By Dr. Mercola
Acupuncture is an ancient holistic health care system still widely practiced in China. It falls under the wider umbrella, known in the West as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which also includes the use of herbs and other therapies. Diagnostic systems also include tongue and pulse diagnosis.
Contrary to allopathic, symptom-based medicine, TCM and acupuncture aims to eliminate the root cause of your problem, which is said to originate in a dysfunction in your body’s energetic meridian system.
Western vs. Eastern Mindset
Meridian-based energy therapies like acupuncture are quite useful for treating a number of health problems; pain in particular. In China, acupuncture may even be used in lieu of anesthetic drugs during surgery, as demonstrated in the BBC documentary above.
As unbelievable as it seems, a young woman actually undergoes open heart surgery with acupuncture instead of general anesthesia.
There are several advantages to using acupuncture during surgical procedures, the Chinese surgeon explains. For starters, it doesn’t have the health risks of general anesthesia. Recovery is also much quicker, and the cost is about one-third.
While most westerners would balk at undergoing invasive surgery with nothing but a few needles keeping pain at bay, each year, millions of Americans do turn to acupuncture to relieve chronic pain, high blood pressure, nausea, and much more.
Acupuncture is considered an alternative to conventional forms of medicine in the West and is actually one of the oldest healing practices in the world. In China, Japan, Korea, and other Asian countries, acupuncture has been used for thousands of years, and its staying power isn’t merely a matter of superstition or coincidence.
In modern-day China, some hospitals offer acupuncture and allopathic medicine side-by-side, allowing patients to choose. They can also opt for a combination of both. For example, if an adverse drug effect occurs, the patient can opt for a reduced dose in combination with acupuncture.
Basic Principles of Acupuncture
TCM views the body as a cohesive one—a complex system where everything within it is inter-connected—where each part affects all other parts. They teach that lack of balance within this biological system is the precursor to all illness. The body exhibits symptoms when suffering from inner disease, and if it’s not re-balanced these symptoms may lead to acute or chronic illnesses of all kinds.
There are 14 major energy channels called meridians that flow through your body. An energy called chi circulates along the meridians to all parts of your body, including the internal organs and every cell. This chi is the vital force that literally keeps us alive. Vibrant health is a result of balanced, unimpeded flow of energy through the body.
According to TCM, illness and pain is the byproduct of energy blockages somewhere along one or more meridians. Each acupuncture point along the meridian acts like a pass-through or gate. Energy can get “bottle-necked” in these points, slowing down the flow; sometimes to the point of standstill. This is the precursor to pain and illness.
By inserting a thin needle into the congested or “clogged” area, it opens the gate and allows the energy to flow again. With the life-energy flowing smoothly, the body can now re-regulate the flow of energy, repair itself, and maintain its own optimal level of health.
Herbs and other therapies such as guacha, cupping, and moxibustion—the burning of herbs on or over the skin—can be used to support the healing.
History of Acupuncture
The science and art of acupuncture is well documented and spans across centuries, all the way back to the Stone Age. Records of its use have been found in many parts of the world, not just the Orient, as most commonly thought.
The Chinese medical compendium, the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, is the oldest written record about acupuncture. It is thought to be the oldest medical book in the world, heralding from Emperor Huang Di who reigned between 2,696—2,598 B.C.
However, signs of acupuncture being used are found all over the ancient world. There’s evidence of its practice in ancient Egypt, Persia, India, Sri Lanka, parts of Europe, and South America. Even our North American Indians have used it.
The Eskimos, for example, are said to still use sharpened stones for treating illness. Written evidence of the use of acupuncture in Egypt and Saudi Arabia also exists. The Ebers papyrus of 1,550 B.C. describes a physical system of channels and vessels that is closely matched to the Chinese system of meridians.
Even older evidence than the examples above exist. In 1991, a 5,000-year-old mummified man was found along the Otz valley between Austria and Italy. Remarkably well preserved, a complex system of tattoos were discovered on his body, and verified to be directly on, or within six millimeters of, traditional acupuncture points and meridians.
Evidence Showing What Acupuncture ‘Does’
Some research suggests that acupuncture stimulates your central nervous system to release natural chemicals that alter bodily systems, pain, and other biological processes. In 2003, the World Health Organization (WHO) conducted an extensive review and analysis of clinical trials involving acupuncture. According to this report,1 acupuncture impacts the body on multiple levels, including:
- Stimulating the conduction of electromagnetic signals, which may release immune system cells or pain-killing chemicals
- Activation of your body’s natural opioid system, which may help reduce pain or induce sleep
- Stimulation of your hypothalamus and pituitary gland, which modulate numerous body systems
- Change in the secretion of neurotransmitters and neurohormones, which may positively influence brain chemistry
In the featured video, a team of researchers, along with an acupuncturist, conduct an experiment that has never been done before. Using high tech MRI imaging, they were able to visually demonstrate that acupuncture has a very real effect on the brain.
Acupuncture, it turns out, does something completely unexpected—it deactivates certain parts of the brain, particularly in the limbic system, decreasing neuronal activity, opposed to having an activating impact. Their experiment also clearly showed that superficial sham needling did NOT have this effect. The limbic system is associated with our experience of pain, adding further evidence that something very unique happens during acupuncture—it quite literally alters your experience of pain by shutting down these deeper brain regions.
Acupuncture Proven Effective for Pain and Osteoarthritis
One of the most common uses of acupuncture is for the treatment of chronic pain. One analysis2 of the most robust studies available concluded that acupuncture has a clear effect in reducing chronic pain, more so than standard drug-based pain treatment. Study participants receiving acupuncture reported an average 50 percent reduction in pain, compared to a 28 percent pain reduction for standard pain treatment without acupuncture. Another large, well-designed study3, 4 assessing whether acupuncture might work for osteoarthritis—a debilitating condition affecting more than 20 million Americans—also produced remarkably positive results.
This landmark study is also discussed in the video above. A total of 570 patients diagnosed with osteoarthritis of the knee were enrolled for this 26-week long trial. It was the longest and largest randomized, controlled phase III clinical trial of acupuncture ever conducted. None of the participants had tried acupuncture before, and none had had knee surgery in the previous six months. Nor had they used steroid injections. The participants were randomly assigned to receive one of three treatments: acupuncture, sham acupuncture, or self-help strategies recommended by the Arthritis Foundation (the latter served as a control group).
Significant differences in response was seen by week eight and 14, and at the end of the trial, the group receiving real acupuncture had a 40 percent decrease in pain and a nearly 40 percent improvement in function compared to baseline assessments—a 33 percent difference in improvement over the sham group. According to Stephen E. Straus, M.D., Director of National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), which is a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH):5
"For the first time, a clinical trial with sufficient rigor, size, and duration has shown that acupuncture reduces the pain and functional impairment of osteoarthritis of the knee. These results also indicate that acupuncture can serve as an effective addition to a standard regimen of care and improve quality of life for knee osteoarthritis sufferers. NCCAM has been building a portfolio of basic and clinical research that is now revealing the power and promise of applying stringent research methods to ancient practices like acupuncture."
Other Science-Backed Uses for Acupuncture
However, chronic pain is only one of 30+ proven uses for this natural treatment. Chinese doctors assert that acupuncture can be used to treat virtually ANY illness, but for those looking for scientific validation, the World Health Organization’s analysis concluded that acupuncture is an effective treatment for the following diseases and conditions.
According to the WHO’s analysis: “Some of these studies have provided incontrovertible scientific evidence that acupuncture is more successful than placebo treatments in certain conditions.” The report again confirmed its benefits for pain, saying: “The proportion of chronic pain relieved by acupuncture is generally in the range 55–85 percent, which compares favorably with that of potent drugs (morphine helps in 70 percent of cases) and far outweighs the placebo effect (30–35 percent).”
Adverse reactions to radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy Allergic rhinitis (including hay fever) Biliary colic Depression (including depressive neurosis and depression following stroke) Dysentery, acute bacillary Dysmenorrhoea, primary Epigastralgia, acute (in peptic ulcer, acute and chronic gastritis, and gastrospasm) Facial pain (including craniomandibular disorders) Headache Hypertension, essential Hypotension, primary Induction of labor Knee pain Leukopenia Low back pain Malposition of fetus Morning sickness Nausea and vomiting Neck pain Pain in dentistry (including dental pain and temporomandibular dysfunction) Periarthritis of shoulder Postoperative pain Renal colic Rheumatoid arthritis Sciatica Sprain Stroke Tennis elbow
More Potential Uses for Acupuncture
While further research is needed, acupuncture has also demonstrated therapeutic effects in the treatment of the following health problems, according to the WHO’s report.
Abdominal pain (in acute gastroenteritis or due to gastrointestinal spasm) Acne vulgaris Alcohol dependence and detoxification Bell’s palsy Bronchial asthma Cancer pain Cardiac neurosis Cholecystitis, chronic, with acute exacerbation Cholelithiasis Competition stress syndrome Craniocerebral injury, closed Diabetes mellitus, non-insulin-dependent Earache Epidemic haemorrhagic fever Epistaxis, simple (without generalized or local disease) Eye pain due to subconjunctival injection Female infertility Facial spasm Female urethral syndrome Fibromyalgia and fasciitis Gastrokinetic disturbance Gouty arthritis Hepatitis B virus carrier status Herpes zoster (human (alpha) herpesvirus 3) Hyperlipaemia Hypo-ovarianism Insomnia Labor pain Lactation, deficiency Male sexual dysfunction, non-organic Ménière disease Neuralgia, post-herpetic Neurodermatitis Obesity Opium, cocaine and heroin dependence Osteoarthritis Pain due to endoscopic examination Pain in thromboangiitis obliterans Polycystic ovary syndrome (Stein-Leventhal syndrome) Postextubation in children Postoperative convalescence Premenstrual syndrome Prostatitis, chronic Pruritus Radicular and pseudoradicular pain syndrome Raynaud syndrome, primary Recurrent lower urinary-tract infection Reflex sympathetic dystrophy Retention of urine, traumatic Schizophrenia Sialism, drug-induced Sjögren syndrome Sore throat (including tonsillitis) Spine pain, acute Stiff neck Temporomandibular joint dysfunction Tietze syndrome Tobacco dependence Tourette syndrome Ulcerative colitis, chronic Urolithiasis Vascular dementia Whooping cough (pertussis)
Acupuncture: Real or Not, Can Ease Side Effects of Cancer Drugs
Acupuncture Beats Drug to Treat Hot Flashes
By Dr. Mercola
Earlier this summer, a woman in Cincinnati noticed that her son’s Walmart-brand ice cream sandwich didn’t melt when he accidently left it outside for 12 hours, in 80-degree F weather.
Understandably surprised by the seemingly unmeltable ice cream sandwich, she tried the “experiment” again, with the same result. While other brands melted completely, the Walmart ice cream remained eerily intact. She then called a local news station, who conducted a test of its own, which you can watch in the video above.
After one hour and 15 minutes outside in sunny, 80-degree F weather, Walmart’s ice cream sandwich is still remarkably solid. Next to it, a scoop of another brand’s vanilla ice cream is turned to soup after just 30 minutes.
Why Won’t Walmart’s Ice Cream Sandwiches Melt?
A spokesperson for Walmart told Newsday that their ice-cream sandwiches’ high cream content is responsible for the slower melting time. The spokesperson said that ice cream with more cream, such as Walmart’s Great Value ice cream sandwiches, will generally melt at a slower rate.1
It’s unclear exactly how much cream these sandwiches contain in comparison to other brands, but it is suspicious that the spokesperson made no mention of the long list of “gums” and additives, like corn syrup, that might also contribute to its odd inability to melt.
These non-food ingredients are mostly used as food stabilizers designed to help food keep its shape (and you won’t find them in higher-quality ice cream brands like Haagen-Dazs).
If you look at the ingredients list below for Walmart’s “Great Value Vanilla Flavored Ice Cream Sandwiches,” you’ll see what I’m referring to:2
Ice Cream (Milk, Cream, Buttermilk, Sugar, Whey, Corn Syrup, Contains 1% Or Less of Mono-And Diglycerides, Vanilla Extract, Guar Gum, Calcium Sulfate, Carob Bean Gum, Cellulose Gum, Carrageenan, Artificial Flavor, Annatto For Color)
… Wafers (Wheat Flour, Sugar, Soybean Oil, Palm Oil, Cocoa, Dextrose, Caramel Color, Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Flour, Food Starch-Modified, Salt Soy Lecithin, Baking Soda, Artificial Flavor).
Also strange is the fact that Sean O’Keefe, a professor and food chemist at Virginia Tech, gave the opposite account of what happens if ice cream contains more cream; he said that ice cream with more cream will actually melt faster, which contradicts Walmart’s spokesperson.3 As reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, this means ice cream that’s low- or no-fat would take longer to melt:4
“More water means the ice cream will have to absorb more energy before it can melt. Also, low-fat ice creams tend to have more air whipped into them, which allows them to keep their shape longer.”
Many Processed Foods Seem to Last ‘Forever’
There is something unsettling and (literally) unnatural about an ice cream sandwich that doesn’t melt on a hot summer day. Equally unsettling is a hamburger that doesn’t go bad when left on the counter… for over a decade.
Wellness educator and nutrition consultant Karen Hanrahan has kept a McDonald's hamburger since 1996, which is pictured on the left below. As you can see, when this photo was taken in 2010, the more than 10-year-old burger still looks the same as the fresh one on the right next to it…
Part of the embalmed-like feature of the meat patty can be explained by the fact it contains excessive amounts of sodium (salt), which is a natural preservative that has been used throughout history. The patty, which is thin, will also lose moisture quickly, which means it may dry out rather than grow mold or bacteria.
But what about the bun? What kind of bread can lie out for years on end without developing so much as a trace of mold? The answer, I believe, is a "bread-like" concoction that bears no real resemblance to natural bread. Ingredients-wise, a McDonald’s hamburger bun contains:5
Enriched Flour (Bleached Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup and/or Sugar, Yeast, Soybean Oil and/or Canola Oil, Contains 2% or Less: Salt, Wheat Gluten, Calcium Sulfate, Calcium Carbonate, Ammonium Sulfate, Ammonium Chloride, Dough Conditioners
… (May Contain One or More of: Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, DATEM, Ascorbic Acid, Azodicarbonamide, Mono and Diglycerides, Ethoxylated Monoglycerides, Monocalcium Phosphate, Enzymes, Guar Gum, Calcium Peroxide), Sorbic Acid (Preservative), Calcium Propionate and/or Sodium Propionate (Preservatives), Soy Lecithin.
Real bread should only have a handful of ingredients, such as yeast, flour, eggs, butter, and milk or water. Contrast that to McDonald’s bread, which contains plaster of Paris, aka calcium sulfate, along with ammonium sulfate and ammonium chloride, which may cause gastrointestinal irritation with symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Likewise with Walmart’s “ice cream”… to be labeled as ice cream, it must contain at least 10% milk fat. Beyond that, it can contain any number of additives that many would argue are not actual “food.” Real ice cream also contains just a few ingredients, like milk, sugar, cream and vanilla bean, bearing little resemblance to Walmart’s ice cream concoction. If you want to taste the best ice cream you’ve ever had, make your own at home using raw milk. It’s a relatively healthy treat when eaten in moderation (and, yes, it will melt if you leave it out in the sun).
Why Eating Heavily Processed Foods Will Probably Lead to Premature Death
Walmart is a prime example of where not to shop for food if you value your health. While it’s possible to find some healthy foods at Walmart, the vast majority of their food is heavily processed. Perhaps that’s why Walmart grocery stores are linked to obesity. An additional Walmart Supercenter per 100,000 residents increases average BMI by 0.24 units and the obesity rate by 2.3 percentage points.6
Researchers hypothesized that the substantial reductions in the prices of food at Wal-Mart Supercenters end up "reducing the opportunity cost of food consumption and increasing the opportunity cost of physical activity," thereby leading to a rise in obesity rates. Plus, ever since Walmart decided to significantly increase their organic offerings, they have been bombarded with accusations of selling substandard organic food, produced at concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) or imported from China, not grown on small, US organic farms like consumers are led to believe.
They've even been accused of posting signs in their stores that mislead consumers into believing that non-organic items are actually organic. Perhaps worse, however, is that Walmart’s biggest sellers are heavily processed junk foods. The unmeltable ice cream sandwiches, for instance, are one of the most popular items in the dairy case, according to the company’s spokesperson. Processed foods may contain dozens of artificial chemicals that are in no way real "food." These include:
- Artificial colors
- Artificial flavors (the term artificial flavor on a label may include 10 or more chemicals)
- Texturants (chemicals that add a texture to food)
Food manufacturers typically claim that artificial food additives are safe, but research says otherwise. Preservatives, for example, have been linked to health problems such as cancer, allergic reactions, and more. Plus, processed foods often have the real nutrition processed right out, then sometimes added back in in the form of synthetic vitamins and minerals. These synthetics do not fool your body, however, and will not provide the whole, synergistic nutrition that eating whole food will. Instead, most processed foods are primarily composed of refined carbohydrates, which quickly break down to sugar in your body.
This increases your insulin and leptin levels, and contributes to insulin resistance, which is the primary underlying factor of nearly every chronic disease and condition known to man, including weight gain. Further, processing modifies or removes important components of food, like fiber, water, and nutrients, changing the way they are digested and assimilated in your body. Unlike whole foods, which contain a mix of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, fiber, and water to help you feel satisfied, processed foods stimulate dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter, making you feel good even though the food lacks nutrients and fiber. This artificial dopamine stimulation can lead to excessive food cravings and, ultimately, food addiction. These, of course, aren’t problems confined to junk food sold Walmart; they exist for all heavily processed foods.
Shopping for Healthy Food on a Budget
People have thrived on vegetables, meats, eggs, fruits, and other whole foods for centuries, while processed foods were only recently invented. Many of the top executives and scientists at leading processed food companies actually avoid their own foods for a variety of health reasons, and it’s very clear that focusing your diet on whole foods in lieu of processed foods is essential for your health.
If you’re shopping at Walmart because you’re on a tight budget, it's a common misconception that buying pre-packaged processed foods is less expensive than eating fresh and cooking from scratch. Don't fall for this notion. When you consider the nutrient value of fresh versus processed-to-death denatured foods and the subsequent health consequences of each choice, it's quite clear that you can eat well and improve your health and still not spend a fortune. Some of the healthiest foods are incredibly affordable, even under $1 a serving, such as:
- Raw organic milk
- Raw nuts and seeds
- Two cage-free organic eggs
- Avocado, berries, and broccoli
- Fermented foods you make at home
In order to protect your health, I believe you should spend 90 percent of your food budget on whole foods, and only 10 percent on processed foods (unfortunately most Americans currently do the opposite). This requires some strategy, especially if you're working with a tight budget:
- Identify a person to prepare meals. Someone has to invest some time in the kitchen. It will be necessary for either you or your spouse, or perhaps someone in your family, to prepare the meals from locally grown healthy foods.
- Become resourceful: This is an area where your grandmother can be a wealth of information, as how to use up every morsel of food (“nose to tail cooking”) and stretch out a good meal was common knowledge to generations past. Seek to get back to the basics of cooking – using the bones from a roast chicken to make stock for a pot of soup, extending a Sunday roast to use for weekday dinners, learning how to make hearty stews from inexpensive cuts of meat, using up leftovers, and so on.
- Plan your meals: If you fail to plan you are planning to fail. This is essential, as you will need to be prepared for mealtimes in advance to be successful. Ideally, this will involve scouting out your local farmer's markets for in-season produce that is priced to sell, and planning your meals accordingly, but you can also use this same premise with supermarket sales.
You can generally plan a week of meals at a time, make sure you have all ingredients necessary on hand, and then do any prep work you can ahead of time so that dinner is easy to prepare if you're short on time in the evenings. It is no mystery that you will be eating lunch around noon every day so rather than rely on fast food at work, before you go to bed make a plan as to what you are going to take to work the next day. This is a marvelous simple strategy that will let you eat healthier, especially if you take healthy food from home in to work.
- Avoid food waste: According to a study published in the journal PLOS ONE, Americans waste an estimated 1,400 calories of food per person, each and every day.7 The two steps above will help you to mitigate food waste in your home. You may also have seen my article titled 14 Ways to Save Money on Groceries. Among those tips are suggestions for keeping your groceries fresher, longer, and I suggest reviewing those tips now.
- Buy organic animal foods. The most important foods to buy organic are animal, not vegetable, products (meat, eggs, butter, etc.), because animal foods tend to concentrate pesticides in higher amounts. If you cannot afford to buy all of your food organic, opt for organic animal foods first.
- Keep costs down on grass-fed beef. Pasture-finished beef is far healthier than grain-fed beef (which I don't recommend consuming). To keep cost down, look for inexpensive roasts or ground meat. You may also save money by buying an entire side of beef (or splitting one with two or three other families), if you have enough freezer space to store it.
- Buy in bulk when non-perishable items go on sale. If you are fortunate to live near a buyer's club or a co-op, you may also be able to take advantage of buying by the pound from bins, saving both you and the supplier the cost of expensive packaging.
- Frequent farmer's markets. You may be surprised to find out that by going directly to the source you can get amazingly healthy, locally grown, organic food for less than you can find at your supermarket. This gives you the best of both worlds: food that is grown near to you, cutting down on its carbon footprint and giving you optimal freshness, as well as grown without chemicals, genetically modified seeds, and other potential toxins.
Just as restaurants are able to keep their costs down by getting food directly from a supplier, you, too, can take advantage of a direct farm-to-consumer relationship, either on an individual basis or by joining a food coop in your area. Many farmer's markets are now accepting food stamps as well, so this is an opportunity most everyone can join in on.
Is it Possible to Eat Healthy on a Food Stamp Budget?
Walmart Plans Grocery Push: Not Good for Small Farmers
By Dr. Mercola
The truth of the old adage that “you are what you eat” is becoming increasingly clear, the more we learn about the microbiome—the colonies of microbes living in your gut, and indeed all over your body.
It is well established that your gut is your second brain providing more input to your brain than the brain provides to it. This is why your gut health is largely reflected in your gut bacteria, including your mental health and emotional well-being.
Your microbiome is essentially a historical accumulative composition of where you’ve been, who your parents are, who you spend intimate time with, what you eat, how you live, whether or not you’re interacting with the earth (gardening, for example), and much more.
As noted by Pat Schloss (a microbiologist with The Human Microbiome Project) in the video above, your microbiome is much like a fingerprint—it’s unique to you. Researcher Jeroen Raes has also suggested we might belong to one of a few “microflora types,” which are similar to blood types.
Your gut microbiome activity influences your immune responses, nervous system functioning, and plays a role in the development of any number of diseases, including obesity, cancer, and multiple sclerosis, just to name a few that I’ll address in this article.
How Intestinal Bacteria Can Induce Food Cravings
The bacteria in your body outnumber your cells by 100 to 1, and different bacteria have different nutritional needs.
According to recent research,1, 2 the nutritional preferences of your gut bacteria can influence your food cravings by releasing chemical signals through the vagus nerve, which connects your gut to your brain. According to one of the study’s co-authors, Carlo Maley, PhD:3
“Bacteria within the gut are manipulative... There is a diversity of interests represented in the microbiome, some aligned with our own dietary goals, and others not...
Our diets have a huge impact on microbial populations in the gut. It’s a whole ecosystem, and it’s evolving on the time scale of minutes.”
It’s already been well-documented that obese individuals have different bacteria dominating their microbiome than leaner individuals.
Research4 also suggests that as much as 20 percent of the substantial weight loss achieved from gastric bypass, a popular weight loss surgery, is due to shifts in the balance of bacteria in your digestive tract. With regards to the featured research, Forbes5 reports:
“‘Microbes have the capacity to manipulate behavior and mood through altering the neural signals in the vagus nerve, changing taste receptors, producing toxins to make us feel bad, and releasing chemical rewards to make us feel good,’ said study co-author Athena Aktipis, PhD.
The good news, the researchers tell us, is that we can influence changes in our gut dwellers through dietary choices.
‘Because microbiota are easily manipulatable by prebiotics, probiotics, antibiotics…and dietary changes, altering our microbiota offers a tractable approach to otherwise intractable problems of obesity and unhealthy eating.’”
Diet Can Rapidly Alter Gut Bacteria
Indeed, another recent study6, 7 highlights the speed with which you can alter the balance of your gut bacteria. Here, researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) monitored two people over the course of one year; collecting daily stool samples and correlating the gut bacteria from day to day with diet and other lifestyle factors such as sleep, mood, and exercise.
One of the participants developed diarrhea during a two-week trip to another country, which resulted in significant changes in the balance of gut bacteria.
A case of Salmonella food poisoning struck the other participant, which resulted in a drastic change in gut bacteria. Salmonella bacteria rose from 10 percent to nearly 30 percent, and the colonies of beneficial bacteria were nearly wiped out.
Once the individual recovered, beneficial bacteria quickly rebounded to about 40 percent of the total microbiome, but most of the strains were different from the original strains. According to senior author Eric Alm:8
"On any given day, the amount of one species could change manyfold, but after a year, that species would still be at the same median level. To a large extent, the main factor we found that explained a lot of that variance was the diet.”
The most prominent changes correlated with the individuals’ fiber intake. Greater amounts of fiber affected about 15 percent of the gut bacteria, resulting in greater proliferation of them.
Gut Bacteria May Reveal Colon Cancer, and Might Play a Role in MS
Your microbiome may even reveal your risk for, or presence of, colon cancer. A total of 90 people participated in this study;9, 10 thirty were healthy; 30 had precancerous intestinal polyps; and 30 had been diagnosed with advanced colon or rectal cancer. After assessing the composition of each person’s microbiome, it became apparent that microbiome analysis (using a fecal test) might be a viable way to screen for precancerous polyps and colorectal cancer.
According to their findings, adding microbiome analysis to other known risk factors for precancerous polyps resulted in a 4.5-fold improved prediction for the condition. Adding microbiome analysis to risk factors for invasive colorectal cancer resulted in a five-fold improvement in their ability to predict cancer.
In related news, researchers have also linked certain gut microbes to the development of multiple sclerosis (MS), and/or improvement of the condition. The paper, published in the Journal of Interferon and Cytokine Research,11 describes three immunological factors associated with the gut microbiome that relates to inflammatory responses in MS patients:
- T helper cell polarization
- T regulatory cell function
- B cell activity
Previous research has suggested that altering the gut microbiome by adding bacteria such as Lactobacillus, and/or worm-type organisms like Schistosoma and Trichura, can be helpful in reducing MS symptoms. Apparently, these microorganisms have a beneficial effect on cytokine production throughout the body, thereby reducing systemic inflammation. Cytokines are cellular messengers that regulate inflammatory responses. According to the authors: "Whether future therapeutic approaches to MS will employ commensal-based products depends on nuanced understanding of these underlying mechanisms.”
When It Comes to Inflammation, Your Microbiome Rules
MS certainly is not the only disease caused by chronic inflammation in your body. In fact, most chronic disease has inflammation as an underlying factor. It’s important to realize that your gut is the starting point for inflammation—it’s actually the gatekeeper for your inflammatory response. As suggested above, various gut microorganisms can either trigger or subdue the production of inflammatory cytokines. Most of the signals between your gut and your brain travel along your vagus nerve—about 90 percent of them.12 (Vagus is Latin for “wandering,” aptly named as this long nerve travels from your skull down through your chest and abdomen, branching to multiple organs.13)
Cytokine messengers produced in your gut cruise up to your brain along the “vagus nerve highway.” Once in your brain, the cytokines tell your microglia (the immune cells in your brain) to perform certain functions, such as producing neurochemicals. Besides influencing your hunger and cravings for certain foods, as discussed earlier, these chemical messages can also affect your mitochondria, impacting energy production and apoptosis (cell death). They can also affect the very sensitive feedback system that controls your stress hormones, including cortisol, for better or worse.
So, an inflammatory response can begin in your gut, travel to your brain, which then builds on it and sends signals to the rest of your body in a complex feedback loop. It isn’t important that you understand all of the physiology here, but the take-away is that your gut flora significantly affects and controls the health of your entire body.
Your Gut Flora Is Perpetually Under Attack
Your microbiome—and therefore your physical and mental health—are continuously affected by your environment, and by your diet and lifestyle choices. If your gut bacteria are harmed and thrown out of balance (dysbiosis), all sorts of illnesses can result, both acute and chronic. Unfortunately, your fragile internal ecosystem is under nearly constant assault today. Some of the factors posing the gravest dangers to your microbiome are outlined in the following table.
Refined sugar, especially processed high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) Genetically engineered (GE) foods (extremely abundant in processed foods and beverages) Agricultural chemicals, such as herbicides and pesticides. Glyphosate appears to be among the worst Conventionally-raised meats and other animal products; CAFO animals are routinely fed low-dose antibiotics and GE livestock feed Gluten Antibiotics (use only if absolutely necessary, and make sure to reseed your gut with fermented foods and/or a good probiotic supplement) NSAIDS (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) damage cell membranes and disrupt energy production by mitochondria Proton pump inhibitors (drugs that block the production of acid in your stomach, typically prescribed for GERD, such as Prilosec, Prevacid, and Nexium) Antibacterial soap Chlorinated and/or fluoridated water Stress Pollution
Your Diet Is the Most Effective Way to Alter Your Microbiome
The best way to optimize your gut flora is through your diet. A good place to start is by drastically reducing grains and sugar, and avoiding genetically engineered ingredients, processed foods, pasteurized foods, and chlorinated tap water. Pasteurized foods can harm your good bacteria, and sugar promotes the growth of pathogenic yeast and other fungi. Grains containing gluten are particularly damaging to your microflora and overall health.14, 15 A gut-healthy diet is one rich in whole, unprocessed, unsweetened foods, along with traditionally fermented or cultured foods. Chlorine in your tap water not only kills pathogenic bacteria in the water but also beneficial bacteria in your gut.
Fermented foods are also a key component of the GAPS protocol, a diet designed to heal and seal your gut. Your goal should be to consume one-quarter to one-half cup of fermented veggies with each meal, but you may need to work up to it. Consider starting with just a teaspoon or two a few times a day, and increase as tolerated. If that is too much (perhaps your body is severely compromised), you can even begin by drinking a teaspoon of the brine from the fermented veggies, which is rich in the same beneficial microbes.
You may also want to consider a high-potency probiotic supplement, but realize that there is no substitute for the real food. A previous article in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology16 makes the case that properly controlled fermentation amplifies the specific nutrient and phytochemical content of foods, thereby improving brain health, both physical and mental. According to the authors:
“The consumption of fermented foods may be particularly relevant to the emerging research linking traditional dietary practices and positive mental health. The extent to which traditional dietary items may mitigate inflammation and oxidative stress may be controlled, at least to some degree, by microbiota.”
They go on to say that the microbes associated with fermented foods (for example, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria species) may also influence your brain health via direct and indirect pathways, which paves the way for new scientific investigations in the area of “nutritional psychiatry.”
Your Body Is a Conglomerate of Bacterial Colonies
You’re not only surrounded by bacteria in your environment; in a very real way, you are them. Your body is in fact a complex ecosystem made up of more than 100 trillion microbes that must be properly balanced and cared for if you are to be healthy. Pamela Weintraub skillfully describes the symbiotic relationship between humans and microorganisms in her June 2013 article in Experience Life magazine.17 This system of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and protozoa living on your skin and in your mouth, nose, throat, lungs, gut, and urogenital tract, is unique to you.
It varies from person to person based on factors such as diet, lifestyle, health history, geographic location, and even ancestry. Your microbiome is one of the most complex ecosystems on the planet as for every bacteria you have, there are 10 bacteriophages or viruses. So not only do you have 100 trillion bacteria, you have one quadrillion bacteriophages.
All of these organisms perform a multitude of functions in key biological systems, from supplying critical vitamins to fighting pathogens, modulating weight and metabolism, and much more, and when your microbiome falls out of balance, you can become ill. Your microbiome also helps control how your genes express themselves. So by optimizing your native flora, you are actually controlling your genes! All of this is great news, because while your microbiome may control your health, you can control which bacteria have the upper hand—health-promoting ones, or disease-causing ones—through your diet and lifestyle.
Your Gut Bacteria Linked to Your Risk for Heart Disease
Do You Really Need Poo-in-a-Pill?
By Dr. Mercola
How long have you been sleeping on your pillow? If you can’t remember, it’s probably been too long… the average person keeps their pillow for more than three years, and more than half only replace their pillow and bedding when they notice it starts wearing out.1
But should you replace your pillow much sooner? The Sleep to Live Institute in America recommends replacing your pillow every six months, which might be a bit aggressive (and the Institute has ties to the industry).
A more reasonable approach may be to use the folding test: fold your pillow in half, and if it stays folded instead of springing back into shape, it’s time to find a new one. If you prefer to use length of time as a gauge, the Sleep Council in the UK recommends replacing pillows every two years.2
Neck Problems and Dust Mites: Risks of Keeping Your Pillow Too Long
To avoid neck pain, your pillow should, ideally, fill the gap between your head and shoulders when you lie down.3 If you keep your pillow too long, it will flatten out, leaving your head and neck without adequate support night after night, and this could lead to pain and restless nights.
The other significant issue with keeping a pillow too long is a dust-mite infestation. Dust mites are microscopic bugs that feed on dead skin cells and thrive in warm, humid environments… like your pillow. Dust mites don’t bite and they don’t spread diseases, but they are the most common allergen found in household dust.
It’s estimated that about 10 percent of Americans are allergic to dust mites (or, more specifically, to their fecal pellets and body fragments). In those allergic, dust mites can trigger allergic symptoms and high levels of exposure have been linked to the development of asthma in children.4
Down pillows and comforters are known to attract the most dust mites, and they are difficult to clean properly in order to remove them. However, any pillow can become a dust-mite reservoir and, in fact, after one year of use, 10 percent to 15 percent of your pillow’s weight may be made up of dust-mite waste…5
If you find that your allergy symptoms are worse in the morning, it could very well be due to high levels of dust mites in your pillow and bedding. Washing your pillow once a week in hot water (130-140 degrees F) will kill dust mites (and so will freezing it overnight), so it’s a good idea to use these preventive strategies if you have a dust-mite allergy.
You’ll need to wash (or freeze) the whole pillow (not just the pillow case). You can also encase your pillows in a dust-proof cover, or choose a high-quality wool pillow, which will be hypoallergenic and will repel dust mites naturally. Wool pillows are naturally fire resistant and are free from dangerous flame retardants.
Your Pillow Might Contain a Million Fungal Spores
What else might be lurking in your pillow? Fungal spores, including Aspergillus fumigatus, which can cause Aspergillosis, an infection that begins in your lungs and may spread to other parts of your body, such as your brain.
When researchers tested samples of pillows, which had been used anywhere from 1.5 to 20 years, they found several thousand spores of fungus per gram of pillow, which means any one pillow could contain more than 1 million spores.6
Up to 16 different species of fungus, from varieties found in bread to varieties common in showers, were detected in the individual samples. Pillows made from synthetic materials tended to have higher levels, which is another reason why pillows made from natural wool are preferable.
According to one of the study’s researchers, since you spend so much time in close proximity to your pillow, fungal contamination could have health implications:7
“We know that pillows are inhabited by the house dust mite which eats fungi, and one theory is that the fungi are in turn using the house dust mites’ feces as a major source of nitrogen and nutrition (along with human skin scales). There could therefore be a ‘miniature ecosystem’ at work inside our pillows.
…Since patients spend a third of their life sleeping and breathing close to a potentially large and varied source of fungi, these findings certainly have important implications for patients with respiratory disease - especially asthma and sinusitis.”
Your Pillow Could Be a Key Source of Exposure to Flame-Retardant Chemicals
The risks of exposure to dust mites and fungal spores pale in comparison to those of flame-retardant chemicals that are added to some sleeping pillows. Using an x-ray analyzer that can detect bromine levels in household items, researchers were able to estimate how much of one type of flame-retardant chemical – polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) – they may contain.
Sleeping pillows topped the list (followed closely by vehicle sleep cushions). PBDEs resemble the molecular structure of PCBs, which have been linked to cancer, reproductive problems, and impaired fetal brain development.
Like PCBs, even though certain PBDEs have been banned in some U.S. states and the European Union, they persist in the environment and accumulate in your body – and often exist in products imported from other countries.
Higher exposures to PBDEs have been linked to decreased fertility, 8 which could be in part because the chemicals may mimic and therefore disrupt your thyroid hormones. Research has suggested PBDEs can lead to decreases in TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone),9 which is typically a sign that your thyroid is being disrupted and you are developing hyperthyroidism.
This can have significant ramifications both for you and your unborn child if you're pregnant. As for cancer, one type of PBDE (decaBDE) is classified as a possible human carcinogen by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), while the others remain largely untested.
A study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley also revealed that both in utero and childhood PBDE exposures were associated with neurodevelopmental delays, including decreased attention, fine motor coordination, and cognition in school-age children.10
During the pillow study, researchers found that bromine levels in sleeping pillows were significantly associated with PBDE levels in study participants’ blood.11 Certain types of pillows were worse than others, with polyurethane foam pillows topping the list of worst offenders by a large margin:12
- Polyurethane foam pillows (3,646 parts per million)
- Polyester fiber pillows (107 parts per million)
- Feather pillows (6 parts per million)
Exposing yourself to flame-retardant chemicals while you sleep is a completely unnecessary risk, since natural pillows are available that contain no such chemicals. High-quality wool pillows (and bedding and mattresses) are naturally flame resistant, which is why no flame retardants like PBDEs are used.
Is Your Pillow Right for Your Sleep Position?
More than 90 percent of Americans say that having a comfortable pillow is important to getting a good night’s sleep,13 but what constitutes “comfortable”? You probably have a preference for a firm or fluffy pillow, and you might even stack up two or more. If you wake up pain-free and feeling well rested, your pillow situation is probably fine… but if, on the other hand, you’re waking up with back and neck pain, or struggling with snoring or acid reflux, adjusting your sleep position, including your pillow, may help.
It’s generally accepted that the best sleep position is on your back. When you sleep on your back your head, neck, and spine maintain a neutral position, and acid reflux symptoms are minimized (because your face is not pushed up against a pillow, back sleeping may also be best for preventing facial wrinkles).When sleeping on your back, no pillow is actually best for your spine, but a fluffy pillow that keeps your head supported while still being relatively thin will also work. If you use a thick pillow you’ll lose out on some of the benefit of back sleeping, as this will push your head and neck forward, impacting your breathing.
Side sleeping allows your spine to stay in a fairly neutral position while helping to reduce snoring issues, if present, in some people. If you sleep on your side, look for a firm pillow to fill the gap between your ear and outside shoulder. Some people also find that sleeping on their side with a pillow between their knees radically improves low back pain, as it tends to normalize the normal spinal curves. As for stomach sleeping, it’s generally regarded as the worst position of all because of the way it distorts the natural curve of your lower spine. If you choose to sleep on your stomach, look for a thin pillow (or skip the pillow entirely).
You may want to put a pillow under your stomach to help alleviate potential back pain from this sleeping in this position. Keep in mind that you needn’t have only one type of pillow. You might have a firm pillow to support your head while reading in bed and another that you prefer for sleep. The thickness and firmness of your pillow is up to your personal preference, but the material it’s made out of should be natural, not synthetic, to avoid exposure to flame-retardant chemicals.
Finally, you’ll want to be sure your pillow is washable to reduce dust mites and other organisms, like fungal spores. Natural pillows will be easily washable, but many synthetic foam pillows are not. In fact, the porous foam cells in foam pillows may hold onto water if you try to wash them, which could facilitate the growth of fungus. I personally would never sleep on anything other than a wool pillow for health reasons.
Your Mattress Could be Acting as a Cancer-Causing Radiation Antenna
Will Sleeping on Your Side Reduce Snoring?
By Dr. Mercola
Some of the most obvious ones include soaps and antibacterial wipes, but you can also find it in cutting boards, toys, clothing, household furnishings, pet food dispensers, and much more.
Despite the pervasive use of this chemical, troubling questions linger about its potentially harmful effects, especially for children.
Research has shown that triclosan can alter hormone regulation and may interfere with fetal development.
Animal studies have also raised concerns about its ability to affect fertility, and bacteria exposed to triclosan may also become resistant to antibiotics. Even an increased cancer risk has been suggested.
In short, while you're disinfecting your body and your home to keep your family safe from potentially harmful bacteria, you may actually be causing far more harm than good in the long run.
Triclosan Removed from Soap, But Still Found in Best-Selling Toothpaste
Three years ago, Colgate-Palmolive responded to safety concerns brought forth by consumer groups by removing triclosan from its soap products. But the company left it in its best-selling toothpaste, Colgate Total. (Colgate Total is the only triclosan-containing toothpaste sold in the US.)
But if triclosan can cause serious health problems when used topically, surely using it in your mouth is not going to be any safer, as chemicals are readily absorbed in your oral cavity.
For example, zinc-containing denture creams like Fixodent, Poligrip, Super Poligrip, and others, have been linked to zinc poisoning.1 Toxic effects include serious neurological problems, including neuropathy.
There are even class-action lawsuits underway by people who have been poisoned by their denture creams. With regards to triclosan-containing toothpaste, Bloomberg2 reports:
"Total is safe, Colgate says, citing the rigorous Food and Drug Administration process that led to the toothpaste's 1997 approval as an over-the-counter drug.
A closer look at that application process, however, reveals that some of the scientific findings Colgate put forward to establish triclosan's safety in toothpaste weren't black and white -- and weren't, until this year, available to the public."
Toxicology Studies Withheld from Public View
According to the featured Bloomberg report, 35 pages of summaries of the toxicology studies performed on triclosan were initially withheld by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
They only became available via a Freedom of Information Act request from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The toxicology summaries are now available on the FDA's website.3
A crucial point that has been noted before is that the FDA relies on company-backed science to "prove" that a drug or product is safe and effective. This despite the fact that industry-funded research is almost never impartial, thanks to obvious and massive conflicts of interest.
Many people still do not take this into consideration. They believe that "FDA approved" means that the FDA has performed some sort of independent scientific study. It hasn't.
At best, the FDA carefully reviews the research submitted, but there's plenty of room for cherry-picking and other strategies that can skew the safety profile. According to the featured report:
"The recently released pages, taken alongside new research on triclosan, raise questions about whether the agency did appropriate due diligence in approving Total 17 years ago, and whether its approval should stand in light of new research, said three scientists who reviewed the pages at Bloomberg News's request."
Triclosan Is One of the Most Prevalent Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals on the Market
For example, some animal studies showed that triclosan caused fetal bone malformations in mice and rats. Colgate claimed the findings were irrelevant. But bone deformations may hint at hormonal effects, affecting the endocrine system. There were also apparent weaknesses in Colgate's cancer studies.
Endocrine-disrupting chemicals are a serious concern, as they can promote a wide variety of health problems, including: breast, ovarian, prostate, and testicular cancer, preterm and low birth weight babies, precocious puberty in girls, and undescended testicles in boys.
According to Thomas Zoeller, a biology professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who specializes in how chemicals affect the endocrine system, there are an estimated 800-1,000 endocrine-disrupting chemicals on the market.
But triclosan is one of the top 10 used on a regular basis by most people. Subsequently, removing triclosan may have a much greater impact than removing other chemicals.
Other Disinfectant Chemicals That May Cause More Harm Than Good
A recent article in Scientific American4 also discusses new research showing that other common household disinfectants produce adverse health effects too. The study, published in Reproductive Toxicology,5 assessed the reproductive toxicity of alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride (ADBAC) and didecyl dimethyl ammonium chloride (DDAC).
These two disinfectants are commonly found in commercial and residential disinfectant products. (These quaternary chemicals are commonly referred to as "quats.") Mice exposed to these chemicals took longer to get pregnant and had smaller litters. They also had more miscarriages and more distressed fetuses. Forty percent of the exposed females died from labor difficulties. According to the authors:
"The results suggest that quaternary ammonium compounds affect both the maternal ability to achieve and sustain pregnancy and the developing fetus... Long term exposure decreased fertility and fecundity and caused dam mortality in a dose dependent manner. This study highlights the importance of testing the toxicity of mixtures over individual compounds."
Safety Problems Are Often Found by Chance...
An interesting side note here is the back story of how researchers were prompted to investigate these chemicals (ADBAC and DDAC) in the first place. According to Scientific American:
"Hunt and Hrubec came upon the finding unexpectedly. Both observed breeding problems in research mice at their separate facilities after changing to disinfectant products containing the quat combination. Hunt determined that quat residues in the caging materials contributed to breeding failures and poor pregnancy outcomes.
For Hunt, the experience was a bit of déjà vu: In 1999, she discovered what was then a little-known chemical, bisphenol A, in water bottles mimicked estrogen and disrupted hormone levels in her lab mice. The finding helped spur investigation of the health risks associated with BPA Hunt said both incidents illustrate a problem with the way that new and existing chemicals are regulated in the US. Thousands of products have entered the market in the past few decades with little information on potential health impacts, she said. 'The onus is really on consumers to determine which products are safe. That's not OK.'"
When you consider this chain of events, it really raises questions about the accuracy of any number of studies into completely unrelated fields. A researcher may be using animals to study, say, the effects of a particular drug, and depending on the soap they use to clean the lab, the health outcomes of the animals may be skewed, for better or worse! In most cases, they may never put two and two together—unless they switch cleaning products in the middle of a trial and notice sudden alterations in their research results that cannot be explained...
Triclosan May Affect Thyroid Function
As noted by Professor Caren Helbing Ph.D. at the University of Victoria in Canada, the chemical structure of triclosan is similar to thyroid hormones and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). This similarity allows it to attach to hormone receptors. Helbing's research shows that tadpoles exposed to triclosan suffered stunted development and leg deformations. The metamorphic process these frogs undergo is mediated by thyroid hormones. Her findings were published in the Journal of Aquatic Toxicology6 in 2006, which concluded that: "Exposure to low levels of triclosan disrupts thyroid hormone-associated gene expression and can alter the rate of thyroid hormone-mediated postembryonic anuran development."
While Colgate cites a Cochrane Review7 as supporting evidence for Colgate Total's safety and effectiveness, the review in question focused on the toothpaste's effectiveness in fighting bleeding gums and inflammation; not its long-term safety... The review, which covered more than 30 studies published between 1990-2012, found "moderate quality evidence" that Colgate Total is more effective than other toothpastes with respect to reducing gum bleeding and inflammation, but the authors, Philip Riley and Thomas Lamont, noted that the studies did not really allow them to assess any long-term adverse effects.8
Antibacterial Chemicals Found in Pregnant Women's Urine and Newborns' Cord Blood
In one recent study,9, 10, 11 traces of triclosan, triclocarban, and butyl paraben were found in the urine of pregnant women and their newborns' cord blood. The women in the study were all residents of Brooklyn, New York. This demonstrates that everyday, real-world exposure to these chemicals is indeed pervasive. Shockingly, triclosan was detected in 100 percent of all urine samples, and 51 percent of cord blood samples. Triclocarban was detected in 87 percent of the urine samples, and 23 percent of the cord blood samples.
And, as reported by The Atlantic:12 "In another, still-unpublished study, the researchers found that all of the cord blood samples contained 'at least one paraben,' according to Dr. Rolf Halden, director of ASU's Center for Environmental Security." Paraben esters have also been found in 99 percent of breast cancer tissue samples, suggesting a strong link between the chemical and breast cancer development.
Making matters worse is that there's very little evidence that antibacterial products will actually help you avoid disease. So you're exposing yourself to these harmful chemicals for no good reason... Most recently, a randomized trial13 investigating the effectiveness of hand sanitizers in a school setting found that they "did not prevent disease of severity sufficient to cause school absence."
Other Toothpaste Chemicals to Beware of
There are also other chemicals in toothpaste that may do more harm than good. Fluoride is one obvious one that I’ve written about quite extensively. But many toothpastes also contain surfactants like sodium laurel sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate (SLS) or sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES). Surfactants are chemicals responsible for the foaming action of the toothpaste.
But these chemicals can also interfere with the functioning of your taste buds. As noted in a previous Lifehacker article,14 they suppress taste receptors responsible for tasting sweet notes. As noted in the article, they also “break up the phospholipids on our tongue. These fatty molecules inhibit our receptors for bitterness and keep bitter tastes from overwhelming us, but when they're broken down by the surfactants in toothpaste, bitter tastes get enhanced.”
This is thought to be the reason why everything tastes so bad right after you’ve brushed your teeth. So, choosing a toothpaste that does not contain SLS or SLES will allow you to taste your food properly after brushing your teeth. This may also be part of why coconut oil works so well for oral hygiene, as it helps maintain a more natural balance of lipids on your tongue, while still having potent antibacterial properties.
Keeping Yourself and Your Home Clean, Safely
I strongly encourage you to ditch all of your chemical disinfectants, including your antibacterial soaps, laundry detergents, and bath and kitchen cleansers, in favor of more natural alternatives. No study has shown that a vigorous program of home disinfection leads to a reduction of illness in a family. They have, however, shown that disinfectants can cause harm. It is best to use any soap minimally on your body as it removes the sebum that your body produces, which is full of beneficial fats designed to protect your skin from infection. Using soap will remove not only dirt but also these useful fats.
For those times when you need to do a bit of cleansing, one of the best non-toxic disinfectants is a mild soap and warm water. You can use this for washing your hands, your body, and for other household cleansing. Another all-purpose cleanser that works great for kitchen counters, cutting boards, and bathrooms is 3% hydrogen peroxide and vinegar. Simply put each liquid into a separate spray bottle, then spray the surface with one, followed by the other.
In tests run at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, pairing the two mists killed virtually all Salmonella, Shigella, and E. coli bacteria on heavily contaminated food and surfaces when used in this fashion, making this spray combination more effective at killing these potentially lethal bacteria than chlorine bleach or any commercially available kitchen cleaner. The best results came from using one mist right after the other -- it is 10 times more effective than using either spray by itself and more effective than mixing the vinegar and hydrogen peroxide in one sprayer.
Coconut oil also has potent disinfectant properties, and can be used to disinfect wooden cutting boards. Sunlight is another powerful disinfectant, and drying your laundry in the sun is one of the best ways to save energy and wind up with fresh, clean linens and clothing. Truly, there's no need to expose your family to dangerous chemical disinfectants. As an added bonus aside from the health benefits, using this type of natural homemade cleanser is much less expensive than commercial varieties.
WARNING: Antibacterial Soap Linked to Altered Hormones and Antibiotic Resistance
4 of the Most Dangerous Myths About Washing Your Hands