By Dr. Mercola
The nutritional myth that saturated fat is bad for you continues to fall apart as a steady stream of new books and studies on this topic hit the media. The latest work to challenge the old dogma is a book called The Big Fat Surprise by journalist Nina Teicholz, interviewed above.
Her book comes alongside new research that raises questions about the long-held but false belief that cardiovascular disease is related to fat and cholesterol intake.
Teicholz points out the flaws in the original Ancel Keys study; how saturated fat has been a healthy human staple for thousands of years, and how the low-fat craze has resulted in excessive consumption of refined carbohydrates, which has resulted in increased inflammation and disease.1 Teicholz tells the Wall Street Journal:2
"There has never been solid evidence for the idea that these [saturated] fats cause disease. We only believe this to be the case because nutrition policy has been derailed over the past half-century by a mixture of personal ambition, bad science, politics, and bias."
Are We Seeing the Cholesterol Myth in a Scientific Free-Fall?
The cholesterol myth has suffered a bit of a triple whammy of late, making it harder and harder for heart specialists to uphold the company line. This information is just the latest in a long line of science disproving the need for the saturated fat phobia.
- In 2012, researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology examined the health and lifestyle habits of more than 52,000 adults ages 20 to 74, concluding that women with "high cholesterol" (greater than 270 mg/dl) had a 28 percent lower mortality risk than women with "low cholesterol" (less than 183 mg/dl).
Researchers also found that, if you're a woman, your risk for heart disease, cardiac arrest, and stroke are higher with lower cholesterol levels.3
- In 2013, a prominent London cardiologist by the name of Aseem Malhotra argued in the British Medical Journal that you should ignore advice to reduce your saturated fat intake, because it's actually increasing your risk for obesity and heart disease.4
- Then in March 2014, a new meta-analysis published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, using data from nearly 80 studies and more than a half million people, found that those who consume higher amounts of saturated fat have no more heart disease than those who consume less.
Fat Has Been Blamed for Sugar's Evil Deeds
What do these journalists and scientists know that your physician might not? Going back forty years or more, fat has been misidentified as the culprit behind heart disease, when all along it's been sugar.
A high-sugar diet raises your risk for heart disease by promoting metabolic syndrome—a cluster of health conditions that includes high blood pressure, insulin and leptin resistance, high triglycerides, liver dysfunction, and visceral fat accumulation.
Making matters worse, the average American gets inadequate exercise, suffers from chronic stress and sleep deprivation, is exposed to environmental toxins, and has poor gut health (dysbiosis). This is the perfect storm for chronic disease.
Cholesterol Is Not Only Beneficial for Your Body—It's Absolutely Mandatory
About 800,000 Americans die from cardiovascular disease annually. A quarter of these deaths could be prevented through simple lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, and managing insulin and leptin levels.
By reducing your cholesterol, you may actually be increasing your risk for cardiovascular disease. Your body needs adequate cholesterol to perform a number of critical functions, and there is strong evidence that people have a higher risk for heart attacks by having their cholesterol levels driven too low, as is being done by drugs like statins.
Cholesterol plays important roles such as building your cell membranes, interacting with proteins inside your cells, and helping regulate protein pathways required for cell signaling. Having too little cholesterol may negatively impact your brain health, hormone levels, heart disease risk, and more. Therefore, placing an upper limit on dietary cholesterol, especially such a LOW upper limit as is now recommended, is likely causing far more harm than good.
The Truth About Saturated Fats
Just as your body has requirements for cholesterol, it also needs saturated fats for proper function. One way to understand this is to consider what foods humans consumed during their evolution. Many experts believe that since the Paleolithic Era, we evolved as hunter-gatherers. Paleolithic nutrition states that we have eaten animal products for most of our existence on Earth. To suggest that saturated fats are suddenly harmful to us makes no sense, especially from an evolutionary perspective.
As recently as 2010, the current recommendations from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) call for reducing your saturated fat intake to a mere 10 percent of your total calories or less. This is astounding, and quite the opposite of what most people require for optimal health! The latest science suggests healthy fats (saturated and unsaturated fats from whole food, animal, and plant sources) should comprise anywhere from 50 to 85 percent of your overall energy intake. Saturated fats provide a number of important health benefits, including the following:
Providing building blocks for cell membranes, hormones, and hormone-like substances Mineral absorption, such as calcium Carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K Conversion of carotene into vitamin A Helping to lower cholesterol levels (palmitic and stearic acids) Acts as antiviral agent (caprylic acid) Optimal fuel for your brain Provides satiety Modulates genetic regulation and helps prevent cancer (butyric acid)
Seven Good Tests for Assessing Cardiac Risk
1. HDL/total cholesterol ratio: HDL percentage is a very important heart disease risk factor. Just divide your HDL level by your total cholesterol. This percentage should ideally be above 24 percent. Below 10 percent, it's a significant indicator of heart disease risk. 2. Triglyceride/HDL ratios: Divide your triglyceride number by your HDL. This ratio should ideally be below 2. 3. NMR lipoprofile: Possibly the most powerful test for evaluating heart disease risk, this test determines your proportion of smaller, more damaging LDL particles. Small LDL particles get stuck easily, cause more inflammation, and are tied to insulin and leptin resistance. This test is not typically ordered, so you might need to request it from your physician or order it yourself through a third-party. (For more information on the NMR Lipoprofile, please watch my interview with Chris Kresser, above.) 4. Fasting insulin: A normal fasting blood insulin level is below 5, but ideally, you'll want it below 3. If your insulin level is higher than 5, the most effective way to optimize it is to reduce or eliminate all forms of dietary sugar, particularly fructose, and processed grains. 5. Fasting blood glucose: Studies have shown that people with a fasting blood glucose of 100-125 mg/dl had nearly three times the risk of coronary artery disease of people with a blood glucose below 79 mg/dl. 6. Waist-to-hip ratio: Visceral fat, the type of fat that collects around your internal organs, is a well-recognized risk factor for heart disease. The simplest way to evaluate your risk here is by simply measuring your waist-to-hip ratio. (For further instructions, please see the link to my previous article.) 7. Iron level: Excess iron can exert very potent oxidative stress, so if you have excess iron in your blood, you can damage your blood vessels and increase your risk of heart disease. Ideally, you should monitor your serum ferritin level and make sure it is below 80 ng/ml. The simplest ways to eliminate excess iron are blood donation and therapeutic phlebotomy.
What REALLY Constitutes a Heart-Healthy Diet?
The following table outlines my version of a "heart-healthy diet," which minimizes inflammation, reduces insulin resistance, and helps you reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease. If you want further details, I suggest reviewing my Optimized Nutrition Plan, which will guide you through dietary changes in a step-by-step fashion, moving from beginner to intermediate to advanced.
1. Limit or eliminate all processed foods 2. Eliminate all gluten and highly allergenic foods from your diet 3. Eat organic foods whenever possible to avoid exposure to harmful agricultural chemicals, such as glyphosate 4. Avoid genetically modified ingredients (GMO), which wreak biological chaos on a cellular level and are linked to abundant health problems, including chronic inflammation and heart disease 5. Eat at least one-third of your food uncooked (raw), or as much as you can manage; avoid cooking foods at high temperatures 6. Increase the amount of fresh vegetables in your diet, locally grown and organic if possible 7. Eat naturally fermented foods, which help optimize your gut bacteria and prevent inflammation-causing superantigens from pathogenic bacteria, as well as providing valuable vitamin K2, B vitamins, and other nutrients 8. Avoid all artificial sweeteners. 9. Limit fructose to less than 25 grams per day from all sources, including whole fruits. If you have insulin resistance, diabetes, hypertension, or heart disease, you'd be well advised to keep your fructose consumption below 15 grams per day until your insulin resistance has normalized 10. Swap all trans fats (vegetable oils, margarine etc.) for healthy fats like avocado, raw butter, cheese, and coconut oil; avoid consuming oxidized cholesterol (cholesterol that has gone rancid, such as that from overcooked scrambled eggs) 11. To rebalance your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, take a high-quality animal-based omega-3 supplement, such as krill oil, and reduce your consumption of processed omega-6 fats from vegetable oils 12. Drink plenty of pure water every day
Five Other Heart-Healthy Moves
In addition to following the heart-healthy plan discussed above, there are several more strategies that can be profoundly helpful in reducing chronic inflammation and thereby lowering your cardiovascular risk:
- Exercise regularly. One of the primary benefits of exercise is that it helps normalize and maintain healthy insulin and leptin levels. Exercise also boosts HDL, increases your growth hormone production, helps curb your appetite, and improves your mood and sleep.
- Intermittent fasting. Fasting is an excellent way to "reboot" your metabolism so that your body can relearn how to burn fat as its primary fuel, which helps you shed those excess fat stores. Intermittent fasting has a far greater retention and compliance rate compared to conventional all-day fasting regimens. Another version is alternate-day fasting.
- Grounding yourself to the earth. When you walk barefoot, free electrons are transferred from the earth into your body, and electrons are some of the most potent antioxidants known. Grounding (also called Earthing) helps alleviate inflammation, as well as thinning your blood and causing your red blood cells to repel each other, making them less likely to clot.
- AVOID statin drugs. Statin drugs can reduce your cholesterol to dangerously low levels, while doing nothing tomodulate LDL particle size. Statin drugs may even accelerate heart disease. A 2012 study showed that statin use is associated with a 52 percent higher prevalence of calcified coronary plaque compared to those not taking them.7 And coronary artery calcification is the hallmark of potentially lethal heart disease. Antidepressants have also been associated with heart disease.
- AVOID chemicals whenever possible. BPA, for example, has been linked to heart disease: adults with the highest levels of BPA in their urine are more than twice as likely to develop coronary artery disease as those with the lowest levels.
Chemicals in Heart Stress Tests Can Actually Trigger Heart Attacks
The Heart Disease Scam That Generates Billions Every Year... And May Cost You Your Life
By Dr. Mercola
Ticks can spread a number of diseases, including human babesiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and Lyme disease, which has become one of the most serious and controversial epidemics of our time.
According to preliminary statistics1 released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last year, approximately 300,000 new cases of Lyme disease are diagnosed in the US each year.
This is about 10 times higher than the officially reported number of cases, indicating that the disease is being vastly underreported. Since national surveillance began in 1982, the number of Lyme cases reported annually has increased nearly 25-fold.2
The Oscar shortlisted documentary Under Our Skin,3 exposes a hidden story of “medical and scientific malfeasance and neglect,” as thousands of people with Lyme disease go undiagnosed, or get misdiagnosed each year. Many who suffer the troubling effects of Lyme disease are simply told that their symptoms are “all in their head.”
As the film follows patients fighting for their lives and livelihoods, it brings into focus a haunting picture of a health care system that is all too willing to put profits ahead of patients. The featured version is the newly released Director’s Cut, which includes 15 minutes of restored footage, re-edited scenes, and character updates.
What Is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease refers to illnesses transferred by insects. Although many still attribute transmission exclusively to ticks, according to Dr. Deitrich Klinghardt, one of the leading authorities on Lyme disease, the bacteria can also be spread by other insects, including mosquitoes, spiders, fleas, and mites.
Ticks are blood suckers, and prefer dark, crevices such as your armpit or behind your ear, or your scalp. Once it attaches itself and starts feeding on your blood, it will at some point “spit” its bacterial load into your blood stream. If it carries an infectious organism, the infection will spread to you via this salivary emission.
Common side effects of tick bites include an itchy “bull’s eye” rash, pain, fever, and inflammation. Symptoms of Lyme disease typically start out with unrelenting fatigue, recurring fever, headaches, and achy muscles or joints.
The disease may progress to muscle spasms, loss of motor coordination, and even intermittent paralysis, meningitis, or heart problems. For a more complete list of symptoms, refer to the Tick-Borne Disease Alliance.4 Lymedisease.org has also created a printable Symptom Checklist.5
Interestingly, a recent paper published in the journal Frontiers in Zoology6, 7 argues that ticks should be reclassified as venomous, noting that many of its salivary proteins, and their known functions, are similar to those found in scorpion, spider, snake, platypus, and bee venoms. An estimated eight percent of tick species are in fact capable of causing paralysis with a single bite.
The most simple presentation is the orthopedic forms of Lyme disease as they’re typically more superficial, affecting the larger joints. When the microbes and the associated immune reactions are situated in the connective tissue, the infection presents as a “vague, dispersed pain,” which oftentimes ends up being misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia by conventional doctors.
Lyme disease, just as syphilis was, is also known as “the great imitator,”8 as it mimics many other disorders, including multiple sclerosis (MS), arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, ALS, ADHD, and Alzheimer’s disease.
The Lyme Paradox
Despite debilitating symptoms, many Lyme patients outwardly appear completely healthy, which is why Lyme disease has also been called “the invisible illness.” People with Lyme often “look good,” and their blood work appears normal, but their internal experience is a different story altogether.
As a result, many patients simply end up being referred to a psychiatrist. Doctors have even been known to accuse Lyme patients of being attention seekers, fabricating their illness...
A big part of the problem is that Lyme disease is notoriously difficult to diagnose using conventional lab tests. One of the reasons blood tests are so unreliable as indicators of Lyme infection is that the spirochete has found a way to infect your white blood cells.
Lab tests rely on the normal function of these cells to produce the antibodies they measure. If your white cells are infected, they don’t respond to an infection appropriately. Interestingly, the worse your Borrelia infection is, the less likely it will show up on a blood test. In order for Lyme tests to be useful, you have to be treated first. Once your immune system begins to respond normally, only then will the antibodies show up.
This is called the “Lyme Paradox”—you have to be treated before a proper diagnosis can be made.
I recommend the specialized lab called Igenex because they test for more outer surface proteins (bands), and can often detect Lyme while standard blood tests cannot. Igenex also tests for a few strains of co-infections such as Babesia and Erhlichia.
That said, a negative on the Igenex test for these co-infections doesn’t necessarily mean you are not infected, there are many more strains than they can test for.
There’s great variation in the presentation of the disease as well, depending on where you contracted it, and whether or not you have any other coexisting infections. The only distinctive hallmark unique to Lyme disease is the “bull’s eye” rash, but this is absent in nearly half of those infected. Fewer than half of Lyme patients recall a tick bite. In some studies, this number is as low as 15 percent.
The History and Discovery of Lyme Disease
Lyme disease was named after the East Coast town of Lyme, Connecticut, where the disease was first identified in1975.9 The disease was initially referred to as “Lyme arthritis” due to the presentation of atypical arthritic symptoms. By 1977, the black-legged tick (Ixodes scapularis, also known as the deer tick) was linked to transmission of the disease.
Then in 1982, Willy Burgdorferi, PhD, discovered the bacterium responsible for the infection: Borrelia burgdorferi. The bacteria are released into your blood from the infected tick, while the tick is drinking your blood. We now know there are five subspecies of Borrelia burgdorferi, more than 100 strains in the US and 300 worldwide, many of which have developed resistance to our various antibiotics.
Borrelia burgdorferi is10 is a cousin to the spirochete bacterium that causes syphilis. In fact, they look very similar under a microscope, and both are capable of taking different forms in your body (cystic, granular, and cell wall deficient forms), depending on what conditions they need to accommodate. This clever maneuvering helps them to hide and survive. B. burgdorferi’s corkscrew-shaped form allows it to burrow into and hide in a variety of your body’s tissues, which is why it causes such wide-ranging multisystem involvement.
The organisms may also live in biofilm communities—basically a colony of germs surrounded by a slimy glue-like substance that is hard to unravel. All of these different morphologies explain why treatment is so difficult, and why recurrence of symptoms occurs after standard antibiotic protocols.
Ticks can also simultaneously infect you with a number of other disease-causing organisms, such as Bartonella, Rickettsia, Ehrlichia, and Babesia. Any or all of these organisms can travel with Borrelia burgdorferi (the causative agent of Lyme) and each organism causes a different set of symptoms. Many Lyme patients have one or more of these co-infections, which may or may not respond to any given treatment.
The Ongoing Lyme Controversy
The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) publishes guidelines for a number of infectious diseases, one of which is Lyme. IDSA’s 2006 clinical practice guidelines for Lyme disease11 claim that Lyme is very rare, and easily cured with two weeks of antibiotics, requiring 28 days in rare cases. They also claim there is no scientific evidence for chronic Borrelia infection. However, the literature choices they list in their reference section reflect a clear bias. Of the 400 references they cite, half are based on articles written by their own people. Their literature review in no way represents the total body of science related to the study of Lyme disease.
IDSA’s guidelines have sweeping impacts on Lyme disease medical care. They are commonly applied by insurance companies to restrict coverage for long-term treatment and strongly influence physicians’ treatment decisions. Insurance companies have denied coverage for long-term treatment, citing these guidelines as justification that chronic Lyme disease is a myth.
Opposing the IDSA is the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS), the members of which argue that Lyme disease is far more prevalent than previously recognized, in large part due to inaccurate laboratory tests. They also insist that many patients suffer long-term consequences, and require far longer treatment than recommended by IDSA.
Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal has been a strong advocate for people with Lyme disease.12 In 2007, while he was Connecticut Attorney General, Blumenthal conducted an antitrust investigation into the IDSA’s panel members and 2006 Lyme disease guidelines. His investigation found rampant conflicts of interest in the IDSA, with numerous undisclosed financial interests among its most powerful panelists. Some of them had financial interests in diagnostic tests, vaccines, and insurance, for example.
IDSA agreed to create a new panel to review the ethics of the 2006 IDSA panel, overseen by Blumenthal’s office. Eight hours of testimony13 from both sides of the fence were heard by the newly formed panel on July 30, 2009. Unfortunately, it didn’t lead to any changes. The Final Report14 published on the IDSA site concluded that the original guidelines were “based on the highest-quality medical/scientific evidence available,” and that the authors “did not fail to consider or cite any relevant data.” As a result, chronic Lyme patients continue having to fight for their right to treatment. You can find suggestions for how to respond to insurance denials based on IDSA’s guidelines on LymeDisease.org’s website.15
Take Prevention Seriously
Considering the difficulty of diagnosing and treating Lyme disease, taking preventive measures16 should be at the top of your list:
- Avoid tick-infested areas, such as leaf piles around trees. Walk in the middle of trails, and avoid brushing against long grasses path edgings. Don’t sit on logs or wooden stumps
- Wear light-colored long pants and long sleeves, to make it easier to see the ticks
- Tuck your pants into socks, and wear closed shoes and a hat—especially if venturing out into wooded areas. Also tuck your shirt into your pants
- Ticks, especially nymphal ticks, are very tiny. You want to find and remove them before they bite, so do a thorough tick check upon returning inside, and keep checking for several days following exposure. Also check your bedding for several days following exposure
As for using chemical repellents, I do not recommend using them directly on your skin as this will introduce toxins directly into your body. If you use them, spray them on the outside of your clothes, and avoid inhaling the spray fumes. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a list17 indicating the hourly protection limits for various repellents. If you find that a tick has latched onto you, it’s very important to remove it properly. For detailed instructions, please see LymeDisease.org’s Tick Removal page.18 Once removed, make sure you save the tick so that it can be tested for presence of pathogenic organisms.
Dr. Klinghardt’s Treatment Protocol for Lyme Disease
Doctors who believe chronic Lyme to be a reality will typically rely on long-term use of antibiotics. While this treatment can be effective, there are many reasons to opt for alternatives such as those detailed in my interview with Dr. Klinghardt, as antibiotics will disrupt your gut flora, thereby exposing you to a whole host of other pathologies. Dr. Klinghardt’s basic treatment strategies are summarized below. His full treatment protocol is too complex to include here, but if you want details, I recommend reading our 2009 article that focuses on those specific Lyme treatment strategies. You can also visit Dr. Klinghardt’s website, where he posts his more current treatment protocols and recipes. In summary, there are five basic steps to his protocol:
- Evaluation of all external factors. External factors include electrosmog, EMF, microwave radiation from wireless technologies, and molds. (For more information on mold, go to Ritchie Shoemaker’s website19).
- Remediation and mitigation of external factors. Once external factors have been assessed, they're remediated and mitigated. (Please refer to our previous article on mold remediation.) To mitigate microwave radiation, Dr. Klinghardt recommends shielding the outside of your home with a graphite paint called Y Shield. Inside, he uses a special silver-coated cloth for your curtains. Patients are instructed to remove all cordless telephones and turn off all the fuses at night, until they have recovered from Lyme disease.
- Addressing emotional issues. Emotional components of the disease are addressed using Energy Psychology tools, including psychokinesiology (PK), which is similar to the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), but more refined and advanced.
- Addressing parasitic, bacterial, and viral infections. Dr. Klinghardt addresses the parasites first, followed by the bacteria and the viruses. The “Klinghardt antimicrobial cocktail," which includes wormwood (artemisinin), phospholipids, vitamin C, and various herbs, is an integral part of this treatment. He addresses viral infections with Viressence (by BioPure), which is a tincture of Native American herbs.
- Addressing other lifestyle factors. Nutritional considerations and supplements are addressed.
Also, the following table lists a variety of different treatment strategies that have been found to be useful in Lyme disease by those embracing natural methods.
Probiotics to improve immunity and restore microflora during and after antibiotics Curcumin is helpful at reducing neurological toxins and brain swelling Astaxanthin to neutralize toxins, improve vision, and relieve joint pain, common in Lyme Whey protein concentrate may help with nutrition, often poor in Lyme patients who don’t feel well enough to eat properly Grapefruit seed extract may treat the cyst form of Borrelia Krill oil to reduce inflammation Cilantro as a natural chelator for heavy metals Serrapeptase helps to break biofilms Resveratrol may treat Bartonella, a co-infection and also helps detoxification GABA and melatonin to help with insomnia Artemisinin and Andrographis, two herbs that may treat Babesia, a common co-infection CoQ10 to support cardiac health and reduce muscle pain and brain fog Quercetin reduces histamine (often high in Lyme) Transfer factors can help boost immune function
In Dr. Klinghardt's experience, the International Lyme and Associated Disease Society (ILADS) is by far the best and most responsible group. The following are some other resources you might find helpful. For more, see the Resource page on UnderOurSkin.com:20
- Tick-Borne Disease Alliance (TBDA). Under the “Diagnosing TBDS” tab, you can find a listing of medical professionals knowledgeable in the treatment of Lyme
- Lyme Disease Association, Inc.
- Leading Lyme disease expert Joseph J. Burrascano, MD, wrote what is essentially a manual for managing Lyme disease, entitled Advanced Topics in Lyme Disease, which is worth adding to your resource files. Realize that his treatment focus is long-term antibiotics, which I believe should not be your first choice. Nevertheless, there is some good information in this publication.
Prevalence of Lyme Disease in the US Is 10-Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Why is Lyme Disease Not JUST a Tick-Borne Disease Any More?
By Dr. Mercola
Nail biting, or onychophagia, is a relatively common habit that affects people of all ages. There are many theories as to why people bite their nails, but most agree that it often stems from stress or may be an activity that’s picked up as a child.
Estimates suggest that 30 percent of children, 45 percent of teenagers, 25 percent of young adults, and 5 percent of older adults bite their nails,1 with the aesthetic consequences being the most obvious.
For some people, the social stigma and embarrassment over the look of their nails causes them to become depressed, isolated, or avoid activities they would otherwise enjoy. Beyond this, however, is there reason to worry if you regularly bite your nails?
5 Little-Known Risks to Biting Your Nails
Nail biting may actually be harmful to you beyond the emotional effects. For instance…
1. Disease-Causing Bacteria
Your nails are an ideal location for bacteria to thrive, and that includes potentially pathogenic bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli (which would love to call the underside of your nail tips home).
As you bite your nails, those bacteria easily transfer into your mouth and the rest of your body, where they may lead to infections. Your fingernails may actually be twice as dirty as your fingers,2 considering they’re difficult to keep clean, making this a prime point of transfer for infectious organisms.
Although I’m not aware of any research on this, it’s often suggested (anecdotally) that people who bite their nails have stronger immune systems, and therefore get sick less often, than those who do not.
One potential explanation for this is that nail biting may help introduce pathogens from your environment to your immune system, helping it to learn and build defenses, similar to what occurs when people eat their boogers.
2. Nail Infections
Nail biters are susceptible to paronychia, a skin infection that occurs around your nails. As you chew your nails, bacteria, yeast, and other microorganisms can enter through tiny tears or abrasions, leading to swelling, redness, and pus around your nail.
This painful condition may have to be drained surgically. Bacterial infections caused by nail biting are actually one of the most common nail problems, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).3
3. Warts Due to HPV Infections
Warts on your fingers caused by human papillomavirus, or HPV, are common among chronic nail biters. (Here I’m referring to the types of HPV that cause warts on your hands, as opposed to those that lead to genital warts and, rarely, cervical cancer.) These warts can easily spread to your mouth and lips as you bite your nails.
4. Dental Problems
Nail biting can interfere with proper dental occlusion, or the manner in which your upper and lower teeth come together when you close your mouth.
Your teeth may shift out of their proper position, become misshapen, wear down prematurely, and become weakened if you bite your nails over time. The Academy of General Dentistry estimates that frequent nail biters may rack up $4,000 in additional dental bills over the course of their lifetime.4
5. Impaired Quality of Life
A study published this year found that people who chronically bite their nails report significantly higher quality of life impairment than those who do not.5
The level of impairment rises with time spent on nail biting, the number of involved fingernails and those who report visible nail abnormalities. Tension when trying to resist nail biting, suffering due to nail biting or nail-eating behavior also negatively influenced quality of life.
Is Nail Biting a Mental Disorder?
In 2012, the American Psychiatric Association decided to re-classify nail biting as a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), along with other forms of “pathological grooming.”
If nail biting is taken to the extreme that it is significantly interfering with your life and causing you extreme emotional and physical pain, you could, perhaps, make a case for a psychiatric-disorder connection, but in the majority of cases this appears to be another case of disease mongering to sell more psychiatric drugs.
As reported in the journal Behavior Research and Therapy, most cases of nail biting in young adults does not appear to be the result of a psychiatric disorder but rather simple boredom or stress:6
“Nail biting in young adults occurs as a result of boredom or working on difficult problems, which may reflect a particular emotional state. It occurs least often when people are engaged in social interaction or when they are reprimanded for the behavior.”
6 Simple Tips to Stop Biting Your Nails
Nail biting tends to begin in childhood, peak in adolescence, and then slowly (or abruptly), decline with age. Whether you’re an adult who can’t seem to kick the habit, or a parent of a child or teen who bites his or her nails, here are simple options that are often effective for quitting:
Keep a journal to identify your nail-biting triggers, such as boredom or watching TV, then avoid the triggers as much as possible Wrap your fingertips with Band-Aids or electrical tape Keep your nails trimmed short or manicured Keep your hands busy with other activities, such as knitting Consider behavioral therapy, such as habit reversal training7 Put an unpleasant tasting substance on your fingertips (vinegar, hot sauce, or commercially available bitter-tasting options)
Break Your Nail-Biting Addiction Using the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
I also urge you to try the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). EFT is a powerful self-help method that can help you rapidly reduce the emotional impact of memories and incidents that trigger emotional distress.
It’s very effective for regular stress management as well as for breaking all kinds of addictions. Once the emotional distress is reduced or removed, your body can often rebalance itself and accelerate healing.
I've seen its effectiveness first-hand for a number of years, which is why EFT is the healing technique I most highly recommend to optimize your emotional health. Specifically, EFT is a form of psychological acupressure, based on the same energy meridians used in traditional acupuncture to treat physical and emotional ailments for over five thousand years, but without the invasiveness of needles.
Instead, simple tapping with your fingertips is used to input kinetic energy onto specific meridians on your head and chest while you think about your specific problem -- whether it is a traumatic event, an addiction, pain, etc. – and voice positive affirmations. This combination of tapping the energy meridians and voicing positive affirmation works to clear the "short-circuit" — the emotional block — from your body's bioenergy system, thus restoring your mind and body's balance, which is essential for optimal emotional health and the healing of physical disease.
For a demonstration of how to perform EFT, please view the video below featuring EFT practitioner Julie Schiffman. This is a general demonstration that can be tailored to just about any problem. You can also find text instructions and photographs of where to tap on my EFT page. For when you're on the go, there are at least four different EFT applications available in the iTunes store. The apps range from a simple recap of the EFT’s Basic Recipe to a sophisticated virtual coaching app for specific mental health problems like anxiety and depression.
Bear in mind that while EFT is quite easy to learn and perform, I strongly encourage you to seek out a qualified therapist for more serious or complex issues. It is an art, and tapping for deep-seated issues typically require the kind of skill that only a well-seasoned practitioner will have. If you try to self-treat, you may end up falsely concluding that EFT doesn't work, when nothing could be further from the truth... This is particularly pertinent if you're trying to address trauma-based stress such as PTSD or grief following the loss of a loved one, but if you’re a chronic nail biter, this would certainly still apply.
Bad Habits Can Age You 12 Years
Don't Pick Your Nose: Never Mind, Boogers May Be Good for You
By Dr. Mercola
Alzheimer's disease, a severe form of dementia, affects an estimated 5.2 million Americans, according to 2013 statistics.1
One in nine seniors over the age of 65 has Alzheimer's, and the disease is now thought to be the third leading cause of death in the US, right behind heart disease and cancer.
A growing body of research suggests there's a powerful connection between your diet and your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, via similar pathways that cause type 2 diabetes.
Contrary to popular belief, your brain does not require glucose, and actually functions better burning alternative fuels, especially ketones, which your body makes in response to digesting healthy fats.
According to some experts, such as Dr. Ron Rosedale, Alzheimer's and other brain disorders may in large part be caused by the constant burning of glucose for fuel by your brain.
Alzheimer's disease was tentatively dubbed "type 3 diabetes" in early 2005 when researchers discovered that in addition to your pancreas, your brain also produces insulin, and this brain insulin is necessary for the survival of brain cells.
Sugar Damages Brain Structure and Function
In your brain, insulin helps with neuron glucose-uptake and the regulation of neurotransmitters, such as acetylcholine, which are crucial for memory and learning. This is why reducing the level of insulin in your brain impairs your cognition.
Research2 has also shown that type 2 diabetics lose more brain volume with age than expected—particularly gray matter. This kind of brain atrophy is yet another contributing factor for dementia.
Studies have found that people with lower levels of insulin and insulin receptors in their brain often have Alzheimer's disease. But according to recent research published in the journal Neurology,3 sugar and other carbohydrates can disrupt your brain function even if you're not diabetic or have any signs of dementia.
To test their theory, they evaluated short- and long-term glucose markers in 141 healthy, non-diabetic, non-demented seniors. Memory tests and brain imaging were administered to assess their brain function and the actual structure of their hippocampus. As reported by Scientific American:4
"Higher levels on both glucose measures were associated with worse memory, as well as a smaller hippocampus and compromised hippocampal structure.
The researchers also found that the structural changes partially accounted for the statistical link between glucose and memory. According to study co-author Agnes Flöel, a neurologist at Charité, the results 'provide further evidence that glucose might directly contribute to hippocampal atrophy.'"
The findings suggest that even if you're not diabetic or insulin resistant (and about 80 percent of Americans fall into the latter category), sugar consumption can still disrupt your memory.
Long-term, it can contribute to the shrinking of your hippocampus, which is a hallmark symptom of Alzheimer's disease. (Your hippocampus is involved with the formation, organization, and storage of memories.)
The authors of the study suggest that "strategies aimed at lowering glucose levels even in the normal range may beneficially influence cognition in the older population."
'Normal' Blood Sugar Levels May Still Be High Enough to Cause Problems
Normally, a fasting blood sugar level between 100-125 mg/dl is diagnosed as a pre-diabetic state. A fasting blood sugar level of 90-100 is considered "normal." But in addition to the featured research, other studies have also found that brain atrophy occurs even in this "normal" blood sugar range.
Neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter, MD insists that being very strict in limiting your consumption of sugar and non-vegetable carbs is one of THE most important steps you can take to prevent Alzheimer's disease for this very reason.
He cites research from the Mayo Clinic, which found that diets rich in carbohydrates are associated with an 89 percent increased risk for dementia. Meanwhile, high-fat diets are associated with a 44 percent reduced risk.
Sugar Lobby Threatens Organizations and Buries Science on Health Effects
Compelling research shows that your brain has great plasticity, which you control through your diet and lifestyle choices. Unfortunately, the American public has been grossly brainwashed by the sugar and processed food industries into believing that sugar is a perfectly reasonable "nutrient" that belongs in a healthy diet.
Without accurate information, it's certainly more difficult to make health-affirming choices. Newsweek5 recently ran an article revealing just how far the sugar industry will go to defend its market share:
"According to a new report6 from the Center for Science and Democracy... industry groups representing companies that sell sweeteners, like the Sugar Association and the Corn Refiners Association... have poured millions of dollars into countering science that indicates negative health consequences of eating their products.
For example, when a University of Southern California study from 2013 found that the actual high fructose corn syrup content in sodas 'varied significantly' from the sugar content disclosed on soda labels, the Corn Refiners Association considered paying for its own counter research.
A consultant suggested that the counter research should only be published if the results aligned with their goal of disputing the USC study: 'If for any reason the results confirm [the University of Southern California study], we can just bury the data,' the consultant wrote, according to the report."
According to the Center for Science report, the Sugar Association even threatened the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO had published a paper on sugar, recommending a 10 percent limit on added sugars, stating that added sugars "threaten the nutritional quality of diets."
The Sugar Association shot off a letter to the director general, warning him that, unless WHO withdrew the study, the Sugar Association would persuade the US Congress to withdraw the WHO's federal funding. The following year, when WHO published its global health strategy on diet and health, there was no mention of the offending sugar study.
The Sugar Lobby Deserves Blame for Fueling Chronic Disease Epidemics
Indeed, despite overwhelming evidence showing that sugar, and processed fructose in particular, is at the heart of our burgeoning obesity and chronic disease epidemics, the sugar lobby has been so successful in its efforts to thwart the impact of such evidence that there's still no consensus among our regulatory agencies as to the "factual" dangers of sugar...
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data,7 13 percent of the average American's diet is sugar. In the UK, a recently published report8 by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) recommends limiting your added sugar intake to five percent, in order to avoid obesity and type 2 diabetes. They calculate this to be the equivalent of 25 grams of sugar (5-6 teaspoons) per day for women, and 35 grams (7-8 teaspoons) for men.
This matches my own recommendations for healthy, non-insulin resistant individuals—with one key difference. I recommend restricting sugar/fructose consumption to 25 grams from ALL sources, not just added sugar. This includes limiting your non-vegetable carbohydrates as well. Crazy enough, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition still recommends you get 50 percent of your daily energy intake in the form of starchy carbohydrates, which will undoubtedly and significantly raise your risk of insulin resistance. If you're insulin/leptin resistant, diabetic, overweight, or have high blood pressure, heart disease, or cancer, I recommend restricting your sugar/fructose consumption to a maximum of 15 grams per day from all sources, until your insulin/leptin resistance has been resolved.
Dietary Guidelines for Maintaining Healthy Brain Function and Avoiding Alzheimer's Disease
It's becoming increasingly clear that the same pathological process that leads to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes may also hold true for your brain. As you over-indulge on sugar and grains, your brain becomes overwhelmed by the consistently high levels of glucose and insulin that blunts its insulin signaling, leading to impairments in your thinking and memory abilities, eventually causing permanent brain damage.
Additionally, when your liver is busy processing fructose (which your liver turns into fat), it severely hampers its ability to make cholesterol, an essential building block of your brain that is crucial for optimal brain function. Indeed, mounting evidence supports the notion that significantly reducing fructose consumption is a very important step for preventing Alzheimer's disease.
Because of the very limited treatments, and no available cure as of yet, you're really left with just one solid solution, and that is to prevent Alzheimer's from happening to you in the first place. As explained by neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter, Alzheimer's is a disease predicated primarily on lifestyle choices; the two main culprits being excessive sugar and gluten consumption.
Another major factor is the development and increased consumption of genetically engineered (GE) grains, which are now pervasive in most processed foods sold in the US. The beauty of following my optimized nutrition plan is that it helps prevent and treat virtually ALL chronic degenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's. Dr. Perlmutter's book, Grain Brain, also provides powerful arguments for eliminating grains from your diet, particularly if you want to protect the health of your brain. In terms of your diet, the following suggestions may be among the most important for Alzheimer's prevention:
- Avoid sugar and refined fructose. Ideally, you'll want to keep your total sugar and fructose below 25 grams per day, or as low as 15 grams per day if you have insulin resistance or any related disorders. In one recent animal study, a junk food diet high in sugar resulted in impaired memory after just one week!9 Place recognition, specifically, was adversely affected.
As a general rule, you'll want to keep your fasting insulin levels below 3, and this is indirectly related to fructose, as it will clearly lead to insulin resistance. However, other sugars (sucrose is 50 percent fructose by weight), grains, and lack of exercise are also important factors. Lowering insulin will also help lower leptin levels which is another factor for Alzheimer's.
- Avoid gluten and casein (primarily wheat and pasteurized dairy, but not dairy fat, such as butter). Research shows that your blood-brain barrier, the barrier that keeps things out of your brain where they don't belong, is negatively affected by gluten. Gluten also makes your gut more permeable, which allows proteins to get into your bloodstream, where they don't belong. That then sensitizes your immune system and promotes inflammation and autoimmunity, both of which play a role in the development of Alzheimer's.
- Eat a nutritious diet, rich in folate, such as the one described in my nutrition plan. Vegetables, without question, are your best form of folate, and we should all eat plenty of fresh raw veggies every day. Avoid supplements like folic acid, which is the inferior synthetic version of folate.
- Increase consumption of all healthful fats, including animal-based omega-3. Beneficial health-promoting fats that your brain needs for optimal function include organic butter from raw milk, clarified butter called ghee, organic grass fed raw butter, olives, organic virgin olive oil and coconut oil, nuts like pecans and macadamia, free-range eggs, wild Alaskan salmon, and avocado.
Contrary to popular belief, the ideal fuel for your brain is not glucose but ketones. Ketones are what your body produces when it converts fat (as opposed to glucose) into energy. The medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) found in coconut oil are a great source of ketone bodies, because coconut oil is about 66 percent MCTs. In 2010, I published Dr. Mary Newport's theory that coconut oil might offer profound benefits in the fight against Alzheimer's disease. She has since launched one of the first clinical trials of its kind to test this theory.
Also make sure you're getting enough animal-based omega-3 fats, such as krill oil. (I recommend avoiding most fish because, although fish is naturally high in omega-3, most fish are now severely contaminated with mercury.) High intake of the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA help by preventing cell damage caused by Alzheimer's disease, thereby slowing down its progression, and lowering your risk of developing the disorder.
- Optimize your gut flora by regularly eating fermented foods or taking a high-potency and high-quality probiotic supplement
- Eat blueberries. Wild blueberries, which have high anthocyanin and antioxidant content, are known to guard against Alzheimer's and other neurological diseases.
Other Helpful Dietary Tips and Valuable Supplements
Another helpful tip is to reduce your overall calorie consumption, and/or intermittently fast. As mentioned above, ketones are mobilized when you replace carbs with coconut oil and other sources of healthy fats. A one-day fast can help your body to "reset" itself, and start to burn fat instead of sugar. As part of a healthy lifestyle, I prefer an intermittent fasting schedule that simply calls for limiting your eating to a narrower window of time each day. By restricting your eating to a 6-8 hour window, you effectively fast 16-18 hours each day. To learn more about intermittent fasting, please see this previous article.
Also be aware that when it comes to cholesterol levels and Alzheimer's, lower is NOT better. Quite the contrary. According to Dr. Perlmutter, research shows that elderly individuals with the lowest cholesterol levels have the highest risk for Alzheimer's. They also have the highest risk for dying. As he says, the war on cholesterol is fundamentally inappropriate and harmful.
Finally, there's a short list of supplement recommendations worth noting for their specific benefits in preventing and treating dementia. So, although your fundamental strategy for preventing dementia should involve a comprehensive lifestyle approach, you may want to take special note of the following natural dietary agents. These four natural foods/supplements have good science behind them, in terms of preventing age-related cognitive changes:
- Gingko biloba: Many scientific studies have found that Ginkgo biloba has positive effects for dementia. A 1997 study from JAMA showed clear evidence that Ginkgo improves cognitive performance and social functioning for those suffering from dementia. Another 2006 study found Ginkgo as effective as the dementia drug Aricept (donepezil) for treating mild to moderate Alzheimer's type dementia. A 2010 meta-analysis also found Ginkgo biloba to be effective for a variety of types of dementia.
- Alpha lipoic acid (ALA): ALA has been shown to help stabilize cognitive functions among Alzheimer's patients and may slow the progression of the disease.
- Vitamin B12: A small Finnish study published in the journal Neurology10 found thatpeople who consume foods rich in B12 may reduce their risk of Alzheimer's in their later years. For each unit increase in the marker of vitamin B12 the risk of developing Alzheimer's was reduced by two percent. Remember sublingual methylcobalamin may be your best bet here.
Lifestyle Strategies That Can Help Ward off Alzheimer's Disease
Lifestyle choices such as getting regular sun exposure and exercise, along with avoiding toxins, are also important factors when it comes to maintaining optimal brain health. Here are several of my lifestyle suggestions:
- Optimize your vitamin D levels with safe sun exposure. Strong links between low levels of vitamin D in Alzheimer's patients and poor outcomes on cognitive tests have been revealed. Researchers believe that optimal vitamin D levels may enhance the amount of important chemicals in your brain and protect brain cells by increasing the effectiveness of the glial cells in nursing damaged neurons back to health.
Vitamin D may also exert some of its beneficial effects on Alzheimer's through its anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties. Sufficient vitamin D is imperative for proper functioning of your immune system to combat inflammation that is also associated with Alzheimer's.
- Exercise regularly. It's been suggested that exercise can trigger a change in the way the amyloid precursor protein is metabolized,11 thus, slowing down the onset and progression of Alzheimer's. Exercise also increases levels of the protein PGC-1alpha. Research has also shown that people with Alzheimer's have less PGC-1alpha in their brains12 and cells that contain more of the protein produce less of the toxic amyloid protein associated with Alzheimer's. I would strongly recommend reviewing the Peak Fitness Technique for my specific recommendations.
- Avoid and eliminate mercury from your body. Dental amalgam fillings, which are 50 percent mercury by weight, are one of the major sources of heavy metal toxicity. However, you should be healthy prior to having them removed. Once you have adjusted to following the diet described in my optimized nutrition plan, you can follow the mercury detox protocol and then find a biological dentist to have your amalgams removed.
- Avoid aluminum, such as antiperspirants, non-stick cookware, vaccine adjuvants, etc.
- Avoid flu vaccinations as most contain both mercury and aluminum, well-known neurotoxic and immunotoxic agents.
- Avoid anticholinergics and statin drugs. Drugs that block acetylcholine, a nervous system neurotransmitter, have been shown to increase your risk of dementia. These drugs include certain nighttime pain relievers, antihistamines, sleep aids, certain antidepressants, medications to control incontinence, and certain narcotic pain relievers.
Statin drugs are particularly problematic because they suppress the synthesis of cholesterol, deplete your brain of coenzyme Q10 and neurotransmitter precursors, and prevent adequate delivery of essential fatty acids and fat-soluble antioxidants to your brain by inhibiting the production of the indispensable carrier biomolecule known as low-density lipoprotein.
- Challenge your mind daily. Mental stimulation, especially learning something new, such as learning to play an instrument or a new language, is associated with a decreased risk of Alzheimer's. Researchers suspect that mental challenge helps to build up your brain, making it less susceptible to the lesions associated with Alzheimer's disease.
First Case Study to Show Direct Link Between Alzheimer’s and Aluminum Toxicity
Supporting Evidence for Aspartame-Alzheimer’s Link Emerges
By Dr. Mercola
Sleep deprivation is a well-known risk to your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. What makes sleep deprivation so detrimental is that it doesn’t just impact one aspect of your health… it impacts many.
When you’re sleep-deprived, you’re not going to react as quickly as you normally would, making driving or other potentially dangerous activities, like using power tools, risky.
Your ability to think clearly is also dampened by lack of sleep, which means you will have trouble retaining memories, processing information, and making decisions.
As your reaction time and cognition slows, your emotions will be kicked into high gear. This means that arguments with co-workers or your spouse are likely and you’re probably going to be at fault for blowing things out of proportion.
But much more than that, sleep deprivation has virtually the same effect on your immune system as physical stress or illness, which may help explain why lack of sleep is tied to an increased risk of numerous chronic diseases.
There’s an important caveat to be aware of that is not yet widely known, however, and that is your sleep quality is every bit as important as your sleep duration. So if you stay in bed for eight or nine hours a night, but during that time you’re waking up repeatedly, it’s just as bad as getting hardly any sleep at all…
One Night of Interrupted Sleep Wreaks Havoc on Your Mood, Energy Levels
Just one night of interrupted sleep is all it takes to make you feel more depressed, fatigued, and confused, according to new research.1 What’s more, there was little difference in the negative effects of interrupted sleep (defined as four prolonged awakenings spread across eight hours in bed) compared to those of restricted sleep (spending just four hours in bed, total).
Night-wakings also lead to reduced vigor and motivation and increased errors on an online performance test. The study attempted to mimic life-like night-wakings, which for the study purposes included making a phone call to participants in the middle of the night directing them to complete a brief computer exercise (at four separate occasions during the night).
It’s a scenario that may not seem unfamiliar to you, especially if you find yourself waking at night frequently. What does this mean for new parents, doctors (mostly residents in training but certain specialties like OB and trauma surgeons on ER call), and the millions of other people who find their sleep regularly interrupted at night (by pets, noise, racing thoughts, light pollution, work obligations, and more)? If you suffer from interrupted sleep, it might be putting your health at risk. Professor Avi Sadeh of Tel Aviv University, the study’s lead author, said:2
“Our study shows the impact of only one disrupted night. We know that these effects accumulate and therefore the functional price new parents — who awaken three to ten times a night for months on end — pay for common infant sleep disturbance is enormous…
I hope that our study will bring this to the attention of scientists and clinicians, who should recognize the price paid by individuals who have to endure frequent night-wakings.”
Interrupted Sleep Makes It Difficult to Get Through the Necessary Stages of Sleep
It makes sense that interruptions to your sleep would result in much the same damage as lack of sleep, because sleep occurs in phases. Ideally, you should progress from slow-wave sleep back up to REM sleep in 60- to 90-minute cycles.
Any interruptions to this make your body start over, in a sense, which means you might never reach the most restorative, deeper phases of sleep.
You might as well not be sleeping at all, which is likely one reason why lack of sleep and interrupted sleep result in such similar damage. In a healthy night’s sleep, you should progress through the following sleep stages (though not necessarily in this order):3
- Stage One, when you’re preparing to drift off
- Stage Two, during which your brain wave activity becomes rapid and rhythmic while your body temperature drops and heart rate slows
- Stage Three, when deep slow brain waves emerge (this is a transition from light sleep to deep sleep)
- Stage Four, also known as delta sleep, this is a deep sleep stage
- Stage Five, or rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, is when most dreaming occurs
As reported by Psych Central:4
“Sleep does not progress through all of these stages in sequence, however. Sleep begins in Stage One and progresses into stages 2, 3, and 4. Then, after Stage Four sleep, Stages Three, then Two are repeated before going into REM sleep. Once REM is over, we usually return to Stage Two sleep.
Sleep cycles through these stages approximately 4 or 5 times throughout the night. We typically enter REM approximately 90 minutes after falling asleep.
The first cycle of REM often lasts only a short amount of time, but each cycle becomes longer. This is why we need long periods of sleep each night as most of the REM sleep occurs in the hours before awakening.
If we get short periods of sleep, we can’t really get through the stages we need to heal and stay healthy. REM can last up to an hour as our sleep progresses. In case you are wondering, if you feel like a dream is taking a long period of time, it really is. Contrary to what was once believed, dreams take as long as they actually seem.”
Small Shifts in Your Sleep Cycle May Make or Break Your Health
If you’re wondering just how sensitive your sleep cycle actually is, you might be surprised to learn that it’s incredibly vulnerable to changes, such that even the small amount of sleep deprivation caused by Daylight Saving Time may be problematic.
One Washington University neuroscientist told CBS News that adjusting clocks forward one hour corresponds with a significant increase in traffic accidents and heart attacks5 over the next two to three days.
One study also found that the spring transition, which causes a phase advance, is particularly hard on the average person’s sleep-wake cycle,6 and while it’s generally thought that the loss of one hour of sleep on the night of the change is inconsequential, research suggests otherwise. According to a report in Sleep Medicine Reviews:7
“…data suggests that increased sleep fragmentation and sleep latency present a cumulative effect of sleep loss [following the spring transition], at least across the following week, perhaps longer.
The autumn transition is often popularized as a gain of 1 h[our] of sleep but there is little evidence of extra sleep on that night. The cumulative effect of five consecutive days of earlier rise times following the autumn change again suggests a net loss of sleep across the week. Indirect evidence of an increase in traffic accident rates, and change in health and regulatory behaviors which may be related to sleep disruption suggest that adjustment to daylight saving time is neither immediate nor without consequence.”
A One-Hour Difference Is a Huge Deal
As far as lack of sleep goes, research has shown that when participants cut their sleep from 7.5 to 6.5 hours a night, there were increases in the expression of genes associated with inflammation, immune excitability, diabetes, cancer risk, and stress.8 In other words, getting just one hour less sleep a night may raise your risk of multiple chronic diseases. Interrupted or impaired sleep can also:
Increase your risk of heart disease. Harm your brain by halting new cell production. Sleep deprivation can increase levels of corticosterone (a stress hormone), resulting in fewer new brain cells being created in your hippocampus. Impair your ability to lose excess pounds or maintain your ideal weight. This is likely the effect of altered metabolism, because when you're sleep deprived, leptin (the hormone that signals satiety) falls, while ghrelin (which signals hunger) rises. Contribute to a pre-diabetic state, making you feel hungry even if you've already eaten, which can wreak havoc on your weight. Accelerate tumor growth, primarily due to disrupted melatonin production. Melatonin inhibits the proliferation of a wide range of cancer cell types, as well as triggering cancer cell apoptosis (self-destruction). The hormone also interferes with the new blood supply tumors require for their rapid growth (angiogenesis). Contribute to premature aging by interfering with your growth hormone production, normally released by your pituitary gland during deep sleep (and during certain types of exercise, such as high intensity interval training). Raise your blood pressure. Increase your risk of dying from any cause.
A Simple Trick to Help You Stay in Deep Sleep Longer
Deep sleep is one of the most important sleep phases as your body repairs and regenerates, your immune system is strengthened and much more. The more time you can spend in this crucial sleep phase during the night, the more refreshed you’re going to feel in the morning, as well. Sound stimulation has been shown to be effective for prolonging deep sleep, so if you’re having trouble staying asleep at night, this is a simple trick to try.
Published in the journal Neuron,9 the study found that playing “pink noise” sounds that were synchronized to the subject’s brain waves when the subject approached deep sleep allowed them to remain in deep sleep longer than when the sound was not played. The participants were also shown 120 pairs of words before going to bed and tested the following morning to see how many they could remember.
After sound stimulation, the subjects improved their memory retention by nearly 60 percent, recalling an average of 22 sets of words compared to 13 when the sound was not played. The key, according to the authors, is that the frequency of the sound was synched to the subject’s brain waves. This produced an increase in the size of the brain waves during deep sleep, and these slower brain waves are associated with information processing and memory formation. You can find special “pink noise” apps to play in your bedroom, or you can simply turn on a fan to get this benefit.
Turn Off Your Gadgets and Avoid Other Common Sleep Disturbances
If your sleep is being interrupted, the first step is to determine the cause. If you’re a new parent being woken by a newborn, there’s obviously little you can do, aside from teaming up with your spouse or another family member so you can each have alternating nights of uninterrupted sleep. Most cases of sleep disruptions, however, will be related to environmental or emotional factors. Some common examples include:
- Eating a heavy meal, or spicy foods, too close to bed
- Pets in your bed or bedroom
- Pain (headache, menstrual cramps, back pain, etc.)
- Alcohol in the evening
- Use of your computer, tablet, cellphone, or television
That last one is a biggie, as about 95 percent of Americans use an electronic device within one hour of going to sleep, according to a National Sleep Foundation poll.10 This has a major implication on the quality of your sleep, in ways you might not even imagine. Certainly, such devices can keep you awake by making noises, but they also interfere with your sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm, in far more insidious, and damaging ways.
Exposure to even small amounts of light from a television, your computer, tablet, or smartphone can interfere with your body’s production of melatonin, which helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Plus, when you're connected to the Internet, your phone or computer are communicating with nearby cell towers, which means they're also emitting low levels of radiation. One 2008 study revealed that people exposed to radiation from their mobile phones for three hours before bedtime had more trouble falling asleep and staying in a deep sleep.11, 12
According to the 2014 Sleep in America Poll, 53 percent of respondents who turn electronics off while sleeping tend to rate their sleep as excellent, compared to just 27 percent of those who leave their devices on.13 This is why I recommend avoiding watching TV or using a computer or tablet at least an hour or so before going to bed. If you do keep your devices in your room, make sure they are physically turned off along with your Wi-Fi router. An alternative, you can try a free computer program called f.lux (see justgetflux.com), which alters the color temperature of your computer screen as the day goes on, pulling out the blue wavelengths as it gets late.
How to Get Uninterrupted, Restorative Sleep
Small adjustments to your daily routine and sleeping area can go a long way to ensure uninterrupted, restful sleep. I suggest you read through my full set of 33 healthy sleep guidelines for all of the details, but to start, consider implementing the following changes. Number one on my list? As mentioned, turn off your electronic gadgets and keep them out of your bedroom:
- Avoid watching TV or using your computer/smartphone or tablet in the evening, at least an hour or so before going to bed.
- Make sure you get BRIGHT sun exposure regularly. Your pineal gland produces melatonin roughly in approximation to the contrast of bright sun exposure in the day and complete darkness at night. If you are in darkness all day long, it can't appreciate the difference and will not optimize your melatonin production.
- Get some sun in the morning. Your circadian system needs bright light to reset itself. Ten to 15 minutes of morning sunlight will send a strong message to your internal clock that day has arrived, making it less likely to be confused by weaker light signals during the night.
- Sleep in complete darkness, or as close to it as possible. Even the tiniest glow from your clock radio could be interfering with your sleep, so cover your clock radio up at night or get rid of it altogether. Move all electrical devices at least three feet away from your bed. You may want to cover your windows with drapes or blackout shades, or wear an eye mask when you sleep.
- Install a low-wattage yellow, orange, or red light bulb if you need a source of light for navigation at night. Light in these bandwidths does not shut down melatonin production in the way that white and blue bandwidth light does. Salt lamps are handy for this purpose.
- Keep the temperature in your bedroom no higher than 70 degrees F. Many people keep their homes too warm (particularly their upstairs bedrooms). Studies show that the optimal room temperature for sleep is between 60 to 68 degrees F.
- Take a hot bath 90 to 120 minutes before bedtime. This increases your core body temperature, and when you get out of the bath it abruptly drops, signaling your body that you are ready to sleep.
- Avoid using loud alarm clocks. Being jolted awake each morning can be very stressful. If you are regularly getting enough sleep, you might not even need an alarm.
- Be mindful of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) in your bedroom. EMFs can disrupt your pineal gland and its melatonin production, and may have other negative biological effects as well. A gauss meter is required if you want to measure EMF levels in various areas of your home. If possible install a kill switch to turn off all electricity to your bedroom. If you need a clock, use a battery-operated one.
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