- What is dehydration?
- Signs and symptoms of dehydration
- What causes dehydration?
- Who is at risk of dehydration?
- How to prevent dehydration
- Sports drinks and other sweetened beverages will not keep you hydrated
- Choose to drink living water
- Other natural thirst-quenchers for preventing dehydration
- The key to avoiding dehydration: Listen to your body
Rice, whether long-, medium- or short-grain, is a staple in countries like India, China, Philippines, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam,1 Spain2 and Italy.3 It can be enjoyed savory or sweet4 and pairs well with various ingredients. Some common types of rice include white, brown, black, instant and wild, although you may also encounter other “special” types of rice like jasmine, basmati, Arborio, black japonica and mochi.5
Dehydration is a health concern that should never be ignored. Anyone can become dehydrated for various reasons, so it is important that you always hydrate yourself with filtered water. Read on to learn more about symptoms of dehydration and how you can prevent it.
Dehydration happens when you've lost too much water without replacing it, preventing your body from performing its normal functions.1 Remember that water makes up nearly 50% to 60% of your body, depending on your gender.2 It plays a large part in many bodily functions, such as lubricating your joints and retaining moisture in your eyes, keeping your skin healthy, eliminating toxins and facilitating proper digestion.
Proper intake of fluids is also vital for kidney function3 so, every time your body loses water, you need to replace those fluids to maintain balance between the salts, glucose and other minerals in your system.4
If you become dehydrated, drastic changes in your body can immediately occur. Research has shown that even mild dehydration can decrease brain tissue fluid, which can result in changes in brain volume.5 Your blood becomes more viscous as well, straining your cardiovascular system and putting you at risk of health issues like thrombogenesis.6 Dehydration also compromises your body's ability to regulate your temperature.7
Losing just 1% to 2% of your entire water content can cause thirstiness, a sign that you need to replenish the lost liquids.8 Mild dehydration can easily be treated but if it reaches extreme levels, it can be life-threatening and will require immediate medical attention.
Here are the mild and severe symptoms of dehydration, according to the Mayo Clinic:9
Mild to moderate dehydration
- Dry, sticky mouth
- Sleepiness or tiredness
- Dry skin
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Few or no tears when crying
- Minimal urine
- Dry, cool skin10
- Muscle cramps
- Extreme thirst
- Irritability and confusion
- Sunken eyes
- Dry skin that doesn't bounce back when you pinch it
- Low blood pressure
- Rapid heartbeat
- Rapid breathing
- No tears when crying
- Little or no urination, and any urine color that is darker than usual
- In serious cases, delirium or unconsciousness
Infants and children are more vulnerable to dehydration. HealthyChildren.org notes that immediate attention must be given to these age groups if they exhibit the following symptoms:11
Mild to moderate dehydration
- Urinates less frequently (for infants, fewer than six wet diapers per day)
- Plays less than usual
- Parched, dry mouth
- Fewer tears when crying
- Sunken soft spot on the head (fontanelle)
- Loose stools (if dehydration is caused by diarrhea). If dehydration is due to fluid loss, there will be fewer bowel movements
- Very fussy
- Excessively sleepy
- Sunken eyes
- Cool, discolored hands and feet
- Wrinkled skin
- Urinates only once or twice a day
Chronic dehydration can affect your organs and lead to kidney stones,12 constipation13 and electrolyte imbalances that may result in seizures.14 Whether it is mild, moderate or severe dehydration, the liquids lost from your body must be immediately replaced. If you become dehydrated and begin experiencing symptoms like those mentioned here, get professional treatment as soon as possible.
There are various reasons why dehydration occurs, and the causes can be a result of both losing too many fluids and not taking in enough. For example, intense physical activity can cause you to sweat profusely and lose substantial amounts of water, so proper hydration is necessary to replenish what you've lost. Medical News Today says other causes of dehydration include:15
- Diarrhea — This condition prevents your intestinal tract from absorbing water from the foods that you eat, making it the most common cause of dehydration.
- Vomiting — Common causes include foodborne illnesses, nausea and alcohol poisoning.
- Sweating — Vigorous sweating may occur for various reasons, such as if you have a fever, work in hot environments or engage in intense physical activity.
- Diabetes — Having high blood sugar levels can cause frequent urination and, subsequently, extreme loss of fluids in your cells, leading to dehydration.
- Frequent urination — Nondiabetics may urinate frequently because of alcohol intake or from taking certain drugs like antihistamines, blood pressure medications and antipsychotics. Too much caffeine intake can cause you to urinate more frequently, too.16
Everyone is prone to dehydration, but some people have a higher risk for it, such as those who engage in strenuous exercise. One example is mountain climbing. It is especially hard for hikers to stay hydrated because the pressure at high altitudes makes them sweat more and breathe harder.17
Professional athletes, particularly those who compete in marathons, triathlons and cycling tournaments, are also predisposed to dehydration. Research suggests that even low levels of dehydration can impair athletes' cardiovascular and thermoregulatory response.18
One study even revealed that dehydration can impair basketball players' performance. The study focused on 17 males ranging from 17 to 28 years old, and determined their performance based on different dehydration levels of up to 4%. The result showed that when there's an increase in dehydration, skill performance decreases.19
Infants are especially prone to dehydration since their bodies are composed of 78% water at birth, dropping to about 65% by age 1.20 Since their bodies are more vulnerable to water depletion, their need for water is greater than adults.
Elderly people are also at risk for dehydration since the thirst mechanism weakens as a person grows older. According to a 2016 study,21 20% of seniors are not getting enough water every day due to several causes, ranging from forgetfulness to a desire to fight incontinence by consuming fewer fluids, to simply being too frail to care for their personal needs.
Those who have chronic diseases that cause frequent urination such as diabetes or kidney problems have an increased risk of dehydration.22 If you have a chronic illness that causes dehydration, make sure to take the necessary steps to hydrate yourself at all times to protect your health.
Water plays such an immense role in your bodily functions, making it an essential part of your everyday life. Since dehydration can be life-threatening, it is important that you replenish your body with water immediately if you feel yourself becoming dehydrated.
Always bring water with you during exercise or any physical activity, especially when the temperature's too hot. One good rule of thumb to prevent dehydration is to drink as much water as it takes for your urine to turn light yellow. Dark urine means that your kidneys are retaining liquids in an effort to have enough for your body to perform its normal functions.
It is especially important to pay attention if you are sick with fever, are vomiting or have diarrhea, so you don't become dehydrated. Be sure to drink enough water to replace the liquids that you've lost. If you are vomiting or have diarrhea to the point that you can't drink enough to stay hydrated, you may need to visit an emergency department for help in maintaining hydration.
Sports drinks are one of the most commercialized beverages today — from TV advertisements to popular athlete endorsers, mainstream media make it look like sports drinks are the answer to keeping you healthy and well-hydrated.
Beverage companies advertise that these drinks will help replenish the electrolytes in your body during exercise or outdoor activities, but the truth is the drinks with actual science studies behind them were created for high-performance athletes who deplete their water stores quickly, not for the average person looking to address thirst issues.
Indeed, downing too many of these drinks may even be detrimental to your health — particularly if they fall in a class of beverages known as "energy" drinks.23
A typical sports or energy drink contains high amounts of citric acid. According to a 2017 study from The Science Journal of the Lander College of Arts and Sciences, drinking sports or energy drinks that have citric acid can chip away the enamel in your teeth faster, leading to dental erosion.24 Sports drinks like Powerade and Gatorade also come loaded with sugar — a BMJ study25 reported 19 grams and 30 grams, respectively, for a 500 mL (about 17 ounces) bottle of these two beverages.
Aside from sports drinks, there are other sweetened beverages that won't give you any benefit, like sodas. These are equally unhealthy for you, as a 20-ounce bottle of cola gives you 16 teaspoons of sugar, usually in the form of high-fructose corn syrup.26
Energy drinks come with their own set of problems: Consumed by 30% to 50% of adolescents and young adults, these drinks are supplemented with ingredients hyped as energy boosters. From dangerous levels of caffeine to taurine to herbs and various sugars, what's in these drinks can cause "seizures, mania, stroke and sudden death" when consumed, and are a risk especially for anyone who is diabetic, has a heart, thyroid or kidney disease, or is taking certain medications.27
Commercial fruit juices are another group of heavily processed sweetened drinks that have too many sugars and not enough value to make them useful for hydrating purposes. For example, a 12-ounce can of Minute Maid's 100% Apple Juice contains 37 grams of sugar,28 which can put you at risk of diabetes, weight gain and obesity.
If you're on a community water system, don't just turn on the tap and fill a glass or water bottle, as it may very well contain fluoride, as well as heavy metals and disinfection byproducts that can have ill effects on your health. Installing a water filter in your home, both at the tap and preferably also at the point of entrance, can help eliminate these harmful contaminants.
If you want the best water for you and your family, I suggest drinking structured or "living" water, such as deep spring water. According to Gerald Pollack, one of the world's leading research scientists on the physics of water, structured water or EZ "exclusion zone" water is the same type of water found in your body's cells. It has a negative charge, and works just like a battery by holding and delivering energy.
Since distilled water is too acidic and alkaline water is too alkaline, you should nourish your body only with structured water, as it contains the ideal PH range of 6.5 to 7.5, which enables your body to maintain a balanced and whole state.
I personally drink vortexed water since I became a fan of Viktor Schauberger, who did so much work regarding vortexing many years ago.29 By creating a vortex in your glass of water, you are putting energy into it and increasing EZ as well.
Ideal EZ water can be found in glacial melt, but since it is practically inaccessible for almost everyone, natural deep spring water is a good source. When storing water, use glass jugs and avoid plastic bottles since they contain bisphenol A and phthalates, which are linked to health issues, such as sexual dysfunction and disruption of thyroid hormone levels.30,31
If you want to drink something more flavorful than water, you can opt for raw, organic green juice made from fresh vegetables. However, I recommend refraining from drinking juice with too many fruits as it will have high amounts of sugar and calories. Go for a green juice recipe that combines one or two fruits only and larger amounts of greens like spinach, celery or kale. That way, you can minimize your sugar intake and still get all the nutrients from the fruits and vegetables in their purest forms.
I advise keeping your fructose consumption below 25 grams per day. If you have Type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance or heart disease, it is wise to minimize your total fructose to 15 grams daily, including that from fruits.
Coconut water serves as a great replacement for sports drinks. It provides optimal health benefits due to its anti-inflammatory32 and antioxidant33 effects. A word of caution: Coconut water also contains sugar, albeit in smaller amounts compared to other fruits, so drink it in moderation, preferably after a cardio workout, when you need to replace minerals and fluids.
No one but you can determine if you are hydrated enough. If you feel thirsty or you're sweating profusely, this is a signal that you need to replenish your body with water immediately. Don't wait for severe dehydration symptoms to occur before you take action, since this can be life-threatening.
Since anyone can become dehydrated even without any physical activity, keeping a bottle of filtered water nearby can help keep you hydrated. Remember that a healthy person should urinate seven to eight times each day, so if you're not urinating frequently it means you're not drinking enough water.
Remember: Nothing feels more refreshing than drinking cool water to replace the liquids that you've lost. It's also important to always listen to your body. Once you feel that urge to drink, opt for structured or filtered water rather than artificially sweetened beverages, which can have negative effects on your health.
Peter Sullivan, who has a master's degree in computer science with an emphasis on human-computer interaction, is the founder of Clear Light Ventures, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about the health effects of electromagnetic field (EMF) exposure.
Before founding Clear Light Ventures in 2007, he worked for several different Silicon Valley companies, including Netflix, where he worked his way up from a troubleshooter in customer support to a principal software designer at Netflix.
"My passion in the mid-'90s … was personal technology … I had all the gadgets," Sullivan says. "I even had some of the wearable tech in the mid-'90s … I was writing papers about this at Stanford. I was getting exposure to these things way earlier than most people.
Also … when I was working at Interwoven, I was next to a military base … the Onizuka Air Force Station. Turns out there was a space radar under this blue cube. I was getting really hammered by the space radar … I was doing everything right health-wise. I was eating well. I was exercising. Yet my health just kept declining.
I kept having issues with fatigue, etc. I would say the exposure that people are getting now, I was getting probably about 10 years ago. It took me a long time to figure it out … We're all making this mistake and making assumptions …
I said, 'I need to really be objective. I don't want to be that person who doesn't look at their own stuff.' I started including EMF in the environmental factors and the health factors that I was looking at … I did it because I started feeling things. My brain was telling me, 'This is all great stuff. It's really fun,' and my body was saying, 'Oh my God. I don't like that' …
I was getting a little bit of tinnitus or microwave hearing … If you're in this camp where your flickering light is annoying you or noise is starting to [become] an issue, you don't like fan noise and these sorts of things … you're probably getting into this realm, especially if you're having sleep disruption."
Searching for the root of his problems
In 2009, he got really diligent about assessing all of his exposures, including exposures to toxins, light, noise, air quality and so on. In the end, he discovered that electrical exposure, by far, was the biggest factor. He also discovered that the biggest loads on his immune system were in his mouth. He had mercury fillings, a root canal and cavitations.
As these dental issues were addressed, his EMF sensitivity improved. "I don't feel pain [in response to EMF exposure] anymore," he says, but he can still sense that a high EMF environment is not ideal. At his worst, between 2009 and 2013, he'd feel the effects simply driving by a cellphone tower. "I'd feel it in my head," he says.
Additional help arrived in the form of building biologist Alex Stadtner, who founded Healthy Building Science Inc. Sullivan started working with him in 2009, learning about magnetic fields, electric fields and wireless radiation. Another instrumental teacher was Dr. Sam Milham, who wrote the book "Dirty Electricity."
"I started measuring things. That was, really, I think, the key tipping point for me — how to manage dirty electricity that was affecting me at night," Sullivan says. "[Milham] is fantastic. He's done some great work. I funded a study that he was working on in schools, which is interesting. He wanted to measure neurotransmitters in children …
He measured a baseline of the kids in school, and then he measured it [after retrofitting the classroom] with a Stetzer meter and Stetzer filters … He noticed that the neurotransmitters changed dramatically. The ones that changed the most were dopamine and phenethylamine (PEA). PEA is related to self-control.
If you're a teacher, you kind of want your kids to have a little bit of self-control. I think even a lot of adults are losing self-control right now, and I think dirty electricity is a very key factor."
Four primary types of EMFs
There are four primary types of EMF exposures:
- AC electric fields at 60 Hz (the "E" component of EMF) from house wiring and corded appliances (especially ungrounded ones; cords that have only two prongs rather than three)
- AC magnetic fields at 60 Hz (the "M" component of EMF) from power lines, wiring errors on house wiring, current on grounding paths, and from motors and transformers ("point sources")
- Radio frequencies (RF) from cellphones, smart meters, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in just about everything these days
- "Dirty electricity" from transient voltage spikes from 2 to 100 KHz
While you can measure all of these, there's no one single meter that can provide you information about all of these EMFs. For a comprehensive assessment of your exposure, you will need more than one meter.
To understand each of these a bit better, you can think of a magnetic field as field lines generated by an electromagnet. These fields go right through your body. An electric field can be thought of as invisible lighting, as electrons are trying to ground.
"A lot of things, like a normal light next to your bed, even when it's not on, you could think of it as electrons leaking off the power line," he says. Wireless radiation can be thought of as light at a lower frequency than you can see, but pulsing very rapidly. If you could see it, you would see it flickering. Lastly, dirty electricity can be thought of as pollution of all of these other fields.
Common sources of EMFs and what you can do about them
In Sullivan's experience, getting rid of magnetic fields such as transformers and power boxes and cleaning up dirty electricity have been most helpful. Your refrigerator is another common source of magnetic fields. Your choice here is to either turn the appliance off or mover further away from it. With each doubling of the distance, you reduce your exposure by about 75%, Sullivan says, and this goes for electric and radiofrequency fields as well.
Like me, he recommends focusing on cleaning up your bedroom to make sure you sleep well. In fact, one of the most common symptoms of excessive EMF exposure is sleep disruption. "I like to make sure people create space for themselves — kind of an electronic-free zone — around their beds," he says.
One of the most common sources of magnetic fields in a bedroom would be a light-emitting diode (LED) clock radio. If you have one of those, move it to the far end of the room, or better yet, use a battery-powered clock. I use a talking clock, designed for the blind, to avoid light interfering with my melatonin production.
Whatever you do, avoid using your cellphone as your alarm clock. You really do not want your cellphone anywhere near you when sleeping, unless it's either turned off or in airplane mode.
"I'm surprised how much a cellphone can impact you," Sullivan says. "A cellphone even on the other side of the house, when it's on, can really impact the bedroom environment. My wife and I would charge our phones about 50 feet from our bedroom. I've had times when my wife has left it on and I [felt it]. It had an impact when I was really sensitive …
The other thing people have been bringing to the bedroom a lot lately is the fitness trackers and the sleep trackers. The Oura ring can go on airplane mode. Same with the Apple Watch … But a lot of people have been doing the Fitbits.
There are some other trackers that don't even have an option. They're on 24/7. They say it's low-power Bluetooth, but some of these low-power Bluetooths are really high-powered, and they're right next to your skin and body. It's a big factor at night."
As for electric fields, the most common source is the lamp near your bed. "Even when it's not on, it can be leaking off a big electric field," Sullivan warns. The wiring in the wall, and a circuit breaker box on the other side of the wall are other common sources of electric fields.
Today, many homes are also outfitted with a smart meter which, if situated on the other side of the wall, can be a significant problem. In these cases, you'd need to move your bed, or switch to another room for sleeping.
"This is a quick protocol that Dr. Toril Jelter came up with here in California, mostly for autistic kids. What you do is you turn off the wireless sources in the house. You turn off a baby monitor if you have one … Your cordless phone base station — the base station is constantly emitting, like a cell tower — you turn that off and your Wi-Fi. You just turn that off at night to start, ideally more.
At that point, you could still have dirty electricity … in your wiring in the bedroom. You could play around with turning off one or more circuits in the bedroom. Sometimes it would be one circuit for the whole bedroom; sometimes you might have one for the lights around the bottom or the circuit around the bottom where you plug the outlets in …
Go around and find those circuits. Maybe for a couple of weeks, turn those off and see how you sleep. Some people will find that they sleep better right away. That'll help you without spending any money. See how much this is impacting your body.
Again, that's a quick and dirty protocol without measuring. That may give you a nice 80% solution. Then if it feels like it works out well for you, then you can either buy a meter or work with a building biologist or environmental hygienist and all these other experts."
EMF and autism
Sullivan has been particularly passionate about helping the autism community understand the impact of EMF, as two of his own children were mildly on the spectrum. From his perspective, two primary culprits contributing to rising autism rates are glyphosate and EMF exposure.
"We treated [our children] biologically. I had a great doctor in this area. We started looking at toxins and toxic metals … [EMF] was one of the last things I came to. I want parents to realize that, 'Don't fixate on one thing. Don't even fixate just on EMF.'
I want you to look broadly at all these factors that are impacting health, that are increasing the rates of autism, child developmental issues and chronic health issues in general … There a lot of fixation now on vaccine ingredients … but people aren't looking at the 80,000 chemicals in commerce, including pollution, EMF issues and even lifestyle issues, like getting a certain amount of sun and other factors.
We're trying to get people to realize that it's not one thing … It's [about] total load … Our bodies are so resilient that by the time you see a symptom, you've really had multiple things fail … We need to be focusing on infections … mold, chemical toxins, some of the dental stuff we talked about, and food allergies as well. There's a lot going on.
I think the two factors that are most suspect from a rising perspective would be wireless and glyphosate … We've had magnetic fields and electric fields for about 100 years. Why didn't we have autism? What changed in the mid-'80s was we went to DECT digital phones.
We went from these nice, smooth analog signals that our cells are used to dealing with to these pulsed square digital waves that can impact the calcium channels, the vibrational receptors on the outside of the cell. We also switched to power supplies that went from AC to DC … called switching power supplies. They chop up the power in a way that creates little transients … That's essentially dirty electricity.
Instead of having a nice, smooth sine wave, you're getting all these little spikes. Those are biologically active. Those are small from a power perspective…I think that's really the key factor …
A cellphone in your pocket is a big risk factor for sperm damage, including DNA damage. There are about 30 or 40 studies on this … In autism, part of the situation is de novo mutations, mutations that are uninherited. This is a gene that was not in the father or the mother, and now it's in the child. We're looking for one of these factors that could be causing a de novo mutation.
One of the suspects, of course, is [carrying your] cellphone in your pocket. Mostly, it comes from the father's side. So, the dads need to start taking some prenatal or prepregnancy responsibility for their side of the equation to make sure that their sperm is not damaged and mutated. That's a big factor."
Demanding safer technologies
Unfortunately, with the introduction and rollout of 5G, exposure is going to exponentially increase everywhere, including in your own home. Many will end up with transmitters on a utility pole directly outside their house. Eventually, extreme exposure is going to be unavoidable. The question then becomes, can we make the technology safer? Are there any practical solutions? Sullivan says yes, we can, and there are.
"You don't want to fight against these big industries. [Instead], focus on what you want," Sullivan says. "Wouldn't it be ideal if these things actually were as safe as we assumed?
Step 1 is we're going to start quickly avoiding them, especially at night. But step 2 is … safe technology has to become a market requirement. It has to be something that we demand, especially in schools and other environments where we can't control [the exposure]. We have to start asking for reduced exposure.
There's a product in the market right now called Eco-WiFi. It's a special Wi-Fi where the firmware has been adapted so that you can lower the beaconing frequency. The beaconing frequency is the thing that says, 'I'm here. I'm here. I'm here.' It does that about 10 times a second. That's the tut-tut-tut sound you get from Wi-Fi.
Now, that can actually be dialed down to once per second. That doesn't slow your Wi-Fi down. It just slows your connection, fractionally slower, if at all. It's barely noticeable. Radiation can be reduced 90% by dialing that down to once per second, or even two or three times per second.
That's an easy thing to do. I just found out too that a company, Aruba, which I think is a Hewlett Packard company, has an adjustable setting for their beaconing system …
We want to start reducing the exposures on our end, but also want to start having things that kind of turn on and off, almost like your screen blanks and turns off to save power. There needs to be some signaling and protocols that start reducing all these beaconing frequencies that are going back and forth."
To learn more, be sure to check out Sullivan's site, ClearLightVentures.com.
"I'm working on simplified instructions for parents with meters and meters that we recommend. Those are on my website," he says. "I have some wireless safety cards that we did, that we handed out to parents and organizations that give you some tips. [The handout] talks about the different symptoms and some of the basic science, so it makes this a bit more credible …
I've also done a booklet for [those with] children on the autism spectrum … called 'Simplifying Autism Improvement and Recovery' … It goes along with my talk, 'Simplifying Autism Improvement and Recovery' that is online. My most recent talk is 'Simplifying Autism: Removing Barriers.'"
Other helpful resources for those looking for more information include WirelessEducation.org, where you can also find resources for schools, and Joel Muskowitz's website, SaferEMR.com. Muskowitz is the director and principal investigator at the Center for Family and Community Health at the University of California, Berkeley. "He doesn't cherry pick things … He's a great resource," Sullivan says.
- Studies regarding the benefits of curcumin
- Sources of curcumin and how you can increase your levels naturally
- Some considerations before buying a curcumin supplement
- Keep an eye out for these side effects of curcumin
- When supplementing with curcumin, use high-quality products only
- Frequently asked questions about curcumin
Spices are one of the most important aspects of cooking, as they have the ability to improve the flavor and aroma of any food. In many countries, spices are a big part of their cuisine and are deeply ingrained in their culture. One such example is turmeric, which has been largely associated with Indian culture for thousands of years.1
Today, turmeric is utilized in cuisines all over the world, from South Asian and Middle Eastern dishes to popular recipes in American cooking. It's one of the core ingredients used to make curry dishes, and is the source of their distinctive yellow color and flavor. Turmeric has been used for centuries in ancient Ayurvedic medicine as well. Indians used it as an antiseptic for cuts and burns, and as a remedy for gastrointestinal discomfort and respiratory conditions, and more.2
But what makes turmeric such a valued spice? Through advancements in technology, modern medicine has discovered that turmeric contains curcumin, a naturally occurring antioxidant that is the source of turmeric's various health benefits.3
Due to the purported health benefits of turmeric over the centuries, many researchers have investigated this spice to discover the truth to these claims. The table below presents some of their findings about turmeric's capabilities, which you may find very remarkable:
• May have anti-inflammatory effects — Curcuminoids found in turmeric may inhibit the activity and synthesis of cyclooxygenase and 5-lipooxygenase (5-LOX), which are enzymes related to inflammation.4 In one study conducted on rats, researchers discovered that curcumin profoundly helped reduce joint inflammation.5
• Helps support your digestive health — Curcumin may have help maintain digestive health. In a study that involved five people affected with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), researchers found out that curcumin helped improve the symptoms of the participants.6
• May help boost eye health — In a study published in Phytotherapy Research, patients affected with chronic anterior uveitis (inflammation of the uvea, or the middle layer of the eye7) were given 375 milligrams of curcumin three times daily for 12 days. Within two weeks, the participants experienced an improvement in symptoms, with no reported side effects.8
• Support recovery after surgery — Those who have just undergone surgery may experience pain and tenderness at the site of operation, a problem that curcumin may help with. In one study, patients who received 400 milligrams of curcumin three times a day for six days, as part of their postoperative treatments, experienced an 84.2% decrease in pain intensity.9
• May help keep your brain sharp — Recent research explored the potential neuroprotective benefits of curcumin. One such study suggested that curcumin may be effective against Parkinson's disease, a neurodegenerative disease that causes your brain to gradually produce lower levels of dopamine, negatively affecting movement over time.10 Another study notes that curcumin may help with cognitive impairment.11
• Helps lower cancer risk — Curcumin may play a role in diminishing the growth of cancerous cells by affecting pathways such as "mutagenesis, oncogene expression, cell cycle regulation, apoptosis, tumorigenesis and metastasis."12
• Supports your mental health — Aside from keeping your brain healthy, curcumin may help promote the healthy functioning of various mental aspects, such as emotional and psychological well-being.
In a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study, 123 participants diagnosed with major depressive disorder were given a placebo, a curcumin-saffron mixture, a low-dose curcumin extract and a high-dose extract. Results from the study indicate that those who took the curcumin and curcumin-saffron combination exhibited improvements in symptoms compared to the placebo group.13
• Helps keep your skin healthy — Applying a curcumin-based cream on your skin may help keep it healthy and prevent the development of skin diseases. In a study that involved 10 subjects affected with vitiligo, researchers subjected them to a procedure that combined UVB therapy and curcumin cream, which resulted in significant repigmentation.14
In another study, patients suffering from psoriasis were provided a 450-gram curcumin supplement per day for 12 weeks. After the study, two participants reported an 83% to 88% improvement of symptoms.15
• Helps lower risk of diabetes — According to a study published in Diabetes Care, consuming curcumin regularly may help prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes. Over the course of nine months, researchers monitored 240 prediabetics who were given either a placebo or a curcumin supplement. Results indicated that 16.4% of the group who were provided a placebo had developed diabetes, whereas the curcumin group did not.16
• Supports optimal cardiovascular function — Curcumin may help maintain normal heart function, according to several studies. In one example, researchers demonstrated that curcuminoids can help decrease myocardial infarction in people who received coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG).17 In another study, researchers suggested that curcumin can help lower total cholesterol level, as well as LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.18
Turmeric is the best natural source of curcumin. Traditionally called "Indian saffron,"19 turmeric is a root herb that has a "tough brown skin with a deep, orange flesh."20 It has been a part of Indian culture for thousands of years21 and is now highly regarded because of its multitude of health benefits.
One of the easiest ways to add curcumin to your diet is to use it as an ingredient for rubs or marinades. You may also add it to a salad to give your vegetables more spice. You can also try the following ideas from The Kitchn:22
- Add a dash of turmeric to vegetable or chicken soups to add warmth.
- Sprinkle some turmeric over sautéed vegetables for more flavor and nutrition.
- You can add turmeric into smoothies or mix it with grass fed milk to make "golden milk."
While adding turmeric to your foods is an easy way to obtain the benefits of curcumin, one of my issues with this method is that turmeric rhizomes contain only about 3% curcumin concentration. What's more, curcumin is poorly absorbed in your body. If you do add it to your foods, you're only absorbing about 1% curcumin. To work around this problem, you may try these two strategies:
- Make a microemulsion — Mix 1 tablespoon of raw turmeric powder with two egg yolks and 2 teaspoons of melted coconut oil.
- Boil the powder — Add 1 tablespoon of turmeric into a quart of boiling water. It's important that when making this beverage, the water should be boiling to increase the bioavailability. After 10 minutes of boiling, you will have created a 12% solution that needs to be consumed right away.
If you don't find turmeric's flavor to be appealing, then a curcumin supplement may be a viable option for you.
While curcumin has been studied extensively, there are some things you need to consider before buying a supplement. As mentioned earlier, natural curcumin has poor bioavailability, and the same case applies to many curcumin supplements.
In a study conducted by ConsumerLab.com, researchers discovered that 20 percent of turmeric and curcumin supplements sold in the market today deliver less than 15% of their promised curcuminoid compounds. This means that these products deliver only a small fraction of the amount that was promised.23
In light of this information, I recommend you follow this checklist when you're looking for a curcumin supplement. Make sure it:
- Uses advanced technology to increase bioavailability — This is probably the most important item to look for. Research and review what type of technology the manufacturer uses to increase the absorption rate of their curcumin supplements and decide if it is effective or not.
- Delivers all the essential curcuminoids — Curcumin is the principal curcuminoid, but demethoxycurcumin and bisdemethoxycurcumin should also be included to provide well-rounded benefits.
- Does not use unnecessary fillers and other additives — There's very little sense for a curcumin supplement to have other ingredients in the formula.
- Comes from a trustworthy manufacturer — Do extensive research for company reviews, processes and policies. High-quality ingredients are worthless if the company making the products has questionable regulations and other controversies.
- The supplement is derived from turmeric containing at least 95% curcuminoids — This characteristic ensures that you're getting the optimal amount of curcumin in your system.
- Reasonably priced — The final product should be affordable, even with the latest technology to increase bioavailability.
Curcumin is generally safe for human consumption with very rare chances of developing side effects.24 In one study, 10 adults taking 490 milligrams of curcumin for a week did not develop any side effects.25 Even doses up to 1,200 to 2,100 milligrams did not have any adverse effects.26 That being said, there's still a small chance you may develop:
- Headache and nausea — A 450-milligram dose may cause one or both of these two conditions.27,28
- Digestive problems — Distension, acid reflux and diarrhea may occur when taking higher doses.29
- Rash — An extremely high dose (8,000 milligrams) may cause a skin rash, but this is very rare.30
- Lead exposure — One study showed that it's possible for certain brands of turmeric powders could be could be contaminated with lead, a heavy metal that can have adverse effects to your nervous system.31
Beware of turmeric powders that contain fillers such as barley and wheat flour.32 These substances contain gluten, and if your body can't digest it, you may develop symptoms of gluten sensitivity such as abdominal pain, nausea, headaches, brain fog, fatigue and joint pain.33
If you're currently taking anticoagulants like warfarin, do not use turmeric or curcumin supplements, as they can augment the effects of the drugs you're currently taking.34 In the same way, you should avoid turmeric-based foods to be on the safe side.35
If you're going to take a curcumin supplement, always be vigilant and do your research before buying. Make sure that the company is reputable, uses advanced manufacturing process to increase bioavailability and the formula does not contain any fillers. This can help you ensure that you're purchasing a high-quality product.
Q: Is curcumin a good blood thinner?
A: Curcumin has been noted to have blood-thinning properties. If you're currently taking anticoagulants, curcumin may amplify the effects of these drugs.36 I recommend that you don't take curcumin supplements if you're taking blood-thinning medications.
Q: What is curcumin good for?
A: Curcumin may potentially benefit various aspects of your health, such as providing antioxidant protection and anti-inflammatory properties that may help manage pain and inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.37
Q: Are turmeric and curcumin the same thing?
A: Curcumin is essentially the beneficial compound found inside the rhizomes of turmeric. Curcuminoids can also be found in mango ginger, also known as Curcuma amada.38
The perils of too much screen time and cellphone use for children and adolescents run the gamut from triggering feelings of envy and depression1 to interfering with sleep and academic performance2 and even possibly increasing the risk of cancer.3
But one of the most shocking revelations potentially linked to cellphone use was quietly published in the Journal of Anatomy in 2016.4 It relates to enthesophytes, which are bony projections that form at an attachment site of ligament, tendon or joint capsule to a bone.
These bony protrusions may take on a spike, hook or horn-like appearance on X-rays, but have historically primarily been seen in the elderly, as the growths are thought to develop slowly over time,5 as the result of mechanical stress and strain — the type that results from overuse and repetitive movements performed over decades.
The study, however, found such growths — in particular a type of enthesophyte called enlarged external occipital protuberances (EEOP) — not on hunched-over elderly people, as one might expect, but rather on young adults, with researchers suggesting screen-based activities may be to blame.
41% of young adults found to have bony growths on their skulls
Researchers reviewed 218 X-rays of 18- to 30-year-old study participants with no symptoms and compared them to X-rays of age-matched mildly symptomatic participants. According to the study:6
“In recent years, the presence of an enlarged external occipital protuberance (EEOP) has been observed frequently in radiographs of relatively young patients at the clinic of the lead author.
To the best of the authors’ knowledge, reports concerning enthesophytes projecting out of the EOP are rare in the medical literature, although a few reports do exist in the anthropological and forensic science literature.
Accordingly, the aim of this study was to: (i) quantify the prevalence of EEOP within apparently healthy, asymptomatic, young adult participants; and (ii) compare these data with a cohort of mildly symptomatic age-matched individuals.”
An EOP was defined as a growth measuring at least 5 millimeters (mm), while an EEOP was considered 10 mm or more in size. EEOP was found in 41% of the population, with 10% having an EEOP measuring 20 mm or more.
The growths were significantly more common in males (67.4%) compared to females (20.3%), as well as tended to be larger in males. In fact, the longest EEOP measured in a male was 35.7 mm, compared to 25.5 in the female group.
“The high percentage (41%) of EEOP presentation in the test population was surprising,” the researchers noted. “The prevalence of an EEOP in the young age group may suggest that excessive forces are acting on the EOP at a younger age.”7
Is screen time causing horns to grow?
Enthesophytes can have many causes, which may be biomechanical, immunological or genetic in nature.8 In the featured study, however, the researchers stated that the young age of the population suggests that if the EEOPs are due to pathophysiological processes, the percentage of individuals affected should be considerably less than what was found.
“Secondly,” they noted, “if the presence of EEOP is due to aging and mechanical factors, the EEOP should appear at a more advanced age than that of the sample population. Accordingly, it would appear that additional factors must be considered as the predominant drivers for this phenomenon.”9
Such “additional factors” include extensive use of screen-based activities and the associated poor posture. Although the 2016 study did not look into this directly, they concluded:10
“ … [T]he absence of postural and ergonomic data restricts definitive conclusions on the causes of EEOP in the test population. However, the age of the population and high incidence of EEOP suggests that it is unlikely that the current observations are a result of aging-, genetic- or disease-related processes.”
In another study published in 2018, the researchers found that a combination of gender, the degree of forward head protraction and age was predictive of EEOP. Being a male and increased forward head protraction were most linked to prominent bone growths, whereas, paradoxically, age was linked to a decrease in growth size. They concluded:11
“We hypothesize EEOP may be linked to sustained aberrant postures associated with the emergence and extensive use of hand-held contemporary technologies, such as smartphones and tablets.
Our findings raise a concern about the future musculoskeletal health of the young adult population and reinforce the need for prevention intervention through posture improvement education.”
Study author sells posture pillows
It’s always important to look at the source when considering scientific research, and these studies are no different. One of the study’s authors, David Shahar, is a chiropractor who specializes in treating the “forward head posture epidemic,”12 and has offered posture pillows for sale on his website.
This doesn’t necessarily mean the study data aren’t valid, but it’s a potential conflict that should have been disclosed in the peer-reviewed Scientific Reports where one of the studies were published — but it wasn’t.
Shahar told Quartz of the potential conflict, “I have been largely inactive in that front over the years of my research, and this research does not discuss any particularly related intervention methods,”13 although Quartz pointed to one statement that reads “the mitigation of poor postural habit through prevention intervention may be prudent.”14
Another potential issue is that the 1,200 participants used for the 2018 study came from a “clinician’s database,” which reportedly is Shahar’s database. As Quartz reported:15
“If you really wanted to get a look at the effects of smartphone use on neck health, you’d want data from the general population, not people who were already concerned about neck or back pain.
The paper acknowledges that issue, and excludes any patients who reported severe neck pain. But it doesn’t state that the patients came from Shahar’s personal practice, who may have skewed the data because they explicitly sought help with their posture.”
That being said, it’s certainly plausible that too much screen time could be leading to unexpected consequences due to the mechanical distortions is causes to your body. Such problems have been revealed before.
Problems with craning your neck over screens
Adults spend about 11 hours interacting with media daily, which includes six hours per day watching videos, 45 minutes on social media and three hours and 48 minutes on digital media (cellphones, computers and tablets).16 Much of this time, your head may be held in such a way that puts an unnatural strain on your neck and upper body.
“Shahar thinks the spikes form because the hunched posture creates extra pressure on the place where the neck muscles attach to the skull — and the body responds by laying down fresh layers of bone,” BBC News reported. “These help the skull to cope with the extra stress, by spreading the weight over a wider area.”17
The “horns” themselves aren’t dangerous, but instead are a “portent of something nasty going on elsewhere, a sign that the head and neck are not in the proper configuration," study co-author Mark Sayers, an associate professor of biomechanics at Australia’s University of the Sunshine Coast, told The Washington Post.18
In a study of 207 children and adolescents with nonspecific neck pain, all of the participants had strong flexion, or bending, of the neck when using cellphones. The researchers noted:19
““Text neck,” a 21st-century syndrome, is a term derived from the onset of cervical spinal degeneration resulting from the repeated stress of frequent forward head flexion while looking down at the screens of mobile devices and “texting” for long periods of time.
Text neck is becoming more common as more people, especially teens and adolescents, hunch over smartphones. It is estimated that 75% of the world's population spends hours daily hunched over their handheld devices with their heads flexed forward.
In our sample, children and adolescents spent averages of 5 and 7 hours a day, respectively, with their heads tilted over reading and texting on their smartphones and handheld devices. Cumulatively, this is an average of 1825 and 2555 hours a year, respectively, of excess stresses seen in the cervical spine area.”
The average adult head weighs 4.54 kilograms (10 pounds) to 5.44 kilograms (12 pounds). When you flex your head forward, the increased forces on your neck lead to changes in your cervical spine and supporting ligaments, tendons and musculature, while also leading to changes in the bony segments. This, in turn, can cause changes to posture and lead to related neck pain.20
Cellphone cancer risk confirmed
Aside from the postural risks, radiation from cellphones may cause tumors in rats. The findings stem from government-funded studies conducted by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), an interagency research program currently under the umbrella of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.21
The research involved both mice and rats, which were exposed to cellphone radiation for nine hours a day for two years — close to average life span for these rodents. Most concerning, male rats were more likely to develop tumors in their heart known as malignant schwannomas.
In making their conclusions, NTP uses the labels “clear evidence,” “some evidence,” “equivocal evidence” and “no evidence.” They found “clear evidence” that exposure to cellphone radiation led to heart tumors in the male rates, along with “some evidence” that it caused brain tumors adrenal gland tumors in the rats.22
Further, according to the National Institutes of Health, “The NTP studies also looked for a range of non-cancer health effects in rats and mice, including changes in body weight, evidence of tissue damage from RFR-generated heating and genetic damage. Researchers saw lower body weights among newborn rats and their mothers, especially when exposed to high levels of RFR during pregnancy and lactation.”23
The NTP studies only looked at radio frequency radiation (RFR) like that used in 2G and 3G cellphones. The coming 5G, or “5th Generation,” wireless network may cause even greater risks.
Tips for cutting back on screens and RFR/EMF exposure
Whether or not cellphone use is triggering the growth of horns on children, there are multiple reasons to cut back on your screen time, as doing so not only will help protect your posture but also help reduce your exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) and potentially cancer-causing RFR (not to mention will help you avoid exposure to disruptive blue light at night).
If your kids are using screens excessively, set time limits on their exposure, including television, computers, tablets and cellphones. When they do use screens, pay attention to proper posture and use stands to minimize the forward tilting of the head.
Also be sure to turn off screens at least an hour or two before bedtime. To further reduce your EMF and RFR exposure, read through the suggestions below and implement as many of them as possible.
Use Stetzer or Greenwave filters to remove voltage transients from your electricity and use meters to confirm that they are in a safe range.
Use a battery-powered alarm clock, ideally one without any light. I use a talking clock for the visually impaired.24
Consider moving your baby's bed into your room instead of using a wireless baby monitor. Alternatively, use a hard-wired monitor.
If you must use Wi-Fi, shut it off when not in use, especially at night when you are sleeping. Ideally, work toward hardwiring your house so you can eliminate Wi-Fi altogether. It's important to realize that if you have a Wi-Fi router, you have a cellphone tower inside your home. Ideally, you'd eliminate your Wi-Fi and simply use a wired Ethernet connection.
If you absolutely must have a router, you can place it inside a shielded bag when not in use. You can find shielded items online, or make your own using Swiss Shield fabric. If you have a notebook without any Ethernet ports, a USB Ethernet adapter will allow you to connect to the internet with a wired connection.
For more extensive shielding, you can consider painting your bedroom walls and ceiling with special shielding paint, which will block RF from outside sources, such as cell towers, smart meters and radio/TV towers. Windows can be covered with metal window screen or film. For your bed, consider a shielding bed canopy.
Daytime strategies to reduce unnecessary EMF exposure
To reduce EMF exposure during the daytime, consider using Stetzer filters to decrease the level of dirty electricity or electromagnetic interference being generated. You can also take these with you to work or when you travel. This may be the single best strategy to reduce the damage from EMF exposure since it appears that most of it is generated by the frequencies that the filters remove.
Connect your desktop computer to the internet via a wired Ethernet connection and be sure to put your desktop in airplane mode. Also avoid wireless keyboards, trackballs, mice, game systems, printers and portable house phones. Opt for the wired versions.
Avoid carrying your cellphone on your body unless in airplane mode and never sleep with it in your bedroom unless it is in airplane mode. Even in airplane mode it can emit signals, which is why I put my phone in a Faraday bag.25 They are really inexpensive and only $10 for two of them. I tested them and they are highly effective at blocking radiation.
When using your cellphone, use the speaker phone and hold the phone at least 3 feet away from you. Seek to radically decrease your time on the cellphone. I typically use my cellphone less than 30 minutes a month, and mostly when traveling. Instead, use VoIP software phones that you can use while connected to the internet via a wired connection, or better yet, use a landline telephone.
General household remediation
If you still use a microwave oven, consider replacing it with a steam convection oven, which will heat your food as quickly and far more safely.
Avoid using "smart" appliances and thermostats that depend on wireless signaling. This would include all new "smart" TVs. They are called smart because they emit a Wi-Fi signal and, unlike your computer, you cannot shut the Wi-Fi signal off. Consider using a large computer monitor as your TV instead, as they don't emit Wi-Fi.
Replace CFL bulbs with incandescent bulbs. Ideally remove all fluorescent lights from your house. Not only do they emit unhealthy light, but more importantly, they will actually transfer current to your body just being close to the bulbs.
Dimmer switches are another source of dirty electricity, so consider installing regular on/off switches rather than dimmer switches.
Refuse smart meters as long as you can, or add a shield to an existing smart meter.
Six in 10 U.S. adults now have chronic health conditions like cancer, heart disease, diabetes and stroke, and 4 in 10 have two or more of these diseases, according to the CDC.1,2
While many of these diseases can be blamed on drinking, smoking or overeating — in other words, "lifestyle" choices, most people don't realize that much of their health care and subsequent wellness depends solely on corporations that value their profits over your well-being –– corporations like insurers, health benefit managers and food and drug makers.
It's a sad fact that prevention of chronic health conditions is not a priority of these organizations –– healthy people do not need medical care, so no money is made by getting or keeping the population healthy.
According to the documentary, "The Big Secret," unethical profiteering on the public's health can be traced back to John D. Rockefeller, (1839–1937) a wealthy U.S. industrialist credited with creating much of our current medical system. Specifically, Rockefeller's foundations along with the Carnegie foundation, revamped medical schools to emphasize the use of drugs made by companies they owned, instead of a less-drug intensive model that had been in use in schools.3
This "drugs first" approach to health care continues today at medical schools and in traditional medical practice, both of which are enmeshed with Big Pharma. The "patent medicines" Rockefeller pushed have simply been replaced by brand name drugs.
The sham of statins
A good example of our current medical system's misplaced preference of drugs over prevention can be seen with statins. Statins have been a blockbuster for Big Pharma since they were first introduced, with4 Lipitor being the best-selling drug in the history of the pharmaceutical industry.5 Today, more than 1 in 4 Americans over age 45 are on a statin.6
Since statins lower cholesterol, it's assumed they lower the risk of heart disease, yet cholesterol levels are only one risk factor in heart disease and, therefore, statins are much less effective than touted. In fact, studies show that less than half of those on statins actually ever reach the cholesterol goals intended.7
The real truth is cholesterol is found in every cell in your body, where it helps to produce cell membranes, hormones (including the sex hormones testosterone, progesterone and estrogen) and bile acids that help you digest fat. It's also important for the production of vitamin D.
Additionally, as experts point out in "The Big Secret," cholesterol serves positive functions in the brain, hormone systems and many other parts of the human body, Moreover, there are negative effects from lowering it too much.
As I have written in my newsletters many times, statins are also associated with many dangerous side effects, from muscle aches and damage to inhibiting the enzyme that produces CoQ10 and ketones, which are crucial nutrients to feed your mitochondria. Statins also inhibit the synthesis of vitamin K2 which protects your arteries from calcification and plaque.
Doctors speak out against statins
Dr. Barbara H. Roberts, author of "The Truth About Statins," served as director of the Women's Cardiac Center at the Miriam Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island, and associate clinical professor of medicine at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University. She also spent two years at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), where she was involved in statin clinical trials. This is what she had to say in 2012 about the use of statins in clinical practice:8
"Every week in my practice I see patients with serious side effects to statins, and many did not need to be treated with statins in the first place. These side effects range from debilitating muscle and joint pain to transient global amnesia, neuropathy, cognitive dysfunction, fatigue and muscle weakness.
Most of these symptoms subside or improve when they are taken off statins. There is even growing evidence of a statin link to Lou Gehrig's disease.
There is no question that many doctors have swallowed the Kool-Aid. Big Pharma has consistently exaggerated the benefits of statins and some physicians used scare tactics so that patients are afraid that if they go off the statins, they will have a heart attack immediately.
Yet high cholesterol, which the statins address, is a relatively weak risk factor for developing atherosclerosis. For example, diabetes and smoking are far more potent when it comes to increasing risk."
Rather than statins, simply donating blood reduces the risk of stroke by 70%, says Dr. Jonathan Wright in "The Big Secret." For more information on how this could be true, I encourage you to watch the video accompanying this article — you'll be shocked at how something as simple as a blood donation can work as well as or better than a drug.
Food that doesn't nourish
In 1971, President Richard Nixon's secretary of agriculture, Earl Butz, debuted a dangerous method of farming that continues today, in the form of the use of heavy synthetic fertilizers. With the advent of chemicals to "feed" it, farmland was no longer given a rest but tilled incessantly, resulting in serious mineral depletion.9
As a result studies show that fruits and vegetables today have less nourishing nutrients, thanks to this emphasis on size and quick growth of produce that Butz instituted. Of course, GMOs were to follow. Not surprisingly, Butz served as a board member on agribusiness companies that made the chemicals he promoted.
The drop in nutritional values in crops stems from widely used pesticides and herbicides which kill the bacteria that would otherwise predigest minerals and make them available to crops, says Peter Glidden, a naturopathic doctor featured in "The Big Secret" documentary.
What's worse, glyphosate, the ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, is highly correlated with liver, bile duct and thyroid cancers and stroke. And now, thanks to subpoenaed evidence produced in lawsuits against Roundup's manufacturer Monsanto, it's been proven that Monsanto (now Bayer) buried negative studies and attacked whistleblowers who tried to expose the danger of its popular herbicide.
The farmers are suffering too: Thanks to contracts forced on them by Monsanto and other agribusiness giants like DuPont and Syngenta, farmers can no longer save their seeds for planting or buy unpatented seeds, says farmer Paul Porter.
And, the environment suffers: Despite farmers' best efforts to avoid the harm of glyphosate and the many GMO seeds developed to survive the herbicide, glyphosate "drift" affects farmers who earnestly want to opt out of chemically produced food. Traces of glyphosate are now found everywhere, says the documentary –– in the soil, air, rain and even in most people's urine.
A dangerous sweetener made from corn
Another point "The Big Secret" makes is that the ubiquity of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), used to sweeten soft drinks and many other processed foods, is also a result of an agriculture secretary's decision-making. John Block, who served from 1981 to 1986 under President Ronald Reagan, abruptly ceased sugar imports when he took office, and boosted the use of HFSC, made from government subsidized corn.
One problem with HFCS, though, is that it's highly correlated with metabolic syndrome –– the type of obesity in which fat is concentrated at the waist, resulting in more health risks than mere obesity –– and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
As an example, the documentary highlights a study of residents of a county in Texas where only soft drinks with real sugar were available. With no access to HFCS, these people had significantly less fatty liver disease, obesity and diabetes — highlighting the probable, deleterious effects of HFCS.
Next up on this revealing documentary's list is the U.S. government's campaign against fat, which began in 1980 and resulted in the low-fat craze — a move that got the science practically backward, says Dr. Robert Lustig. In this debacle, fat was blamed for the cardiovascular disease while fructose, the real culprit, was exonerated. "You would never think about giving your kid a beer, but you don't think twice about giving them a Coke. They do the same thing," he asserts.
The soft drink lobby has huge power
I know it's hard to believe that governments would not protect their constituents from harmful food. But, time and again industry wins over any concern government may express for your health. For example, soft drink makers wield a huge amount of economic power. This is how Mother Jones described the conundrum in 2016:10
"Soda companies give big bucks to groups that promote public health — while at the same time lobbying against laws that are trying to do the same.
That's the takeaway from a study [that showed] Coca-Cola and PepsiCo donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to groups like the American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association and Save the Children from 2011-2015. The two companies, represented by American Beverage Association, also spent millions lobbying to defeat legislation aimed at reducing soda consumption across the country.
Coke gave the National Institutes of health nearly $2 million in recent years while also spending $6 million each year from 2011 to 2015 to fight efforts on implementing soda tax in cities like Philadelphia."
The bottom line is, government is literally taking handouts from the very industries that are making you sick! When you consider that the chief agency in charge of your health — the CDC — has been caught in a cozy relationship with Coke, to the point of allowing the beverage giant to influencing research, it makes you wonder just who to trust when it comes to health and wellness.
Real food provides natural weight control
Here's an interesting thought that "The Big Secret" poses: What happens when food still contains all the minerals and nutrients it was meant to have — foods that haven't been depleted by chemical farming and genetic engineering? The answer is people stop eating when they have had enough and do not overeat, Glidden says.
You see, overeating and obesity are a direct result of consumers failing to receive the nourishment they crave. In other words, the body seeks nourishment that is not there and you just continue eating.
This "missing nutrient" effect may be seen, for example, with artificial sweeteners. Research in Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism suggests that artificially sweetened beverages may paradoxically cause people to gain, not lose, weight.11
"The negative impact of consuming sugar-sweetened beverages on weight and other health outcomes has been increasingly recognized; therefore, many people have turned to high-intensity sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin as a way to reduce the risk of these consequences.
However, accumulating evidence suggests that frequent consumers of these sugar substitutes may also be at increased risk of excessive weight gain, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease."
Artificial sweeteners also might be addictive unto themselves, according to a 2011 study conducted at the University of Bordeaux in France.12 Researchers found that rats, when they were given a choice between an artificial sweetener and cocaine, always picked the artificial sweetener. In fact, even cocaine-addicted rats chose the artificial sweetener.
Municipal fluoridation imperils public health
For many years I have warned against the dangers of fluoride in drinking water and its widespread use in municipal water systems, so you're probably aware of how industry has overtaken the very water you drink. Fluoride is an endocrine-disrupting chemical13 and linked to the rising prevalence of thyroid disease which, in turn, is linked to obesity, heart disease, depression and other health problems.
Research in Environmental Health also suggests a link between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and adolescents in the United States, which has become epidemic, and exposure to fluoridated water.14
"State prevalence of artificial water fluoridation in 1992 significantly positively predicted state prevalence of ADHD in 2003, 2007 and 2011, even after controlling for socioeconomic status.
A multivariate regression analysis showed that after socioeconomic status was controlled each 1% increase in artificial fluoridation prevalence in 1992 was associated with approximately 67,000 to 131,000 additional ADHD diagnoses from 2003 to 2011.
Overall state water fluoridation prevalence (not distinguishing between fluoridation types) was also significantly positively correlated with state prevalence of ADHD for all but one year examined."
Municipal fluoridation, says "The Big Secret," saves local governments money by disposing of the neurotoxin while sparing the aluminum industry connected with its production, financial responsibility or harm.
There is also evidence that fluoride is an endocrine disruptor that can affect your bones, brain, thyroid, pineal gland and even your blood sugar levels.15 Importantly, it's a known neurotoxin shown to lower IQ in children.16,17 It's just another example of corporations and governments placing their profits over the public's well-being –– many of which are well described in "The Big Secret."
The message is clear: Many medicine practices, as well as popular foods and drugs are designed to make money, not protect public health.
Trees and shrubs are classified as either evergreen or deciduous. A deciduous tree loses its leaves in the fall and new leaves appear in the spring. The term "evergreen" describes trees that retain their color throughout the year, and are often able to endure cold weather and dry seasons.
Evergreen trees can be either broadleaf or needled. Although called evergreen, the leaves or needles of these trees are not always green. The Colorado blue spruce, for example, is classified as an evergreen but its needles are a silvery blue color. Conifer trees may be evergreen, but some are deciduous.1
The variety in these trees makes them a perfect addition to your garden as they retain the architectural lines defining the structure of your garden year-round. Evergreens are found on every continent except Antarctica and are valuable resources, providing lumber, medicinal ingredients and food.2
While a leaf may remain on an evergreen tree for two years or longer, they do eventually fall off and are replaced. This may happen during any season of the year. Evergreens are important to birds, which use them for cover during the cold winter months.
Birds also seek shelter in warmer climates on unusually cold nights. The dense needles or leaves on the evergreen offer protection from rain, wind and snow. Since evergreens come in all sizes and shapes, you'll likely find something that fits well in your garden.
Most evergreens require very little care. But before going out to purchase trees or shrubs for your garden, it's important to determine the purpose in your landscape. Do you want a windbreak for your house to reduce your electric bill? Would you like screening and privacy from the neighbors? Or will these trees be decorative, providing an anchor for your garden?3
Since the trees come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors and leaf types, understanding the purpose for which they'll be used will help determine the tree types that will work best in your yard. Although they survive in a wide variety of growing zones, most thrive in specific zones.
Your trees are part of your landscape, so you'll likely want rich, full trees or shrubs, and not spindly plants that appear to just be hanging on. The nursery where you purchase your evergreen trees will likely have a good understanding of the hardiness zones where the trees you choose will thrive.
If purchasing online, be sure to do your own research on the hardiness zones. You'll find the hardiness zone where you live on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Plant Hardiness Zone Map.4
As you choose your evergreen trees or shrubs, remember some may tolerate dry soils while others need a moist environment. Some trees prefer acidic soil, whereas others require a more alkaline type. Interestingly, trees that thrive in dry soil also enjoy alkaline soil, so if your area has dry soil and tests alkaline, it's best to consider drought-resistant trees.5
On the other hand, acidic soil tends to hold more moisture, so evergreens that grow best in acidic soil must also like it moist. However, if you have your heart set on a specific tree that prefers an environment opposite to what you have in your garden, you might consider changing your soil's pH to adjust for your tree or shrub.6
The pH is a measurement of alkalinity or acidity and the scale ranges from 0 to 14. A pH of 7 is neutral, below which is acidic and above is alkaline. The soil pH affects the availability of nutrients to the plant, and most essential nutrients are best available between a pH of 6 to 7.5.
Before attempting to change your soil pH, it's best to have it tested. If it's alkaline, you may increase the acidity by adding elemental sulfur, organic mulch or sphagnum peat. If your pH is highly acidic, you may raise it by incorporating limestone into the soil. Be careful not to add too much of either, though, as it may damage your plants.
Wood ash also raises your soil's pH. Modifying the pH is a process often requiring repeated treatments over time. It may also be necessary to treat the soil around your trees each year after they've been planted, but remember to test first to avoid damaging them.7
Most varieties thrive in full sun to partial sunlight. Some have a higher tolerance than others for sun exposure, extreme weather conditions, and pests and insects. Your trees will require regular watering through the summer, especially during dry seasons. They also appreciate mulching to fortify the roots from injury during winter or from the drying effects of wind and sun.8
Evergreen trees don't usually require fertilization, but if new growth is showing slowly, you may find fertilizing to be beneficial. Purchase and plant your tree or shrub in the spring, summer or very early fall, so it will have time to establish roots. This will also reduce the risk of injury during the winter.
When you bring your evergreen home, it will likely come with the roots balled in a burlap bag or in a pot. The hole you dig should be as deep as the root ball and at least two to three times wider.9 After planting, regularly water the tree during the first year. A good soaking once a week, especially during dry periods, is usually enough.
The tree will appreciate 1 to 3 inches of water every week when it doesn't rain.10 It's important to soak the soil once or twice a week to encourage the roots to go deep rather than to irrigate on a daily basis.
Use a drip irrigation system or soaker hose to allow the soil to absorb as much water as possible through the watering. Dumping large amounts of water on the soil only encourages runoff. Evergreen trees could be watered at night with a soaker hose to avoid moisture loss due to evaporation during the day.11
Most evergreen trees and shrubs will require yearly pruning to keep them in good condition and in your desired size or shape. Most have a strong central branch that requires pruning only to control the height, trim into shapes or increase the density of the remainder of the tree or shrub.12
It's important to identify your evergreen species to understand the growth habits before pruning or you may lose the natural shape and beauty. For the most part, new growth will extend from buds formed during the previous year at the tips of the branches and twigs.
However, there are a few species capable of producing new growth on old wood. Most types of evergreen may be pruned in the early spring before growth starts, or during the semi-dormant period in the middle of the summer.
It is ideal to follow the natural shape of other evergreen trees or shrubs, remove any dead or diseased branches and allow the cuts on the branches to heal to form buds for the following year. Unless you have an evergreen you're using as a hedge, selectively pruning one branch at a time is better than shearing.13
Pine trees have different pruning requirements.14 Most pine trees will produce buds at the end of the shoots and not along the stems. To produce a compact pine or maintain a shape, one-third to one-half of each new shoot may be cut off as it grows in the spring. Don't prune back into the wood as new growth will not develop from this area. It's not recommended to shear pine trees.15
Evergreen trees add color and visual interest to your garden during the winter when everything else has died off. You'll find evergreen trees in almost every region of the world and some have become garden favorites.
Conifers are likely the type of evergreen tree you would most readily recognize. There are nearly 630 species of conifer trees, several dozen of which are popular in the garden. When most people think about an evergreen tree, a conifer likely springs to mind. They range in size from dwarf fir trees to massive Scotch Pines, reaching over 150 feet high.
Conifers are identified by cones, which are an elaborate system of protecting their seeds. The leaves are often in the form of needles or scales. While they may be less efficient in producing nutrients for the plant, they are better able to withstand cold and hot, dry weather. Some of the most common Conifer trees include:16
- Hemlock trees — These trees are easily distinguished by their furrowed, cinnamon-colored bark. The foliage is flat and the branches come out horizontally and then bend downward.
- Cypress trees — These grow in the shape of a pyramid with small, round woody cones. Their leaves range from yellow green to a grayish color and may reach heights of up to 60 feet. Cypress trees enjoy full to partial light and are grown well in hardiness zones 4 to 11.
- Spruce trees — These also grow in a pyramid shape and are best known for their whorled branches and needles attached in a spiral formation. They may grow from 5 feet to 60-plus feet and are usually thought of as Christmas trees, especially the Blue and Norway spruce.
- Redwoods — These are officially among the oldest living trees. Old growth redwoods may be seen at Big Basin Redwood State Park in California and in the Santa Cruz mountains.17
- Pine — There are approximately 120 species of pine trees distributed throughout the world, but most are native to northern temperate regions.18 Pine trees are sources of turpentine, rosin, paper products and wood tars. Pine leaf oil has been used medicinally as an antimicrobial, antifungal and antibacterial.
While most varieties of broadleaf trees are deciduous, some stay green all year round. The leaves will be smaller and have adapted to resist the cold. Many species of holly are deciduous, but the European Holly is evergreen.
It became popular as a Christmas decoration when Roman soldiers wanted to celebrate the New Year with traditional green branches. Although it easily grows in Italy's warmer climate, holly was a substitute in northern Europe.19 Rhododendrons also have species including evergreen varieties.
As you create your garden, consider using dwarf evergreen trees to add color throughout the year and to define the architectural bones. These low-to-the-ground, always-green shrubs may be a feature of their own or may help to move your eye from one area of the garden to the next.
The recent growth in popularity has likely been from the variety now available in dwarf size shrubs and trees. These trees mature to a height of 12 feet or less and grow slowly. The ideal time to plant is while they're dormant in October through March. Most will prefer full sun and a slightly acidic soil. Breeders are developing new varieties every year. Here are a few described by The Spruce:20
- Hudsonia — This slow-growing balsam fir tops out at 1 foot tall and 2 feet wide and is perfect for small gardens. It is among the most pleasantly aromatic evergreens, thriving in hardiness zones 3 to 7.
- Hertz Midget — This is one of the smallest evergreens, growing as a tight round ball 1 foot tall and wide. It is a smart choice for a small garden and easily tolerates some shade. It grows in hardiness zones 2 to 8.
- Pendula — This Canadian hemlock tree is hardy, growing 3 feet tall and 8 feet wide. Given the opportunity it may drape over a wall. It grows well in hardiness zones 3 to 7.
- Minnima Aurea — This bright yellow, false cypress grows 2 feet tall and 1 foot wide in a pyramidal shape, lending a bit of height to your garden. It is easy to grow and care for but doesn't like exposure to strong winds. It grows well in hardiness zones 4 to 8.
- Rheingold — This evergreen has a rich gold color, mellowing to copper in the fall. It grows 3 feet tall and wide, and as the branches grow straight up it has a more conical appearance than a round shrub. It grows in hardiness zones 3 to 8.
Evergreen trees are relatively easy to care for. However, they are also vulnerable to insect attacks. The best way to treat the condition is to identify the problem and use a specific, natural control to eliminate the problem without damaging the remainder of your garden. Some of the more common insect problems include:21
Aphids — These appear mostly on spruce and pine trees and usually in groups. They secrete a shiny, sticky material present on the leaves or beneath the tree. A blast of water from your hose helps dislodge them to the dirt where they ultimately will die.22
For a large population of aphids, dust the plant with flour as it constipates the insects. You may also try spraying the plant with a mild solution of water and a few drops of dish soap every two to three days for two weeks. You may help prevent them by planting catnip nearby or attracting their natural predators — lady beetles and parasitic wasps.
Bagworm — These appear on red cedar, juniper, spruce and pine trees. You'll notice the foliage begins turning brown or is missing. Bags covered with dead foliage up to 2 inches long will be hanging from the branches of your tree. These are actually caterpillars from a variety of moth species.23
Control is most effective in the early spring or late fall. Add 2 tablespoons of dish soap to 1 gallon of water. Pour the solution into a garden sprayer. Find a long stick to puncture the bag open and then saturate the inside with the soap mixture.24
Spruce spider mite — These appear on spruce, pine, juniper and other conifer trees. You'll notice a yellow speckling along the needles, more commonly on the base of the needle in early summer. The mites are usually present in early spring and late fall but not in the summer months.
They live on the underside of the leaves. Use a strong spray from your hose, or spray the leaves with a garden sprayer loaded with 3 tablespoons of dish soap to 1 gallon of water, being sure to soak the underside of the foliage.25
Wildflowers are important to the health and growth of pollinating insects, and attract a variety of bees, birds and butterflies, depending upon the flowers planted. You'll discover some of the varieties of wildflowers available and how they may benefit your yard in this short video.
Wildflowers provide a natural and low-maintenance option for meadows and fields. Since they're normally native plants to your plant hardiness zone,1 they don't often require much care through the growing season.
You don't need a large area to enjoy wildflowers. You may have a strip of ground within your garden or within your yard where you'd like to plant wildflowers. If you have a vegetable garden or fruit trees, attracting pollinators using wildflowers is a great way to ensure a good harvest.2
An additional bonus are the insects they attract to help ward off the bugs that might otherwise feed on your crops. Many wildflowers have also been used for centuries to provide medicinal products, which you may now be able to harvest directly from your garden.
These include echinacea and chamomile, both of which are especially popular as tea. If you have unsightly areas on your property, wildflowers are a great way to fill in the area with beautiful flowers while benefiting from their medicinal uses.
The Encyclopedia Britannica3 defines a wildflower as any flowering plant that has not been genetically manipulated. Although most are native to the region where they flower, some are descendants from other countries. For example, the flowers native to the Hawaiian Islands are found in other parts of the tropics and subtropics but were taken to the islands for purposes of cultivation.
The distinction between the two may be in the eyes of the beholder. However, this is not the case for the insects and birds living in your geographical area. As noted by Douglas Tallamy, Ph.D., professor and chair of the department of entomology and wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware,4 "Insects and birds are disappearing because we're starving them with the wrong kinds of plants when we landscape."
While you may be looking for new and different types of flowering plants for your garden, those not native to your area don't contribute as much toward the care and feeding of wildlife. Tallamy says insects are not adaptable and compares it to Monarch butterflies that primarily get nourishment from milkweed.
If the milkweed disappears, the Monarchs cannot simply start feeding on trees or other plants. Miriam Goldberger, who owns and operates Wildflower Farm near Coldwater, Ontario, describes it another way, saying,5 "A lot of my hybridized plants are like junk food compared to the natives. They don't have much dietary value."
This is one more reason to seek out native plants indigenous to North America. Beautiful wildflowers may also become weeds if they begin growing where they're not wanted. For instance, lamb's ear is an attractive addition to your flower bed but spreads easily and may be perceived as a weed in your lawn.6
Dandelions are considered weeds by nearly everyone with a large expanse of green lawn, as the seeds are airborne. They also have long taproots and are difficult to eradicate. However, they are also full of vitamins A, B, C and D. They can be used to flavor salads, sandwiches and teas, fermented for wine and used as a remedy for fever, boils, diarrhea and diabetes.7
The question of when the best time to plant is answered depending on your location or climate. For the most part, wildflowers may be planted during the spring, summer and fall, but the best time will depend on your winter temperatures and availability of water in your area.
For instance, if you live in an area where there is minimal or no frost during the winter months, wildflowers may be planted nearly anytime. It is best to steer clear of the hottest times of the year, though, as this is often when you receive the least amount of rain.
If you live in areas with bitter cold winters, spring or fall planting works well. Some gardeners prefer to plant in the fall, as these will bloom earlier in the spring. If you choose to plant during the fall, it's best to wait until after you have received a good hard frost to sow the seeds, so they do not sprout until the soil has warmed enough for germination in the spring.
If you plant in the spring, put the seeds in the freezer for a couple of weeks before planting so they germinate quicker. Planting in the spring will give you a chance to clear away the weeds before planting but it will delay getting your seeds in the ground.
In this video from Peaceful Valley Grow Organic, Tricia Boudier demonstrates how to plant your wildflower seeds in the fall for a bountiful harvest in the spring, pointing out seeds for most flowers are naturally distributed by the plant in the fall.
One package of seeds from the store will cover 10 square feet of garden, and 4 ounces will cover about 1,000 square feet. When using a mixed packet of seeds, it's important you don't add too many seeds to the soil since the larger plants will force out the smaller ones. Look for seeds that are native to your geographical area and not invasive.
For instance, Tricia points out the California poppy thrives well in California but may become an invasive weed on the East Coast. Many wildflowers prefer full sun and thrive in areas of your garden that have not been well fertilized. However, if you do have shady areas, there are species for that too.
You may sprout weeds before planting your wildflower seeds to clear the area. Turn the soil just 2 inches deep and then water in the early fall. After two to four days, many of the weed seeds will sprout, allowing you to pick them. Consider using this process at least twice, but you may choose to do it a couple more times depending upon your area and how many weeds you sprout.
Once you have a good hard frost, split the seeds into two parts. Mix an inert material, such as sand (not sea sand) or vermiculite in a ratio of one part seeds to 10 parts of inert material. Add this to a spreader or spread by hand over your chosen area. You should be able to see the sand or vermiculite to know where you spread the seeds.
Repeat this process over the same area with the second half the seeds. Next, press the seed into the soil by walking over it or placing a piece of plywood and walking on the plywood.
Wildflowers native to your geographical area will appreciate native soil. In other words, if you're planting cattails, they enjoy being around creek beds and heavily watered soil. But for the most part, wildflowers don't like soggy soil. If your area is not well draining, consider amending it.
The essential element to well-drained soil is oxygen, and the best way create well-drained soil in clay is to create a raised bed.8 Additionally, when the soil does not drain it compacts easily and dries out in the sun, making it extremely hot.
MIGardner9 recommends the addition of one of five different amendments to help to improve drainage. These are perlite, sand, compost, mulch or vermiculite. Vermiculite and perlite are absorbent volcanic rock and help to break up the soil.
While compost may help drainage, it may provide too many nutrients for your wildflowers. Mulch may take some time to add to your soil, but it can be effective as it holds water, breaks down slowly and protects the soil. Sand (not sea sand) may be one of the cheapest things you may add to break up the soil. Each of these amendments must be worked in well to the area where you want to plant.
Flowering plants provide nearly 25% of the basic ingredients for modern drugs. North America has tens of thousands of native plants that have yet to be studied. However, there are a list of flowers to grace your garden with known medicinal properties, including the dandelion.10,11
- Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) — This is perhaps one of the most famous medicinal species of the native plants to North America. The flowers are brilliant purple to pink and are often found in fields and thickets. Now known as echinacea, it's used as an herbal remedy and supplement to stimulate the immune system and reduce the length of the common cold.
- Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) — This herb is famous in folklore for use in anticoagulation of wounds and nosebleeds and considered in the care of acne prone skin. The plant is distilled to make an essential oil with anti-inflammatory and anticholinergic properties.
- Betony (Stachys officinalis) — The flower has spikes of red and purple and is well loved by bees and butterflies. It has been used as an anti-itching remedy to soothe the skin and treat dermatological disorders.
- Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) — A traditional flower, feverfew is often found in old gardens and thought to relieve inflammation from insect bites. However, it does contain parthenolide, which may cause contact dermatitis. The extract has the chemical removed and may be beneficial for the skin as an anti-inflammatory.
In 2019, 1,762,450 Americans are expected to receive a diagnosis of cancer,1 and it doesn’t matter who you are, hearing “You have cancer” is a devastating blow. Oftentimes, the trauma of the diagnosis is further worsened by well-intentioned people who simply don’t know how to respond to the news.
A July 2019 article2 in The Atlantic addresses this sensitive issue. Taylor Lorenz tells the story of Kate Bowler, a 35-year-old historian and author of “Blessed,” a book that deals with “the origins of the notion that good things happen to good people.”
Bowler’s cancer diagnosis came like a lightning bolt from a clear-blue sky. In 2015, she sought treatment for stomach pain. It turned out to be Stage 4 colon cancer, and she was given less than a year to live.
“Many people who receive her diagnosis begin to get their affairs in order and spend their remaining time with family in between treatments.
Bowler did all that, but also launched a podcast3 called ‘Everything Happens,’ on which she talks with people about what they learned in dark times. She wrote another book. And she set about changing the way people view and talk about suffering in America,” Lorenz writes.4
Everything happens for a reason — or does it?
As explained on the website5 for Bowler’s second book, “Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved,” her career as a professor at Duke Divinity School had centered around “the study of the prosperity gospel, a creed that sees fortune as a blessing from God and misfortune as a mark of God’s disapproval.”
Her cancer diagnosis forced her to face her own mortality, and in so doing, made her realize she’d “been tacitly subscribing to the prosperity gospel, living with the conviction that she can control the shape of her life with ‘a surge of determination.’”
Like so many others, she had bought into the idea that illness (or any other form of misfortune) is a sign of personal failure — somehow, you didn’t work hard enough; you weren’t optimistic enough. Somehow you disappointed God and this is your punishment.
“What does it mean to die … in a society that insists everything happens for a reason?” Bowler asks.6 She was happily married, had a young son and a job she enjoyed. In her mind, her future was all planned out.
She intended to get her Ph.D. and become a tenured professor. Up until the day she was told she had late-stage cancer, her life had followed the script of someone on the fast-track to happiness and fulfillment — proof she’d done everything right.
“But Bowler’s commitment to the notion that everything happens for a reason went out the door once her diagnosis hit,” Lorenz writes.7 “Now she believes that idea is deeply problematic. ‘We live in this culture that seems unable to allow people to suffer without trying to explain things to them,’ she said.
It’s common for people to tell themselves or others that the best is yet to come. But promoting that idea, Bowler argued, can be cruel to those who might consider their best days far behind them.”
How to speak to someone who is suffering
Despite a grim diagnosis, Bowler survived. Today, four years later, her focus has shifted to educating people about how to support people in the midst of their suffering. Her own experiences taught her a lot about this, and many of the things people say turn out to be less than helpful. For example, Bowler suggests that when speaking to someone who is suffering:
- Don’t try to relate to their suffering — While this may sound odd, the way we experience suffering is uniquely our own, so hearing stories about someone else’s situation typically isn’t helpful. It also shifts the focus away from the patient, making it instead about you.
- Don’t offer solutions and treatment strategies unless asked.
- Don’t tell them their suffering is “part of God’s master plan” or has some greater purpose — Randomness happens. Sometimes it’s just bad luck. Sometimes, a tragic story will have a happy ending, but it’s not guaranteed.
- Make yourself available and just be present — Lorenz writes,8 “Bowler had friends who faded away from her life after her diagnosis because they didn’t know how to confront her tragedy. But the type of person she found most helpful when she was at her lowest, she said, was someone who just ‘shows up, doesn’t ask for anything, and just knits in front of you.”’
Take a cue from the one who is suffering
Karen Raymaakers has also written about what to say when someone you know is diagnosed with cancer.9 She points out that our reactions are almost always shaped by previous experiences, hence the wide variety of reactions to something as devastating as a cancer diagnosis.
“They may show unbelievable strength you never knew they had, or be more vulnerable than you knew. They might show a number of different emotions — sadness, anger, guilt, fear, ambivalence, avoidance — and sometimes they may show all at once or change from moment to moment,” she writes.10
Raymaakers suggests taking your cue directly from the person who got the diagnosis. “How your loved one feels about their diagnosis will help shape your response to it,” she says. If they’re in a stage where they want to talk about their cancer, try to be present and just listen. If they don’t want to talk about it, don’t force it.
Whatever you do, though, don’t avoid the issue altogether. As noted by Raymaakers, it can be tempting to gloss it over and pretend like nothing is wrong, thinking your friend or family member already knows you care about them and support them no matter what.
“The truth is, cancer is the elephant in the room. To not acknowledge it is almost more hurtful than anything you could ever say,” Raymaaker writes.11
“The best advice in this situation is to say how you feel. Are you thinking about them? Then say so. Do you care about them? Then say so. Are you sorry that they are going through this? Then say so. Don’t know what to say? Then say that. Here are a few more conversation starters:
- I am here if you want to talk.
- I would like to help in any way I can.
- Are you up for having visitors?
- Is there anyone else you would like me to contact?
- This must be a hard thing to go through.”
What not to say
Like Bowler, Raymaakers warns against trying to relate to what your friend is going through by comparing it to your own experience. She also discourages people from trying to find the silver lining.
“There isn’t much of a silver lining to a blood cancer diagnosis, so avoid saying things like, ‘It could be worse,’ or, ‘At least it isn’t ...’ For the person with the disease, this probably is the worst-case scenario,” Raymaakers says.12
Other don’ts include making overly pessimistic remarks, or saying things that minimize what your friend is going through. Keep pep talks like “It’ll be OK” and “Cheer up” for less distressing and life altering situations. Raymaakers adds:
“Don’t leave if things get tough. If the person gets angry, let them vent. If they tell you they’re afraid, open up the conversation so they can unload on you. ‘What are you most afraid of?’ ‘What can I do to help with your fears?’ … [I]f you let the patient do the talking, you don’t need to worry about what to say.”
In her article, Raymaakers also delves into “how to handle hospital visits,” and how you can help the person suffering through caring and thoughtful actions. Here are a few selections from her listings. For more, see the original article.13
• If your loved one is in the hospital, call ahead to make sure they can receive visitors, during what hours and whether certain gifts (such as flowers) might be inappropriate for health reasons.
Many cancer patients are fatigued and need lots of rest, so keep your visits to a half-hour or less, unless they ask you to stay. Keep in mind many cancer patients have weakened immune function, so do not visit if you’re feeling ill.
• Show you care by offering to care for their children or pets, run errands or do household chores for them, or deliver precooked meals that only require reheating. You can also offer to drive them to doctors’ appointments, or prepare a “chemo care package” with a few thoughtful items that might bring comfort or entertainment during long treatments.
Optimism is a healing balm
While it would be inappropriate to tell a cancer patient to simply “cheer up” or “think positive,” optimism does play an important role in health and healing. In “Optimism and Hope in Chronic Disease: A Systematic Review,”14 published in Frontiers in Psychology in 2016, the authors highlight findings showing an optimistic outlook on life in general leads to lower depression levels, improved physical health and increased longevity. According to the authors:
“In regards to optimism, Scheier and Carver … defined it as an overall tendency to believe that vivid experiences will lead to good results rather than bad ones. Carver et al. … explained that to be optimistic is to maintain a generally favorable expectation about the future.
Hart et al. … added that overall positive expectations are considered one of the main determinants for knowing whether people will continue to pursue their life objectives in a condition of chronic disease …”
Hope, defined as “a state of positive motivation based on three components: objectives (goals to be achieved), routes (planning to achieve these goals), and agency (motivation directed toward these objectives),” has similar benefits.
Interestingly, evidence suggests that while optimism is protective against short-term stress, optimists facing prolonged stress may actually be at greater risk of health complications, “as optimists are more immunologically vulnerable under such circumstances.” Still, the authors concluded that:
“Some association between higher hope/optimism levels and a healthier profile was observed in 27 of the 29 studies. In regard to the results perceived by the study participants after intervention, only two articles found no relationship between the constructs and relevant results …
Regarding cancer, it was found that optimism predicted a year of survival regardless of other socio-demographic and clinical variables in patients with head and neck cancer … and more abilities to manage stressors while less optimistic cancer patients experienced more negative psychological changes …
The results of the studies presented in this analysis suggest that there is a close relationship between the constructs of optimism and hope and a reduction in the effects of chronic disease. However, it is important to highlight that the association between optimism or hope and physical health differs depending on the context of the disease and the subjects.”
Managing emotions when faced with a devastating diagnosis
Staying optimistic in the face of debilitating and/or lethal disease is easier said than done, no doubt. Yet it’s worth the effort, if not only to protect your mental health and avoid spiraling into despair.
If you’re been diagnosed with an illness, be it cancer or something else, you may want to consider The Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) to help you move through any negative emotions that surface to prevent them from becoming permanent companions.
In the video above, EFT practitioner Julie Schiffman demonstrates how to use EFT for the grieving process. When faced with your own mortality, feeling grief is natural. But it can become a hindrance if you cannot move through it. EFT may be helpful for that.
Also, check out Bowler’s podcast,15 “Everything Happens.” Bowler interviews a wide range of individuals, talking to them about “what they’ve learned in dark times.” Some discussions center around loss and grief, while others tackle living with chronic illness.
Spikenard (Nardostachys jatamansi), also known as jatamansi,1 is an herb originating from the Himalayas.2 It’s commonly used as an essential oil, which is added to perfumes due to its sweet, balsamic and woody scent.3 But aside from its aroma, spikenard contains more healthful components that you can benefit from. To learn more about spikenard’s health benefits and uses, continue reading.
For centuries, spikenard has been used in medicine to treat numerous conditions, both physical and aesthetic. Its popularity as a therapeutic agent is widely known throughout the world, with the herb having been used in Indian, Greek, Egyptian, Arabic and Roman medicine. In fact, legend says that spikenard was the expensive ointment referenced in the Bible,4 when Mary Magdalene5 anointed Jesus’ feet.
The spikenard plant typically grows in mountainous regions, between 1,200 and 3,000 meters (almost 4,000 to 10,000 feet) above sea level.6
It is easily recognizable by its rosy or pale pink flowers and its rhizomes that are covered in tail-like brown fibers.7 These rhizomes, which are commonly hydrodistilled to make an essential oil, are the main parts of the spikenard plant that are used in Ayurvedic medicine.8 But because of difficulties in cultivating it at such high altitudes, its rarity and its environment, spikenard has been deemed as an endangered plant.9
While the name “spikenard” is often associated with Nardostachys jatamansi, it actually shares the same name with the Aralia racemosa, the American counterpart of this Indian herb. They do, however, offer different uses, with American spikenard being primarily used for easing coughs, asthma and arthritis.10
Spikenard is mainly utilized for its benefits for neurological and mental conditions, such as epilepsy, insomnia and mental weakness. In modern times it’s also been used to treat disorders of the cardiovascular system.11 Numerous studies have focused on the neuroprotective characteristics12 of this herb, with it being used as an alternative treatment for minimizing symptoms and slowing down the development of both Alzheimer’s13 and Parkinson’s disease.14
Its ability to help alleviate the symptoms of both these diseases is due to its high concentration of sesquiterpenes. These are natural chemicals that can penetrate the blood-brain barrier and help fight numerous neurological symptoms.15
But aside from this, spikenard can actually have an effect on a wide range of bodily functions. Some of these health benefits include:
- Hepatoprotective — In a 2000 study from the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, researchers found that spikenard extract may have hepatoprotective properties. Rats were pretreated with 800 milligrams per kilogram of the extract, which protected their liver from damage after they were exposed to thioacetamide, a hepatotoxic compound.16
- May improve learning and memory — In a 2006 animal study from the Journal of Medicinal Food, young mice were given doses of spikenard extract for eight successive days. The extracts improved their learning and memory and also reversed diazepam-induced amnesia.17
- Helps in stress management — A 2009 study from the Indian Journal of Biochemistry and Biophysics showed that the antioxidant properties of spikenard helped curb stress in rats by reversing the elevation in lipid peroxidation and nitric oxide levels in the stomach and the catalase activity in the brain.18
- May assist with depression — The effects of electron beam radiation has been linked to DNA damage and depression. In a 2013 animal study from the International Journal of Research in Ayurveda and Pharmacy, spikenard ethanolic root extract reduced the risk of depression caused by radiation.19 Additionally, a 1994 animal study showed that spikenard extracts caused significant increase in serotonin, GABA and taurine.20
- Aids in managing diabetes — A 2018 study from the Journal of Medicinal Food showed that spikenard extract helped increase insulin sensitivity and inhibit glucose production in the diabetic control group of mice.21
While spikenard’s aroma is extremely pleasurable, its uses are not limited to deodorizing. Because of the impressive components of spikenard, you can use the oil or extract in numerous ways, particularly for these conditions:
- Heart palpitations, convulsions and hysteria — Spikenard oil has both anticonvulsive and anti-arrhythmic activities, which help in reducing heart palpitations and hysteria symptoms.22
- Premature graying of hair — Spikenard essential oil is used as a hair tonic, promoting hair growth and blackening of hair. It has also been found to improve hair luster.23
- Painful menstruation and constipation — Spikenard extracts has antispasmodic and stimulant properties, which may help alleviate dysmenorrhea and regulate urination and digestion.24
If you want to grow your own spikenard, note that this plant may be extremely picky due to the climate and altitude it’s commonly found in. To start, make sure that you have soil rich in carbon and organic nitrogen. At lower altitudes, spikenard prefers a terrain that has a slight tilt. Locate an area that has moist soil and is partially exposed to sunlight. It’s best that you use a litter treatment with manure to boost the organic content of the soil.
To ensure that you’re getting the spikenard roots that have the highest levels of active compounds, harvest after they become mature, usually in September or October in higher altitudes.25
Spikenard essential oil, which has been used for a variety of applications for hundreds of years, has been used in religious rites. In funerals over 2,000 years ago, it was used to anoint the bodies of the departed, alongside myrrh oil and other oils.26 Today, some of spikenard essential oil’s uses include:
- Hair growth — The nardin, jatamansic acid and nardal terpenoids found in spikenard essential oil may have a positive effect on hair growth activity.27
- Skin care — Spikenard oil may be used to help alleviate eczema, skin inflammation, psoriasis and sores.28
- Wound healing — In a 2017 study from Biochimie Open, spikenard essential oil was found to contain cytotoxic and antiproliferative properties, which promoted anti-inflammatory and tissue remodeling effects on wounds.29
While there are no proven side effects caused by spikenard, it is suggested that you seek the opinion of a health care practitioner to see if this herb is recommended for you and whether it will interfere with any medications that you may be taking. For topical application, dilute the essential oil in a carrier oil and test on a small patch of skin to check if it causes an allergic reaction to avoid irritation and scarring.
Breastfeeding mothers should steer clear of this herb because of the possible repercussions it can cause. Spikenard oil use is also highly discouraged for pregnant women because of its supposed effect on menstruation. While it may improve menstrual cycles, spikenard may cause dangerous effects during pregnancy.30
In 2018, more than 318.2 million people visited U.S. national parks, logging more than 1.4 billion recreation visitor hours.1 Their popularity hints at humans’ inherent desire to spend time in natural spaces, and research backs up the benefits, showing that greater exposure to parks and other “green” spaces is associated with better health and well-being.2
Taking time to explore national parks is a worthy endeavor to get in your nature fix, but even better may be taking time to explore the natural world on a daily or weekly basis. Is there a magic number when it comes to the ideal amount of time to spend in nature to maximize its benefits to your health?
120 minutes a week in nature is ideal for health and well-being
A study published in Scientific Reports explored the associations between contact with nature in the last seven days and self-reported health and well-being.3 Data from 19,806 participants were included, revealing that, compared to no nature contact, spending 120 minutes or more in nature during the previous week was associated with a greater likelihood of good health or high well-being.
There were decreasing returns with nature exposure beyond 120 minutes, and the association flattened out and even dropped between 200 and 300 minutes per week.
“We tentatively suggest, therefore, that 120 minutes contact with nature per week may reflect a kind of ‘threshold,’ below which there is insufficient contact to produce significant benefits to health and well-being, but above which such benefits become manifest,” the researchers said.4
It didn’t matter how the 120 minutes was achieved; multiple shorter visits had the same effect as fewer, longer visits, as long as they added up to 120 minutes, and the benefits held true across different populations, including older adults and people with long-term health issues. Lead study author Matthew White, of the University of Exeter Medical School, said in a news release:5
"It's well known that getting outdoors in nature can be good for people's health and wellbeing but until now we've not been able to say how much is enough.
The majority of nature visits in this research took place within just two miles of home so even visiting local urban greenspaces seems to be a good thing. Two hours a week is hopefully a realistic target for many people, especially given that it can be spread over an entire week to get the benefit."
Health benefits of nature depend on the dose
The researchers of the featured study even suggested that, with further research, weekly nature guidelines could be developed similar to those given for physical activity. In fact, the study found that getting recommended levels of nature exposure weekly could result in a similar magnitude of health gains as achieving recommended levels of physical activity.6
Indeed, past research also shows that the health benefits of nature experiences depend on the dose. Among people in an urban environment, long visits to green spaces were associated with lower rates of depression and high blood pressure, while more frequent visits were linked to greater social cohesion, which is associated with physical and mental well-being. The study further revealed:7
“The results here suggest that nature experiences in urban green spaces may be having a considerable impact on population health, and that these benefits could be higher if more people were engaged in nature experiences.
Specifically, our results suggest that up to a further 7% of depression cases and 9% of high blood pressure cases could be prevented if all city residents were to visit green spaces at least once a week for an average duration of 30 minutes or more.”
More frequent and longer visits to green spaces were also associated with physical activity, which can further boost health. Visiting natural settings may help to facilitate exercise, as you can easily spend time walking, hiking or cycling trails.
How nature can improve your health
Spending time in nature carries an impressive potential to boost your health. One meta-analysis of 103 observational and 40 interventional studies investigating about 100 health outcomes revealed that spending more time in green spaces is associated with decreased:8
Salivary cortisol (a marker of stress)
Diastolic blood pressure
According to the study, “For several nonpooled health outcomes, between 66.7% and 100% of studies showed health-denoting associations with increased greenspace exposure including neurological and cancer-related outcomes, and respiratory mortality.”9
Delving even deeper into nature’s connection to health, some research suggests that green spaces with the highest levels of plants, butterflies and birds, otherwise known as species richness or biodiversity, may further enhance psychological health.10 On the other hand, the opposite also holds true in that living in an urban environment might negatively affect mental health.
Doctors handing out ‘green prescriptions’
One of the goals of quantifying the optimal “dose” of nature is so doctors can advise their patients on how to get the most benefits of outdoor time. They could even hand out “green prescriptions.” The authors of the meta-analysis noted:12
“Green prescriptions involving greenspace use may have substantial benefits. Our findings should encourage practitioners and policymakers to give due regard to how they can create, maintain, and improve existing accessible greenspaces in deprived areas.
Furthermore the development of strategies and interventions for the utilisation of such greenspaces by those who stand to benefit the most.”
It’s an idea that’s catching on. One partnership project between NHS Shetland and the U.K.’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds allows general practitioners to prescribe nature as part of their patients’ treatment.
The Nature Prescriptions program “recognizes the benefits of nature on reducing blood pressure, reducing anxiety and increasing happiness as well as the growing disconnection with nature throughout society.”13 The program includes a schedule of seasonal activities designed to encourage more time in nature, which include such activities as:14
Counting the birds in your garden
Stepping outside and being still for three minutes, just listening
Getting out “whatever the weather” and feeling the exhilaration of wind and rain on your face
Making a birdbath
Looking for tracks and signs of animals
Planting some bulbs
Are you getting enough nature time?
As scientists continue to reaffirm the benefits of spending time in nature, many Americans struggle with getting enough outdoor time. In a report commissioned by Velux, a window manufacturing company, it’s revealed that 25 percent of Americans hardly ever go outside.15,16
“We are increasingly turning into a generation of indoor people where the only time we get daylight and fresh air midweek is on the commute to work or school,” Peter Foldbjerg, the head of daylight energy and indoor climate at Velux, a window manufacturing company, said in a statement.17
In another survey of 11,817 U.S. adults and children, 25% of adults reported spending less than two hours in nature each week.18 “The relationship of Americans and nature is changing,” the Nature of Americans report found, adding:19
“Adults and children alike spend evermore time indoors, participation in activities like hunting and fishing is stagnant or declining, and shifts in social expectations treat engagement with nature as a mere amenity.
These trends pose a nationwide problem, since overwhelming evidence shows the physical, psychological, and social wellbeing of humans depends on contact with nature.”
The report described a significant gap between Americans’ interest in nature and their efforts and ability to pursue that interest. While numerous factors are contributing to an increasing disconnect between Americans and nature, the report highlighted five of the most prominent:20
- Physical places, or a built environment, generally discourage contact with the natural world.
- Competing priorities for time, attention and money prevent contact with nature from becoming routine and habitual.
- Declining direct dependence on the natural world for livelihoods and subsistence allows Americans to orient their lives to other things.
- New technologies, especially electronic media, distract and captivate.
- Shifting expectations about what “good” contact to nature ought to be mean adults are generally satisfied with the relatively little time they spend outdoors in nature.
How to make nature part of your daily life
The good news is that it may require only 120 minutes a week to reap the many benefits that nature has to offer, and this is an amount that should be achievable for most people. Further, you needn’t spend two hours at one time; if you break it up into daily increments, that’s only about 17 minutes a day.
Taking time to walk outdoors during your lunch break, tend to your garden after work or walk your dog in the morning can all increase your exposure to beneficial green spaces. Try to make a habit of getting outdoors as much as possible; meal times, family gatherings and washing your dog are all opportunities to be outdoors.
Combining your workouts with nature by doing them outdoors is another good idea, and even talking a longer walk outdoors when you have time can be incredibly beneficial.
In one study, people who took a 90-minute walk in nature reported lower levels of rumination and had reduced neural activity in an area of the brain (the subgenual prefrontal cortex) linked to risk of mental illness such as depression than people who took a comparable walk in the city.21
As it stands, more than 50% of people live in urban areas, and this is expected to increase to 70% by 2050,22 which means making a conscious effort to increase access to green spaces will become ever more important — as will taking the time to use such spaces.
The Nature of Americans report suggested “transformative action” to achieve this, including the recommendations that follow to help connect Americans with nature:23
Emphasize regular, recurrent and routine engagement with nature, the outdoors and wildlife.
For adults and children, promote nature not only as a place for experiences, but also as a place for involvement and care.
Assure adults and children that time in nature can be (and even ought to be) social.
Provide socially safe and satisfying places outdoors, especially for urban and minority adults and children.
Work to lower the perceived costs of participation in recreational activities.
Promote experiences in nature that match Americans' multidimensional values of nature.
Broaden programming to include a range of outcomes.
For adults, promote conservation efforts as a way to improve their overall community and quality of life.
From the time of the American Revolutionary War when the U.S. won independence from England, Americans have maintained some semblance of a military force. The first Army was initially disbanded except for a few dozen troops.
After taking office, President Washington urged Congress to establish an effective system for the military1 “on which the honor, safety and well-being of our country so evidently and essentially depend.” Throughout the 236 years since the end of the Revolutionary War the U.S. has formally declared war on few occasions: the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War, WWI and WWII.2
However, the various branches of the U.S. military have assisted abroad more than 300 times.3 The goal of the U.S. Army, for instance, is to defend America from attack and protect vital national interests.4 To accomplish this, the U.S. maintains an armed service of more than 3.1 million men and women stationed in the U.S. and around the world.5 They protect 12,479 miles of coastline and 7,458.4 miles of water and land boundaries.6
The military maintains at least 400 bases found on every continent except Antarctica.7 In a post-Cold War era, America took on the role of mediator, negotiating conflicts to reduce tension and encourage stability around the world.
In a statement before Congress submitted by past U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and past assistant to the president for National Security Affairs Stephen Hadley, they said:8
“Over the past seventy years, Democratic and Republican administrations alike have understood that American security and prosperity at home are linked to economic and political health abroad, and that America does better when other countries have the incentive and the capacity to work alongside us in tackling global challenges ...
The international order America built and led has not been perfect, but it has coincided with a period of security and prosperity unmatched in human history.”
China is currently expected to add military bases in areas where they have long-standing relationships, including Pakistan.9 Recently, British researchers from Durham University and Lancaster University find supporting the strength to defend the U.S. and their allies comes with a significant environmental cost.10
Study finds largest military also leaves carbon boot print
In a study published in Transactions of The Institute of British Geographers, researchers describe the enormous carbon boot-prints the U.S. military has been leaving around the world, relating the results of their research as a representation of a partial11 “yet robust picture of the geopolitical ecology of American imperialism.”
In an article entitled, “US Military Is a Bigger Polluter Than as Many as 140 Countries — Shrinking This War Machine Is a Must,” written by three of the researchers, they discuss the high levels of carbon emissions from military transports, saying:12
“Greenhouse gas emission accounting usually focuses on how much energy and fuel civilians use. But recent work, including our own, shows that the US military is one of the largest polluters in history, consuming more liquid fuels and emitting more climate-changing gases than most medium-sized countries.
If the US military were a country, its fuel usage alone would make it the 47th largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, sitting between Peru and Portugal.”
The study analyzed data retrieved from multiple Freedom of Information Act requests, looking at the U.S. military supply chains, and specifically hydrocarbon fuel purchases and distribution.
The U.S. Defense Logistics Agency Energy (DLA-E) was ultimately formed after the Vietnam War to consolidate logistics for every military branch, which the researchers characterized as “the invisible hand of imperialism.”13
“Every mode of warfighting requires its own unique hydrocarbon delivery system. The DLA-E is the bureaucratic apparatus mainly responsible for procurement and arranging delivery of hydrocarbons in this shifting geopolitical environment, and therefore controls the size and shape of the US military's carbon boot-print.
Without the highly developed, professionalised logistics and military supply-chains, the US military's reach, as well as its capacity to burn so much fuel, would be substantially impeded.”
While noting the environmental impact of hydrocarbon fuel emissions from the U.S. military is a significant contributor to climate change, the researchers suggested the only recourse was to shut off the engine protecting American’s and their allies around the world:14
“The only way to cool off the furnace is to turn it off, shuttering vast sections of the machine. This will have not only the immediate effect of reducing emissions in the here-and-now, but will also disincentivise the development of new hydrocarbon infrastructure that would be financed (in whatever unrecognised part) on the presumption of the US military as an always-willing buyer and consumer.
Opposing US military adventurism now is a critical strategy for disrupting the further construction of locked-in hydrocarbons for the future.”
Pollution near military bases at higher levels than EPA code
While military drills and exercises may be disruptive,15 and sometimes dangerous,16 without training and practice military men and women would not be prepared to defend freedoms, transport supplies, guard embassies and train search and rescue teams at home.17
However, the processes require a significant overhaul, especially for firefighters and surrounding communities. According to Military Times,18 the water near 126 military bases tested positive for harmful levels of perfluorinated compounds. These substances are ubiquitous and part of a large and ever-expanding group of chemicals widely used in everyday products.
The chemicals are used in clothes, carpet, cookware and firefighting foam to make it more effective19 but at the high cost of damaging the health of those who are exposed.20 PFAS is the abbreviation used for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, neither of which is a single chemical but each a member of a family of man-made compounds.21
A report provided to the House Armed Services Committee listed contamination at 401 active and closed bases in the U.S. Drinking water contamination was identified at 36 sites and more than 90 reported on-base or off-base groundwater or drinking water contamination where the source tested above the EPA’s acceptable level for perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) or perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOAs).22
On military bases these chemicals are used in concentrated foam used to put out fires on aircraft. A statement by the deputy assistant secretary of defense for environment, safety and occupational health, Maureen Sullivan, indicated the Department of Defense was installing filters and distributing bottled water,23 in addition to other changes.
The DoD tested 2,668 groundwater wells finding 61% were at higher levels than the EPA's recommended levels, which is no more than 70 parts per trillion. The guidelines established in 2016 were not enforceable; however, the DoD tested all locations and is currently working to comply with new standards.
Sullivan indicated24 it will not be a quick fix, as at least 12 water sources are provided by vendors or through a local utility and that since EPA guidelines are not enforceable, it becomes more difficult to make changes.
Sullivan estimates the cleanup for perfluorinated substances will add $2 billion to the costs of cleanup projects for which the military is responsible.25 The Air Force subsequently shifted all their bases from the legacy foam containing perfluorinated compounds26 to Phos-Chek 327 and retrofitted their fire trucks to accommodate the new product.28
Strategies needed to find acceptable alternatives
Perfluorinated compounds may be found in food packaging material, commercial household products, and drinking water, as well as in fish, animals and humans, where they have the ability to build up and persist over time.29
According to the EPA,30 they are capable of triggering reproductive and developmental disabilities, liver and kidney disorders and immunological effects in laboratory animals. They also cause tumors in animal studies as well as low infant birth weight and thyroid hormone disruption.
Authors of an opinion-editorial wrote:31 “There are few activities on Earth as environmentally catastrophic as waging war.” But, unfortunately, until it is possible to control the political stability of the world, the possibility of war is a reality many live with every day.
While most of the human race strives for world peace, it is essential strategies are put into place to find safe alternatives to fight fires and protect those who fall under the purview of the U.S. armed services.
What can you do to reduce your pollution footprint?
There are multiple factors contributing to rising pollution and declining health. Air, food and water pollution increase your risk of experiencing poor health. You may reduce your impact and take control of your health by making simple changes at home, which, taken together, may make a large impact on your local environment and overall health.
Plant some trees — Trees provide oxygen, improve air quality and conserve water while preserving the soil and supporting wildlife. Consider planting a few trees in your yard.32
Eat locally grown, organic produce and grass fed, pastured meat and dairy — The recent explosion of lab-created meat substitutes may be tempting if you believe it's the lesser of two evils, as compared to concentrated animal feeding operations. However, fake food is never an answer and regenerative farming has been proven to restore ecosystems, promote health and reduce pollution.
Additionally, eating organically grown produce reduces your exposure to pesticides and insecticides and improves the soil in which it's grown. Read more about regenerative farming practices in my past article, “Regenerative Farming: Restoring Soil Health and Saving Americans From Cancer, Chronic Disease.”
Drive less — Public transportation, walking, biking, carpooling and ride-sharing are all alternatives to hopping in your own car every day to go to work.33 It is important to also maintain your car by keeping the tires properly inflated to increase your fuel efficiency. This helps ensure the car is properly maintained, and it includes brakes and oil changes. Try to combine your trips when you're out.
Take care of your clothing — According to clothing designer Eileen Fisher,34 who was honored for her environmental work at the 2015 Riverkeeper's Annual Fishermen's Ball,35 "The clothing industry is the second largest polluter in the world ... second only to oil."
Taking good care of what you purchase may affect the toll on your local environment. Read more in my past article, “Care What You Wear: The Benefits of Becoming Clothing Conscious.”
Produce less waste — It is sometimes easy to toss the garbage in the can and forget about where it ends up. Think about purchasing food in bulk and using your own reusable container.36 Reduce waste by planning your meals before going shopping and then freezing or reusing the extra.
When you have food waste, compost it and use it in your garden for rich fertilizer. If you live in a large city, you may be able to find a compost drop-off site. If your city doesn’t have such a system,37 consider starting a program with a local neighborhood garden.
Do a home energy audit — Conduct your own energy audit at home to help save money and reduce the amount of pollution you produce. Switch lights off when you leave the room and unplug your electronic devices when they're not in use, especially your modem and routers to reduce the strength of electromagnetic fields in your home.
Turn your water heater down to 120 degrees Fahrenheit and install low-flow shower heads to save water and electricity. Steer clear of LED lights. While they may be more energy-efficient, they will also contribute to deteriorating vision, exacerbate chronic disease through mitochondrial dysfunction and impede quality sleep, as I discuss in a past article, “The Dangers of LED Lightbulbs.”
Treatments for medical problems have been used since the beginning of human civilization.1 While many illnesses were thought to be the work of supernatural forces, various ancient civilizations created unique systems for treating individuals using, among other things, herbal remedies.2
Despite a lack of scientific knowledge and use of modern technology, many of these early remedies were useful and are still currently used.3 The beginning of pharmacy practice goes back as far as the Middle Ages.4 However, the industry we know had its roots in the 19th century.
Since then, it has become one of the most profitable and influential industries.5 In the past, many drugs were discovered by accident or through the identification of an active ingredient used in traditional remedies.6
The pharmaceutical industry of the 21st century chooses a different approach, attempting to understand disease and infection at the molecular and physiological level and then targeting the development of drugs based on this knowledge.7
The marriage of experimentation and the Industrial Revolution was likely first undertaken by Merck in Germany as they moved toward the manufacturing and selling of alkaloids. As the industry and their profits grew, George Merck, founder of Merck, declared:8
“We try never to forget that medicine is for the people. It is not for the profits. The profits follow, and if we have remembered that, they have never failed to appear. The better we remember it, the larger they have been.”
History of FDA commissioners and Big Pharma
Merck’s statement from 1950 continues to resonate within the industry as Big Pharma manufacturers, markets and sells medicines to the people and for the people, raking in profits that far outweigh the benefits most experience. This is counter to the role given to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to protect:9
“[The] public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, and medical devices; and by ensuring the safety of our nation's food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation.”
After leaving the top leadership position at the FDA, nine out of the last 10 commissioners in the past 33 years have gone on to work for pharmaceutical companies.
This stretch began when Arthur Hayes went on to join E.M. Pharmaceuticals in 1986 after resigning as commissioner in 1983.10 The last to join this group is the most recent FDA commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, who just announced he is joining Pfizer as a member of their board.11
Although none of these moves of past FDA Commissioners to pharmaceutical companies is illegal, the emerging pattern gives the perception of a revolving door, or an unstated agreement between the pharmaceutical industry and those who are charged with regulating the approval of their products.12
The single hold out who did not join any pharmaceutical company was David Kessler, who served as the FDA Commissioner from 1990 to 1997 under past President George W. Bush.13 Kessler went along to serve as the chair of the board of directors at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit nutritional watchdog organization.
He spoke to Quartz, saying he was worried the politicization of the FDA may be seen as a threat to independent, scientific analysis.14 He is not alone. Concerns were raised 34 years ago, in 1985 when the Chicago Tribune reported that Dr. Alexander Schmidt, commissioner under President Nixon, told state regulators:15
"We have more politicization of the agency than is either warranted by rational politics or good for the American people."
Scott Gottlieb joins ranks with Pfizer
Gottlieb announced his move from FDA commissioner, which he resigned April 5, 2019,16 to the Pfizer board of directors June 27, 2019, on his Twitter account, posting:17
“I’m honored to be joining the board of directors of #Pfizer and working together with more than 90,000 Pfizer colleagues to promote medical innovation, advance patient care, and secure access to better healthcare outcomes for families around the world. @pfizer”
This announcement came just four days after he announced18 he was joining the advisory board at the National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation. The NIHCM press release reported:19
“Gottlieb served under the Trump Administration as the 23rd Commissioner of Food and Drugs from 2017 to 2019, where he improved the efficiency of the regulatory process for novel drugs and medical devices and mobilized action on public health initiatives like teen nicotine use, opioid addiction and drug competition, and promoting affordable access to medicines.”
As Gottlieb splits his time between a nonprofit organization20 “dedicated to transforming health care through evidence and collaboration” and Pfizer pharmaceutical company whose mission is21 “to be the premier, innovative biopharmaceutical company,” it may be difficult to split his focus.
Pfizer gets inside scope on biosimilars
During his term at the FDA, Gottlieb pushed several policies intended to speed up drug approvals and use the power of the FDA22 to encourage greater use of biosimilars, or generic copied versions of more costly biologic drugs used to treat autoimmune diseases and some cancers.23
One manufacturer of biosimilar drugs is Pfizer, which had complained about perceived roadblocks to making these drugs more available. With Gottlieb on the board of directors at Pfizer, this may help the big company navigate the FDA rules and regulations more easily. Pfizer executive chairman and former CEO said in a statement:24
“Scott’s expertise in health care, public policy and the industry will be an asset to our company and enable our shareholders to continue to benefit from a Board representing a balance of experience, competencies and perspectives.”
Stat News25 reported in 2018 that board members were given cash retainers of $142,500 plus stock expected to be valued at $159,000 in 2019. Gottlieb will be serving on two board level committees, the Regulatory Compliance Committee and Science and Technology Committee.26
Pfizer is now moving more deeply into the treatment of cancer following the acquisition of Array BioPharma and a reorganization establishing businesses in medicine, consumer health care and innovative medicine.27
Sydney Wolfe, a founder of Public Citizen Health Research Group28 had expressed concern about the FDA commissioners ties to industry before Gottlieb joined the agency. Following the announcement Gottlieb would be joining Pfizer, Sidney Wolfe commented to Stat News:29
“This is classic and it’s not surprising. Philosophically, he’s returning to the ecosystem where he’s most comfortable. And he’ll get paid very well for it, too.”
CDC director resigns after conflict of interest revealed
While the FDA is currently in the spotlight, the CDC is not far behind. In 2002 Dr. Julie Gerberding was the first woman to be appointed as a director for the CDC.30 While there she overhauled the structure of the organization causing many of the senior scientists and leaders to leave, as she replaced them with those who had ties to the vaccine industry.
During her years at the CDC, the FDA approved the Gardasil vaccine for human papilloma virus vaccination manufactured by Merck. In 2009, Gerberding left the CDC and later became the president of Merck’s vaccine division.31
In early 2018, Alex Azar was appointed as the Secretary to Health in Human Services. Less than 48 hours later, he accepted the resignation from then CDC director Brenda Fitzgerald after it was revealed she purchased shares in tobacco, drug and food companies while serving as the head of the CDC.32
Her problems in the organization may have started with her unwillingness to address some aspects of the opioid crisis, but Politico33 reported her purchase of tobacco stock after starting at the CDC may have been the last straw.
Following her resignation, the World Mercury Project team, led by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., issued a press release34 discussing Merck’s “statistical gimmicks” to conceal Gardasil risks, falsification of mumps vaccine data and the then upcoming merger between Bayer and Monsanto, which was subsequently granted after the companies agreed to sell $9 billion in assets.35
Pharmaceutical industry uses influence to protect interests
Pfizer may enlist Gottlieb's help on more than biosimilar drugs. In late 2018, while Gottlieb was in office at the FDA and in what was seen as a slap in the face to President Trump, Pfizer announced it would increase the list prices on 41 different drugs in January 2019. This affected 10% of Pfizer's portfolio, most of which increased 5%.36
Just eight days after Gottlieb announced his move to Pfizer, Trump promised an executive order to enable the U.S. government to pay lower prices for prescription drugs. The aim is at a “favored nations clause” placing a limit on the cost to the government for any medication not to be greater than the lowest cost to other nations or companies.37
The Affordable Care Act expanded coverage to an additional 16.9 million Americans who were previously uninsured, creating a larger pool of individuals with access to medication.38 However, while the industry had access to a greater number of individuals, there continues to be a push toward “understanding the characteristics of early adopters” of new medications. Researchers wrote:39
“The successful diffusion of new drugs is crucial for both pharmaceutical companies and patients — and of wider stakeholder concern, including for the funding of healthcare provision.”
Trump's reference in his promised executive order to close the gap in a two-level pricing system for prescription medications is well-known to those who live on the Canadian border. In one evaluation of the 13 largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, 45% of the combined revenue came from sales in the U.S. alone.40
This may be due in part to the difference in pricing. Dr. David Belk evaluated medications and pharmaceutical companies finding a vast difference in price per pill between the U.S. and Canada. For instance, Xarelto 20 mg is $14.37 per pill in the U.S. and $3.07 per pill in Canada.41
However, he points out the costs are in Canadian dollars and the prices for the U.S. are what the pharmacy pays for the drugs and not what the consumer pays, increasing the price difference. And in a look at the 2011 annual report from Pfizer,42 Belk finds on page 17 Pfizer reported $67.4 billion in revenues, $9.1 billion on research and development spending and $19 billion on marketing.
He compared some of these same factors in 13 major pharmaceutical companies finding the amount spent on marketing was about 60% more than what they spent on research.43
However, the pharmaceutical industry may be using the term “research” loosely. As Mariana Mazzucato, Ph.D., University College of London director for Innovation and Public Purpose44 discusses,45 78% of the patents approved by the FDA correspond to drugs currently on the market.46
In other words,47 the industry is no longer working toward the innovation of new drugs to treat illness, but instead is expending time and energy to extend patents and use other gimmicks to essentially release the same drug and maintain pricing.
Protecting your health may be more important than ever
It may be more important than ever to protect your health. Some of the simplest strategies are to eat a whole food diet, get at least eight hours of quality sleep, exercise daily and move consistently throughout the day. Steer clear of habits that may negatively impact your health, such as smoking and electromagnetic fields.
It is important to remember just small changes may reap big rewards, so don’t get overwhelmed by the thought of making changes. These links to some of my past articles will help provide tips and guidelines to get started.
- How to Make Fasting Easier, Safer and More Effective
- My Updated Nutrition Plan — Your Guide to Optimal Health
- Top 33 Tips to Optimize Your Sleep Routine
- Sitting Kills, Moving Heals
- Reduce EMF Exposure
Children experience greater exposure to chemicals pound-for-pound than adults and have an immature and porous blood-brain barrier, which allows greater chemical exposures to reach their developing brain. As a result, early exposures can have devastating, lifelong ramifications.
For example, as noted in the scientific review,1 “Neurobehavioral Effects of Developmental Toxicity,” published in the March 2014 issue of The Lancet, elevated fluoride exposure from drinking fluoridated water can contribute to a seven-point drop in a child’s IQ score,2 on average, and that’s just one of the thousands of chemicals children are exposed to on any given day.
As reported by c&en in 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lists more than 85,000 chemicals found in the marketplace,3 and the list keeps getting longer. Of those, a mere 1% have been tested for safety.4
The Lancet paper identified 11 industrial chemicals known to disrupt brain development and cause brain damage, neurological abnormalities, reduced IQ and aggressiveness in children and, according to the authors:5
“We postulate that even more neurotoxicants remain undiscovered. To control the pandemic of developmental neurotoxicity, we propose a global prevention strategy.
Untested chemicals should not be presumed to be safe to brain development, and chemicals in existing use and all new chemicals must therefore be tested for developmental neurotoxicity. To coordinate these efforts and to accelerate translation of science into prevention, we propose the urgent formation of a new international clearinghouse.”
Despite legislation, EPA weakens stance on toxic chemicals
Alas, to this day, a truly comprehensive global prevention strategy to protect children from toxic chemicals has yet to be implemented. Ditto for efforts to increase protections within the U.S. In 2010, then-U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg announced he would introduce a safer chemicals bill to amend the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).6 As reported by Safer Chemicals at the time:7
“In opening remarks, Senator Frank Lautenberg said ‘the American public is a living breathing repository for chemical substances,’ and that as a result of inadequate testing of toxic chemicals, children have become test subjects.
‘Our children should not be used as guinea pigs,’ said Senator Lautenberg … Senator Lautenberg said his new bill would give the EPA the tools it needs to protect the public from unsafe chemicals by requiring testing of all chemicals in commerce and collecting data about harm to human health before chemicals can be added to consumer products.”
The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act8 was signed into law June 22, 2016,9 thereby amending the TSCA. It requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to perform risk-based chemical assessments and “evaluate existing chemicals with clear and enforceable deadlines.”
EPA is not protecting you and your family
Alas, by the time 2018 rolled around, it became clear the updated TSCA had accomplished nothing. As reported in an Environmental Defense Fund blog post, dated February 5, 2018:10
“Last August, Scott Pruitt announced that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would reverse course in its conduct of risk reviews of new chemicals under the reforms made in 2016 to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) by the Lautenberg Act.
The changes will effectively return the program to its pre-Lautenberg state — under which few chemicals were subject to any conditions and even fewer to any testing requirements — or make it even weaker.”
The blog describes some of the political wranglings that led the EPA to reverse course under the influence of the American Chemistry Council. A December 19, 2017, article in The New York Times also reported on the rollback, stating:11
“The Environmental Protection Agency will indefinitely postpone bans on certain uses of three toxic chemicals found in consumer products, according to an update of the Trump administration’s regulatory plans.
Critics said the reversal demonstrated the agency’s increasing reluctance to use enforcement powers granted to it last year by Congress under the Toxic Substances Control Act.
E.P.A. Administrator Scott Pruitt is ‘blatantly ignoring Congress’s clear directive to the agency to better protect the health and safety of millions of Americans by more effectively regulating some of the most dangerous chemicals known to man,’ said Senator Tom Carper, Democrat of Delaware and the ranking minority member on the Senate Environment and Public Works committee.”
Neurotoxicity remains overlooked
Unfortunately, neurotoxicity tends to be largely overlooked because the effects are not as readily and visibly demonstrable as birth defects, for example. As noted in The Lancet paper:12
“David P Rall, former Director of the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, once noted that ‘if thalidomide had caused a ten-point loss of intelligence quotient (IQ) instead of obvious birth defects of the limbs, it would probably still be on the market.’
Many industrial chemicals marketed at present probably cause IQ deficits of far fewer than ten points and have therefore eluded detection so far, but their combined effects could have enormous consequences.”
To put it bluntly, children are being used as guinea pigs and virtual poison detection devices. Oftentimes, it’s only after decades of exposure that the effects become apparent, at which point countless children have already paid the price with their health.
While some sources of toxic exposure may be readily apparent, a vast majority is not. Most parents don’t consider the possibility of children’s toys, nursing pillows or car seats being a source of continuous toxic exposure, for example. Just how pervasive are the toxic exposures to our children? Read on to find out.
Lead exposure still rampant
Most recently, a June 26, 2019, article13 in The Guardian reports that “hundreds of thousands of children in the U.S. remain at risk of exposure to lead, which causes cognitive and behavioral deficits.” Of the 31 states that have reported statistics on the percentage of children with elevated lead levels, Louisiana and Kentucky are among the worst.14
As noted in this article, many older homes still contain lead-based paint. Anna Almendrala tells the story of a young mother whose 2-year-old son developed the habit of gumming the window sills.
Initial blood testing revealed her son, who was already diagnosed with autism, had a lead level of 24 micrograms per one-tenth liter of blood, “almost five times higher than the reference point the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) uses to recommend a lead intervention,” Almendrala writes.15
Further testing revealed his blood level was 49 mcg, nearly 10 times higher than the recommended intervention threshold. Lead abatement inside the home revealed “lead hotspots on the door frames, window sills, and in her son’s bedroom closet.”
This story may sound like an anomaly, as lead-based paint was banned for use in housing in 1978.16 However, there are many older homes, and few families ever consider it might contain toxic remnants from years past.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates as many as 24 million U.S. residences built before 1978 still contain lead hazards, and in June 2019 announced $330 million in grants will be distributed to clean up lead and other safety hazards in low-income housing communities.17 Almendrala writes:18
“When it comes to lead exposure in America, we still don’t have a clear picture of how many children are being exposed to the neurotoxin and where they are.
This leaves hundreds of thousands of children vulnerable to the dangers of lead, and compounds inequality in the form of cognitive and behavioral deficits that can hamper communities for generations. Experts say that it’s possible to eradicate lead from American infrastructure, but that we don’t prioritize it.
‘We are currently doing things backwards [by] using children’s blood as detectors of environmental contamination,’ said Dr Mona Hanna-Attisha, the pediatrician who famously uncovered elevated levels of lead in her pediatric patients and linked it to a new water source in Flint, Michigan. ‘The screening that needs to happen is in the environment before children are ever exposed.’”
Nonorganic food supplies daily dose of poison
Our food supply has also become a notorious source for toxic exposures, ranging from herbicides and pesticides to antibiotics and food additives of questionable safety (having never undergone safety testing). For a list of some of the most common food additives to avoid, see “What Chemical Cocktail Is in Your Food?”
Tests have indeed confirmed that those who eat nonorganic foods as a general rule have far higher levels of toxins in their system.19 In 2015, Joseph E. Pizzorno, founding president of Bastyr University, told The Sydney Morning Herald that toxins appear to be a primary culprit in most chronic diseases, and that “Pesticides used on the food people eat are a better predictor of Type 2 diabetes than any other factor we have today.”20
David Bellinger, a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, has expressed similar concerns. According to his estimates, published in 2012, based on a population of 25.5 million American children, 16,899,488 IQ points have been lost due to exposure to organophosphate pesticides. Another 22,947,450 IQ points have been lost to lead exposure, and an additional 284,580 IQ points have been lost from methylmercury exposure.21,22
Of these, pesticides and methylmercury are both found in our diet (fish and seafood being the primary route of exposure for mercury23), while drinking water is an increasingly common source of lead.
In 2015, a report24 by the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics25 warned that mounting chemical exposures now represent a major threat to human health and reproduction, stating that “prenatal exposure to chemicals and poor health outcomes are increasingly evident.”
The CHAMACOS Study26,27 is among those showing that very small amounts of pesticides may be harmful, in this case to children’s brains. It followed hundreds of pregnant women living in Salinas Valley, California, an agricultural mecca that has had up to a half-million pounds of organophosphates sprayed in the region per year.
The children were followed through age 12 to assess the impact the pesticides had on their development. It turns out the impact was quite dramatic. Mothers' exposure to organophosphates during pregnancy was associated with:28
- Shorter duration of pregnancy
- Poorer neonatal reflexes
- Lower IQ and poorer cognitive functioning in children
- Increased risk of attention problems in children
Brenda Eskenazi, chief investigator of the CHAMACOS study, also noted that the effects of combined chemical exposures need further attention, as we still know very little about the synergistic effects of different chemicals.29
Endocrine disrupting chemicals are everywhere
In 2015, an Endocrine Society task force also issued its second scientific statement30 on endocrine-disrupting chemicals, noting that the health effects of hormone-disrupting chemicals are such that everyone needs to take proactive steps to avoid them. The statement also calls for improved safety testing to determine which chemicals may cause problems.
As far back as 2002, a paper31 in Environmental Science & Technology warned that endocrine disrupting 4-nonylphenols (NPs) “are ubiquitous in food,” but that’s certainly not the only source. As noted by the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences:32
“A wide range of substances, both natural and man-made, are thought to cause endocrine disruption, including pharmaceuticals, dioxin and dioxin-like compounds, polychlorinated biphenyls, DDT and other pesticides, and plasticizers such as bisphenol A. Endocrine disruptors may be found in many everyday products — including plastic bottles, metal food cans, detergents, flame retardants, food, toys, cosmetics, and pesticides.”
One class of endocrine disrupting chemicals, per- and poly- fluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS),33 commonly used in a wide variety of products, including nonstick food wrappers and containers, are also pervasive in the U.S. food supply, and at levels far exceeding the advisory limit for PFOA and PFAS in drinking water (there are currently no limits in food).
The testing, conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, was performed in 2017 as part of its Total Diet Study34 and presented35 at the 2019 meeting of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. PBS reported the findings, noting:36
“The levels in nearly half of the meat and fish tested were double or more the only currently existing federal advisory level for any kind of … PFAS. The level in the chocolate cake was higher: more than 250 times the only federal guidelines, which are for some PFAS in drinking water …
PFOS, an older form of PFAS no longer made in the U.S., turned up at levels ranging from 134 parts per trillion to 865 parts per trillion in tilapia, chicken, turkey, beef, cod, salmon, shrimp, lamb, catfish and hot dogs. Prepared chocolate cake tested at 17,640 parts per trillion of a kind of PFAS called PFPeA.
The FDA presentation also included what appeared to be previously unreported findings of PFAS levels — one spiking over 1,000 parts per trillion — in leafy green vegetables grown within 10 miles (16 kilometers) of an unspecified eastern U.S. PFAS plant and sold at a farmer’s market.”
Other common sources of daily toxic exposures
In truth, to create a comprehensive list of common toxic exposures, let alone a listing of all potential ones, would require far more space than can be afforded here. That said, here’s a sampling of toxic exposure routes you may not have thought of before.
To protect yourself and your family — especially your little ones — consider addressing some of these exposures; replacing them with nontoxic alternatives. You can read more by following the hyperlinks to previous articles, where I also provide suggestions for replacements.
Every July 4 since our nation declared independence in 1776, Americans have celebrated this truth:
"… that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."1
The Declaration of Independence rejected unjust laws imposed by a privileged ruling class. The guiding principles of the Declaration of Independence were codified into the Bill of Rights to limit the power of government and protect our unalienable natural rights. The First Amendment of the Constitution states that:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."2
Universal Declaration: Freedom of thought, conscience, religion
After World War II, natural rights were defined internationally as human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights published in 1948 states:3
"Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person;" and "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood;" and
"No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks;" and
"Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance;" and
"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."
These are among the globally recognized human rights that protect individuals and minorities from discrimination and the kind of government oppression that President Thomas Jefferson talked about when he warned:
"All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression."4
Freedom to dissent hallmark of freedom
The legal right to dissent has been a hallmark of freedom in America. Unlike in authoritarian governments,5 in our country, citizens have the right and responsibility to participate in the law-making process.
We have — or should have — the freedom to openly debate government policy, law and ethics in public forums and dissent from the majority without fear of intimidation or punishment.6,7 But two and a half centuries after the Declaration of Independence, that is changing.
Autonomy attacked by new ruling class
An unprecedented attack on civil liberties and the right to dissent is being led by a new privileged ruling class whose power is not derived from aristocratic titles, wealth and political influence linked to genetic heritage and ownership of land.
The power of the new ruling class in America is derived from academic titles, wealth and political influence linked to corporatized government8,9,10,11,12,13 that seeks ownership of our physical bodies.14,15,16,17,18
The right to autonomy and protection of bodily integrity is the first human right.19,20 If you cannot voluntarily decide when and for what reason you are willing to risk your life or the life of your child, your unalienable right to life and liberty has been taken from you.
Whether you do or do not agree that every liability free vaccine product sold by pharmaceutical companies is safe and effective, or that federal vaccine policy is anchored with sound science, or that mandatory vaccination laws without informed consent protections are moral, you should take a hard look at recent actions by government officials and corporations to censor and repeal civil liberties that safeguard your human right to autonomy and protection of bodily integrity.
Delegitimizing civil liberties with yellow journalism
The extraordinary efforts by industry, medical trade and government to delegitimize free speech about vaccination unless it conforms with government policy has given a green light to corporate-owned mainline media outlets to use name calling and other yellow journalism techniques to legitimize the stripping of civil liberties from public health laws.
Today, any parent,21,22,23 doctor,24,25 research scientist,26,27 journalist,28,29 celebrity,30,31,32 politician,33 philanthropist34,35 or nongovernmental organization36,37,38 asking questions about the quality of vaccine science or the ethics of laws requiring use of a liability-free pharmaceutical product that can harm or fail to work, is immediately labeled as an "anti-vaxxer"39,40,41,42 and publicly defamed,43 humiliated,44 discredited45 and relentlessly targeted for personal and professional ruin.46,47,48
When the risks of vaccination turn out to be 100% for a child and parents describe what happened, their suffering is magnified when journalists gaslight them for witnessing in the public square.
It is a shameful display of ignorance and prejudice against biologically vulnerable children and their parents who have been compelled to unequally bear the risks of vaccination for society, and are being demonized for advocating for safer vaccines and more scientifically informed and humane public health policies.49,50,51,52
Most of all, it is a dangerous assault on freedom of speech by a profession that should be pushing back on discrimination and the erosion of civil liberties, not actively condoning it.
Despite Congress officially acknowledging the fact that vaccines can injure and kill in the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986,53 and even though the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2011 that government licensed vaccines are "unavoidably unsafe" so that the multibillion-dollar vaccine industry cannot be held accountable in a court of law for failing to improve the safety of vaccine products,54 today anyone who publicly questions vaccine safety or advocates for voluntary vaccination is treated like a criminal.
Well-referenced, factual information about vaccine risks and failures is being automatically slapped with the label "misinformation" so it can be censored.55 Those who advocate for informed consent protections in vaccine laws are called "anti-vaccine" so they can be silenced. Benjamin Franklin, co-author of the Declaration of Independence,56 warned:
"Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government; when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins."57
Half of US adults doubt vaccine safety
When people are oppressed by unjust laws and speak up, those in control of lawmaking often resort to censorship to silence calls for reform and force compliance. Your freedom to think, speak and dissent has been put in jeopardy this year at precisely the same time that growing numbers of people in the U.S., Europe and other nations are expressing increased, legitimate concern about the safety of vaccines.58,59
A recent poll found that nearly half of American adults doubt vaccine safety and of the 45% who do, 16% were influenced by online information, 16% were influenced by knowledge of past secrets and wrongdoing by the pharmaceutical industry and 12% were influenced by information from medical experts.60
Government officials call for internet censorship
So, this year, powerful federal legislators have sent a series of letters telling the CEOs of Google, Facebook and Amazon61,62 that, "there is no evidence to suggest that vaccines cause life-threatening or disabling diseases," and that, "the dissemination of unfounded and debunked theories about the dangers of vaccination pose a great risk to public health."63 The social media platforms were directed to remove vaccine "misinformation" and replace it with "medically accurate information."
This year Americans have watched government health officials making false statements in congressional hearings denying that vaccines like MMR cause brain inflammation and claiming that doctors can predict which children will be harmed.64,65 And even though thousands of parents traveled to those hearings stacked with witnesses blaming "anti-vaccine misinformation" for disease outbreaks, not one individual was allowed to testify offering a different perspective.66,67
The FDA Commissioner even threatened state legislators that if they did not restrict or remove vaccine exemptions, the federal government would step in and "mandate certain rules about what is and isn't permissible when it comes to allowing people to have vaccine exemptions."68,69,70
After thousands of Americans showed up at public hearings in multiple states to testify against proposed laws to remove vaccine exemptions,71,72,73 by June only the state of Washington had eliminated the conscientious belief exemption for MMR vaccine,74 and Maine had eliminated both the religious and conscientious belief exemption for all vaccines.75
Then, on June 13, 2019, the New York legislature suddenly rammed a bill to repeal the religious exemption to vaccination through both the Assembly and Senate in one day with no public hearings.76,77,78 This legislative coup completely cut the citizens of New York out of participating in the law-making process.79,80
Within hours, the governor of New York signed the bill into law and issued a press release quoting one of the bill's sponsors declaring, "I am incredibly proud that science has won with the passage of this bill. We should be taking medical advice from medical professionals, not strangers on the internet spreading pseudo-science misinformation."81
In the weeks leading up to the vote, major newspapers published editorials.82,83,84 The Partnership for New York City, which represents more than 350 major city employers, including Pfizer, Google, Microsoft and other corporations, also sent a letter to legislators calling for an end to the religious vaccine exemption.85,86
Many of the lobbyists argued that no major religion has a tenet opposing vaccination, even though vaccine products were not being mandated by governments until long after the world's major religions were founded.87 In addition, the U.S. Constitution prohibits our government from requiring citizens holding sincere personal spiritual or religious beliefs to identify with an organized religion or be a member of a certain church in order to receive equal protection under the law.88
The justification for violating the religious freedom of New York residents89 was primarily based on more than 1,000 cases of measles reported in 28 states this year, with 800 cases identified in several New York City neighborhoods, although there have been no reported measles deaths or injuries.90
About 75% of the New York measles cases have been confirmed in unvaccinated persons with the majority living in orthodox Jewish communities holding sincere religious beliefs opposing the use of vaccines.91,92
About 97% of children attending kindergarten in New York have received two doses of MMR vaccine compared to more than 94% of school children nationally.93
Government health officials and the media blame unvaccinated school children for measles outbreaks. However, May 25, NVIC published a special report on the history of measles and MMR vaccine providing documented evidence that MMR vaccine failures and waning immunity in vaccinated adults are equally responsible for reported measles outbreaks in highly vaccinated populations like ours.94
The illusion of durable MMR vaccine herd immunity is rapidly dissolving. Measles is being transmitted by vaccinated persons, who are subclinically infected but are not being identified or reported because they show few or no symptoms, while unvaccinated persons fully expressing measles symptoms are being identified, reported and very well publicized.
This information is not part of the public conversation when government officials and the media talk about measles outbreaks because it calls into question the accuracy of the narrative simplistically scapegoating unvaccinated children and their parents.95
Since January, America has been operating under a perceived state of emergency.96,97,98 That happened after the World Health Organization announced that "the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate" — termed "vaccine hesitancy" — is one of the top 10 "threats" to global health.99,100,101,102
The word "threat" is defined as one "regarded as a possible source of harm or danger."103 It is often used during wartime to elicit fear and hatred of an enemy that a government considers to be a danger to national security. In any war, real or perceived, rational thinking is the first casualty of fear, which makes it easier for people to agree to a loss of freedom in exchange for a promise of protection from harm.
Just like in 2015 when cases of measles were reported at Disneyland,104,105,106,107 this year there have been calls for public identification, criminal prosecution and imprisonment of unvaccinated people and parents who don't vaccinate their children.108,109,110
Anyone who defends the informed consent ethic and criticizes the use of coercion to force compliance with one-size-fits all vaccine policies is called an "anti-vaxxer" and subjected to personal attacks on his or her intelligence, integrity, motives and patriotism in the name of protecting the public health.
The litmus test question is: "Are you or have you ever been anti-vaccine?" If you hesitate, qualify your answer, express doubt or admit to being currently or previously associated with a person or organization labeled as "anti-vaccine," it is over.
You are publicly condemned as an "anti-vaxxer" and a danger to society for infecting others with your opinions, values and beliefs. You are blacklisted and turned into a horrible warning for any person like you who is even thinking about speaking up. Often people recant or throw their friends and colleagues under the bus when threatened with excommunication from society for being labeled "anti-vaccine."
There was another dark era in American history during the mid-20th century, known as the "blacklist" or "McCarthy" era, when government officials operated in a climate of fear under a perceived state of emergency that was used to justify taking extreme measures in the name of protecting national security. Beginning in 1947 through 1954, federal legislators suspected there were "communist sympathizers" in government agencies and working in the fields of journalism and entertainment.
Congress held a series of hearings in the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee followed by U.S. Senate hearings chaired by Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wis.111,112,113 Americans suspected of being a threat to national security were summoned to publicly testify about their personal philosophical, religious and political beliefs and association with persons or organizations believed to be communist sympathizers, a term that became synonymous with being "anti-American."
The litmus test question was: "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?" If the person answered "yes" or refused to answer, he or she risked being blacklisted as a political subversive who infected others with opinions, values and beliefs that posed a danger to national security.
Hundreds of Americans, including authors, artists, filmmakers and high profile Hollywood celebrities, were persecuted for their beliefs, sent to prison, denied employment or left the country in self-exile in order to find work. Often people recanted or threw their friends and colleagues under the bus when threatened with excommunication from society for being labeled "anti-American."
Broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow,114 who helped unmask the smear tactics used by Sen. McCarthy that ended government inquisitions of the "blacklist era," observed that:
"The right of dissent, or, if you prefer, the right to be wrong, is surely fundamental to the existence of a democratic society. That's the right that went first in every nation that stumbled down the trail toward totalitarianism."
June 20, despite thousands of parents testifying against a bill that essentially eliminates the medical vaccine exemption in a state that has no personal belief exemption,115 the California legislature's health committee voted to give absolute power to state health officials to reject any exemption granted by a doctor that does not conform with federal vaccine policy.116
In other states, legislators are moving to pass laws allowing doctors to vaccinate minor children without the knowledge or consent of their parents.117,118 Americans are being coerced and denied not only an education, but medical care, insurance and employment for refusing one or more government recommended vaccines.119,120,121
If you or your child has already suffered vaccine reactions or struggle with chronic brain and immune system problems that doctors deny can be made worse by getting re-vaccinated, you know what it feels like to live in perpetual fear that you will be hunted down and forced to get vaccines that could cause further damage to health.122
If your life has not been touched by a vaccine reaction, there is no guarantee it won't happen tomorrow.123 Government electronic medical records tracking systems are monitoring every vaccine you do and do not take,124,125 and many new vaccines are being developed by industry and government that will be mandated for children and adults alike.126
Do you want to be forced to use every new vaccine Big Pharma produces127 and public health officials mandate without your voluntary informed consent?128,129 And what will be done to you if you refuse to comply? Will you be able to get a driver's license or passport, shop in a store, go to a football game, enter a hospital emergency room, get on a bus or plane, or simply leave your home if you cannot show proof that you have complied with government vaccine policies?
Will your unvaccinated children be taken from you? Will you be criminally prosecuted and imprisoned? What has happened this year are signs that America may well be stumbling down the trail toward totalitarianism by allowing our unalienable rights to be taken away.
But we, the people, have the power in our constitutional republic to secure our civil liberties if we refuse to live in fear and, instead, choose to defend freedom of speech and conscience and the right to dissent, and if we elect lawmakers who cherish freedom as much as we do.
Unjust laws enacted today can be repealed tomorrow, but only if we wake up, stand up and never, ever give up. Be the one who never has to say you did not do today what you could have done to change tomorrow. It's your health, your family, your choice. And our mission continues: No forced vaccination. Not in America.