By Dr. Mercola

From a regulatory perspective, GM crops are considered to "substantially equivalent" to their non-GM counterparts. This means, that they are essentially the same, with no meaningful differences for your health or the environment.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has (so far) not required labeling of GM foods because they are deemed to be "substantially equivalent" to non-GM foods. It is also due to substantial equivalence that no oversight or long-term safety testing has been required of GM crops.

Even experimental GM crops are being grown right alongside traditional crops, with little or no oversight and not enough protection to prevent cross contamination.

The term "experimental" GM crops is redundant, since all GM crops (not just those that have yet to be approved) are an experiment of unforeseen magnitude… but as far as the US government is concerned, even "experimental" GM crops are not getting the oversight necessary to prevent environmental catastrophe.

GM Corn Modified with Hepatitis B Vaccine Grown with Little Oversight

GM "pharmaceutical" corn that is being used in an experimental trial for hepatitis B vaccine is being grown in an environmentally sensitive area along California's central coast, just 100 feet from a critical habitat for threatened wildlife species.

According to data obtained by Hearst Newspapers under Freedom of Information laws, already two "incidents" have been reported. SF Gate reported:1

"At a secret location among the vineyards of California's Central Coast, a plot of genetically engineered corn is producing proteins for industrial and pharmaceutical uses, including an experimental vaccine for hepatitis B.

The altered corn is growing with federal approval 100 feet from a steelhead stream in San Luis Obispo County, in designated critical habitat for the threatened California red-legged frog.

Agriculture Department inspectors have reported two 'incidents' at the site, including conventional corn sprouting in a 50-foot fallow zone, but the findings did not rise to the level of a fine or even to a formal notice of noncompliance for the company that planted it, Applied Biotechnology Institute Inc."

The founder and president of Applied Biotechnology, John Howard, had previously founded another biotech company that has been banned from GMO trials because of contaminations in the Midwest that required a half-million bushels of soybeans and 150 acres of corn to be destroyed.2

But this didn't stop the US Department of Agriculture for allowing Applied Biotechnology to carry out their outdoor testing of GM plants with altered genes never-before grown on the face of the planet.

US Government Takes 'Industry-Friendly' Approach in Overseeing GM Trials

Data from Hearst revealed that the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which is tasked with overseeing GMO trials, takes a decidedly "industry-friendly" approach. In one unusual case, APHIS gave Gebbers Farms of Washington an approximately $20,000 fine for growing GM apples less than 100 feet from conventional apple trees.

The farm had already been previously cited for the same, along with failure to keep proper records and keep animals away from the test plot.3 This fine was a rarity, and according to Hearst's investigation, one of just two civil penalties issued since 2010, despite nearly 200 notices of non-compliance.

Issues uncovered by Hearst include paperwork violations, lost seeds, and GM plants growing where they're not allowed. Monsanto alone, which conducted about one-quarter of the field trials in the US, has received 35 notices of non-compliance from 2010 to 2013.

They received one civil penalty in 2010, after experimental GM cotton was ginned, making its way into cottonseed meal and hulls that were consumed by livestock. Inspection reports revealed many problems with GM trials that show the challenges, and the impossibility, of keeping GM crops restrained to a designated area:4

  • Heavy rains washed out test plots, increasing risks of GMO dispersal
  • Wild pigs and cows have eaten GM crops, including GM sugarcane and GM corn, in one case after a gate was accidentally left open
  • Government researchers planted GM barley in the wrong county and also moved GM soybeans across state lines without authorization
  • An automobile plowed through a test plot of corn and was abandoned about a mile away (with GM corn found in the ditch)

Scotts Paid Largest Ever Penalty Assessed by APHIS

Lawncare giant Scotts paid the largest ever civil penalty assessed by APHIS in 2007… $500,000 for failing to comply with testing standards at test sites in 19 states.5 In 2003, Scotts' GM bentgrass, which has lightweight pollen that's easily spread by the wind, escaped a test plot in Oregon as well, and now they're also testing GM grass seed in family lawns of employees.

The US Department of Agriculture has exempted Scotts' GM Kentucky bluegrass from regulation because of the way in which the seed was modified. It has been altered to withstand Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, which will allow for even more use of this toxic chemicals (and no doubt even more problems with weed resistance). As noted by Alexis Baden-Mayer, political director for the Organic Consumers Association:6

"Scotts' genetically modified grass could be dangerous to the environment because its Roundup resistance could be transferred to weeds, leading to greater use of Roundup or more toxic herbicides."

Monsanto Settles GMO Wheat Contamination Claims

GM contamination is becoming an ever-present reality, especially for US farmers. Last year, more than a dozen class-action suits were filed against Monsanto after it was discovered its GM wheat had contaminated nearby fields. The discovery prompted Japan and South Korea to suspend imports of soft-white wheat from the US. Impacted farmers have now reached a settlement with Monsanto, although the terms weren't disclosed.7

The Great Boycott Is Here

The insanity has gone far enough. It's time to unite and fight back, which is why I encourage you to vote with your wallet and boycott every single product owned by members of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), considering the fact that it consists primarily of pesticide producers and junk food manufacturers who are going to great lengths to violate some of your most basic rights.

This is just to ensure that subsidized, genetically engineered and chemical-dependent, highly processed junk food remains the status quo. This includes both natural and organic brands. You can start by using the list in the table below. The recent GM labeling victories in Vermont and Oregon clearly show that we have the power to incite great change. In this case, you can help change the food system by taking decisive action with your food dollars.

"We flood their Facebook pages, tarnish their brand names. We pressure financial institutions, pension funds and mutual funds to divest from Monsanto and the other GMA companies. Our motto for Monsanto and GMA products must become: Don't buy them. Don't sell them. Don't grow them. And don't let your financial institution, university, church, labor union or pension fund invest in them," Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) writes.8

"As soon as the GMA files a lawsuit against Vermont, the Organic Consumers Association, joined by a growing coalition of public interest groups, will launch a boycott and divestment campaign directed against all of the 300 GMA companies and their thousands of brand name products—including foods, beverages, seeds, home and garden supplies, pet food, herbicides and pesticides."

So far, between 2012 and 2014, Monsanto and the GMA have successfully blocked GMO labeling legislation in over 30 states, at a price tag of more than $100 million! These funds were received from the 300+ members of the GMA, which include chemical/pesticide, GE seed, and processed food industries. Together, these industries are working in a symbiotic fashion to grow, subsidize, and manufacture foods that have been clearly linked to growing obesity and chronic disease epidemics. As noted by Ronnie Cummins:

"Until now the GMA colossus has ruled, not only in Washington DC, but in all 50 states. But now that Vermont has passed a trigger-free GMO labeling law, and Oregon is poised to do the same in November, the balance of power has shifted. Monsanto, the GMA and their allies are in panic mode. Because they know that when companies are forced to label or remove GMOs, and also are forced to drop the fraudulent practice of labeling GE-tainted foods as 'natural' or 'all natural,' in one state, they will have to do it in every state. Just as they've been forced to do in Europe, where mandatory GMO labeling has been in effect since 1997."

Are You Supporting Those Who Have Repeatedly Taken a Stand Against Your Health and Right to Know?

To defeat the GMA lawsuit against Vermont, money must be raised for legal assistance to the state. We must also intensify any and all efforts to educate others and put pressure on the marketplace to quell the GMAs radical power grabs. To this end, please make a donation to the Organic Consumers Fund today.

Other ways you can help is by refusing to invest in GMA member companies—even if indirectly through retirement and mutual funds. With enough pressure, we can pressure institutional investors like Fidelity, Vanguard, and State Street to dump the stocks they have in these companies. Moreover, we need to boycott ALL of the 300 companies who are still members of the GMA. Combined, they produce more than 6,000 brand name products, and all of these products are on the boycott list. This includes:

Foods Beverages Seeds
Home and garden supplies Pet foods Herbicides and pesticides for home and professional use

This may seem as a monstrously difficult task... but if we work together and individually make an effort, collectively we can do it. There are 400 million Americans, and each person makes multiple purchasing and investment decisions each and every day of the year. Every action you take from here on counts. Pro-organic consumer groups will also launch programs placing emphasis on boycotting "Traitor Brands," meaning natural and organic brands that are actually owned by members of the pro-GMO GMA. As noted by Cummins:

"Health-conscious and green-minded consumers often inadvertently support the GMA when they buy brands like Honest Tea, Kashi, Odwalla and others whose parent companies, all members of the GMA, have donated millions to defeat GMO labeling initiatives in California (Prop 37) and Washington State (I-522)."

As a sign of solidarity, please sign the Boycott Pledge now.

Traitor Brands

While I cannot list all of them here, some of the 50 "natural" and/or organic Traitor Brands targeted by this boycott include those listed below. The reason for not focusing the boycott on the conventional parent companies is because pro-organic health-conscious consumers rarely buy Coca-Cola, Diet Pepsi, or sugary breakfast cereals to begin with. The only way to really put pressure on these parent companies is by avoiding the brands they market to organic consumers; the brands you actually typically buy.

"Let's be clear. Junk Food and beverage companies who are members of the GMA are gobbling up organic and 'natural' brands because they recognize the huge profit potential in the fast-growing organic and natural markets. They want our business. If we stop buying their brands, they know there's a good chance we'll find alternative brands. And we might never look back," Cummins writes.

Natural/Organic Traitor Brand Owned By/Parent company
IZZE PepsiCo
Naked Juice PepsiCo
Simply Frito-Lay PepsiCo
Starbucks Frappuccino PepsiCo
Honest Tea Coca-Cola
Odwalla Coca-Cola
Gerber Organic Nestle
Sweet Leaf tea Nestle
Boca Burgers Kraft/Mondelez
Green and Black's Kraft/Mondelez
Cascadian Farm General Mills
Larabar General Mills
Muir Glen General Mills
Alexia ConAgra
Pam organic cooking sprays ConAgra
Bear Naked Kelloggs
Gardenburger Kelloggs
Kashi Kelloggs
Morningstar Farms Kelloggs
Plum Organics Campbells
Wolfgang Puck organic soups Campbells
RW Knudsen Smuckers
Santa Cruz Organic Smuckers
Smuckers Organic Smuckers
Dagoba Hersheys
Earthgrain bread Bimbo Bakeries
Simply Asia McCormick
Thai Kitchen McCormick

Nine Additional Ways to Take Your Power Back

In addition to not buying Traitor Brand foods or beverages (even if they're certified organic), here are nine ways you can take power back from the corporate bullies that make up the Grocery Manufacturers Association:

  • Stop buying all non-organic processed foods. Instead, build your diet around whole, unprocessed foods, especially raw fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats from coconut oil, avocados, organic pastured meat, dairy and eggs, and raw nuts
  • Buy most of your foods from your local farmer's market and/or organic farm
  • Cook most or all your meals at home using whole, organic ingredients
  • Frequent restaurants that serve organic, cooked-from-scratch, local food. Many restaurants, especially chain restaurants (Chipotlé is a rare exception), use processed foods made by GMA members for their meals
  • Buy only heirloom, open-pollinated, and/or organic seeds for your garden. This includes both decorative plants and edibles
  • Boycott all lawn and garden chemicals (fertilizers, pesticides, etc.) unless they are "OMRI Approved," which means they are allowed in organic production. If you use a lawn service, make sure they're using OMRI Approved products as well
  • Become an avid label reader. If a GMA member company owns the product, no matter what it is, don't buy it
  • Download the Buycott app for your smartphone, which allows you to scan products to find out if they're part of the boycott before you buy them
  • Join the Organic Consumers Association's new campaign, "Buy Organic Brands that Support Your Right to Know"

To learn more about this boycott, and the traitor brands that are included, please visit I also encourage you to donate to the Organic Consumers Fund. Your donation will help fight the GMA lawsuit in Vermont, and also help win the GMO labeling ballot initiative in Oregon in November.

Voting with your pocketbook, at every meal, matters. It makes a huge difference. By boycotting GMA member Traitor Brands, you can help level the playing field, and help take back control of our food supply. And as always, continue educating yourself about genetically engineered foods, and share what you've learned with family and friends.


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 Comments (3)

By Dr. Mercola

The pesticide and junk food industries continue to cause harm, even deaths, while destroying our rights and indemnifying themselves from liability.

That’s the take-home message from the September 8 article in The Progressive,1 which recounts the travails of residents in Cedar Valley, Oregon. It’s also the take-home message of other related news. And yet there’s hope...

“A group of residents of the Cedar Valley area near Gold Beach in Curry County, Oregon say their properties were doused with pesticides by a helicopter aiming for privately-owned timberlands last October,” the featured article states.

In what has been called a ‘severe sanction,’ the pesticide applicator and the aerial spray company he owns have been fined $10,000 each by the state and had their pesticide licenses suspended for a year for providing false information that misled investigators.

But at least one of those affected says this basically amounts to a big traffic ticket, when instead he believes the incident should be considered an act of ‘criminal trespass’ linked to 45 illness reports.”

‘Right to Farm’ Laws Protect Big Ag from Legal Action

At present, the “Farm and Forest Practices Act” prevents the residents from suing for damages. But 17 of those affected by the pesticide dousing are now challenging the constitutionality of that law.

While originally intended to protect small farmers from frivolous nuisance lawsuits by suburban neighbors, today, many of these laws do little more than shield large corporations from being held accountable for large-scale environmental and human harm.

Small farms have been replaced with gigantic warehouse-style factory farms that produce toxic waste on a scale that is simply incomparable to a regular family-run farm.

Yet you still cannot sue them for damages as long as they’re following “generally accepted” farming or foresting practices—including aerial pesticide applications, even though in this case people were doused in their own backyards!

Moreover, Oregon’s Right to Farm law contains a provision stating that if you sue and lose the case, then you are responsible for paying the defendant’s legal fees. This is another effective dissuasion strategy that coddles big industry while leaving regular folk to suffer without effective recourse.

Residents Exposed to Toxic Agent Orange Ingredient

Two residents reporting health problems in this case include John Burns, who is the assistant chief of the local volunteer fire department, and his neighbor, James Welsh.

According to Burns, a total of 45 people have suffered health effects from the exposure. While Burns began feeling progressively worse as the day wore on, Welsh was immediately struck will nausea and breathing problems when the chemicals rained down on him.

Welsh, who had a preexisting heart condition, rapidly deteriorated after the exposure, and died in April. That exposure, it turned out, was a mix of 2,4-D—which was a major ingredient in Agent Orange—and triclopyr, plus an adjuvant.

One of the ingredients was applied “at a rate above the maximum allowed by the label instructions,” according to the Oregon Department of Agriculture.2 As reported in the featured article:

“The pesticide spray over Cedar Valley is certainly not the first residential exposure due to aerial pesticide application. Residents of the Triangle Lake area in Lane County say they have been exposed to aerial pesticide drift multiple times in recent years, especially in 2011, as CMD has reported.

Urine tests performed by scientists at Emory University in spring 2011 confirmed 2,4-D in 100 percent of their urine samples and the weedkiller atrazine in most.”

Cedar Valley Residents Challenge ‘Right-to-Farm’ Law

The law firm Craig Law Center has taken on Cedar Valley’s case, challenging the “Right to Farm” law. According to the featured article:

“Crag attorney Chris Winter said he was interested in the case because he became ‘concerned that people weren't able to defend their property rights against toxic chemicals.’

The lawsuit challenges ‘right-to-farm’ under the under the clause of the state constitution that guarantees that every individual will have a legal remedy for the violation of any fundamental legal right...

Winter said, ‘Because toxic chemicals and aerial application are so risky, courts have said there's a higher standard of care, more than just being reasonably prudent, but being careful that nothing gets on neighbors' property.’

But because of the ‘right-to-farm’ law, citizens still can't sue. That means courts have ‘tipped in favor of chemical companies and applicators.’

Winter says that the plaintiffs hope to change the ‘Right to Farm and Forest Law,’ but that additional changes are needed to address structural problems in the state's regulatory system, like ‘basic standards and guidelines for how pesticides are applied.’"

Judge Declares Idaho’s ‘Ag-Gag’ Law Potentially Unconstitutional

In related, but slightly more optimistic news, a federal judge has ruled that Idaho’s Bill 13373--dubbed the “ag-gag law,” as it criminalizes the secret filming of agricultural practices—may in fact be unconstitutional.

The bill was hastily signed into law in February, after footage of animal abuse occurring in a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) was aired on TV. The law was quickly challenged by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), alleging that politicians ignored the First Amendment simply to protect corporate interests. As reported by the Courthouse News Service:4

“Gov. C.L. ‘Butch’ Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden moved to dismiss the complaint in April... but US District Judge B. Lynn Winmill... said the opponents may have a case: First Amendment and equal protection clause.

While the protection of private property is a valid concern, it does not necessarily justify the restriction of free speech, the court found.

‘The First Amendment requires more than the invocation of a significant government interest; it requires that the restriction's benefits be balanced against the burden on protected speech,’ Winmill wrote. ‘The state therefore must justify a need to serve its interests in protecting private property through targeting protected speech.’"

This is good news, as this law is all about protecting the status quo of industrial farming; turning it into a crime to expose the horrors, cruelties, and dangers associated with big agricultural business... Time will tell if the “ag-gag rule” will be repealed, but at least the issue will be addressed in a court of law.

Help Vermont Defend America’s First No-Strings GMO Labeling Law!

Speaking of courts of law... The Grocery Manufacturers Association of America (GMA), which consists primarily of pesticide producers and junk food manufacturers, is suing Vermont in an effort to overturn H.112—the first no-strings-attached GMO labeling in the US.5, 6, 7 H. 112 was passed by an overwhelming margin,8 and Governor Peter Shumlin signed the historic bill into law on May 8 this year. 

The law will require food manufacturers to label genetically engineered (GE) foods sold in Vermont, and prohibits them from labeling foods with GE ingredients as “natural” or “all natural.” The GMA’s lawsuit claims that their members are going to end hunger with their pesticide-laden GMOs, but we already know that the problem with hunger is not production, it’s distribution. There’s more than enough food to go around; it’s just poorly distributed.

Besides, must Americans be kept in the dark about what we’re eating in order for the chemical technology industry to be able to “save the world” with its genetically engineered grains? To help Vermont defend its GMO labeling law against these multi-national giants, please consider making a donation to the Organic Consumers Fund, which has been set up to raise funds for this purpose. The fund has also pledged to help Oregon and Colorado pass their respective GMO labeling initiatives this November.

Beware the ‘DARK’ Act...

The GMA, whose 300-plus members include Monsanto, Coca-Cola, and General Mills, is also pushing a Congressional bill called the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014.9 The bill, dubbed the “DARK” (Denying Americans the Right to Know) Act, would actually preempt all states from passing GMO labeling laws.10 It would also bar states from enacting laws that make it illegal for food companies to misrepresent their products by labeling GE ingredients as “natural.” Last but not least, the DARK Act would also limit the FDA’s power to force food companies to disclose GE ingredients.

Does any of this make you warm and fuzzy inside? Are these the actions of companies that have your best interest at heart? I would say no. They are trying to HIDE the presence of genetically engineered ingredients, and are pulling out ALL the stops to do so! Ask yourself, why? These companies—the very ones providing much of our food—are actually trying to take away individual state’s rights, just to ensure certain food ingredients remain hidden! Curiously enough, Monsanto is more than willing to “support” GMO labeling in other countries.

Here’s a Monsanto ad from the UK, letting British consumers know how much the company supports the mandatory labeling of their goods—even urging Britons to seek such labels out—ostensibly because Monsanto believes “you should be aware of all the facts before making a decision.” What’s the difference between British shoppers and American shoppers? Why does Monsanto support one nation’s right to know but not another? It’s time to put an end to this hypocritical charade and label foods in the US, as has been done in 64 other countries across the globe already!

American state rights were encouraged by our constitution, and the constitution was meant to prevent federal superpowers becoming corrupted and creating an authoritarian, fascist federal government. Sadly, we’ve watched our individual and state rights deteriorate over many decades, succumbing to these enormous industry powers, and this is probably one of the biggest, most blatant overreaches yet, proving that corporate interests are ruling the roost on Capital Hill. As stated by Marni Karlin, director of legislative and legal affairs for Organic Trade Association:11

“Consumers, particularly the eight out of ten American families who buy organic products, want to know what is in their food. Rep. Pompeo’s bill ignores this consumer demand for information. Instead, it ties the hands of state governments, the US Department of Agriculture, and the Food and Drug Administration concerning GMO labeling. It is fatally flawed."

What Happens in Oregon and Colorado in November Could Make or Break the GMO Labeling Movement

In addition to all this legal wrangling, opponents of GMO labeling spent more than $27 million on lobbying in the first six months of this year alone. This is about three times more than they spent during all of 2013, when they shelled out $9.3 million.12 Among the biggest spenders on anti-labeling lobbying were the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and major food makers such as Coca-Cola Co and PepsiCo Inc., along with chemical industry heavyweights like Monsanto and DuPont.

Undoubtedly, they are well aware that November is going to be a crucial turning-point for the GMO labeling movement. Both Colorado and Oregon have GMO labeling on their November ballots, and it’s absolutely imperative that we make a strong push to make sure these ballots succeed. So please, consider making a generous donation to the Organic Consumers Fund.

I know, it’s an uphill battle, but persistence pays! We cannot and will not give up now. During last year's I-522 ballot campaign to label GMOs in Washington State, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) came up with a devious, and illegal, money-laundering scheme to protect the identity of members who donated funds to the opposing campaign. Unfortunately, this illegal move helped the GMA defeat I-522 by a mere one percent margin—ONE PERCENT!

Fortunately, the GMA was caught, and sued by Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who accused them of intentional money laundering and violating state campaign disclosure laws. They had to resort to illegal activity to beat us by one percent the last time... With that in mind, I am firmly convinced that we CAN win in both Colorado and Oregon. But it will take effort. And money, to make sure all the voters are informed enough to make a sound decision. It’s time for truth in labeling. Together, we can make it happen.

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 Comments (21)

By Dr. Mercola

Water is essential for life, and we typically assume that water is "clean" or "good" provided you're not getting your water from a contaminated source. But can water ever "go bad"?

If you have a water filtration system in your home, it may not occur to you that your water could become contaminated after a while—until you go to clean out the holding tank, that is.

If you fail to regularly clean out the holding tank of a reverse osmosis filter, it could lead to an absolute mess of microbial growth that is certainly NOT going to produce clean, pure water when you turn on the tap.

And, as noted by Dr. Kellogg Schwab, director of the Johns Hopkins University Water Institute in a recent Time article,1 factors such as ambient temperature and exposure to sunlight and/or your lips can introduce microorganisms into your water glass or bottle, if left out for extended periods of time, which can then begin to thrive under the right conditions.

Reusing disposable plastic water bottles also has its risks, as discussed in the featured Huffington Post article.2 In short, water could "go bad" if you store it improperly, reuse dirty bottles, or fail to regularly clean your water filtration system.

Why It's Unwise to Reuse Plastic Water Bottles

A 2007 report titled "Bottled Water Myths: Separating Fact from Fiction," published in the journal Practical Gastroenterology,3 warns that "consumer reuse of commercially packaged bottles of water is not recommended from a microbe perspective."

Commercial water bottles tend to wear down from repeated use, which can lead to bacterial growth in surface cracks inside the bottle. This risk is compounded if you fail to adequately wash the bottle between each use, using mild soap and warm water. But even with washing, these microscopic hiding places may still allow bacteria to linger.

Perhaps more importantly, while this report still questions the safety of the plastic chemical bisphenol-A (BPA), we now know that BPA and phthalates can pose serious health hazards, especially to pregnant women and children.

BPA was identified as an estrogen-mimicking compound in the 1930s. At that time, it was used as an artificial estrogen to fatten up poultry and cattle, and served as a form of estrogen replacement therapy for women.

Phthalates are another group of chemicals found in plastic bottles, which are also known to pose similar health hazards. Phthalates are actually one of the most pervasive endocrine disrupters so far discovered, and are associated with a number of developmental abnormalities.

It was only in the 1940s that Bayer and General Electric used BPA to harden polycarbonate plastics and make epoxy resin while phthalates makes the plastic softer. We now know that BPA and phthalates leach from the plastic container, contaminating any food or drink it contains.

From this perspective, I recommend avoiding bottled water altogether. This, in my view, is a far more concerning issue than the issue of potential microbial growth occurring as the bottle starts to wear out.

Glass Is One of the Best Alternatives

In 2010, Canada declared BPA as a toxic substance, and BPA has been banned in baby bottles in both Europe and the US. It's still permitted in plastic water bottles and other plastic food containers, however. One 2011 study4 also discovered that most plastic products leach endocrine-disrupting chemicals even if they're labeled "BPA-free."

Seventy percent of common plastic products actually tested positive for estrogenic activity, and that number rose to 95 percent when the products were subject to real-world conditions such as dishwashing or microwaving.

Heat and sunlight can also accelerate the breakdown of the plastic, so avoid drinking from bottles that have languished for some time in the back of your car, for example.

To avoid chemical toxins leaching into your water, choose glass over plastic. While this article is focused on water, this advice applies to canned goods as well, which are a major source of BPA exposure, so whenever you can, choose jarred goods over canned goods, or opt for fresh instead.

The Hazards of Refilling Unwashed Water Bottles

That said, it's certainly worth being mindful of the microbial issue, regardless of whether you're using glass or plastic bottles—although plastic is more porous and therefore more likely to harbor bacteria. As noted in the featured article:5

"In a 2002 study6... researchers from the University of Calgary took 76 samples of water from water bottles of elementary school students; some of the bottles were reused for months on end without being washed.

They found that nearly two-thirds of the samples had bacterial levels that exceeded that of drinking water guidelines, which may have been the result of 'the effect of bacterial regrowth in bottles that have remained at room temperature for an extended period,' researchers wrote in the study...

"[T]he most likely source of enteric bacteria found in the students' water bottles is the hands of the students themselves... Inadequate and improper hand washing after students have used the bathroom facilities could result in fecal coliforms in the classroom area."

A previous KLTV investigation7 also found that reusing a water bottle for just one week led to growth of bacteria that might cause illness. Dr. Richard Wallace told KLTV:

"We actually cultured around the neck and just on the inside, the part that would go in your mouth. All of those grew lots and lots of bacteria that could make you very sick almost like having food poisoning. That can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea... You've got to remember that bottles like this are not sterile and the water in them is not sterile. As soon as you drink out of them they are contaminated bottles."

Not All Water Is Created Equal

Besides the issue of proper storage, and the necessity to maintain your water filtration system if you want safe, clean water, there are also different types of water, and some is healthier than others. I recommend avoiding distilled water and opting for water that is as "live," meaning structured, as possible. During distillation, water is boiled and evaporated away from its dissolved minerals. The vapor is then condensed, and the resulting water droplets are collected.

I know that there are many who have strong opinions on distilled water and believe it is healthy, but my research does not support that. Distilled water is an active absorber, and when it makes contact with air, it quickly absorbs carbon dioxide and becomes acidic. Since it is free of dissolved minerals and other particles, it has the ability to absorb toxic substances from your body and eliminate them. However, although drinking distilled water may be helpful when detoxifying for a week or two, the longer you drink it, the more likely you are to develop mineral deficiencies.

Exclusively drinking distilled water can lead you to rapidly lose electrolytes (sodium, potassium, chloride) and trace minerals, which can cause cardiac irregularities, high blood pressure, and cognitive/emotional disturbances. In a paper8 by F. Kozisek of the World Health Organization (WHO), water low in calcium and magnesium, such as distilled water, is associated with the following health problems:

Cardiovascular disease Pre-term births, low birth weights, and preeclampsia
Higher risk of bone fracture in childrenVarious types of cancer
Neurodegenerative diseasesIncreased risk of "sudden death"
Motor neuronal diseasesAcute magnesium and calcium deficiency, weakness, fatigue and muscle cramping

Distilled Water May Not Be as Pure as You Think

There are other potential issues to contend with as well. While many believe distilled water is more pure or free of contaminants than other water, the end result is really only as pure as the water you start off with... The reason for this is that any contaminant in the water that vaporizes at a lower temperature than the water, such as volatile organic compounds (VOC), will also be condensed on the other side. Most tap water contains disinfection byproducts (DBPs), such as trihalomethanes (THMs) and haloacetic acids (HAAs), which are extremely toxic.

DBPs are estimated to be over 10,000 times more toxic than chlorine, and out of all the other toxins and contaminations present in your tap water, such as fluoride and miscellaneous pharmaceutical drugs, DBPs are thought to be the worst. Again, the process of distilling can worsen the presence of DBPs in your water, as they vaporize at a lower temperature than water. Hence they're boiled and condensed on the other side. As a result of these now common water contaminants, the distilled water could actually contain higher concentrations of dangerous contaminants than what you started out with. In essence, you'll have "purified" water PLUS all those volatile chemicals that are among the most toxic.

Additionally, because distilled water is acidic and demineralized, it will tend to pull contaminants out of whatever container you put it in. Many distillers on the market are made of metal, which may add certain toxic metals like nickel back into the water. And if you use a distiller with a plastic bottle, you have a number of plastic chemicals to contend with, such as the BPA and phthalates discussed above.

Your Body Benefits from Living, Structured Water

In 2011, and again in 2013, I interviewed Dr. Gerald Pollack about his truly ground-breaking theory of the physics of water. Besides being a professor of bioengineering at the University of Washington, he's also the founder and editor-in-chief of a scientific journal called Water, and has published many peer-reviewed scientific papers on this topic. He's even received prestigious awards from the National Institutes of Health. He believes that structured or living water actually has a different chemical structure and is not H2O but H3O2.

His book, The Fourth Phase of Water: Beyond Solid, Liquid, and Vapor, is a phenomenal read that is easy to understand. The fourth phase of water is, in a nutshell, living water. It's referred to as EZ water—EZ standing for "exclusion zone"—which has a negative charge. This water can hold energy, much like a battery, and can deliver energy too. Your cells consist mainly of EZ (highly structured/ordered) water, and since they're composed of EZ water, they too work like little batteries in your body.

This is what makes drinking structured water so important, as this is the type of water your cells need for optimal functioning. You may have heard about "structured water" before. Many are skeptical, and some don't even believe it exists, let alone that it has any value. But it's important when trying to find high quality water. Water filtration processes used to clean our water supply frequently de-structures the water, so the question is whether or not adding structure back into the water matters. Dr. Pollack explains this challenging concept in the following lecture:

How to Obtain Structured, Living Water

Dr. Pollack believes that if you're able to drink structured water, it would be good for your health. But how do you obtain living, structured water? Water achieves its ordered structure from energy obtained from the environment, typically in the form of electromagnetic radiation, including sunlight and infrared (heat). The visible light spectrum, ultraviolet (UV) and near infrared, builds ordered water. But for practical purposes, to add structure back into your purified water at home, you can use the following two approaches:

  1. Cooling it to about 39 degrees Fahrenheit (about  4 degrees Centigrade)
  2. Stirring the water with a spoon in a circular jar to create a vortex

Dr. Pollack is actually investigating the possibility that structured (EZ) water may be an intermediate between water and ice. It's possible that the real structure of EZ water is close to ice—almost but not quite, which would explain why cooling it helps reorganize and restructure it. Creating vortices also works to add structure back into the water because the agitation builds bubbles that are enveloped into the vortex. According to Dr. Pollack, "if these bubbles contain an envelope of structured water, then vortexing would be a very powerful way of increasing structure." Water can also be restructured by running an electrical current through it, but more research is still needed to determine the exact voltage needed to be effective.

Besides cooling and vortexing, you can find living water in natural springs. This water also tends to be in the neutral pH range, which would be my preference. To find a local spring where you can collect water (typically free of charge), see Ideally, use glass containers. Just be sure to take precautions so they don't break during transport, and avoid leaving them in the car where exposure to light and heat might promote microbial colonization. Rain water is also structured water, which is why lawns look so much better after a rain than they do when getting water from the hose. However, because of pollution I don't advise drinking rain water.

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By Dr. Mercola

Potassium is a mineral and an electrolyte that conducts electricity in your body. It plays an important role in heart function, skeletal health, digestion, and muscular function, and is essential for the proper function of all cells, tissues, and organs in your body.1

Despite the fact that potassium is available in many foods, especially fruits and vegetables, only 2 percent of US adults get the recommended daily amount of 4,700 milligrams (mg).2

Importantly, consuming enough potassium-rich food is also important because this nutrient helps offset the hypertensive effects of sodium. Imbalance in your sodium-potassium ratio can not only lead to hypertension (high blood pressure) but may also contribute to a number of other diseases, including heart disease and stroke.

Potassium-Rich Diet Lowers Stroke Risk in Women

Stroke is the number one cause of long-term disability and the fourth leading cause of death in the US.3 The most common type of stroke is called "ischemic stroke," which results from an obstruction in a blood vessel supplying blood to your brain. Once you suffer a stroke, the damage, should you survive it, can be absolutely devastating.

Thankfully, up to 80 percent of strokes are preventable, and positive lifestyle factors can make a major difference. One factor is your diet, and a potassium-rich diet, in particular.

New research found that women without hypertension who consumed the most potassium (nearly 3,200 mg/day) had a 21 percent reduced risk of stroke. Further, women who consumed the most potassium were 12 percent less likely to suffer from a stroke, and 12 percent less likely to die during the study period, than those who consumed the least.4 According to the study’s lead researcher:5

Potassium may play a role in improving blood vessel function in our brains. This could allow better oxygenation of our brain tissue, and prevent tissue death that occurs from lack of oxygen to the brain… The effect of potassium consumption on reduced stroke risk could also be due to a better diet overall, though we did not investigate this in our study.”

As mentioned, your body needs potassium to maintain proper pH levels in your body fluids, and it also plays an integral role in regulating your blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for stroke if it becomes elevated and that potassium needs to come from food not from supplements or potassium salt.

Too Much Sodium and Too Little Potassium Is Risky for Your Heart

Excess sodium is often blamed for causing high blood pressure (which in turn elevates your stroke risk). However, potassium deficiency may be more responsible for hypertension than excess sodium.

One four-year long observational study (the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study), which included more than 100,000 people in 17 countries, found that while higher sodium levels correlate with an increased risk for high blood pressure, potassium helps offset sodium’s adverse effects.6, 7

In the study, those with the lowest risk for heart problems or death from any cause were consuming three to six grams of sodium a day—far more than US daily recommended limits. So while there is a relationship between sodium and blood pressure, it’s not a linear relationship, and potassium plays a role.

The authors proposed that instead of recommending aggressive sodium reduction across the board, it might be wiser to recommend high-quality diets rich in potassium instead. This, they surmised, might achieve greater public health benefits, including blood-pressure reduction. As noted by one of the researchers, Dr. Martin O'Donnell of McMaster University:8

“Potatoes, bananas, avocados, leafy greens, nuts, apricots, salmon, and mushrooms are high in potassium, and it's easier for people to add things to their diet than to take away something like salt.”

According to a 1985 article in The New England Journal of Medicine, titled "Paleolithic Nutrition,” our ancient ancestors got about 11,000 mg of potassium a day and about 700 mg of sodium.9 This equates to nearly 16 times more potassium than sodium.

Compare that to the Standard American Diet where daily potassium consumption averages about 2,500 mg (the RDA is 4,700 mg/day), along with 3,600 mg of sodium. This may also explain why high-sodium diets appear to affect some people but not others.

According to a 2011 federal study into sodium and potassium intake, those at greatest risk of cardiovascular disease were those who got a combination of too much sodium along with too little potassium. The research, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, was one of the first and largest US studies to evaluate the relationship of salt, potassium, and heart disease deaths.

Tellingly, those who ate a lot of salt and very little potassium were more than twice as likely to die from a heart attack as those who ate about equal amounts of both nutrients.10

Increasing Potassium in Your Diet Is Like Decreasing Your Salt Intake (Without Really Cutting Back!)

A proper balance of potassium both inside and outside your cells is crucial for your body to function properly. As an electrolyte, potassium is a positive charged ion that must maintain a certain concentration (about 30 times higher inside than outside your cells11) in order to carry out its functions, which includes interacting with sodium to help control nerve impulse transmission, muscle contraction, and heart function.

Researchers have also determined that increasing average potassium intake to the recommended 4,700 mg a day would reduce systolic blood pressure by between 1.7 and 3.2 mm Hg on a population-wide scale. This decrease, they suggest, is similar to the reduction that would occur if Americans lowered their salt intake by 4 grams a day.12

I don’t advise consuming all the salt you want, of course, particularly if it’s processed salt. Salt is an essential nutrient required for blood pressure regulation, transportation of nutrients into and out of your cells, ion exchange, and brain-muscle communication. But all salts are not equal, in terms of their impact on your health.

Processed (table) salt is health harming, while natural unprocessed salt is not only healing, but in fact essential for many biological functions. It’s clear that many are consuming far too much processed table salt and not enough natural salt, largely by consuming too many processed foods. And, the easiest way to achieve an imbalance in your sodium-to-potassium ratio is by consuming a diet of processed foods, which are notoriously low in potassium while high in sodium.

The Best Way to Optimize Your Sodium-to-Potassium Ratio

If you eat a lot of processed foods and not many vegetables, there’s a good chance your sodium-to-potassium ratio is unbalanced. If you’re not sure, try a free app like MyFitnessPal, which allows you to enter the foods you eat and will calculate the ratio automatically. It's generally recommended that you consume five times more potassium than sodium, but most Americans get two times more sodium than potassium. If your ratio is out of balance…

  • First, ditch all processed foods, which are very high in processed salt and low in potassium and other essential nutrients
  • Eat a diet of whole, unprocessed foods, ideally organically and locally grown to ensure optimal nutrient content. This type of diet will naturally provide much larger amounts of potassium in relation to sodium
  • When using added salt, use a natural salt. I believe Himalayan salt may be the most ideal, as it contains lower sodium and higher potassium levels compared to other salts

I do not recommend taking potassium supplements to correct a sodium-potassium imbalance. Instead, it is best to simply alter your diet and incorporate more potassium-rich whole foods. Green vegetable juicing is an excellent way to ensure you’re getting enough nutrients for optimal health, including about 300-400 mg of potassium per cup. Some additional rich sources of potassium are:

  • Lima beans (955 mg/cup)
  • Winter squash (896 mg/cup)
  • Cooked spinach (839 mg/cup)
  • Avocado (710 mg/cup)  

Other potassium-rich fruits and vegetables include:

  • Fruits: papayas, prunes, cantaloupe, and bananas. (But be careful of bananas as they are high in sugar and have half the potassium of an equivalent amount of green vegetables. It is a myth that you are getting loads of potassium from bananas; the potassium is twice as high in green vegetables)
  • Vegetables: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, avocados, asparagus, and pumpkin

Tips for Lowering Your Stroke Risk

Your lifestyle has a direct impact on your stroke risk, and even small changes can make a difference. To lower your risk:

  • Exercise will go a long way toward improving your insulin and leptin receptor signaling, thereby normalizing your blood pressure and reducing your stroke risk. I recommend a comprehensive program that includes Peak Fitness high-intensity interval exercises along with super slow strength training, Active Isolated Stretching, and core work. If you've had a stroke, exercise is also very important, as research shows it can significantly improve both your mental and physical recovery.13
  • Processed meats: Certain preservatives, such as sodium nitrate and nitrite found in smoked and processed meats have been shown to damage your blood vessels, which could increase your risk of stroke. I recommend avoiding all forms of processed meats, opting instead for organic, grass-fed or pastured meats.
  • Diet soda. Research presented at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference in 2011 showed that drinking just one diet soda a day may increase your risk of stroke by 48 percent. Ideally, strive to eliminate all soda from your diet, as just one can of regular soda contains nearly twice my recommended daily allowance for fructose in order to maintain good health and prevent disease.
  • Stress. The more stressed you are, the greater your risk of suffering a stroke. Research has found that for every notch lower a person scored on their well-being scale, their risk of stroke increased by 11 percent.14 Not surprisingly, the relationship between psychological distress and stroke was most pronounced when the stroke was fatal. My favorite overall tool to manage stress is EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique). Other common stress-reduction tools with a high success rate include prayer, meditation, laughter and yoga, for example. For more tips, see my article "10 Simple Steps to Help De-Stress."
  • Vitamin D: According to research presented at the American Heart Association's (AHA) Annual Scientific Sessions in 2010, low levels of vitamin D—the essential nutrient obtained from sun exposure—doubles the risk of stroke in Caucasians.15 While many opt for vitamin D3 supplements to raise their vitamin D level, I strongly recommend optimizing your levels through appropriate sun exposure or by using a safe tanning bed (i.e. one with electronic ballasts rather than magnetic ballasts, to avoid unnecessary exposure to EMF fields). Ideally, you'll want to maintain your vitamin D level within the range of 50-70 ng/ml year-round.
  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and birth control pills. If you're on one of the hormonal birth control methods (whether it's the pill, patch, vaginal ring, or implant), it is important to understand that you are taking synthetic progesterone and synthetic estrogen -- something that is clearly not advantageous if you want to maintain optimal health. These contraceptives contain the same synthetic hormones as those used in hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which has well-documented risks, including an increased risk of blood clots, stroke, heart attack, and breast cancer.
  • Statins. Statin drugs are frequently prescribed to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. However, research shows that these cholesterol-lowering drugs actually increase your risk of a second stroke if you've already had one. There are two reasons why this might happen: the drugs may either lower cholesterol too much, to the point that it increases your risk of brain bleeding, or they may affect clotting factors in your blood, increasing the bleeding risk.
  • Grounding. Walking barefoot, aka "grounding," has a potent antioxidant effect that helps alleviate inflammation throughout your body. The human body appears to be finely tuned to "work" with the earth in the sense that there's a constant flow of energy between our bodies and the earth. When you put your feet on the ground, you absorb large amounts of negative electrons through the soles of your feet. Grounding helps thin your blood by improving its zeta potential. This gives each blood cell more negative charge which helps them repel each other to keep your blood thin and less likely to clot. This can significantly reduce your risk of stroke.


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By Dr. Mercola

Eating a high-quality, nutrient-dense diet is one of the most powerful ways to maintain health and prevent disease. Your gut in particular needs proper nourishment in order to allow your health to really flourish.

Here, Hilary Boynton and Mary Brackett, authors of The Heal Your Gut Cookbook: Nutrient-Dense Recipes for Intestinal Health Using the GAPS Diet, shares helpful tips on how to "heal and seal" your gut so that profound healing can take place.

Hilary Boynton is a local food advocate and a certified holistic health counselor who runs several local food co-ops and teaches cooking classes out of her home.

Mary Brackett is a photographer and whole foods advocate who seeks out projects that illustrate the importance of healthy choices. Their cookbook is based on the Gut and Psychology Syndrome principles developed by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride.

The GAPS diet is often used to treat children with autism and other disorders rooted in gut dysfunction, but just about anyone with allergies or less than optimal gut health can benefit from it, as it is designed to heal leaky gut.

Both Mary and Hilary are on this diet, and when Mary attended one of Hilary's cooking classes, she suggested the pair team up to create a cook book.

"One of the issues we had when we were both doing GAPS was that there wasn't a resource book that was both inspiring and beautiful, that had great recipes, and that really laid out all the information on GAPS clearly and concisely," Mary says.

"I think we were both constantly flipping through Natasha's book because it's unbelievably amazing. But because we're both visual learners, we really needed something that was laid out a little bit differently.

Because that resource didn't exist, we thought, 'Okay, we're going to take it into our own hands and we're going to start doing it ourselves.'"

Why the GAPS Diet?

Hilary has five children. Her fourth child developed severe eczema at the age of two months, which they treated with Zyrtec and steroid cream. It worked, but as soon as she stopped using the cream, the eczema would flare up again.

"In my heart, I knew that that was not the answer. It's simply a Band-Aid, not the solution," Hilary says.

"Kristin Canty, my friend who created Farmageddon, said, 'You've got to put him on raw milk.' I said, 'What is raw milk?' Fortunately, there was a conference in Westford, Massachusetts, right down the road, [held] by Sally Fallon Morell...

I dove right in. I put him on raw milk and cod liver oil, and he was completely healed. That started my journey into nutrient-dense food... My kids have been really healthy on that diet."

Another of her children has epilepsy, and it was in trying to address her daughter's seizures that Hilary came across the GAPS diet. Mary, on the other hand, has struggled with stomach problems her entire life. She was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) at the age of 16.

She eventually discovered the Weston A. Price Foundation and Sally Fallon Morell's book Nourishing Traditions, but even after implementing those strategies, she still wasn't healing.

"Then I had my son, who's now four. When he was only a month old, the doctors found blood in his stool, indicating that there was some allergy of some sort. That point was when I really had to sit down, get serious, and figure this out," she says.

After discovering and implementing the GAPS diet in her household, it took only a week before both she and her son began improving.

Most People Have Some Degree of Gut Dysfunction These Days...

The GAPS diet starts out as an elimination diet, which means taking out all inflammatory foods. This includes high-fiber foods, processed foods, and anything that is going to be difficult to digest.

By doing that, you lower the level of inflammation in your gut, allowing your body to begin to heal and thus be able to actually properly digest the food. A wide array of health problems stand to benefit from this kind of diet, as it addresses basic gut function.

Leaky gut is the root of many allergies and autoimmune disorders for example. When combined with toxic overload, you have a perfect storm that can lead to neurological disorders like autism, ADHD, and learning disabilities.  

In 2005, an investigation by the Environmental Working Group (EWG)1 revealed the presence of 287 different toxins in the cord blood of 10 babies. Most babies born today also have compromised gut flora, setting the stage for a number of potentially serious health problems, including a heightened risk for allergies and vaccine damage. A woman can provide her child with the best possible head-start by cleaning out her own toxic burden and optimizing her own gut health before getting pregnant. It's important to realize that the healing process can take some time though. It's not an overnight fix.

GAPS Diet Introduction

The initial elimination portion of the GAPS diet has six stages, based on the digestibility of the foods allowed. If you're healthy, you do not have to start at the very beginning. You could jump into the full GAPS diet, forgoing the initial elimination part of the diet.

But if you have any kind of autoimmune disease, allergies, asthma, autism, attention deficit disorder (ADD), eczema, psychological disorders, or other signs of gut dysbiosis, IBS, Crohn's, or colitis, you must not skip this initial step. You start off with bone broth. Not only is it very easily digested, it also contains profound immune-optimizing components that are foundational building blocks for the treatment of autoimmune diseases.

I urge you not to dismiss bone broth, thinking that it's either too simple to work, or too much of a hassle to bother with. Bone broth is truly a crucial component of healing your body of many of its ills. So, what's the best strategy to acquire the raw materials to make this magnificent healing concoction? As noted by Hilary:

"You definitely want to get the best bones you can get—bones from pastured animals. If you can't find a farmer in your area, reach out to your local Weston A. Price chapter leader... There are also resources to get homemade bone broth if you can't make it yourself. ...If you can only get CAFO bones [editors note: bones from animals raised in confined animal feeding operations or factory farms], I guess you go with that. You can still get some healing benefits. But it would be better to go with bones from pastured animals."

Bone Broth—THE Staple of a Gut Healing Diet

You can make bone broth using whole organic chicken, whole fish or fish bones (including the fish head), pork or beef bones. Each will render a different flavor. Hilary and Mary suggest starting with chicken only because it has the mildest flavor. Beef tends to be more overpowering.

If you're using chicken, simply place the entire chicken, raw, into a pot and cover with water. Add a small amount of vinegar to help leach the minerals out of the bones. Alternatively, you can use the carcass bones from a roasted chicken after the meat has been removed. You can also add vegetables of your choice into the pot. Don't be afraid to add chicken feet and the chicken's head, as they're great sources of collagen. Pig's feet are another good addition.

Bring it all to a boil, making sure to skim off the frothy bubbles that rise to the top as the broth begins to boil. Pay careful attention to this stage, as once the broth begins to boil the scum is rolled right back into the broth. The scum are the impurities that you want to remove. Then, turn down the heat and let it simmer overnight. (If you’re not comfortable with that, turn off the heat and let it sit overnight; then turn it back on and let simmer all day the next day.) All in all, it needs to simmer for 12-24 hours. A crock pot is an excellent way to go as this is less risky than leaving a burner on all night.

"You would want to bring it to a boil [on the stove], skim the scum, and then put it into the crock pot on Low heat. You're not going to get it to a boil in the crock pot," Hilary says.

In this elimination stage, which could take several weeks, your diet will revolve around bone broth with boiled meat and boiled, easily digestible vegetables such as carrots and zucchini. Then, you slowly begin to add in some organic pastured egg yolk, followed by avocado. Little by little, you start to add foods back into your diet, paying careful attention to any reactions.

Patience and Dedication Is Important if You Want to Heal

The severity of your gut dysbiosis will dictate how long it takes you to progress through each stage of the intro diet. If your gut is not too far gone, you can expect to move through each stage in about three to five days. It's worth noting up front that you really need to be patient and consistent on this diet.

"When you do the intro, you can't necessarily just stop cold turkey because your body is now in this healing process. If you're in a few weeks of bone broth and soups and then say, 'I'm going to go have a pizza. I can't do this anymore,' you are going to find yourself in a healing crisis. That's why we always say you have to have a lot of patience," Mary says"It's called die-off, and that's what happens to the pathogenic bacteria," Hilary adds. "You're starving [the pathogens] in your gut. 

Your body can experience all sorts of effects. We had every kid throw up within 24 hours. We thought, 'Is this for real?' Ours thankfully subsided after about 24 hours. My husband and I just felt like we were walking through mud for a week... and then that subsided. But people can have all sorts of symptoms of die-off, depending on how dire their situation is. But you just have to push through... Don't make plans to go to any big parties or anything." 

While individual responses can vary widely, as a general guideline, many tend to experience this type of healing crisis upon embarking on the intro portion of the diet. The first week is typically the hardest, but symptoms should gradually subside throughout the intro. It is not advisable to progress to the next stage until you feel well enough to do so – even if that means staying longer than recommended in a particular stage.

"My biggest challenge was learning how to listen and trust that my body actually knows what's good for it," Mary says. "With GAPS, it gives you space and time to actually see how foods interact with your body. For me, listening to that was hard because I wanted to eat something and my body was saying no. I wanted to override it and I couldn't. That process, it's kind of a warning. It's a dying out of the things you've maybe eaten your entire life. It's a cultural shift. Food is so integrated into everything you do. You eat it every day. It maybe is not something that you think about, but food is the way in which we celebrate and it's the way we sometimes mourn or deal with stress and things like that. It's a big revolution that you end up changing the way you eat."

Support and Resources

Naturally, locating trustworthy sources for your raw foods is a must. Mary and Hilary recommend connecting with your local Weston A. Price chapter leader.2 There are also GAPS practitioners all across the US and the rest of the world who are qualified to assist you with just about anything you might need. To find a GAPS practitioner, see Their book, The Heal Your Gut Cookbook: Nutrient-Dense Recipes for Intestinal Health Using the GAPS Diet, has a great resource section you can use as well.

While it will require some dedication, I firmly believe the GAPS diet may be one of the most profound healing strategies out there. Optimal health really is rooted in optimal intestinal health, and that's what the GAPS diet addresses head-on. If you have any kind of health challenge, I believe you'd be wise to consider it. Mary and Hilary's cookbook, which contains about 200 recipes, now makes it that much easier to implement without feeling completely deprived from sheer lack of variety. I highly recommend their book, and believe it could really help you and your family enjoy a higher level of health and wellness.

"It's really hard to be healthy when we have this society of speed and convenience. It's like everything is fast, fast, fast... It's one of the biggest gifts you can give to yourself and your family: to slow down, just enjoy the process of cooking, and then reap the benefits of sitting around a dinner table with your family," Hilary says.

"Make that a priority. Notice everybody eating the same thing. My 6-year-old, 7-year-old, and 10-year-olds are eating grass-fed steak with broccoli, salad, and ferment versus one eating chicken nuggets, and mom and dad eating the grass-fed steak. It's really, really rewarding in the end. You just have to kind of buckle down and learn the concepts and the techniques, and then you're good to go."

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