagnose diseases (some of which also emit a unique odor production). So you might want to think twice about covering up your own natural scent with artificial perfumes. As neuroscientist Charles Wysocki observed:16
“With every little piece of information we gain, we scrape away a little bit of blackness on the window. As we peek through a little more and begin to see that humans have the potential to communicate with chemical signals, we’re finding that human behavior and physiology respond much more to chemical communication than we originally believed.”
The Unromantic Truth About Why You Kiss
Essential Oils Support Physical and Emotional Well-Being
By Dr. Mercola
“Fire is what set us apart. But that fire is on the verge of burning us.”
Living in the modern world is making us sick. That’s the conclusion drawn by Dr. Pedram Shojai, OMD after many years of treating patients for the same lifestyle-induced illnesses, over and over again. This realization inspired him on a four-year mission to produce a film that might help “wake us all up.”
Dr. Shojai partnered with South American filmmaker Mark van Wijk to produce the documentary “Origins,”1 a broad exploration of the intrinsic connection between our health and the vitality of our planet, and how our modern lifestyle is out of synch with our DNA.
The film features 24 great minds in the fields of anthropology, medicine, ecology and health, including David Wolfe, Jeffrey Smith and Sara Gottfried, M.D. Not only is it very informative but also beautifully filmed. “Origins” takes us back to our human roots when we lived as one with the earth.
Plugging Back into the Earth
“The bushman lives his life in nature... the earth, the sun, the wind. This is a wilderness person who respects nature. This is where we make our lives in order to live together with nature.” -!’Aru Ikhuisi Piet Berendse, Bushman and Activist
While we were developing as a species, we lived in tune with the earth, but that connection has been all but lost. Once we plugged into technology, we unplugged from our planet.
Most people feel profoundly different when they leave the city to spend just a few days in nature, gaining an appreciation of just how disengaged they’ve become. This is why grounding is so powerful.
We are besieged by constant messages that in order to be happy, we need more stuff, but in reality, we have only four basic human needs: water, fire, food, and shelter.
The modern world wants to brainwash you into thinking you need much more than that, but in reality, the rest are only “wants.” All of this “stuff” has weakened your relationship with the earth.
The Native Americans were highly attuned to nature. They took care of the earth and it took care of them. They lived symbiotically with the planet instead of as parasites upon it, with reverence rather than disregard.
They would sit in one spot listening to the noises the birds were making, sensing the direction of the wind, atmospheric changes and so on, and this mindfulness informed them of what their next move should be.
As Above, So Below
What allowed us to pull to the head of the pack was fire, making it possible to grow bigger brains that gave us tools, then eventually science and technology. Our ability to wield fire put us into orbit and gave us the internet and all its benefits.
We became Top Dog—but also Top Bully. The unfortunate corollary to humanity’s greatness has unfortunately been tendencies toward arrogance and shortsightedness.
Technology has vastly outpaced our common sense, and we’ve developed a dangerous disregard for long-term consequences for ourselves and the ecosystem in which we live. Both are sounding alarms, and it’s questionable whether we’re hearing them.
Greek philosopher Hermes Trismegistus had a famous axiom: “As above, so below.” This can be applied to the relationship between humans and the earth—microcosm and macrocosm are reflections of each other. What we see on a large scale will inevitably show up on a small scale, and vice versa.
Our ailing bodies, ailing soils, disappearing species and their habitats are all symptoms of one pervasive problem: a planet that’s becoming more toxic with each passing day. Ignoring its warning calls may place humans next in line for extinction.
Humanity and Earth Cry Out... But Is Anyone Listening?
The US is now producing and importing 74 billion pounds of chemicals each day—that’s 250 pounds per person, per day. And that figure doesn’t even include pharmaceuticals, pesticides, fuels, and food additives. Most of these chemicals have never been tested for their effects on human health, yet we consume them daily. What on earth are we doing to ourselves?
In 2013, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization (WHO), deemed air pollutants a class 1 carcinogen.2 It’s projected that air pollution will be the number one cause of death globally by 2050, largely because of our dependence on fossil fuels.
Six billion pounds of bisphenol-A (BPA) is produced each year, leaving our planet literally choking on plastics. BPA, phthalates, and other pseudo estrogens are hijacking our hormones, disrupting the endocrine function of our entire species.
The average baby is now born with 287 chemicals in their body—before they even takes their first breath. We’ve reached the point at which the signals from endocrine disrupting chemicals in our children’s bodies are louder than the signals they’re getting from their own natural hormones.
We used to be naturally lean and strong but have become progressively more obese and weaker. Our bodies are so busy detoxifying that they frequently lack adequate resources to perform basic biological processes. Is it any wonder that humanity has become so sick?
When a species is healthy, nature rewards it with fertility, but studies show that human fertility is waning. One of every four couples worldwide is unable to conceive due to problems with conception and miscarriage. Fertility is a leading indicator for the health of an organism, so the fact that one in eight of us are not healthy enough to reproduce is a major clue.
Your Inner Ecosystem: The Interface with the World
There is no more poignant illustration of your connection to the world around you than your microbiome, or “inner ecosystem.” The long tube running through you from your mouth to your anus is the interface between you and the outside world, and the seat of your immunity—health and disease start in your gut. But this vital system is being severely disrupted by our modern lifestyle.
Infants are literally bathed in beneficial microorganisms during childbirth, which they receive from their mothers as they pass through the birth canal—it’s a baby’s “first inoculation,” potentially providing lifelong immunity.
However, babies born by C-section do not receive this natural inoculation. Kids who were deprived of a vaginal birth are showing all kinds of diseases, including asthma and autoimmune disorders. Infants receive another microbial boost from breast milk, but of course those fed infant formula miss out on this too.
Making matters worse, infants and children are prescribed antibiotics periodically throughout childhood, are discouraged from playing in the dirt and then doused in hand sanitizer. This “sanitized childhood” prevents kids from developing natural immunity, and their bodies fail to populate with the beneficial microbes that grow into an army of protection from illness. Antibiotics have essentially led to the “mass extinction” of our beneficial gut flora, resulting in dysbiosis (an imbalance in your microbiome) and all of the health problems that accompany it.
Your DNA Is Largely Controlled by Your Gut Flora
An abnormal microbiome is a factor behind inflammation, food cravings, obesity, type 2 diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and many of the other chronic diseases seen today. When your gut flora is unhealthy, leaky gut syndrome can develop whereby food particles leach into your bloodstream where they can trigger allergic and inflammatory responses. An abnormal microbiome can also lead to depression and other emotional and physical problems, because your gut bacteria provide a significant source of your amino acids, vitamins and other important compounds. Three major ones are ATP, tryptophan and serotonin.
Beneficial bacteria also play an enormous role in your genetic expression—continuously helping flip genes off and on as you need them. Your genetic expression is 50 to 80 percent controlled by how you eat, think and move, and your genes change daily—if not hourly. You may be surprised to learn that 140 times more genetic influence comes from your microbes as from the DNA in your own cells. Your genes control protein coding, which determines your hormones, weight, fertility, mood and others.
Which Do You Choose—Food or 'Edible Manufactured Products?'
Our biology adapted to a diet of wild plants and animals—wild vegetables, berries, nuts, roots, and game, which were MUCH higher in nutrients than our foods today. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors consumed nearly 100 grams of fiber every day, compared to the eight to 15 grams now consumed by the average Westerner. Food can be medicine or poison... the processed foods found lining grocery store shelves are not the foods we were designed to eat. Ninety percent of the average American diet is fake food out of a box, can, jar, or tube.
The foods many react adversely to are relatively new in our food supply—soy, gluten from hybridized wheat, corn, sugar, and highly pasteurized dairy, for example. These modern foods are foreign to your body, so it’s common to have problematic reactions, including inflammatory and autoimmune responses, which can lead to allergies, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and the list goes on and on. One of every four Americans now has type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes.
Americans have shunned fats for the last 40 years after being told they cause heart disease, when the real culprit is sugar. The epidemic of brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and the like are evidence of what happens when your brain is starved of beneficial fats while being bombarded with toxic insults over time. Your brain is made up of fat, so it’s no surprise that low-fat diets have been linked to depression and suicidal or homicidal behavior.
We have outsourced the making of our food to corporations that have cut corners, added chemicals, and altered the genetic makeup of what we eat—it’s not food anymore but rather “edible manufactured products.” Our children pay the heaviest price, becoming biochemically enslaved to sugar. This is not an exaggeration as studies have shown sugar to be eight times as addictive as cocaine. Would it be okay if the government began marketing and subsidizing cocaine? Of course not, but that’s exactly what they’re doing with sugar with their subsidization of the corn and fructose industry and manipulative marketing campaigns.
Adding a sedentary lifestyle to a massively unhealthy diet creates the perfect storm for “diabesity.” Our ancestors were in constant motion, hunting, building and carrying things, escaping from predators, etc. Today, people barely move. Sitting for more than eight hours a day is associated with a 90 percent increased risk of type 2 diabetes. For optimal health, you need to move near-continuously throughout the day, or at least avoid sitting down for more than three hours a day. And, to keep your body strong, you hunter-gatherer genes want you to exert an all-out effort occasionally, such as high intensity exercises, but few of us actually do this.
Your Health Depends on Soil Health, and Our Soils Are Dying
Just as your gut houses a microbiome that’s critical for your health, our soils contain a microbiome critical to the health of the planet. Your health is directly related to the quality of the food you eat, and the quality of your food depends on the health of the soil in which it’s grown. As above, so below. In the rhizosphere, microorganisms form nodules on the roots of plants to help them take up minerals and other nutrients from the soil. Unfortunately, modern industrial agriculture (monoculture) destroys much of the soil’s microbiome. Heavy agrichemical use and GE crops rapidly destroy once-fertile soils that took centuries to develop. Removing the stress on a plant by dousing it with chemical fertilizers and insecticide cocktails causes it to become weak, producing less of the natural phytochemicals so vital for your health.
Although arrogant molecular biologists believe they know, the reality is that we really don’t know what effects tampering with the genetics of our food supply will have on your health and your children’s health over the long run. I expose their fraud in my fascinating interview with Steven Druker, slated to be published next month. Many experts believe GE foods are contributing to the growing chronic disease epidemics seen today. Despite what industry says, GE foods are not the answer to world hunger. On the contrary, sustainable agriculture that works in harmony with nature instead of against it has been proven to double crop yield.
The United Nations published in a study in 2010 concluding that if the world were switched to agroecological techniques, on the same farming footprint existing today, we could double world food production in about 10 years and begin to heal many of the insults of the chemical era. We must rekindle our relationship with food, go back into our kitchens and start cooking again. In 1900, only two percent of meals were eaten outside of the home, but today it’s more than half.
Your Future Depends on Your Choices Today
Many inroads have been made improving access to local and sustainable foods, but we still have a long way to go. Building a food system that relies heavily on locally grown foods is the answer to many of our global problems, from environmental destruction to hunger and disease. The most powerful tool you have for change is your fork—you vote with your fork three times a day! Are you going to support the companies that are poisoning you and your children, or will you support the people who are raising food in a way that’s a win-win for you and the earth and everyone?
Real food may seem more expensive, but it’s your primary health care, and cheap food isn’t cheap when you consider the risk of extinction. As you’ve seen, nature isn’t “out there”—it’s in your own body, in your own home and all around you. All life on earth is inextricably linked. Every time you make a choice, you’re changing the world and influencing our future. The goal isn’t to abandon technology and return to ancient times, but rather to harness technology for the betterment of all and proceed with mindfulness and reverence. As stated in the film, “The wisdom of the ancients is the medicine of the future.”
Increasing Healthy Locally Grown Food—The Good Food Movement
Obesity Now Causes Half a Million Cancers a Year, Worldwide
By Dr. Mercola
While 99 percent of Americans feel relaxation is important, most spend less than 5 percent of their day in pursuit of it, according to a survey commissioned by, fittingly, a major cruise line.1
After you’ve done all of the ‘must-dos” of your day, you may simply feel you don’t have time for relaxation or, like 62 percent of the parents surveyed, you might feel guilty doing it.
One-third of those polled even said they feel stressed out just by thinking about relaxation! Perhaps, more aptly, they feel stressed out because it’s just one more thing that you’re “supposed” to be doing to stay well.
But I assure you, once you get into the habit of daily relaxation, you won’t know how you did without it. And don’t feel guilty. Regular relaxation is every bit as important as proper diet, sleep, and exercise; it’s all a part of feeling your best, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Anxiety May Accelerate Aging, While Relaxing Slows It
Part of what makes relaxation so good for you is by tamping down the effects of stress and anxiety. For instance, a recent study revealed that anxiety disorders increase your risk of several aging-related conditions, which might be due to accelerated aging at the cellular level.2
This cellular aging was reversible when the anxiety disorder went into remission, which suggests sound relaxation strategies may help you avoid this accelerated aging. In fact, you might be aware that your body has a stress response that kicks into gear when you’re facing a real (or perceived) threat.
The counterpart of the stress response is the relaxation response, which is a physical state of deep rest that changes physical and emotional responses to stress.
Researchers now know that by evoking your body’s built-in relaxation response – your innate, inborn capacity to counter the harmful effects of stress, according to an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Herbert Benson3 -- you can actually change the expression of your genes for the better.
According to one study in PLOS One:4
“RR [relaxation response] elicitation is an effective therapeutic intervention that counteracts the adverse clinical effects of stress in disorders including hypertension, anxiety, insomnia and aging…
RR practice enhanced expression of genes associated with energy metabolism, mitochondrial function, insulin secretion and telomere maintenance, and reduced expression of genes linked to inflammatory response and stress-related pathways.”
Previous research by Dr. Benson and colleagues also found that people who practice relaxation methods such as yoga and meditation long-term have more disease-fighting genes switched “on” and active, including genes that protect against pain, infertility, high blood pressure and rheumatoid arthritis.5
The Many Health Benefits of Deep Relaxation
If you want to experience the health benefits of relaxation, you need to do more than lounge on your couch watching TV. You’re looking for deep relaxation, the kind where your mind stops running and your body is free of tension.
Jake Toby, a hypnotherapist at London's BodyMind Medicine Center who helps people to evoke the relaxation response, told The Independent:6
“What you're looking for is a state of deep relaxation where tension is released from the body on a physical level and your mind completely switches off," he says.
"The effect won't be achieved by lounging round in an everyday way, nor can you force yourself to relax. You can only really achieve it by learning a specific technique such as self-hypnosis, guided imagery or meditation."
Once you get into the relaxation “zone,” however, your body can benefit greatly.7 For instance, a stress-management program has been shown to alter tumor-promoting processes at the molecular level in women with breast cancer.8
Genes responsible for cancer progression (such as pro-inflammatory cytokines) were down-regulated while those associated with a healthy immune response were up-regulated.9 In addition, relaxation may help:
- Boost Immunity: Meditation is known to have a significant effect on immune cells,10 and research shows relaxation exercises may boost natural killer cells in the elderly, leading to increased resistance to tumors and viruses.
- Fertility: Research suggests women are more likely to conceive when they’re relaxed as opposed to when they’re stressed.11
- Heart Health: Relaxation via meditation (done once or twice daily for three months) significantly lowered their blood pressure and psychological distress, and also bolstered coping ability in people at increased risk of hypertension.12
- Mental Health: People who meditate note reductions in psychological distress, depression, and anxiety.13
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): When people with IBS practiced relaxation meditation twice daily, their symptoms (including bloating, belching, diarrhea, and constipation) improved significantly.14,15
Money Is a Top Source of Stress for Americans
In case you were wondering, money tops the list of stressors to Americans, beating out work, family responsibilities and health concerns.16 If you have trouble relaxing, perhaps you know this all too well.
Close to three-quarters of Americans (72 percent) said they feel stressed about money at least some of the time, and close to one-quarter (22 percent) said they experience extreme stress about money, according to the American Psychological Association’s (APA) latest “Stress in America” report.
What’s more, 32 percent of Americans said their lack of money prevents them from living a healthy lifestyle, while one in five have skipped (or considered skipping) needed doctor’s visits due to financial concerns.
Remember, it’s key to nip stress in the bud, because chronic stress – whatever the cause -- disrupts your neuroendocrine and immune systems and appears to trigger a degenerative process in your brain that can result in Alzheimer's disease.
In addition, when you're stressed, your body releases stress hormones like cortisol, which prepare your body to fight or flee the stressful event.
When stress becomes chronic, however, your immune system becomes less sensitive to cortisol, and since inflammation is partly regulated by this hormone, this decreased sensitivity heightens the inflammatory response and allows inflammation to get out of control.
According to award-winning neurobiologist Dr. Robert Sapolsky, the following are the most common health conditions that are caused by or worsened by stress (which, theoretically, relaxation could help counter):
Cardiovascular disease Hypertension Depression Anxiety Sexual dysfunction Infertility and irregular cycles Frequent colds Insomnia and fatigue Trouble concentrating Memory loss Appetite changes Digestive problems and dysbiosis
How to Evoke Your Body’s Relaxation Response
As noted in the journal PLOS One, “Millennia-old practices evoking the RR include meditation, yoga and repetitive prayer.”17 These are, of course, not the only options. The relaxation response can also be elicited through tai chi, progressive muscle relaxation, biofeedback, guided imagery and Qi Gong, for instance. Deep breathing activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which induces the relaxation response, but taking even 10 minutes to sit quietly and shut out the chaos around you can also trigger it.18 And as noted by Dr. Kelly Brogan:
“…summoning up a feeling of gratitudewhile breathing in a paced manner (typically six counts in and six counts out), can flip heart rate variability into the most optimal patterns associated with calm relaxation and peak mental performance. They have validated the effects on ADHD, hypertension, and anxiety including double blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trials.”
If you’re feeling the effects of stress and you’re unable to fully relax, Dr. Brogan recommends doing this:
- Notice and acknowledge your discomfort.
- Relax and release it no matter how urgent it feels. Let the energy pass through you before you attempt to fix anything.
- Imagine sitting back up on a high seat, in the back of your head watching your thoughts, emotions, and behavior with a detached compassion.
- Then ground yourself. Connect to the present moment – feel the earth under your feet, smell the air, imagine roots growing into the earth from your spine.
EFT for Stress Relief and Relaxation
I also strongly recommend energy psychology techniques such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), which can be very effective for reducing anxiety and stress – and inducing relaxation -- by correcting the bioelectrical short-circuiting that causes your body’s reactions. You can think of EFT as a tool for “reprogramming” your circuitry, and it works on both real and imagined stressors. EFT is a form of psychological acupressure, based on the same energy meridians used in traditional acupuncture for more than 5,000 years to treat physical and emotional ailments, but without the invasiveness of needles.
Following a 2012 review in the American Psychological Association’s journal Review of General Psychology, EFT has actually met the criteria for evidence-based treatments set by the APA for a number of conditions.19 Recent research has shown that EFT significantly increases positive emotions, such as hope and enjoyment, and decreases negative emotional states, including anxiety.20 EFT is particularly effective for treating stress and anxiety because it specifically targets your amygdala and hippocampus, which are the parts of your brain that help you decide whether or not something is a threat.
In addition to stress relief, you can use EFT for setting goals and sticking to them, which is what the video above is focused on. If you are seriously stressed about money, setting goals related to your financial future might be especially pertinent to finding deep relaxation – and easier to achieve when combined with EFT. Ideally, choose a combination of approaches, like guided imagery, meditation, yoga, and EFT, and do some form of them daily. Remember, the key to relaxation’s beneficial effects is to relax regularly and as often as you can.
Silence is Golden: Meditation
EFT is an Effective Tool for Anxiety