By Dr. Mercola

Sometimes “the cure” leads to a worsening of the very problem you’re trying to solve. Such may be the case when it comes to antiperspirants. As reported by Real Clear Science,1 antiperspirants affect the bacterial balance in your armpits, leading to an even more foul-smelling sweat problem.

The reason your sweat smells is because the bacteria living in your armpits break down lipids and amino acids found in your sweat into substances that have a distinct odor.

Antiperspirants address this problem using antimicrobial agents to kill bacteria, and other ingredients such as aluminum that block your sweat glands. According to the featured article:

“To uncover how deodorants and antiperspirants affect armpit bacteria... a team of researchers recruited eight subjects for a task a great many people (and especially their friends) might deem unbearable:

Six males and two females pledged not to use deodorant or antiperspirant for an entire month. Specifically, four subjects stopped using their deodorants and another four stopped using their antiperspirant deodorant....

Another control subject who did not regularly use either was asked to use deodorant for a month. The duration was chosen because it takes approximately 28 days for a new layer of skin cells to form.”

What Happens When You Use Antiperspirant?

Every subject in this study ended up altering the bacterial composition of their armpits. While it was a challenge to determine the exact changes, since every person’s microbiome is distinct and individual, the researchers did find one clear trend.

Those who used antiperspirants saw a definitive increase in Actinobacteria. These bacteria are hugely responsible for that foul-smelling armpit odor. Other bacteria found living in people’s armpits include Firmicutes and Staphylococcus, but the odors they produce are milder, and they’re not produced quite as readily.

The situation here is much like it is in your gut. When you eat foods or take drugs that kill off beneficial bacteria, more potentially harmful microbes are allowed to take over the turf.

Here, the less odor-causing bacteria are killed off by the aluminum compounds (the active ingredient in most antiperspirants), allowing bacteria that produce more pungent odors to thrive instead.

In some participants, abstaining from antiperspirant caused the population of Actinobacteria to dwindle into virtual nonexistence. The take-home message: using an antiperspirant can make the stink from your armpits more pronounced, while quitting antiperspirants may eventually mellow the smell.

Unfortunately, altering the microbiome in your armpit isn’t the worst thing that can happen when you regularly use antiperspirants. 

Aluminum-Containing Antiperspirants May Promote Cancer

The aluminum chloride in antiperspirants, which blocks your pores from releasing sweat, may also contribute to an increased cancer risk. Aluminum chloride actually acts similarly to the way oncogenes work to cause molecular transformations in cancer cells. 

Aluminum salts can also mimic estrogen, and previous research has shown that aluminum is absorbed and deposited into breast tissue.2 The researchers actually suggested that raised levels of aluminum could be used as a biomarker for identification of women at increased risk of developing breast cancer.

Aluminum is also widely recognized as a neurotoxin, and Alzheimer’s patients typically have elevated levels of aluminum in their brains. While there are other sources of aluminum, antiperspirants are a major one, as most people use it on a daily basis.

Aluminum salts can account for 25 percent of the volume of some antiperspirants, and in one study3 reviewing the most common sources of aluminum exposure for humans found that antiperspirant use can significantly increase the amount of aluminum absorbed by your body.

According to the review, about 0.12 percent of the aluminum applied under your arms is absorbed with each application. When you multiply that by one or more times a day for a lifetime, it can up to a massive amount of aluminum—a poison that may be more toxic than mercury!

Parabens in Antiperspirants Have Also Been Implicated in Breast Cancer

Parabens are another common ingredient in antiperspirants, and research4 examining parabens suggests chronic antiperspirant use may lead to a heightened risk of cancer as well, specifically breast cancer.

The research in question looked at where breast tumors were appearing, and determined that higher concentrations of parabens were found in the upper quadrants of the breast and axillary area, where antiperspirants are usually applied. One or more paraben esters were found in 99 percent of the 160 tissue samples collected from 40 mastectomies.

Parabens are chemicals that serve as preservatives in antiperspirants and many other cosmetics, including suntan lotions. Previous studies have shown that all parabens have estrogenic activity in human breast cancer cells.

This research really raises a red flag, and while the authors note that the source of the parabens cannot be established—in fact seven of the 40 patients reportedly never used deodorants or antiperspirants in their lifetime—it tells us that parabens are problematic, regardless of the source.

It just so happens that antiperspirants and deodorants contain parabens and are used on a daily basis by most women, and the parabens they contain can bioaccumulate in breast tissue.

Even Natural Deodorants Can Contain Aluminum and Parabens

There are many brands of chemical-free, aluminum-free deodorants on the market, and many of these are safe alternatives. But you do need to carefully read the list of ingredients. "Crystal" deodorant stones often claim to be aluminum-free, but some still contain a compound known as alum; the most common form being potassium alum, also known as potassium aluminum sulfate.

Potassium alum is a natural mineral salt made up of molecules that are too large to be absorbed by your skin. It works by forming a protective layer on your skin that inhibits the growth of odor-causing bacteria. While this may be a better alternative to most antiperspirants and deodorants on the market, it’s not completely aluminum-free... When shopping for an alternative, also remember to avoid any product containing parabens.

Bacteria-Containing Lotions and Potions—a New Frontier Opens Up

In a recent New York Times article,5 Julia Scott writes about her participation in a test group trying out a living bacterial skin tonic. The concoction is created by AOBiome. 

“The tonic looks, feels and tastes like water, but each spray bottle of AO+ Refreshing Cosmetic Mist contains billions of cultivated Nitrosomonas eutropha, an ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) that is most commonly found in dirt and untreated water,” she writes. “AOBiome scientists hypothesize that it once lived happily on us too — before we started washing it away with soap and shampoo — acting as a built-in cleanser, deodorant, anti-inflammatory and immune booster by feeding on the ammonia in our sweat and converting it into nitrite and nitric oxide.”

For the test, she agreed to mist her face, scalp, and body with the live bacteria twice a day for a month. The theory that adding rather than eradicating bacteria from your body might produce better results seems rather logical, considering what we now know about the gut microbiome, and how the bacterial balance in your armpits affects your sweat odor. And, while Scott reports mixed results, the creators of AOBiome are all long-time users of the product.

“Jamas, a quiet, serial entrepreneur with a doctorate in biotechnology, incorporated N. eutropha into his hygiene routine years ago; today he uses soap just twice a week,” Scott writes. “The chairman of the company’s board of directors, Jamie Heywood, lathers up once or twice a month and shampoos just three times a year.

The most extreme case is David Whitlock, the M.I.T.-trained chemical engineer who invented AO+. He has not showered for the past 12 years. He occasionally takes a sponge bath to wash away grime but trusts his skin’s bacterial colony to do the rest. I met these men. I got close enough to shake their hands, engage in casual conversation and note that they in no way conveyed a sense of being ‘unclean’ in either the visual or olfactory sense.”

It Doesn’t Take Much to Eradicate Beneficial Bacteria

Among the benefits, Scott reports improvements in her complexion: softer, smoother skin, fewer breakouts, and smaller pores. Indeed, the cosmetics industry has already taken note. According to Audrey Gueniche, a project director in L’Oréal’s research and innovation division, the skin microbiome “has revolutionized the way we study the skin and the results we look for,” Scott writes. The company has already patented several bacterial treatments. There are also countless potential uses in the medical field. For example, there’s a strong correlation between eczema flare-ups and an increased number of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria on the skin, which has scientists pondering the possibilities for treating the skin disorder with the appropriate skin bacteria.

“As my experiment drew to a close, I found myself reluctant to return to my old routine of daily shampooing and face treatments,” Scott writes. “I asked AOBiome which of my products was the biggest threat to the ‘good’ bacteria on my skin. The answer was equivocal: Sodium lauryl sulfate, the first ingredient in many shampoos, may be the deadliest to N. eutropha, but nearly all common liquid cleansers remove at least some of the bacteria. Antibacterial soaps are most likely the worst culprits, but even soaps made with only vegetable oils or animal fats strip the skin of AOB.

...In the end, I tipped most of my products into the trash and purchased a basic soap and a fragrance-free shampoo with a short list of easily pronounceable ingredients. Then I enjoyed a very long shower, hoping my robust biofilm would hang on tight. One week after the end of the experiment, though, a final skin swab found almost no evidence of N. eutropha anywhere on my skin. It had taken me a month to coax a new colony of bacteria onto my body. It took me three showers to extirpate it.”

Do You Really Need an Antiperspirant? My Recommendations

My personal recommendation when it comes to antiperspirants is to avoid them. It’s been well over 40 years since I quit using antiperspirant or deodorant--even natural ones.  I noticed they would cause a yellow stain in the armpit of my shirts.  At first I thought the stain was due to my sweat but I quickly realized it was the chemicals in the antiperspirants. Even as a college student, I realized if the chemicals can destroy my clothes, it probably wasn’t good for my body, so I elected to avoid it. I find that regularly washing my armpits with soap and making sure my diet is clean with minimal sugar and plenty of fermented vegetables are all that is needed to keep my armpit odor from being offensive.

About the only time I use soap on any body part other than my armpit or groin is when I am doing heavy woodchip work and am covered with woodchip dust. Most of that dust I simply spray off with a hose. If you still need further help, try a pinch of baking soda mixed into water as an effective all-day deodorant. A couple of years ago, I also noticed that if I sunbathe my armpits regularly, the UV light actually “sterilizes” the area. Even when I don’t use soap and water, there’s still no detectable odor at all. The drawback is that the effect is not long-lasting. The bacteria repopulate in a few days unless you expose your armpits to sunlight on a regular basis.

Soap tends to remove the protective sebum that is full of beneficial fats that your body uses to protect your skin. So sad and wasteful that so many regularly use soap to wash their entire skin surface and remove this protective covering and then pay money to apply lotions to restore what they just removed. The irony is that most of the lotions are far inferior to sebum and many, if not most, are loaded with toxic ingredients that ultimately will worsen your health.

Science is clearly showing that your body’s microbiome plays a major role not just in your health, promoting or warding off skin diseases for example; it can also dramatically alter things like body odor. So, it’s really in your best interest to work with your microbiome, rather than against it. Doing so could help you avoid all sorts of chemical toxins that most people slather on themselves without thinking twice about what it’s doing to their microbiome, or their health.

Related Articles:

  Stop Using 'Natural' Deodorants Until You Read This

  Are Aluminum-Containing Antiperspirants Contributing To Breast Cancer In Women?

  Parabens: 99% of Breast Cancer Tissue Contained This Everyday Chemical

 Comments (281)

By Dr. Mercola

Every winter, the US spends more than $2 billion to remove snow and ice from roadways, a cost that includes over 15 million tons of salt.1 Salt is effective and efficient, as it lowers the freezing temperature of water, making it more difficult for ice to develop and accelerating melting.

Research has shown that de-icing roadways with salt reduces accidents by 88 percent and injuries by 85 percent.2 It also helps states to mitigate the estimated $700 million in daily losses that can occur if roads become impassable.3

At least 26 states currently use salt to de-ice roads, a practice that only became widely used in the US after World War II. Since then, as salt use on roadways has continued to climb, so, too, have the related concerns.

Road Salt Is Accumulating in Dangerous Levels in the Environment

Salt is highly corrosive, for starters, to vehicles, bridges, and other steel components of roadways. Damage from salt corrosion is estimated to cost the US up to $19 billion per year.4

Then, when the snow and ice melt, the salt (sodium chloride) dissolves into sodium and chloride ions, which make their way into the environment.
Much of the salt ends up accumulating in waterways, where it can wreak havoc on local freshwater biology and microbiology.

One study in Minnesota found that about 70 percent of the road salt applied in the Twin Cities metro area is retained in the area’s watershed.5 As Eurek Alert reported:6

They found that the chloride concentrations (salinity) in 39 metro area lakes have increased over the past 22 years, following a similar trend in road salt purchases by the state of Minnesota.

Both show a marked increase from 1984 to 2005, which if continued would double salinity in these lakes in about 50 years. Compare this with a near zero concentration in the 1950s, when road salt application began.”

Chloride concentrations equivalent to one teaspoon of salt in five gallons of water (230 mg/L) can harm aquatic life and affect the taste of drinking water. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends levels be kept below this amount, but a study by the US Geological Survey (USGS) found that 40 percent of urban and suburban streams tested in the northern US had levels at or above this threshold.7

Environmental and Health Risks of Salting Roadways

Elevated chloride levels may inhibit plant growth, impair reproduction and reduce the diversity of organisms in streams, according to USGS. As Slate reported:8

A heavy influx of sodium and chloride ions—which is what you get when salt dissolves—will disrupt the ability of freshwater organisms to regulate how fluid passes in and out of their bodies.

Changes in the salinity of a pond or lake can also affect the way the water mixes as the seasons change, leading to the formation of salty pockets near the bottom and biological dead zones.”

There are other ramifications as well. Animals including moose and elk may be attracted to roadway salt and have a higher risk of being killed by vehicles. Birds may mistake the salt crystals for seeds, which can result in toxicosis and death.

When animals drink melted snow that has high concentrations of road salt in it, it may lead to symptoms of salt toxicity, including weakness, confusion, and dehydration.

Trees and other plants near roadways may also be damaged by salt, even if they’re more than 600 feet away.9 Even the health of the soil is impacted by road salt. According to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services:10

This causes depletion in the soil as well as changes the soil permeability causing the soil to become impervious which blocks water infiltration, reduces soil stability, and decreases the soil pH and overall fertility.

Salt can have impacts on soil biota, soil welling and crusting, soil electrical conductivity, soil osmotic potential, soil dispersion, and structural stability. Salt can inhibit some soil bacteria compromising soil structure and inhibiting erosion control mechanisms and increasing sediment in runoff.”

As for human health, the EPA requires that drinking water maintain levels of sodium below 20 mg/liter, although the USGS found about 2 percent of wells they tested had levels that exceed this amount.11

USGS Reports Rising Levels of Chloride in Most Urban Streams

USGS has been testing water from 19 US streams, in some cases for decades, and the most recently analyzed data showed chloride levels increased substantially in 84 percent of the urban streams.12 On average, chloride concentrations often exceeded toxic levels in northern US streams, and the frequency of these toxic occurrences nearly doubled in two decades.13 In addition:

  • 29 percent of the sites tested exceeded the EPA’s chronic water-quality criteria for chloride by an average of more than 100 days per year
  • 13 of the streams had increasing chloride concentrations even during the summer, which suggests chloride infiltrates groundwater and is “slowly released to the streams throughout the year”
  • Chloride levels increased more rapidly than development of urban land near the study sites, likely due to increased salt application rates and greater snowfall

The study found that de-icing activity was the primary source of environmental chloride in urban areas of the northern US, and researchers noted that “road de-icing by cities, counties, and state agencies accounts for a significant portion of salt applications.”

Other contributors include salt use by public and private organizations (salting driveways, parking lots, and walkways, for instance). Wastewater treatment, septic systems, farming operations, and natural geologic deposits may also contribute some salt to the environment.

It should be noted that it’s not only the salt from road de-icing that is raising concerns. Road-salt additives include ferrocyanide, which is used as an anti-caking compound.

This compound was added to the EPA’s list of toxic pollutants in 2003 because it can release cyanide ions into the environment when exposed to certain types of bacteria and sunlight.14 Heavy metals may also be found in road salt and can contaminate waterways along with the salt.

Experts Call for Road-Salt Alternatives: What Are They?

USGS researchers called for “deicer management options that minimize the use of road salt while still maintain safe conditions.” According to the Center for Environmentally Sustainable Transportation in Cold Climates, there are such options, including:15

Pre-salting roads. Spreading salt about two hours before a storm hits helps prevent ice from sticking. The EPA estimates this can reduce salt use by 41 percent to 75 percent. Wetting the salt: Wetting the salt may help it to spread more easily, cutting down on the amount used.
Not spreading salt when the pavement is too cold. Salt generally does not help when applied to pavement below 15 degrees F. Using less salt: Researchers from the University of Minnesota recommend just one to three cups of salt per 1,000 square feet.16
Using other chemicals: In areas where sodium levels in water are high, calcium chloride is sometimes used in lieu of salt. It’s more corrosive but it doesn’t harm vegetation. Beet juice and pickle brine: These are sometimes used to help salt stick to roadways and minimize runoff.

When these types of best-management practices are used, the University of Waterloo found that chloride levels in groundwater could be reduced by half.17 There are other potential alternatives in the works as well, including “smart snowplows” that use salt more efficiently (such as by detecting already-salted roadways and measuring the temperature of the pavement). One day there might even be pavement that resists freezing or that can be heated up to melt ice.

In the meantime, you can help on an individual level by minimizing the salt you apply on your driveway and walkways. Shoveling early after a storm will help minimize the need for salt, and if you do need to use it, try a mixture of pre-wetted sand and salt (1:1) to minimize the release of chlorides.


Related Articles:

  Why High Salt Consumption Alone Will Not Increase Your Heart Disease Risk

  Road Salt Leading to Rising Chloride Levels in Streams, Study Finds

  Salt: Avoiding This "Forbidden Food" Could Make You Moody

 Comments (42)

By Dr. Mercola

Research has demonstrated that pesticides and other agricultural chemicals are neurotoxic, capable of damaging your nervous system. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 60 percent of herbicides, 90 percent of fungicides, and 30 percent of insecticides are also carcinogenic.

All of these toxins are permitted on conventional farms, and any number of them can end up on your plate when you conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables. The increased use of genetically engineered plants1 and soil insecticides also increases the chemical load in food—particularly processed foods.

The answer, of course, is to limit your exposure as much as possible, giving your body a chance to eliminate the toxins you do inadvertently ingest. Certain foods, such as fermented foods, can also help detoxify some of these chemicals.

Yet despite all the known risks, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) insists pesticide residues on food are no cause for concern.

According to the agency's latest report, more than half of all foods tested last year had detectable levels of pesticide residues, but most, they claim, are within the "safe" range. However, there are a number of factors you need to be aware of before you swallow such assurances hook, line, and sinker...

USDA Does Not Test for Glyphosate

Most notably, as reported by Reuters,2 the USDA does not test for one of the most pervasive and one of the most harmful agricultural chemicals of all, namely glyphosate:

"As has been the case with past analyses, the USDA said it did not test this past year for residues of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide and the world's most widely used herbicide.

A USDA spokesman who asked not to be quoted said that the test measures required for glyphosate are 'extremely expensive... to do on an regular basis'...

Many genetically modified crops can be sprayed directly with glyphosate, and some consumer and health groups fear glyphosate residues in foods are harmful to human health, even though the government says the pesticide is considered safe."

Meanwhile, one of the most recent studies3 investigating the effect glyphosate on Americans' health noted that glyphosate interferes with many metabolic processes in both plants and animals.

The researchers also note that previous studies show that glyphosate "disrupts the endocrine system4 and the balance of gut bacteria... damages DNA and is a driver of mutations that lead to cancer."

The researchers searched US government databases for GE crop data, glyphosate application data, and disease epidemiological data, and analyses revealed "highly significant" correlations between glyphosate applications and the following health problems among the US population:

Hypertension Stroke Diabetes
Obesity Lipoprotein metabolism disorder Alzheimer's disease
Senile dementia Parkinson's disease Multiple sclerosis
Autism Inflammatory bowel disease Intestinal infections
End stage renal disease Acute kidney failure Thyroid cancer
Liver cancer Bladder cancer Pancreatic cancer
Kidney cancer Myeloid leukemia  

According to the authors: "The significance and strength of the correlations show that the effects of glyphosate and GE crops on human health should be further investigated."

Glyphosate May Be Worse Than DDT

According to Dr. Don Huber, an expert in an area of science that relates to the toxicity of genetically engineered (GE) foods, glyphosate may be even more toxic than DDT—a devastating chemical that, just like glyphosate, was once proclaimed to be "safe enough to eat."5

Just last year, new research implicated DDT in the development of Alzheimer's, decades after exposure, and there's no doubt in my mind that we're heading down the same road with glyphosate.

Dr. Seneff's groundbreaking research published in June 2013 suggests that glyphosate may actually be the most important factor in the development of a wide variety of chronic diseases, specifically because your gut bacteria are a key component of glyphosate's mechanism of harm. 

Monsanto has steadfastly claimed that Roundup is harmless to animals and humans because the mechanism of action it uses (which allows it to kill weeds), called the shikimate pathway, is absent in all animals. However, the shikimate pathway IS present in bacteria, and that's the key to understanding how it causes such widespread systemic harm in both humans and animals.

Dr. Huber has also presented evidence6,7 linking glyphosate to Bee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), and honeybee starvation.8 Glyphosate has also been found to be highly toxic to the soil surrounding a plant's roots (known as the rhizosphere), woodland plants, amphibians, fish, aquatic environments, and mammals9--causing reproductive problems and disrupting the endocrine system.

Why Even Non-GMO Crops Are Also More Toxic These Days

Many leading authorities like Dr. Huber and Dr. Stephanie Seneff have started bringing attention to the practice of desiccation—a practice in which glyphosate is applied to the grain shortly prior to harvesting. Interestingly enough, this causes the grain to release more seeds. The Washington Blog10 recently ran an article giving an excellent overview of the process. Desiccating11 non-organic wheat crops with glyphosate began about 15 years ago.

Glyphosate desiccation is also done on barley, beans, peas, peanuts, sugar cane,12 oats, canola, flax, and lentils,13 just to name a few. Roundup (glyphosate) is used as a desiccant at harvest on about 160 conventional crops.14

Needless to say, desiccated crops tend to be more contaminated with glyphosate. A large percentage of processed foods are made with wheat, and the practice of desiccating wheat with glyphosate appears to be strongly correlated with the rapid rise in celiac disease. Dr. Seneff's research shows that glyphosate destroys the villi in your gut, which reduces your ability to absorb vitamins and minerals.

Wheat also contains gliadin, which is difficult to break down. Normally, a reaction takes place that builds connections between different proteins in the wheat. But glyphosate prevents that process from occurring, resulting in wheat that is highly undigestible. Dr. Seneff and her co-researcher Dr. Anthony Samsel believe the glyphosate may attach to the gliadin as a consequence of a chemical reaction. The end result is that your body develops an immune reaction. As noted in their study:15

"[G]ut dysbiosis, brought on by exposure to glyphosate, plays a crucial role in the development of celiac disease. Many CYP enzymes are impaired in association with celiac disease, and we show that glyphosate's known suppression of CYP enzyme activity in plants and animals plausibly explains this effect in humans."

Glyphosate Readily Accumulates in GE Crops

Recent research16 has also shown that there are significant compositional differences between genetically engineered (GE) soybeans and non-GE varieties, and that glyphosate readily accumulates in the former. Contrary to industry claims, the study also found that they differ in terms of nutritional quality, with organic soybeans having the healthiest nutritional profile.

According to the authors, "This study rejects that genetically modified soy is "substantially equivalent" to non-GM soybeans." The study in question investigated contamination levels and nutritional contents of three varieties of Iowa-grown soybeans: Roundup Ready soybeans; non-GE, conventional soybeans grown using Roundup herbicide; and organic soybeans, grown without agricultural chemicals, and found that:

  • On average GE soy contained 11.9 parts per million (ppm) of glyphosate
  • The highest residue level found was 20.1 ppm
  • No residues of either kind were found in the conventional non-GE and organic varieties

Similar results were found in a 2012 nutritional analysis of GE corn, which was found to contain 13 ppm of glyphosate, compared to none in non-GMO corn. When you consider that Americans eat an average of 193 pounds of genetically engineered foods each year,17 the issue of glyphosate contamination is undoubtedly a very important one. In a 2014 article for The Ecologist,18 two of the researchers point out that these levels are actually double, or more, of what Monsanto itself has referred to as "extreme levels:"

 "Monsanto (manufacturer of glyphosate) has claimed that residues of glyphosate in genetically modified (GM) soy are lower than in conventional soybeans, where glyphosate residues have been measured up to 16-17 mg/kg (Monsanto 1999). These residues, found in non-GM plants, likely must have been due to the practice of spraying before harvest (for desiccation). Another claim of Monsanto's has been that residue levels of up to 5.6 mg/kg in GM-soy represent '...extreme levels, and far higher than those typically found.' (Monsanto 1999)." [Emphasis mine]

It's quite crucial to understand that glyphosate contamination in GE crops is systemic, meaning it is present in every cell of the plant, from root to tip. It's not just an issue of topical contamination—although that certainly adds to the level of contamination. Normally, you need to thoroughly wash your produce to remove topical residues, but you cannot remove glyphosate from GE produce, as it has been absorbed into the cells of the plant. And neither can food and animal feed manufacturers who use GE ingredients in their products...

Amid Concerns of Safety, EPA Raised Allowable Levels for Glyphosate in Food

All of this points to the importance of testing for and restricting glyphosate residues in food, yet that is NOT being done, ostensibly due to cost. It also brings up another important point, which is that despite rapidly rising concerns about safety, in 2013 the EPA quietly went ahead and raised the allowable levels of glyphosate in food—and by significant amounts19, 20 to boot. Allowable levels in oilseed crops such as soy were doubled, from 20 ppm to 40 ppm. So all of a sudden, that makes "extreme levels" appear to be on the lower end of the allowable spectrum!  

It also raised the levels of permissible glyphosate contamination in other foods—many of which were raised to 15-25 times previous levels! Farmers are also ramping up their usage of the chemical due to the proliferation of glyphosate-resistant weeds. It's worth noting that, for years, pro-GMO advocates claimed that genetic engineering would lead to reduced reliance on toxic agricultural chemicals. Now, the data shows us the exact converse has happened.

Lies, Lies, and More Lies

We were promised that GMOs would result in LESS pesticide use, but as noted in a 2012 article by Tom Philpott,21 Monsanto's Roundup Ready technology "has called forth a veritable monsoon of herbicides, both in terms of higher application rates for Roundup, and... growing use of other, more-toxic herbicides." Philpott's article includes eye-opening statistics compiled by Chuck Benbrook, a research professor at Washington State University's Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources. Benbrook discovered that:

  • Overall, GE technology drove up herbicide use by 527 million pounds (about 11 percent) between 1996 (when Roundup Ready crops were initially released) and 2011
  • Herbicide use dropped by about two percent between 1996 and 1999, but shortly thereafter, as weeds began developing resistance against the chemical, application rates skyrocketed
  • In 2002, glyphosate use on Roundup Ready soybeans rose by 21 percent. Overall, American farmers increased their use of glyphosate by 19 million pounds that year
  • By 2011, farmers growing Roundup Ready crops (corn, soy, and cotton) used 24 percent more Roundup than farmers planting non-GE versions of the same crop, because by that time, glyphosate-resistance had become the norm. Farmers also began resorting to older, more toxic herbicides like 2,4-D

'Inert' Ingredients in Pesticides May Also Be Profoundly Toxic

A third issue that is completely ignored by the USDA when they claim pesticide residues in food are within safe levels is the fact that "inert" ingredients in herbicidal formulations are not necessarily inactive. On the contrary, synergistic effects between active and so-called inactive ingredients are a hidden source of toxicity that is widely overlooked.

As discussed in a 2006 paper published in the Journal of Environmental Health Perspectives,22 it's important to realize that the term "inert ingredient" does NOT mean that it is biologically or toxicologically harmless. When you see "inert" or "inactive ingredients" listed on the label of a pesticide or herbicide, it only means that those ingredients will not harm pests or weeds. This is how federal law classifies "inert" pesticide ingredients.23 And while a chemical may not kill a pest or weed, it may have a profound impact on human biology.

For example, one 2012 study24 revealed that inert ingredients like ethoxylated adjuvants in glyphosate-based herbicides are "active principles of human cell toxicity." (On a side note, an "ethoxylated" compound is a chemical that has been produced using the carcinogen ethylene oxide.25 The ethoxylation process also produces the carcinogenic byproduct 1,4-dioxane.) The study found that liver, embryonic, and placental cell lines exposed to various herbicide formulations for 24 hours at doses as low as 1 part per million (ppm), had adverse effects.26  According to the authors:27

"Here we demonstrate that all formulations are more toxic than glyphosate, and we separated experimentally three groups of formulations differentially toxic according to their concentrations in ethoxylated adjuvants.

Among them, POE-15 clearly appears to be the most toxic principle against human cells... It begins to be active with negative dose-dependent effects on cellular respiration and membrane integrity between 1 and 3ppm, at environmental/occupational doses. We demonstrate in addition that POE-15 induces necrosis when its first micellization process occurs, by contrast to glyphosate which is known to promote endocrine disrupting effects after entering cells.

Altogether, these results challenge the establishment of guidance values such as the acceptable daily intake of glyphosate, when these are mostly based on a long term in vivo test of glyphosate alone. Since pesticides are always used with adjuvants that could change their toxicity, the necessity to assess their whole formulations as mixtures becomes obvious. This challenges the concept of active principle of pesticides for non-target species." [Emphasis mine]

Perhaps most disturbing of all, the researchers claim that cell damage and even cell death can occur at the residual levels found on Roundup-treated crops, as well as lawns and gardens where Roundup is applied for weed control. They also suspect that28 Roundup might interfere with hormone production, possibly leading to abnormal fetal development, low birth weights, or miscarriages.

FDA Tests Less Than One-Tenth of One Percent of All Imported Fruits and Vegetables

The monitoring of pesticide residue by the FDA and USDA received harsh criticism in a recent report created by the General Accounting Office (GAO). In its report,29 titled: "Food Safety––FDA and USDA Should Strengthen Pesticide Residue Monitoring Programs and Further Disclose Limitations," the GAO suggests a number of major changes to the two agencies' pesticide monitoring programs. Greater sample sizes are needed, the report says, and special attention should be paid to pesticides that already have established EPA tolerance levels, rather than those that do not. The GAO also calls for greater transparency in annual test reports.

As reported by Food Safety Magazine:30

"Such changes could eventually reveal whether or not regulatory violations are rampant throughout each agencies' pesticide residue testing. Over the years, established testing programs have shown few incidences of violation. Also, a helping hand from Congress might be necessary as the suggested changes would require additional funding and resources. Additional findings include:

  • The FDA tests less than one-tenth of one percent of all imported fruits and vegetables. Less than one percent of domestic fruits and vegetables are tested. The small sample sizes suggest that results that may not be 'statistically valid.'
  • The FDA does not test foods for many pesticides that have strict residue limits set by the EPA. This lack of testing, according to the GAO, should be stated in the FDA's annual reports.
  • Testing by the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service and the Agricultural Marketing Service were found to be statistically valid. But like the FDA, the FSIS also doesn't test for pesticides with established tolerances."

Avoiding Toxic Food Is Imperative for Optimal Health

The chemical technology industry, spearheaded by Monsanto, has managed to turn food into a literal poison... Glyphosate, which we now know systemically contaminates the plant and cannot be washed off, has a number of devastating biological effects, including the following:   

Nutritional deficiencies, as glyphosate immobilizes certain nutrients and alters the nutritional composition of the treated crop Disruption of the biosynthesis of aromatic amino acids (these are essential amino acids not produced in your body that must be supplied via your diet)
Increased toxin exposure (this includes high levels of glyphosate and formaldehyde in the food itself) Impairment of sulfate transport and sulfur metabolism; sulfate deficiency
Systemic toxicity—a side effect of extreme disruption of microbial function throughout your body; beneficial microbes in particular, allowing for overgrowth of pathogens Gut dysbiosis (imbalances in gut bacteria, inflammation, leaky gut, food allergies such as gluten intolerance)
Enhancement of damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and environmental toxins as a result of glyphosate shutting down the function of detoxifying enzymes Creation of ammonia (a byproduct created when certain microbes break down glyphosate), which can lead to brain inflammation associated with autism and Alzheimer's disease

Ideally, you'd be best off opting for products bearing the USDA 100% organic label when buying processed foods in order to avoid exposure to agricultural chemicals, which certainly are not limited to Roundup. Don't make the mistake of confusing the "natural" label with organic standards however. The "natural" label is not based on any standards and is frequently misused by sellers of GE products.

Growers and manufacturers of organic products bearing the USDA seal, on the other hand, have to meet the strictest standards of any of the currently available organic labels. That said, my personal recommendation is to forgo processed fare altogether. Instead, pick up a good cookbook, and start cooking from scratch using whole organic ingredients. This really is the key to optimal health. Meats need to be grass-fed or pastured to make sure the animals were not fed GE corn or soy feed.

You'd also be wise to stop using Roundup around your home, where children and pets can come into contact with it simply by walking across the area. Here are some great resources to obtain wholesome organic food. Eating locally produced organic food will not only support your family's health, it will also protect the environment from harmful chemical pollutants and the inadvertent spread of genetically engineered seeds and chemical-resistant weeds and pests.

  1. Alternative Farming Systems Information Center, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
  2. Farmers' Markets -- A national listing of farmers' markets.
  3. Local Harvest -- This Web site will help you find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.
  4. Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals -- The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
  5. Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) -- CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.
  6. FoodRoutes -- The FoodRoutes "Find Good Food" map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSA's, and markets near you.

Related Articles:

  “Extreme” Levels of Roundup Detected in Food—Are You Eating This Toxic Contaminant?

  Monsanto Vows to Challenge Maui GMO Moratorium in Court

  Roundup and Glyphosate Toxicity Have Been Grossly Underestimated

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By Dr. Mercola

Two of the primary polluters of our world and destroyers of our environment are also the primary sources of our food: large-scale, factory-style crop farms (both genetically engineered (GE) and conventionally-grown food crops), and confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

GE crop fields and CAFOs tend to go hand in hand—especially in the US—and they not only deplete aquifers of valuable drinking water, they also pollute what little fresh drinking water remains.

Most people don’t realize that agriculture uses 70 percent of the world’s fresh water. This is a challenge because over one billion of the seven billion people on Earth don’t even have access to safe, clean drinking water.

Add to that the soil destruction and depletion that’s occurring courtesy of modern agricultural practices and it’s quite clear that our primary food suppliers also pose a very serious threat to the future of our food and water supplies...

A Business Insider1 article published in August last year shows aerial photos of factory farms across the US that reveal, in disgusting detail, how the American countryside is being destroyed by their presence.

At present, the vast majority of the major food crops grown in the US are genetically engineered, and 99 percent of food animals in the US are raised in these large-scale feedlots. Yet many Americans still do not realize exactly how their food is raised or grown, and all the “hidden” costs associated with factory-style farming.

Des Moines, Iowa Sues Over Fertilizer Runoff

According to the Environmental Protection Agency2 (EPA), US states with high concentrations of CAFOs report 20-30 serious water quality problems annually. In Iowa, factory farms are now accused of polluting two rivers that supply drinking water to the city of Des Moines.

High levels of nitrates have been detected in the water, which is both difficult and costly to remove. Des Moines’ water utility spent $900,000 on nitrate filtering in 2013, and is now threatening to sue three neighboring counties (Sac, Buena Vista, and Calhoun Counties) over the fertilizer runoff tainting these rivers.

According to Bill Stowe, general manager of the Des Moines Water Works, the public water supply is “directly risked by high nitrate concentrations." As reported by NPR:3

“Stowe says the source of these nitrates is pretty clear. Farmers spread nitrogen fertilizer on their corn fields, it turns into nitrate and then it commonly runs into streams through networks of underground tile pipes that drain the soil.

Those drainage systems are managed, in some cases, by county governments, and Des Moines Water Works is now proceeding on the theory that those governments can be held legally responsible for the pollution that their pipes carry.

When they build these artificial drainage districts that take water, polluted water, quickly into the Raccoon River, they have a responsibility to us and others as downstream users... We need to get down to specific steps that they need to take. If they aren't willing, we'll see them in federal court."

Unfortunately, the toxic waste created by factory farms cannot be completely contained or eliminated, no matter what you do. It has to go somewhere, even if it doesn’t go directly into a valuable water source.

The long-term solution is to alter our farming practices to root out toxic chemicals and soil additives, and to grow crops in such a way that the farm is contributing to the overall health and balance of the environment rather than polluting it and creating a dysfunctional ecosystem.

Victory Against Polluting CAFOs in Oregon

In related news, the Community Association for Restoration of the Environment (CARE) and Center for Food Safety (CFS) recently won a summary judgment4 against four CAFO dairies in Lower Yakima Valley, accused of violating critical environmental protection laws.

According to the lawsuit, the massive above-ground manure lagoons at these dairies leak toxic waste such as nitrates and other pollutants into soils and public water supplies, thereby posing a major threat to public health and the environment.  

In 2012, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a report5 showing that 20 percent of the 331 wells tested in the Lower Yakima Valley had nitrate levels above federal drinking water standards, and more than 24,000 residents rely on water from these private wells.

The health hazards of nitrates include blue baby syndrome, cancer, autoimmune diseases, reproductive problems, and more. According to the press release:6

“The groups have won summary judgment, confirming that industrial dairies’ manure indisputably threatens public health. The decision affirms CARE and CFS’s argument that the manure management practices of these industrial dairies may contribute to drinking water contamination, are insufficient to protect public health and the environment, and that these industrial dairies should be held responsible.

 ...Today’s landmark decision connects these industrial dairies to contamination of the drinking water of thousands of Lower Yakima Valley residents.

 ‘It is long past due that these dairy factories be held accountable for their toxic waste and compromising of human health,’ said George Kimbrell, senior attorney for Center for Food Safety. These dairies’ practices harm drinking water and the environment, and we are gratified that the Court agrees that such pollution is unlawful.”

Next, the groups will proceed to trial, where the court will be provided with evidence to establish what needs to be done to clean up this toxic mess. Jessica Culpepper, Food Safety and Health attorney at Public Justice noted that:

“This precedent-setting victory is a clear indication that mega-dairies like Cow Palace may not continue to operate in a way that dumps their mess on the people and the environment.

By creating far more manure than the dairy could possibly manage and allowing its facility to operate under filthy conditions, it has endangered not only the environment and a community’s drinking water supply, but the health and safety of the animals, the farmworkers, and dairy consumers as well.”

Indiana Senator Introduces Bill to Thwart Moratoriums on New CAFO’s

Victories such as the one just mentioned are becoming increasingly important in light of the power of the agricultural lobby, which is constantly fighting to keep regulations on these mega operations as loose and carefree as possible. In response to rising numbers of moratoriums against new CAFO’s in Indiana, state Senator Jean Leising introduced Senate Bill 249, which would prevent a county, municipality or township “from adopting an ordinance, resolution, rule, policy, or other requirement” that prohibits the building of any livestock structure, provided the operation is in accordance with zoning and state laws.

According to environmentalist attorney Kim Ferraro, who is the water and agriculture policy director for the Hoosier Environmental Council:7 “It’s one thing to want to be a state that promotes agriculture. It’s a whole other thing to completely strip the rights of local governments and citizens to protect themselves from harm.”

Indiana already has laws on the books that encourage the building of CAFOs and restrict local governments’ ability to pass ordinances to prevent new factory farms from being built. Laws have also been passed that make it more difficult for residents to win a nuisance lawsuit against CAFOs for noxious odors, for example. Former Jay County commissioner Milo Miller Jr has described Leising’s bill as a “bunch of crap,” adding:  

“They say they want the counties to have local control, but it’s ‘Do it our way’. What kind of local control is that? Who knows what’s best in the county? The state legislature or the county officials?”

Fresh Water Supplies at Risk Across the Globe

Water pollution is a serious problem around the world, primarily as a result of toxic agriculture practices. A story in The Blade8 discusses a new study9 that suggests many of the world’s lakes are at risk due to farm fertilizer runoff, which feeds harmful blue-green algae (cyanobacteria). Once this algae is established, it’s more difficult to get rid of it than previously thought. “Nitrogen and phosphorus in the algae itself gets recycled and combines with fresh runoff to form more algae, resulting in a near-perpetual cycle of goopy green stuff that is difficult to break in certain bodies of water,” the article explains.

The answer, according to the authors of this study, is better land-use management that addresses fertilizer runoff. A dramatic reduction in fertilizer use is also recommended. Lead author and Dartmouth College biology professor Kathryn Cottingham believes that “aggressive reductions in runoff could yield immediate benefits.”

At Current Rate, There’s Only Two Generations of Topsoil Left...

A related problem is topsoil destruction and erosion, which is exacerbated by tilling, monocropping, and not using cover crops. According to Maria-Helena Semedo of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), if the current rates of degradation continue, all of the topsoil around the world will be gone in 60 years. If that’s not a sobering thought, I don’t know what is. That means we have less than two generations’ worth left of “doing business as usual.” After that, it’ll be game over because without topsoil you cannot grow food, no matter how many chemicals you throw on top of it.

“Unless new approaches are adopted, the global amount of arable and productive land per person in 2050 will be only a quarter of the level in 1960, the FAO reported, due to growing populations and soil degradation,” Scientific American10 writes.

Taking Control of Your Health Is Part of the Solution

There’s absolutely nothing sustainable about our current farming model. Instead of producing ecological balance and food for the masses, the result is global hunger, pollution, and water scarcity... Fortunately, there are answers; it’s just a matter of implementing them on a wider scale. Solutions include carbon sequestration techniques, regenerative land management practices, and holistic herd management. We must shift our focus to emphasize the biological system as a whole. Rebuilding functional ecosystems from the ground up will restore them to their fullest potential, and this needs to be our primary focus.

While the principles of regenerative farming are really ancient knowledge, it's not widely discussed or implemented. There's only a small segment of the population that even understands this natural system, and the potential it has for radically transforming the way we feed the masses AND protect the environment at the same time. This segment is slowly growing, however. And, while you may not be able to do anything about how large-scale commercial farms are being run at the moment, you can make a difference for yourself, for your family, and your community that might have residual effects.

Buying organic, thereby avoiding any and all GE foods is, I believe, a crucial step. This includes buying grass-fed or pastured animal products, such as beef, chicken, milk, and eggs. Besides that, you can also grow your own organic vegetables. If you take advantage of the farm-fresh sustainability that's becoming more prevalent as people take control of what they're consuming, you'll realize many benefits. First, you'll know where the foods you and your family eat come from, ensure optimal nutrition, and protect the health of future generations. The following organizations can help you locate farm-fresh foods in your local area that has been raised in a humane, sustainable manner:

  • Local Harvest -- This Web site will help you find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.
  • Eat Wild: With more than 1,400 pasture-based farms, Eatwild's Directory of Farms is one of the most comprehensive sources for grass-fed meat and dairy products in the United States and Canada.
  • Farmers' Markets -- A national listing of farmers' markets.
  • Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals -- The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
  • FoodRoutes -- The FoodRoutes "Find Good Food" map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs, and markets near you.

Related Articles:

  Factory Farm Model Fails Again—Produces Virus That Has Wiped Out 10 Percent of US Pig Population in One Year

  The Surprising Leading Contributor to Pollution: Agriculture

  How Organic Farming Could Release Us From the Curse of Fertilizer

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By Dr. Mercola

Psoriasis is a chronic disease of your immune system that causes cells to build up on the surface of your skin, leading to thick, red, scaly patches that are very itchy and sometimes painful. Up to 7.5 million Americans suffer from the disease, which has a surprisingly significant economic impact as well.

A new study in JAMA Dermatology reported that direct US healthcare costs related to psoriasis may be up to $63 billion a year.1 There were also indirect costs (such as loss of work hours) of up to $35 billion and another $35 billion in costs related to associated health problems, like heart disease and depression.

Taken together, the researchers found the annual US cost of psoriasis amounted to approximately $112 billion in 2013.

Psoriasis Is More Than a Superficial Skin Condition

Although psoriasis appears as a skin condition, it is actually an autoimmune disease. Part of the reaction occurs when a type of white blood cell called a T cell mistakenly attacks healthy skin cells.

These overactive T cells then trigger other immune responses that collectively speed up the growth cycle of skin cells, causing them to move to the outermost layer of your skin in a matter of days rather than weeks.

Because the dead skin cannot be removed quickly enough, it builds up into the thick patches characteristic of psoriasis. For up to 60 percent of people with psoriasis, the condition seriously impacts their daily life.

Your skin may become so inflamed that it cracks and bleeds. Up to 30 percent of sufferers also develop psoriatic arthritis, which can cause debilitating joint damage.

People with psoriasis are also at an increased risk of numerous other chronic diseases, including eye conditions, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. And then there are the psychological repercussions.2

Those who aren’t familiar with psoriasis may view it as a contagious rash, and as a result people with psoriasis may be shunned or excluded socially. People with psoriasis often suffer from depression, low self-esteem, social isolation and problems at work, which may lead to a lower income.3

Vitamin D Is Crucial for Autoimmune Diseases, Including Psoriasis

If you have psoriasis, it is imperative that you have your vitamin D levels tested and maintain levels in the therapeutic range of 50-70 ng/ml year-round. Vitamin D is a potent immune modulator, making it very important for the prevention of autoimmune diseases.

According to one study, “vitamin D could have important immunomodulatory effects in psoriasis,” but unfortunately 80 percent of patients in winter, and 50 percent in the summer, were vitamin-D deficient.4

Vitamin D is thought to effect psoriasis on multiple levels, including helping to regulate keratinocyte (skin cell) growth and differentiation as well as influence the immune functions of T lymphocytes and other cells. Vitamin D also inhibits cytotoxic T cells and natural killer cell activity, potentially helping to regulate skin cell growth.5

In fact, not only are vitamin D derivatives commonly used as a topical treatment for psoriasis, but phototherapy is also a preferred type of treatment.

There is also at least one published report of a specific type of drug-induced psoriasis resolving after high doses of vitamin D3 were given to treat vitamin-D deficiency.6

Existing psoriasis drug treatments are risky and expensive. NPR followed one man with psoriasis who has taken multiple prescription drugs for psoriasis, including experimental drugs, and is still suffering.

One of the drugs, Raptiva, was pulled from the market for increasing the risk of deadly brain infections. Another, Stelara, worked, but only for five years when his symptoms returned. In those five years alone, he reported the drug costs added up to $250,000.7

One of the most common psoriasis treatments is the drug psoralen combined with UV light exposure (known as PUVA). Psoralen makes your skin more sensitive to UV light, but it is often combined with UVA exposure. UVA rays are the type associated with skin damage, while UVB light causes your skin to produce vitamin D.

Optimize Your Vitamin D Levels If You Have Psoriasis

Typically, the best treatment for psoriasis is exposure to sunlight to optimize your vitamin D levels. You don’t need to visit a dermatologist; you can do it yourself. 

Speaking out in a professional capacity against this idea can cost you. In 2004, Dr. Michael Holick published the book, The UV Advantage, in which he encouraged readers to get some sensible sun exposure.

At the time, he was a professor of dermatology because of the work he'd been doing with active vitamin D for the treatment of psoriasis. In fact, he'd received the American Skin Association's Psoriasis Research Achievement Award—a rather prestigious award.

“As a result, I was in the department of dermatology, continuing to do psoriasis research. But once I began recommending sensible sun exposure for vitamin D, which is counter to what the American Academy of Dermatology's message was, I was asked to step down as professor of dermatology back in 2004...

The American Academy of Dermatology still recommends: you should never be exposed to one direct ray of sunlight for your entire life.”

This is highly counterintuitive, given the research showing how beneficial vitamin D is for psoriasis. Sunlight exposure works, in part, because UV rays in sunlight and certain types of artificial light kill off the activated T cells in your skin.

This slows down cell turnover and reduces the scaling and inflammation of your skin.

Proper sunlight exposure will help you get your vitamin D levels into the therapeutic range, which has additional health benefits as well. It’s probably no coincidence that people with psoriasis, who are often vitamin D deficient, have an increased risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and metabolic syndrome – which are also associated with low vitamin D.8

Low Vitamin D Linked to Parkinson’s Disease and Cancer

People with psoriasis are at an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease as well, and this, too, is associated with vitamin D deficiency. According to one study:9

Plasma levels of both dietary and sunlight-derived vitamin D are inversely correlated with the risk of Parkinson disease (PD) … The finding suggests that low vitamin D levels in PD are not simply a result of reduced mobility.”

Research scheduled to be presented at the 2015 Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium in San Francisco also revealed that higher vitamin D levels are associated with markedly improved survival in people with advanced colorectal cancer.10

For this study, those with the highest vitamin D levels only had an average of 27.5 ng/mL, which is still far below the optimal range of 50-70 ng/mL. Theories linking vitamin D deficiency to cancer have been tested and confirmed in more than 200 epidemiological studies, and understanding of its physiological basis stems from more than 2,500 laboratory studies.

One particularly noteworthy study was completed by Joan Lappe and Robert Heaney in 2007. A group of menopausal women were given enough vitamin D to raise their serum levels to 40 ng/ml. These women experienced a 77 percent reduction in the incidence of all cancers, across the board, after just four years11 (and again, 40 ng/ml is a relatively modest level).

So far, scientists have identified nearly 3,000 genes that are influenced by vitamin D status, and a robust and growing body of research clearly shows that vitamin D is critical for optimal health and disease prevention.

Have You Checked Your Vitamin D Level Lately?

While the optimal level for general health lies between 50-70 ng/ml, when treating chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and autoimmune (i.e. psoriasis) and/or neurological diseases, your level should ideally be somewhere between 70-100 ng/ml, which is about double what is typically considered “normal.”

vitamin d levels
References for target ranges

It’s important to realize that vitamin D deficiency is common around the world, even in areas where you’d suspect most people would get plenty of sun exposure. One recent study done in India found that 69 percent of 37,000 people tested across the country were vitamin D deficient (at or below 20 ng/ml), and another 15 percent had insufficient levels (20-30 ng/ml).12 Men between the ages of 31-60, and women aged 16-30, were at highest risk of vitamin D deficiency, although in the US the elderly are also seriously at risk.

The ideal method to optimize your vitamin D levels is through sensible UVB exposure.  You can also use an oral supplement of vitamin D3. GrassrootsHealth has a helpful chart showing the average adult dose required to reach healthy vitamin D levels based upon your measured starting point. Many experts agree that 35 IUs of vitamin D per pound of body weight could be used as an estimate for your ideal dose, but you’ll need to test and monitor your levels to be sure.

If Taking a Vitamin D Supplement, Remember K2 and Magnesium, Too

If you opt for a supplement, be sure to take vitamin D3—not synthetic D2—and take vitamin K2 and magnesium in conjunction with it. Vitamin D is fat-soluble, so taking some form of healthy fat with it will also help optimize absorption. The biological role of vitamin K2 is to help move calcium into the proper areas in your body, and without sufficient amounts, calcium may build up in areas such as your arteries and soft tissues. This can cause calcification that can lead to hardening of your arteries—a side effect previously thought to be caused by vitamin D toxicity. We now know that inappropriate calcification is actually due more to lack of K2 than simply too much vitamin D.

Magnesium is also important, both for the proper function of calcium, and for the activity of vitamin D as it converts vitamin D into its active form. Magnesium also activates enzyme activity that helps your body use the vitamin D. In fact, all enzymes that metabolize vitamin D require magnesium to work. As with vitamin D and K2, magnesium deficiency is also common, and if you’re lacking in magnesium and take supplemental calcium, you may exacerbate the situation.

Vitamin A, zinc, and boron are other important cofactors that interact with vitamin D. When taking supplements, it can be easy to create lopsided ratios, so getting these nutrients from an organic whole food diet and sensible sun exposure is generally your best bet. Dietary sources of magnesium include sea vegetables, such as kelp, dulse, and nori. Vegetables can also be a good source. As for supplements, magnesium citrate and magnesium threonate are among the best.

How Vitamin D Performance Testing Can Help Optimize Your Health

A robust and growing body of research clearly shows that vitamin D is absolutely critical for good health and disease prevention. Vitamin D affects your DNA through vitamin D receptors (VDRs), which bind to specific locations of the human genome. Is it any wonder then that no matter what disease or condition is investigated, vitamin D appears to play a crucial role? This is why I am so excited about the D*Action Project by GrassrootsHealth. It is showing how you can take action today on known science with a consensus of experts without waiting for institutional lethargy.

It has shown how by combining the science of measurement (of vitamin D levels) with the personal choice of taking action and, the value of education about individual measures that one can truly be in charge of their own health. In order to spread this health movement to more communities, the project needs your involvement. To participate, simply purchase the D*Action Measurement Kit and follow the registration instructions included. (Please note that 100 percent of the proceeds from the kits go to fund the research project. I do not charge a single dime as a distributor of the test kits.)

As a participant, you agree to test your vitamin D levels twice a year during a five-year study, and share your health status to demonstrate the public health impact of this nutrient. There is a $65 fee every six months for your sponsorship of this research project, which includes a test kit to be used at home, and electronic reports on your ongoing progress. You will get a follow up email every six months reminding you “it's time for your next test and health survey.”

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Related Articles:

  Vitamin D Deficiency Significantly Raises Your Risk of Cancer and All-Cause Mortality

  Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Neurological Diseases; Also Raises Risk of Asthma Attacks, and More...

  Vitamin D Might Be Able to Slash Your Breast Cancer Risk by 90 Percent

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