By Dr. Mercola
The corporate and regulatory forces that are out to get genetically engineered (GE) foods onto your dinner plate by any means possible are not confined to the United States.
In his documentary, Poison on the Platter, Indian filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt examines from a unique non-Western perspective how multinational corporations and government regulators have conspired to spread GE foods across India.
The film provides an insightful perspective about the world impact of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), as discussed by scientists on the other side of the globe.
If you don’t believe contamination of our food supply by GMOs holds the potential for planetary disaster, you might change your mind after seeing this film. Mahesh Bhatt warns:
“In their mad rush to capture the multi-billion dollar Indian agriculture and food industry, the biotech multinational companies are bulldozing warnings by scientists about the adverse impact of GM foods on health and environment...
[T]his is hurtling mankind toward a disaster, which will be far more destructive than anything the world has seen so far, simply because it will affect every single person living on this planet.”
GE proponents claim that GE foods are the solution to world hunger, increased crop yield and variety, lowered input costs, and reduced environmental impact.
They also claim that foods derived from GMOs are “substantially equivalent” to foods created by conventional growing methods. The problem is that none of those claims are supported by science.
The List of Risks Posed by GE Foods Continues to Grow
Epidemiological patterns reflect a rise in more than 30 human diseases alongside the steady increase of GE ingredients in our food supply and the dramatic increase in the use of agrichemicals, such as glyphosate.
Glyphosate is not “just” an herbicide—it was originally patented as a mineral chelator. It immobilizes nutrients, making them unavailable for your body. Glyphosate is also patented as an antibiotic that can devastate human gut bacteria.
When you mix the genes of one species with those of another, you’re courting disaster. GE food trials involving laboratory animals have uncovered higher mortality, infertility, and multi-organ damage—such as bleeding stomachs.
Even Monsanto’s own mouse studies demonstrated that GE foods have toxic effects on multiple organs, including the liver and kidneys. One of the most ominous concerns about the GE food system is its impact on our soils.
Monoculture and massive agrichemical use are decimating soils at an alarming rate—soils that took thousands of years to develop. Trillions of beneficial microbes that make up healthy soil are destroyed, depleting its nitrogen and leading to soil erosion, pollution, and wasted water from massive runoff.
Nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizer runoff has created dead zones along many coastal waterways. GE crop monocultures destroy in a blink what nature has taken millennia to create.
US Recklessly Speeds Ahead with Next-Generation GE Crops
What’s going on in India is not that different from the US. Despite all of the hellish evidence, there seems to be no risk substantial enough to deter the American government from pushing ahead with new GE seeds.
Herbicide and insecticide use is skyrocketing. USDA recently deregulated Dow Chemical’s next-generation GE crops, which are not only glyphosate-resistant, but also carry resistance to toxins like the Agent Orange ingredient 2,4-D and Dicamba. EPA has also approved Enlist Duo—a new herbicide to be used on Dow’s 2,4-D and glyphosate-resistant corn and soybeans.
EPA has also doubled the amount of glyphosate allowed in your food. For example, soybean oil is allowed to contain a whopping 400 times the limit at which it can impact your health. Widespread use of GMOs has led to an enormous resistance problem.
Superweeds and resistant pests are rapidly spreading across farmland, which has necessitated the deployment of even more noxious chemicals. USDA data reveals that glyphosate use has increased 12-fold since 1996. Meanwhile, weed resistance has been documented on 60 million farm acres across the US.
The US Earns the Gold for Highest GE Food Production
The US is the world’s leading producer of GE foods, many of which are being exported to countries, like India, that will allow it. Monsanto is the largest manufacturer of GE seeds, producing 90 percent of those used across the globe. Yet three quarters of Americans are not even aware that they consume GE ingredients in almost every meal.
Many other countries believe that GE foods must be safe because Americans have been consuming them for two decades—and “not dying from them.” However, the fallacy of this reasoning is evident when you realize that it took the US about 500 years to realize that tobacco wasn’t safe.
The incidence of chronic diseases in the US has escalated since the introduction of GE foods. Therefore, no one can claim that Americans are healthy, and no one can say with any assurance that GE foods are safe. Many scientists argue that we haven't had enough time for the effects of GMOs to fully reveal themselves across populations—and when they do, the damage may be irreparable. In the words of GMO expert and founder of the Institute for Responsible Technology Jeffrey Smith:
“I can say with absolute confidence that there is irrefutable and overwhelming evidence that genetically engineered foods are harmful and that they are not being evaluated properly by the governments of India, United States, the European Union, or anywhere in the world. This is one of the most dangerous technologies ever introduced on Earth, and it’s being deployed in our food supply. It is madness! What we need is a political willingness to say no more... We don’t understand the language of DNA.”
Cheap Food Brings Expensive Healthcare
Genetically engineered foods have increased to keep pace with an exploding demand for "cheap food." Farmers are constantly pushed for higher yields. The current system is creating a glut of ecological problems, such as ravaging our bee populations. Forty years ago, Americans spent 16 percent of their income on food and eight percent on healthcare; today, those numbers are reversed. This "cheap food" system has bought us the most expensive healthcare in the world. In the same way that medical schools and universities are controlled by the drug industry, the food system is controlled by the agrichemical industry.
The industrialized food system is putting many small farmers out of business. Land grant universities, funded by corporate agribusiness, are under enormous pressure to shush any research that goes against the party line. Educational institutions are afraid to "bite the hand that feeds them." Mark Kastel, Co-Founder of The Cornucopia Institute, explains how other strategies are used to ensure that the public never finds out about the health dangers of GMOs:
"Monsanto and others actually have contracts with farmers, a technology agreement that prohibits the farmers from using any of their crop for research—other than agronomic research and yield research. So they can't partner with a physician or a medical researcher to take a look at the impact on human health. They've really impeded our ability to know whether or not GMOs are safe."
Big Bucks Buys Big Votes
Money changes everything. Monsanto, Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and other pro-GMO forces continue pouring millions into every anti-labeling campaign in an effort to prevent you from knowing what you’re eating. Their strategy consists of false claims, lies, and scare tactics, but their money is buying them smaller and smaller margins—labeling laws are coming closer to passage with each election. Every “loss” is actually a “win” when you look at the trends. As people gain awareness of the issues, they will refuse to stand for the status quo.
- In 2012, industry spent $45 million to defeat California’s Prop 37 labeling bill, and it lost by six points.
- Between 2012 and mid-2014, Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) successfully blocked GMO labeling laws in over 30 states, at a price tag of more than $100 million. According to the most recent analysis, opponents of GMO labeling spent more than $27 million on lobbying in the first six months of 2014 alone—this is about three times more than they spent during all of 2013.
- In the November 2014 election, the GMO industry and supporters spent $37 million to prevent Oregon and Colorado from passing their respective labeling laws. This effort was successful in Colorado, but in Oregon the race couldn’t be any tighter!
It’s Time to Stop the Insanity
Election season may be over, but you can vote with your wallet every day. If enough of us make our voices heard, things CAN change. For example, you can boycott GMA Member Traitor Brands, which helps level the playing field. As always, continue educating yourself and sharing what you've learned. Think of yourself as being pro-evidence, as opposed to anti-GMO. Just because you question something doesn't mean you're opposed to it—you just want more evidence so that you can make a good decision for yourself and your family. This film provides one more learning tool that you can forward to your friends and family, to help them take charge of their health.
Toxic Herbicides Now Common in Pregnant Women’s Breast Milk, Placentas, and Umbilical Cords
GMO-Science Takes a Blow as Studies Are Retracted
By Dr. Mercola
Painting your nails may seem like an innocent part of your beauty routine, but inside those colorful bottles are some not-so-pretty secrets. Toxic chemicals are common in nail polish, and there’s often no way for you to know exactly what’s lurking inside.
Some might argue that occasional application of nail polish is only going to expose you to trace amounts of chemicals in levels too low to raise concern, but nail polish is just one beauty product that many women use on a regular basis.
When you add up the toxic exposures from nail polish, however “small” they may (or may not) be, with those from fragrances, makeup, body lotions, and more, it can no longer be brushed off as insignificant.
Many chemicals, including those known as endocrine disruptors, have shown adverse effects at even very low doses, and even more concerning are the effects of such chemicals on the most vulnerable populations, like pregnant women and young children (who may also have their nails painted on occasion).
So knowing what’s in your nail polish should not be an afterthought. Americans spend upwards of $768 million a year on nail polish, and nail products represent the strongest and fastest-growing segment of the beauty industry.1
You have the power to change the direction this industry is heading by demanding safe, truly non-toxic nail products… and supporting only those brands that follow suit.
Nail Polish Plasticizer Linked to Birth Defects in Animals
In 2000, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a study showing that 37 nail polishes from 22 companies contained dibutyl phthalate (DBP). DBP is known to cause lifelong reproductive impairments in male rats, and has been shown to damage the testes, prostate gland, epididymis, penis, and seminal vesicles in animals.
It’s used in nail polish because it increases flexibility and shine, but research by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that all 289 people tested had DBP in their bodies.2
Worse still, this chemical, which remember is linked to birth defects in animals, was found at the highest levels in women of childbearing age. According to EWG:3
“Women of childbearing age appeared to receive the highest exposures to DBP. Estimates based on data published by CDC researchers in October 2000 indicate that DBP exposures for 3 million women of childbearing age may be up to 20 times greater than for the average person.
Children born to these women would receive considerable exposure while in the womb, undergoing the most sensitive period of growth and development.”
For instance, in one study, women who had higher concentrations of two types of phthalates (DEHP and DBP) also had boys who appeared more feminized in their personality while playing. EWG’s findings were the impetus for a coalition of environmental and public health organizations, including EWG, to begin a push for companies to get these toxic chemicals out of their products…
The ‘Toxic Trio’ in Nail Polish
DBP is the first of the toxic trio. The other two toxic ingredients commonly found in nail polish include:
- Toluene, which is made from petroleum or coal tar. Chronic exposure linked to anemia, lowered blood cell count, liver or kidney damage, and may affect a developing fetus. In nail polish, toluene is used to give the polish a smooth finish.
- Formaldehyde, a skin, eye, and respiratory irritant, and a known carcinogen (formaldehyde exposure has been associated with leukemia specifically). Formaldehyde is used in nail polish as a hardener and preservative.
The chemicals are not only a concern for women using the polish, but also for workers in nail salons, who are exposed to these chemicals on a daily basis. The good news is that, beginning in 2006, some large cosmetic companies announced they were going “three free.”
They pledged to remove the toxic trio from their nail polish. The bad news is that, in 2012, California’s Department of Toxic Substances revealed that some products claiming to be non-toxic and even “three free” still contained the toxic chemicals.4 For instance:5
- 10 of 12 nail polishes that claimed to be free of toluene contained the substance
- 5 of 7 nail polishes that claimed to be free of all three chemicals actually contained one or more at elevated levels
As noted by Rebecca Sutton, Ph.D., senior scientist with Environmental Working Group:6
“Whether cosmetics products are mislabeled or not, the truth is many personal care products are delivering a number of highly suspicious chemicals into our bodies…
The industry is largely unregulated, allowing cosmetics companies to use any mix of chemicals they choose. Professional products found in salons are not required to provide consumers with even the most basic information on their ingredients.”
The Next Generation of Nail Polishes Are ‘5 Free’
Three-free nail polishes are now relatively common, although, as the California study showed, you can’t necessarily take the label at face value. The “next generation” of polish has taken it a step further and (supposedly) removed five harmful toxins. Five-free nail polish should be free from DBP, toluene, and formaldehyde, plus:
- Formaldehyde resin: Although formaldehyde resin hasn’t been linked to cancer like regular formaldehyde, it’s a skin allergen known to cause dermatitis. It can also off-gas formaldehyde and may contain residual levels of formaldehyde.
- Camphor: This is a scented substance derived from the wood of the camphor tree. It can cause nausea, dizziness, and headaches when inhaled, especially in large doses, making it a concern for nail technicians.
If a nail polish is five-free does that mean it’s safe? Not necessarily. A single nail polish can contain dozens of chemicals, and, as is the case with most cosmetics, it’s a largely unregulated industry.
Almost 13,000 chemicals are used in cosmetics, and only about 10 percent have been evaluated for safety. And although the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) actually has direct authority to regulate harmful ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products, it doesn't exercise it…
What does this mean for a health-conscious person like yourself? When you use nail polish, you’re taking a chance that you’re applying harmful chemicals to your nails, even if it claims to be non-toxic. As pediatrician Dr. Maja Castillo told the Huffington Post:7
"I don't think there have been any definitive studies that show that nail polish alone is enough to cause any harm… But I think that the risks outweigh any potential 'benefits.'"
This may be especially true for children, who are likely to chew on their nails and end up ingesting much of the polish. But regardless of its intended recipient, if you’re going to paint your nails your best bet is to choose a reputable eco-friendly brand that is water-based and centered around using natural, non-toxic ingredients. If you visit a nail salon, bring your own natural polish with you, or visit a green salon that offers such products. Alternatively, try the natural option below for making your nails shine…
A Natural Way to Create Beautiful Nails
Simple buffing can create a nice, smooth sheen to your nails, without using any nail polish whatsoever. An added boon is that it may actually help your nails grow stronger and longer due to increased circulation, and you won't have to worry about chipped nail polish either. The following video demonstrates how to buff your own nails.
Documentary Reveals the Dangers of Everyday Chemicals
New Warning About Manicures, Piercings and Tattoos
By Dr. Mercola
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Mark Kastel, co-founder of The Cornucopia Institute, about their long-awaited and much-needed Yogurt Report. The interview took place at the recent Heirloom Seed Festival in Santa Rosa, CA, where we both had the honor of speaking.
The idea for the Yogurt Report was seeded about two years ago. I was out of town and a friend requested yogurt, so I went out looking for some in a local grocery store.
To my dismay, I couldn't find a single healthy yogurt. They were all junk food disguised as "health food." Previous to this experience, I was unaware of how truly degenerated most commercial yogurts had become.
I believe this is really a strong case of deception, so I turned to The Cornucopia Institute. It required two years of investigation.
If you're eating yogurt to help optimize your gut flora, you need to review this report. Chances are you're currently eating yogurt that has more similarities with candy than anything else...
Have You Been Deceived?
Most commercial yogurts are chockfull of artificial colors, flavors, additives, and sugar, typically as fructose (high fructose corn syrup), which actually nourishes disease-causing bacteria, yeast, and fungi in your gut. Since your gut has limited real estate, this smothers your beneficial bacteria and gets you sick.
Sugar also promotes insulin resistance, which is a driving factor of most chronic disease. Virtually all commercially available yogurts use pasteurized milk (heated at high temperature) even before it is reheated to make the yogurt itself, and this has its own drawbacks.
The top-rated yogurts are generally VAT pasteurized at relatively low temperatures, and are made from raw milk rather than previously pasteurized milk. While not as advantageous as making yogurt from raw milk in your own home, it's certainly better than most commercial yogurt.
The report also took a look at the food industry's labeling campaign, Live and Active Cultures, which is supposed to help consumers select products with high levels of healthy probiotics.
To assess probiotic content, Cornucopia tested yogurt purchased directly from grocery stores instead of following the industry's practice of testing levels at the factory. As it turns out, many of the brands bearing the Live and Active Cultures label contain LOWER levels of probiotics than the top-rated organic brands in Cornucopia's report and scorecardthat are not part of the Live and Active campaign.
The report also includes a comparative cost analysis of commercial yogurt brands. The good news is that many organic yogurts are actually less expensive, on a price-per-ounce basis, than conventional, heavily-processed yogurts.
Cornucopia Files Complaint; Requests FDA Investigation
As noted in their press release announcing the release of the report:
"Based on its industry investigation, The Cornucopia Institute has filed a formal complaint with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asking the agency to investigate whether or not certain yogurts on the market, manufactured by such companies as Yoplait, Dannon, and many store brands including Walmart's Great Value, violate the legal standard of identity for products labeled as yogurt.
The Cornucopia Institute requests that the legal definition of 'yogurt' be enforced for product labeling, just as it is for products labeled 'cheese.'
'The reason that Kraft has to call Velveeta® 'processed cheese-food' is that some of the ingredients used, like vegetable oil, cannot legally be in a product marketed as 'cheese',' Kastel added.
Cornucopia alleges that some of the ingredients that manufactures are using in yogurt, like milk protein concentrate (MPC), typically imported from countries like India, do not meet yogurt's current legal standard of identity."
Why You Need Probiotics
Your body contains about 100 trillion bacteria, mostly in your gut, which is more than 10 times the number of cells you have in your entire body. It's now quite clear that the type and quantity of micro-organisms in your gut interact with your body in ways that can either prevent or encourage the development of many diseases.
A healthy microbiome is not only important for optimal digestion of food and absorption of nutrients, these bacteria also help your body produce vitamins, absorb minerals, aid in the elimination of toxins, and are responsible for a good part of your immune system and mental health, including your ability to resist anxiety, stress, and depression.
As shown in earlier research, certain microorganisms are particularly efficient at binding to certain toxins and/or chemicals, including pesticides. Here, they found that L. rhamnosus had a preference for binding (and eliminating) mercury and arsenic.
According to the authors: "Probiotic food produced locally represents a nutritious and affordable means for people in some developing countries to counter exposures to toxic metals." Probiotics also have dozens of other beneficial pharmacological actions,3 including:
Anti-bacterial Anti-allergenic Anti-viral Immunomodulatory Anti-infective Antioxidant Antiproliferative Apoptopic (cellular self-destruction) Antidepressive Antifungal Cardioprotective Gastroprotective Radio- and chemo protective Upregulates glutathione and certain glycoproteins that help regulate immune responses, including interleukin-4, interleukin-10, and interleukin-12 Downregulates interleukin-6 (a cytokine involved in chronic inflammation and age-related diseases) Inhibits tumor necrosis factor (TNF) alpha inhibitor, NF-kappaB, epidermal growth factor receptor, and more
It's also important to realize that your gut bacteria are very vulnerable to lifestyle and environmental factors. Some of the top offenders known to decimate your microbiome include the following—all of which are best avoided:
Sugar/fructose Refined grains Processed foods Antibiotics (including antibiotics given to livestock for food production) Chlorinated and fluoridated water Antibacterial soaps, etc. Agricultural chemicals and pesticides Pollution
Brain Health Is Strongly Tied to Gut Health
While many think of their brain as the organ in charge of their mental health, your gut may actually play a far more significant role. Mounting research indicates that problems in your gut can directly impact your mental health, leading to issues like anxiety and depression.4 For example:
- One proof-of-concept study5, 6 conducted by researchers at UCLA found that yogurt containing several strains of probiotics thought to have a beneficial impact on intestinal health also had a beneficial impact on participants' brain function; decreasing activity in brain regions that control central processing of emotion and sensation such as anxiety.
- The Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility7 reported the probiotic known as Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001 normalized anxiety-like behavior in mice with infectious colitis by modulating the vagal pathways within the gut-brain.
- Other research8 found that the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus had a marked effect on GABA levels—an inhibitory neurotransmitter that is significantly involved in regulating many physiological and psychological processes—in certain brain regions and lowered the stress-induced hormone corticosterone, resulting in reduced anxiety- and depression-related behavior.
Previous studies have confirmed that what you eat can quickly alter the composition of your gut flora. Specifically, eating a high-vegetable, fiber-based diet produces a profoundly different composition of microbiota than a more typical Western diet high in carbs and processed fats.
This is part and parcel of the problem with most commercially available yogurts—they're widely promoted as healthy because they contain (added) probiotics, but then they're so loaded with ingredients that will counteract all the good that they're basically useless... The negative effects of the sugar far outweigh any marginal benefits of the minimal beneficial bacteria they have. Remember, the most important step in building healthy gut flora is avoiding sugar as that will cause disease-causing microbes to crowd out your beneficial flora.
Surprisingly, Mark Kastel notes that some of the organic brands of yogurt actually contained some of the highest amounts of sugar! It's important to realize that some yogurt can contain as much sugar as candy or cookies, which most responsible parents would not feed their children for breakfast. Artificial flavors are also commonly used.
You Can Easily and Inexpensively Make Your Own Yogurt
Your absolute best bet, when it comes to yogurt, is to make your own using a starter culture and raw grass-fed milk. Raw organic milk from grass-fed cows not only contains beneficial bacteria that prime your immune system and can help reduce allergies, it's also an outstanding source of vitamins (especially vitamin A), zinc, enzymes, and healthy fats. Raw organic milk is not associated with any of the health problems of pasteurized milk such as rheumatoid arthritis, skin rashes, diarrhea, and cramps.
To find a local source of raw grass-fed milk, see RealMilk.com.
While delicious as is, you could add a natural sweetener to it. Mark suggests whole food sweeteners such as raw organic honey or maple syrup, for example. You can also add flavor without sweetening it up by adding some vanilla extract, or a squirt of lime or lemon juice. Whole berries or fruits are another obvious alternative. Just be mindful not to overdo it, especially if you're insulin or leptin resistant—and about 80 percent of Americans are.
Nourish Your Microbiome with Organic Yogurt for Optimal Health
Cultured foods like yogurt are good sources of natural, healthy bacteria, provided they're traditionally fermented and unpasteurized. One of the best and least expensive ways to get healthy bacteria through your diet is to obtain raw milk and convert it to yogurt or kefir. It's really easy to make at home. All you need is some starter granules in a quart of raw milk, which you leave at room temperature overnight.
By the time you wake up in the morning you will likely have kefir. If it hasn't obtained the consistency of yogurt, you might want to set it out a bit longer and then store it in the fridge.
A quart of kefir has far more active bacteria than you'd obtain from a probiotic supplement, and it's very economical as you can reuse the kefir from the original quart of milk about 10 times before you need to start a new culture pack. Just one starter package of kefir granules can convert about 50 gallons of milk to kefir! Cultured foods should be a regular part of your diet, and if you eat enough of them you will keep your digestive tract well supplied with good bacteria. There may still be times when a probiotic supplement is necessary, but for day-to-day gut health maintenance, yogurt and other traditionally cultured or fermented foods are truly ideal choices.
If You Can't Beat Depression, This Could be Why
Six Surprising Foods with More Sugar than a Twinkie
By Dr. Mercola
The majority of US workers (52 percent) check their e-mail during non-work hours, including on sick days.1 Depending on your employer, it may be an unspoken requirement to respond immediately, but, more likely, you respond right away not because of actual workplace policy but due to a phenomenon known as “telepressure.”
Telepressure, according to Northern Illinois University Larissa Barber, PhD, is “the urge to respond immediately to work-related messages, no matter when they come.”2 Some might find this to be efficient, but what it really does is blur the line between your work life and your personal life, such that you may rarely get a real rest.
Barber’s study was revealing… those who felt greater telepressure, and therefore a stronger urge to check and respond to e-mails at all hours, faced some serious consequences. As noted in the Journal of Occupational Health and Psychology:3
“This experience [workplace telepressure] can lead to fast response times and thus faster decisions and other outcomes initially. However, research from the stress and recovery literature suggests that the defining features of workplace telepressure interfere with needed work recovery time and stress-related outcomes.”
What Are the Risks of Being Always Accessible?
Those who experienced greater telepressure, and therefore made a habit of responding to e-mails ASAP no matter what the hour, reported:
- Worse sleep
- Higher levels of burnout (physical and cognitive)
- Increased health-related absences from work
As Barber told TIME:4
“It’s like your to-do list is piling up, so you’re cognitively ruminating over these things in the evening and re-exposing yourself to workplace stressors… When people don’t have this recovery time, it switches them into an exhaustion state, so they go to work the next day not being engaged.”
This is not a uniquely American problem, of course. In the European Union, surveys show that people are finding it increasingly difficult to stop their work life from blending with their private life.5 And in Germany, psychological illness is the reason for 14 percent of missed work days, which is a 50 percent rise over the last 12 years.6
And according to a survey of more than 2,000 people, work topped the list as the most stressful factor in people's lives. Workplace stress resulted in 7 percent of adults having suicidal thoughts.
That figure was even higher among 18-24-year olds — as many as 10 percent in this age group have had suicidal thoughts as a result of work stress. One in five people also reported developing anxiety due to work-related stresses, and even more disturbingly, nearly 60 percent reported using alcohol after work to cope.7
Without the necessary downtime during non-work hours, it’s easy to see how this stress and burnout could quickly spiral out of control. And the cost associated with all this stress goes beyond that of an individual’s health. It’s also costly to employers.
“Stress-related health expenses, productivity losses and the costs associated with high employee turnover rates is currently costing American companies an estimated $360 billion each year.”8
Germany Considers Law to Protect Citizens from Work-Related Stress
In the US, where close to one in four Americans receive no paid vacation or holidays, leading to a country known as the “no-vacation nation,” workplace well-being is not often an issue that ends up on the ballot (and least not favorably).9
This is not the case in certain other countries, like France, where a legally binding labor agreement introduced this year mandates that 250,000 employees “disconnect” from work in every way outside of working hours (and this is in addition to the 35-hour workweek the country adopted in 1999).10
In Germany, meanwhile, the labor minister has commissioned a study to define the cost of work-related stress to the economy, which might “pave the way” for an anti-stress act that was recently proposed by Germany’s metalworkers’ union. That act includes wording that employees should be protected from being “permanently reachable by modern means of communication.”11
Already, certain German employers have taken matters into their own hands. Volkswagen, for instance, stopped its servers from sending emails to certain employees outside of working hours back in 2011. And Daimler has given 100,000 workers the option of having their emails automatically deleted while they’re on vacation.12
Another Reason to Avoid Checking Your E-Mails After Work…
Checking e-mails late at night not only exposes you to work-related stress… it also exposes you to artificial light. The quality of your sleep has a lot to do with light, both outdoor and indoor lighting, because it serves as the major synchronizer of your master clock.
Exposure to even small amounts of light from your computer, tablet, or smartphone can interfere with your body’s production of melatonin, which helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. The research is quite clear that people who use their computer or smartphones near bedtime are more likely to report symptoms of insomnia.13
Plus, when you're connected to the Internet, your phone or computer are communicating with nearby cell towers, which means they're also emitting low levels of radiation. One 2008 study revealed that people exposed to radiation from their mobile phones for three hours before bedtime had more trouble falling asleep and staying in a deep sleep.14
I recommend turning off electronic gadgets at least an hour prior to bedtime, but sooner is better. If you must check an e-mail at night, you can try a free computer program called f.lux (see JustGetFlux.com), which alters the color temperature of your computer screen as the day goes on, pulling out the blue wavelengths (which suppress melatonin production) as it gets late. You can also wear yellow-tinted glasses, which block the blue wavelengths of light.
It’s Important to Set Boundaries for Your Work Hours
In an interview with the Atlantic,15 writer Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, explained that birth rates are actually declining in the US.
Young people simply don't see how they can juggle both work and family life, with the latter being ultimately sacrificed. Busyness and "living a fast-paced life" are increasingly being viewed as signs of status. The more e-mails you have to check in a day, the more important you are.
The more meetings you attend, phone calls you receive, and lessons your child attends, the better. On the work front, especially, extreme hours are valued and overwork has become the norm. This has a tremendous impact on your quality of life outside of work, of course, as many are unable to fully disconnect from work, unwind, and pursue valuable leisure pursuits. As Schulte explained:
"…overwork has really become pervasive. I'm not talking about hard work. I'm all for hard work that we find meaning in. But overwork leaves us burned out and disengaged butts in chairs at work and fried at home without the energy to do much more than flop down in front of the boob tube."
Not quite the leisure the ancient Greek philosophers had in mind when they said pure leisure was that place where we both refreshed the soul and become most fully human... Against that backdrop comes technology and the ability to be connected 24/7,
This leads to a feeling of constantly being "on call," that you can never quite get away from work, that the boundaries that used to keep work more contained have bled and spilled over into the hours of the day that used to be for family, for self, for leisure, for sleep."
One solution is to set boundaries that help delineate work and personal time. Reserve your morning for exercise and meditation, for example, and don’t check e-mail until you get into the office. After your work has concluded for the day, ‘unplug’ from all technology to give yourself time to recharge.
Are You Ready to Unwind? Make the Most of Your Non-Work Hours
After you've gone to work, finished your errands or household chores, and gotten your kids to bed, many are simply too tired to think about stress relief, so they zone out to mindless entertainment or social media and go to bed feeling frazzled and anxious (maybe after checking more work e-mails, too)… not surprisingly, they then start off the next day feeling much the same. It's a vicious cycle, but one that's easily broken by turning stress management into a habit. You needn't devote hours to stress relief every day. Instead, you'll find that activities you already do can work wonders for calming your nerves, especially if you make a commitment to doing them on most days of the week. Try…
Exercise affects a neurotransmitter that has an antidepressant-like effect on your brain while helping to decrease muscle tension.16 Exercise also guards against the adverse physical effects of stress. During periods of high stress, those who exercised less frequently had 37 percent more physical symptoms than those who exercised more often.17
2. Spend More Time in Nature
Going outdoors helps to relieve your stress naturally, with research showing levels of the stress hormone cortisol lower in those who live in areas with the most green space, as are their self-reported feelings of stress.18 Even five minutes in nature can help reduce stress and boost your mood.
3. Focus on Your Breathing
Learning to breathe mindfully can modify and accelerate your body's inherent self-regulating physiological and bioenergetic mechanisms. These changes are in large part due to the fact that you're oxygenating your body properly as well as correcting your internal and energetic balance, and it has a direct impact on your nervous system. Ideally, you should be breathing primarily through your nose. Learning a simple technique called Buteyko breathing can help you restore normal and beneficial breathing patterns.
4. Participate in Activities You Enjoy
Engaging in a hobby gives you crucial time to play and simply enjoy yourself. A hobby can take your mind off of stress and adds more much-needed fun to your life.
5. Eat Right
Schedule time to eat without rushing or too close to bedtime, and make sure to maintain optimal gut health by regularly consuming fermented foods, such as fermented vegetables, or taking a high-quality probiotic supplement. Plenty of scientific evidence now shows that nourishing your gut flora with the friendly bacteria within fermented foods or probiotics is extremely important for proper brain function, including psychological well-being and mood control.
6. Stay Positive
This is a learned technique that can lead to a more joyful life and likely much better health, as those who are optimistic have an easier time dealing with stress, and are more inclined to open themselves up for opportunities to have positive, regenerative experiences. Try keeping a list of all that you're grateful for and make a commitment to stop any negative self-talk.
7. Stay Connected
Loneliness can be a major source of stress, so make a point to connect with those around you – even a quick chat while in line at the grocery store. Work your way up to volunteering, attending community events, meeting acquaintances for coffee, or taking a class to meet others with like interests.
8. Take a Break or Meditate
Taking even 10 minutes to sit quietly and shut out the chaos around you can trigger your relaxation response.19 Even meditating during your breaks can help you to decrease feelings of stress and anxiety.
America's Workers: Stressed Out, Overwhelmed, Totally Exhausted
8 Stress-Busting Tips from Experts
By Dr. Mercola
Thyroid cancer appears to be on the rise in many areas of the world, although recent research suggests this may be more due to over-diagnosis than an actual increase in incidence.
In the US, the rate of thyroid cancer has doubled since 1994.1 In South Korea, it has become the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer, having increased 15-fold in the past 20 years.
However, some cancer experts note that the situation in South Korea is likely due to increased screening and misdiagnosis of harmless tumors. As noted in the featured article:2
“South Koreans embraced screening about 15 years ago when the government started a national program for a variety of cancers — breast, cervix, colon, stomach and liver.
Doctors and hospitals often included ultrasound scans for thyroid cancer for an additional fee of $30 to $50... Although more and more small thyroid cancers are being found, however, the death rate has remained rock steady, and low.
If early detection were saving lives, death rates should have come down. That pattern — more cancers detected and treated but no change in the death rate — tells researchers that many of the cancers they are finding and treating were not dangerous.”
The Risks of Over-Diagnosis
Finding tiny benign tumors that really do not need treatment is known as over-diagnosis—a phenomenon that is also common in other kinds of cancer screening, particularly breast cancer.
It’s emotionally difficult to take a “wait and see” approach once a tumor has been noted on a test or scan, but treating it can do far more harm than good if it’s benign. Far more people die with thyroid cancers than from them.
Left alone, a benign, slow-growing tumor might never cause a problem—indeed as many as one-third of people die with small thyroid tumors that remained undetected throughout their lives,3 and the cancer didn’t actually cause their death.
Removing and treating harmless tumors, however, can lead to a slew of cascading health problems. For example, surgical removal of your thyroid means you need to take thyroid hormones for the remainder of your life.
For many, this will lead to less than optimal hormone function. Chronic hormone deficiency, depression, and other symptoms of low thyroid function can become lifelong companions as a result... Surgical removal of the thyroid can also result in accidental damage to your vocal cords and/or parathyroid glands.
In South Korea, two percent of patients suffer vocal cord paralysis, and 11 percent end up with hypoparathyroidism as a result of damage to the parathyroid glands—the latter of which detrimentally affects calcium regulation in your body.
Experts Call for Restraint in Screening for Thyroid Cancer
The answer, some cancer experts say, is to simply reduce screening that finds these tiny, harmless cancers. One of the South Korean authors of the featured paper4 goes so far as to propose thyroid cancer screening should be banned. As noted by the New York Times:
“[C]ancer experts said the situation in South Korea should be a message to the rest of the world about the serious consequences that large-scale screening of healthy people can have.
‘It’s a warning to us in the US that we need to be very careful in our advocacy of screening,’ said Dr. Otis W. Brawley, chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society. ‘We need to be very specific about where we have good data that it saves lives.’
...These tiny cancers, called papillary thyroid cancers, are the most common kind and are the sort typically found with screening. They are known to be the least aggressive.
The epidemic was not caused by an environmental toxin or infectious agent, said Dr. H. Gilbert Welch of Dartmouth, an author of the paper.5
‘An epidemic of real disease would be expected to produce a dramatic rise in the number of deaths from disease,’ he said. ‘Instead we see an epidemic of diagnosis, a dramatic rise in diagnosis and no change in death.’
...[T]he lesson from South Korea should be heeded, said Dr. Barnett S. Kramer, director of the division of cancer prevention at the National Cancer Institute. ‘The message for so long is that early detection is always good for you,’ he said.
But this stark tale of screening gone wrong ‘should acutely raise awareness of the consequences of acting on the intuition that all screening must be of benefit and all diagnoses at an early stage are of benefit.’”
One in Eight Women Has Thyroid Disease
While the actual incidence of thyroid cancer may not be on the rise, thyroid disease has become very prevalent in today’s world, courtesy of a number of different lifestyle factors.
According to Dr. Christiane Northrup, MD, one in eight women aged 35-65 has some form of thyroid disease6—underactive thyroid being the most common. More than one-quarter of women in perimenopause are diagnosed with hypothyroidism, in which insufficient amounts of thyroid hormone is produced.
Thyroid hormones7 are used by every cell of your body, which is why the symptoms can vary so widely. For example, thyroid hormones regulate metabolism and body weight by controlling the burning of fat for energy and heat. Thyroid hormones are also required for growth and development in children. Symptoms of hypothyroidism may also include but are not limited to the following:
Fatigue, loss of energy, and general lethargy Cold intolerance Muscle and/or joint pain Decreased sweating Depression Puffiness Weight gain Coarse or dry skin and hair Hair loss Sleep apnea Carpal tunnel syndrome Forgetfulness, impaired memory, and inability to concentrate Menstrual disturbances Decreased appetite Impaired fertility Constipation Fullness in the throat and hoarseness Increased risk of heart disease Increased “bad” cholesterol (LDL) Weakness in extremities Emotional instability Blurred vision Mental impairment Decreased hearing Bradycardia (reduced heart rate)
The Effect of Thyroid Disease on Mental Health
Depression and other mental health problems are perhaps particularly notable symptoms of thyroid dysfunction—if nothing else because it’s a common side effect that is easily overlooked and therefore misdiagnosed. If your depression is due to an underactive thyroid, clearly the answer to your problem is not an antidepressant but rather addressing your thyroid function... As explained by Dr. Northrup:
“The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the area of your neck just below the Adam’s apple. It’s part of the endocrine system, and it secretes the hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyroxine (T3), which regulate the body’s metabolic rate. Thyroid function is very complex and exerts a profound effect on the function of nearly every other organ in the body. Therefore, smooth functioning of the overall body chemistry depends on the health of your thyroid gland.
It is not uncommon for women with thyroid problems to suffer from depression. One explanation for this is that the most biologically active form of thyroid hormone, T3, is actually a bona fide neurotransmitter that regulates the action of serotonin, norepinephrine, and GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid), an inhibitory neurotransmitter that is important for quelling anxiety.”
It’s important to realize that thyroid dysfunction is a complex issue, with many variables. As noted by Dr. Northrup, midlife hypothyroidism can be related to underlying estrogen dominance, in which case taking thyroid hormone fails to address the root of the problem. Medications can also disrupt your thyroid function, in which case the most appropriate remedy may not be to add thyroid hormone.
Known thyroid-disrupting drugs include steroids, barbiturates, cholesterol–lowering drugs, the antiepileptic drug Dilantin, and beta-blockers. Heavy metal toxicity is yet another factor that can be part of the problem (to learn more about this, please listen to my interview with Dr. Jonathan Wright, below). Last but not least, Dr. Northrup8 also points out that thyroid disease oftentimes has an emotional/spiritual component:
“Thyroid disease is related to expressing your feelings, something that until relatively recently had been societally blocked for women for thousands of years. In order to have your say—and maintain your thyroid energy—you must take a fearless inventory of every relationship in which you feel you don’t have a say...
One more thing, thyroid disorders are also related to our relationship to time. The thyroid is adversely affected by feeling as though there’s never enough time or that you are running out of time. This feeling also results in adrenal burnout (which is related to thyroid disorders.). Our culture’s relationship to time is very unbalanced... A starting point here is to realize that you have all the time there is. Literally. And all the time that anyone else has—24 hours in a day.
You can change your relationship to time by changing the way you pay attention... Take regular moments during the day to simply put your attention on something. Notice a beautiful flower. Or a tree. Or the sky. Slow down and pay attention. Eventually this little practice will improve your relationship to time.”
Treating Overactive Thyroid
The reverse condition, in which too much thyroid hormone is produced, is called hyperthyroidism. While far less common, it can be a very serious condition. Making matters worse, conventional treatment options usually involve using radioactive iodine, which is a disaster, or surgery. According to Dr. Jonathan Wright, there may be a much better and safer option: a combination of iodine and lithium. This treatment originated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC), at their department of thyroid. They had enough people with hyperthyroidism there that they were able to divide them into four treatment groups, receiving either:
- Lugol’s iodine
- Lithium first and then, three or four days later, iodine
- Lugol’s iodine first, and then three or four days later, lithium
The group that started with Lugol’s iodine and finished with lithium did significantly better than all of the other groups in getting the hyperthyroidism under rapid control. More than two decades ago, The Mayo Clinic also published an article on the treatment of hyperthyroidism using lithium. Here, they used lithium alone, and were also able to bring abnormally high T3 and T4 numbers down to normal within a week to 10 days. It didn’t work on everybody though.
According to Dr. Wright, Walter Reed’s system is profoundly effective. Of all the people treated for hyperthyroidism in Dr. Wright’s clinic, amounting to about 40, there have only been two cases where the protocol failed. Normal levels can often be achieved in less than two weeks. In summary, the treatment is as follows:
- Patient starts out on five drops of Lugol’s iodine, three times per day
- After four or five days, patient starts receiving 300 mg of lithium carbonate, one to three times per day
The Importance of Iodine for Thyroid Function
Iodine is the key to a healthy thyroid and efficient metabolism. Even the names of the different forms of thyroid hormone reflect the number of iodine molecules attached -- T4 has four attached iodine molecules, and T3 (the biologically active form of the hormone) has three -- showing what an important part iodine plays in thyroid biochemistry.
As your body cannot produce its own iodine, it must be obtained from your diet. Iodine is sequestered into your thyroid gland, where it is incorporated into the thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) or triiodothyronine (T3). In healthy individuals these hormones are precisely regulated by thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), and are required by all metabolically active cells in your body. Unfortunately, iodine deficiency is extremely common these days, and while toxic exposure plays a significant role in thyroid disease, this nutritional deficiency is an important factor.
More than 11 percent of all Americans—and more than 15 percent of American women of child-bearing age—have urine iodine levels less than 50 micrograms per liter (mcg/L),9 indicating moderate to severe iodine deficiency. An additional 36 percent of reproductive-aged women in the US are considered mildly iodine deficient (<100 mcg/L urinary iodine). The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends taking an iodine supplement during pregnancy, as most pregnant women are deficient.10
Your iodine levels can also be affected by toxic exposures. Iodine is a member of a class of related elements called "halogens," which includes bromine, fluorine, and chlorine. When they are chemically reduced, they become "halides" (iodide, bromide, fluoride, and chloride). Most people today are exposed to these halogens/halides via food, water, medications, and environment and these elements selectively occupy your iodine receptors, further deepening your iodine deficit. Additional factors contributing to falling iodine levels include:
Water fluoridation Diets low in fish, shellfish, and seaweed Vegan and vegetarian diets Decreased use of iodized salt Less use of iodide in the food and agricultural industry Use of radioactive iodine in many medical procedures, which competes with natural iodine
How Much Iodine Do You Need?
In Japan, the daily dose of iodine obtained from the diet averages around 2,000 to 3,000 micrograms (mcg) or 2-3 milligrams (mg), and there’s reason to believe this may be a far more adequate amount than the US recommended daily allowance (RDA) of 150 mcg. Some argue for even higher amounts than that, such as Dr. Brownstein, who recommends 12.5 milligrams (mg) on a regular basis. Other proponents of higher iodine amounts include Guy Abraham, an ob-gyn and endocrinologist at the University of Southern California, and Dr. Jonathan Wright, a pioneer in natural medicine. To learn more about iodine supplementation at higher dosages, and other treatment protocols for correcting thyroid dysfunction, I highly recommend listening to my interview with Dr. Jonathan Wright.
Take Control of Your Thyroid Health
Thyroid hormones are used by cells throughout your body, making it very important to address your thyroid health. Again, iodine is the key to a healthy thyroid, and it’s also important for the prevention of breast cancer. If you’re not getting enough from your diet (in the form of seafood), you’d be well advised to consider taking a supplement, ideally a high-quality seaweed supplement (be sure to check its source to avoid potential radioactive contamination), or other iodine-containing whole food supplement.
As for thyroid hormone replacement, you have two basic options: bioidentical or synthetic hormones.11 Bioidentical thyroid hormones—which are what I recommend using—include Nature-Throid and Westhroid. They’re made from desiccated pig thyroid glands and contain the full spectrum of thyroid hormones: T4, T3, T2, and T1. Synthroid (generic brand: Levothyroxine) is synthetic, and contains only T4. Keep in mind that in some cases, if you're borderline hypothyroid, you may actually only need an iodine supplement rather than a thyroid hormone replacement.
With regards to screening, there’s ample evidence suggesting that thyroid cancer screening is unnecessary unless you have reason to suspect cancer. Also remember that screening does not equate to prevention. Addressing your thyroid health is far more important and beneficial than relying on screening to alert you to a potential problem. Especially considering that the chances of over diagnosis are great, and treating an otherwise harmless tumor may result in greater harm than leaving it alone and simply focusing on lifestyle factors such as diet and detoxification to improve your thyroid health.
Iodine is Important but a New Study Shows Too Much Causes Problems
Many Symptoms Suggest Sluggish Thyroid -- Do You Have Any of These?