Zapping Away Migraines

A new device marketed for relieving migraine headaches and approved by the FDA could eliminate headache pain within two hours for some patients, but others may have to wait as long as an excruciating 24 hours, and many may not be helped at all. Unfortunately, the treatment doesn’t address the debilitating symptoms that often go along with migraines including nausea, sensitivity to light and sensitivity to sound, the FDA noted. The device provides transcranial magnetic stimulation. To deal with a headache, patients have to hold the device to the back of the head and push a button. This results in two magnetic pulses that last less than a millisecond each, 30 seconds apart. In a study of the effectiveness of the stimulator, 38 percent of patients reported relief within two hours, 34 percent were headache-free 24 hours later, and 28 percent were not helped at all. Of patients who received a sham device, 17 percent reported relief within two hours and 10 percent within 24 hours, the FDA said. The most common side effect of the new treatment is dizziness. Patients with metal implants or devices with magnetic components and those with epilepsy or a personal or family history of seizures should not use the device, the FDA warned.

My take? This new approach to treating migraines isn’t perfect, which is also true of the drugs available to relieve the headaches. Nothing works perfectly for all migraine patients. In addition to identifying and avoiding triggers for the headaches, I suggest eliminating caffeine from your diet so you can use coffee or other forms of caffeine as an effective and immediate migraine treatment. Drink one or two cups of strong coffee at the first sign of an attack, then lie down in a dark, quiet room. I also recommend considering preventive measures such as biofeedback; taking feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), 100-150 mg daily; coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10); 400 mg daily of riboflavin (the high dose needs to be prescribed by a physician); or the herb butterbur (50-100 mg twice daily with meals).

Richard B.  Lipton et al, “Single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation for acute treatment of migraine with aura: a randomised, double-blind, parallel-group, sham-controlled trial,” The Lancet Neurology, doi:10.1016/S1474-4422(10)70054-5

Should You Go Vegetarian to Control Your Blood Pressure?

By Dr. Mercola

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), high blood pressure is “the second greatest public health threat” in the US, and about half of all with hypertension have uncontrolled high blood pressure.1

This increases your risk for a number of more serious health problems, including heart disease and stroke. Interestingly, 16 million Americans who are on blood pressure medication still don’t have their blood pressure under control—a fact that emphasizes the need for basic lifestyle changes in order to truly resolve this problem.

Vegetarian Diet Lowers Blood Pressure

A recent meta-analysis2,3 suggests that a vegetarian diet may be part of the solution. Lead author Yoko Yokoyama told Reuters Health:4

“For many people, the only treatment has been medication, but that means costs and possible side effects. However, in order to make healthful food choices, people need guidance from scientific studies. Our analysis found that vegetarian diets lower blood pressure very effectively, and the evidence for this is now quite conclusive.”

The analysis included seven clinical trials and 32 observational studies. A vegetarian either excludes or severely limits meat, but typically includes dairy products and eggs. A pescetarian diet will also include fish. One of my friends is actually a healthy 66 year old pescetarian. Vegan diets typically exclude all animal products, fish, eggs, and dairy as well.

According to the study’s findings, removing meat from the diet led to blood pressure reductions similar to losing five kilos of body weight or a little more than eleven pounds. Compared to blood pressure drugs, a vegetarian diet was found to be about 50 percent as effective for lowering blood pressure.

Additional Problems with This Study

If you are interested in a very detailed and comprehensive analysis in the flaws in this study, I would encourage you to review Denise Minger’s post from last week.5 I will summarize some of the salient points below.

It is important to note that 32 of the 39 studies reviewed for this analysis were observational. This means that the researches relied on a dietary history given by the study participants. The actual protein levels consumed by the participants was never directly measured.

Another major issue is that important confounding lifestyle variables were not accounted for. Exercise and alcohol intake are important cofactors for hypertension and they were not analyzed so they could contribute to distorting the conclusions the researchers made.

Blood Pressure Drugs Do NOT Treat the Cause of High Blood Pressure

Please understand that while blood pressure medications are very effective at lowering blood pressure, they do NOT address or rectify the underlying cause of your hypertension.

Research6 published in 2013 found that vegetarians were 32 percent less likely to develop ischemic heart disease, and many other studies7 have demonstrated that vegetarians enjoy better health and longer lives than non-vegetarians. Certainly, eating more vegetables is bound to have a beneficial effect. Most people eat far too few of them. But I still do not believe excluding all meats makes for an ideal diet.
It’s worth noting that studies such as these are not comparing vegetarians to LOW animal protein diets. I’m also not aware of any studies looking at the health effects of factory farmed versus organically raised meats, eaten at varying amounts, and this, I believe, may be a major part of the equation.

Why I Don’t Recommend Strict Vegetarian or Vegan Diets

There is no debate at all that most people do not eat enough vegetables, let alone high-quality organic ones. So it makes perfect sense that individuals who consume more vegetables are likely to be healthier.

Most Americans eat far too much protein and not enough vegetables, which likely accounts for most of the difference seen when comparing vegetarian to non-vegetarian diets. But that does not justify excluding all animal products.

The other part of the equation that is rarely addressed is the amount of protein consumed. When it comes to meat, two key factors that will determine the healthfulness of your diet are the quality of the meat and the amount.

In terms of quality, meat from pastured or grass-fed and finished animals is FAR superior to that from animals raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). CAFO beef and poultry has many disadvantages, including fewer of the most valuable nutrients found in organically-raised meats, while being contaminated with hormones, antibiotics, beta-agonist drugs, and pesticides.

Since most CAFOs feed animals genetically engineered (GE) grains (primarily corn and soy), there’s also the issue of whether or not such feed might alter such meats in ways we still don’t fully understand.

There’s reason to think it might. At bare minimum, we know that so-called Roundup Ready grains tend to be most heavily contaminated with glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, and research suggests this chemical may be a key factor in the rising trend of many chronic diseases, both in animals and humans.

In 2009, a joint effort between the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Clemson University researchers determined a total of 10 key areas where grass-fed is better than grain-fed beef for human health.8 In a side-by-side comparison, they determined that grass-fed beef was:

Most People Eat Too Much Protein for Optimal Health

Nutrition experts like Dr. Ron Rosedale believe most adults need about one gram of protein per kilogram of lean body mass, or one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body weight per day. As an example, if your body fat mass is 20 percent, your lean mass is 80 percent of your total body weight.

So if your total weight is 200 pounds, you would then divide 160 by 2.2 to convert pounds to kilograms and come up with 72.7 grams of protein. If you are doing vigorous exercises or are pregnant, you can add up to another 25 percent or another 18 grams in this illustration to increase your total to 90 grams per day. This would be on the high side. Most women need half of this amount because they have far less lean body mass.

Most meat-eaters tend to consumer far more than that, especially in the US. In fact, the typical American diet is extremely meat-heavy, having risen dramatically over the past century.9 Previous research has suggested the average American consumes about 1.5 grams of protein per kilo of total body mass (lean mass plus fat). This is nearly double the ideal of one gram/kg of lean body mass. Some groups even consume 500 percent more protein than this.10 And the vast majority of all the meat consumed is CAFO, which only adds to the problem, for the reasons mentioned above.

There are a number of reasons why I believe it’s best to limit your protein intake. The first is that if you eat large amounts of protein your body doesn’t need, it will convert most of those calories to sugar. Additionally, it will need to remove the nitrogen waste products from your blood, which stresses your kidneys.

Excessive protein can also have a stimulatory effect on mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR)—a pathway that seems to be largely responsible for the pathology seen in cancer growth. When you reduce protein to just what your body needs, mTOR remains inhibited, which helps minimize your chances of cancer growth.

Abstaining from animal protein altogether however, can lead to other health complications. For example, a strict vegetarian or vegan diet can lead to vitamin B12 and sulfur amino acid deficiency,11 both of which increases your risk of heart disease. Vegans or strict vegetarians who abstain from animal products and do not supplement their diet with vitamin B12 will typically become anemic. Nervous and digestive system damage can also result.12 Claims that B12 is present in certain algae, tempeh, and brewer’s yeast fail to take into account that the B12 analogues present in these foods are not bioavailable. The only reliable and absorbable sources of vitamin B12 are animal products, especially pastured eggs.

Another Possible Conclusion

Denise Minger’s analysis13 also brought two additional interesting additional insights into the protein discussion. It is well established that calorie restriction leads to increased longevity in many animal studies. Newer studies like the featured study suggest that much of the benefit of calorie restriction may be related to lowered protein intake.

The newer twist on the lowered protein intake is that the benefits of protein restriction may actually be related to lowered intake of a specific essential amino acid called methionine which, interestingly, also happens to be particularly high in meats. So a low meat diet will actually be a diet that is low in methionine. But even newer research suggests that it may be the balance of amino acids that is key especially with other amino acids like glycine that may actually help to lower methionine levels.

So approaches like protein cycling in which you replicate ancestral patterns of going through feast and famine can help normalize these levels. That is one of the reasons why I am such a major fan of intermittent fasting. Bone broth may also be particularly useful as it especially high in glycine.

Eating ONLY Plant-Based Foods May Be Bad for Your Heart

Research published in the journal Nutrition,14 two years ago, shows that people who eat a strictly plant-based diet may suffer from subclinical protein malnutrition, which means you’re also likely not getting enough dietary sulfur. Sulfur is derived almost exclusively from dietary protein, such as fish and high-quality (organic and/or grass-fed/pastured) beef and poultry. Meat and fish are considered “complete” as they contain all the sulfur-containing amino acids you need to produce new protein.

Those who abstain from animal protein are placing themselves at far greater risk of sulfur deficiency and its related health problems. Sulfur also plays a vital role in the structure and biological activity of both proteins and enzymes. If you don’t have sufficient amounts of sulfur in your body, this deficiency can cascade into a number of health problems as it will affect bones, joints, connective tissues, metabolic processes, and more. According to Dr. Stephanie Seneff, a senior scientist at MIT, areas where sulfur plays an important role include:

  • Your body’s electron transport system, as part of iron/sulfur proteins in mitochondria, the energy factories of your cells
  • Vitamin-B thiamine (B1) and biotin conversion, which in turn are essential for converting carbohydrates into energy
  • Synthesizing important metabolic intermediates, such as glutathione
  • Proper insulin function. The insulin molecule consists of two amino acid chains connected to each other by sulfur bridges, without which the insulin cannot perform its biological activity
  • Detoxification

The 2012 Nutrition study15 also concluded that the low intake of sulfur amino acids by vegetarians and vegans explains the origin of hyperhomocysteinemia (high blood levels of homocysteine, which may lead to blood clots in your arteries — i.e. heart attack and stroke) and the increased vulnerability of vegetarians to cardiovascular diseases.

To Eat Meat or Not to Eat Meat… That Is the Question

From a clinical standpoint, I believe virtually everyone benefits from some animal protein, provided it’s organically raised (grass-fed or pastured). Organic farming also tends to be humane, which is an important issue for most vegetarians/vegans. Even butchering practices are more humane, compared to the factory farm model. That said, if your moral convictions still prompt you to abstain from meat, you do have other options. Other healthy animal proteins include raw organic dairy and organic pastured eggs.

I sincerely believe that the many studies documenting the benefits of a vegetarian diet are related to an increased intake in vegetables and a lowered protein intake. One does not have to throw the baby out with the bathwater and exclude all animal products to receive these benefits. It seems lowering your protein intake to one gram per kilogram of lean body mass would likely achieve similar benefits as documented in this featured study.

Certainly, eating a vegetarian diet is far better than eating a high CAFO meat diet. But I believe most people would be wise to consider a more moderate plan. To summarize my view on what I believe is a more ideal diet for most people, here are the key points:

  • Low amounts of high-quality (pastured or grass-fed) animal protein: A general recommendation is to limit animal protein to one gram of protein per kilogram of lean body mass, or one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body weight
  • Extremely low amounts of refined grain carbohydrates: You need very little grains, if any. Even organic grains are best avoided, to preserve optimal insulin and leptin signaling
  • Extremely low amounts of processed sugar and fructose: A general guideline is to restrict your sugar/fructose consumption to 25 grams from all sources, per day. If you are insulin or leptin resistant (if you are overweight, or have high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease, then you likely have insulin or leptin resistance), you’d be wise to keep your sugar/fructose to 15 grams per day, from all sources, until your condition has normalized
  • High amounts of high-quality fats: As you cut out carbohydrates, you need to replace them with healthful fats. Most people probably need anywhere from 50 to 85 percent of their daily calories in the form of healthy fats, which include olives and olive oil, coconuts and coconut oil, butter made from raw grass-fed organic milk, organic raw nuts (especially macadamia nuts, which are low in protein and omega-6 fat), organic pastured eggs, and avocados
  • Virtually unlimited amounts of vegetable carbohydrates: Making vegetable juice is a great way to boost the amount and variety of vegetables in your diet

One of the easiest ways to conform to these guidelines is to ditch processed foods and cook from scratch using whole, organic ingredients. I generally advise limiting processed foods to 10 percent of less of your total diet. As for whether or not to eat meat, I firmly believe that it plays a valuable role in optimal health, but quality and quantity are important considerations. Focusing on smaller portions of higher quality (read pastured grass-fed and finished) meats will lead you in the right direction.

Last but not least, let me note that cutting out meat, or animal protein, from your diet is NOT the only way to normalize your blood pressure. There are many other lifestyle strategies that can lower high blood pressure that does not involve abstaining from an important nutrient source. In fact, insulin resistance is a primary promoter of high blood pressure, and the dietary underpinning that creates insulin resistance is a diet too high in sugar, not protein. To learn more about how to normalize your blood pressure without drugs, please see my previous article: “Foundational Lifestyle Strategies to Maintain Healthy Blood Pressure.”

Researchers Uncover the Secret Behind Bowel Movements

By Dr. Mercola

It’s easy to take a bodily function like your bowel movements for granted… that is, until a problem arises. Whether your bowel movements come too frequently or not often enough, it can make you uncomfortable, bloated, or even interfere with your body’s ability to absorb enough nutrients from your food.

Staying regular is crucial for staying healthy. It plays a major role in how you feel (physically and emotionally) while removing waste from your body. For such a common bodily function, surprisingly little has been known about how a bowel movement actually occurs, so new research from Canada, which claims to have uncovered the “secret,” is well worth sharing.

How You Poop: Secrets Revealed

When you eat a meal, the food moves through your intestine by peristalsis. During this movement, your muscles contract and relax, allowing food and liquids to be mixed together and move through your digestive tract. Peristalsis acts much like ocean waves, and helps move fecal matter through your digestive tract for elimination.

Another type of movement, segmentation, occurs mostly in your large and small intestines and is thought to facilitate absorption of nutrients. How segmentation works has remained a mystery, but it had been theorized that alternate excitation and inhibition from the enteric nervous system was responsible. The new study revealed this is not the case and segmentation may occur “after total nerve blockade.”

Instead, researchers found segmentation patterns emerge when two sets of “pacemakers” work together to create a rhythm. The process involves both nerves and muscles working together to generate a rhythmic movement that allows for nutrient absorption.1 The study’s lead researcher compared it to the movements generated when you drop a stone in water:2

It’s like when a stone is dropped in water, it creates waves or motion that pushes things along, but when a second stone is dropped in the water, the movement changes to up and down, appearing to stay in the same place.”

The finding could help open doors to treat conditions in which people have trouble absorbing nutrients from their food. It also sheds light on how irregular bowel movements occur. Specifically, with diarrhea segmentation activity is too low while with constipation it is too high. Abnormal segmentation activity may also be related to pain while eating.

Your Bowel Movements Offer Important Clues to Your Health

If you have a tendency to flush in a rush, you can get clues about your overall health by noting characteristics such as shape, color, consistency, frequency, and smell of your bowel movements.

First, you’ll need to know what’s normal in a stool, which can actually vary quite dramatically. One of the most common questions relates to frequency, although there is no one right answer for this; normal bowel habits vary. When we talk about regularity, what we’re really talking about is what’s regular for you. Three bowel movements per day to three per week is considered the normal range.
What’s more important than frequency is the ease with which you move your bowels. If you need to push or strain, something is off – moving your bowels should take no more effort than urinating or passing gas.

You should keep an eye out for any sudden changes in your bowel habits, which might signal a problem. Many factors can affect regularity from day to day, such as diet, travel, medications, hormonal fluctuations, sleep patterns, exercise, illness, surgery, pregnancy and childbirth, stress, and more.

As for appearance, the Bristol Stool Chart is a handy tool to help you learn what healthy stool looks like. Ideally, your stool should approximate Types 3, 4, and 5, “like a sausage or a snake, smooth and soft” to “soft blobs that pass easily.” Type 4 is the Holy Grail.3

Poop: What’s Normal and What’s Not

What you see in the toilet can give you clues about how your gastrointestinal tract is functioning and even signal serious disease processes that could be occurring, like infections, digestive problems, and even cancer. This is true of both your urine and your stool. As for the latter, the following table will help you narrow down what to look for, so that you aren’t needlessly alarmed. Of course, there are a few signs that are cause for concern, and those are listed, too. If you have a change in stools accompanied by abdominal pain, please report this to your physician.

Healthy Stool

Unhealthy Stool

Medium to light brown

Stool that is hard to pass, painful, or requires straining

Smooth and soft, formed into one long shape and not a bunch of pieces

Hard lumps and pieces, or mushy and watery, or even pasty and difficult to clean off

About one to two inches in diameter and up to 18 inches long

Narrow, pencil-like or ribbon-like stools: can indicate a bowel obstruction or tumor – or worst case, colon cancer; narrow stools on an infrequent basis are not so concerning, but if they persist, definitely warrant a call to your physician

S-shaped, which comes from the shape of your lower intestine

Black, tarry stools or bright red stools may indicate bleeding in the GI tract; black stools can also come from certain medications, supplements, or consuming black licorice; if you have black, tarry stools, it’s best to be evaluated by your healthcare provider

Quiet and gentle dive into the water… it should fall into the bowl with the slightest little “whoosh” sound – not a loud, wet cannonball splash that leaves your toosh in need of a shower

White, pale, or gray stools may indicate a lack of bile, which may suggest a serious problem (hepatitis, cirrhosis, pancreatic disorders, or possibly a blocked bile duct), so this warrants a call to your physician; antacids may also produce white stool

Natural smell, not repulsive (I’m not saying it will smell good)

Yellow stools may indicate giardia infection, a gallbladder problem, or a condition known as Gilbert’s syndrome – if you see this, call your doctor

Uniform texture

Presence of undigested food (more of a concern if accompanied by diarrhea, weight loss, or other changes in bowel habits)

Sinks slowly

Floaters or splashers


Increased mucus in stool: This can be associated with inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis, or even colon cancer, especially if accompanied by blood or abdominal pain


Very bad odor: If your stool has an extraordinarily bad odor, it should not be ignored. I am referring to an odor above and beyond the normally objectionable stool odor. Stinky stool can be associated with a number of health problems, such as a malabsorptive disorder, Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and chronic pancreatitis

The Healthiest Pooping Position You Probably Aren’t Using

A conversation about bowel movements wouldn’t be complete without a mention of position, as this can impact the ease with which you eliminate and even increase your risk of bowel and pelvic problems, including constipation, hemorrhoids, and more. Most of you reading this probably sit to evacuate your bowel, but this requires you to apply additional force (straining), which has some unwanted biological effects, including a temporary disruption in cardiac flow.

Sitting on a modern toilet is designed to place your knees at a 90-degree angle to your abdomen. However, the time-honored natural squat position (which is still used by the majority of the world’s population) places your knees much closer to your torso, and this position actually changes the spatial relationships of your intestinal organs and musculature, optimizing the forces involved in defecation.

Squatting straightens your rectum, relaxes your puborectalis muscle, and allows for complete emptying of your cecum and appendix without straining, which prevents fecal stagnation and the accumulation of toxins in your intestinal tract. It is instructive that non-westernized societies, in which people squat, do not have the high prevalence of bowel disease seen in developed nations; in some cultures with traditional lifestyles, these diseases are uncommon or almost unknown.

If you have trouble with bowel movements, especially constipation, I urge you to give the squat position a try. Squatting does involve strength and flexibility that adults tend to lose over time (but children have naturally). Special toilets and stools that get your body into a more “squatty” position can help you get closer to the ideal even if you’ve been sitting for decades.

Constipated? Here’s What Can Help

Constipation is one of the most common bowel problems. It’s defined as passing hard, dry stools that you have to strain to move, and it’s typically accompanied by decreased frequency of defecation. Straining is not normal, nor is experiencing feelings of incomplete elimination, bloating, crampiness, or sluggishness after going number two. If you’re over the age of 65, your risk of becoming constipated increases significantly.

If you’re constipated, tweak your diet so that it includes plenty of whole foods, particularly fresh, organic vegetables and fruits that provide good nutrients and fiber. However, most of your fiber should come from vegetables, not grains. Grains actually contain anti-nutrients that may damage your health, as well as sticky proteins like gluten (literally, Latin for “glue”) in the prolamine class, which are highly constipating to some individuals. Ironically, since we’re often told that whole grains are one of the best sources of fiber for our health, the net effect of eating them will likely be constipating versus eliminative, and if it does have the latter effect, it may be due to its irritant properties – hardly a “wholesome” food.

Assuming your gut is generally healthy, I believe most people need upwards of 32 grams of fiber a day. Most Americans get nowhere near this amount. If your diet could use more fiber, resist the urge to fortify it with whole grains. Instead, focus on eating more vegetables, nuts, and seeds. In addition to modifying your diet as described above, other effective constipation relief and prevention strategies include:

The Benefits of Medical Cannabis

By Dr. Mercola

Marijuana has been legalized in a number of US states; 20 states have legalized cannabis for medical purposes; two states—Colorado and Washington state—also permit recreational use. Certain forms of cannabis are actually very potent medicine, with few or no psychoactive effects.

In California, medical marijuana has been legal for 18 years. Dr. Allan Frankel, a board-certified internist in California, has treated patients with medical cannabis for the past seven years.

By and large, cannabis is highly favored by people across the US. According to Dr. Frankel, 85-95 percent of Americans are in favor of medical cannabis, and 58-59 percent are in favor of legalizing marijuana.

The federal government, meanwhile, wants to get rid of all medical use of marijuana, which of course begs the question: Why? According to Dr. Frankel, the answer is simple. “They want it. This is a huge market,” he says.

And yes, medical cannabis is clearly competition to the pharmaceutical industry, as the cannabis plant can take the place of a wide variety of synthetic drugs, especially for mood and anxiety disorders. The last thing they want is a therapy that’s going to take away from their bottom line.

Cannabis as Medicine

Dr. Frankel initially learned about medical cannabis through glaucoma trials and cancer work performed at UCLA in the 70s and early 80s.

“I’ve always seen it as a medicine,” he says. “Eventually, I got interested in it. I thought my tool box was getting too small for typical issues with patients related to anxiety, pain, or the common issues where we just had inadequate medications.

I saw the cannabinoid future was something that was bright. Seven years ago, I kind of picked up my formal white coat and sprayed a little green on it…”

Green Bridge Medical is his professional corporation where he sees patients, performs research, and provides physician and patient education and outreach. For all its benefits, using cannabis in lieu of other medicines has many challenges.

“It’s a complicated process, as a physician in particular, working inside the medical system, to work outside the medical system to make these dose-consistent extracts available.”

Many may find the idea of medical cannabis abhorrent or somehow “wrong,” as we’ve been indoctrinated to view marijuana as a dangerous gateway drug that will lead you down a path of illicit drug use.

Many fail to realize that prescription drugs actually have FAR greater potential to turn you into “a junkie.” Legal drug addiction is also taking lives in record numbers. In the UK, one million people are addicted to over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription painkillers and tranquilizers.

That’s significantly more than the number addicted to illegal drugs.1 In the US, there were four times more deaths among women from prescription painkiller overdose than for cocaine and heroin deaths combined in 2010.2

Pharmaceuticals in general are among the leading causes of death in the US, and some medicines have killed tens of thousands of individuals. The painkiller Vioxx is one classic example, which killed over 60,000 before being pulled off the market.

The diabetes drug Avandia is another, and most recently, a study estimated that in a five-year span, some 800,000 people in Europe were killed from inappropriate use of beta-blockers in non-cardiac surgery patients. Deaths attributed to cannabis barely registers in comparison.

“I think that any intervention, regardless of how benign (I would say in my 35 years of medical experience, cannabis should be considered a benign substance overall), there are potential uses and abuses,” Dr. Frankel says.

“For me, we’re just talking about the real solid indications. The issue of abuse and neglect is there, but I think it’s relatively small. I think the claim that it is a gateway drug has been pretty soundly proven not to be correct.

Even if cannabis to some extent is a gateway drug (which I do not believe it is), even if it is, it should be legalized to protect the gateway [drug] issue, because legalization opens up communication.”

What’s the Difference Between Medical and Non-Medical Marijuana?

According to Dr. Frankel, cannabis has been cultivated in Northern Europe since before the last Ice Age. Even back then, there were two very distinct groups of strains. One is cannabis; the other is hemp. There’s plenty of confusion about the similarities and differences between these two plants. While they are subspecies of the same plant species, they look very different, and are extremely different in ways that really matter when it comes to medicinal use.

The thing they have in common is that they both contain cannabidiol (CBD), which has medicinal properties. The amount of CBD however, differs greatly between the two. Dosing, therefore, is dramatically different where you to try to use hemp in lieu of cannabis, as the latter, cannabis, is up to 100-fold more potent. Another difference that appears to matter in terms of its usefulness as medicine relates to differing terpene profiles. Hemp contains very little of these valuable medicinal compounds.

Lastly, there’s the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content. THC is the psychoactive component of marijuana; it’s the molecule that makes you feel “stoned.” (While cannabidiol (CBD) also has certain psychoactive properties, it does NOT produce a high.) By legal definition, hemp cannot have more than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in it. So to summarize:

  • Hemp has less value for medicinal uses, as it only contains about four percent CBD and lacks many of the medicinal terpenes and flavonoids. It also contains less than 0.3 percent THC, which means it cannot produce a high or get you stoned. However, for many disease processes, THC is very much indicated and required. So, for many disease processes, CBD alone has much less value.
  • Cannabis is potent medicine courtesy of high amounts (about 10-20 percent) of CBD, critical levels of medicinal terpenes, and flavanoids, as well as THC in varying ratios for various diseases. The higher the THC, the more pronounced its psychoactive effects

How Marijuana Got a Bad Rap

“What happened in the ’60s and ’70s was that due to desires for psychedelia, the changes in the war in Vietnam, and the war on drugs with Nixon, the types of strains that were available and the demand for psychedelia changed. Before we knew it, CBD—due to a lack of ‘stoniness’—was bred out of the plant,” Dr. Frankel explains.

As a result of growers breeding out the all-important CBD, marijuana became known primarily as a plant that gets you high. Its original medicinal properties and uses largely fell by the wayside. Things are changing however.

“Five years ago, California Physicians, and other groups around the world, didn’t really know if we would find CBD-rich strains anymore, but we have. Now there’s many different varieties of it. We keep bringing back new CBD rich strains every month or two. These plants genes’ haven’t seen the light of day for God knows how long.”

CBD is currently a Schedule 1 controlled substance, which means:

  • The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse
  • The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the US
  • There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision

There’s no doubt that CBD needs to be rescheduled, as each of these three points are blatantly wrong. Dr. Frankel actually thinks cannabis should be de-scheduled altogether, as a plant really does not belong on any schedule of a controlled substance.

“How could we have a plant on a schedule? What if it’s an all-THC plant? What if it’s an all-CBD? What if we find some other psychoactivity? If you take the Physicians’ Desk Reference (PDR) and look at every product, none of them looks like a plant to me. This is the only plant, and it’s not just one medicine. One entry with one data ID or MDI cannot be applied for cannabis. For example, we’re actually right now making different medicines with cannabis plants based upon harvest time.

As the plants mature, the flowers get darker and darker. There’s a traditional time when you’re just supposed to pick them. Of course, what we’ve done is we picked them at different times in large amounts, ground them all together so we can get very representative samples, and see what happens in the last few weeks of flowering. The medicine changes a lot in the last three weeks. You can make more sedating medicine by letting it just stay on the vine three weeks longer. Even how long you let it grow makes it a very different medicine, a noticeably different medicine,” he says.

Who’s a Good Candidate for Medical Cannabis?

In his medical practice, Dr. Frankel treats a wide variety of patients with medical cannabis, which has become his specialty. Despite the many claims of cannabis performing miracles, he’s reluctant to think of it as a cure for anything. Occasionally, however, patients will experience very dramatic results. For example, he has seen tumors virtually disappear in some patients using no other therapy except taking 40 to 60 milligrams of cannabinoids a day. The most common thing he sees in cancer patients, however, are tumors shrinking, or a metastasis disappearing. Sometimes tumors will shrink or vanish, only to reemerge in other areas, months later, and then shrink or vanish again… Other common ailments being treated with cannabis include:

  • Mood disorders
  • Pain disorders
  • Degenerative neurological disorders such as dystonia
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • PTSD
  • Seizure Disorders

He recounts how two dystonia patients with severe myofascial spasms were able to return to normal life after taking two milligrams of whole-plant CBD three times a day for a little more than one week. This is quite astounding, considering each of them had spent more than a decade undergoing neurosurgeries and taking multiple medications.

Dr. Frankel is very focused on trying to develop accurate dose-consistent medicine. The Patient Access Centers he consults with create a diverse collection of dose-consistent oral-buccal sprays. He also believes it’s very important to open up and start talking about dosing—what works, what doesn’t. It is his belief that some patients, in large part due to lack of education about the medicine, may be taking 10, or even 100 times higher dosage than is really needed to treat their ailment. Unfortunately, many doctors in this still highly controversial field are afraid to recommend dosages, for fear of the repercussions.

“There’s this false notion (I think I can very safely say it’s false) that doctors cannot recommend dosage because of this federal [law against] aiding and abetting with cannabis. It’s not true. It’s just not true,” he says. “There are no [cannabis] medications that we dose by body weight. We now have about 120 kids with seizure disorder, and if you look at the surveys, across the board, the average dose is 37 milligrams [of whole-plant CBD] per day, and there’s no relationship with body size.”

How Can You Obtain Medical Cannabis?

In states where medicinal marijuana is legal, such as California, you can join a collective, which is a legal entity consisting of a group of patients that can grow and share cannabis medicines with each other. By signing up as a member, you gain the right to grow and share your medicine. Dr. Frankel explains:

“A patient or a human being 18 and over or with a parent’s consent in California can get a medical cannabis card recommendation letter if they or any physician or doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.) agree. It doesn’t have to be for any specific condition. In other states, it’s very, specified. In California, there are 12 conditions listed, but then it says ‘or any condition agreed upon by the doctor and patient,’ which kind of opens it up quite a bit.”

[With your medical cannabis card], you have the authority to go to whatever collective you want and pretty much select what medicine you want. Now, that is exactly what the good, the bad, and the ugly is. I love free choice, but we need free choice with education. There’s virtually zero education going on in the collectives. I mean, there are random places here and there that make an effort but it’s really minimal.”

When cannabis is inhaled, smoked, or vaporized, its effects are rapid and short-lasting. Orally, it’s the most unpredictable and delayed. When ingesting it, it can take up to two hours to take effect, but if dosed appropriately, you can achieve once-a-day dosing with an edible medicine.

When smoked, as little as 10 mg of CBD acts as a major appetite suppressor. CBD is also an excellent painkiller, particularly for tooth pain when the cannabis oil is applied sublingually or directly onto the tooth. Cannabis oil can also help heal sunburn overnight. CBD is also very effective for anxiety disorders. Just a couple of milligrams of whole-plant CBD can effectively subdue anxiety without causing any kind of mental deficiency or high.

In fact, to determine how much THC in an oral dose would be required to get high, they made liquid edibles with 5mg, 10mg, and 20mg of THC. The lowest dose, 5mg, did not produce a high. The upper two—10 and 20 mg—did. Taking 50-100 mg of oral THC could get you into serious trouble. Paranoia is the most common side effect. Overdosing can also produce nausea and vomiting.

The Power of Raw Cannabis

The video below features some of the top researchers on the healing effects of Cannabis in its raw form. The leaves can be eaten in a salad or juiced.

More Information

A British pharmaceutical company called GW Pharmaceuticals has a cannabis product that is distributed in Canada and five other countries. It’s a 1:1 CBD-THC whole plant extract. “It’s a very good medicine,” Dr. Frankel says. “But it’s expensive. That’s the problem with pharmaceutical [companies].” Dr. Frankel also consults with various states that are interested in growing medicinal CBD, i.e. cannabis with a high CBD content and hemp-level (extremely low) THC. He even gives the CBD seeds away. “I make the offer: if any governor in the 50 states wants, absolutely free – as long as I can do it legally – any of these high-ratio CBD strains, I can make it happen. No cost,” he says.

“This is one of the important points I’d to emphasize: I think we’re going to find ultimately that CBD is a nutritional supplement for everybody. I think we were all using [cannabis] 100 years ago… I think then, if they had hemp for food, there was CBD in it. Again, I wasn’t there, but my guess is that everybody had CBD in their diet up until 100 years ago or so. CBD appears in some of the newest data to help protect your DNA epigenetic layer. That’s important stuff for all of the toxins that we have in our environment. I think we have more toxins now, and we’re missing one of the major protectants that we used to use for this. That’s a double whammy.”

When You Always Gotta Go

By Dr. Mercola

Millions of people experience problems with urination, ranging from incontinence and urgency to nighttime urination. The severity of these symptoms can be mild or debilitating, causing embarrassment or anxiety that keeps people from socializing and enjoying their lives.

Yet, no study has ever determined which lower urinary tract symptom (LUTS) is the most bothersome. Many researchers have simply cited their own area of interest as the most troublesome, shedding little light on which urinary symptoms are in need of the most attention.

Researchers from Finland have changed that, however, with a study that gets to the bottom of bladder symptoms among men and women of all ages.

The Most Troubling Urinary Symptoms? Urinary Urgency and Urgency Incontinence

A survey of 6,000 people in Finland revealed urinary symptoms were common across the board.1 This included:

  • The feeling of having to go now, or urinary urgency, in nearly 8%
  • Stress incontinence (leaking urine with coughing or exercise) in nearly 7%
  • Nighttime voiding (nocturia) in 6%
  • Dribbling after urination (post-micturition dribble) in nearly 6%
  • Leaking urine before reaching a toilet (urgency incontinence) in 5%

Urination problems tended to differ among men and women, with women experiencing more issues with incontinence and men struggling more often with slow urination or dribbling. Overall, they found urinary urgency was the most common troubling symptom but, individually, urgency incontinence was rated as the most embarrassing problem.

The study’s lead researcher, Kari Tikkinen, MD, PhD, explained that some of the most overlooked urinary symptoms are actually those that deserve the most attention:2

“In women, stress incontinence is the condition whose investigation and treatment we should particularly focus on. The symptom occurs in approximately one in eight of all women at a level of severity that causes substantial bother…

In both genders, rushing to the toilet and waking at night-time to urinate were listed as fairly common and troublesome problems – approximately one in twelve people stated they had substantial trouble with rushing to the toilet, and one in seventeen said they had trouble with getting up at night-time to urinate…

According to this study, however, the most common cause of bother among men is post-micturition dribble, which has been usually ignored.”

A Closer Look at Some of the Most Common Urinary Symptoms

You’ve probably heard of the term “overactive bladder,” which refers to symptoms such as urinary frequency, urinary urgency, and having urge incontinence, or accidents. It has become a buzzword in recent years as pharmaceutical companies began promoting medications to treat this recently coined condition, urging (primarily) women to seek “help.”

Not only are many cases of “overactive bladder” mild – i.e. not requiring treatment – but the term itself may be problematic, according to Tikkinen, who noted:3

It implies that the cause of the symptoms lies in the bladder, even though this is often not the case.”

Certain drugs for overactive bladder (anticholinergics) work by relaxing your bladder muscle to reduce urinary urgency, frequency, and accidents. These drugs may cause side effects like blurred vision, constipation, faster heartbeat, drowsiness, confusion, and memory loss while doing nothing to treat the underlying cause of your urinary troubles. Common causes of urinary symptoms include:4

  • Stress Incontinence (leaking urine while laughing, coughing, sneezing, etc.): This is often caused by physical changes resulting from pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause.
  • Urge Incontinence (leaking urine after feeling a sudden urge to urinate): This may be caused by abnormal nerve signals that cause bladder spasms and may be associated with certain medical conditions like uncontrolled diabetes and hyperthyroidism. Other health conditions may also impact your bladder nerves and muscles, leading to urge incontinence. This includes multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and injury.
  • Overactive Bladder: This may be caused by abnormal nerves sending signals to your bladder at the wrong time, causing it to contract and leading to frequent urination, urgency, incontinence, and nighttime urination.
  • Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms in Men: These may include urinary hesitancy, weak stream, dribbling or leaking, along with more frequent urination (especially at night). These symptoms may be caused by an enlarged prostate that affects the flow of urine.

How Often Is ‘Frequent’ Urination?

You may be wondering just what constitutes an actual urination “problem.” For starters, if the frequency of your urination is bothersome (i.e. it wakes you up at night or interferes with your ability to carry out your regular activities), you should seek help. The same holds true for feelings of urgency or incontinence that is interfering with your daily life.

Please do not feel embarrassed, as these problems are incredibly common and can often be treated (using non-drug methods), leading to significant improvements in your quality of life.

That said, urinating six to eight times per day is “average.” You might go more or less often than that, depending on how much water you drink and how active you are. Increased frequency can be caused by an overactive bladder (involuntary contractions), caffeine, a urinary tract infection (UTI), interstitial cystitis, benign prostate enlargement, diabetes, or certain neurological diseases.

It is important that you urinate when you feel the urge (except if you’re undergoing bladder training, as discussed below). Ordinarily, delaying urination can cause bladder overdistension — like overstretching a Slinky such that it can’t bounce back. You may habitually postpone urination if you find bathroom breaks inconvenient at work, or if you have Paruresis (also known as Shy Bladder Syndrome, Bashful Bladder, Tinkle Terror, or Pee Anxiety), the fear of urinating in the presence of others. Seven percent of the public suffers from this condition.5

6 Natural Methods for Treating Urinary Symptoms

If you’re struggling with urinary symptoms that are interfering with your life, the following methods can be very effective:

  1. Do Kegels: More women than men might be familiar with this term. A Kegel squeeze is performed by drawing your lower pelvic muscles up and holding them up high and tight. For men who aren’t familiar with that term, it’s similar to trying to stop urinating in the middle of the flow. This can help to strengthen the muscles that help you hold in and control the flow of urine. Kegels can also help you suppress the need to urinate if you have trouble with frequency.
  2. Keep a Bladder Diary: This will help you become familiar with your bathroom habits so you can identify a pattern. It may help you develop a plan to visit the bathroom at timed intervals to avoid accidents, as well as help you strategically increase time between bathroom trips as you gain control.
  3. Bladder Training: The bladder diary is often one step of bladder training, which involves visiting the restroom according to a fixed schedule. When you feel the need to urinate before a scheduled visit, practice Kegels or relaxation exercises like deep breathing to suppress the urge.
  4. Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment or Chiropractic Adjustments:  Research has shown that osteopathic manipulative treatment provided virtually the same therapeutic effect as pelvic floor muscle training (Kegels) in women with lower urinary tract disorders.6
  5. Limiting Fluids at Certain Times of the Day: If you’re getting up during the night to urinate, stop drinking three to four hours before bedtime. Coffee, tea, and alcohol should also be restricted.
  6. Enlarged Prostate: Men, if you believe an enlarged prostate is causing your urinary symptoms, read these tips for maintaining a healthy prostate.

If you only experience occasional incontinence, wearing a thin absorbent pad may help give you confidence and allow you to go about with your daily schedule without fears of embarrassment. But, ideally, try the safe options above so that you can fully recover. Remember, this is a very common problem that can often be effectively treated, naturally. As the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC) put it:

“…many women are afraid to mention their problem. They may have urinary incontinence that can improve with treatment but remain silent sufferers and resort to wearing absorbent undergarments, or diapers. This practice is unfortunate, because diapering can lead to diminished self-esteem, as well as skin irritation and sores. If you are relying on diapers to manage your incontinence, you and your family should discuss with your doctor the possible effectiveness of treatments such as timed voiding and pelvic muscle exercises.”

Farmed and Dangerous… Chipotle Takes Aim at Unsustainable Industrial Agriculture in New Mini-Series

By Dr. Mercola

Last month, the restaurant chain Chipotle launched an online show on Hulu called Farmed and Dangerous, a four-part satire aimed at revealing the “outrageously twisted and utterly unsustainable world of industrial agriculture” by poking fun at it.

Each of the four episodes is being published by the Huffington Post.1 The first episode, featured above, ran on Monday, February 17.

“We’re most interested in using the series to launch conversations around pressing issues in our food system,” Huffington Post writes. “Is industrial agriculture the only answer to the planet’s food problem? Do you support the use of genetically-modified ingredients in our food? What do you think of Chipotle’s anti-industrial farming message and ‘values branding’ strategy?”2

All important questions to consider these days… One of the main characters in Farmed and Dangerous is Chip Randolph, a young farmer-activist who goes up against a fictional industrial food corporation that has created petroleum-based cow feed, called “petro-pellets”—with devastating results.

While adding petroleum to the feed makes for cheaper food, it also makes the cows spontaneously combust into flames. Through the calamitous twists and turns that ensue, the series indirectly highlights a number of important issues currently facing the food industry.

This includes reliance on fossil fuels, the misuse of drugs in animal farming, and food libel laws that enable the food industry to silence critics. Perhaps one of the catchiest phrases uttered in this mini-series is “Those people died from eating; not starving. That’s progress.”

While modern agriculture has yet to develop feed that makes cows literally explode, the phrase is still hauntingly relevant when we’re talking about factory farming. People are indeed being harmed by the food they eat these days.

Values Branding vs. Product Integration

According to the New York Times:3

“…’Farmed and Dangerous,’ billed as a ‘Chipotle original series,’ hopes to promote the company’s concerns about sustainable agriculture and the humane treatment of animals used for meat. This stealth marketing strategy, Chipotle executives say, is not about ‘product integration,’ but ‘values integration.'”

It’s interesting to note that Chipotle hasn’t always been 100 percent dedicated to the values of sustainable and organic agriculture, but in their defense, the chain has been fairly quick to respond to consumer pressure to remove genetically engineered ingredients, or at the very least be transparent about their use.

Last summer, I wrote about how food activist blogger Vani Hari, better known as “Food Babe,” inspired Chipotle to take a closer look at its ingredients. When she began her investigation into Chipotle’s food, the restaurant didn’t have a list of ingredients on their menus or website, and the corporate headquarters even refused to supply her with one when she contacted them directly.4

“I said, ‘But your label says “Food with Integrity.”‘ How am I going to know that it’s food with integrity if I can’t know the ingredients and I can’t read them for myself?” Vani said.

Shortly after publishing an article on her blog, questioning the chain’s resistance to releasing a list of its ingredients for closer scrutiny, Chipotle called her. Shortly thereafter, the chain released the lists of ingredients in its meals, and even started labeling genetically engineered (GE) ingredients for full transparency.

They also swapped out some of the GE ingredients, such as soybean oil, replacing it with rice bran oil. And now, they’ve released Farmed and Dangerous, which may be just what’s needed to give these issues some well-needed exposure among the general public.

Is Your Food Supporting or Harming Your Health?

Virtually all of the meat and poultry (beef, pork, chicken, turkey, etc.) found in your local grocery store comes from animals raised in so-called confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). If it wasn’t raised in a factory farm, it will typically bear a clear label stating it’s “grass-fed” or “USDA 100% organic.”

Large-scale factory farming is the cheapest way to raise meat, thereby allowing for the largest profits. But the ultimate price is high, as there’s a complete disregard for human health, the environment, and the ethical treatment of animals.

Far from being what most people would consider “a farm,” these massive operations are more like industrial warehouses, stocked to the hilt with animals that are quite literally crammed together. Due to the overcrowded, unhygienic conditions in these livestock factories, most of the animals end up getting sick. And whether they’re ill or not, they’re still routinely given antibiotics and artificial hormones to promote growth.

The natural diet of a cow is plain grass, but CAFO-raised cows are fed pesticide-laden grains and other byproducts instead. Not only does this upset their digestive systems and alter the nutritional makeup of their meat, all of the feed additives also get transferred to you when you eat that meat. The routine use of antibiotics in particular has led to the rapid rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs that now threaten human life.

The factory farm model also directly contributes to Americans’ increasing reliance on processed junk foods, which in turn drives the rise in obesity and chronic disease. For the past several decades, the focus has been on creating ever-cheaper foods. Well, you cannot achieve top quality and rock-bottom prices at the same time. Something has to give, and quality nutrition definitely fell by the wayside as technology overtook the food and agricultural industry…

Tainted Meat—Another Health Hazard of the Factory Farm Model

Research suggests you have a 50/50 chance of buying meat tainted with drug-resistant bacteria when you buy meat from your local grocery store. But it may be even worse than that. Last year, using data collected by the federal agency called NARMS (National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System), the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found antibiotic-resistant bacteria in 81 percent of ground turkey, 69 percent of pork chops, 55 percent of ground beef, and 39 percent of raw chicken parts purchased in stores in 2011. EWG nutritionist and the report’s lead researcher, Dawn Undurraga, issued the following warning to the public:5

“Consumers should be very concerned that antibiotic-resistant bacteria are now common in the meat aisles of most American supermarkets… These organisms can cause foodborne illnesses and other infections. Worse, they spread antibiotic-resistance, which threatens to bring on a post-antibiotic era where important medicines critical to treating people could become ineffective.”

This is no minor concern! According to a landmark “Antibiotic Resistance Threat Report” published by the CDC,6 two million Americans become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year, and at least 23,000 of them die as a direct result of those infections. Even more die from complications.

Rethink Your Shopping Habits to Protect Your Family’s Health

I believe the movement toward sustainable food and ethical meat is very important, both in terms of human health and animal welfare. Organic, grass-fed and finished meat that is humanely raised and butchered is really about the only type of meat that is healthy to eat. By purchasing your meat from smaller farms that raise their animals in a humane fashion, according to organic principles, you’re promoting the proliferation of such farms, which in the end will benefit everyone, including all the animals. The organic industry also tends to favor far more humane butchering practices, which is another important part of “ethical meat.” The following organizations can help you locate farm-fresh foods in your local area that has been raised in a humane, sustainable manner:

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

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Copyright © 2008-2013 Weil Lifestyle, LLC. Information on this blog is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this blog for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

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Hops for Hot Flashes, Weight Loss and Cancer Prevention

Researchers at Oregon State University are looking into the cancer protective effects of a flavonoid found in hops, the plants that give beer its bitter flavor. The flavonoid, xanthohumol, can help protect against cancer, at least in cell culture. Investigators at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State have found xanthohumol to be active against breast, colon, and ovarian cancer when these cancer cell lines were grown and treated under lab conditions. The flavonoid might also help prevent prostate cancer. In addition, hops appears to have other health benefits: an extract has been shown to decrease hot flashes in menopausal women, and ongoing studies of the effect of one hops compound may lead to a new approach to weight loss. In animal studies, the compound promoted either outright weight loss or prevented the animals from gaining as much weight as untreated animals. Don’t stock up on beer yet, though, as it doesn’t contain enough xanthohumol to provide any of the potential health benefits. How much xanthohumol would be needed to protect against cancer, control hot flashes and help us lose weight is still being investigated.

“An interview with Fred Stevens, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Medicinal Chemistry LPI Principal Investigator,” Linus Pauling Institute Research Newsletter, accessed December 6, 2013,

“Hops”, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center website, accessed December 7, 2013,

Do You Suffer Widespread Pain? It May Be Time to Address Your Sleep

By Dr. Mercola

Depriving your body of sleep can lead to some very serious—and surprising—health effects, including widespread pain, which is a primary feature of fibromyalgia.

According to recent research from Great Britain, poor or insufficient sleep was actually the strongest predictor for pain in adults over 50. Other predictors for widespread pain included anxiety, poor physical health, cognitive problems, and osteoarthritis. Senior author Ross Wilkie told Reuters Health:1

“In older adults, widespread pain, that is pain that affects multiple sites in the body, is common and is associated with morbidity and disability including poor mental health and reduced physical functioning…Non-restorative sleep was the strongest predictor of new onset widespread pain…”

Poor sleep can actually impact virtually every aspect of your health, and the reason for this is because your circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle) actually “drives” the rhythms of biological activity at the cellular level.

Hence disruptions tend to cascade outward throughout your entire body. For example, besides making you more susceptible to physical aches and pains, interrupted or impaired sleep can also:

  • Increase your risk of heart disease and cancer
  • Harm your brain by halting new neuron production. Sleep deprivation can increase levels of corticosterone (a stress hormone), resulting in fewer new brain cells being created in your hippocampus
  • Contribute to a pre-diabetic state, making you feel hungry even if you’ve already eaten, which can lead to weight gain
  • Contribute to premature aging by interfering with your growth hormone production, normally released by your pituitary gland during deep sleep (and during certain types of exercise, such as high-intensity interval training)
  • Increase your risk of dying from any cause

Three Factors to Determine How Restorative Your Sleep Is

There are many reasons for why you might not sleep well through the night or get enough sleep. Among the most common culprits are not getting enough natural sunlight during the day, combined with too much artificial light well into the evening.

Something as simple as keeping your bedroom too warm is another frequent mistake that can lead to tossing and turning. Then there’s the issue of being overweight, which increases your risk of sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, which I’ll discuss more in a moment.

Earlier this year, I interviewed Dan Pardi on the topic of how to get restorative, health-promoting sleep. Pardi is a researcher who works with the Behavioral Sciences Department at Stanford University and the Departments of Neurology and Endocrinology at Leiden University in the Netherlands. According to Pardi, the following three factors are key to determining how restorative your sleep is:

  1. Duration— i.e. the number of hours you sleep. Sleep requirements are highly individual, and can change from one day to the next, depending on factors like stress, physical exertion, illness, and pregnancy, just to name a few. But, on average, most people need about eight hours of sleep per night.
  2. Timing—i.e. the habit of going to bed at approximately the same time each night. Even if the duration of sleep is the same, when the timing of your sleep is shifted, it’s not going to be as restorative.
  3. Intensity—This has to do with the different stages that your brain and body goes through over the course of the night, the sequence of them, and how those stages are linked.
  4. Some medications will suppress certain phases of sleep, and certain conditions like sleep apnea will lead to fragmented sleep. With these scenarios, even if you’re sleeping for an adequate duration and have consistent timing, your sleep will not be as restorative.

One of the easiest ways to gauge whether you’ve slept enough is to assess your level of sleepiness the next day. For example, if you had the opportunity, would you be able to take a nap? Do you need caffeine to keep you going? Answering yes to these two questions would indicate you need more and/or better sleep.

The Importance of Getting Bright Light During the Day

I believe that a MAJOR part of why so many people are sleeping so poorly is linked to modern day living, which keeps you indoors for the greater part of the day, and allows you to spend long evenings in brightly lit rooms. The natural cycle of light and darkness plays a critical role in your waking/sleep cycle, and deviating from this natural rhythm can have serious health ramifications.

Studies have shown that poor lighting in the workplace triggers headaches, stress, fatigue, and strained watery eyes, not to mention inferior work production. Conversely, companies that have switched to full-spectrum lights report improved employee morale, greater productivity, reduced errors, and decreased absenteeism. Some experts even believe that “malillumination” is to light what malnutrition is to food, and spending the larger portion of each day indoors essentially puts you in a state of “light deficiency.”

When full-spectrum light enters your eyes, it not only goes to your visual centers enabling you to see, it also goes to your brain’s hypothalamus where it affects your entire body. Your hypothalamus controls body temperature, hunger and thirst, water balance, and blood pressure. It also controls your body’s master gland, the pituitary, which secretes many essential hormones, including those that influence your mood.

Light also serves as the major synchronizer of your “master clock.” This master clock is a group of cells in your brain called the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN). As a group, these nuclei synchronize to the light-dark cycle of your environment when light enters your eyes. You also have other biological clocks throughout your body, and those clocks subsequently synchronize to your master clock. In essence, there are two levels of synchronizations taking place within your body in response to sunlight:

  1. Your master clock synchronizes with the environment
  2. Your other body clocks synchronize with the master clock

To maintain healthy “master clock” timing, you want to make sure you’re getting bright light exposure during the day. Many indoor environments simply aren’t intense enough to maintain the needed synchronization. So-called “anchor light” anchors your rhythm, causing it to be less fragile, so that light at night has less of an ability to shift your rhythm. As for how much light exposure you need, Pardi says the first 30-60 minutes of outdoor light exposure creates about 80 percent of the needed anchoring effect.

Nighttime Light Exposure Is Also Detrimental for Sleep and Health

Just as your body requires bright-light exposure during the day, it requires pitch-blackness at night to function optimally. When you turn on a light at night, you immediately send your brain misinformation about the light-dark cycle. The only thing your brain interprets light to be is “day.” Believing daytime has arrived, your biological clock instructs your pineal gland to immediately cease its production of the hormone melatonin – a significant blow to your health, especially if you’re ill, as melatonin produces a number of health benefits in terms of your immune system.

In addition, melatonin helps you fall asleep and bestows a feeling of overall comfort and well-being, and it has proven to have an impressive array of anti-cancer benefits.2 Needless to say, suppressing this essential hormone by excessive light exposure before bedtime is the last thing you want to do if you have trouble sleeping, or struggle with any kind of health problem or illness.

Moderate Weight Loss Can Help Prevent Sleep Apnea

Certain health ailments can certainly affect your quality of sleep. Sleep apnea, for example, is a very common problem that can hinder any attempts at getting more restorative sleep. Apnea is a Greek word that means “breathe.” Sleep apnea is the inability to breathe properly, or the limitation of breath or breathing, during sleep. There are three general types of apnea described in the literature:

  1. Central sleep apnea (CSA), which typically relates to your diaphragm and chest wall and an inability to properly pull air in
  2. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which relates to an obstruction of your airway that begins in your nose and ends in your lungs
  3. Mixed apnea is a combination of both

Obstructive sleep apnea consists of the frequent collapse of the airway during sleep, making it difficult to breathe for periods lasting as long as 10 seconds. Those with a severe form of the disorder have at least 30 disruptions per hour. Not only do these breathing disruptions interfere with sleep, leaving you unusually tired the next day, it also reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood, which can impair the function of internal organs and/or exacerbate other health conditions you may have.

The condition is closely linked to metabolic health problems such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, and according to recent research,3 even a modest weight reduction can halt the progression of obstructive sleep apnea. Shedding excess pounds might even cure it, according to this five-year long study. As reported by Medical News Today:4

“The study focused on the effects of weight loss on OSA [obstructive sleep apnea] and demonstrated, for the first time, that a sustained weight loss of just five percent was enough to prevent the disease from worsening and even cure it in a long-term follow-up.”

You Don’t Have to Be Obese to Suffer from Sleep Apnea

While sleep apnea is thought to be primarily associated with obesity, many patients diagnosed with sleep apnea today do not have a weight problem. As it turns out, the shape and size of your mouth, and the positioning of your tongue, can also play a significant role.

According to Dr. Arthur Strauss, a dental physician and a diplomat of the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine, our mouths have progressively gotten smaller through the generations due to lack of breastfeeding and poor nutrition. Breastfeeding actually helps expand the size of your child’s palate and helps move the jaw further forward – two factors that help prevent sleep apnea by creating more room for breathing. Diet is also important. Dr. Weston Price’s pioneering work showed how diet can affect your entire mouth, not just your teeth.

If your sleep apnea is related to your tongue or jaw position, specialty trained dentists can design a custom oral appliance to address the issue. These include mandibular repositioning devices, designed to shift your jaw forward, while others help hold your tongue forward without moving your jaw. However, sleep apnea relief may also be found in the form of speech therapy treatment called oral myofunctional therapy, which helps to re-pattern your oral and facial muscles. For more information about this, please see my previous interview with Joy Moeller, who is a leading expert in this form of therapy in the US.

Quick Tips for Improving Your Sleep Quality

Small adjustments to your daily routine and sleeping area can go a long way to ensure uninterrupted, restful sleep. I suggest you read through my full set of 33 healthy sleep guidelines for all of the details, but to start, consider implementing the following changes:

  • Get some sun in the morning. Your circadian system needs bright light to reset itself. Ten to 15 minutes of morning sunlight will send a strong message to your internal clock that day has arrived, making it less likely to be confused by weaker light signals during the night.
  • Get at least 30 minutes of BRIGHT sun exposure mid-day. Remember, your pineal gland produces melatonin roughly in approximation to the contrast of bright sun exposure in the day and complete darkness at night. If you work indoors, make a point to get outdoors for at least a total of 30-60 minutes during the brightest portion of the day.
  • Avoid watching TV or using your computer in the evening, at least an hour or so before going to bed. These devices emit blue light, which tricks your brain into thinking it’s still daytime. Normally your brain starts secreting melatonin between 9 and 10 pm, and these devices emit light that may stifle that process.
  • Sleep in complete darkness, or as close to it as possible. Even the slightest bit of light in your bedroom can disrupt your biological clock and your pineal gland’s melatonin production. This means that even the tiny glow from your clock radio could be interfering with your sleep, so cover your alarm clock up at night or get rid of it altogether. The ideal light tone for any clock you keep on all night is a reddish amber, certainly not blue or green. The red and amber will interfere least with your melatonin production. I also recommend covering your windows with thick drapes or blackout shades if you can afford them. Alternatively, wear an eye mask while you sleep.
  • Install a low-wattage yellow, orange or red light bulb if you need a source of light for navigation at night. Light in these bandwidths does not shut down melatonin production in the way that white and blue bandwidth light does. Salt lamps are handy for this purpose.
  • Keep the temperature in your bedroom at or below 70 degrees F (21 degrees Celsius). Many people keep their homes and particularly their upstairs bedrooms too warm. Studies show that the optimal room temperature for sleep is quite cool, between 60 to 68 degrees F (15.5 to 20 C). Keeping your room cooler or hotter can lead to restless sleep.
  • Check your bedroom for electro-magnetic fields (EMFs). These can also disrupt your pineal gland’s production of melatonin and serotonin, and may have other negative effects as well. To do this, you need a gauss meter. You can find various models online, starting around $50 to $200. Some experts even recommend pulling your circuit breaker before bed to kill all power in your house.
  • Move alarm clocks and other electrical devices away from your head. If these devices must be used, keep them as far away from your bed as possible, preferably at least three feet.

Aromatherapy Can Help Reduce Anxiety

By Dr. Mercola

Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils to support physical health and well-being. Essential oils carry biologically active volatile compounds of flowers and plants in a highly concentrated form. They are, in many ways, the essence of the plant and can provide therapeutic benefits in very small amounts.

The particles in essential oils, which come from flowers, twigs, leaves, or bark, can be inhaled, prompting various beneficial effects. As noted by the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA):1

“It [Aromatherapy] seeks to unify physiological, psychological and spiritual processes to enhance an individual’s innate healing process.”

There are about as many uses for aromatherapy as there are essential oils, but one of the most exciting areas of research is for anxiety, with research showing essential oils may help relieve symptoms without the side effects of anxiety drugs.

Aromatherapy May Help Lessen Anxiety Naturally

For an estimated 40 million US adults, feelings of anxiety may occur even when there’s no real threat, causing unnecessary stress and emotional pain.

Unfortunately, most people who suffer with anxiety either do nothing or resort to pharmaceutical drugs – many of which are ineffective and capable of destroying your health and sanity further. Commonly prescribed drugs include benzodiazepine drugs like Ativan, Xanax, and Valium.

Many of these anti-anxiety drugs exert a calming effect by boosting the action of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the same way as opioids (heroin) and cannabinoids (cannabis) do.

This in turn activates the gratification hormone, dopamine, in your brain. Since the identical brain “reward pathways” are used by both types of drugs, they can be equally addictive and also may cause side effects like memory loss, hip fractures, impaired thinking, and dizziness.

Ironically, the symptoms of withdrawal from many of these anxiety medications include extreme states of anxiety – some of which are far worse than the original symptoms that justified treatment in the first place. Clearly a safe, natural alternative for treating anxiety is needed, and aromatherapy may be one such option worth trying. Research shows:

  • A systematic review of 16 randomized controlled trials examining the anxiolytic (anxiety-inhibiting) effects of aromatherapy among people with anxiety symptoms showed that most of the studies indicated positive effects to quell anxiety (and no adverse events were reported).2
  • People exposed to bergamot essential oil aromatherapy prior to surgery had a greater reduction in pre-operative anxiety than those in control groups.3
  • Sweet orange oil has been found to have anxiety-inhibiting effects in humans, supporting its common use as a tranquilizer by aromatherapists.4
  • Ambient odors of orange and lavender reduced anxiety and improved mood in patients waiting for dental treatment.5
  • Compared to the controls, women who were exposed to orange odor in a dental office had a lower level of anxiety, a more positive mood, and a higher level of calmness. Researchers concluded, “exposure to ambient odor of orange has a relaxant effect.”6

Which Essential Oils Work Best for Anxiety? (And How to Use Them)

If you’re interested in trying out this natural form of anxiety relief, any of the following essential oils would be a good starting point. These are all popular anxiety-inhibiting oils:7


There are a number of ways to use aromatherapy. If you have a serious condition, you may want to contact an experienced aromatherapist who can help guide you. Certain essential oils can cause photosensitization (making your skin more sensitive to the sun) or allergic reaction and others should not be used on pregnant women, so it’s important to be familiar with an essential oil before using it. That said, you can try to use essential oils at home via the following methods:10

  • Indirect inhalation of essential oils using a room diffuser or placing drops nearby
  • Direct inhalation of essential oils using an individual inhaler with drops floated on top of hot water (this is popular for treating sinus headaches)
  • Aromatherapy massage, in which essential oils are diluted in a carrier oil and massaged into your skin
  • Applying essential oils to your skin by combining them with lotion, bath salts, or dressings

Anxiety, of course, is only one use for aromatherapy. Other potential uses include:

  • Green apple scent for migraines: One study found that the scent significantly relieved migraine pain. This may also work with other scents that you enjoy, so consulting with an aromatherapist might be beneficial.
  • Peppermint for memory: The aroma of peppermint has been shown to enhance memory and increase alertness.
  • Nausea and vomiting: A blend of peppermint, ginger, spearmint, and lavender essential oils has been found to help relieve post-operative nausea.11
  • Lavender for pain relief: Lavender aromatherapy has been shown to lessen pain following needle insertion.12

Additional Natural Treatments for Anxiety

Energy psychology techniques, such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), can be very effective by helping you to actually reprogram your body’s reactions to the unavoidable stressors of everyday life. This includes both real and imagined stressors, which can be significant sources of anxiety. EFT is akin to acupuncture, which is based on the concept that a vital energy flows through your body along invisible pathways known as meridians. EFT stimulates different energy meridian points in your body by tapping them with your fingertips, while simultaneously using custom-made verbal affirmations. Although not necessary, you can even use EFT along with aromatherapy if you like.

This can be done by yourself or under the supervision of a qualified therapist, either in person or via online video services, like Skype, FaceTime, or Google Hangouts. In the following video, EFT therapist Julie Schiffman discusses EFT for stress and anxiety relief. Please keep in mind that while anyone can learn to do EFT at home, self-treatment for serious issues like persistent anxiety is dangerous and NOT recommended.

It is dangerous because it will allow you to falsely conclude that EFT does not work when nothing could be further from the truth. For serious or complex issues, you need someone to guide you through the process, as it typically takes years of training to develop the skill to tap on and relieve deep-seated, significant issues.

Your Diet

If you suffer from anxiety, it would be wise to look into nourishing your gut flora, and the best way to do this is to regularly consume traditionally fermented foods, which are naturally rich in beneficial bacteria. Pasteurized versions will NOT have the same benefits, as the pasteurization process destroys many, if not all, of the naturally occurring probiotics. So you will need to seek out traditionally fermented, unpasteurized foods like fermented vegetables, or make them yourself. Additionally, your diet should include a high-quality source of animal-based omega-3 fats, like krill oil. The omega-3 fats EPA and DHA play an important role in your emotional well-being, and research has shown a dramatic 20 percent reduction in anxiety among med students taking omega-3s.13


In addition to the creation of new neurons, including those that release the calming neurotransmitter GABA, exercise boosts levels of potent brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which may help buffer some of the effects of stress. Many avid exercisers also feel a sense of euphoria after a workout, sometimes known as the “runner’s high.” It can be quite addictive, in a good way, once you experience just how good it feels to get your heart rate up and your body moving.

If you struggle with anxiety, you really can’t go wrong with starting a comprehensive exercise program – virtually any physical activity is likely to have positive effects, especially if it’s challenging enough. That said, Duke University researchers recently published a review of more than 100 studies that found yoga appears to be particularly beneficial for mental health,14 although I also recommend high-intensity interval training like Peak Fitness and resistance training, in addition to flexibility and core-building exercises like yoga or Foundation Training.