By Barbara Loe Fisher
It is a primitive bacterial vaccine licensed in 1914.1 It has not been given to babies in America for 20 years. It is the vaccine that had brain damaged so many children and caused so many vaccine injury lawsuits2 that Big Pharma used it to blackmail Congress into giving vaccine manufacturers a partial product liability shield in 1986, which the U.S. Supreme Court made even bigger in 2011.3
I'm talking about whole cell pertussis vaccine in DPT, a crude brew of whole B. pertussis bacteria heated and washed with formaldehyde4 but still full of neurotoxic aluminum5 and mercury6 along with shock-inducing endotoxin,7,8 as well as brain-damaging bioactive pertussis toxin,9,10,11 a toxin so lethal that researchers use it to deliberately induce acute experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) in lab animals.12,13,14
Whole cell pertussis vaccine: the most reactive vaccine still given to infants and children in developing countries because it costs drug companies just pennies to make a dose of it.15 Whole cell pertussis vaccine, the one that put pressure on the B. pertussis bacterium to mutate into vaccine resistant strains beginning in the 1950s.16,17
Vaccinologists Beating the Drum to Bring Back Toxic DPT Vaccine
Now some vaccinologists are beating the drum to bring back that nasty old vaccine and give it to newborn babies in America.18,19 They say they think the toxin-filled whole cell pertussis vaccine in DPT works a little better at preventing whooping cough a little longer than the purified acellular pertussis vaccine in DTaP.
They want to "prime" little 6- to 8-week-old babies with ALL the bioactive toxins in the whole cell pertussis vaccine's crude brew. Apparently, they think it is worth the risk to pretend like they have fixed the problem.
In the 1980s, parents of DPT vaccine-injured children worked for more than a decade to get the less reactive DTaP vaccine licensed in America because we knew Japan had been using it since 1981 with no reported whooping cough outbreaks and far fewer serious reactions.20
As public outrage about the reactivity of whole cell pertussis vaccine grew and DPT vaccine injury lawsuits piled up, in 1996 U.S. public health officials finally licensed a purified acellular pertussis vaccine for infants.21,22,23
Liability-Free Vaccine Industry Wants to Rewrite History
Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has declared FDA licensed vaccines to be "unavoidably unsafe" and handed drug companies a free "get out of jail" pass for vaccine injuries and deaths,26 it is starting to look like the goal all along was to eventually bring back the old pertussis vaccine so the vaccine industry never again will have to spend another dime to improve a vaccine the FDA has licensed as "safe."
The attempt to rewrite history has begun, and the strategy is to rehabilitate the bad reputation of whole cell DPT vaccine so the clock can be turned back.
Vaccinologists may want to rewrite history, but it is harder to do when the facts are so well documented in the medical literature.27 For those who want to get educated about the history of pertussis and pertussis vaccination, the online Library of Medicine is a great place to start.28
• Pertussis Fact No. 1 — Described as the "100-day cough," B. pertussis disease has been around since at least the 16th century, and it can be especially serious for babies who cannot breathe when the sticky mucous produced by the gram-negative bacteria clogs their tiny airways.
The World Health Organization estimates that globally 85 percent of children have gotten three pertussis shots, but every year there are about 160,000 children under age 5 who die from pertussis complications like pneumonia, and over 60 percent of these children live in Africa.29,30
Mortality from infectious diseases is always higher where people live in poverty, with crowding and poor sanitation, industrial pollution, substandard nutrition and lack of access to health care facilities.31
In 2017, there were 15,808 cases of pertussis reported in America with 13 deaths,32 although most cases of whooping cough are never identified and reported to the government. That's because you can be infected with pertussis and show few or no symptoms, whether you have been vaccinated or not.33,34
• Pertussis Fact No. 2 — After recovering from a pertussis infection, natural immunity is thought to last between seven and 20 years and artificial immunity has been estimated to wane as early as two years after getting vaccinated with either whole cell or acellular pertussis vaccines.35,36,37
Vaccinated and unvaccinated people can get two or three pertussis infections during their lifetime, and immunity can be asymptomatically boosted after the first infection.
• Pertussis Fact No. 3 — As early as 1965 and all through the 1980s and 1990s, public health officials in the U.S. and Europe knew that whole cell pertussis vaccine in DPT was not preventing infections in many vaccinated children and previously vaccinated adults.38,39,40,41,42,43
Just like before DPT vaccination programs, pertussis increases continued to be reported in cycles of three to five years,44,45,46,47,48,49 including in the U.S. where 95 percent of children had gotten three to five DPT shots.50,51 It was obvious more than 30 years ago that whole cell pertussis vaccine in DPT was not only highly reactive, but was marginally effective.
• Pertussis Fact No. 4 — Between 1986 and 1996, multiple clinical trials confirmed that the less reactive acellular DTaP vaccine demonstrated superior efficacy and effectiveness compared to the old and more reactive DPT vaccine.52,53,54,55
Even so, whooping cough outbreaks continued in the 21st century both in countries that had made the switch to the improved one and in countries that stayed with the more reactive old one.56,57,58,59,60 By 2006, U.S. health officials recommended booster doses of acellular Tdap vaccine for teenagers.61 Then, in 2010, the Tdap booster shot was found to be only about 66 percent effective.62
Frustrated by continuing reports of whooping cough cases in vaccinated children, by 2012 the false narrative being forwarded in the U.S. media was to blame whooping cough outbreaks on acellular DTaP vaccine,63 while also pointing a finger at a tiny minority of unvaccinated children and the availability of personal belief exemptions in state vaccine laws.64,65
Vaccinologists in the U.S. piled on the acellular vaccine66,67,68,69,70 and, when FDA researchers reported in 2014 that infant baboons given whole cell pertussis vaccine cleared pertussis infection more rapidly than those given acellular vaccine,71 the drum beat to resurrect whole cell DPT began to get louder.72,73,74,75,76
In July 2018, the obedient U.S. media hyped a small study out of California promoting the idea that whole cell pertussis vaccine stimulates a broader type of immunity that lasts longer than acellular pertussis vaccine.77
The by-now familiar refrain was that it would be better to give babies a couple of doses of the old admittedly more reactive whole cell pertussis vaccine followed up by booster doses of acellular vaccine. The public was being softened up to accept the unacceptable.
• Pertussis Fact No. 5 — It is important to remember that both the old and newer pertussis vaccines only provide temporary immunity that wanes within two to five years. Vaccinated people can become "silent reservoirs" of subclinical pertussis infection and transmit whooping cough without even knowing it.78,79,80
That is because there is a big difference between a vaccine that prevents infection and a vaccine that prevents disease and symptoms of infection.81 This difference explains why pertussis vaccine-induced herd immunity has always been a myth, an illusion created when asymptomatic boosting of pertussis immunity through natural infection occurs in highly vaccinated populations.82,83,84,85
But Wait, There's More
Everybody knows about how the indiscriminate use of antibiotics has led to virulent antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, which evolved to evade those miracle drugs that do save lives when doctors prescribe them properly.
Well, the same thing has happened with the B. pertussis bacterium, which started evolving to become vaccine-resistant soon after public health officials and pediatricians prescribed multiple doses of whole cell DPT vaccine for all children.
As I explained in my 2016 commentary, "Pertussis Microbe Outsmarts the Vaccines as Experts Argue About Why," bench scientists have been publishing scientific evidence for more than 20 years that vaccine-resistant B. pertussis strains began to emerge after whole cell pertussis vaccine was licensed in the late 1940s and before acellular pertussis vaccine was licensed in the mid 1990s.86
Public health officials at the CDC and around the world admitted in 2014 that "most mutations in genes encoding acellular vaccine components arose in the period in which the whole cell vaccine was used."87
Pertussis Vaccines Don't Contain Circulating B. Pertussis Strains
Today, none of the whole cell or acellular pertussis vaccines doctors routinely administer to children and pregnant women contain the mutated B. pertussis strains widely circulating and causing whooping cough in human populations.90,91
The inconvenient truth is that mutated, vaccine-resistant pertussis strains are being identified more often in vaccinated persons than in unvaccinated persons.92
So why would any rational thinking person with an ounce of moral integrity suggest that subjecting newborn babies to the more reactive pertussis vaccine is the solution to preventing whooping cough, when none of the pertussis vaccines contain the new pertussis strains causing whooping cough today?
Vaccinologists and Basic Science Knowledge Gaps
After a century of pertussis vaccination programs, vaccinologists still do not know how pertussis infections — or many other infections — stimulate long-lasting cell mediated and humoral immunity in the body.93
That lack of basic scientific knowledge is why they don't know how to make vaccines that provide long-lasting artificial immunity and why they don't have correlates for immunity to accurately measure what kind of immunity vaccines do or do not provide.94,95
After a century of global vaccination, vaccinologists also admit they still do not understand why and how natural infections or vaccines cause complications that can lead to brain damage and death and they don't know how to accurately identify who is more susceptible to harm.96,97,98 That is why they don't know how to make vaccines that are free from serious side effects.99,100
And after a century of laws requiring infants and children to get a growing list of old and new vaccines, there is little effort being made to find how many of those vaccines have caused or will cause microbes to evolve into more virulent, vaccine resistant forms.101,102,103,104
Doctors and Patients Kept in the Dark
Vaccination is often hailed as the greatest achievement in the history of medicine, but doctors giving vaccines and people getting them have been kept in the dark about just how much is not known about vaccine risks and failures.
So, when a healthy child or pregnant women gets vaccinated and dies, or is never well again, doctors kept in the dark are conditioned to tell mothers kept in the dark that the vaccine or combination of vaccines just given had nothing to do with it.
Vaccine policy and law has preceded the science and it is especially true when it comes to pertussis vaccination. You only have to read articles in the medical literature about long standing problems with pertussis vaccine toxicity and potency tests to find out how much vaccinologists don't know about the safety and effectiveness of pertussis vaccines.105,106
Whole Cell DPT Vaccine: Most Reactive Vaccine on Market Today
For young parents who may not be familiar with the bad side effects of whole cell DPT vaccine, you can learn more by accessing hyperlinked references to the medical literature at the end of this commentary. To give you an idea about what you will learn, following are a few facts about the old whole cell pertussis vaccine that stopped being given to infants in America in the late 1990s:
- In 1933, the whole cell pertussis vaccine was reported to kill infants without warning107
- By the 1960s, the medical community knew that whole cell pertussis vaccine could cause convulsions and brain damage in children108,109
- By 1981, there was little doubt that whole cell pertussis vaccine is the most reactive vaccine ever given to infants and children, second only to smallpox vaccine110,111,112
In 1982, the eyes of parents in America were opened by the award-winning television documentary "DPT: Vaccine Roulette," followed by parents founding the organization known today as the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) and the publishing of the book "DPT: A Shot in the Dark" in 1985.113
The reactivity of DPT vaccine was out in the open and mothers were sharing their first-hand experiences of how they watched their babies suffer terrible DPT vaccine reactions.
Between 50 and 80 percent of babies who get whole cell DPT shots run fevers, and experience pain, redness and swelling at the site of the injection, and many of them are fussier or lose their appetite for a day or two.114 If DPT vaccine reactions were confined to sore arms and legs or low fevers and a little extra fussiness, there would never have been a call by parents to make that old vaccine less reactive.
No, the fact is that, for nearly a century, whole cell pertussis vaccine has been notorious for causing far more serious reactions like high-pitched screaming (also known as the encephalitic cry)115 and hypotonic/hyporesponsive episodes (also known as collapse/shock),116 and febrile or afebrile convulsions (also known as seizures)117,118 and brain inflammation (also known as encephalitis, encephalomyelitis and encephalopathy).119,120,121
Between 25 and 60 percent of children who develop acute encephalitis or encephalopathy or have convulsions, including febrile convulsions — for any reason — are left with some kind of brain damage such as personality changes, developmental delays and learning disabilities, ADHD, seizure disorders, lower IQ, speech, motor and behavior disorders and other disabilities.122,123,124,125,126
The Science Is Clear: DPT Injures and Kills More Often Than DTaP
A 1981 U.S. study funded by the FDA and conducted at UCLA found that 1 in 875 DPT shots was followed by a convulsion or collapse/shock reaction.127 Some of the children in that study were left with neurological problems and low IQs.
The 1981 British National Childhood Encephalopathy Study (NCES) estimated that the risk for a previously healthy child developing a serious neurological problem within seven days of DPT vaccination was 1 in 110,000 DPT shots and the risk of chronic brain dysfunction was 1 in 310,000 DPT shots.128 Some of the children in that study were left with brain damage manifested by "neurologic, motor, sensory, educational behavioral and self-care dysfunctions."129
In 1985, CDC officials reported that children who experienced a neurological problem after DPT vaccination had a seven times greater risk if they had a personal history of convulsions and a 4.5 times greater risk if they had a family history of convulsions.130
In 1991 and 1994, two Institute of Medicine committees analyzed the scientific evidence and confirmed that DPT vaccine can cause acute encephalopathy and brain damage in previously healthy children.131,132
Most developing countries still use whole cell DPT and, in 2018, Brazil reported that adverse events following DPT and DPT-Hib shots account for more than 75 percent of reported childhood vaccine reactions.133
In the U.S. vaccine injury compensation program (VICP), DPT vaccine is the vaccine with the most injury claims filed, including for death, and it is the second most compensated vaccine injury claim, with influenza vaccine now in first place.134
DTaP vaccine still generates a significant number of adverse reaction reports135,136 but, with few exceptions, multiple studies confirm that DTaP vaccine is up to two-thirds less reactive than DPT vaccine.137,138,139,140,141
To all those doctors out there who think you have a problem with public trust in vaccine safety today,142,143 just wait until you try to strong-arm mothers and fathers in America to give their newborn babies that nasty old whole cell pertussis vaccine.
There's More Still
In 2015, the World Health Organization issued a new pertussis vaccine position paper to give doctors in every nation their marching orders.144 In that paper, global public health officials rejected nearly a century of scientific evidence documenting the toxicity and risks of whole cell pertussis vaccine. They said that, except for anaphylaxis, there are no contraindications to giving children any type of pertussis-containing vaccine.
No contraindications. No medical exemptions. Not for children who are sick at the time of vaccination or have suffered high-pitched screaming, collapse, convulsions and brain injury within hours, not for children who almost died after vaccination.
Who paid for this scientifically illiterate position paper that cruelly devalues the lives of individual children? The four top funders of the World Health Organization are the U.S. government, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the British government and GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, which includes the largest vaccine manufacturers in the world.145
If this can be done with pertussis vaccine, it can be done with every future vaccine that Pharma is creating and governments will recommend and mandate, from cytomegalovirus and strep B to syphilis and HIV.146,147,148,149
The End Game: Forced Vaccination, No Exceptions
This is the End Game being played out on the world stage that I have been warning since 1993 was coming, the day when every vaccine that the pharmaceutical industry creates and government health officials recommend will be forced on you and your children.150,151 No questions, no mercy, no exceptions.
We, the people, are the barrier that stands between our children and grandchildren and the toxic whole cell pertussis vaccine the vaccine industry wants to bring back to America so they can rewrite history and turn the clock back.
Before the drum beat gets any louder,152 it is up to each one of us to stand up and defend freedom of thought and speech and conscience in America so we can protect our right to know and freedom to make voluntary vaccine decisions for ourselves and our children.
Nobody Will Save You But You
Nobody will save you and your family from what is coming tomorrow except the action that you, personally, take today. Please share this commentary with your family and friends and make an appointment to speak with your elected representatives.
Sign up to use the free online NVIC Advocacy Portal and join with other concerned citizens in your state who want to stop the liability-free vaccine industry from continuing to exploit the health of our children and our nation. It's your health. Your family. Your choice.
By Dr. Mercola
Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are among the most notorious polluters on the planet, but when they're located in hurricane-prone areas like North Carolina, it adds another degree of potential for environmental disaster.
North Carolina is home to 1,222 CAFOs, compared to about 300 in a more land-locked state like Illinois.1 Of North Carolina's active CAFOs, at least 45 of them are located in 100-year and 500-year floodplains that were at risk of being flooded by streams and rivers during September 2018's Hurricane Florence.2
New information is still coming in daily on the devastation Hurricane Florence caused to North Carolina CAFOs, and I'll be documenting the full extent of this tragic — yet predictable and preventable — event in an upcoming article.
As you might imagine, when CAFOs raise tens of thousands of pigs or more in one facility, some churning out millions of pigs a year, waste is a major problem. There's no healthy or natural way to get rid of that much manure, which for North Carolina adds up to 10 billion gallons of wet animal waste annually — enough to fill more than 15,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.3
That's in addition to the 2 million tons of dry waste created annually by poultry CAFOs in the state.4 In the U.S., 97 percent of pigs are raised in CAFOs, many of them spending their entire lives confined to indoor pens with slatted floors. Their waste falls through the slats where it collects before being pumped into outdoor cesspools of waste, dubbed "lagoons" by the industry.
Even under the best circumstances, the waste pits are known to leak their noxious contents into nearby waterways and streams, but during a hurricane the risks become exponentially higher.
Hurricane Floodwaters Can Breach Waste Pits, Leading to Spillover
CAFO waste sits in open-air lagoons, waiting to be sprayed onto neighboring fields (and often unfortunate neighbors). But when excess levels of rain fall, such as is common during a hurricane, they can become flooded, leading to spillover.
In North Carolina, Andy Curliss, the CEO of the North Carolina Pork Council, estimated that CAFO lagoons could handle up to 25 inches of rain without a breach, but some forecasts called for as much as 40 inches of rain during Florence.5 It's not a new problem for the area but, rather, one that's been looming for decades.
In 1997, following manure spills that proved to be disastrous, North Carolina implemented a ban on the construction of new CAFOs, but the ban expired in 1997 (and loopholes allowed some CAFOs to be built even during the ban).6 In 1999, floodwaters from Hurricane Floyd breached waste lagoons, causing the toxic sludge to flow out into waterways and agricultural fields.
Farmers saw their crops covered in waste while rescue workers were sickened by the fumes. Algae blooms flourished, killing off fish and other marine life. Area residents were faced with contaminated water and millions of animals, including poultry and hogs, also drowned during the disaster.7
That same year, eastern North Carolina experienced a "large increase" in visits to health services for intestinal infections in counties with high concentrations of pig farming that were affected by the hurricane.8 Even a splash of floodwater on your face or open cut could be enough to cause infection.
In 2016, it happened again following Hurricane Matthew, when at least 14 waste pits were flooded. The North Carolina Pork Council stated at the time that pollution due to hog lagoon breaches by Hurricane Matthew floodwaters was minimal, but aerial photographs obtained by watchdog groups showed otherwise, with multiple photos of waste lagoons leaking or subsumed by floodwaters.9
Manure Cannons to Drain the Cesspool
When waste lagoons get full, the contents are sprayed via giant "cannons" onto nearby fields. It's called "fertilizer" but in reality the excess waste often leaches into groundwater and wells, poisoning drinking water, and runs off into waterways, turning once pristine bodies of water into veritable toilets.
The resulting damage includes an excess of nutrients that lead to algae overgrowth, depleting the water of oxygen and killing fish and other marine life in expansive dead zones. In the days leading up to Hurricane Florence, many CAFO farmers scrambled to pump waste from the lagoons ahead of the storm, hoping to make room for the potentially record-setting levels of rainfall.
Although theoretically this should help to contain more of the waste, when asked whether they would actually hold up in the face of heavy, hurricane-driven rain, Marlowe Vaughan of Ivy Spring Creek Farm in Goldsboro, North Carolina, told NPR, "We don't really know. I mean, we try to pump down as much as we can, but after that, it's kind of in God's hands. We're kind of at the mercy of the storm."10
In 2016, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and the Waterkeeper Alliance unveiled the extent of waste lagoons in North Carolina, which is the second biggest hog-farming industry, and the third in poultry production, in the U.S. Their analysis revealed more than 4,100 waste pits covering over 6,800 acres, with many of them located near low-lying bodies of water. In addition:11
- 37 were located within one-half mile of a school
- 288 were within one-half mile of a church
- 136 were within one-half mile of a public water well
- 170 were located within North Carolina's 100-year floodplain
North Carolina's Neuse and Cape Fear Rivers, which provide drinking water for 40 percent of the state's residents, have been named among the most endangered rivers in the U.S. because of the many CAFOs in the rivers' floodplains.12 EWG and the Waterkeeper Alliance revealed much of the impact of Hurricane Mathew on North Carolina CAFOs in 2016, and they plan to conduct a similar analysis for Hurricane Florence.
Soren Rundquist, EWG's director of spatial analysis, explained, "Obviously, our first concern is for people directly threatened by the storm … But by mapping the impact on CAFOs, we want to drive home the recklessness of placing densely concentrated industrial-scale livestock operations in a low-lying area regularly deluged by tropical storms."13
Even Without a Hurricane, CAFOs Are Environmental Disasters
It's not only hurricane-force winds and rain that make CAFOs so atrocious for the environment and animal welfare. Even in perfect weather, these industrial farms represent an unsustainable and environmentally catastrophic method of farming. Take the hog CAFOs, where pigs are forced to live indoors standing over their own waste.
The fumes from the urine and feces would kill the pigs, were it not for giant fans that force the toxic air outside. The air inside a CAFO is concentrated with ammonia, which is formed when microbes digest nitrogen in manure. It has a pungent odor and can lead to chemical burns, cough and chronic lung disease.
Other toxic compounds commonly released by CAFOs include hydrogen sulfide, which has a rotten egg odor and can cause inflammation of eye and respiratory tract membranes, loss of olfactory neurons and even death.14
Methane, an odorless but highly flammable greenhouse gas, is also present. In an interview with Spendid Table, author Barry Estabrook, who visited an Iowa pig CAFO while researching his book "Pig Tales," said:15
"The workers inside the barns suffer from a host of respiratory illnesses, diminished lung capacity and chronic coughing. If you have asthma to begin with, you can't work in one of those places, because you would have a seizure the minute you go in — an attack.
But you can develop asthma by working there. Even veterinarians who visit these places only occasionally have diminished lung capacity. Again, you're breathing poisonous gases."
CAFO Fumes Prove Deadly
CAFO fumes are so toxic that a father and son were killed at an Iowa pig farm while trying to repair a pump. A piece of equipment fell into the manure pit, and they were overcome by the gasses while trying to retrieve it.16
Given the fact that these fumes are regularly pumped outdoors, it's not surprising research has found that people living near Iowa CAFOs have elevated rates of respiratory symptoms compared to those not living near the industrial farms.
In North Carolina, CAFO neighbors report increased headaches, runny noses, sore throats, coughing, diarrhea and burning eyes,17 while the odors alone are also associated with tension, depression and anger.
Children living near pig CAFOs also have a higher incidence of asthma,18 and these polluting CAFOs are found most often in areas with larger African-American, Latino and Native American populations. CAFOs in North Carolina are far less likely to appear in white communities, especially those low in poverty. "This spatial pattern is generally recognized as environmental racism," researchers wrote.19
CAFOs Spread Disease
The risks of an overflowing CAFO waste lagoon are many, including not only the overgrowth of fish-killing algae but also the spread of disease. For instance, a sometimes-fatal pig virus that causes diarrhea and vomiting in pigs, the porcine deltacoronavirus (PDCoV), first identified in Hong Kong in 2012, has recently been shown to have the potential to leap to humans.20 Antibiotic-resistant disease is also common in CAFOs. Estabrook noted:21
"The people who work inside hog confinement buildings are often exposed to deadly bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics. They become resistant because these pigs are constantly fed a diet of low-level antibiotics. The germs that are resistant are the ones that survive and go on to breed."
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria have even been found in the air both inside and downwind of a hog CAFO, with researchers noting, "This could pose a potential human health effect for those who work within or live in close proximity to these facilities."22 Antibiotic-resistant genes were further identified in manure from a hog CAFO as well as in groundwater 250 meters (820 feet) downstream from the lagoon.23
Another study found that people with the highest exposure to hog-CAFO manure were 38 percent more likely to contract community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and 30 percent more likely to get health care-associated MRSA.24
Level of exposure was calculated based on proximity to hog farms, the size of the farms and how much manure the farm in question used. So being in an area touched by CAFO manure-contaminated floodwater following a hurricane may be akin to stepping into a petri dish of antibiotic-resistant disease.
'Big Ag Is King'
You may be wondering how Big Agriculture can get away with all of this, but the fact is it's not only completely legal but considered "state of the art" when it comes to raising pigs.
Elsie Herring, who lives in eastern North Carolina next to a field regularly sprayed with CAFO pig manure, has said it's so bad, "You stand outside and it feels like it's raining but then you realize it isn't rain. It's animal waste. It takes your breath away. You start gagging, coughing, your pulse increases. All you can do is run for cover."25
She and other residents have gone to local, state and federal governments for help but "gotten the runaround," according to Estabrook, who pointed out the power wielded by Big Ag in states like North Carolina:26
"Politically, wherever pork is produced in large quantities, Big Ag is king. You think of states such as North Carolina, Iowa and Minnesota. Big Ag is a very, very, very powerful political force. It doesn't matter whether the politicians are Democrats, Republicans or Libertarians; they dance to the tune of Big Agriculture."
More than two dozen nuisance lawsuits have been filed against Murphy Brown LLC, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pork producer, alleging that the stench, filth, noise and flies from the neighboring CAFOs were ruining their quality of life.
Although the first two suits have had favorable outcomes to the plaintiffs in recent months, the damages awarded are expected to be reduced due to a North Carolina law that limits punitive damages to no more than three times the amount of compensatory damages or $250,000, whichever is greater.
Further, in June 2018, North Carolina legislators passed a law restricting future nuisance lawsuits aimed at pig CAFOs. While those already filed will not be affected, future lawsuits will be nearly impossible for CAFO neighbors to file, proving once again that "Big Ag is king."
How to Find Superior Pastured Pork
Every time you buy CAFO pork (or any CAFO product), you're supporting this atrocious industry and all of their dangerous and inhumane practices. I encourage you to avoid CAFO meats and instead either buy your meat direct from a trusted grass fed farm or look for the American Grassfed Association (AGA) logo, a grass fed standards and certification for American-grown grass fed meat and dairy.27
The AGA pastured pork standards include a forage-based diet derived from pasture, animal health and welfare, no antibiotics and no added growth hormones. At the very least, if you buy pork from a supermarket, look for an antibiotic-free label, which may signal that the pig was raised in somewhat better conditions, or a certified organic label, which also means the pigs weren't fed antibiotics.
The ideal method for raising pigs, however, is on pasture, so always look for pastured pork when possible. Buying pastured pork means you're not supporting a corrupt, polluting and disease-spreading method of agriculture, and you'll also benefit from superior flavor.
"Once you've tasted well-raised pork, you really can't go back to the old stuff," Estabrook said. "I tell people it's the difference between a January tomato in a supermarket and a nice summer tomato from your garden; factory pork and well-raised pork is that different."28
By Dr. Mercola
One of the largely unknown casualties of industrial fish farms are seals, which may be legally shot by fish farmers and fishermen “when necessary” under the U.K.’s Conservation of Seals Act.
Nearly a decade ago, The Guardian revealed that seal numbers were falling by 25 to 50 percent in the U.K., to the extent that in 2007 marine scientists counted only 23,000 of the animals — “equivalent to the species stopping breeding for five or six years.”1
Fish is a mainstay of seals’ diets, so the resourceful creatures are understandably tempted by fish farm cages that present an ever-ready buffet of their favorite food. But attempting to break into the cages or netting puts their lives at risk, and despite calls from animal rights and conservation groups to stop the killings, seals are still targeted by fish farmers.
Seals Being Killed so You Can Eat Salmon
According to Andy Ottaway, campaign director with the Seal Protection Action Group (SPAG), about 1,600 seals were shot in Scotland alone over the last six years, primarily by industrial fish farmers like Marine Harvest Scotland and Scottish Sea Farms. The former supplies the popular supermarket chains Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, the latter of which touts itself as being a particularly ethical and “green” company.
Some fish farms have taken steps to deter seals using nonfatal means, such as the use of acoustic devices to scare seals away and removing dead fish from the cages to avoid luring the animals’ in. Still, grey seal populations have dwindled to 400,000 individuals worldwide, one-quarter of which live in U.K. waters.
“There are fewer gray seals than African elephants in the world, but because they are concentrated in U.K. waters, people believe that they are thriving,” Ottaway told the Daily Mail. “I don't think that the public knows that seals are being shot just so that they can eat salmon.” He added:2
“Seals are under a lot of pressure — from overfishing, culls, disease — and protecting them is an ethical issue. If the industry wants to sell fish they must be aware of the public reaction to their practices which many people find offensive and appalling.”
Scotland did institute a licensing requirement to shoot seals in 2011, which is credited with decreasing the number of seals shot by 70 percent from 2011 to 2016. Further, the U.S. implemented an import ban on salmon from fish farms that kill seals, which is set to take effect in 2022.
Scotland apparently tried to get an exemption from the ban but was unsuccessful, and while seal-deterrent practices such as the use of extra strong nets has cut down on the number of seals shot by some fish farms, dozens of seals were still killed in 2017.3
What’s more, some farming outlets are shooting more seals instead of less, with some reports saying overall seal killings by Scottish fish farms may have risen close to 50 percent from 2016 to 2017.4
John Robins of the Save Our Seals Fund told The Times, “There’s absolutely no need to shoot any seals, numbers should be falling, not rising … They should install netting before they start shooting; that would be last resort. But they are reaching for the guns because bullets are cheaper than nets.”5
Diseased Fish Farms Filled With Lice-Ridden Salmon
Farmed salmon is Scotland’s biggest food export, bringing in more than $789 million annually. But what is touted as a sustainable and environmentally friendly way to produce seafood is actually devastating for the environment, public health and animal welfare.
The video above was filmed by Corin Smith, a Scottish photographer who became alarmed when drone footage of the area hinted that fish on the farm were in distress. He then swam to the fish cages to get the footage of Vacasay fish farm, which is owned by The Scottish Salmon Company.
As you can see in the video, he estimated that up to 80 percent of salmon on the farm were suffering with sea lice. He told The Ferret:6
“I was utterly shocked at the health of the stock and the very high proportion of fish in poor health with mortal sea lice infestation … For fish to have reached this state of heath as a result of sea lice parasites eating their flesh, this situation would have had to occur over a matter of weeks.
… I am 40 years old, 20 years born and raised on a working hill sheep farm. I am still an active member of the agricultural community. I am not squeamish or hysterical about the rearing of animals for food …
But I have never in my life witnessed such extensive animal suffering, and over such a long period. At least 40 percent of stock need euthanized immediately on the grounds of compassion. Any responsible farmer would do that.”
Sea lice are tiny parasitic crustaceans that feed on salmon skin and mucous. Just one or two sea lice can kill a juvenile salmon, and adults may also be harmed if infestations occur, with the lice literally are eating the salmon alive. OneKind, an animal welfare group in Scotland, is calling for a halt on expansions to salmon farms until the sea lice issue and other welfare concerns are under control.
“It is now widely acknowledged that fish are sentient animals and are capable of feeling pain,” OneKind campaigner Sarah Moyes told The Ferret. “Not only does this make this suffering wholly unacceptable, but the industry’s reputation is once again being damaged by another report of animal neglect.”7
Sea Lice From Fish Farms Spreading to Wild Salmon
In addition to being inhumane, the sea lice spreading on fish farms is putting wild salmon stocks at risk. Wild salmon from Blackwater River, which is near Vacasay fish farm, have been found to be heavily infested with sea lice.
Salmon & Trout Conservation Scotland has blamed the industrial farm for the infestations, as the salmon must pass by the farms on their way back from the Atlantic Ocean.
The Scottish Salmon Company has attempted to block the public release of photos showing their diseased salmon and even claimed losses of more than $1.3 million in 2016 because of sea lice and other disease. Despite this, they reported profits of over $38 million in 2017.8
It’s not only Scotland’s wild salmon that are at risk of disease from fish farms. In fact, an oceanic watchdog group reported a sea lice outbreak in Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, on the west coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. Fish farms in the area had salmon lice up to 10 times higher than the rate that requires treatment, at numbers that could prove lethal to wild salmon.
While Canada’s department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) requires salmon farms to monitor and control sea lice via the use of chemicals in feed or hydrogen peroxide baths, the measures don’t appear to be working — and are toxic in and of themselves, as pesticides used to kill sea lice can kill other crustaceans like crabs and shrimps.
They’re also known to suppress salmon immune systems, making them even more susceptible to viruses. As noted by Watershed Watch Salmon Society, “Even if average sea lice levels are kept ‘low’ on a farm, even very low numbers of lice per farmed salmon can add up to billions of sea lice eggs being released into surrounding waters.”9
Salmon Farms Sued for Spreading Disease
Piscine reovirus, or PRV, is another salmon disease that is devastating farmed and wild salmon. PRV causes heart and skeletal muscle inflammation (HSMI) disease, which can be deadly to salmon. One study of salmon in British Columbia, Canada, revealed the proportion of PRV infection in wild fish was related to exposure to salmon farms.10
PRV was detected in 95 percent of farmed Atlantic salmon and up to 45 percent of wild salmon from regions highly exposed to salmon farms. In contrast, only 5 percent of wild salmon living in regions farthest from salmon farms were infected.
“These results suggest that PRV transfer is occurring from farmed Atlantic salmon to wild Pacific salmon, that infection in farmed salmon may be influencing infection rates in wild salmon, and that this may pose a risk of reduced fitness in wild salmon impacting their survival and reproduction,” researchers noted in PLOS One.11
Alexandra Morton, a Canadian marine biologist who has spent decades studying the impact of salmon farming on wild salmon, and the ‘Namgis First Nation have filed lawsuits against a federal policy that allows fish farms to move juvenile salmon from their land-based tanks to pens in the open ocean — without first testing them for PRV.12
Some claim that PRV has not been conclusively shown to cause HSMI, but Morton’s attorneys argue that “screening is the very least” that can be done to prevent PRV from being introduced into ocean environments from fish farm hatcheries.
Unlabeled GMO Salmon Now on the Market, but Where?
In November 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved AquaBounty salmon, a genetically engineered (GE) “frankenfish” that’s being touted as a way to solve overfishing and world hunger.
The GE salmon are engineered to grow about twice as fast as typical farm-raised salmon, an eerie feat achieved by inserting the DNA from two other fish, a growth-promoting gene from a Chinook salmon and a “promoter” gene from the eel-like ocean pout.
This genetic tweaking results in fish with always-on growth hormone, and because they grow so much faster than other salmon, they also require less food, by about 20 to 25 percent per gram.13 In 2018, 4.5 tons of the GE salmon, called AquaAdvantage Salmon, were sold in Canada, but AquaBounty’s CEO won’t say to whom — only that it’s being used for a high-end sashimi line.14
About 9 tons of GE salmon were also sold in Canada in 2017, none of which was labeled as such. So there’s no way of knowing whether salmon being sold in Canada is GE or not. While the FDA approved AquaBounty’s salmon, a rider attached to an Alaskan budget bill imposed an import ban, effectively blocking the FDA from allowing GE salmon into the U.S.
However, AquaBounty has a fish farm in Indiana, where they’re making plans to start raising GE salmon if they can get approval to import the GE salmon eggs from Canada.
“That means the company’s salmon could be on sale in the U.S. by 2019, which would make it the first genetically modified animal food ever sold and eaten in this country,” wrote Richard Martin, senior editor for energy at S&P Global Market Intelligence, for BioGraphic. “Opposition, naturally, is fierce.”15
Unfortunately, however, it seems that GE salmon may be set to flood the market further, as AquaBounty’s CEO stated at an investor conference that their Canadian buyer said, "We'll take as much as you can produce."16
If You Eat Salmon, Wild Salmon Is the Only Healthy Choice
Farmed salmon and GE salmon pose serious risks to wild salmon and their surrounding environments. Farmed salmon are typically raised in pens in the ocean, where their excrement, diseases and food residues are disrupting local marine life.
Even land-based salmon farms are problematic,17 as the facilities pump water from rivers into their hatcheries, then pump it back out to the river once it’s contaminated with dissolved organic matter (DOM) — a mixture of liquid excrement, food residue and other salmon excretions, along with disinfectants and antibiotics.
Nutritionally speaking, farmed salmon are also a far inferior choice to the wild variety. For starters, their pens are often placed near shore, which means they’re close to land-based sources of pollutant runoff. In addition, they’re fed a diet of ground-up fishmeal, which may lead to concentrated levels of PCBs.
In a global assessment of farmed salmon published in the journal Science, PCB concentrations in farmed salmon were found to be eight times higher than in wild salmon.18 Farmed salmon also lack the correct ratio of healthy fats that many people are seeking when eating a “healthy” fish meal.
When seeking healthy, environmentally friendly salmon, look for "Alaskan salmon" and "sockeye salmon," as Alaskan sockeye is not allowed to be farmed. Avoid Atlantic salmon, as typically salmon labeled "Atlantic Salmon" comes from fish farms.
GE salmon is another variety of Atlantic salmon, so steering clear of Atlantic salmon in favor of wild varieties will help you steer clear of this frankenfish as well. In addition, pay attention to how it looks.
The flesh of wild sockeye salmon is bright red due to its natural astaxanthin content. It's also very lean, so the fat marks (white stripes) in the meat are very thin. If the fish is pale pink with wide fat marks, the salmon is farmed, and I recommend avoiding it completely.
By Dr. Mercola
A new study confirms (again) that whole-fat dairy is not associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease as has been asserted for more than 60 years. The evidence is overwhelming that consuming whole fats can be an important part of maintaining optimal health and actually fights heart disease and other diseases prevalent today rather than causing them.
The Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study1 was published in Lancet, one of the world's most prestigious medical journals, and gives one cause to second-guess the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans2 set forth by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Those agencies continue to maintain that your best bet for reducing your heart disease risk is to pass up full-fat dairy products and reach for no-fat and low-fat options instead.
However, while some doctors are finally beginning to acknowledge that full-fat dairy isn't the killer it's been made out to be, just as many are still touting those erroneous recommendations for their patients. The confusing guidelines mentioned above may be one of the reasons, but evidence to the contrary is overwhelming.
As lead study author Mahshid Dehghan, a senior research associate and nutrition epidemiology investigator at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, noted in the featured study, "Our results showed an inverse association between total dairy and mortality and major cardiovascular disease. The risk of stroke was markedly lower with higher consumption of dairy."3
The PURE study was large and extensive, involving researchers from Canada, India, Sweden, South Africa, Brazil, Pakistan, Columbia, Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, Iran, Turkey, Chile, Poland, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, Argentina, China, Bangladesh and the U.S.
Lasting an average of nine years, the study used controls for such factors as age, sex, smoking, physical activity, education levels and consumption of vegetables, fruit, red meat and starchy food for a total of 136,384 people in 21 countries, with ages ranging from 35 to 70.
At the end, researchers reported that when people ate two or more servings of full-fat dairy (one serving being defined as 8 ounces of milk or yogurt, 1 teaspoon of butter or a half-ounce slice of cheese), it was associated with:
- A 22 percent lower heart disease risk
- A 34 percent lower risk of stroke
- A 23 percent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease or a major cardiovascular event4
Semantics on Fat Consumption: Full-Fat Versus Low-Fat Dairy Products
According to Dehghan, current guidelines are rooted in the belief that saturated fatty acids are harmful based on a single risk marker: LDL, aka "bad," cholesterol. However, she says dairy products contain a number of nutrients and avoiding them prevents you from getting other important nutrients.
Dehghan noted that people shouldn't be discouraged from eating dairy products, and if they don't eat much already, they should in fact be encouraged to increase their consumption.5
Overall, people should focus on moderation, she added, especially since cardiovascular disease is a global epidemic. In fact, 80 percent of heart disease cases are found in low- and middle-income countries, Reuters observes, quoting Dehghan from an earlier study.6
It should be noted that eating more whole-fat foods from the dairy section did not make a significant difference in the overall outcome of the study for either total mortality or major cardiovascular disease, MedPage Today explains. In fact, "the findings were similar but not significant for people who ate both full-fat and low-fat dairy."7
The controversy continues, however, and the naysayers are still adamant. Jo Ann Carson, a spokesperson for the American Heart Association from UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, maintains that "Currently with the evidence that we have reviewed, we still believe that you should try to limit your saturated fat including fat that this is coming from dairy products."
With those statements, Carson essentially upholds the now-disproven assertions of Ancel Keys, the University of Minnesota professor who started the "fat is bad" ball rolling back in 1953. Keys used faulty science and patchy data to conclude that eating saturated fat raises your cholesterol and then leads to heart disease. The medical community embraced the concept and adopted a collective stance.
Saturated fat was then summarily vilified, and in its place, vegetable oils and shortening, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and margarine were pushed to the forefront and quickly became all the rage. Unfortunately, the "fat kills" mantra launched a movement in the food industry that's proving very difficult to turn around, but the PURE study helps lay the myth to rest.
‘Robust, Widely Applicable' Science Supports Whole Dairy Consumption
Dehghan says that while the PURE study was largely observational, it was still "robust and more widely applicable" because it was all-encompassing over a broad range of types of dairy consumption and reflected many different settings and cultures.
In 2017, Dehghan and her cohorts involved in the featured PURE study submitted another facet of the review that looked at the issue from another view, associating fat and carb intake with cardiovascular disease and mortality, and concluded:
"We found that high carbohydrate intake (more than about 60 percent of energy) was associated with an adverse impact on total mortality and noncardiovascular disease mortality. By contrast, higher fat intake was associated with lower risk of total mortality, non-cardiovascular disease mortality, and stroke.
Furthermore, higher intakes of individual types of fat were associated with lower total mortality, noncardiovascular disease mortality, and stroke risk and were not associated with risk of major cardiovascular disease events, myocardial infarction, or cardiovascular disease mortality.
Our findings do not support the current recommendation to limit total fat intake to less than 30 percent of energy and saturated fat intake to less than 10 percent of energy. Individuals with high carbohydrate intake might benefit from a reduction in carbohydrate intake and increase in the consumption of fats."8
It's interesting to note that the PURE study was considered controversial for several reasons, such as the stance it made on healthy salt intake and increased vegetable recommendations.
Additionally, while there have been inquiries into the entities that funded the study, Marion Nestle, a master of public health at New York University, notes that while numerous government entities and pharmaceutical companies around the world helped fund the study, the dairy industry did not.9
What's the Skinny on US Health Organization Recommendations for Dairy?
When it comes to some of the biggest names and entities in the medical community, most still say low-fat dairy is best. As an example, an American Heart Association (AHA) article on milk, yogurt and cheese10 still insists that adults should opt for two to three servings of fat-free, zero-fat, no-fat or nonfat milk dairy products, and children, teenagers and older adults should have four servings, per day.
The USDA says pretty much the same thing.11 People in Europe and North America have the highest dairy consumption, as they have more than four servings per day, the study notes, but in Africa, China, South Asia and Southeast Asia, individuals tested had less than one serving per day.
When comparing people who ate three servings of dairy per day with those who ate none, Web MD12 noted that those who ate no dairy had higher rates of:
- Overall death — 3.4 percent versus 5.6 percent
- Heart-related deaths — 0.9 percent versus 1.6 percent
- Major heart disease — 3.5 percent versus 4.9 percent
- Stroke — 1.2 percent versus 2.9 percent
Significantly, studies are stacking up that support the PURE study. One is very significant for two reasons: one because a two-decade-long review concluded that full-fat dairy consumption led to a reduced diabetes risk and better weight management consequences, as well.
Nutrition & Metabolism published research showing evidence that fewer carbs, not adopting low-fat foods, is the key to reducing and often completely eliminating diabetes medication in 90 percent of the participants.13
In 2003, a study14 in The New England Journal of Medicine found that when people focused more on healthy fats and less on non-vegetable carbs, it improved insulin sensitivity and fasting blood glucose. It also stabilized the A1C or average blood glucose tests for diabetic patients.
According to a 2015 study15 in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, children who drink raw milk, which is typically full-fat, have lower rates of viral and respiratory tract infections, including regular colds, fevers and respiratory infections by around 30 percent.
Raw Milk and Pasteurized Milk: What's the Difference?
While governmental agencies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and USDA contend that consuming raw milk is a ticket to disease and maybe even death, it's interesting to observe that Europe has no such issues. Ted Beals, a pathologist from the University of Michigan Medical School, writes that you are actually 35,000 times more likely to get sick from any other food than raw milk.16
Pasteurized milk products are heated to kill bacteria because of the often dreadful conditions cows in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) live in, and that's where the overwhelming majority of milk in the U.S. is produced. Animals in CAFOs are often deprived of sunlight, are fed genetically engineered (GE) grains and soy products and stand knee-deep in each other's excrement.
To counteract these conditions, the animals are given antibiotics. What pasteurized milk offers is essentially milk laced with dead bacteria; the bacteria are dead, but not removed. When your body is hit with these foreign proteins, an allergic response is often the result because your body tries to fight them off.
Conversely, when cows raised on grass (as opposed to grains) produce milk, the raw, unpasteurized form contains whey protein, which stabilizes those same fighting cells in your body and reduces the allergic effect some people experience.
When cows eat grains, their body composition is altered, and with it, their milk. Pasteurization destroys many valuable nutrients, some which are important for your digestion and immune function.
What About Cheese, Butter, Yogurt and Kefir?
Not a few experts in the field noticed that the PURE study "exonerates" high-fat cheese. As a whole, one food analyst reported, the combination of nutrients in cheese are varied and plentiful, and many are new to the conversation in regard to nutritional value.
One study17 found whole-fat cheese can improve your overall health because it raises your HDL, or high-density lipoprotein, cholesterol, which protects your body against both heart disease and metabolic diseases.
Further, when it's made from the milk of grass-pastured animals, cheese provides several important nutrients, including protein, amino acids, omega-3 fats, vitamins A, D, B2, B12, and K2 (especially Gouda, Brie, Edam and to a lesser degree hard goat cheese, Colby, Swiss, Gruyere and Cheddar), minerals such as phosphorus, calcium and zinc, and conjugated linoleic acid or CLA.
In another study described in The Telegraph, researchers found that eating eight servings of full-fat milk, cheese, cream and butter was linked to a 23 percent lower risk of developing diabetes, compared to those who ate fewer portions. One serving counted as 200 milliliters (ml) (a little under a cup) of milk or yogurt, 20 grams (0.7 ounces) of cheese, 25 grams (2 tablespoons) of cream or 7 grams (1.4 teaspoons) of butter.
More importantly, "There was no link between low fat dairy products and diabetes."18 Kefir, a traditionally fermented food that is loaded with probiotic bacteria, as well as yogurt, both of them ideally made from organic, grass fed raw milk, present excellent ways to boost your immunity and increase your energy.
The bacteria used to make kefir and yogurt consumes most of the lactose in milk, which can otherwise be a problem for someone with insulin resistance. Both help you develop and maintain a healthy microbiome.
When it comes to butter, the best you can do is to seek out the organic raw form from grass-pastured cows. The next best is pasteurized butter from grass fed or pastured organic cows, followed by regular pasteurized butter common in supermarkets. Surprisingly, fat levels in your blood are lower after eating a meal rich in butter than after eating one rich in olive oil, canola oil or flaxseed oil, one study noted.19
Taken altogether, the message is clear: Including saturated fats, including raw, organic and full-fat dairy products, is a healthy choice. That includes organic butter from grass fed cows, virgin coconut oil and raw whole milk and cheese. Far from being the culprits in cardiovascular and "high cholesterol" issues, eating them can actually improve your heart, and at the same time, improve your insulin sensitivity.
In any case, avoid trans fats and non-vegetable carbohydrates that have led to ever-rising rates of chronic disease and obesity. Reversing this trend is simpler than you might think, at least on an individual level. Don't just eat more dairy; go for healthy, full fat, grass fed dairy instead.
By Dr. Mercola
If, like me, you’re a fan of fennel, you may already know about some of its health benefits. I love fennel because it’s easy to grow — I affectionately refer to the section of my property where it is established as the “fennel forest.” Beginning with a single plant, I have watched fennel steadily multiply across my yard as volunteers.
Because I have access to an abundant supply, I eat 1-2 tablespoons of fennel seeds soaked overnight daily. I soak them overnight for use in my breakfast the next morning. There are particular health benefits attributed to the seeds, which are actually a fruit, not a seed. That said, I’ll continue to refer to them as seeds in this article since that is how they are commonly known.
If you have not yet tried fennel seeds, you may be interested to know they are an excellent, cheap and convenient source of healthy nitrates. Fennel seeds are able to increase nitric oxide in your body, which has several distinct health benefits.
What Is Nitric Oxide and Why Is It Important to Your Health?
Nitric oxide is vital to your health because it is produced by nearly every type of cell in your body. It is one of the most important molecules needed for healthy blood vessels. While you often hear about the negative effects of free radicals, your body actually needs some to be healthy.
Nitric oxide is a free radical that acts as a vasodilator, which means it causes your blood vessels to expand and dilate, promoting blood flow and lowering your blood pressure. It also improves your immune function, stimulates the thinning of your blood and decreases blood viscosity, which in turn decreases platelet aggregation.
As such, nitric oxide helps reduce your risk of developing a life-threatening blood clot. Another benefit of nitric oxide is that it's a powerful anabolic stimulus known to help increase your lean body mass. When you increase your muscle mass, your body is more easily able to burn fat for fuel.
Burning fat for fuel remains a concept that escapes many people. It is a state of health so radically life-changing that you really must try it to fully appreciate its benefits.
Anyway, the increased presence of free radicals such as nitric oxide signals your body to create more mitochondria — a process called mitochondrial biogenesis, which is necessary to keep up with the heightened energy requirement.
Your mitochondria are the energy storehouses of your cells and are also the energy source for your skeletal muscles. Mitochondrial changes can have a positive impact on your skeletal muscle, fat tissue and even your liver, brain and kidneys.
A 2013 study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology1 underscores the positive vascular effects of dietary nitrates via the nitrate-nitrite-nitric oxide pathway. The study authors stated:2
“Dietary nitrate has been demonstrated to have a range of beneficial vascular effects, including reducing blood pressure, inhibiting platelet aggregation, preserving or improving endothelial dysfunction [and] enhancing exercise performance in healthy individuals and patients with peripheral arterial disease.
Preclinical studies with nitrates or nitrites also show the potential to protect against ischemia-reperfusion injury and reduce arterial stiffness, inflammation and intimal thickness.”
Are You Familiar With Fennel?
About fennel, National Geographic says, “Unlike its graceful relatives, however, fennel is clunky and funny-looking. It has a bulbous, crunchy, white stem topped with green stems and feathery leaves. Like anything with a fat bottom and a scrawny top, it inevitably invites jokes.”3
Fennel has a mild but distinctive licorice flavor that is sometimes confused with anise. While anise has a pungent taste reminiscent of black licorice, fennel, which some refer to as "sweet anise," has a sweeter, more delicate flavor.4 Unlike other vegetables and herbs, almost every part of the fennel plant including the base, stalks, leaves and seeds is edible.
Fennel is well-regarded as an essential oil. The characteristic anise-like odor of fennel, which results from its essential oil, gives it wide appeal as a flavoring agent in alcoholic beverages, baked goods, fish and meat dishes and even ice cream.5
Even though it is classified as an herb, many chefs use the lower part of the fennel plant, or the bulb, as a vegetable, adding it to salads, soups and stews.
The fronds that grow on the top of the plant may be used in salads or as a garnish, much like dill. You’ll get the most benefit if you grow your own fennel plants. Personally, I have not had much success in growing fennel as a bulb. My fennel bulbs are typically small and thin. For that reason, I mainly appreciate fennel for its seeds.
As mentioned, I have a veritable forest of fennel in my yard. I planted it once and since it is self-propagating, it continues to multiply. Because it is so productive, you may see fennel growing wild along roadsides, in nature preserves and open pastures. Fennel seeds are often used as post-meal mouth fresheners across the Indian subcontinent and elsewhere.
For maximum freshness, fennel seeds are harvested just as the flowers are beginning to dry out and turn brown. I simply clip the tops of the stalks containing flower heads and store them in a dark place for a week or two until they are fully dried. At this point, the seeds easily fall out of the flower heads and can be separated from the dried plant debris.
The Many Health Benefits of Fennel
The use of fennel dates back to ancient Rome, where it was used as a contraceptive. In addition, Pliny the Elder was said to have recommended fennel for epilepsy, gout, mange, scorpion stings and snakebite.6 According to the California College of Ayurveda, fennel is one of the best digestive herbs.7
They suggest adding it to your cooking, ingesting it in capsule form or drinking fennel tea. Furthermore, they note, “Some of the other marvelous features of fennel include: It dispels gas, it’s a diuretic, great for children’s colic, calming to the nerves, clears phlegm, increases the flow of milk in lactating mothers and aids in menstruation.”8
Authors of a 2014 study9 published in the journal BioMed Research International assert fennel has been used in traditional medicine to treat digestive, endocrine, reproductive and respiratory ailments, as well as a galactagogue agent for breastfeeding mothers. The researchers stated:10
“Findings based on its traditional uses and scientific evaluation indicate [fennel] remains the most widely used herbal plant. It has been used for more than 40 types of disorders. Phytochemical studies have shown the presence of numerous valuable compounds, such as volatile compounds, flavonoids, phenolic compounds, fatty acids and amino acids.
Compiled data indicate [fennel’s] efficacy … as antimicrobial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antimutagenic, antinociceptive, antipyretic, antispasmodic, antithrombotic, apoptotic, cardiovascular, chemomodulatory, antitumor, hepatoprotective, hypoglycemic, hypolipidemic and memory-enhancing.”
The polyphenols found in fennel include coumarins, flavonoids, furanocoumarins, phenolic acids and tannins, as well as common constituents like caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, cinnamic acid, ferulic acid, quercetin and rutin.11 Upon analyzing 23 fennel samples, the study authors concluded:12
- Apigenin and quercetin were the most abundant flavonoids
- Phenolic compounds promote increased antibacterial activity
- Samples with higher antioxidant activity revealed higher antiglycative activity (glycation relates to damage from high blood sugar)
- Seed extracts showed moderate to good inhibitory activities against three foodborne pathogens
Prevent Free Radical Damage With Fennel Seeds
In addition, fennel has been shown to have significant free radical scavenging potential and oxidative DNA damage preventive activity.13,14 One study, published in the journal BioMed Research International,15 screened the free radical scavenging activity of fennel seeds and carom seeds (another aromatic seed used in India, most especially in the state of Gujarat16).
Notably, both seed extracts were shown to mitigate oxidative damage in calf thymus DNA. The study authors said, “These plant extracts can be considered as significant source of natural antioxidants that can withstand the deleterious effects of many diseases such as cancer, atherosclerosis, diabetes, inflammation and aging.”17
Fennel Seeds Promote Vascular Health
A 2012 study from India18 suggests fennel seeds promote healthy vascular function mainly due to their high level of nitrites and nitrates. The researchers noted:
“Results from our study show that fennel seeds contain significantly higher amount of nitrites when compared to other commonly used post-meal seeds.
Furthermore, our study confirmed the functional effects of fennel derived-nitrites … that describe the promotion of angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels from pre‐existing ones), cell migration and vasorelaxation (dilation of blood vessels).
We also showed that chewing fennel seeds enhanced nitrite content of saliva. Thus, our study indicates the potential role of fennel derived-nitrites on the vascular system.”
Boost Your Athletic Performance With Fennel Seeds
If you are an athlete looking to boost your performance and would like a convenient alternative to consuming nitrate-rich vegetables like beetroot, celery, spinach and Swiss chard, consider fennel. By eating fennel seeds, you can get a significant bump in nitric oxide production, which will, in turn, open up your blood vessels and positively impact your workout.
Given their availability, affordability (especially if you grow your own fennel) and portability, fennel seeds are a lightweight, nonperishable source of nitrates that is ideal for gym rats, outdoorsmen and high-performance athletes.
As mentioned in the featured video, it’s possible chewing fennel seeds may help mountain climbers maintain oxygen levels at high altitudes and aid in preventing high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) — the most common cause of death resulting from exposure to high altitude.19
Fennel Shown Effective as a Treatment for Sun Damage
In a 2016 study,20 Korean researchers sought to determine if fennel could be useful to alleviate ultraviolet B (UVB)-induced photoaging. The study authors suggested fennel offers photoprotective benefits for preventing and treating sun damage to your skin, further stating:21
“Fennel significantly increased the production of collagen, elastin and transforming growth factor-beta 1 (TGF-beta 1) levels, while blocking matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) production in UVB irradiation-induced hairless mice, which were consistent with the result in normal human dermal fibroblasts (NHDFs).
Furthermore, fennel dose-dependently decreased the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) by promoting the nuclear amount of Nrf2 and enhancing the expression of cytoprotective antioxidants such as glutathione (GSH).
Fennel also significantly quenched UVB-induced phosphorylation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) and p38 in NHDFs. Based on our present results, we suggest the potential of [fennel] for the prevention of skin damage caused by solar radiation.”
Fennel Shown to Counteract Lead Toxicity; Minimizes Neuronal Toxicity Associated With Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
Fennel also appears to be useful for ameliorating the effects of lead toxicity. While lead exposure has been greatly reduced in recent decades, it continues to be an issue in certain areas, especially impoverished urban areas.
A 2018 study published in the journal Drug and Chemical Toxicology22 evaluated the neuroprotective effects of fennel seed extract on lead-induced neurotoxicity in the brains of lab mice.
Nine groups of mice were administered with 0.1 percent lead and 75 percent and 100 percent ethanol extracts of fennel seeds at doses of 200 milligrams (mg) per kilogram(kg) per day and 20 mg/kg/day. The researchers noted the maximum antioxidant effect was found in the 75 percent ethanol extract.
Based on their measurement of the gene expression levels of oxidative stress markers, including superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) and peroxiredoxin 6 (Prdx6), as well as the three isoforms of amyloid precursor protein (APP), including APP common, 770 and 695, in the cortex and hippocampus of the various mice groups, they commented:23
“[A] significant increase in APP 770 expression level [was observed] while a substantial decrease was observed for SOD1, Prdx6 and APP 695 expression in the lead-treated groups.
Interestingly, the deranged expression levels were significantly normalized by the treatment with ethanol extracts of fennel seeds (specifically at dose of 200 mg/kg/day). Furthermore, the lead-induced morphological deterioration of cortical neurons was significantly improved by the ethanol extracts of fennel seeds.
In conclusion, the present findings highlight the promising therapeutic potential of fennel seeds to minimize neuronal toxicity by normalizing the expression levels of APP isoforms and oxidative stress markers.”
By way of explanation, lead exposure normally reduces brain cortical and hippocampal expression levels of SOD, whereas in this study scientists demonstrated fennel seeds restored protective levels of SOD in the lab mice exposed to lead.
Research has linked mutations in the SOD gene to familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)24 and also asserts it as a major target of oxidative damage in brains affected by Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.25 Due to their potential to restore SOD levels, it’s possible fennel seeds could be helpful in preventing these diseases.
When to Avoid Fennel
In most cases, you should be able to tolerate fennel seeds when eating them in moderation. If you have a sensitivity to other members of the carrot family, you should avoid fennel seeds and other fennel preparations.
At least one study associated the drinking of fennel tea with early onset puberty in girls.26 For this and other reasons, fennel is not recommended for children under age 18 unless approved by a doctor.
On a positive note, fennel has been shown to possess antihirsutism activity, helping to combat excessive facial hair growth in a study involving 38 women who successfully applied a 1 percent fennel cream.27
In closing, if you are able to tolerate them, I highly recommend fennel seeds as an easy way to increase your nitric oxide levels and boost your vascular health.
1 The creation of a fake grassroots campaign by a special interests group, to fight for or against a particular agenda, is known as:
2 Which of the following chemical classes has been identified as a driver of reduced sperm production and male infertility?
3 Which of the following emotional states has NOT been scientifically linked to increased life expectancy?
4 The sensation of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is most noticeable after you perform which type of exercise?
5 Which of the following has been identified as the food responsible for the greatest number of foodborne illnesses?
6 If you or your child is harmed or killed by a vaccine, what legal recourse do you have?
By Dr. Mercola
While studies suggest the health of Americans suffers due to excessive, unnecessary and/or ineffective medical tests and treatments, certain lab tests can offer truly important clues about your health. Unfortunately, some of the most valuable tests are rarely ordered by conventional physicians.
What’s more, the reference ranges provided on lab test reports are often misleading, as what’s considered “normal” is not necessarily ideal for optimal health. So, which lab tests are really worth getting on an annual basis, and what are the ideal reference ranges you’re looking for?
I wrote this chapter for my new book on partial fasting that is coming out in the spring, but it was so important that I wanted to give it to you now for free. So, below is a list of eight of the most important lab tests that are frequently overlooked.
No. 1 — Vitamin D
Optimizing your vitamin D is one of the easiest and least expensive things you can do for your health. My recommendation is to get your vitamin D level tested twice a year, when your level is likely to be at its lowest (midwinter) and highest (midsummer).
This is particularly important if you’re pregnant or planning a pregnancy, or if you have cancer. Based on the research done and data collected by GrassrootsHealth, 40 ng/mL (100 nm/L) is the cutoff point for sufficiency to prevent a wide range of diseases.
For example, most cancers occur in people with a vitamin D blood level between 10 and 40 ng/mL,1,2 and published data suggests a whopping 80 percent of breast cancer recurrences — 4 out of 5 — could be prevented simply by optimizing vitamin D and nothing else.3,4
For optimal health and disease prevention, a level between 60 and 80 ng/mL (150 to 200 nm/L) appears to be ideal.5 While the American Medical Association claims 20 ng/mL is sufficient, research suggests 20 ng/mL is barely adequate for the prevention of osteomalacia, and clearly far too low for other disease prevention or improvement.
When it comes to dosage, you need to take whatever dose required to get you into the optimal range, with 40 ng/mL being the low-end cutoff for sufficiency. Research6 suggests it would require 9,600 IUs of vitamin D per day to get 97.5 percent of the population to reach 40 ng/mL, but there’s a wide variance in individual requirements.
If you’ve been getting regular sun exposure, have eaten vitamin D-rich foods such as beef liver, mushrooms and organic free-range egg yolks7 and/or taken a certain amount of vitamin D3 for a number of months and retesting reveals you’re still not within the recommended range, then you know you need to increase your dosage.
Over time, with continued testing, you’ll find your individual sweet spot and have a good idea of how much you need to take to maintain a year-round level of 40 to 60 ng/mL. GrassrootsHealth offers vitamin D testing at a great value through its D*Action study, and has an online vitamin D calculator you can use to estimate your vitamin D3 dosage once you know your current serum level.
No. 2 — Omega-3 Index
Like vitamin D, your omega-3 level is also a powerful predictor of your all-cause mortality risk and plays a vital role in overall health, especially your heart and brain health.
Recent research8 funded by the National Institutes of Health found having a higher omega-3 index was associated with a lower risk for cardiovascular events, coronary heart disease events and strokes. Omega-3 also helps improve pain, especially when combined with vitamin D.
(Omega-3 fats are precursors to mediators of inflammation called prostaglandins, which is, in part, how they help reduce pain. Anti-inflammatory painkillers also work by manipulating prostaglandins.)
The omega-3 index is a blood test that measures the amount of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids in your red blood cell (RBC) membranes. Your index is expressed as a percent of your total RBC fatty acids.
The omega-3 index reflects your tissue levels of EPA and DHA and has been validated as a stable, long-term marker of your omega-3 status. An omega-3 index over 8 percent is associated with the lowest risk of death from heart disease. An index below 4 percent puts you at the highest risk of heart disease-related mortality. If you're below 8 percent, increase your omega-3 intake and retest in three to six months.
You can save money by getting the combined vitamin D and omega-3 index testing kit, offered by GrassrootsHealth as part of its consumer-sponsored research.
Your best sources of animal-based omega-3 are small, cold-water fatty fish such as anchovies, herring and sardines. Wild Alaskan salmon is another good source that is low in mercury and other environmental toxins. These fish are also a decent source of vitamin D, making them doubly beneficial.
If you’re not eating these foods on a regular basis, your alternatives include fish oil and krill oil. The latter is my preferred choice, as it contains DHA and EPA in a form that's less prone to oxidation. The fatty acids in krill oil are also bound to phospholipids, which allow the DHA and EPA to travel efficiently into your hepatic system; hence they're more bioavailable. Studies9 have shown that krill oil may be 48 times more potent than fish oil.
No. 3 — Fasting Insulin
Insulin resistance is a driving factor for virtually all chronic disease, making fasting insulin testing a really important health screen. Any meal high in grain and sugar carbs typically generates a rapid rise in your blood glucose. To compensate, your pancreas secretes insulin into your bloodstream, which lowers your blood sugar. If you did not have insulin to do this, you would go into a hyperglycemic coma and die. Insulin, however, will also catalyze the conversion of excess sugar into fat cells.
Typically, the more insulin you make, the fatter you become. If you consistently consume a high-sugar, high-grain diet, your blood glucose level will be correspondingly high and over time your body becomes desensitized to insulin, requiring more and more insulin to get the job done.
Eventually, you become insulin resistant and prone to weight gain, then prediabetic, and then you enter full-blown diabetes. Prediabetes10 is defined as an elevation in blood glucose over 100 mg/dL but lower than 125 mg/dl, at which point it formally becomes Type 2 diabetes.
However, any fasting blood sugar regularly over 90 mg/dL is really suggestive of insulin resistance, and the seminal work of the late Dr. Joseph Kraft suggests 80 percent — 8 out of 10 — Americans are in fact insulin resistant.11 Although he recommended an oral glucose tolerance test, which also measures insulin, this is a far more challenging test, and for most a fasting insulin test will suffice.
The fasting blood insulin test is far better than a fasting glucose test as it reflects how healthy your blood glucose levels are over time. It’s important to realize it’s possible to have low fasting glucose but still have a significantly elevated insulin level. And yes, it must be fasting for at least eight hours, otherwise the results are nearly meaningless.
A normal fasting blood insulin level is below 5, but ideally, you'll want it below 3. If your insulin level is higher than 3 to 5, the most effective way to optimize it is to reduce or eliminate all forms of dietary sugar. Intermittent fasting, partial fasting and/or water fasting are also effective, and intermittent fasting combined with a ketogenic diet appears to be the most aggressively effective of all.
No. 4 — Serum Ferritin
A ferritin test is a laboratory blood test that measures the amount of ferritin in your blood. Ferritin is the major iron storage protein in your body, so the ferritin test is ordered as an indirect way to measure the iron stores in your body.
For adults, I strongly recommend getting a serum ferritin test on an annual basis, as iron overload can be every bit as dangerous as vitamin D deficiency. While iron is necessary for biological function, when you get too much, it can do tremendous harm by increasing oxidative stress.
When iron reacts with hydrogen peroxide, typically in your mitochondria, dangerous hydroxyl free radicals are formed. These are among the most damaging free radicals known and are highly reactive and can damage DNA, cell membranes and proteins. They contribute to mitochondrial dysfunction, which in turn is at the heart of most chronic degenerative diseases.
Unfortunately, the first thing people think about when they hear “iron” is anemia, or iron deficiency, not realizing that iron overload is actually a more common problem, and far more dangerous.
Virtually all adult men and postmenopausal women are at risk for iron overload since they do not lose blood on a regular basis and since humans are not at all designed to excrete excess iron, it is simply stored for a rainy day when you might need extra iron from some type of trauma resulting in blood loss.
There’s also an inherited disease, hemochromatosis, which causes your body to accumulate excessive and dangerously damaging levels of iron. If left untreated, high iron can contribute to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases and many other health problems, including gouty arthritis.12
As with many other lab tests, the “normal” range for serum ferritin is far from ideal.13 A level of 200 to 300 ng/mL falls within the normal range for women and men respectively, but if you’re in this range, know you’re virtually guaranteed to develop some sort of health problem.
An ideal level for adult men and nonmenstruating women is actually somewhere between 30 and 40 ng/mL. (You do not want to be below 20 ng/mL or much above 40 ng/mL.) The most commonly used threshold for iron deficiency in clinical studies is 12 to 15 ng/mL.14
You may also consider doing a gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (sometimes called gamma-glutamyltransferase or GGT) test. GGT is a liver enzyme correlated with iron toxicity and all-cause mortality. Not only will the GGT test tell you if you have liver damage, it’s also an excellent marker for excess free iron and is a great indicator of your sudden cardiac death risk.
In recent years, scientists have discovered GGT is highly interactive with iron, and when serum ferritin and GGT are both high, you are at significantly increased risk of chronic health problems, because then you have a combination of free iron, which is highly toxic, and iron storage to keep that toxicity going.15 To learn more, see “Serum Ferritin and GGT — Two Potent Health Indicators You Need to Know.”
No. 5 — High-Sensitivity C-Reactive Protein (hs-CRP)
The hs-CRP is a highly sensitive test16 that measures a liver protein produced in response to inflammation in your body, and chronic inflammation is a hallmark of most chronic diseases.The lower your level the better. Goal would be to be below 0.7 mg/dl. I like to keep mine under 0.2 mg/dl.
Conventional medicine will typically treat underlying inflammation with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or corticosteroids. Patients with normal cholesterol but elevated CRP are also frequently prescribed a statin drug. None of these drug treatments address the underlying cause of the inflammation, and can do more harm than good in the long run.
Eating a healthy diet low in added sugars and higher in healthy fats, optimizing your vitamin D and omega-3, lowering your insulin level and exercising on a regular basis will all help to address chronic inflammation. Certain herbs and supplements can also be useful, including astaxanthin, boswellia, bromelain, ginger, resveratrol, evening primrose and curcumin.17
One drug option that is both safe and effective is low-dose naltrexone. Naltrexone is an opiate antagonist, originally developed for the treatment of opioid addiction. However, when takin at very low doses, it triggers endorphin production, which helps boost immune function, and has anti-inflammatory effects on the central nervous system.18
No. 6 — RBC Magnesium
Magnesium deficiency is extremely common, and recent research19 shows even subclinical deficiency can jeopardize your heart health. Magnesium is also important for brain health, detoxification, cellular health and function, energy production,20,21 regulation of insulin sensitivity,22 normal cell division,23 the optimization of your mitochondria24 and much more.
Magnesium resides at the center of the chlorophyll molecule, so if you rarely eat fresh leafy greens, you’re probably not getting much magnesium from your diet. Furthermore, while eating organic whole foods25 will help optimize your magnesium intake, it’s still not a surefire way to ward off magnesium deficiency, as most soils have become severely depleted of nutrients, including magnesium.
Magnesium absorption is also dependent on having sufficient amounts of selenium, parathyroid hormone and vitamins B6 and D, and is hindered by excess ethanol, salt, coffee and phosphoric acid in soda. Sweating, stress, lack of sleep, excessive menstruation, certain drugs (especially diuretics and proton-pump inhibitors) also deplete your body of magnesium.26
For these reasons, many experts recommend taking supplemental magnesium. The recommended dietary allowance for magnesium is 310 to 420 mg per day depending on your age and sex,27 but many experts believe you may need 600 to 900 mg per day, which is more in line with the magnesium uptake during the Paleolithic period.28
Personally, I believe many may benefit from amounts as high as 1 to 2 grams (1,000 to 2,000 mg) of elemental magnesium per day in divided doses, as most have electromagnetic field exposures that simply cannot be mitigated, and the extra magnesium may help lower the damage from that exposure.
The key to effectively using higher doses, however, is to make sure you avoid loose bowels as that will disrupt your gut microbiome, which would be highly counterproductive.
One of the best forms is magnesium threonate, as it appears to be the most efficient at penetrating cell membranes, including your mitochondria and blood-brain barrier. Another effective way to boost your magnesium level is to take Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) baths, as the magnesium effectively absorbs through your skin.
I prepare a supersaturated solution of Epsom salts by dissolving 7 tablespoons of the salt into 6 ounces of water and heating it until all the salt has dissolved. I pour it into a dropper bottle and then apply it to my skin and rub fresh aloe leaves over it to dissolve it. This is an easy and inexpensive way to increase your magnesium and will allow you to get higher dosages into your body without having to deal with its laxative effects.
Optimizing your magnesium level is particularly important when taking supplemental vitamin D, as your body cannot properly utilize the vitamin if you’re your magnesium is insufficient.29,30 The reason for this is because magnesium is required for the actual activation of vitamin D.
If your magnesium level is too low, the vitamin D will simply get stored in its inactive form. As an added boon, when your magnesium level is sufficiently high, it will be far easier to optimize your vitamin D level, as you’ll require a far lower dose.31 In fact, research32 shows higher magnesium intake helps reduce your risk of vitamin D deficiency — likely by activating more of it.
No. 7 — Homocysteine
Homocysteine is an amino acid in your body and blood obtained primarily from meat consumption. Checking your homocysteine level is a great way to identify a vitamin B6, B9 (folate) and B12 deficiency.
Vitamins B6, B9 and B12 help convert homocysteine into methionine — a building block for proteins. If you don't get enough of these B vitamins, this conversion process is impaired and results in higher homocysteine. Conversely, when you increase intake of B6, B9 and B12, your homocysteine level decreases.
Elevated homocysteine is a risk factor for heart disease, and when combined with a low omega-3 index, it’s associated with an increased risk of brain atrophy and dementia.
Vitamins B6, B9 and B12 are also really important for cognition and mental health in general, so identifying and addressing a deficiency in these vitamins can go a long way toward warding off depression and other, even more serious, mental health conditions. If you do take folate and/or B12 it would be best to take the methyl forms of these vitamins.
No. 8 — NMR Lipoprofile
One of the most important tests you can get to determine your heart disease risk is the NMR LipoProfile, which measures your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) particle number. This test also has other markers that can help determine if you have insulin resistance, which is a primary cause of elevated LDL particle number and increased heart disease risk.
Conventional doctors will typically only check your total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and triglycerides. However, these are not very accurate predictors for cardiovascular disease risk, as it’s quite possible to have normal total cholesterol and/or normal LDL cholesterol yet have a high LDL particle number.
In a nutshell, it’s not the amount of cholesterol that is the main risk factor for heart disease but rather it’s the number of cholesterol-carrying LDL particles. The greater the number of LDL particles you have, the more likely it is that you also have oxidized LDL, which tend to be far more atherogenic.
Oxidized LDL is more harmful than normal nonoxidized LDL because it’s smaller and denser. This allows it to penetrate the lining of your arteries, where it stimulates plaque formation.
Some groups, such as the National Lipid Association, have started to shift the focus toward LDL particle number instead of total and LDL cholesterol, but it still has not hit mainstream. Fortunately, if you know about it, you can take control of your health and either ask your doctor for this test, or order it yourself.
There are several ways to test for your LDL particle number. The NMR LipoProfile is offered by a lab called Liposcience, and is the test used in most scientific studies on LDL particles. If your LDL particle number is high, chances are you have insulin and leptin resistance, as these are driving causes of high LDL particle numbers.
Endotoxins in your gut will also increase your LDL particle number, and thyroid dysfunction may be at play as well. In the video above, Chris Kresser, an acupuncturist and a licensed integrative medicine clinician, explains how LDL particle number is influenced via these and other mechanisms.
2014 Rule Gave Patients Direct Access to Lab Results
While there are hundreds of blood tests and other health screens available, the eight reviewed in this article are, I believe, among the most valuable, arming you with vital information you can then use to take proactive steps to protect and improve your health.
In case you've ever wondered if you can get your lab test results directly from the lab that conducted the testing, know that you do have that right. In 2014, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a final rule that grants individuals (or a person designated by the patient) direct access to their laboratory test reports without having to have them sent to a physician first.33
Clearly, doctors should not have exclusive rights to information about your body, but prior to this rule, this wasn't a guarantee. The final rule updated the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988, allowing laboratories to give patients direct access to their lab results.
Even so, it's not always as simple as it should be to get your results without going through your doctor. Laboratories may require patients to make requests for lab results in writing, and they may charge you extra to mail or electronically deliver them.
Further, the rule states that most results must be made available to patients within 30 days of the completion of testing, so depending on the contentiousness of the lab, you may have to wait weeks to find out crucial health information. Most tend to be fairly quick though.
By Dr. Mercola
Barbara Loe Fisher is the cofounder and president of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC). In this interview, we talk about influenza and pertussis vaccine failures, the business of vaccination and how you can stay healthy this flu season. On the upside, no vaccine exemptions in any state were lost this year, which makes it the third year in a row that we've been able to protect exemptions that allow you to follow your conscience or religious beliefs when it comes to vaccination.
Without doubt, the reason for this success is because so many of you have gotten involved, telling your legislators they must protect personal belief exemptions and the legal right to exercise vaccine freedom of choice. However, NVIC is predicting an onslaught of bills aimed at removing vaccine exemptions in 2019, so get ready to stand up for your rights!1
Annual Flu Vaccine Campaign Is Upon Us
This year, we timed Vaccine Awareness Week to coincide with the annual push for everyone to get a flu shot to make sure the subject is fresh in your mind. If you haven't seen it already, you'll soon be inundated with advertising and "friendly reminders" to get your annual flu shot.2
"What a lot of people don't stop to think about in the midst of all this advertising is that vaccinologists developed vaccines. Vaccinology is the science of vaccines. Vaccinologists do not understand how vaccines cause immunity in the body. They don't understand how an infection causes immunity in the body.
They've always had a problem with making vaccines that are effective and also safe, because they don't understand the biological mechanisms for vaccine injury and death. This is especially true for influenza vaccine, because influenza virus mutates rapidly. It's constantly changing.
There are different strains circulating every year. They have to guess which strains are going to be prevalent in any given year. The vaccine manufacturers then race to develop these annual seasonal flu vaccines.
But before we even talk about influenza vaccines, what a lot of people don't know is that the majority of respiratory illness out there every year is not due to type A or type B influenza. It's due to other types of respiratory viruses and bacterial infections that cause respiratory influenza-like illness," Fisher says.
Eighty Percent of Suspected Flu Cases Are Not Caused by Flu Virus
The most common respiratory illness would be the common cold, which is a rhinovirus and is not caused by influenza virus. As noted by Fisher, about 80 percent of suspected influenza case specimens sent for lab confirmation during the flu season turn out to be other viruses and bacteria — not type A or B influenza.3
"That's really important, because a lot of people think that when they get sick during the flu season, that they've got influenza," she says, "but most of the time they don't."
So, if most respiratory illnesses that occur during flu season are not caused by influenza A or B, just how important is the influenza vaccine, which protects only against these two types, and only three to four selected strains at that?
In the last 14 flu seasons, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has produced evidence showing the seasonal flu vaccine is less than 50 percent effective against circulating strains, more than half of the time.4
In the 2017 season, the vaccine was only 36 percent effective at best.5 More specifically, the CDC estimated last year's flu vaccine was 25 percent effective against the A(H3N2) virus; 67 percent effective against A(H1N1)pdm09 viruses and 42 percent effective against influenza B viruses. The majority of influenza last year was caused by the A(H3N2) virus, which was the least effective vaccine strain virus in the flu shot.
Quantifying Vaccine Effectiveness
Just how is influenza vaccine effectiveness quantified?6 As explained by Fisher, vaccine "efficacy" is determined through a clinical trial, in which two groups are compared. One group receives the vaccine and the other doesn't. The two groups are then compared to see how often lab confirmed influenza actually occurred.
"Effectiveness," on the other hand, is determined through real-world administration of the vaccine. After the fact, they assess how many vaccinated individuals ended up getting influenza anyway.
A third term to be aware of is "immunogenicity," which is a measurement of antibody titers, the numbers of antibodies in the blood produced after an inflammatory response to vaccination. However, immunity is not just about antibody titers. It's also about T cell-mediated immunity.
Historically, vaccinologists have relied upon antibody titers as a lab correlate for vaccine protection, even though the number of antibodies in the blood only measure one part of immunity — humoral immunity.7 Longer lasting natural immunity produced after recovery from infections involves both a cell-mediated and humoral immune response.
What You Need to Know About Your Immune System
Your immune system consists of two different branches — cell-mediated immunity (innate) and humoral immunity (adaptive). An infectious disease process involves a cell-mediated immune response to a pathogenic virus or bacteria, which activates your natural killer (NK) cells that send inflammatory mediators to the site of infection, where the white blood cells basically chew up and spit out the infected cells.
This process clears the virus and during recovery, your humoral immune system kicks in and starts generating antibodies to help prevent the same kind of disease process and symptoms from occurring again, should you be re-exposed to the same pathogenic virus or bacteria later on.
As long as your cell-mediated immune system is activated first and the humoral immune system is activated second, usually you will have long-lasting immunity against that pathogen.
Naturally acquired herd immunity comes into play when a very high percentage of individuals in a population have gone through this sequence of cell-mediated and humoral immune response to a viral or bacterial disease.
Vaccine-acquired "herd immunity" is a misnomer, however, because most vaccines provide an artificial immunity that leans heavily on stimulating an antibody response (humoral immunity), which is incomplete and more temporary than the longer lasting cell-mediated plus humoral immunity acquired after recovery from an infection.
Vaccine Science Is Still in Its Infancy
In fact, one of the major problems with vaccines is the fact that they disrupt the balance between your T-cells and the B-cells, which some researchers and clinicians believe radically increases your risk of cancer. Vaccinologists do not understand exactly how vaccines cause injury and death and also don't have correlates for immunity to accurately evaluate how well they work.8
"The bottom line here is — going way back to smallpox vaccine — they haven't really stopped to do the science. The science is still in its infancy. It's like they're guessing when they make these vaccines, because they don't have correlates to immunity," Fisher says.
"They do not understand how the vaccines act in the body, at the cellular, molecular level," Fisher says. "Now, some of this science is starting to be done. But these vaccines are being used by millions of people around the world without basic science knowledge.
People think [the vaccines] have been thoroughly tested. But they have not … They're simply producing more and more vaccines without really understanding what they're doing. This has been my take after 36 years of looking at the issue."
With Enough NK Cells, You Are Far Less Susceptible to Influenza
On a side note, albeit an important one considering our topic, researchers recently made a very interesting discovery: With enough NK cells in your system, you will not contract influenza.9,10 As reported by Live Science,11 a specific gene called KLRD1 "could serve as a proxy for a person's levels of natural killer cells."
KLRD1 is a receptor gene found on the surface of NK cells, and the level of KLRD1 found in a person's blood prior to exposure to the influenza virus was able to predict whether that individual would contract the flu with 86 percent accuracy.
According to senior study author Purvesh Khatri, associate professor of medicine and biomedical data science at Stanford University School of Medicine,12 KLRD1 is "the first biomarker that shows susceptibility to influenza, across multiple strains." As reported by Eurekalert:13
"[O]n the whole, those whose immune cells consisted of 10 to 13 percent natural killers [NK cells] did not succumb to the flu, whereas those whose natural killer cells fell short of 10 percent wound up ill.
It's a fine line, Khatri said, but the distinction between the groups is quite clear: Everyone who had 10 percent or more natural killer cells stood strong against the infection and showed no symptoms. Khatri said his findings could help health professionals understand who's at the highest risk for flu infection."
There are a number of ways to boost your NK cells, but vaccines are not on that list. Exercise,14 is one example. Foods and supplements known to increase NK cells include colostrum, medicinal mushrooms, probiotics, Panax ginseng and melatonin. To learn more, see "How to Improve Your Immune Function by Boosting NK Cells."
What Do We Know?
Getting back to influenza vaccines specifically, what we know is that:
You can have influenza and show few or no symptoms15
You can be vaccinated or unvaccinated and have asymptomatic influenza and shed the virus and transmit the disease16
About 80 percent of suspected influenza cases test negative for influenza in lab tests because most illness during the flu season is caused by microorganisms other than influenza A and B virus17
Between 2005 and 2015, the flu vaccine was less than 50 percent effective more than half of the time19
During the 2017 flu season, the overall adjusted vaccine effectiveness against influenza A and influenza B virus infection associated with medically attended acute respiratory illness was just 36 percent,20 meaning 64 percent of the time it offered no protection
Importantly, research has highlighted the link between influenza and severe sepsis — a progressive disease process initiated by an aggressive, dysfunctional immune response to an infection in the bloodstream (which is why it's sometimes referred to as blood poisoning).
There Are No Reliable Data on Influenza Mortality — It's All Guesswork
Taken together, what does this say for really getting a handle on how effective the vaccine is? Or how serious influenza is? The CDC still does not know how many people actually die from influenza each year. They know how many pediatric influenza-associated deaths occur because those are reportable by states, but no one is tracking deaths in adults over age 18.
Pediatric (age birth to 18 years) deaths associated with influenza have averaged about 130 per year for the last five or six years.21 In order to estimate adult flu mortality, public health officials have to guess, and they do that by combining pneumonia, influenza, circulatory and respiratory mortality statistics, from which they come up with an estimate of 12,000 to over 54,000 influenza-associated deaths every year.22
However, as noted above, there's no actual mortality data collected on influenza deaths in adults so influenza mortality statistics are "guestimates" and more than likely grossly inflated.23 Plus, the picture is further muddied by the fact that most suspected influenza cases test negative because most influenza-like illness is actually caused by organisms other than influenza A and B virus.
So, there's really no accuracy involved when you read or hear media reports that tens of thousands of Americans die from influenza each year. This number is based on an awful lot of assumptions backed by little to no real evidence. It's been a really effective fear tactic, however.
The Marketing of Fear
Up until the year 2000, the influenza vaccine was routinely recommended for people over 65 and/or anyone with lung-related disease. The market was less than 5 percent of the population in total. Then, the age at which you were advised to get an annual flu shot was lowered to 50.
By 2008, annual flu shots were recommended for all healthy children between 6 months and 18 years of age and, then, the CDC told all Americans to get an annual flu shot every single year throughout life.24
"Every single American over the age of 6 months through the year of death should now get an annual flu shot — with absolutely no scientific basis for that recommendation, other than fear," Fisher says.
"We have, in 2017, a nearly $4 billion-a-year influenza vaccine market globally, predicted to reach over $11 billion by 2025. Certainly, if every single person in this country gets a flu shot every year, this is an unimaginable profit-making business for vaccine manufacturers.25
But there are risks associated with influenza vaccine. It is the most compensated vaccine in the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) … About one-third of the total awards [are for flu vaccine injuries]. It now has surpassed pertussis-containing vaccines, which was the leading vaccine. Now, influenza vaccine is No. 1 …26
And you're going to see that number go up. We have over 152,000 reports in the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) that are associated with influenza vaccine, including several thousand deaths. And the government admits only 1 percent of all vaccine adverse events are ever reported."27
While fear is used to promote the use of influenza vaccine, no one is talking about the fact that the vaccine can cause injury and death.28 The most common serious adverse events are brain inflammation, demyelination, Guillain-Barre syndrome and Bell's palsy. The 2009 pandemic influenza vaccine was associated with narcolepsy, which is a very rare form of brain dysfunction.
The CDC recommends that pregnant women get a flu shot during every pregnancy in any trimester, but the vaccine was not tested or licensed for use in pregnant women.29 In 2017, there was a report published in the medical literature raising the question of an increased risk of miscarriage within 28 days of influenza vaccination.30
Part of the problem is that no studies have been done to determine who might be at high-risk for a vaccine reaction, just as there are few studies to determine immune correlates for influenza virus infections.31 As noted by Fisher, "people are being vaccinated in a vacuum of scientific knowledge."
Flu Vaccine Ingredients Associated With Adverse Reactions
Aside from the actual vaccine proteins in the vaccine, which are supposed to stimulate an antibody response, the influenza vaccine also contains hazardous ingredients like the mercury preservative, thimerosal.32 Mercury is known to be neurotoxic to humans even at low levels.33
Thimerosal is not in single-dose vials of the injectable inactivated flu vaccine, but is still in multi-dose vials (the live nasal spray flu vaccine does not contain thimerosal). If you don't want a mercury-containing flu vaccine, you need to look at the list of ingredients, which you can find on the manufacturer product information package insert.
"The [vaccine] is supposed to be [mercury-free] for infants and pregnant women," Fisher says, estimating there are about 3 to 4 million single doses of mercury-free flu vaccines produced annually in the U.S.
"There's also a live virus vaccine that is sprayed up the nose. That vaccine was discontinued for a time. The CDC did not recommend it in 2016 and 2017 because it was so ineffective. Well, guess what? They've now reapproved it and said, 'Okay. You can use it this year.'"
There are now many different kinds of influenza vaccines, such as those containing three or four influenza virus strains, which are inactivated and injected, as well as the "live" virus vaccine sprayed up the nose that Fisher mentions; vaccines using chicken eggs or genetically engineered dog kidney or army worm cells; vaccines that contain squalene-type adjuvants, which have been associated with autoimmune disorders, and vaccines that are "high dose" and contain four times the amount of antigen as the standard vaccine.34
Again, if you make the choice to get a flu shot, be sure to ask the person administering the vaccine to let you see the manufacturer product information insert that comes with each vial of vaccine before you get vaccinated, so you know which type of flu vaccine you're getting.
Natural Strategies Offer Powerful Health Benefits
Rather than using an historically ineffective strategy associated with significant complications and even deaths, why not use what has been shown to work, and costs next to nothing? Four effective strategies to support immune function and provide powerful health benefits — which are ideally done together — are:
- Optimizing your vitamin D. Measure your vitamin D level twice a year, in summer and winter, and make sure you're within the ideal range of 60 to 80 ng/mL — especially as flu season approaches.
- Eliminate added sugars and processed foods from your diet. This is a major component, as these impair your immune function. Also avoid eating within three hours of bedtime, as late-night eating results in metabolic complications, one of which is the impairment of your immune system.
- Exercise regularly and move more on a daily basis.
- Get plenty of restorative sleep. Some of the healthiest people I know, when they travel, get stressed, or for whatever reason cannot sleep well for a few days, that's when they get sick. It's really one of the most profoundly important variables for your health.
Pertussis Vaccine Update
Another vaccine Fisher discusses in this update is the pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine. It too has an extraordinary failure rate, and that includes both the old whole-cell pertussis vaccine, aka diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus (DPT) vaccine used in the U.S. until the late 1990s, and the acellular pertussis vaccine (DTaP) that was licensed for babies in 1996 to replace it.
You may have heard reports stating that acellular pertussis vaccine is not as effective as whole-cell vaccine. But this is extremely deceptive because the whole-cell pertussis vaccine has been known to be ineffective for over three decades,35 and the CDC admitted in 2012 that "the US B. pertussis population has evolved in the time since vaccinations were introduced in the 1940s."36
"The Bordetella pertussis bacteria started mutating after widespread use of whole-cell DPT vaccine in the late 1940s. That's when the B. pertussis bacteria started to mutate.37 It accelerated with acellular vaccine because of the components they had in that vaccine, which was two-thirds less reactive than the whole-cell vaccine," Fisher explains.
"Whole-cell DPT vaccine was the reason Congress passed the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act (NCVIA), because it was causing so many cases of brain inflammation that there were lawsuits all over the place. The manufacturers blackmailed Congress into giving them partial liability protection [in 1986].38
The Supreme Court gave them full liability protection [in 2011], but it was on the back of whole-cell DPT vaccine, which has hurt so many children. (And is still being used in countries around the world.)
Now there are calls by Dr. Paul Offit and others to bring back the whole-cell pertussis vaccine into the U.S. for infants, at least one or two doses;39 they say they should never have made the switch from whole-cell to acellular vaccine.40
I think it is absolutely unconscionable that they would even be discussing bringing whole-cell pertussis vaccine back, when that was the vaccine that caused so many problems and was the reason Congress gave [manufacturers] liability protection.
I am finishing a book on this subject, on the 'Promise and Reality of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986.' I'll be discussing whole-cell pertussis vaccine and pertussis [in that book] and how they are both failed vaccines."
Recent research suggests the old whole-cell pertussis vaccine in DPT may provide longer lasting protection than the acellular vaccine in DTaP. While there was evidence published in 2014 that neither whole cell pertussis vaccines nor acellular pertussis vaccines block infection and transmission of the disease,41 it appears that those who have gotten whole cell DPT vaccine may clear the infection more rapidly than those who have gotten acellular DTaP vaccine.42
However, neither vaccine protects against current circulating B. pertussis strains that have evolved over the years to evade the vaccines.43 The highly reactive whole cell DPT vaccine is still a failed vaccine, both in terms of safety and ineffectiveness, and to bring it back would be an absolute travesty.
When it comes to vaccines, there's a risk-benefit analysis that needs to be made, but rarely is it taken into account. Clearly, children die from complications of diseases such as whooping cough and measles each year, mostly in developing countries where many families live with poverty, poor sanitation, poor nutrition and little access to health care.
However, vaccines also have serious side effects and it is unknown how many children are having vaccine reactions that are ignored and lead to chronic poor health or even end in death.
The vaccine intervention program is not free of risk, yet sound benefit-risk analyses based on credible scientific evidence are largely nonexistent. As noted by Fisher, the risk-benefit analysis she and Harris Coulter, PhD, coauthors of the ground-breaking 1985 book "DPT: A Shot in the Dark," conducted for whole cell pertussis vaccine argued against routine use of the reactive whole cell pertussis vaccine.
"When we did the analysis [on whole-cell pertussis vaccine] using the methods scientists use, we came to the conclusion that you actually had more cases of brain injury and death WITH the whole-cell pertussis vaccine than you did if pertussis was endemic in the society. I haven't done it for acellular vaccine, because it is two-thirds less reactive.
But the point is that when you don't have the science to define and develop pathological profiles to separate out what is vaccine-induced and what is not — when you don't understand who is vulnerable to brain inflammation and immune system dysfunction after vaccination — you are really going forward in a vacuum of knowledge, especially when it's shown that the vaccines aren't effective at blocking infection and transmission …
It's very hard to do these analyses when you have a vacuum of scientific knowledge. However, we've gone from one dose or two doses of smallpox vaccine in the early 20th century to 69 doses of 16 vaccines given between the day of birth and age 18.
And we now have more chronically ill and disabled children in this country than we have ever had. I'm not saying it's all due to vaccines. But what manipulates atypically the immune system more frequently than any other medical intervention? Vaccination.
Granted we have processed foods … GMOs … pesticide exposures … environmental pollution … toxic exposures that are in addition to these vaccines, but vaccines atypically manipulate the immune system.
They don't understand everything that the vaccines do. They have not tested the ingredients separately and they do not test them well enough in combinations. Some children are getting nine to 10 vaccines on one day. How does the body sort all that out?"
Vaccine Manufacturers Have No Incentive to Make Safer Vaccines
As mentioned earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court has given manufacturers of CDC recommended vaccines for children full liability protection, so when you or your child suffers a serious injury after vaccination, the manufacturer is not held responsible.
The CDC recommends that pregnant women get a flu shot during every pregnancy, but the influenza vaccine was not tested or licensed for use in pregnant women before the CDC recommended all pregnant women get vaccinated during any trimester.44 In 2017, there was a report about the risk of miscarriage within 28 days of vaccination.45
The 21st Century Cures Act of 2016 expanded vaccine liability protection, giving liability protection to manufacturers making and selling vaccines for pregnant women. This protection shields the companies from liability should anything happen to either the mother as a result of vaccination during pregnancy or when her developing infant dies in the womb or is born alive damaged.46
In addition to vaccines recommended by the CDC for children, vaccines designated by federal health officials as "bioterrorism" vaccines also have liability protection under the Bioshield legislation passed by Congress post-9/11.47 This liability protection extends to all pandemic influenza vaccines as well.48
What this means is that vaccine manufacturers have absolutely no reason to address the safety or the effectiveness of vaccines, because they have no economic incentive to make safer, more effective vaccines.
Fisher's new book will delve into this at much greater depth, and this book and documents related to the history of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 will be offered free of charge posted on NVIC's website — something made possible in part by your donations, which I, each year during Vaccine Awareness Week, match dollar for dollar.
Informed Consent Is a Crucial Human Rights Principle
Even though I wouldn't personally vaccinate myself or my family, my position, which NVIC shares, is that you need to evaluate the circumstances for yourself and really focus on safety and, then, based on your individual situation, choose the best option.
This is because, ultimately, you are responsible for the health of yourself and your family, especially your children. But, it has to be an informed, responsible decision. You can't just blindly trust a vaccine industry that is motivated by profit and protected from liability to provide you with the whole truth and nothing but the truth. As noted by Fisher:
"With the informed consent principle, you have the right as a consumer to have full information about the benefits and risks of any pharmaceutical product and be able to make a free and voluntary decision.
It's a principle that has been defined as a human right with regard to medical interventions that can cause injury and death. Vaccination is one of those interventions. The informed consent principle is worth standing up for. I'm proud to be associated with Mercola.com, because you have stood firm on that concept."
I urge you to help us spread these important messages by making a donation to NVIC. As in previous years, I will match all donations made this week. The NVIC has been very successful so far, in its educational approach. As Fisher noted earlier, there hasn't been a successful attempt at removing vaccine exemptions in the U.S. in any state since 2015. We need to stand strong and keep that going.
"This fight is going to go on for a long time," Fisher says. "But part of the problem is the censorship and trying to silence, marginalize and shun people who ask questions about the vaccine science, which really has huge gaps in it.
It's important for people to be brave and to talk about when they have a reaction to a vaccine — to get on social media and talk about it. That connects everybody and the whole world.
I call it 'witnessing in the public square.' It's part of what we do at NVIC. I think it's important for people to not be afraid to stand up and talk about this, no matter how much pressure they get. Only through shining a light on the truth will we be able to stay free."
Chinese cuisine is as diverse as the culture of its citizens. Cantonese cuisine, for example, is known for its steamed and stir-fried dishes. Szechuan cuisine on the other hand, is known for its use of peppercorns that give its dishes a distinct bold and spicy flavor. Popular examples of Chinese dishes that have become famous around the world include dim sum and spring rolls, both of which you may have eaten before.
Aside from dishes, certain condiments from China also have become well-known for their various uses. One good example is hoisin sauce, which has a diverse range of applications, such as dips and marinades. If you haven’t tried hoisin sauce before, I encourage you to give it a try to give your foods a new flavor.
What Is Hoisin Sauce?
The origins of hoisin sauce are quite vague and have been lost in the passage of time. According to Fuchsia Dunlop, a scholar specializing in Chinese cuisine, historians believe that hoisin sauce has Cantonese origins, and that the word was originally a generic term used for seafood sauces.
That’s because hoisin sauce originally had either a bean or wheat sauce as the base that was mixed with a dried/fermented seafood ingredient to provide more umami (savory) flavor. As time went on, the seafood component was decreased due to cost, explaining why hoisin sauce today is no longer made with any seafood-based ingredients.
The hoisin sauce sold in most stores today is made from a mixture of soybeans, sugar, garlic, chilies and five-spice powder. It’s commonly added to salmon, stir-fries and chicken to give them a distinctive taste that only hoisin sauce can provide. The closest thing most people compare hoisin sauce with is American barbecue sauce, but only saltier, richer and less sweet.
Used moderately, the calories in hoisin sauce are quite low — only 35.2 per tablespoon. However, be aware of the nutritional content of hoisin sauce. In a single tablespoon alone, you already have 258.4 milligrams of sodium due to its use of soy sauce, which can throw your sodium-potassium ratio off balance. The chart below gives you an insight on other nutrients found in hoisin sauce:
How to Make Gluten-Free Hoisin Sauce
Traditional hoisin sauce generally contains sugar, but this can have negative effects on your health when used in your cooking. If you want to savor the taste of this condiment without the dangers of sugar, try this homemade hoisin sauce recipe, which uses all-natural ingredients:Ingredients:
- Juice of an orange (remove the pits)
- 2 tablespoons almond butter
- 1 tablespoon garlic, grated
- 1 tablespoon ginger, grated
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon raw honey
- 5 tablespoons gluten-free soy sauce
- 1/2 tablespoon Chinese Five Spice powder
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
- 1 teaspoon tomato paste
- Add all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat.
- Bring ingredients to a boil, then turn the heat down to very low.
- Whisk and simmer gently for five minutes, stirring frequently to prevent the sauce from sticking to the pan.
- Set aside in a ramekin. Leftovers can last up to two weeks when stored in an airtight container.
Cooking With Hoisin Sauce
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1.33 pounds boneless, skinless free-range chicken breasts, cut into chunks
- 2 teaspoons minced ginger
- 1/3 cup homemade hoisin sauce
- 2 tablespoons chili garlic paste (or Sriracha sauce)
- 2 tablespoons water
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the oil over medium high heat.
- Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper, then place into the skillet.
- Stir the chicken for four to five minutes until all sides are browned.
- Add the ginger and cook for an additional 30 seconds, then add the hoisin sauce, water and chili paste (or sriracha).
- Stir and bring to a simmer then serve.
- 1.5 pounds broccoli, cut into chunks
- 1 teaspoon coconut oil
- 1 whole garlic, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon ginger root, finely chopped
- 3 green onions, chopped
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon organic soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon homemade hoisin sauce
- Heat the coconut oil in a wok or skillet on high. Add the garlic, ginger and green onions, then cook for 30 seconds.
- Add the broccoli and stir-fry for around two minutes.
- Add the water, soy sauce and hoisin sauce, bringing all the ingredients to a boil.
- Continue cooking, stirring for three to four minutes until the broccoli is glazed.
Hoisin Sauce Substitutes You Can Try
If you don’t have authentic hoisin sauce at home, or have no time to make the recipe above, you may be able to create a replica using only a few ingredients. According to PepperScale, you may use barbecue sauce as the base ingredient, then add in Sriracha and Chinese five-spice powder to give the concoction a “hoisin” taste.
The resulting flavor won’t be an exact replica of authentic hoisin sauce, but it is effective for situations when you need to use it in a dish right away and you only have few ingredients at home. To enhance the taste further, you may add some sesame oil.
- Chee hau sauce: Chee hau sauce also contains soybeans and garlic, giving it a near-similar taste to hoisin sauce. The only difference is that chee hau sauce uses more chili peppers.
- Apple butter: Adding soy sauce, garlic and five-powder spice to this condiment can help give it a similar taste to hoisin sauce.
It’s Better to Make Your Own Homemade Hoisin Sauce
As mentioned, traditional hoisin sauce contains sugar, which may negatively affect your health and prevent you from enjoying this Chinese delicacy. I recommend that you make your own sauce at home using high-quality ingredients that negate the need for sugar. This will help you enjoy the sauce without compromising your health.
Frequently Asked Questions About Hoisin Sauce
Q: Is hoisin sauce vegan?
A: The answer depends on what recipe you are following. In the recipe used in this article, the hoisin sauce has honey, which is made by bees. If you’re a vegan, you may replace honey with vegan-approved alternatives.
Q: Is hoisin sauce gluten-free?
A: Yes. Gluten only comes from grains, which hoisin sauce does not have.
Q: What does hoisin sauce taste like?
A: The taste of hoisin sauce is likened to American barbecue sauce, but saltier, richer and less sweet.
Q: What is hoisin sauce made of?
A: Traditional hoisin sauce is usually made of soy sauce, flour, sugar, water, various spices, garlic and chili.
Q: What is hoisin sauce used for?
A: The sauce can be added to different recipes in various ways such as chicken, seafood and stir-fried vegetables.
Q: Where can you buy hoisin sauce?
A: Hoisin sauce is conveniently purchased at your local stores or online. If you don’t have the time to make your own hoisin sauce, make sure that your preferred product is organic, sugar-free and uses high-quality ingredients.
Mucus, the sticky fluid that your body produces and expels whenever you’re struggling with a cold, actually has multiple purposes. It acts as a protective blanket over tissues to keep them from drying out, traps unwanted substances like dust and dirt before they enter the body, and provides antibodies that fight and kill harmful organisms such as bacteria and viruses, to keep your body healthy.
Even when you're in the pink of health, your body produces a huge amount of mucus — as much as 1 to 1.5 liters (34 to 51 ounces) every day!1 But what happens when your body produces unnaturally large amounts of mucus regularly, and instead of being thin and slippery, it becomes extremely thick and sticky?
This is what people with cystic fibrosis have to deal with. Cystic fibrosis may seem like a simple and treatable condition but, on the contrary, it can be dangerous. If not diagnosed early or managed properly, cystic fibrosis can hamper a person’s quality of life and even lead to early death.
Defining Cystic Fibrosis
Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic disease that is characterized by unnaturally thick and sticky mucus buildup that can harm the body’s organs, particularly the lungs and pancreas.2 Over time, the airways become clogged with mucus, not only making it difficult for you to breathe, but also allowing germs to become trapped in the body, leading to severe infections.3
Another effect of this disease is the formation of fluid-filled sacs, which are called cysts, and scar tissue, also known as fibrosis — this is actually how the disease acquired its name.4 There are different types of cystic fibrosis mutations that can cause this illness. Depending on the genes that a person carries, the condition may manifest different symptoms.5
Symptoms of cystic fibrosis may also vary in severity. In some patients, the symptoms may appear in childhood, and may either worsen or improve as time passes. In others, no symptoms appear until the affected child reaches adolescence or adulthood.6
Cystic fibrosis is not contagious but, unfortunately, it’s incurable. However, significant improvements have been made in terms of management and treatment of this disease. During the 1950s, CF patients died before they could attend elementary school, but today, most people live into their 40s, 50s or even beyond.7
Learn How to Deal With Cystic Fibrosis by Reading These Pages
The life expectancy of a person with this disease depends on the severity of the disease and the type of cystic fibrosis gene mutation he or she has. The age of diagnosis may also affect life expectancy, which is why it’s crucial to diagnose this illness as soon as possible. With routine therapies and healthy habits, CF patients can lead an almost normal, active life.
Read these pages to learn everything you need to know about cystic fibrosis — the mutations that cause it, the common symptoms, treatment options and complications to watch out for. By arming yourself with this information, you can properly manage this disease and prolong your longevity.8
Rooibos tea has been a popular herbal tea in South Africa for centuries. It's also recently gained popularity among tea drinkers worldwide for being a palatable alternative to green and black tea, which has a bitter taste. Another sought-after characteristic of rooibos tea is its ample antioxidants, which give it its valuable health benefits.
What Is Rooibos Tea?
Rooibos tea, also known as red tea or red bush tea, is an herbal tea that's derived from the Aspalathus linearis plant, a bush native to the mountainous region of Cederberg in South Africa.
The methods used to make organic rooibos tea today are still relatively similar to the processes used more than a hundred years ago. Only the young branches of the Aspalathus linearis plant are used to make the tea. After being harvested, the stems and leaves are then bruised and left to ferment and oxidize.1
The oxidation and fermentation processes give rooibos its distinct reddish brown color, hence the name "red tea." You should keep in mind, though, that there are other types of tea that are called red tea, even though they're entirely different from rooibos. This includes some black teas and hibiscus tea.2,3
This tea comes in an unfermented variant as well, which is characterized by its green color and grassy taste. Green rooibos is usually more expensive than the traditional red ones, since it contains higher amounts of antioxidants. Rooibos tea also contains other valuable nutrients, which may contribute to its wide array of health benefits.4
Get to Know the Many Health Benefits of Rooibos Tea
Traditionally used to treat different kinds of ailments, the healing properties of rooibos tea have been a subject of numerous studies over the past years. Results show that its high antioxidant content, together with certain minerals, may help provide numerous health benefits, which include:5,6,7,8
Protects cells against free radicals — Rooibos contains aspalathin and quercetin, which are powerful antioxidants that can help protect the cells against damage caused by free radicals.
Reduces the risk of cancer — Studies have shown that the antioxidants found in rooibos tea, particularly quercetin and luteolin, can help reduce your risk of cancer by killing cancer cells and inhibiting tumor growth.
Improves heart health — According to studies,9 rooibos tea may help improve heart health by inhibiting the angiotensin-converting enzyme. This enzyme causes blood vessels to contract, indirectly increasing blood pressure levels.
Rooibos tea may also help reduce the bad cholesterol in your body, which may further decrease your chances of developing heart diseases.
Regulates blood glucose levels — The aspalathin found in rooibos tea has an antidiabetic effect, which may help lower blood sugar levels and reduce the risk for Type 2 diabetes.
Promotes healthy skin and hair — Since rooibos is rich in antioxidants, it can help protect the skin and hair against the negative effects of free radicals. It also contains alpha hydroxy acid, which is found to be helpful in alleviating skin conditions.10
Maintains healthy brain function — Research shows that regular intake of rooibos tea may help protect the brain against lipid peroxides, ultimately delaying brain aging and preventing deteriorating brain disorders like Alzheimer's disease.11
In addition to the health benefits mentioned above, rooibos tea is believed to be helpful in enhancing appetite, improving sleep, and alleviating allergies and headaches. Currently, only anecdotal reports are available to support these benefits, so further research is still needed to confirm them.12
Rooibos Tea Nutrition Facts
Rooibos is clearly on a par with other types of tea when it comes to antioxidants. As mentioned above, some of its free radical-fighting compounds include aspalathin, luteolin and quercetin. It also contains trace amounts of iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium.13
What makes rooibos tea even better is that it has lower levels of tannins, which are linked to poor absorption of certain nutrients. It also does not contain oxalic acid, a compound that can increase the risk of kidney stones.14
Caffeine Content of Rooibos Tea
Even though caffeine is a natural stimulant that may provide positive effects to the body, it can cause palpitations, increased anxiety and other undesirable effects if consumed in high amounts. This is exactly why some tea drinkers are in the search for a type of tea that does not contain caffeine. So, the question is, does rooibos tea have caffeine?
The answer is that rooibos tea is naturally caffeine-free,15 which makes it an excellent alternative to green tea and black tea. People who are bothered with sleep problems when they drink caffeinated beverages can safely drink this tea before bedtime without sacrificing their good night's sleep.
And, because it's caffeine-free, you can also consume this tea without the risk of developing caffeine addiction, which is actually quite common and can lead to withdrawal symptoms such as headache, fatigue and decreased alertness.
How to Make a Good Cup of Rooibos Tea
The brewing process for rooibos is relatively similar to that of other teas. The only difference is that it may require a different steeping time and temperature. Here's a guide on how to brew a good cup of rooibos tea on your own:16,17,18
- Use boiling water — Steeping rooibos tea in boiling water makes for a better taste. Make sure that you keep the water hot the entire steeping time. You can do this by placing the cup of tea near a hot surface, like the stove or burner that you just used.
- Allow it to steep longer — Rooibos tea requires a longer steeping time than other types of tea, so it's best to steep it for at least five minutes.
- Adjust the serving of tea according to your preference — It's generally recommended to add 1 teaspoon of rooibos tea per 8 ounces of water. However, this serving is not set in stone, and you may adjust the amount according to your taste.
Although rooibos is already semi-sweet, some people still prefer to serve it with milk and sugar. I suggest that you leave out these ingredients, especially sugar, if you're after the health benefits of rooibos tea.
Try This Homemade Rooibos Iced Tea Recipe
Now that you know how to brew a delectable cup of rooibos tea, try to make this homemade rooibos iced tea recipe the next time you're looking for a healthy and refreshing drink:
Invigorating Rooibos Iced Tea Recipe
- Place the teabags, lemon, mint leaves and stevia in a large pot. Pour boiling water over them and let them steep.
- Stir occasionally until cold.
- Remove the teabags when the tea is cold, and then refrigerate.
(Recipe adapted from Genius Kitchen19)
The recipe above takes only five minutes to make, and can serve up to 12 people. As mentioned earlier, you can tweak the amount of rooibos tea that you want to brew depending on how strong you prefer your tea.
How You Should Store Rooibos Tea
Just like other types of tea, rooibos must be handled and stored properly to retain its flavor and nutrients. Store it in a clean, dry area that's not exposed to sunlight.20 It's best to keep it away from other foods with strong odors, such as coffee and spices.
You should also put it in an opaque, airtight container to keep it from absorbing odor and moisture from the air. Avoid using plastic containers, as they can transfer chemicals and odors into the tea. Use glass, tin or aluminum containers instead.21
Possible Rooibos Tea Side Effects and Interactions That You Should Be Aware Of
While rooibos tea is generally very safe to drink, since it has low levels of tannins and is free of caffeine and oxalic acid, there are still a few reported cases wherein it caused undesirable effects, which include:22,23
- Increased liver enzymes — According to a case study, consuming high amounts of rooibos tea daily may increase liver enzymes, which can lead to liver problems. If you have a form of liver disorder, talk to your doctor first before drinking rooibos tea.
- Estrogenic activity — The compounds in rooibos tea may stimulate estrogenic activity, so it's not recommended for people who are at a higher risk of developing hormone-sensitive cancer, such as breast cancer.
There is not enough evidence to determine if rooibos tea is safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Remember that it's always better to be on the safe side, so if you have any doubts regarding the safety of this tea, consult your doctor first before drinking it to avoid any adverse effects.24
Choose and Prepare Your Rooibos Tea Properly to Prevent Bacterial Infection
According to a study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture in 2014, the processing methods of rooibos tea may predispose it to salmonella contamination.25 Salmonella is one of the leading culprits behind foodborne illnesses, and it may even cause death in extreme cases.26
Currently, ozone treatment and salmonella-specific bacteriophages are being used to control salmonella contamination in rooibos tea. If you're planning to include this tea in your diet, make sure to purchase it from manufacturers that use these preventive methods to ensure your safety.
You can also prevent falling victim to the life-threatening health issues caused by salmonella by following the proper boiling instructions for rooibos tea. Always use boiling water to kill any harmful microorganisms in the tea.27
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Rooibos Tea
Q: Is rooibos tea caffeine-free?
A: Rooibos tea is a caffeine-free herbal tea, which makes it a good alternative to the "true teas" that contain caffeine such as green tea and black tea.28
Q: Is rooibos tea good for you?
A: Rooibos tea is undoubtedly good for your overall health, thanks to its abundant antioxidant content. These antioxidants not only help fight the effects of free radicals, but also deliver numerous health benefits, such as:29,30,31,32
- Lower blood pressure levels
- Improved heart and bone health
- Reduced risk of diseases, such as cancer and diabetes
- Healthier skin and hair
- Stronger immune system
Q: What does rooibos tea taste like?
A: The traditional red rooibos tea has a naturally sweet, nutty taste, whereas its green variant has a strong malty and slightly grassy flavor.33
Q: Is rooibos tea acidic or alkaline?
Q: Is rooibos tea a diuretic?
A: Rooibos tea is a natural diuretic, so it may help cleanse your body, flush out toxins and promote weight loss.36
Q: Is rooibos tea safe to drink during pregnancy?
A: Further research is still needed to determine whether rooibos tea is safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women or not. Because of the insufficient evidence to confirm its safety, you should consult your doctor before drinking this tea.37
Q: Does rooibos tea stain your teeth?
A: Rooibos tea will not stain your teeth, since it doesn't contain teeth-staining ingredients like tannin.38
Q: How do you use rooibos tea for treating acne?
A: Regularly drinking rooibos tea may help alleviate acne, since it contains antioxidants and alpha hydroxy acid, which can promote healthy skin. You may also opt to apply the brewed tea directly on your skin after it cools down to room temperature.39
Q: Where can you buy rooibos tea?
A: Rooibos tea is widely available in most groceries due to its rising popularity among tea drinkers. Make sure that you buy trusted organic brands to guarantee that it underwent safe and unadulterated production methods.
By Dr. Mercola
If you live in the U.S., there’s a good chance you don’t put much thought into the best position in which to poop. You simply sit down on the toilet and let nature take its course. Except, for some people, this process isn’t simple at all. Up to 27 percent of adults may be chronically constipated,1 which can lead to other problems like anal fissures, rectal prolapse, fecal incontinence and urologic disorders.2
Meanwhile, so-called “pressure diseases,” such as hemorrhoids, varicose veins, diverticulitis and hiatal hernia (in which part of your stomach pushes up through your diaphragm), which may relate to straining excessively to have a bowel movement, are about 25 times more common in the U.S. than they are in rural Africa.3 What’s different? Many things, such as much of the African population eating a traditional, nonprocessed and fiber-rich diet, and using a squatting position to poop.
This latter item may seem inconsequential, but it’s the way humans have been pooping for hundreds of thousands of years. The flush toilet wasn’t even invented until 1596 and didn’t become widely used until 1851.4
Prior to this, elimination took place via chamber pots, outhouses or simply outdoors, sometimes using holes in the ground. As the variety of latrine changed, so, too, did the pooping position, and this swap of sitting for squatting could be having negative consequences on human health.
The Problem With Sitting to Poop
Your puborectalis muscle is an important one, helping you to control elimination during a bowel movement and prevent incontinence when you’re standing. However, when you sit on a typical toilet, this muscle cannot fully relax, which is why you may need to push or even strain in order to have a bowel movement. While squatting, however, the muscle relaxes fully, making elimination easier. Dr. Michael Greger explained via Nutrition Facts:5
“For hundreds of thousands of years, everyone used the squatting position, which may help by straightening the “anorectal angle.” There’s actually a kink at almost a 90-degree angle right at the end of the rectum that helps keep us from pooping our pants when we’re just out walking around.
That angle only slightly straightens out in a common sitting posture on the toilet. Maximal straightening out of this angle occurs in a squatting posture, potentially permitting smoother defecation.”
That the anorectal angle straightens out via squatting is not a fact based on hearsay. In 1966, researchers conducted a study involving latex tubes filled with fluid that showed up on X-rays. Using volunteers, the tubes were inserted and X-rayed as the participants moved in various positions.6 In 2003, researchers conducted a study to compare how long it took people to eliminate while using different positions: sitting on a standard toilet, sitting on a lower toilet or squatting.
Compared to either sitting position, squatting significantly reduced both the time needed for elimination as well as the self-reported amount of straining necessary. “[S]ensation of satisfactory bowel emptying in sitting defecation posture necessitates excessive expulsive effort compared to the squatting posture,” the researchers concluded.7
Again in 2010, researchers examined the influence of body position on defecation in humans. The study was small — only six participants — but it also revealed that “the greater the hip flexion achieved by squatting, the straighter the rectoanal canal will be and, accordingly, less strain will be required for defecation.”8
Could Squatting Reduce the Risk of Certain Diseases?
If squatting makes it easier to eliminate and thereby reduces rates of constipation, it could lead to significant benefits to overall health. For instance, chronic pushing and painful stools may predispose you to large hemorrhoids, which are irritating and painful.
Your colon was designed to hold a few pounds of stool, but when constipated your colon may hold up to 10 pounds of dry, hard feces. Just the sheer volume of stool can stretch your colon, irritate the lining of the colon (mucosa) and produce toxins while waiting to be eliminated from the body.
Chronic constipation can also lead to tearing of the anus, called an anal fissure. These fissures are caused by trauma to the inner lining of the anus, often before a large, dry stool.9 Chronic constipation can also affect the genital and urinary health of women.
Because the colon and female reproductive organs are structurally close in the body, pressure from large amounts of stool in the colon can lead to rectal prolapse in the vagina,10 and increase the potential that the bladder will not empty completely or result in reflux of urine from the bladder back into the kidneys, called vesicoureteral reflux.11
This reflux causes permanent kidney damage and increases the risk of kidney infections. Pushing large, hard stool from the rectum can also result in some of your intestines protruding from the anus, called rectal prolapse. Chronic constipation is a recurring problem in 30 percent to 67 percent of patients who suffer from rectal prolapse.12
This requires surgery to repair. When people decide to postpone the surgery, they risk stretching the anal sphincter even further and increasing the amount of intestines that protrude from the body. Chronic constipation has even been linked to rectal cancer, gastric cancer, diverticulitis and ischemic colitis.13 Writing in the journal Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms, researchers further noted:14
“Historically, man has squatted in order to defecate. In Western countries, the dissemination of the sitting toilet took place during the 19th century when sewage systems were developed to improve sanitation. In contrast to Western countries, in Asian and African countries, their dietary habits and use of a squatting posture might contribute to the very low incidence of hemorrhoids, constipation and diverticulosis.
In addition, lower abdominal pressure on squatting defecation might reduce the risk of defecation syncope, deep vein thrombosis and stroke. Therefore, a new toiletry commode incorporating both Western and Eastern approaches is anticipated.”
Do Potty Stools Work?
There are a number of stools on the market designed to help you squat while using a toilet. Do they work? Greger explained:15
“[T]hey don’t seem to work. Researchers tried adding a footstool to decrease sitting height, but it didn’t seem to significantly affect the time it took to empty one’s bowels or decrease the difficulty of defecating. They tried even higher footstools, but people complained of extreme discomfort using them. Nothing seemed to compare with actual squatting, which may give the maximum advantage.”
If you live in the U.S., you can achieve this advantage by squatting on top of your toilet, which does require strength, flexibility and balance, especially if you’re not used to this method. Another option is use of a simple footstool to help you get into a more “squatty” position.
Greger also suggested leaning forward as you sit on the toilet, with your hands on or near the floor. “[R]esearchers advise all sufferers from constipation to adopt this forward-leaning position when defecating, as the weight of our torso pressing against the thighs may put an extra squeeze on our colons,” he said.16
Indeed, if your bowel habits are normal you may feel less inclined to try a new pooping position, but you may be pleasantly surprised if you do so. If you have trouble with bowel movements, especially constipation, I urge you to give the squat position a try and get closer to the ideal position even if you've been sitting for decades.
Having Trouble Eliminating? Address Your Lifestyle
Squatting can help you to eliminate if you’re constipated, but it won’t address the reasons why you’re struggling with constipation in the first place. And this is extremely important for optimal health. First off, be sure you are well hydrated, drinking plenty of pure water daily.
The best way to determine how much water you need is to listen to your body and let thirst be your guide. Water is important because as the stool travels through your intestines your body removes water. If you are well hydrated, less water may be removed, leaving the stool softer and easier to pass.
The fiber in your stool will help to draw more water and keep the stool soft. This is why your doctor probably recommends increasing the amount of fiber in your diet to help relieve constipation. However, be aware that if you're eating a high-fiber diet but not staying hydrated the stool will still get hard and be more difficult to pass. A general recommendation is to make sure you get 20 to 30 grams of fiber per day, but I believe about 25 to 50 grams per 1,000 calories consumed is ideal.
Skip loading up on grains for their fiber content, choosing primarily vegetables instead. Many whole foods, especially fruits and vegetables, naturally contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, which serve as excellent fodder for the microorganisms living in your gut.
Organic whole-husk psyllium is another great fiber source, as are sunflower sprouts and fermented vegetables, the latter of which are essentially fiber preloaded with beneficial bacteria. Regular exercise can also help reduce constipation.17
The movement helps increase the motility in your digestive tract and can stimulate the urge to have a bowel movement. When you do feel the urge, don't wait. The longer the stool sits in your colon, the more water is removed and the more difficult it is to pass. Ignoring the urge to go is also problematic because eventually you may stop feeling the urge.
Certain medications, like antidepressants, antacids (like calcium), blood pressure medications and iron supplements, may also contribute to constipation, as can certain medical conditions (Parkinson’s disease, hypothyroidism, diabetes and more), so be sure to rule out these other contributing factors.
What Does a Healthy Stool Look Like, and How Often Should You Poop?
If you’re constipated, the bloated feeling and need to strain to have bowel movements will probably tip you off. However, you can also look at the shape and texture of your stool for clues. Separate, hard lumps that are difficult to pass are indicative of constipation. In fact, if you need to push or strain, something is off, as moving your bowels should take no more effort than urinating or passing gas.
Many people get caught up in believing they should be having a certain number of bowel movements, but the ease of elimination is more important than the frequency.
If you move your bowels every other day, but the elimination is easy, you’re within a normal range, more so than someone who moves their bowels more often but has to strain to do so. What’s important is what’s regular for you; in general, three bowel movements per day to three per week is considered the normal range.
As for appearance, healthy stool should be smooth and soft, formed into one long shape and not a bunch of pieces. The Bristol Stool Chart is a handy tool to help you learn what healthy stool looks like. Your stool should approximate types 3, 4 and 5, but type 4 is considered ideal.18 If you’ve addressed your lifestyle and are still straining or having trouble eliminating, it’s time to adjust your position and adopt a squatting position instead of sitting.
By Dr. Mercola
Have you ever wanted to quit your day job and start a chicken farm? If this thought has ever crossed your mind, but you believe this is about as far-fetched a dream as becoming an astronaut at retirement age, think again.
The video above tells the story of Paul Grieve, who quit his accountant job to cofound Primal Pastures. As noted on its website, Primal Pastures is the outgrowth of:1
- A belief that we are experiencing a major food crisis
- A sound idea of how to fix it
- A vision of raising the best meat in the world produced in Southern California
Starting From Scratch
Grieve's journey from cubicle to farm really began when, at the age of 22, his health started failing. After doing some research, he and his family started following a Paleo diet, which led to significant improvements. Grieve's energy level soared and his arthritis disappeared. His father-in-law and brother both lost significant amounts of weight.
This ultimately led them to learn more about food in general — how it's produced and altered through various processes. Discouraged by the fact they could not find the kind of food they really wanted in their local grocery stores, the family decided to raise their own free-range chickens.
None of them knew anything about raising chickens when they first launched Primal Pastures. Armed with nothing except Joel Salatin's book, "Pastured Poultry Profit$,"2 they set out to raise a flock of 50 chickens. "We really just wanted to produce good food for our family," Grieve says. "That's how this whole thing started."
Fifty chickens turned into 100, then 200, then 400. Today, five years later, the Temecula, California, farm produces "healthy and happy" pastured poultry, pork turkey and duck, and grass fed beef and lamb. You can learn more about their farm operation on PrimalPastures.com.3
As you might expect, the venture has seen its fair share of drama. About nine months into it, they lost so many chickens to predators they nearly went out of business. At that point, they added dogs to protect the animals, and have not lost any of their livestock to predators since. They now have 14 dogs guarding the 140-acre farm.
Two Models of Food Production
As hinted at by Grieve, there are basically two vastly different models of food production today. The first, and most prevalent, is the large-scale agricultural model that takes a very mechanistic view toward life, whereas the other — the local, sustainable farm model — has a biological and holistic view.
The latter has the advantage of working with nature rather than against it, and by doing so, you don't need things like antibiotics to keep the flock healthy, or grain with feed additives to keep them nourished. All of those things actually end up doing far more harm than good, as it impacts the quality of the meat.
The widely-adopted, factory farm, "bigger is better" food system has reached a point where the fundamental weaknesses of it are becoming readily apparent, and foodborne disease and loss of nutrient content are just two of the most obvious side effects.
It's a proven fact that factory farmed and processed foods are far more likely to cause illness than unadulterated, organically-grown foods. This connection should be obvious, but many are still under the mistaken belief that a factory operation equates to better hygiene and quality control, when the exact opposite is actually true.
A pig rolling in mud on a small farm is far "cleaner" in terms of pathogenic bacteria than a factory-raised pig stuck in a tiny crate, covered in feces, being fed an unnatural diet of genetically modified grains and veterinary drugs.
The Case for Local, Free-Range Chicken
The same goes for chickens, and considering the fact factory farmed chicken has been identified as the food responsible for the greatest number of foodborne illnesses,4 thanks to the presence of pathogenic bacteria (many of which are resistant to antibiotics), either raising your own or buying free-range chicken from a local farmer is your safest bet.
Consumer Reports' testing in 2007 found more than 80 percent of whole chicken broilers harbored salmonella and/or campylobacter,5 two of the leading causes of foodborne illness. Five years later, in 2013, they found potentially harmful bacteria on 97 percent of the chicken breasts tested,6 and half of them had at least one type of bacterium that was resistant to three or more antibiotics.
The same state of affairs is reported in other countries. In New Zealand, Michael Baker, a public health researcher and professor at University of Otago, is urging the implementation of a "tobacco-style" warning label on all raw chicken items, informing shoppers about the health risks involved.7
"It's the most hazardous thing you can take into your kitchen," he says. Recent testing has even revealed factory farmed chicken meat may also contain drugs that are banned for use in food animals.8
Starting a Backyard Flock
In the video above, Salatin shows how he raises free-range chickens at Polyface Farm. Salatin's setup is the model upon which Primal Pastures is based. While Primal Pastures is primarily focused on meat production, backyard chickens are a great source of fresh eggs.
While chickens can continue to lay eggs for their entire lives provided they're well cared for, the rate at which they do so will slow down considerably after they reach the age of 5. You can help to spread out your chickens' production by adding in younger chicks to your flock after a year or two.
Keep in mind your hens will not be egg-producing "machines" year-round. Chickens need at least 14 hours of daylight to produce eggs. This means they're going to produce fewer eggs, and maybe none at all, during darker, colder, winter months.
Naturally, you can raise chickens for both eggs and meat, although the latter will also require you to learn about humane slaughter methods.
Backyard chickens are growing in popularity again, and many U.S. cities are adjusting zoning ordinances to allow for this pastime. Requirements vary widely depending on your locale, with many limiting the number of chickens you can raise or requiring quarterly inspections (at a cost) and permits.
Many cities limit the number of permits that can be issued each year, while some cities even require approval from your neighbors. BackyardChickens.com9 has a section devoted to laws and ordinances on raising chickens across the U.S. It's a good place to start.
You'll also need to decide whether you want to raise chickens from the chick stage or get them when they've already reached the "teenaged" stage (known as pullets). The younger chicks will be more labor intensive, yet some say they also become tamer when raised in your flock from that young age (and many enjoy the chick stage).
Five Questions to Ask Yourself Before Raising Chickens
If you're thinking of raising chickens, you'll likely find inspiration from Salatin's Primal Pastures' operations. However, before you move forward, ask yourself the following questions:
- Can I dedicate some time each day? — You can expect to devote about 10 minutes a day, an hour per month, and a few hours twice a year to the care and maintenance of your brood.
- Do I have enough space? — They will need about 10 square feet per bird to roam, preferably more. The more foraging they can do, the healthier and happier they'll be and the better their eggs will be.
- What are the chicken regulations in my town? — You will want to research this before jumping in because some places have zoning restrictions and even noise regulations (which especially applies if you have a rooster).
- Are my neighbors on board with the idea? — It's a good idea to see if they have any concerns early on. When they learn they might be the recipients of occasional farm-fresh eggs, they might be more agreeable.
- Can I afford a flock? — There are plenty of benefits to growing your own eggs, but saving money isn't one of them. There are upfront costs to getting a coop set up, plus ongoing expenses for supplies.
For Optimal Health, Buy Real Food
For would-be farmers who want to learn more, I suggest reading some of the books Salatin has written, such as "Pastured Poultry Profit$," and "The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer."
His website, PolyFaceFarms.com,10 also offers a wealth of information and resources for farmers and consumers alike, including an online store that offers the actual physical hardware to make everything from fences to chicken feeders.
If raising chickens isn't your thing, consider seeking out a local source of pasture-raised chicken and fresh eggs, as well as other organic, grass fed and locally-produced foods. If you live in the U.S., the following organizations can steer you in the right direction:
American Grassfed Association — The goal of the American Grassfed Association is to promote the grass fed industry through government relations, research, concept marketing and public education.
Their website also allows you to search for AGA approved producers certified according to strict standards that include being raised on a diet of 100 percent forage, raised on pasture and never confined to a feedlot, never treated with antibiotics or hormones and born and raised on American family farms.
EatWild.com — EatWild.com provides lists of farmers known to produce raw dairy products as well as grass fed beef and other farm-fresh produce (although not all are certified organic). Here you can also find information about local farmers markets, as well as local stores and restaurants that sell grass fed products.
Weston A. Price Foundation — Weston A. Price has local chapters in most states, and many of them are connected with buying clubs in which you can easily purchase organic foods, including grass fed raw dairy products like milk and butter.
Grassfed Exchange — The Grassfed Exchange has a listing of producers selling organic and grass fed meats across the U.S.
Local Harvest — This website will help you find farmers markets, family farms and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass fed meats and many other goodies.
Farmers Markets — A national listing of farmers markets.
Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals — The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, hotels and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) — CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.
The Cornucopia Institute — The Cornucopia Institute maintains web-based tools rating all certified organic brands of eggs, dairy products and other commodities, based on their ethical sourcing and authentic farming practices separating CAFO "organic" production from authentic organic practices.
RealMilk.com — If you're still unsure of where to find raw milk, check out Raw-Milk-Facts.com and RealMilk.com. They can tell you what the status is for legality in your state, and provide a listing of raw dairy farms in your area. The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund11 also provides a state-by-state review of raw milk laws.12 California residents can also find raw milk retailers using the store locator available at www.OrganicPastures.com.
By Dr. Mercola
Your body is designed to run on a 24-hour cycle, or circadian rhythm. Many things can throw this delicate cycle off, however, including traveling across multiple time zones. When there’s a disconnect between what time your body thinks it should be, and what the actual local time is, the resulting condition is known as jet lag, and it affects most air travelers who cross five or more time zones.1
It’s typically worse when traveling eastward than westward, which is because your body’s internal clock actually runs on a slightly longer than 24-hour schedule. When you travel to the west, the day gets longer, which is easier for your system to handle than traveling east, which means the day gets shorter.2
Light cues from the environment also play a major role in jet lag symptoms. Inside the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of your brain, which is part of your hypothalamus, resides your master biological clock. Based on signals of light and darkness, your SCN tells your pineal gland when it's time to secrete melatonin — promoting sleep — and when to turn it off.
This is why light therapy has been revealed as one of the most promising tools for treating jet lag. Light exposure at the correct times can help to synchronize your body’s clock with the environment around it.
Cheat Sheet to Use Light Exposure to Fight Jet Lag
Exposure to light leads to advances or delays in your circadian rhythm, known as phase shifts, which can cause the symptoms of jet lag to disappear. Typically, exposure to light early in the morning causes a phase advance, which leads to earlier waking. Light exposure at bedtime will lead to a phase delay, or later wakening. Researchers explain in the journal Sleep Medicine Clinics:3
“Flying east requires a phase advance of the circadian clock, and flying west requires a phase delay. For example, when it is early in the day in the U.S., it may already be approaching nighttime in Europe. Common language for those in the U.S. is to say that Europe is ahead of us, and when you arrive there you have to set your wristwatch ahead by moving the hands later.
However, your circadian clock has to be reset earlier, and the technical term is a phase advance. For example, if you flew east seven time zones (e.g., Chicago to Paris) and expect to go to sleep at midnight in Paris, you are really trying to go to sleep at 5 p.m. according to the time of your circadian clock, which is still on Chicago time.
You are trying to go to sleep earlier, to advance the time of your sleep, and your internal circadian clock has to phase advance to realign with your advanced sleep schedule and the new local time.”
When traveling east, exposure to bright light in the morning, and the avoidance of bright light at night, should help to minimize jet lag, while the opposite holds true when traveling west.
However, it gets complicated when you travel through six or more time zones, which, as pointed out by Dr. Michael Greger, a nutrition expert, physician and founder of NutritionFacts.org, may confuse your body clock, causing it to adjust in the wrong direction. He offers the following cheat sheet to remember if you’ll be embarking on long-distance travel:4
“[I]f you fly from LA to London, eight time zones east, you’d avoid light between 6 a.m. and noon local time, and expose yourself to light between noon and 6 p.m. local, and the rest of the day, it doesn’t matter and won’t affect you either way …
On subsequent days, the local times of light avoidance and exposure need to be advanced [earlier] by [one to two hours] each day, until light avoidance coincides with [when you’re sleeping].”
If you need to avoid light exposure in the morning, consider wearing a pair of blue light-blocking glasses with amber lenses, which will help to prevent your melatonin levels from plummeting (this can’t be achieved via regular sunglasses). Blocking blue light is known to help regulate your internal clock to control sleep patterns.
Light Therapy May Relieve Jet Lag Symptoms
Disturbed sleep, including insomnia, early waking or daytime fatigue, is the hallmark of jet lag, but it can also cause additional symptoms ranging from grogginess and difficulty concentrating to mood changes and stomach problems.
Research is promising, though, that light exposure may offer a solution, especially when combined with carefully timed melatonin supplements. According to one paper published in the Journal of Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology:5
“Critically timed exposure to bright light and melatonin administration can help to reduce symptoms. Bright light is one of the most powerful synchronizers of human rhythms and melatonin serves as a ‘dark pulse’ helping to induce nighttime behaviors.
Thus, enhancing day and night signals to the brain, appropriate to the environmental light/dark cycle of the new time zone, can serve to re-establish adaptive timing relationships between the body's internal biological rhythms and the external environment, and thereby reduce the symptoms of jet lag.”
You can achieve bright light exposure by going outdoors into the sunlight, using a light box or using a device that offers transcranial bright light (TBL) via your ear canals. TBL has previously been shown to have antidepressant and antianxiety effects, and it may also enhance psychomotor performance.
When researchers administered TBL for 12 minutes, four times a day, in the seven days following an eastward transatlantic flight, it led to a significant reduction in jet lag symptoms, sleepiness, fatigue and forgetfulness. The results were cumulative, emerging three to four days after travel, with researchers concluding, “Intermittent TBL seems to alleviate jet lag symptoms.”6
Even light therapy that exposes people to short flashes of light while they sleep may be beneficial, not to mention convenient (perhaps even being administered prior to your trip, while you sleep). What’s more, being exposed to short two-millisecond light flashes every 10 seconds for an hour worked better than continuous light exposure for an hour.7
The flashes led to two hours of adjustment in circadian rhythm, compared to 36 minutes from the continuous exposure.8 You can also use outdoor light to manipulate the symptoms of jet lag.
“After a westward flight, it is worth staying awake while it is daylight at the destination and trying to sleep when it gets dark. After an eastward flight, one should stay awake but avoid bright light in the morning, and be outdoors as much as possible in the afternoon,” researchers wrote in BMJ Clinical Evidence. “This will help to adjust the body clock and turn on the body's own melatonin secretion at the right time.”9
Using Melatonin to Avoid and Relieve Jet Lag
In cases when you need to phase advance your circadian clock (leading to earlier waking), exposure to intermittent bright light in the morning along with melatonin supplementation in the afternoon and gradually advancing your sleep schedule have been found to be effective.10 You might consider this option prior to eastward jet travel.
If you’re traveling at night, wear blue-blocking glasses on the plane and continue wearing them until you go to sleep, as excess blue light will impair your melatonin production and make it difficult to fall asleep.
Also, once you're at your destination, get up as close to sunrise as possible and go outside. This will help to reset your melatonin production. If weather and circumstances allow, it would be best to do this outdoors with your bare feet on the ground.
Then, just before bedtime, take a fast-acting sublingual melatonin along with a slow-release oral melatonin. Keep in mind that only a very small dose is required — typically 0.25 mg or 0.5 milligrams to start with, and you can adjust it up from there. Taking higher doses, such as 3 mg, can sometimes make you more wakeful instead of sleepier, so adjust your dose carefully.
According to a 2002 Cochrane Database review, people who traveled across five or more time zones and took melatonin close to bedtime at their destination experienced less severe jet lag symptoms compared to placebo.11
You can also get some melatonin via your diet. If you prefer to use food, pistachios are the most melatonin-rich nut, and can provide measurable amounts in just two nuts. Eating a small handful of them before bed could give you a meaningful melatonin boost.
Keep in mind the release of melatonin is dependent on the release of another hormone, norepinephrine. Excess stress, and the resulting release of cortisol, will inhibit the release of norepinephrine and therefore the release of melatonin.12 So consider engaging in stress-reducing strategies before bed, such as yoga, stretching, meditation and prayer.
Sleeping in complete darkness is also important. If you get up during the night to use the bathroom, be sure to keep the lights (and night lights) off so you don't shut off your production of melatonin.
Magnesium also plays a role in reducing brain activity at night, helping you to relax and fall asleep more easily. It works in tandem with melatonin. Foods containing higher levels of magnesium include almonds, avocados, pumpkin seeds and green leafy vegetables.13
More Tips for Avoiding Jet Lag
The stimulation of certain acupuncture meridians is sometimes used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as a technique for alleviating jet lag. One simple version of this technique is demonstrated in the video above (originally taped in 2009) by cardiologist Dr. Lee Cowden, using your heart meridian. Here's a summary of the steps:
1. The day of your trip, set your clock to match the local time at your destination (depending on the time of your flight, you may have to do this a day ahead)
2. At 11 a.m. (the local time at your destination), stroke your heart meridian three times on the left and three times on the right. Your heart meridian begins just to the outer side of your nipple, up through your armpit and down the ulnar aspect (inner side) of your arm, down the outside of your pinky.
Once you reach the end of your pinky, gently press into the base of the fingernail (heart point in TCM). For a demonstration, please see the video above
3. At noon, repeat the heart meridian strokes
Also, when adjusting to a new time zone, be sure to shift your mealtimes accordingly. You can do this once you reach your destination or start prior to your trip. Another strategy, developed by researchers at Harvard and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, is called the anti-jet lag fast.
It involves determining the time of breakfast at your destination and then fasting for 12 to 16 hours beforehand. This strategy is thought to work because fasting causes your master clock to suspend the circadian clock and instructs your body to sleep less. When food intake resumes, the master clock switches the circadian clock back "on."14
Combining these dietary and TCM strategies along with properly timed light exposure and melatonin are likely among the best ways to relieve jet lag symptoms so you can start your trip off right.
If you have an upcoming flight scheduled, Jay Olson, Ph.D., created Jet Lag Rooster,15 an online calculator that lets you input your flight time and destination, along with your usual sleep and wake times. It then gives you a customized plan to best reduce jet lag using light exposure and, optionally, melatonin.
If you’re visiting the Pacific Islands, you might be given a ceremonial drink called kava kava that’s made from the kava plant (Piper methysticum), a shrub that can grow up to 3 meters (9.8 feet) tall.1,2,3
The kava plant is a member of the pepper family.4 Large, green and heart-shaped leaves grow thickly on its green, red-and-black striped or spotted stems,5 and its roots, often used to make kava kava, resemble bunches of knotty, woody and hairy branches.6
Kava’s Health Benefits
Kava is known for its relaxation capabilities, which may help elevate mood, well-being and contentment.7 These benefits are attributed to kavalactones, the main active ingredients in kava root. Historically, kava has also used by Pacific Islanders to help relieve pain caused by conditions like muscle and back pain, stomach problems, cystitis and urethritis, to name a few.8,9
Fancy a Cup of Kava Kava?
Kava roots are ground to make kava kava, a thick brew used as a “welcome drink” and given to guests and dignitaries visiting Pacific islands like Fiji and Tonga. Kava kava is consumed during social gatherings and ceremonies to reduce inhibitions, promote better relationships between people of the community, and induce relaxation and amiability.12,13
Kava kava is typically served in a coconut shell, and is swallowed in one or two quick gulps. When drinking kava kava, always mention thoughts of gratitude, especially toward the person who served you the beverage.14
It’s advised that you consume each kava kava serving 10 minutes apart. The drink’s effects can kick in quickly because of kavain, a kavalactone present in the plant. Other effects of kavalactones may not register until after 30 minutes.
However, this drink isn’t just used to foster good relationships. In fact, kava kava was traditionally used as a sedative because research shows that the kava plant itself can be ideal for alleviating anxiety, insomnia, muscle pain and benzodiazepine withdrawal, and in promoting relaxation.15,16
Kava’s Common Uses
Apart from its traditional culinary uses, kava is utilized for medicinal purposes too. Pacific Islanders used kava to help ease:
Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
Chronic fatigue syndrome
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Kava has also been used as a mouthwash to help relieve canker sores and toothaches, and as a topical ointment to help heal wounds and sores caused by leprosy.17
Although this plant has been widely used for years in these tropical islands, some people have doubts about its benefits because of various reports about kava’s potentially addictive nature.18 While published studies and books that examined kava’s qualities highlighted a lack of evidence,19 it would still be wise to regulate your kava intake since major side effects have been linked to it.20
Watch Out for Kava’s Side Effects
Although kava is still available in the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a consumer advisory in March 2002 that highlights the rare but potential risk of liver failure from kava-containing products.21 In Europe, kava has already been linked to around 30 cases of people experiencing liver-related damage, including liver failure.22 It’s vital to monitor your intake of kava to prevent the complications linked to this herb, such as:23,24
Dizziness or drowsiness25
Allergic reactions like contact dermatitis and skin lesions26
Loss of appetite
Partial loss of hearing
Hair loss or alopecia
Flaky, dry and yellowish skin discoloration
Avoid drinking alcohol with kava, as it may cause side effects like a higher risk of impaired reflexes and liver damage.27 Refrain from drinking kava with anti-anxiety medicines, sedatives, diuretics, phenothiazine drugs, levodopa and liver-metabolized medicines. These medicines’ effects will be enhanced and may cause complications when ingested alongside kava kava.28
Kava shouldn’t be taken before doing tasks that demand a high level of attention and alertness, such as driving or operating machinery, because it may trigger drowsiness.29 If you’re thinking about adding kava to your diet, consult your physician first, and take this herb under close supervision. Do not take kava for more than four weeks. Lastly, if you fall under any of these groups, avoid kava in general:30,31
People with liver disease like cirrhosis or hepatitis
People suffering from depression or bipolar disorder
Parkinson’s disease patients
Pregnant or breastfeeding women
People who will undergo surgery (kava prolongs the anesthesia’s effect)
Growing Kava at Home
To grow kava at home, you need kava cuttings from mature plants, as they propagate easily. Ideally, kava plants should be grown in an area with partial shade32 and without exposure to direct sunlight because it causes leaf dryness.
You can grow your kava cuttings either in potting bags or homemade containers, woven coconut leaf baskets or nursery beds. The Pacific Agriculture Policy Project suggests the following tips when planting kava at home:33
- Pick cuttings from plants with healthy and vigorous stems, and avoid getting cuttings from plants with noticeably older, lame and unhealthy stems.
- Kava cuttings ideally must be one to two nodes long. You can propagate cuttings that have four nodes, too, if the stems are thinner and shorter, or if you took the kava cutting from an area near the stem’s growing tip.
- Always cut the stems near the plant’s nodes and not near the growing tip of the stems.
- Ensure that the kava stems are not showing signs of disease, insects or other pests, or rot.
These plants must be planted in fertile and loose soil to allow the roots to stretch their “legs” and maximize the area. As a rule of thumb do not plant kava in a hard-packed growing medium or in too-loose soil that’ll cause it to dry out.34 When growing kava in a container, ensure that it drains well and constantly water it to add moisture.
Once these plants have grown at least 20 to 30 centimeters (cm) tall (7.8 to 11.8 inches) and 2 to 6 months old, you can move them into their new home. Prior to this, ensure that your plant has already been hardened by decreasing the amount of water you provide it.
If you’re transplanting cuttings grown in a potting bag, first make a 30-cm deep hole (just under 12 inches) in the soil and make the hole wide to provide enough space for both seedlings and soil. Do this quickly so they won’t dry out. It’s recommended that you transplant the kava cuttings during wet or rainy days to assist the plant in establishing roots and promote speedy recovery from the hardening process.
Should the plant seem dry, add more soil and mulch around it to boost moisture. Now that this is done, you can watch your kava plants flourish. However, don’t forget to regularly water the plants, and check and remove weeds that may hinder growth.35
Must-Try Kava Recipes
You can make kava tea by simmering kava roots in water, but you can also use kava powder that you can buy from online stores.36 Just make sure the powder contains kava root extract, to ensure that it’s effective. To determine if you’re using an instant mix, check if the powder completely dissolves in water without leaving any residue. If it’s clear, it’s instant.37
Traditionally, kava tea is prepared by straining 1 to 2 ounces of dried kava powder (2 to 4 tablespoons per person) in water using a nylon stocking, cheesecloth, a 1-gallon paint strainer or muslin bag. Once the powder is placed inside the strainer, hold the edges together at the top to prevent the powder from falling out. Afterward, immerse the bag in a bowl of cool water. Per 2 ounces of powder, make sure there’s a quart of water.
Here comes the unique part: Knead the kava powder using your hands. It feels oily because of kava’s kavalactone levels, but the oiliness will decrease after constant kneading. Once the powder doesn’t feel oily and the water is mud-like, stop kneading. However, if you don’t feel like kneading, you can just repetitively bring the strainer bag out, squeeze it and place it back in the water.
The good news is you can still make traditional kava tea even if you’re pressed for time. All you need is kava powder, water and a blender.38
Traditional Kava Tea
- 2 to 4 tablespoons of dried kava powder
- 1 cup water
- Combine the kava powder and water.
- Blend together for four minutes.
- Pour mixture through a nylon sieve or cheese cloth. Squeeze excess liquid into a bowl. Discard the pulp afterwards and enjoy.
This makes one serving.