By Dr. Mercola

Fear of losing your mind is a pervasive, fear. Among Americans, the notion of losing mental capacity evokes twice as much fear as losing physical ability, and 60 percent of US adults say they are very or somewhat worried about memory loss.1

The good news is that your brain is a dynamic organ, constantly adapting and changing, for better or for worse. Many daily activities such as, lack of sleep can seriously interfere  with your memory the next day.

On the other hand, a healthy lifestyle will support your brain health and even encourage your brain to grow new neurons, a process known as neurogenesis or neuroplasticity.

Your brain's hippocampus, i.e. the memory center, is especially able to grow new cells and it's now known that your hippocampus regenerates throughout your entire lifetime (even into your 90s), provided you give it the tools to do so.

Many of the most powerful interventions for memory are also the simplest. So if you'd like to boost your memory, and protect it against negative changes, keep reading. The 11 factors that follow, as reported by TIME,2 all have the potential to mess with your memory (some in a good way and others a bad way).

11 Surprising Factors That Affect Your Memory

1. Thyroid Problems

Although your thyroid doesn't have a specific role in your brain, memory problems are a hallmark characteristic of thyroid disease. High or low thyroid levels (hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism) may lead to difficulty with memory and concentration. If you suspect you have thyroid trouble, please read these natural protocols for addressing thyroid dysfunction.

2. Menopause

Hot flashes and insomnia are common during menopause, and both can impair your sleep and contribute to memory loss. This is temporary and should improve when your menopause symptoms subside (try these simple solutions for stopping hot flashes).

3. Lack of Sleep

The process of brain growth, or neuroplasticity, is believed to underlie your brain's capacity to control behavior, including learning and memory. However, sleep and sleep loss modify the expression of several genes and gene products that may be important for synaptic plasticity.

Furthermore, certain forms of long-term potentiation, a neural process associated with the laying down of learning and memory, can be elicited in sleep, suggesting synaptic connections are strengthened while you slumber.

Among adults, a mid-day nap has even been found to dramatically boost and restore brainpower.3 Most adults need about eight hours of sleep a night; if you wake up feeling fatigued or fall asleep easily during the day, you probably need more sleep. You can find 33 tips to help you get the shut-eye you need here.

4. Anxiety and Depression

Increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol brought on by anxiety and depression causes your brain cells to lose synapses (which connect brain cells). This, in turn, makes it more difficult to form and retrieve memories. Allen Towfigh, MD, medical director of New York Neurology & Sleep Medicine, told TIME:4

"We don't understand the exact link, but strong evidence indicates depression, anxiety, and bipolar disease disrupts the neural circuitry involved in developing and retrieving memories…

The severity of the memory loss often mirrors the severity of the mood disorder—severe depression brings about equally severe memory loss."

5. Certain Medications

Many prescription drugs interfere with your memory function. This includes anxiety medications (Xanax, Valium, and Ativan), which hinder your brain's ability to transfer short-term memories to long-term "storage."

Others include tricyclic antidepressants, statin drugs, beta-blockers, narcotic painkillers, incontinence drugs, sleep aids, and antihistamines (such as Benadryl).

6. Smoking

Smoking impairs the blood supply to your brain, leading to memory lapses. Studies also show that smokers have a more rapid decline in brain function, including memory, than non-smokers, while smoking leads to the accumulation of abnormal proteins in your brain that interfere with processing and relaying information.5

7. Stress

An animal study revealed that higher levels of stress hormones can speed up short-term memory loss in older adults.6 The findings indicate that how your body responds to stress may be a factor that influences how your brain ages over time. Previous research has also linked chronic stress with working memory impairment.7

My favorite tool for stress management is Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). It's an energy psychology tool that can help reprogram your body's reactions to everyday stress, thereby reducing your chances of developing adverse health effects.

8. A Higher "Infectious Burden"

People exposed to more germs, such as the cold sore virus (herpes simplex type 1), scored 25 percent lower on cognitive tests than those with a lower "infectious burden."8 Researchers concluded that past infections may contribute to cognitive impairment, perhaps due to damage to your blood vessels.

9. Green Tea

If you want to boost your memory, drink more high-quality green tea. In a study of 12 healthy volunteers, those who received a beverage containing 27.5 grams of green tea extract showed increased connectivity between the parietal and frontal cortex of the brain compared to those who drank a non-green tea beverage.9

The increased activity was correlated with improved performance on working memory tasks, and the researchers believe the results suggest green tea may be useful for treating cognitive impairments, including dementia.

10. Exercise

Exercise encourages your brain to work at optimum capacity by stimulating nerve cells to multiply, strengthening their interconnections, and protecting them from damage. During exercise nerve cells release proteins known as neurotrophic factors. One in particular, called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), triggers numerous other chemicals that promote neural health, and directly benefits cognitive functions, including learning.

A 2010 study on primates published in Neuroscience also revealed that regular exercise not only improved blood flow to the brain, but also helped the monkeys learn new tasks twice as quickly as non-exercising monkeys. This is a benefit the researchers believe would hold true for people as well.10

In a separate one year-long study, individuals who engaged in exercise were actually growing and expanding the brain's memory center 1 percent to 2 percent per year, where typically that center would have continued to decline in size. To get the most out of your workouts, I recommend a comprehensive program that includes high-intensity interval exercise, strength training, stretching, and core work, along with regular intermittent movement.

11. Vitamin B12

B vitamins including vitamin B12 may slow brain shrinkage by as much as seven-fold in brain regions specifically known to be most impacted by Alzheimer's disease. In one study, participants taking high doses of folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12 had blood levels of homocysteine that were lowered as was the associated brain shrinkage – by up to 90 percent. The researchers noted:11

"…B vitamins lower homocysteine, which directly leads to a decrease in GM [gray matter] atrophy, thereby slowing cognitive decline. Our results show that B-vitamin supplementation can slow the atrophy of specific brain regions that are a key component of the AD [Alzheimer's disease] process and that are associated with cognitive decline."

This makes a strong case for ensuring your diet includes plenty of healthful B-vitamin sources, such as meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products, and wild-caught fish. Leafy green vegetables, beans, and peas also provide some B vitamins, but if you eat an all vegetarian or vegan diet, vitamin B12 is one of the nutrients your body is most likely deficient in. Also, when you get older, the lining of your stomach gradually loses its ability to produce hydrochloric acid, which releases vitamin B12 from your food. If you're over 50, it's safe to assume you are not absorbing vitamin B12 at an optimal level and may be at risk of deficiency.

Because vitamin B12 is the largest vitamin molecule known, it is not easily absorbed from most oral supplements. Injections or a sublingual (under your tongue) spray work far better, as they allow the large B12 molecule to be absorbed directly into your bloodstream.

Three More Little-Known Tips to Supercharge Your Memory

If you're serious about improving your memory and your cognitive function, you'll also want to know about these three important variables for brain health.

Vitamin D

Activated vitamin D receptors increase nerve growth in your brain, and researchers have also located metabolic pathways for vitamin D in the hippocampus and cerebellum of the brain, areas that are involved in planning, processing of information, and the formation of new memories. In older adults, research has shown that low vitamin D levels are associated with poorer brain function, and increasing levels may help keep older adults mentally fit. Appropriate sun exposure is all it takes to keep your levels where they need to be for healthy brain function. If this is not an option, a safe tanning bed is the next best alternative, followed by a vitamin D3 supplement.

Intermittent Fasting

Your ancient ancestors never had access to food 24/7 so your genes are optimized for periods of feast and fasting. Problem is most of us are in 24 hour feast mode.  Intermittent fasting can help your body to "reset" itself and start to burn fat instead of sugar. Further, it will help you to reduce your overall calorie consumption, which promotes brain cell growth and connectivity.

As part of a healthy lifestyle, however, I prefer an intermittent fasting schedule that simply calls for limiting your eating to a narrower window of time each day. By restricting your eating to a 6-8 hour window, you effectively fast 16-18 hours each day. To learn more, please see this previous intermittent fasting article.

Gut Health

Your gut is your "second brain," and your gut bacteria transmits information to your brain via the vagus nerve, the tenth cranial nerve that runs from your brain stem into your enteric nervous system (the nervous system of your gastrointestinal tract). There is a close connection between abnormal gut flora and abnormal brain development, and just as you have neurons in your brain, you also have neurons in your gut -- including neurons that produce neurotransmitters like serotonin, which is also found in your brain and is linked to mood.

Quite simply, your gut health can impact your brain function, psyche, and behavior, as they are interconnected and interdependent in a number of different ways. In addition to avoiding sugar, one of the best ways to support gut health is to consume beneficial bacteria. You can use a probiotic supplement for this, but I'm particularly fond of using fermented vegetables, because they can deliver extraordinarily high levels of beneficial bacteria. Most people aren't aware that in a healthy serving of sauerkraut – two to three ounces or so – you're getting the equivalent of nearly 100 capsules of the highest-potency probiotic you can buy. It's clearly one of the most cost-effective alternatives.

And Remember the Most Important Factor of All... Your Diet

The foods you eat – and don't eat – play a crucial role in your memory. Fresh vegetables are essential, as are healthy fats and avoiding sugar and grain carbohydrates. You can find detailed information about nine foods for brainpower here. For instance, curry, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, and walnuts contain antioxidants and other compounds that protect your brain health and may even stimulate the production of new brain cells. Increasing your animal-based omega-3 fat intake and reducing consumption of damaged omega-6 fats (think processed vegetable oils) in order to balance your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio is also important.

I prefer krill oil to fish oil, as krill oil also contains astaxanthin, which not only protects the omega-3 fats from oxidation but also is particularly to support brain health. Coconut oil is another healthful fat for brain function. According to research by Dr. Mary Newport, just over two tablespoons of coconut oil (about 35 ml or 7 level teaspoons) would supply you with the equivalent of 20 grams of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), which is indicated as either a preventative measure against degenerative neurological diseases or as a treatment for an already established case.



Sources:


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 Comments (50)

By Dr. Mercola

Recent studies show poor sleeping habits cause both brain damage and brain shrinkage, and may even accelerate onset of Alzheimer’s disease.1

Previous research published in the journal Science2 revealed that your brain removes toxic waste during sleep through what has been dubbed “the glymphatic system.”3, 4, 5

This system becomes active during sleep, thereby allowing your brain to clear out toxins and harmful proteins.

Sleep is also necessary for maintaining metabolic homeostasis in your brain.6, 7, 8 Without sufficient sleep, your neurons will actually begin to deteriorate—and catching up on sleep during weekends will not prevent this damage.

Lack of sleep has also been linked to obesity in both animals and humans, as well as hormone alterations in animals. In short, sleeping soundly appears to be key for aging well, and maintaining healthy brain function into old age.

Poor Sleep Can Lead to Brain Shrinkage

According to recent research published in the journal Neurology,9, 10, 11 lack of sleep may affect the size of your brain. A total of 147 adult volunteers underwent MRI scans to assess the link between sleep and brain volume.

As it turns out, sleep problems like insomnia can have a distinct impact on your brain over time, causing it to shrink—and shrink more rapidly, compared to those who sleep well. This effect was particularly significant in those over 60. According to the authors:

“Poor sleep quality was associated with reduced volume within the right superior frontal cortex in cross-sectional analyses, and an increased rate of atrophy within widespread frontal, temporal, and parietal regions in longitudinal analyses.

Results were largely driven by correlations within adults over the age of 60, and could not be explained by variation in physical activity, BMI, or blood pressure.”

The Importance of Staying in Sync with Nature

Maintaining a natural rhythm of exposure to sunlight during the day and darkness at night is one crucial foundational component of sleeping well.

This was addressed in a previous interview with Dan Pardi, a researcher who works with the Behavioral Sciences Department at Stanford University and the Departments of Neurology and Endocrinology at Leiden University in the Netherlands.

Download Interview Transcript

Exposure to bright daylight serves as the major synchronizer of your master clock—a group of cells in your brain called the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN). These nuclei synchronize to the light-dark cycle of your environment when light enters your eye.

You also have other biological clocks throughout your body, and those clocks subsequently synchronize to your master clock. One reason why so many people get so little sleep, and/or such poor sleep, can be traced back to a master clock disruption.

In short, most people spend their days indoors, shielded from bright daylight, and then spend their evenings in too-bright artificial light. As a result, their body clocks get out of sync with the natural rhythm of daylight and nighttime darkness.

This, it turns out, may have more far-reaching ramifications than previously thought, and humans are not the only ones affected by artificial lighting brightening up the night.

For example, researchers investigating incidences of birds singing in the middle of the night believe that bird behavior is being adversely affected by artificial lighting from street lamps and city lights.

Artificial Light Disrupts Sex Hormones in Birds

Mounting evidence suggests that artificial lights are actually “altering the basic physiology of urban birds, suppressing their estrogen and testosterone and changing their singing, mating and feeding behaviors,” Environmental Health News12 reports.

One animal study13 found that chronic exposure to light at night prevented reproductive organ development in male blackbirds. Their sex organs developed naturally during the first year, but in the second year of nighttime light exposure, the development stopped altogether.

Birds aren’t the only species suffering from light pollution. As noted in the featured article:14

“In the wild, light pollution causes hatchling sea turtles to lose their way from beach to the ocean, and disorients Monarch butterflies searching for migration routes.

In field experiments, Atlantic salmon swim at odd times, and frogs stop mating under skies glowing from stadium lights at football games. Millions of birds die from collisions with brightly lit communication towers, and migratory flocks are confused by signals gone awry.

More recently, researchers have documented an earlier dawn chorus, which influences mate selection, feeding and interplay among species. At a deeper, molecular level, the changes in birds’ hormones raise questions about their reproductive fitness and the potential for ecological and evolutionary consequences.”

The researchers call for collaboration between scientists and policy makers to limit the impact of light pollution on animals and ecosystems. It’s easy to make the case that humans need to limit light pollution as well, in order to thrive...

Future Obesity and Diabetes Treatments May Address Body Clock

If you’re overweight and/or exhausted much of the time, chances are high that poor sleep patterns—perhaps resulting from too many light-emitting gadgets—are at play. The exposure to excessive amounts of light at night, courtesy of electric light bulbs and electronic gadgets of all kinds, makes it exceedingly difficult for your body and brain to wind down for sleep. And this lack of sleep can lead to metabolic dysfunction. Poor sleep has actually been implicated in obesity in a number of previous studies.

Most recently, scientists at the University of Manchester15 concluded that your body clock plays an important role in chronic inflammation and the accumulation of body fat. According to the University, the team’s findings “are helping develop new ways of treating obesity and the fatal diseases linked to being overweight.” According to lead researcher Professor David Ray:

“Essentially we discovered that the circadian clock protein REVERB plays an important role in the safe accumulation of body fat. Usually as fat accumulates there is inflammation in the body which leads to diabetes and heart disease. Our research shows that this process is linked to the body clock.”

The protein REVERB, which is linked to your body clock, not only regulates adinopectin—a hormone produced in body fat—but it’s also a master regulator of inflammation. They discovered that mice lacking this REVERB protein were able to accumulate more fat without the associated inflammation. According to Professor Ray:

“Our work demonstrates that it could be possible to switch unhealthy fat to a healthier form by tapping into one of the elements which we discovered. We hope that would mean fewer obese people go on to develop more severe metabolic complications such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease... Our analysis showed that in morbidly obese people who have undergone weight loss surgery the same pathway from the body clock to inflamed fat is activated.”

While they’re naturally looking for a drug solution to target this pathway, it would make sense to tap into it naturally by optimizing your body clock... There’s actually a clinical study underway at the University of Manchester in which they’re testing “body clock logic” to treat diabetes. According to the University:16

“Patients eat, sleep and take medication at times that fit with their body clock in a bid to control the disease. It’s hoped the study will demonstrate that strengthening our internal body clock by changing behavior can be used to treat a condition in a similar way to drugs and surgery.”

Sleeping Pills Can Have Serious Consequences

According to the statistics17 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 50 and 70 million Americans suffer from sleep deprivation, and nearly nine million Americans take prescription sleeping pills in pursuit of good night’s rest; one in six adults with a diagnosed sleep disorder and one in eight adults with trouble sleeping report using sleeping pills. In 2011, sales of generic Ambien (zolpidem tartrate) amounted to a whopping $2.8 billion and Lunesta another $912 million.18

While most would not knowingly put their life on the line, you may be doing just that if you take sleeping pills... According to a study19 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), emergency room visits involving the sleep aid zolpidem nearly doubled between 2005 and 2010, reaching 42,274 visits in the year 2009-2010. Zolpidem is the active ingredient in sleep aids sold under brand names like Ambien, Ambien CR, Edluar, and Zolpimist. Polypharmacy—the use of multiple drugs—is part of the problem. In 57 percent of these overmedication cases, there were additional drugs involved:

  • In 26 percent of cases, zolpidem was combined with benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax, Ativan, etc.)
  • 25 percent involved a combination with narcotic pain relievers
  • Alcohol was also used in 14 percent of these emergency room visits

Side effects associated with zolpidem include daytime drowsiness, dizziness, hallucinations, agitation, sleep-walking, and drowsiness while driving. It’s important to realize that narcotic pain relievers and anti-anxiety drugs or sedatives can cause a dangerous enhancement of a sleeping pill’s sedative effects. As noted by SAMHSA:20

“Overall, nearly half (47 percent) of zolpidem overmedication-related emergency department visits resulted in either a hospital admission or a transfer to another medical facility. About a quarter of these more serious cases involved admission to a critical or intensive care unit. ‘Sleep aid medications can benefit patients, but they must be carefully used and monitored,’ said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. ‘Physicians and patients need to discuss the potential adverse reactions associated with any medication, and work together to prevent problems or quickly resolve any that may arise.’”

Studies submitted to the FDA have also revealed that blood levels of zolpidem above 50 ng/mL may impair your driving to a degree that increases the risk of an accident, especially among women. As a result, FDA recommended manufacturers cut the dosage of zolpidem from 10mg to 5mg for immediate-release products (Ambien, Edluar, and Zolpimist) and from 12.5 mg to 6.25 mg for extended-release products (Ambien CR).21 Sleeping pills have also been linked to a 35 percent increased cancer risk, along with a greatly increased risk of death from any cause.

Grave Risks for Drugs That Do Not Work...

These are serious risks for drugs that have repeatedly been shown to have little real-life value in terms of actually providing more or better sleep. An analysis of studies financed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that sleeping pills like Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata reduced the average time it takes you to go to sleep by just under 13 minutes compared with placebo, and increasing total sleep time by just over 11 minutes. However, the participants believed they had slept longer—up to an hour longer—when taking the pills.

This is thought to be due to a condition called anterograde amnesia, which prevents the proper formation of memories. When people wake up after taking sleeping pills, they may, in fact, simply forget that they’d been unable to sleep! Not surprisingly, sleeping pills are also associated with cognitive deficits the next day. Many sleeping pills are also potent anti-cholinergics, which suppress REM sleep and dreaming, and are known to increase dementia risk in seniors.

Helpful Tips to Improve Your Sleep

To get good sleep, you need to have properly aligned circadian rhythms, and to achieve that, you need to get daylight exposure, ideally around solar noon, for at least 30-60 minutes or more each day. Then, in the evening, you need to dim artificial light sources. In particular, you want to avoid the blue light wavelength. Research shows that exposure to bright room light before bedtime suppresses melatonin production in 99 percent of individuals. This can effectively rob you of sleep by preventing sleepiness.

Use blue-blocking light bulbs, dim your lights with dimmer switches and turn off unneeded lights, and if using a computer, install blue light-blocking software like f.lux.22 Also keep in mind that digital alarm clocks with blue light displays could have a detrimental effect. The following infographic, created by BigBrandBeds.co.uk, illustrates how your electronic gadgets wreak havoc on your sleep when used before bedtime.23

To optimize sleep, you also need to make sure you’re going to bed early enough, because if you have to get up at 6:30am, you’re just not going to get enough sleep if you go to bed after midnight. Fitness trackers such as the UP2424 can track both daytime body movement and sleep, allowing you to get a better picture of how much sleep you’re actually getting. Chances are, you’re getting at least 30 minutes less sleep than you think, as most people do not fall asleep as soon as their head hits the pillow. Besides maintaining a natural circadian rhythm, there are a number of additional ways to help improve your sleep if you’re still having trouble. Below are half a dozen of my top guidelines for promoting good sleep. For a comprehensive sleep guide, please see my article 33 Secrets to a Good Night's Sleep.

  1. Avoid watching TV or using your computer at night—or at least about an hour or so before going to bed. TV and computer screens emit blue light, similar to daylight. This tricks your brain into thinking it's still daytime, thereby shutting down melatonin secretion.
  2. Sleep in darkness. You don’t need to sleep in total darkness; the intensity of light has to be at a certain level (different levels depending on the spectrum) to suppress melatonin production. That said, complete darkness is probably best. I recommend covering your windows with blackout shades or drapes, or use an eye mask. Also avoid using night-lights, and cover up the display on your clock radio.
  3. Keep the temperature in your bedroom below 70 degrees F. A reduction in core body temperature is a part of the sleep-initiation and sleep maintenance process. A room temperature that is too warm or too cool can prevent your core temperature from lowering to its ideal place for good sleep. Aim to keep your bedroom temperature between 60 to 68 degrees, and identify the best room temperature for you through trial and error.
  4. Take a hot bath or shower 30 minutes before bedtime. The hot bath increases your core body temperature, opening up the blood vessels in your limbs. When you get out of the bath, heat can leave your body easily (if the room temperature is cool), abruptly dropping your core body temperature, making you drowsy and ready for great sleep.
  5. Check your bedroom for electro-magnetic fields (EMFs). These can disrupt your pineal gland and the production of melatonin and serotonin, and may have other negative effects as well. To do this, you need a gauss meter. You can find various models online, starting around $50 to $200. Some experts even recommend pulling your circuit breaker before bed to shut down all power in your house.
  6. Move electrical devices away from your bed. If electrical alarm clocks or other gadgets must be used, keep them as far away from your bed as possible, preferably at least three feet. Cell phones, cordless phones, and their charging stations should ideally be kept three rooms away from your bedroom to prevent exposure to harmful and sleep-disrupting electromagnetic fields (EMFs).




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 Comments (34)

By Dr. Mercola

Recent studies show poor sleeping habits cause both brain damage and brain shrinkage, and may even accelerate onset of Alzheimer’s disease.1

Previous research published in the journal Science2 revealed that your brain removes toxic waste during sleep through what has been dubbed “the glymphatic system.”3, 4, 5

This system becomes active during sleep, thereby allowing your brain to clear out toxins and harmful proteins.

Sleep is also necessary for maintaining metabolic homeostasis in your brain.6, 7, 8 Without sufficient sleep, your neurons will actually begin to deteriorate—and catching up on sleep during weekends will not prevent this damage.

Lack of sleep has also been linked to obesity in both animals and humans, as well as hormone alterations in animals. In short, sleeping soundly appears to be key for aging well, and maintaining healthy brain function into old age.

Poor Sleep Can Lead to Brain Shrinkage

According to recent research published in the journal Neurology,9, 10, 11 lack of sleep may affect the size of your brain. A total of 147 adult volunteers underwent MRI scans to assess the link between sleep and brain volume.

As it turns out, sleep problems like insomnia can have a distinct impact on your brain over time, causing it to shrink—and shrink more rapidly, compared to those who sleep well. This effect was particularly significant in those over 60. According to the authors:

“Poor sleep quality was associated with reduced volume within the right superior frontal cortex in cross-sectional analyses, and an increased rate of atrophy within widespread frontal, temporal, and parietal regions in longitudinal analyses.

Results were largely driven by correlations within adults over the age of 60, and could not be explained by variation in physical activity, BMI, or blood pressure.”

The Importance of Staying in Sync with Nature

Maintaining a natural rhythm of exposure to sunlight during the day and darkness at night is one crucial foundational component of sleeping well.

This was addressed in a previous interview with Dan Pardi, a researcher who works with the Behavioral Sciences Department at Stanford University and the Departments of Neurology and Endocrinology at Leiden University in the Netherlands.

Download Interview Transcript

Exposure to bright daylight serves as the major synchronizer of your master clock—a group of cells in your brain called the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN). These nuclei synchronize to the light-dark cycle of your environment when light enters your eye.

You also have other biological clocks throughout your body, and those clocks subsequently synchronize to your master clock. One reason why so many people get so little sleep, and/or such poor sleep, can be traced back to a master clock disruption.

In short, most people spend their days indoors, shielded from bright daylight, and then spend their evenings in too-bright artificial light. As a result, their body clocks get out of sync with the natural rhythm of daylight and nighttime darkness.

This, it turns out, may have more far-reaching ramifications than previously thought, and humans are not the only ones affected by artificial lighting brightening up the night.

For example, researchers investigating incidences of birds singing in the middle of the night believe that bird behavior is being adversely affected by artificial lighting from street lamps and city lights.

Artificial Light Disrupts Sex Hormones in Birds

Mounting evidence suggests that artificial lights are actually “altering the basic physiology of urban birds, suppressing their estrogen and testosterone and changing their singing, mating and feeding behaviors,” Environmental Health News12 reports.

One animal study13 found that chronic exposure to light at night prevented reproductive organ development in male blackbirds. Their sex organs developed naturally during the first year, but in the second year of nighttime light exposure, the development stopped altogether.

Birds aren’t the only species suffering from light pollution. As noted in the featured article:14

“In the wild, light pollution causes hatchling sea turtles to lose their way from beach to the ocean, and disorients Monarch butterflies searching for migration routes.

In field experiments, Atlantic salmon swim at odd times, and frogs stop mating under skies glowing from stadium lights at football games. Millions of birds die from collisions with brightly lit communication towers, and migratory flocks are confused by signals gone awry.

More recently, researchers have documented an earlier dawn chorus, which influences mate selection, feeding and interplay among species. At a deeper, molecular level, the changes in birds’ hormones raise questions about their reproductive fitness and the potential for ecological and evolutionary consequences.”

The researchers call for collaboration between scientists and policy makers to limit the impact of light pollution on animals and ecosystems. It’s easy to make the case that humans need to limit light pollution as well, in order to thrive...

Future Obesity and Diabetes Treatments May Address Body Clock

If you’re overweight and/or exhausted much of the time, chances are high that poor sleep patterns—perhaps resulting from too many light-emitting gadgets—are at play. The exposure to excessive amounts of light at night, courtesy of electric light bulbs and electronic gadgets of all kinds, makes it exceedingly difficult for your body and brain to wind down for sleep. And this lack of sleep can lead to metabolic dysfunction. Poor sleep has actually been implicated in obesity in a number of previous studies.

Most recently, scientists at the University of Manchester15 concluded that your body clock plays an important role in chronic inflammation and the accumulation of body fat. According to the University, the team’s findings “are helping develop new ways of treating obesity and the fatal diseases linked to being overweight.” According to lead researcher Professor David Ray:

“Essentially we discovered that the circadian clock protein REVERB plays an important role in the safe accumulation of body fat. Usually as fat accumulates there is inflammation in the body which leads to diabetes and heart disease. Our research shows that this process is linked to the body clock.”

The protein REVERB, which is linked to your body clock, not only regulates adinopectin—a hormone produced in body fat—but it’s also a master regulator of inflammation. They discovered that mice lacking this REVERB protein were able to accumulate more fat without the associated inflammation. According to Professor Ray:

“Our work demonstrates that it could be possible to switch unhealthy fat to a healthier form by tapping into one of the elements which we discovered. We hope that would mean fewer obese people go on to develop more severe metabolic complications such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease... Our analysis showed that in morbidly obese people who have undergone weight loss surgery the same pathway from the body clock to inflamed fat is activated.”

While they’re naturally looking for a drug solution to target this pathway, it would make sense to tap into it naturally by optimizing your body clock... There’s actually a clinical study underway at the University of Manchester in which they’re testing “body clock logic” to treat diabetes. According to the University:16

“Patients eat, sleep and take medication at times that fit with their body clock in a bid to control the disease. It’s hoped the study will demonstrate that strengthening our internal body clock by changing behavior can be used to treat a condition in a similar way to drugs and surgery.”

Sleeping Pills Can Have Serious Consequences

According to the statistics17 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 50 and 70 million Americans suffer from sleep deprivation, and nearly nine million Americans take prescription sleeping pills in pursuit of good night’s rest; one in six adults with a diagnosed sleep disorder and one in eight adults with trouble sleeping report using sleeping pills. In 2011, sales of generic Ambien (zolpidem tartrate) amounted to a whopping $2.8 billion and Lunesta another $912 million.18

While most would not knowingly put their life on the line, you may be doing just that if you take sleeping pills... According to a study19 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), emergency room visits involving the sleep aid zolpidem nearly doubled between 2005 and 2010, reaching 42,274 visits in the year 2009-2010. Zolpidem is the active ingredient in sleep aids sold under brand names like Ambien, Ambien CR, Edluar, and Zolpimist. Polypharmacy—the use of multiple drugs—is part of the problem. In 57 percent of these overmedication cases, there were additional drugs involved:

  • In 26 percent of cases, zolpidem was combined with benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax, Ativan, etc.)
  • 25 percent involved a combination with narcotic pain relievers
  • Alcohol was also used in 14 percent of these emergency room visits

Side effects associated with zolpidem include daytime drowsiness, dizziness, hallucinations, agitation, sleep-walking, and drowsiness while driving. It’s important to realize that narcotic pain relievers and anti-anxiety drugs or sedatives can cause a dangerous enhancement of a sleeping pill’s sedative effects. As noted by SAMHSA:20

“Overall, nearly half (47 percent) of zolpidem overmedication-related emergency department visits resulted in either a hospital admission or a transfer to another medical facility. About a quarter of these more serious cases involved admission to a critical or intensive care unit. ‘Sleep aid medications can benefit patients, but they must be carefully used and monitored,’ said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. ‘Physicians and patients need to discuss the potential adverse reactions associated with any medication, and work together to prevent problems or quickly resolve any that may arise.’”

Studies submitted to the FDA have also revealed that blood levels of zolpidem above 50 ng/mL may impair your driving to a degree that increases the risk of an accident, especially among women. As a result, FDA recommended manufacturers cut the dosage of zolpidem from 10mg to 5mg for immediate-release products (Ambien, Edluar, and Zolpimist) and from 12.5 mg to 6.25 mg for extended-release products (Ambien CR).21 Sleeping pills have also been linked to a 35 percent increased cancer risk, along with a greatly increased risk of death from any cause.

Grave Risks for Drugs That Do Not Work...

These are serious risks for drugs that have repeatedly been shown to have little real-life value in terms of actually providing more or better sleep. An analysis of studies financed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that sleeping pills like Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata reduced the average time it takes you to go to sleep by just under 13 minutes compared with placebo, and increasing total sleep time by just over 11 minutes. However, the participants believed they had slept longer—up to an hour longer—when taking the pills.

This is thought to be due to a condition called anterograde amnesia, which prevents the proper formation of memories. When people wake up after taking sleeping pills, they may, in fact, simply forget that they’d been unable to sleep! Not surprisingly, sleeping pills are also associated with cognitive deficits the next day. Many sleeping pills are also potent anti-cholinergics, which suppress REM sleep and dreaming, and are known to increase dementia risk in seniors.

Helpful Tips to Improve Your Sleep

To get good sleep, you need to have properly aligned circadian rhythms, and to achieve that, you need to get daylight exposure, ideally around solar noon, for at least 30-60 minutes or more each day. Then, in the evening, you need to dim artificial light sources. In particular, you want to avoid the blue light wavelength. Research shows that exposure to bright room light before bedtime suppresses melatonin production in 99 percent of individuals. This can effectively rob you of sleep by preventing sleepiness.

Use blue-blocking light bulbs, dim your lights with dimmer switches and turn off unneeded lights, and if using a computer, install blue light-blocking software like f.lux.22 Also keep in mind that digital alarm clocks with blue light displays could have a detrimental effect. The following infographic, created by BigBrandBeds.co.uk, illustrates how your electronic gadgets wreak havoc on your sleep when used before bedtime.23

To optimize sleep, you also need to make sure you’re going to bed early enough, because if you have to get up at 6:30am, you’re just not going to get enough sleep if you go to bed after midnight. Fitness trackers such as the UP2424 can track both daytime body movement and sleep, allowing you to get a better picture of how much sleep you’re actually getting. Chances are, you’re getting at least 30 minutes less sleep than you think, as most people do not fall asleep as soon as their head hits the pillow. Besides maintaining a natural circadian rhythm, there are a number of additional ways to help improve your sleep if you’re still having trouble. Below are half a dozen of my top guidelines for promoting good sleep. For a comprehensive sleep guide, please see my article 33 Secrets to a Good Night's Sleep.

  1. Avoid watching TV or using your computer at night—or at least about an hour or so before going to bed. TV and computer screens emit blue light, similar to daylight. This tricks your brain into thinking it's still daytime, thereby shutting down melatonin secretion.
  2. Sleep in darkness. You don’t need to sleep in total darkness; the intensity of light has to be at a certain level (different levels depending on the spectrum) to suppress melatonin production. That said, complete darkness is probably best. I recommend covering your windows with blackout shades or drapes, or use an eye mask. Also avoid using night-lights, and cover up the display on your clock radio.
  3. Keep the temperature in your bedroom below 70 degrees F. A reduction in core body temperature is a part of the sleep-initiation and sleep maintenance process. A room temperature that is too warm or too cool can prevent your core temperature from lowering to its ideal place for good sleep. Aim to keep your bedroom temperature between 60 to 68 degrees, and identify the best room temperature for you through trial and error.
  4. Take a hot bath or shower 30 minutes before bedtime. The hot bath increases your core body temperature, opening up the blood vessels in your limbs. When you get out of the bath, heat can leave your body easily (if the room temperature is cool), abruptly dropping your core body temperature, making you drowsy and ready for great sleep.
  5. Check your bedroom for electro-magnetic fields (EMFs). These can disrupt your pineal gland and the production of melatonin and serotonin, and may have other negative effects as well. To do this, you need a gauss meter. You can find various models online, starting around $50 to $200. Some experts even recommend pulling your circuit breaker before bed to shut down all power in your house.
  6. Move electrical devices away from your bed. If electrical alarm clocks or other gadgets must be used, keep them as far away from your bed as possible, preferably at least three feet. Cell phones, cordless phones, and their charging stations should ideally be kept three rooms away from your bedroom to prevent exposure to harmful and sleep-disrupting electromagnetic fields (EMFs).




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By Dr. Mercola

Fear of losing your mind is a pervasive, fear. Among Americans, the notion of losing mental capacity evokes twice as much fear as losing physical ability, and 60 percent of US adults say they are very or somewhat worried about memory loss.1

The good news is that your brain is a dynamic organ, constantly adapting and changing, for better or for worse. Many daily activities such as, lack of sleep can seriously interfere  with your memory the next day.

On the other hand, a healthy lifestyle will support your brain health and even encourage your brain to grow new neurons, a process known as neurogenesis or neuroplasticity.

Your brain's hippocampus, i.e. the memory center, is especially able to grow new cells and it's now known that your hippocampus regenerates throughout your entire lifetime (even into your 90s), provided you give it the tools to do so.

Many of the most powerful interventions for memory are also the simplest. So if you'd like to boost your memory, and protect it against negative changes, keep reading. The 11 factors that follow, as reported by TIME,2 all have the potential to mess with your memory (some in a good way and others a bad way).

11 Surprising Factors That Affect Your Memory

1. Thyroid Problems

Although your thyroid doesn't have a specific role in your brain, memory problems are a hallmark characteristic of thyroid disease. High or low thyroid levels (hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism) may lead to difficulty with memory and concentration. If you suspect you have thyroid trouble, please read these natural protocols for addressing thyroid dysfunction.

2. Menopause

Hot flashes and insomnia are common during menopause, and both can impair your sleep and contribute to memory loss. This is temporary and should improve when your menopause symptoms subside (try these simple solutions for stopping hot flashes).

3. Lack of Sleep

The process of brain growth, or neuroplasticity, is believed to underlie your brain's capacity to control behavior, including learning and memory. However, sleep and sleep loss modify the expression of several genes and gene products that may be important for synaptic plasticity.

Furthermore, certain forms of long-term potentiation, a neural process associated with the laying down of learning and memory, can be elicited in sleep, suggesting synaptic connections are strengthened while you slumber.

Among adults, a mid-day nap has even been found to dramatically boost and restore brainpower.3 Most adults need about eight hours of sleep a night; if you wake up feeling fatigued or fall asleep easily during the day, you probably need more sleep. You can find 33 tips to help you get the shut-eye you need here.

4. Anxiety and Depression

Increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol brought on by anxiety and depression causes your brain cells to lose synapses (which connect brain cells). This, in turn, makes it more difficult to form and retrieve memories. Allen Towfigh, MD, medical director of New York Neurology & Sleep Medicine, told TIME:4

"We don't understand the exact link, but strong evidence indicates depression, anxiety, and bipolar disease disrupts the neural circuitry involved in developing and retrieving memories…

The severity of the memory loss often mirrors the severity of the mood disorder—severe depression brings about equally severe memory loss."

5. Certain Medications

Many prescription drugs interfere with your memory function. This includes anxiety medications (Xanax, Valium, and Ativan), which hinder your brain's ability to transfer short-term memories to long-term "storage."

Others include tricyclic antidepressants, statin drugs, beta-blockers, narcotic painkillers, incontinence drugs, sleep aids, and antihistamines (such as Benadryl).

6. Smoking

Smoking impairs the blood supply to your brain, leading to memory lapses. Studies also show that smokers have a more rapid decline in brain function, including memory, than non-smokers, while smoking leads to the accumulation of abnormal proteins in your brain that interfere with processing and relaying information.5

7. Stress

An animal study revealed that higher levels of stress hormones can speed up short-term memory loss in older adults.6 The findings indicate that how your body responds to stress may be a factor that influences how your brain ages over time. Previous research has also linked chronic stress with working memory impairment.7

My favorite tool for stress management is Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). It's an energy psychology tool that can help reprogram your body's reactions to everyday stress, thereby reducing your chances of developing adverse health effects.

8. A Higher "Infectious Burden"

People exposed to more germs, such as the cold sore virus (herpes simplex type 1), scored 25 percent lower on cognitive tests than those with a lower "infectious burden."8 Researchers concluded that past infections may contribute to cognitive impairment, perhaps due to damage to your blood vessels.

9. Green Tea

If you want to boost your memory, drink more high-quality green tea. In a study of 12 healthy volunteers, those who received a beverage containing 27.5 grams of green tea extract showed increased connectivity between the parietal and frontal cortex of the brain compared to those who drank a non-green tea beverage.9

The increased activity was correlated with improved performance on working memory tasks, and the researchers believe the results suggest green tea may be useful for treating cognitive impairments, including dementia.

10. Exercise

Exercise encourages your brain to work at optimum capacity by stimulating nerve cells to multiply, strengthening their interconnections, and protecting them from damage. During exercise nerve cells release proteins known as neurotrophic factors. One in particular, called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), triggers numerous other chemicals that promote neural health, and directly benefits cognitive functions, including learning.

A 2010 study on primates published in Neuroscience also revealed that regular exercise not only improved blood flow to the brain, but also helped the monkeys learn new tasks twice as quickly as non-exercising monkeys. This is a benefit the researchers believe would hold true for people as well.10

In a separate one year-long study, individuals who engaged in exercise were actually growing and expanding the brain's memory center 1 percent to 2 percent per year, where typically that center would have continued to decline in size. To get the most out of your workouts, I recommend a comprehensive program that includes high-intensity interval exercise, strength training, stretching, and core work, along with regular intermittent movement.

11. Vitamin B12

B vitamins including vitamin B12 may slow brain shrinkage by as much as seven-fold in brain regions specifically known to be most impacted by Alzheimer's disease. In one study, participants taking high doses of folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12 had blood levels of homocysteine that were lowered as was the associated brain shrinkage – by up to 90 percent. The researchers noted:11

"…B vitamins lower homocysteine, which directly leads to a decrease in GM [gray matter] atrophy, thereby slowing cognitive decline. Our results show that B-vitamin supplementation can slow the atrophy of specific brain regions that are a key component of the AD [Alzheimer's disease] process and that are associated with cognitive decline."

This makes a strong case for ensuring your diet includes plenty of healthful B-vitamin sources, such as meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products, and wild-caught fish. Leafy green vegetables, beans, and peas also provide some B vitamins, but if you eat an all vegetarian or vegan diet, vitamin B12 is one of the nutrients your body is most likely deficient in. Also, when you get older, the lining of your stomach gradually loses its ability to produce hydrochloric acid, which releases vitamin B12 from your food. If you're over 50, it's safe to assume you are not absorbing vitamin B12 at an optimal level and may be at risk of deficiency.

Because vitamin B12 is the largest vitamin molecule known, it is not easily absorbed from most oral supplements. Injections or a sublingual (under your tongue) spray work far better, as they allow the large B12 molecule to be absorbed directly into your bloodstream.

Three More Little-Known Tips to Supercharge Your Memory

If you're serious about improving your memory and your cognitive function, you'll also want to know about these three important variables for brain health.

Vitamin D

Activated vitamin D receptors increase nerve growth in your brain, and researchers have also located metabolic pathways for vitamin D in the hippocampus and cerebellum of the brain, areas that are involved in planning, processing of information, and the formation of new memories. In older adults, research has shown that low vitamin D levels are associated with poorer brain function, and increasing levels may help keep older adults mentally fit. Appropriate sun exposure is all it takes to keep your levels where they need to be for healthy brain function. If this is not an option, a safe tanning bed is the next best alternative, followed by a vitamin D3 supplement.

Intermittent Fasting

Your ancient ancestors never had access to food 24/7 so your genes are optimized for periods of feast and fasting. Problem is most of us are in 24 hour feast mode.  Intermittent fasting can help your body to "reset" itself and start to burn fat instead of sugar. Further, it will help you to reduce your overall calorie consumption, which promotes brain cell growth and connectivity.

As part of a healthy lifestyle, however, I prefer an intermittent fasting schedule that simply calls for limiting your eating to a narrower window of time each day. By restricting your eating to a 6-8 hour window, you effectively fast 16-18 hours each day. To learn more, please see this previous intermittent fasting article.

Gut Health

Your gut is your "second brain," and your gut bacteria transmits information to your brain via the vagus nerve, the tenth cranial nerve that runs from your brain stem into your enteric nervous system (the nervous system of your gastrointestinal tract). There is a close connection between abnormal gut flora and abnormal brain development, and just as you have neurons in your brain, you also have neurons in your gut -- including neurons that produce neurotransmitters like serotonin, which is also found in your brain and is linked to mood.

Quite simply, your gut health can impact your brain function, psyche, and behavior, as they are interconnected and interdependent in a number of different ways. In addition to avoiding sugar, one of the best ways to support gut health is to consume beneficial bacteria. You can use a probiotic supplement for this, but I'm particularly fond of using fermented vegetables, because they can deliver extraordinarily high levels of beneficial bacteria. Most people aren't aware that in a healthy serving of sauerkraut – two to three ounces or so – you're getting the equivalent of nearly 100 capsules of the highest-potency probiotic you can buy. It's clearly one of the most cost-effective alternatives.

And Remember the Most Important Factor of All... Your Diet

The foods you eat – and don't eat – play a crucial role in your memory. Fresh vegetables are essential, as are healthy fats and avoiding sugar and grain carbohydrates. You can find detailed information about nine foods for brainpower here. For instance, curry, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, and walnuts contain antioxidants and other compounds that protect your brain health and may even stimulate the production of new brain cells. Increasing your animal-based omega-3 fat intake and reducing consumption of damaged omega-6 fats (think processed vegetable oils) in order to balance your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio is also important.

I prefer krill oil to fish oil, as krill oil also contains astaxanthin, which not only protects the omega-3 fats from oxidation but also is particularly to support brain health. Coconut oil is another healthful fat for brain function. According to research by Dr. Mary Newport, just over two tablespoons of coconut oil (about 35 ml or 7 level teaspoons) would supply you with the equivalent of 20 grams of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), which is indicated as either a preventative measure against degenerative neurological diseases or as a treatment for an already established case.



Sources:


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By Dr. Mercola

Food allergies affect an estimated 15 million Americans, including one in 13 children. Statistics indicate something strange is afoot, as food allergies in children rose by 50 percent between 1997 and 2011 alone.

Similarly, in Great Britain one in three people are allergic to something, be it pollen, dust mites, or food.1 Previous research has drawn parallels between the rise in allergies and increased antibiotic and antimicrobial use. One study2 showed exposure to antibiotics early in life increased the risk of eczema in children by 40 percent.

Other research has shown how genetically engineered foods and the use of the agricultural herbicide glyphosate destroys gut bacteria, thereby promoting allergies.

According to one recent study3, 4 common gut bacteria called Clostridia specifically help prevent sensitization to food allergens. In short, by destroying gut bacteria and altering your microbiome, agricultural chemicals like glyphosate can play a significant role in creating food allergies.

Antibiotic Pesticides Can Cause Allergic Reactions

But glyphosate is not the only culprit. Part of what makes glyphosate so harmful is the fact that it has antibiotic action, and antibiotics are also part of other pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides.

Researchers now claim to have identified the first case in which a serious allergic reaction was traced to an antibiotic pesticide.5, 6 In this case, a 10-year old girl suffered a severe allergic reaction to blueberry pie.

The culprit turned out to be a streptomycin-containing pesticide that had been applied to the blueberries. According to lead author Dr. Anne Des Roches, this is "the first report that links an allergic reaction to fruits treated with antibiotic pesticides."

As noted by allergist Dr. James Sublett:

"This is a very rare allergic reaction. Nevertheless, it's something allergists need to be aware of and that emergency room personnel may need to know about in order to help determine where anaphylactic reactions may arise."

He goes on to recommend that anyone at risk of allergies should carry epinephrine, and know how to use it. While that's certainly good advice for acute reactions, it's not really an ideal long-term answer.

Truly, anyone suffering from food sensitivities or allergies would be wise to reconsider the kinds of foods they eat, and I don't mean simply avoiding foods known to cause a reaction. Ultimately, your best bet is to switch to an all-organic diet.

This is particularly important for young children and pregnant women, but I really believe this is the answer for everyone, whether you're prone to allergies or not.

Agricultural Antibiotics Also Promote Antibiotic-Resistant Disease

Along with its potential for causing food allergies, agricultural antibiotics are also a primary driver of antibiotic resistant disease. It's important to realize that antibiotics are used:

  • In livestock as a growth promoter, and  to compensate for unsanitary living conditions
  • In pesticides applied to fresh fruits and vegetables. Vegetables can also be contaminated with antibiotics if the farmer uses manure from treated cows as crop fertilizer

I believe these are compelling reasons to eat organically. In the case of meat and other animal products such as eggs and dairy, your best bet is organic grass-fed or pastured varieties, as organic standards forbid antibiotic use for non-medical reasons.

Organic standards7 also do not permit synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes, petroleum-based fertilizers, or sewage sludge-based fertilizers. Organic products cannot be irradiated, are not allowed to contain preservatives or flavor-enhancing chemicals, nor can they contain traces of heavy metals or other contaminants in excess of tolerances set by the FDA.8

Additionally, the pesticide residue level cannot be higher than five percent of the maximum EPA pesticide tolerance.9 For the complete National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances under the USDA organic label, see this reference.10

It's worth noting that this is not the first time agricultural chemicals have been linked to allergies.

The US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005-200611 concluded that:

"High urine levels of dichlorophenols are associated with the presence of sensitization to foods in a US population. Excessive use of dichlorophenols may contribute to the increasing incidence of food allergies in westernized societies."

Dichlorophenols are also used to chlorinate water,12 which may also add to the problem.

Factory Farming Is a Primary Source of Antibacterial Resistance

According to a 2013 report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on antibiotic-resistant threats,13 drug-resistant organisms in the American food supply pose "a serious threat" to public health. The report linked 22 percent of antibiotic-resistant illness in humans to contaminated foods, and earlier research14 has suggested you have a 50/50 chance of buying meat tainted with drug-resistant bacteria. Another 2013 paper by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) titled Antibiotic Resistance in Foodborne Pathogens,15 reports that between 1973 and 2011, there were 55 antibiotic-resistant foodborne outbreaks in the US.

More than half of the outbreaks involved dairy products, ground beef, and poultry. More than half of the outbreaks also involved pathogens resistant to five or more antibiotics! The fact of the matter is, when antibiotics are routinely used to raise food animals, the microbes develop resistance to the drug, which makes antibiotics less effective for treating disease in humans. And without effective antibiotics, it will be very difficult to care for premature babies, cancer patients, organ transplants, surgeries, and emergency room medicine, just to name a few.   

As noted in the video above, without antibiotics, the rate of post-operative infection can reach as high as 50 percent, and about three out of every 10 affected patients will die as a result... We're already seeing the effects of antibiotic overuse. Hospital-acquired infections now affect one in 25 patients, and many of these infections are drug resistant. According to CDC statistics,16 two million American adults and children become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year, and at least 23,000 of them die.

Crazy enough, even though certain organisms have already become immune to every single antibiotic we have, including so-called "last resort" drugs, factory farms are still using some of these last resort drugs in their livestock for non-medical purposes! It is truly difficult to understand how a little extra profit can justify the use of drugs that will, in the end, lead to the death of thousands of people, courtesy of drug-resistance!

Antibiotics in Agriculture Must Be Eliminated to Solve This Problem

Use of antibiotics in healthy livestock (including farmed fish) account for about 80 percent of all antibiotic use in the US,17 so in order to halt the growth of antibiotic resistance we really must address this source. According to a 2009 report18 by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on this subject, factory farms used 29 million pounds of antibiotics that year alone.

The FDA recently asked drug companies to voluntarily remove growth-promotion claims from certain antibiotics that are valuable in treating human disease. This would reduce usage by limiting the drug to medical purposes only. But there are so many loopholes that it's highly unlikely that this voluntary strategy is going to be sufficient. Especially when you consider the rapid increase in antibiotic-resistance we're now seeing. Just last year, the CDC published a report19 admitting that antibiotics used in livestock plays a significant role in antibiotic resistance and "should be phased out." 

Yet despite all the evidence of grave harm, very little is being done to actually curtail agricultural use of antibiotics. In mid-July, US Congresswoman and microbiologist Louise M. Slaughter20 (NY-D) asked President Obama to issue an executive order requiring all federally purchased meat to be raised without antibiotics. While that would certainly be a start, what about the rest of us?

I believe every American deserves antibiotic-free food, not just the beneficiaries of the federal government. The answer, for the time being, is to take the required steps to seek out organically raised foods on your own and not rely on the government to protect you...

Precautionary Steps to Help Prevent Food Allergies

Since food allergies appear to be closely linked to abnormal gut flora, courtesy of antibiotics (and other chemicals) in food, it would be wise to not only avoid known allergens, but to also avoid foods known to kill beneficial gut bacteria. To promote optimal gut health and beneficial bacteria that may help ward off allergy sensitization, I recommend avoiding the following:

Grains and sugar, as it promotes the growth of pathogenic yeast and other fungi. Grains containing gluten are particularly damaging to your microflora and overall health.21, 22 
Genetically engineered foods, as they contain some of the highest amounts of glyphosate. This agricultural herbicide has been found to decimate microbes, and tend to preferentially attack beneficial bacteria.
Processed and pasteurized foods, which harm your good bacteria.
Conventionally-raised meats and other animal products; CAFO animals are routinely fed low-dose antibiotics and GE livestock feed.
Chlorinated tap water, as chlorine kills not only pathogenic bacteria in the water but also beneficial bacteria in your gut.
Medical 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 and any product containing antimicrobials such as triclosan.
Stress
Pollution

The GAPS diet is perhaps one of the most effective ways to resolve food allergies as it "heals and seals" your gut. Leaky gut is a condition in which large food particles are allowed to bypass the protective lining of your intestinal wall. When these molecules enter your bloodstream, where they do not belong, your body creates an immune response, i.e. an allergic response. The GAPS protocol is designed to restore the integrity of your gut lining, and in order for that to happen, you need:

  • The proper building blocks in terms of nutrients
  • Beneficial gut microbes

In a nutshell, you need to drive out pathogens and replace them with beneficial bacteria, and you need to provide the appropriate nutrients in order for your gut lining to produce new cells. And that's what the GAPS Nutritional Protocol does.

Making Healthier Choices Can Reduce Your Allergy Risk

If you are eating any factory farmed and mass-processed meats, you are not only getting antibiotics but also many bacteria that are resistant to them. And if the meat is not cooked properly you can become infected with these antibiotic resistant bugs. The only way to avoid antibiotics in your food is to make sure you're eating organic produce and organically-raised, grass-fed or pastured meats and animal products.

Along with cultured or fermented foods, eating plenty of whole, unprocessed, unsweetened foods will also optimize your gut microbiome. (You may also want to consider a high-potency probiotic supplement, but realize that there is no substitute for the real food.) To source pure, healthful meats and fresh produce, your best option is to get to know a local farmer who uses non-toxic farming methods. If you live in an urban area, there are increasing numbers of community-supported agriculture programs available that offer access to healthy, locally grown foods even if you live in the heart of the city.

Resources to Find Healthy Food on Any Budget

Being able to find high-quality meat is such an important issue for me personally that I've made connections with sources I know provide high-quality organic grass-fed beef and free-range chicken, both of which you can find in my online store. You can eliminate the shipping charges, however, if you find a trusted farmer locally. If you live in the US, the following organizations can also help you locate farm-fresh foods:

Even the underprivileged may be able to obtain fresh, locally-grown produce at their local food pantry, provided the food pantry accepts fresh food donations. Tens of millions of home gardeners throw away food from their gardens while their neighbors go hungry. AmpleHarvest.org addresses the twin problems of hunger and food waste by connecting growers and gardeners with local food pantries. While there's no guarantee that donated produce will be organic, many gardeners do employ organic principles.

AmpleHarvest.org's database will tell you where the nearest food pantry accepting fresh foods is. AmpleHarvest.org24 launched in 2009, and today has a database of nearly 7,000 participating food pantries across the nation—one out of every five food pantries has signed up. It's a fantastic resource that has the potential to change the lives of many who simply cannot afford to buy fresh produce.

 

Weston Price Foundation23 has local chapters in most states, and many of them are connected with buying clubs in which you can easily purchase organic foods, including grass fed raw dairy products like milk and butter.
Local Harvest -- This Web site will help you find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.
Farmers' Markets -- A national listing of farmers' markets.
Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals -- The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) -- CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.
FoodRoutes -- The FoodRoutes "Find Good Food" map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs, and markets near you.

 





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