Massage offers real health benefits, so much so that some conventional hospitals are making them a standard therapy for surgery patients and others.
This interesting CNN article details many of these benefits (including some that may surprise you). Along with promoting relaxation and improving your sense of well-being, getting a massage has been shown to:
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
If you've never had a professional massage before, it will likely only take you one visit to understand why they're becoming so popular: they feel great! This is because massage affects the nervous system through nerve endings in the skin, stimulating the release of endorphins, the body's natural 'feel good' chemicals.
Massage is one of the oldest and simplest forms of medical care used to ease pain and anxiety, and massages have profound health benefits. Massages, even between you and your significant other, can be an excellent addition to your healthy lifestyle.
Endorphins help induce relaxation and a sense of well-being, relieve pain and reduce levels of stress chemicals such as cortisol and noradrenaline -- reversing the damaging effects of stress by slowing heart rate, respiration and metabolism and lowering raised blood pressure.
Stronger massage stimulates blood circulation to improve the supply of oxygen and nutrients to body tissues and helps the lymphatic system to flush away waste products. It eases tense and knotted muscles and stiff joints, improving mobility and flexibility.
Massage is said to increase activity of the vagus nerve, one of 10 cranial nerves, that affects the secretion of food absorption hormones, heart rate and respiration. It has proven to be an effective therapy for a variety of health conditions -- particularly stress-related tension, which experts believe accounts for as much as 80 percent to 90 percent of disease.
In addition to the benefits listed above, massage can:
Stimulate the lymph system, the body's natural defense, against toxic invaders.
On Vital Votes, reader Debrah from Fort Wayne, Indiana adds:
"It is always good to see positive publicity on massage -- I am a massage therapist and a Jin Shin Do Acupressurist. I would like to add that though I love massage, acupressure is especially effective for many health issues because one gets the benefits of both massage and acupuncture at the same time (I noticed one of the studies compared massage to acupuncture).
"I teach classes for CEU's for massage and bodywork professionals and I teach for lay people who would like to learn simple techniques to use for self and family/friends. Nothing beats a professional treatment but I also feel it is important to empower my clients -- it is so reassuring to know that a simple acupressure treatment could help headaches, all types of pain and digestive problems -- no need to go for drugs!
"Bodywork (massage, acupressure, chiropractic adjustments, cranial work) of all kinds can be just the thing to get people out of the downward health spiral in to an upward spiral -- if you feel good it is easier to be motivated to exercise and prepare healthy food!"
By Kayla McDonell, RD | Authority Nutrition
High blood cholesterol levels are a known risk factor for heart disease.
For decades, people have been told that the dietary cholesterol in foods raises blood cholesterol and causes heart disease.
This idea may have been a rational conclusion based on the available science 50 years ago, but better, more recent evidence doesn’t support it.
This article takes a close look at the current research on dietary cholesterol and the role it plays in blood cholesterol levels and heart disease.
What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that occurs naturally in the human body.
Many people think of cholesterol as being harmful, but the truth is that it’s essential for your body to function.
Cholesterol contributes to the membrane structure of every single cell in your body.
Your body also needs it to make hormones and vitamin D, and perform various other important functions. Simply put, you could not survive without it.
Your body makes all the cholesterol it needs, but it also absorbs a relatively small amount of cholesterol from certain foods, such as eggs, meat and full-fat dairy products.
Bottom Line: Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that humans need to survive. Your body makes cholesterol and absorbs it from the foods you eat.
Cholesterol and Lipoproteins
When people talk about cholesterol in relation to heart health, they usually aren’t talking about cholesterol itself.
They are actually referring to the structures that carry cholesterol in the bloodstream. These are called lipoproteins.
Lipoproteins are made of fat (lipid) on the inside and protein on the outside.
There are several kinds of lipoproteins, but the two most relevant to heart health are low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL).
Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL)
LDL makes up 60–70% of total blood lipoproteins and is responsible for carrying cholesterol particles throughout your body.
It is often referred to as “bad” cholesterol because it has been linked with atherosclerosis, or the buildup of plaque in arteries.
Having a lot of cholesterol carried by LDL lipoproteins is associated with an increased risk of heart disease. In fact, the higher the level, the greater the risk.
There are different types of LDL, mainly broken down by size. They are often classified as either small, dense LDL or large LDL.
Studies show that people who have mostly small particles are at a greater risk of developing heart disease than those with mostly large particles.
Still, the most important risk factor is not the size of LDL particles. It’s the number. This measurement is called LDL particle number, or LDL-P.
Generally speaking, the higher number of LDL particles you have, the greater your risk of developing heart disease.
High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL)
HDL picks up excess cholesterol throughout your body and takes it back to your liver, where it can be used or excreted.
Some evidence indicates that HDL protects against the buildup of plaque inside your arteries.
It is often referred to as “good” cholesterol because having cholesterol carried by HDL particles is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease.
Bottom Line: Lipoproteins are particles that carry cholesterol around the body. A high level of LDL lipoproteins is associated with a greater risk of heart disease, whereas higher levels of HDL lipoproteins lower your risk.
How Does Dietary Cholesterol Affect Blood Cholesterol?
The amount of cholesterol in your diet and the amount of cholesterol in your blood are very different things.
Although it may seem logical that eating cholesterol would raise blood cholesterol levels, it usually doesn’t work that way.
The body tightly regulates the amount of cholesterol in the blood by controlling its production of cholesterol.
When your dietary intake of cholesterol goes down, your body makes more. When you eat larger amounts of cholesterol, your body makes less.
Because of this, foods high in dietary cholesterol have very little impact on blood cholesterol levels in most people.
However, in some people, high-cholesterol foods do cause a rise in blood cholesterol. These people make up about 25% of the population and are often referred to as “hyperresponders.” This tendency is considered to be genetic.
Even though dietary cholesterol does modestly increase LDL in these individuals, it does not seem to increase their risk of heart disease.
This is because the general increase in LDL particles typically reflects an increase in large LDL particles, not small, dense LDL. People who have mainly large LDL particles actually have a lower risk of heart disease.
Hyperresponders also experience an increase in HDL particles, which offsets the increase in LDL by transporting excess cholesterol back to the liver for elimination from the body.
So even though hyperresponders experience raised cholesterol levels when they increase their dietary cholesterol, the ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol in these individuals stays the same and their risk of heart disease doesn’t seem to go up.
Of course, there are always exceptions in nutrition, and it is possible that some individuals see adverse effects from eating more cholesterol-rich foods.
Bottom Line: Most people can effectively adapt to a higher intake of cholesterol. Because of this, dietary cholesterol has little effect on blood cholesterol levels.
Dietary Cholesterol and Heart Disease
Contrary to popular belief, heart disease is not only caused by cholesterol.
Many factors are involved in the disease, including inflammation, oxidative stress, high blood pressure and smoking.
While heart disease is often driven by the lipoproteins that carry cholesterol around, dietary cholesterol has little to no effect on this.
The Myths About Cholesterol Are Based on Bad Research
The original studies that found a relationship between dietary cholesterol and heart disease were flawed.
One of the original experiments discovered this link after feeding cholesterol to rabbits, which are herbivores and do not consume cholesterol by nature.
Although these results are not relevant to human disease, the study sparked an increase in clinical studies aiming to demonstrate the same relationship in people.
Unfortunately, many of the studies that followed were also poorly designed and researchers selectively excluded information in order to sway results.
Higher-Quality Research Finds no Link With Heart Disease
More recent, higher-quality studies have shown that cholesterol in the diet is not associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
A lot of research has been done on eggs specifically. Eggs are a significant source of dietary cholesterol, but several studies have shown that eating them is not associated with an elevated risk of heart disease.
What’s more, eggs may even help improve your lipoprotein profiles, which could lower your risk.
One study in particular compared the effects of whole eggs and yolk-free egg substitute on cholesterol levels.
Individuals who ate three whole eggs per day experienced a greater increase in HDL particles and a greater decrease in LDL particles than those who consumed an equivalent amount of egg substitute.
However, it is important to note that eating eggs may pose a risk to diabetics, at least in the context of a regular Western diet. Some studies show an increased risk of heart disease in diabetics who eat eggs.
Bottom Line: Dietary cholesterol has no link with the risk of heart disease. High-cholesterol foods like eggs have been shown to be safe and healthy.
Should You Avoid High-Cholesterol Foods?
For years, people have been told that high-cholesterol foods can cause heart disease.
However, the studies mentioned above have made it clear that this is not the case.
It just so happens that many foods high in cholesterol are also among the healthiest foods on the planet.
These include grass-fed beef, whole eggs, full-fat dairy products, fish oil, shellfish, sardines and liver.
These foods are incredibly nutritious, so don’t avoid them just because of their cholesterol content.
Bottom Line: Most foods that are high in cholesterol are also super healthy and nutritious. This includes whole eggs, fish oil, sardines and liver.
Ways to Lower High Blood Cholesterol
If you have high cholesterol, you can often lower it through simple lifestyle changes.
For example, losing extra weight may help reverse high cholesterol.
Several studies show that a modest weight loss of 5–10% can lower cholesterol and decrease the risk of heart disease in overweight individuals.
There are also many foods that can help lower cholesterol. These include avocados, legumes, nuts, soy foods, fruits and vegetables.
Adding these foods to your diet can help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Being physically active is also important. Studies have shown that exercise has positive effects on cholesterol levels and heart health.
Bottom Line: High cholesterol can be lowered in many cases through simple lifestyle changes. Losing extra weight, increasing physical activity and eating a healthy diet can all help lower cholesterol and improve heart health.
Take Home Message
High blood cholesterol levels are a risk factor for heart disease.
However, dietary cholesterol has little to no effect on blood cholesterol in most people.
More importantly, there is no significant link between the cholesterol you eat and your risk of heart disease.
By Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE | Authority Nutrition
Ghee has become quite popular in certain circles lately.
It’s been praised as an alternative to butter that provides additional benefits.
However, some people have questioned whether ghee is superior to regular butter, or may even pose health risks.
This article takes a detailed look at ghee and how it compares to butter.
What Is Ghee?
Ghee is a type of clarified butter. It’s more concentrated in fat than butter because its water and milk solids have been removed.
It has been used in Indian and Pakistani cultures for thousands of years. The term comes from the Sanskrit word meaning “sprinkled.”
Ghee was originally created to prevent butter from spoiling during warm weather.
In addition to cooking, it’s used in the Indian alternative medicine system Ayurveda, where it’s known as ghrita.
Because its milk solids have been removed, it does not require refrigeration and can be kept at room temperature for several weeks. In fact, like coconut oil, it may become solid when kept at cold temperatures.
Bottom Line: Ghee is a type of clarified butter that is stable at room temperature. It has been used in Indian cooking and Ayurvedic medicine since ancient times.
How Is It Made?
Ghee on a Wooden Spoon
Ghee is made by heating butter to separate the liquid and milk solid portions from the fat.
First, butter is boiled until its liquid evaporates and milk solids settle at the bottom of the pan and turn golden to dark brown.
Next, the remaining oil (the ghee) is allowed to cool until it becomes warm. It’s then strained before being transferred to jars or containers.
It can easily be made at home using grass-fed butter, as shown in this recipe.
Bottom Line: Ghee can be made by heating butter to remove water and milk solids from the fat.
How Does It Compare to Butter?
Ghee and butter have similar nutritional compositions and culinary properties, although there are a few differences.
Calories and Nutrients
This is the nutrition data for one tablespoon (14 grams) of ghee and butter:
Both contain nearly 100% of calories from fat.
Ghee is more concentrated than butter. Gram for gram, it provides slightly more butyric acid and other short-chain saturated fats. Test-tube and animal studies suggest that these fats may reduce inflammation, promote gut health and inhibit cancer growth.
It’s also slightly higher in conjugated linoleic acid, a polyunsaturated fat that may help increase fat loss.
Overall, the differences between the two are small, and choosing one over the other likely won’t have a significant impact on your health.
However, ghee is completely free of the milk sugar lactose and the milk protein casein, whereas butter contains small amounts of each. For people who have allergies or sensitivities to these dairy components, ghee is clearly the better choice.
Bottom Line: Ghee and butter are nearly 100% fat, but ghee may be the better choice for people with lactose or casein sensitivities.
Use in Cooking and Food Preparation
Butter and ghee are rich in saturated fatty acids, which can handle heat at high temperatures without becoming damaged.
Heating ghee also appears to produce much less of the toxic compound acrylamide than heating vegetable and seed oils.
In fact, one study found that soybean oil produced more than 10 times as much acrylamide as ghee when each fat was heated to 320°F (160°C).
Furthermore, ghee has a high smoke point, which is the temperature at which fats become volatile and begin to rise as smoke.
Its smoke point is 485°F (250°C), which is substantially higher than butter’s smoke point of 350°F (175°C). Therefore, when cooking at very high temperatures, ghee has a distinct advantage over butter.
However, while ghee is more stable at high heat, butter may be more suitable for baking and cooking at lower temperatures because of its sweeter, creamier taste.
Bottom Line: Ghee may be better for high-temperature cooking, but butter has a sweeter taste that may be more suitable for baking.
Potential Health Benefits
Some research shows that ghee may provide health benefits.
Heart Health Markers
A number of animal and human studies suggest that consuming ghee may lead to favorable changes in some heart health markers.
In a rabbit study, ghee was found to increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol and reduce the formation of fatty deposits in the arteries. On the other hand, it also increased fasting blood sugar levels.
Moreover, in a controlled study of 206 healthy adults, ghee was the fat source responsible for the greatest increase in ApoA, a protein in HDL particles that’s linked to a reduced risk of heart disease.
However, it’s important to distinguish between ghee made from dairy and ghee made from vegetable oil, which is known as vanaspati ghee or vegetable ghee.
Vegetable ghee contains 14–40% trans fats. Some researchers believe that increased consumption of vegetable ghee may be contributing to rising heart disease rates among Indians and Pakistanis.
Bottom Line: Studies have found that ghee may improve some heart health markers. However, make sure to choose dairy ghee and not vegetable ghee.
Several animal studies comparing ghee to soybean oil suggest that ghee may reduce the risk of certain cancers, including breast cancer.
In one study, rats fed 10% of calories from ghee for 44 weeks had lower levels of several breast cancer markers than rats fed 10% of calories from soybean oil.
However, more high-quality research is needed to confirm these results.
Bottom Line: Studies in animals have suggested that ghee may reduce the risk of cancer, at least when compared to soybean oil.
Potential Adverse Effects
Based on the results of controlled studies, ghee doesn’t seem to affect LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels very much.
However, people’s responses to saturated fat intake are highly variable.
Those whose LDL cholesterol levels tend to increase in response to high saturated fat intake may want to limit their ghee or butter intake to one or two tablespoons per day.
Another concern is that during the production of ghee at high heat, its cholesterol may become oxidized. Oxidized cholesterol is linked to an increased risk of several diseases, including heart disease.
According to one researcher, detailed analysis has shown that ghee contains oxidized cholesterol but fresh butter does not.
Bottom Line: Potential adverse effects of ghee include an increase in LDL cholesterol levels and the formation of oxidized cholesterol during its production.
Take Home Message
Ghee is a natural food with a long history of medicinal and culinary uses.
It provides certain cooking advantages over butter and is definitely preferable if you have a dairy allergy or intolerance.
However, at this point, there isn’t any evidence suggesting that it’s healthier than butter overall. Both can be enjoyed in moderation as part of a healthy diet.
By Amy Kraft | Everyday Health
The milk aisle is changing, now offering a growing number of options for what to pour on your cereal or drink down as a late-night snack. But what do the newer types of milk mean for your heart health if you have high cholesterol? Old-fashioned cow’s milk, for example, is loaded with calcium and vitamins A and D, which are all good for your heart and overall health. But too much of the saturated fat and cholesterol in whole milk — and even in 2 percent milk — may counteract those health benefits. When you're trying to get to healthy cholesterol levels, you'll want to limit the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet.
Alternative milks can provide similar nutritional benefits if you're watching your cholesterol; are lactose intolerant, vegan, or allergic to certain proteins in cow’s milk; or if you simply prefer something other than cow's milk. “People choose a milk based on tolerability and taste — in addition to health beliefs,” says Deborah Krivitsky, RD, director of nutrition at the Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Center at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. “Each milk will provide different pluses and minuses.”
Organic Cow’s Milk and Cholesterol
Whole cow’s milk contains 146 calories, 5 grams (g) of saturated fat, and 24 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol in a 1 cup — or 8 ounce (oz) — serving. “It’s a tremendous source of protein and nutrients, contains essential vitamins and minerals, and provides a third of a person’s daily recommended intake of calcium,” Krivitsky says. Cow’s milk also contains potassium, which may help prevent high blood pressure (hypertension). What's more, a study published in December 2013 in the journal PLoS One found that organic cow’s milk contains significantly more anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids than conventional milk, which is important because omega-3s promote heart health.
But when it comes to your cholesterol levels, “high-fat dairy could get you into trouble,” says John Day, MD, cardiologist and medical director at Intermountain Heart Rhythm Specialists in Salt Lake City. Saturated fat in your diet raises LDL ("bad") cholesterol, which increases your risk of heart disease and stroke, according to the American Heart Association. If you drink cow's milk, most doctors recommend low-fat or nonfat versions. A 1-cup serving of skim milk has 83 calories, no saturated fat, and only 5 mg of cholesterol.
Raw Cow’s Milk and Foodborne Illness
Thinking about switching to raw cow’s milk, also known as unpasteurized milk? It has about the same amount of calories, saturated fat, and cholesterol as regular dairy milk, and some claim it has even more nutrients. But pregnant women and children should avoid drinking raw milk and eating dairy products such as cheese made from raw milk, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Since raw milk doesn't go through the process of pasteurization that kills potentially harmful bacteria — like salmonella, listeria, and E. coli — people with compromised immune systems are at higher risk of getting foodborne illness from it, though it has the potential to sicken anyone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, unpasteurized milk is 150 times more likely to contain bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses than pasteurized dairy products.
Soy Milk: No Cholesterol, Low in Saturated Fat
With 80 calories and only 2 g of fat per 1-cup serving, plain, light soy milk is a great alternative for people who are watching their cholesterol or cannot tolerate the lactose found in dairy milk. Because the source of soy milk is a plant, it has no cholesterol and only negligible amounts of saturated fat. Soy milk also contains 7 g of protein per serving, which is great for a heart-healthy diet. Twenty-five g per day of soy protein, like that found in soy milk and tofu, may also reduce your risk of heart disease, according to the National Institutes of Health. This may be due not just to the protein, but to soy's high levels of polyunsaturated fats, minerals, vitamins, and fiber, as well as to its low levels of saturated fat. Still, Krivitsky says, it’s important to read the label to know what you're getting: “Make sure there’s no added sugar and that it’s fortified with calcium.”
Almond Milk: No Cholesterol, No Saturated Fat
“Almonds are heart-healthy,” says cardiologist Dr. Day, who recommends almond milk to his heart patients. Unsweetened almond milk contains between 30 and 40 calories per 1-cup serving and has no saturated fat. And because it's a plant-based milk, it also contains no cholesterol. Fortified versions contain the same amount of vitamin D as skim cow’s milk, and some brands even contain up to 50 percent more calcium. Almond milk also contains polyunsaturated fatty acids, which may lower LDL cholesterol, reduce inflammation, and improve cognition (brain function), according to research out of the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. Unfortunately, almond milk is also low in protein compared with cow's milk and other milk alternatives, making it a less ideal choice.
To maintain a healthy heart, Day says, be sure to drink unsweetened almond milk. “The biggest issue with alternative milks is that most of them are sweetened,” he says. “Added sugar in any form can be dangerous to your heart.”
Hemp Milk: No Cholesterol, Low in Saturated Fat
Hemp milk is one of the newer options on the market. This milk comes from the seeds of the hemp plant (cannabis), but it doesn't contain THC — the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, which is a different variety of cannabis. With a flavor and consistency similar to almond milk, hemp milk is a good choice if you’re watching your cholesterol levels, are lactose intolerant, or if you have milk or soy allergies. A 1-cup serving of hemp milk contains 80 calories, 1/2 g of saturated fat, and no cholesterol. Hemp milk is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, especially heart-healthy alpha-linolenic acid. It's also a good source of calcium and magnesium, both of which are essential for heart health, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Getting enough magnesium helps your heart keep a normal rhythm, and having too little can lead to arrhythmias — irregular heart rhythms — like atrial fibrillation.
Coconut Milk Beverage: No Cholesterol, High in Saturated Fat
This option adds natural sweetness to your coffee, oatmeal, or cereal, and has only 45 calories in an 8-oz glass — and no cholesterol. One cup of unsweetened coconut milk beverage contains 4 g of saturated fat, but most of it is made up of medium-chain fatty acids, which may have some health advantages. “Some populations eat a lot of coconut and don’t get heart disease,” Day says.
But there's not enough research to conclude that coconuts and coconut milk are a heart-healthy choice when you have high cholesterol.
“The final verdict is still out,” says Lavinia Butuza, RD, a nutritionist in Sacramento, California. “Heart patients need to be careful with anything coconut, and treat all saturated fats as the same, for now.”
Rice Milk: No Cholesterol, Very Low in Protein
Cup for cup, rice milk is a plant-based milk that contains as much calcium as cow's milk. A 1-cup serving of rice milk has 113 calories (just 30 more than in a cup of skim cow's milk). Rice milk has no saturated fat, and no cholesterol — but it's naturally higher in carbohydrates. Rice milk is also very low in protein, so if you do drink rice milk, be sure that you're getting enough protein from other sources in your diet. “Protein is related to a heart-healthy diet,” Butuza says. “If you don’t get enough protein, you may be taking in too many carbs, and too much of that can turn into higher bad cholesterol levels.”
Goat's Milk: High in Saturated Fat and Cholesterol
Goat's milk is a good option if you want a beverage with a similar nutritional profile to whole cow’s milk but you have trouble digesting lactose. On the downside, a 1-cup serving of goat's milk is high in calories (168) and saturated fat (6.5 g), and it also contains 27 mg of cholesterol.
According to the Mayo Clinic, limiting saturated fats in your diet can help reduce your blood cholesterol levels and lower your risk of coronary artery disease. High levels of cholesterol in your blood can lead to the plaque buildup in your arteries, called atherosclerosis — a condition that increases your risk of stroke and heart attack.
Butuza notes that it's difficult to find a low-fat version of goat's milk, and that it has fewer essential vitamins and minerals than cow's milk. “There’s a lot less folate and B12 vitamin in goat milk,” Butuza says. And if it’s raw, she says, "There’s a risk of foodborne illness — unless you have a goat in your backyard.”
Camel's Milk: High in Saturated Fat and Cholesterol
The latest craze to make its stamp on the milk market is camel's milk. One 8-oz glass contains 107 calories, 3 g of saturated fat, and 17 g of cholesterol. And this milk option is packed with vitamins and minerals: According to research published in October 2011 in Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, camel's milk has 10 times more iron and 35 times more vitamin C than cow's milk. Small studies have shown that it could be beneficial to people with diabetes, too. A study published in January 2015 in the Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism found that drinking camel's milk, as compared with cow’s milk, was associated with increased insulin levels in patients with type 2 diabetes. It's also a natural probiotic that can contribute to gut health.
This milk option is still hard to come by in the United States — and it's expensive. “It’s certainly something to look out for, and it needs to be pasteurized,” says Krivitsky. As a note of caution: Camel's milk may be one of the animal sources of the MERS coronavirus in the Middle East.
By Dr. Mercola
If you're interested in using food to lower your risk of cancer, remember to eat lots of onions. Research shows that people with the highest consumption of onions (as well as other allium vegetables) have a lower risk of several types of cancer, including:
Onions contain several anti-cancer compounds, including quercetin, anthocyanins, organosulfur compounds such as diallyl disulfide (DDS), S-allylcysteine (SAC) and S-methylcysteine (SMC) and onionin A (ONA).
Onion Compound Suppresses Ovarian Cancer
Starting with the latter, ONA was recently found to offer protection against epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC), the most common type of ovarian cancer. As noted by Medical News Today:
"With a [five]-year survival rate of approximately 40 percent, effective treatments for the illness are needed.
Although new cases of EOC ranks 10th among female malignancies, the team says the number of deaths due to this type of ovarian cancer ranks fifth in the United States.
About 80 percent of patients with EOC have a relapse after initial chemotherapy treatment."
ONA, it turns out, slowed growth of EOC. The compound also inhibited other cancerous activities, and enhanced the effects of anti-cancer drugs. Mice fed ONA also lived longer. According to the authors:
"We found that ONA reduced the extent of ovarian cancer cell proliferation induced by co-culture with human macrophages. In addition, we found that ONA directly suppressed cancer cell proliferation.
Thus, ONA is considered useful for the additional treatment of patients with ovarian cancer owing to its suppression of the pro-tumor activation of [tumor-associated macrophages] and direct cytotoxicity against cancer cells."
The Stronger an Onion's Flavor, the More Effective Its Anti-Cancer Effects
Previous research has revealed that the stronger the flavor of the onion, the better its cancer-fighting potential. A 2004 study, in which food scientists analyzed 10 different varieties of onion, the following were found to be particularly effective against liver and colon cancer:
Northern red onions were also found to be high in anti-cancer chemicals, just not quite as potent as the others listed.
Mild-flavored onions, such as Empire Sweet, Western white, Peruvian sweet and Vidalia had the lowest antioxidant activity, making them less potent in terms of anti-cancer benefits. According to lead author, Dr. Rui Hai Liu, an associate professor of food science:
"Onions are one of the richest sources of flavonoids in the human diet, and flavonoid consumption has been associated with a reduced risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Flavonoids are not only anti-cancer but also are known to be anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-allergenic and anti-inflammatory …
Our study of 10 onion varieties and shallots clearly shows that onions and shallots have potent antioxidant and antiproliferation activities and that the more total phenolic and flavonoid content an onion has, the stronger its antioxidant activity and protective effect."
Quercetin — Another Potent Anti-Cancer Compound
Quercetin, another anti-cancer compound found in onions, has been shown to decrease cancer tumor initiation and inhibit the proliferation of cultured ovarian, breast and colon cancer cells. It's also associated with a decreased risk for brain cancer, and a lower risk of lung cancer if you're a smoker.
Quercetin has also been shown to help lower blood pressure in hypertensive patients, and helps prevent histamine release, making quercetin-rich foods such as onions "natural antihistamines."
Quercetin is available in supplement form, but getting this flavonoid naturally from onions makes more sense for a couple of reasons:
Other Beneficial Compounds Found in Onions
The organosulfur compounds DDS, SAC and SMC have also been found to inhibit colon and kidney cancer, in part by inducing cancer cell apoptosis (cell death), but also by inhibiting gene transcription and protecting against ultraviolet-induced immunosuppression. Onions are also a good source of:
• Fiber, which can help lower your cancer risk, especially colon cancer
• Vitamin C
• Anthocyanins (red, purple and blue plant pigments found in red onions). Research has linked anthocyanins to a reduced risk for a number of diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease and neurological dysfunction and decline.
They also help prevent obesity and diabetes, in part by inhibiting certain enzymes in your digestive tract, and by supporting healthy blood sugar control. They have potent anti-inflammatory effects, which helps explain their protective effects against chronic disease
The Many Health Benefits of Onions
While onions are gaining a reputation for their anti-cancer properties, the more we learn about onions, the more it becomes clear they offer whole body benefits.
That is the beauty of eating whole foods, after all, because they typically contain many beneficial phytochemicals that enhance your health in numerous synergistic ways. As for onions, research has shown that including onions in your diet may offer the following benefits:
Tips for Storing and Preparing Onions
If learning about their health benefits has inspired you to eat more onions, you're in luck as they are incredibly versatile and come in a variety of colors and flavors. Keep in mind that the antioxidants tend to be most concentrated in the OUTER layers of the onion, so avoid overpeeling.
Ideally, peel off only the outermost paper-like layer. Peeling too many layers can reduce the onion's quercetin and anthocyanin content by as much as 20 percent and 75 percent respectively. One piece of good news is that quercetin does not degrade when cooked over low heat, so when you're making soup, for example, it simply transfers into the broth.
As for storing your onions, do NOT keep them in plastic. Whole, dry bulbs should be stored in a cool, dry and dark place with plenty of air movement to maximize shelf life.
To extend shelf life of sweet or mild onion varieties, which have a higher water content, you can store the whole bulbs in the fridge. Once an onion has been cut or peeled, it can be refrigerated in a sealed container for about a week before it starts going bad. Leaving a cut onion in room temperature can significantly reduce its antibacterial properties.
Cooking With Onions
The video above demonstrates the best way to peel and dice an onion, while the chart below, both from the National Onion Association (NOA), provides a helpful summary of which types of onions are best used for various dishes.
By Dr. Mercola
According to the industry publication New Hope, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) and the reduced version, ubiquinol, are among the most popular supplements for mitochondrial health.
Between 2000 and 2016, the number of Americans using CoQ10 increased from an estimated 2 million to 24 million, and the number of brands featuring CoQ10 has increased from 18 brands to 125.
This rapid growth suggests people are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of mitochondrial health, which is really great news.
Ubiquinol plays an important role in the electron transport chain of your mitochondria, where it facilitates the conversion of energy substrates and oxygen into the biological energy needed by your cells for life, repair and regeneration.
It's a fat-soluble antioxidant, meaning it works in the fat portions of your body, such as your cell membranes, where it mops up potentially harmful byproducts of metabolism known as reactive oxygen species (ROS).
Taking this supplement helps protect your mitochondrial membranes from oxidative damage, and this in turn has been shown to be helpful for a number of health conditions and chronic diseases.
This is to be expected, since many conditions, including heart disease and migraines — for which CoQ10 has been found beneficial — appear to be rooted in mitochondrial dysfunction.
Low CoQ10 levels have even been detected in people with certain types of cancer, including lung, breast and pancreatic cancer, as well as melanoma metastasis, further strengthening the metabolic theory of cancer.
CoQ10 Versus Ubiquinol
Ubiquinol is the fully reduced version of CoQ10. It's the same molecule, but when CoQ10 is reduced it takes on two electrons, which turns it into what we call ubiquinol.
In your body, this conversion occurs thousands of times every second inside your mitochondria — the "engine" of nearly every cell. The conversion of CoQ10 to ubiquinol is part of the process that allows your body to convert food into energy.
Ubiquinol is the only fat-soluble antioxidant that is actually generated within your body and does not need to be obtained from food. The downside is that by the time you hit your 30s, your body starts to produce less and less of it.
With age, many also start to lose their ability to convert CoQ10 to ubiquinol, and this is why ubiquinol is typically recommended for older people while younger folk can do quite well by taking CoQ10.
Many Health Conditions Stand to Benefit From CoQ10
Researchers have identified a number of conditions and health concerns where CoQ10 or ubiquinol can be of great benefit, including the following:
Ubiquinol is particularly important if you're taking a statin, as these cholesterol-lowering drugs deplete your body of CoQ10, which can have serious consequences for your heart and other muscles.
Research has also shown CoQ10 can improve exercise performance, improving your overall energy status, peak power production and muscle recovery when taken in doses of 200 to 300 milligrams (mg) per day. World class athletes who need extra ATP turnover may go as high as 300 to 600 mg per day.
Heart-Healthy Benefits of CoQ10
CoQ10 is perhaps most well-known for supporting heart and cardiovascular health, as your heart is one of the most energy-hungry muscles in your body. Without sufficient energy, your heart will not be able to function properly.
Chronic nutrient deficiencies can lead to a number of heart problems, such as cardiomyopathy (a condition characterized by inflammation, loss of elasticity and enlargement of your heart), diastolic dysfunction, heart valve diseases, arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) and heart failure.
Besides CoQ10, other examples of nutrients that are important for heart health include (but are not limited to) B vitamins (including folate or B9 and B12), carnitine, taurine, magnesium, vitamin K2 and animal-based omega-3. All of these play important roles in keeping your mitochondria working properly.
Since ubiquinol also acts as an antioxidant, part of its benefits can be attributed to its ability to quench inflammation. Two markers for inflammation are gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT) — which is an early marker of heart failure — and NT-proBNP.
There is in fact an association between the levels of these two markers and ubiquinol. When ubiquinol is supplemented, both these markers go down and genes associated with them are downregulated, thereby lowering your risk for heart problems and other conditions rooted in chronic inflammation.
Beware, Statins Compromise Your Heart and Health in Many Ways
At present, at least 1 in 4 American adults over the age of 40 are taking a statin — ostensibly to protect their heart health.
Unfortunately, these drugs deplete, inhibit or interfere with a number of really important heart nutrients, including CoQ10, vitamin K2 and glutathione peroxidase (a selenium-containing protein), which helps explain why statins may actually increase your risk of heart failure.
If you're on a statin, it's really important to make sure you're supplementing with ubiquinol and keeping an eye on your vitamin K2 and selenium intake.
Moreover, statin drugs also diminish your liver's ability to produce ketones, because the enzyme that produces ketones is the same enzyme that produces cholesterol, namely HMG-CoA reductase.
This is the enzyme inhibited by statin drugs. This means that, in addition to lowering your cholesterol, the drug also compromises your body's ability to benefit from a healthy and cleaner-burning fuel (fat).
As a result, your ability to optimally metabolize fat can become severely compromised and this too will have cardiovascular consequences, since depriving your cardiac tissue of fuel will impair your heart health.
So, if you're on a statin, even if you're taking vitamin K2 and ubiquinol you still have to address the fact that you cannot make ketones.
CoQ10 + Selenium = A Winning Combo for Heart Health
Recent research found that taking CoQ10 in combination with selenium improves heart function and cuts cardiovascular mortality by nearly 50 percent in elderly people. The study in question used 200 mg of CoQ10 and 200 micrograms (mcg) of selenium per day.
CoQ10 and selenium work in tandem to reduce oxidative stress, minimize mitochondrial damage and increase the generation of new mitochondria. While CoQ10 is known to do all of those things by itself, selenium helps your body produce and accumulate CoQ10, so it's an important "booster" in that regard.
Animal studies have shown that selenium-deficiency reduces the animals' ability to generate CoQ10 by as much as 33 percent. As noted by Life Extension:
"It has now been shown that a vital selenocysteine-containing enzyme called thioredoxin reductase actively recycles exhausted CoQ10 (ubiquinone) molecules and turns them into active, oxidative stress-fighting ubiquinol molecules. In other words, selenium improves the efficacy of CoQ10.
But just as we need ample selenium to produce and accumulate CoQ10, we also need ample CoQ10 to make the selenocysteine-containing enzymes. Thus, there appears to be an important reciprocal relationship between CoQ10 and selenium."
CoQ10 May Be Important for Migraine and Dementia Prevention and Treatment
CoQ10 also shows significant promise in the treatment of migraines — a debilitating kind of head pain that strikes approximately 38 million Americans and 1 billion people worldwide. While migraines are the third most prevalent illness in the world, researchers have long struggled to identify their cause.
In more recent years, scientists have started leaning toward migraines being a mitochondrial disorder, and studies suggest certain nutritional deficiencies may play a significant role. CoQ10 is on this list. In one recent study, a high percentage of children, teens and young adults who struggled with migraines were found to have mild CoQ10 and riboflavin (vitamin B2) deficiencies.
Interestingly, girls were more likely to be deficient in CoQ10, whereas boys were more deficient in vitamin D. These and similar findings lend support to the theory that migraines are in fact a mitochondrial disorder. Other studies showing the link between CoQ10 and migraines include the following:
Studies also suggest CoQ10 can be helpful for other brain-related disorders beyond the treatment of migraines. For example, research published in 2014 found that people with the highest CoQ10 levels had a 77 percent lower risk of dementia than those with the lowest levels.
How to Regenerate CoQ10 Naturally
Recent research shows you can improve your body's conversion of CoQ10 to ubiquinol by eating lots of chlorophyll-rich vegetables in combination with sun exposure. Once chlorophyll is consumed it gets transported into your blood. Then, when you expose significant amounts of skin to sunshine, that chlorophyll absorbs the solar radiation and facilitates the conversion of CoQ10 to ubiquinol.
You can also improve absorption of CoQ10 from food or supplements by taking it with a small amount of healthy fat, such as some olive oil, coconut oil, MCT oil or avocado. Foods particularly rich in CoQ10 include:
Suggested Dosing Recommendations
General dosing recommendations vary from 100 to 600 mg per day, and as a general rule, the sicker you are, the more you need. A good place to start is to begin by taking 200 to 300 mg of CoQ10 or ubiquinol per day. Within three weeks your plasma levels will typically plateau to its optimum level.
After that, you can go down to a 100 mg/day maintenance dose. This is typically sufficient for healthy people. Splitting your dose up so that you take it two or three times a day (rather than taking it all at once) will result in higher blood levels.
If you have an active lifestyle, exercise a lot, struggle with a chronic health condition or are under a lot of stress, you may want to increase your dose to 200 to 300 mg/day. Remember, if you're on a statin drug you MUST take at least 100 to 200 mg of ubiquinol or CoQ10 per day, or more. To address heart failure and/or other significant heart problems you may need around 350 mg per day or more.
Ideally, you'll want to work with your physician to determine your ideal dose. Your doctor can do a blood test to measure your CoQ10 levels, which would tell you whether your dose is high enough to keep you within a healthy range. Also keep in mind that CoQ10 supplements can interact with certain drugs, including beta-blockers, certain antidepressants and chemotherapy drugs, so be sure to consult with your doctor if you're on medication.
By Dr. Mercola
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, which means your body doesn’t store it. Unlike most other mammals, humans do not have the ability to make vitamin C, which means you need to consume it via your diet.
Vitamin C has numerous functions in the human body, including acting as an essential cofactor in enzymatic reactions. In this way, it plays a role in your body’s production of collagen, carnitine (which helps your body turn fat into energy), and catecholamines (hormones made by your adrenal glands), for starters.
Vitamin C is also used by your body for wound healing, repairing, and maintaining the health of your bones and teeth, and plays a role in helping your body absorb iron. However, it’s vitamin C’s role as an antioxidant that it is most well known for.
As a powerful antioxidant, vitamin C is known to block some of the damage caused by DNA-damaging free radicals. Over time, free radical damage may accelerate aging and contribute to the development of heart disease and other health conditions. It’s through this antioxidant effect that it’s thought vitamin C may play a role in protecting heart health – perhaps as much as exercise.
Vitamin C May Be as Helpful to Your Heart as Walking
A daily dose of vitamin C may have a similar effect as walking on a protein called endothelin-1, which promotes the constriction of small blood vessels. The study, which was presented at the American Physiological Society's 14th International Conference on Endothelin, involved 35 sedentary, overweight, or obese adults.
Those who took a daily time-release dose of vitamin C (500 milligrams, mg) reduced endothelin-1-mediated vessel constriction as much as those who walked daily. Endothelin-1 activity is known to be higher in those who are overweight and obese.
This makes small blood vessels more prone to constricting, which increases the risk of heart disease. As noted by the Daily Mail:
“[T]he team concluded that vitamin C supplementation represents an effective lifestyle strategy to reduce ET-1 mediated vessel constriction in overweight and obese adults,” particularly since many people do not engage in recommended levels of daily physical activity.
Vitamin C Is Well Known for Helping Your Blood Vessels to Relax
Vitamin C is a simple intervention that can have far-reaching effects for heart health, even beyond its affect on endothelin-1, in part because of its role in vasodilation. As explained by the Linus Pauling Institute:
“The ability of blood vessels to relax or dilate (vasodilation) is compromised in individuals with atherosclerosis. Damage to the heart muscle caused by a heart attack and damage to the brain caused by a stroke are related, in part, to the inability of blood vessels to dilate enough to allow blood flow to the affected areas.
The pain of angina pectoris is also related to insufficient dilation of the coronary arteries. Impaired vasodilation has been identified as an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Many randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled studies have shown that treatment with vitamin C consistently results in improved vasodilation in individuals with coronary heart disease.
It also occurred in those with angina pectoris, congestive heart failure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Improved vasodilation has been demonstrated at an oral dose of 500 mg of vitamin C daily.”
Even beyond vasodilation, a study published in the American Heart Journal revealed that each 20 micromole/liter (µmol/L) increase in plasma vitamin C was associated with a 9 percent reduction in heart failure mortality.
According to Dr. Andrew Saul, editor of the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, if everyone were to take 500 mg of vitamin C per day — the dose required to reach a healthy level of 80 µmol/L — an estimated 216,000 lives could be spared each year.
Vitamin C Is One Reason Why Vegetables Are So Good for Your Heart
Most people are aware that eating fresh vegetables and, to some extent, fruits, may benefit your heart health. However, researchers recently teased out one such benefit from the crowd, revealing that a primary reason why people who eat lots of fruits and vegetables have a lower risk of heart disease and early death is because of their high vitamin C levels.
A Danish study that followed more than 100,000 people found those with the highest intake of fruits and vegetables had a 15 percent lower risk of developing heart disease and a 20 percent lower risk of early death compared with those with the lowest intakes.
The study also revealed that those with the highest plasma vitamin C levels had significantly reduced rates of heart disease and all-cause mortality. The researchers explained:
“… [W]e can see that the reduced risk is related to high vitamin C concentrations in the blood from the fruit and vegetables… our data cannot exclude that a favorable effect of high intake of fruit and vegetables could in part be driven by high vitamin C concentrations.”
Vitamin C May Lower Your Blood Pressure and Help Keep Arteries Flexible
Adding on to vitamin C’s strong role in heart health, people who eat a diet rich in antioxidants like vitamin C may have a lower risk of high blood pressure.
Research published in the journal Hypertension revealed a “strong association between vitamin C concentrations, an indicator of fruit and vegetable consumption, and a lower level of blood pressure.”
Vitamin C is also known to slow down the progression of hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). It may help keep your arteries flexible and prevents damage to LDL cholesterol. People with low levels of vitamin C are at increased risk of heart attack, peripheral artery disease, and stroke, all of which can stem from atherosclerosis.
Beyond Heart Health: Why Else Do You Need Vitamin C?
To only classify vitamin C as a nutrient for your heart would be doing your health a disservice. Vitamin C is considered an anti-aging vitamin and actually reversed age-related abnormalities in mice with a premature aging disorder, restoring healthy aging.
Vitamin C even plays a role in brain health, as it is necessary to make certain neurotransmitters, including serotonin. It has also been found to play a role in preventing the common cold, cancer, osteoarthritis, age-related macular degeneration, asthma, and more. Vitamin C may also be useful for:
In the video above, you can also hear from Dr. Ronald Hunninghake, an internationally recognized expert on vitamin C who has personally supervised more than 60,000 intravenous (IV) vitamin C administrations. Dr. Hunninghake explained:
“The way to really understand vitamin C is to go back to the writings of Irwin Stone who wrote The Healing Factor, which was a fantastic book written in the 70s about vitamin C. He points out that every creature, when they are sick, greatly increase their liver's or their kidney's production of vitamin C. But humans, primates, and guinea pigs have lost that ability.
We still have the gene that makes the L-gulonolactone oxidase enzyme that converts glucose to vitamin C but it's non-functional. We have to get our vitamin C from the outside: from food. When we give vitamin C intravenously, what we're doing is recreating your liver's ability to synthesize tremendous amounts of vitamin C… So I always look upon high dose vitamin C as nature's way of dealing with crisis in terms of your health.”
IV vitamin C is used for a variety of illnesses, notably as an adjunct to cancer treatment and for chronic infections, such as cold, flu, or even chronic fatigue.
What Are the Best Food Sources of Vitamin C?
Many people associate citrus fruits with vitamin C – and they are a good source, but they’re far from the only one. Many vegetables as well as non-citrus fruits also contain vitamin C, so you can usually get plenty from your diet as long as you’re eating well. Particularly rich sources of vitamin C include:
You can also squeeze some fresh lemon or lime juice into a glass of water for a vitamin-C-rich beverage. And if you’re concerned you’re not eating enough fresh produce, consider juicing. For more information, please see my juicing page. Getting your vitamin C from food sources is ideal, as the vitamin C will work in synergy with other nutrients and compounds in the food. As reported by the George Mateljan Foundation:
“Antioxidants in foods tend to work together in important and synergistic ways to provide protection against free radical damage. The most well-known of these connections is that between vitamin E and vitamin C. Specifically, vitamin C helps to protect vitamin E in people, such as smokers, who have chronic overproduction of free radicals. Similarly, we see the flavonoid class of plant-based antioxidants helping to make the free radical protection from vitamin C that much stronger.
This is great news, given that the foods that are most flavonoid-rich also tend to be among our better vitamin C sources. This synergistic protection is but one of many potential explanations for why the health benefits of plant-based diets cannot be replicated by nutrient supplements.”
When taking an oral vitamin C, you also want to be mindful of your dosing frequency. Dr. Steve Hickey, who wrote the book Ascorbate, has shown that if you take vitamin C frequently throughout the day you can achieve much higher plasma levels. So even though your kidneys will tend to rapidly excrete the vitamin C, by taking it every hour or two you can maintain a much higher plasma level than if you just dose it once a day (unless you're taking an extended-release form of vitamin C).
Signs of Vitamin C Deficiency
In the US, serious vitamin C deficiency is rare, however many people do have low levels.14 If you’re elderly, for instance, you may have higher requirements for vitamin C, as aging may inhibit absorption. Smokers may also require more vitamin C due to the increased oxidative stress from cigarette smoke. Signs that you may need more vitamin C include:
Generally speaking, if you’re regularly eating multiple servings of vegetables and fruits daily, your vitamin C levels are probably OK. However, keep in mind that the fresher the vegetables, the more vitamin C they’ll contain. According to George Mateljan foundation:
“The same thing that makes vitamin C so important — its ability to protect against free radical damage — also makes it very prone to damage by heat, oxygen, and storage over time… The vitamin C content of food will start to decline as soon as it is picked, even though this decline can be slowed down and minimized by cooling and retention of the food in its whole form. But a fresh, vitamin C-rich vegetable like broccoli — if allowed to sit at room temperature for 6 days — can lose almost 80 percent of its vitamin C…
Long-term storage of vegetables can cost a significant amount of vitamin C. Kept frozen for a year, kale can lose half its vitamin C or more. Canning is even more detrimental, with 85 percent of the original vitamin C lost over the same year. While cooking will lower the amount of vitamin C in most foods… the amount of vitamin C lost will vary widely by cooking method. For example, basket-steaming broccoli for 15 minutes will reduce the vitamin C content by nearly one quarter.”
So eat vegetables as often as you can, but try to make sure they’re fresh and either raw or lightly cooked. As an alternative, you can also try making fermented vegetables at home. The vitamin C in sauerkraut(fermented cabbage) is about six times higher than in the same helping of unfermented cabbage approximately one week after fermentation begins, so it’s an excellent way to boost your vitamin C intake.
By Dr. Mercola
For most people, the topic of bowel movements is private and the actual mechanics of how stool is produced is rarely thought about. Unless, of course, you begin to experience constipation.
According to research presented at the American College of Gastroenterology Annual Meeting 2015, at least 15 percent of the general population experiences chronic constipation.
This is equal to approximately 63 million people in the United States. The study demonstrated a statistically significant link between people who suffer from chronic constipation and from other health problems, including colorectal cancer and gastric cancer.
Researchers approached this study not expecting to find anything surprising. The link between diverticulitis and chronic constipation has been well documented.
However, the links found in this study between chronic constipation, gastric cancer, rectal cancer, and ischemic colitis were not expected.
How Is Stool Formed?
Stool is the end result of digestion, which starts in your mouth. Imagine your body as a large solid cylinder, which has a tube running from the top to the bottom of the container.
The inside of the cylinder is inside your body and the tube that runs from top to bottom is actually outside the body. This is a description of your digestive system that runs from your mouth to your anus, but never opens directly to the inside of your body.
In other words, while your digestive system is technically "inside" your body, it contains digestive juices and bacteria that should only live outside your body. Your digestive tract plays a critical role in your overall health. Digestion starts in your mouth as you chew food and the food mixes with saliva.
Digestion ends in the large intestines, after your body has extracted nutrients and water, leaving only the waste products it can't use. The nutrients absorbed contain energy, which you know as calories.
How many calories you eat and, more importantly, the quality and source of those calories are important factors in determining your overall health and wellness.
Another factor that impacts your overall health, and the risk of developing constipation, is the amount and type of bacteria living in your gut.
These microbes are responsible for the breakdown of food, how the calories or energy are processed, and can increase or decrease your risk of allergies, obesity, and more.
Researchers have also determined that while your gut responds to stress reactions from your brain, your brain also receives signals from your gut that can trigger feelings of sadness.
In other words, your digestive tract or gut is fundamentally related to more than just constipation, diarrhea, and weight gain or loss. And, because of this interrelationship with the health of the rest of your body, it should not be surprising that your gut health will affect how you look, feel, and act.
Who Gets Constipated and Why?
Some of the common causes of constipation include laxative abuse, hypothyroidism, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and ignoring the urge to go. If you consistently ignore the urge to have a bowel movement – for instance, to avoid using a public toilet – 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 dehydration if you're not drinking enough pure water each day.
However, one of the primary causes of constipation has to do with your diet, particularly if you're eating one high in processed foods and low in fiber.
Within the approximate 15 percent of the population who suffers from chronic constipation, there are groups of individuals who are more likely to experience the condition. These groups include:
Many Drugs Increase Your Risk of Constipation
The risk factor for constipation also increases when you take a large number of medications. A wide range of medications, both prescription and over the counter, appear to increase your risk of constipation. These can include Synthroid, ibuprofen, aspirin, antacids, iron supplements, and narcotics.
Other medical conditions can also affect the ability of the intestinal tract to function normally.
Connections Between Constipation and Your Physical Health
Although the study presented at the American College of Gastroenterology Annual Meeting found links between chronic constipation and rectal cancer, gastric cancer, diverticulitis, and ischemic colitis, there are also other connections between suffering from constipation and your 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.
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, 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.
This reflux causes permanent kidney damage and increases the risk of kidney infections.
Pushing large, hard stool from the rectum can result in some of your intestines protruding from the anus, called rectal prolapse. Chronic constipation is a recurring problem in 30 to 67 percent of patients who suffer from rectal prolapse. 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.
Lifestyle Approaches to Treatment
If you're suffering from chronic constipation, there are changes you can make to your daily habits which can improve your bowel habits. Your first, and easiest, step is to ensure that you're drinking enough water. 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. Drink enough that your urine is straw colored. If it's dark yellow then you're dehydrated and if it's colorless you are drinking too much.
The fiber in your stool will help to draw more water and keep the stool soft. This is why your doctor recommends increasing the amount of fiber in your diet to help relieve constipation. However, if you're eating a high-fiber diet but not staying hydrated the stool will still get hard and be more difficult to pass. The recommended amount of fiber in your diet is 20 to 30 grams per day; I believe that 32 grams each day is ideal.
Organic psyllium dietary fiber is important to the health of your colon. Psyllium also has other health benefits, including helping to control your blood sugar, reducing your risk of heart attack, stroke, gallstones, kidney stones, and diverticulitis, improving your skin health and helping you to lose or maintain your weight.
Vegetables are the best way to fortify your diet with fiber. If you can't reach the recommended amount of fiber per day then supplementing with organic whole husk psyllium is simple and cost effective.
Regular exercise can also help reduce constipation. 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.
Reducing Your Risk of Constipation
There are several ways to reduce your risk of constipation. I strongly recommend eating traditionally fermented and cultured foods on a daily basis to help to "reseed" your body with good bacteria. It's easy to make them. For a demonstration, please see the video above. If you don't eat fermented foods, taking a high quality probiotic supplement is advisable.
The use of probiotics are so important to your overall health that some researchers are comparing them to a "newly recognized organ." Research links the health and variety of the bacteria in your gut to your behavior, diabetes, gene expression, autism, and obesity. The bacteria in your gut plays an essential role in the digestion of your food, the motility of your intestines, and ultimately the development of constipation.
Another way to reduce your risk is to speak with your physician about the medications you're currently using. Explore options to reduce the amount of medications you may need or the brands you're currently using if they are linked to triggering constipation. Be particularly wary of using laxatives on a regular basis, as it may exacerbate constipation.
Remember, when you travel your daily regimen is often disrupted. The differences in food, changes to your regular exercise routine, or reduction in water intake can all negatively impact your body's ability to maintain a healthy bowel routine. Try to stay as close to your regular routine as possible. Bring organic whole husk psyllium to supplement your diet on the days you don't get enough fiber. Try to get your regular exercise each day and drink enough water to keep your urine a light straw color.
Squatting Can Help If You're Constipated
The last thing most people think about when using the bathroom is position, but this can significantly 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.
Medical Treatment Options
In some circumstances these lifestyle choices and preventative measures are not enough to alleviate constipation. Talk with your doctor about being tested for hypothyroidism. In hypothyroidism your body doesn't secrete enough of the thyroid hormone. This hormone has a significant impact on the motility and movement of the intestinal tract, which is why constipation is one of the hallmark symptoms of hypothyroidism.
While it might be tempting to use over-the-counter remedies and laxatives, these remedies are not without risk. When too much is taken, too much water is drawn into the intestines, resulting in dehydration and an abnormal number of electrolytes in your blood. Both dehydration and imbalanced electrolytes can lead to kidney and heart damage, which can lead to death.
Your body can also become dependent on the use of laxatives to have a normal bowel movement. This is especially true of laxatives that use stimulants to increase the motility of the intestines and digestive tract. Stimulant laxatives include medications like Exlax, or laxatives marked as "natural" and include senna or cassia laxatives.
An underlying cause of constipation can also be a magnesium deficiency. Although primarily thought of as the mineral that affects your bones, magnesium plays a role in smooth muscle relaxation and contraction, production of neurotransmitters, building blocks of DNA, and the digestion of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. The recommended daily amount of magnesium is 310 to 320 mg for women and 400 to 420 mg for men, although this amount may be just enough to prevent outright deficiency.
If your muscles that coordinate defecation are not working together, called dyssynergic defecation, then an anorectal biofeedback mechanism may be the most effective treatment to reteach your muscles to empty the rectum completely. In other cases of rectal prolapse or a rectocele caused by chronic constipation, surgery may be indicated to repair the area.
Doctors have been urged to be more cautious in offering cancer treatment to terminally-ill patients as chemotherapy can often do more harm than good, a study suggests.
The National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death (NCEPOD) found that more than four in ten patients who received chemotherapy towards the end of life suffered potentially fatal effects from the drugs, and treatment was “inappropriate” in nearly a fifth of cases.
In a study of more than 600 cancer patients who died within 30 days of receiving treatment, chemotherapy probably caused or hastened death in 27 percent of cases, the inquiry found.
In only 35 percent of these cases was care judged to have been good by the inquiry’s advisors, with 49 percent having room for improvement and 8 per cent receiving less than satisfactory care.
Dr. Mercola's Comments
In the conventional health paradigm, chemotherapy is the go-to treatment for cancer. People are paying up to $10,000 a month and sometimes more for these drugs, with the expectation that they will heal them from the disease.
Yet, these expensive and, by their very nature, highly toxic medications often give patients just a few more months of life, or worse end up killing them prematurely or even causing cancer down the line.
The biggest drawback to a conventional treatment like chemotherapy is it destroys healthy cells throughout your body right along with cancer cells. A typical and deadly side effect of chemo is the destruction of the rapidly multiplying and dividing cells found in your:
• Bone marrow, which produces blood
• Digestive system
• Reproductive system
• Hair follicles
In this most recent study, The National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death (NCEPOD) found that more than four in 10 patients who received chemotherapy toward the end of life experienced potentially fatal effects! And after reviewing data from over 600 cancer patients who died within 30 days of receiving treatment, it was found that chemotherapy hastened or caused death in 27 percent of cases.
“The majority of the cancer patients in this country die because of chemotherapy, which does not cure breast, colon or lung cancer. This has been documented for over a decade and nevertheless doctors still utilize chemotherapy to fight these tumors,” said Dr. Allen Levin, MD, author of The Healing of Cancer.
Despite its reputation as the gold-standard cancer treatment, chemotherapy has an average 5-year survival success rate of just over 2 percent for all cancers, according to a study published in the journal Clinical Oncology in December 2004.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with cancer, I urge you to do the research for yourself, and make an educated decision about which course of treatment to take. A decision like this is simply too important to leave solely in the hands of your doctor.
The Best Known “Chemotherapy” Agent Ever Found
The American Cancer Society estimates that this year alone, 745,000 men and 692,000 women will be diagnosed with cancer. By 2018, this disease is projected to be the number one killer of all Americans, young and old alike.
The way to turn this around is two-fold:
1. Prevent cancer from occurring (I’ll get to that below)
2. Have a treatment for cancer that is effective and safe
This latter requirement is actually already here, and you can use it to not only prevent cancer but also to treat it.
What is it?
Calcitriol, the most potent steroid hormone in your body, and is produced in large amounts in the tissues of vitamin D-filled individuals. However, in patients with cancer, vitamin D is often in low supply.
Calcitriol has been shown to induce cell differentiation and to control cell proliferation -- in simpler terms it protects against cancer. People with a low vitamin D level are less able to make calcitriol (activated vitamin D) in an amount sufficient to exert the controls over cell proliferation that are needed to reduce cancer.
Optimized vitamin D levels will work synergistically with virtually every other cancer treatment. There are over 830 peer reviewed scientific studies showing its effectiveness in the treatment of cancer.
Not only is this approach without virtually any side effects, but the treatment is practically free.
I believe it is nearly criminal malpractice to not optimize vitamin D levels when treating someone with cancer. Levels of vitamin D should be increased to 80-90 ng/ml.
To find out your levels, and to have them monitored throughout your treatment, make sure to have the blood test done by LabCorp, if you are in the United States.
The Essential Steps to Preventing Cancer
Normalizing your vitamin D levels will reduce your risk of cancer by over 50 percent, but there are a number of other strategies that are also important in your cancer-prevention plan.
One of the top steps is managing your emotional health. The majority of illness is caused by negative, unmanaged emotions. If you focus on pain, misery and grief, it’s likely you’ll experience and attract more of it into your life.
However, if you keep your focus on what you want to experience and put some energy into healthy lifestyle choices, your body will respond accordingly. Before you know it you will start to feel much better.
So finding a tool that will permanently erase the neurological short-circuiting that can activate cancer genes is essential. One of the best approaches to processing your negative emotions is the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), and I highly recommend it.
Dr. Ryke Geerd Hamer has also done wonderful work with his German New Medicine technique for solving emotional conflicts as the first step in healing disease.
The other top tips I recommend, in no particular order, include:
• Eating right for your nutritional type
• Avoiding processed foods, grains and sugars (to control and lower your insulin levels)
• Eating a significant portion of your food raw
• Normalizing your ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats by taking a high-quality krill oil or fish oil and reducing your intake of most processed vegetable oils
• Getting plenty of high-quality sleep
By Kayla McDonell, RD | Authority Nutrition
Rice is a versatile grain consumed by people around the world.
It serves as a staple food for many people, especially those living in Asia.
Rice comes in several colors, shapes and sizes, but the most popular are white and brown rice.
White rice is the most commonly consumed type, but brown rice is widely recognized as a healthier option.
Many people prefer brown rice for this reason.
This article looks at the benefits and drawbacks of both varieties.
The Difference Between Brown and White Rice
All rice consists almost entirely of carbs, with small amounts of protein and practically no fat.
Brown rice is a whole grain. That means it contains all parts of the grain — including the fibrous bran, the nutritious germ and the carb-rich endosperm.
White rice, on the other hand, has had the bran and germ removed, which are the most nutritious parts of the grain.
This leaves white rice with very few essential nutrients, which is why brown rice is usually considered much healthier than white.
Bottom Line: Brown rice is a whole grain that contains the bran and germ. These provide fiber and several vitamins and minerals. White rice is a refined grain that has had these nutritious parts removed.
Brown Rice is Higher in Fiber, Vitamins and Minerals
Brown rice has a big advantage over white rice when it comes to nutrient content.
Brown rice has more fiber and antioxidants, as well as a lot more important vitamins and minerals.
White rice is mostly a source of “empty” calories and carbs with very few essential nutrients.
100 grams (3.5 ounces) of cooked brown rice provide 1.8 grams of fiber, whereas 100 grams of white provide only 0.4 grams of fiber.
The list below shows a comparison of other vitamins and minerals:
Bottom Line: Brown rice is much higher in nutrients than white rice. This includes fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Brown Rice Contains Antinutrients and May Be Higher in Arsenic
Antinutrients are plant compounds that may reduce your body’s ability to absorb certain nutrients. Brown rice contains an antinutrient known as phytic acid, or phytate.
It may also contain higher amounts of arsenic, a toxic chemical.
While phytic acid may offer some health benefits, it also reduces your body’s ability to absorb iron and zinc from the diet.
Over the long term, eating phytic acid with most meals may contribute to mineral deficiencies. However, this is very unlikely for people who eat a varied diet.
Brown rice may also be higher in a toxic chemical called arsenic.
Arsenic is a heavy metal that is naturally present in the environment, but it has been increasing in some areas due to pollution. Significant amounts have been identified in rice and rice-based products.
Arsenic is toxic. Long-term consumption may increase your risk of chronic diseases including cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Brown rice tends to be higher in arsenic than white rice.
However, this should not be a problem if you eat rice in moderation as part of a varied diet. A few servings per week should be fine.
If rice is a big part of your diet, then you should take some steps to minimize the arsenic content. There are several effective tips in this article.
Bottom Line: Brown rice contains the antinutrient phytic acid, and is also higher in arsenic than white rice. This can be a concern for those who eat a lot of rice. However, moderate consumption should be fine.
Effects on Blood Sugar and Diabetes Risk
Brown rice is high in magnesium and fiber, both of which help control blood sugar levels.
Research suggests that regularly eating whole grains, like brown rice, helps lower blood sugar levels and decreases the risk of type 2 diabetes.
In one study, women who frequently ate whole grains had a 31% lower risk of type 2 diabetes than those who ate the fewest whole grains.
Simply replacing white rice with brown has been shown to lower blood sugar levels and decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes.
On the other hand, high consumption of white rice has been linked to an increased risk of diabetes.
This may be due to its high glycemic index (GI), which measures how quickly a food increases blood sugar.
Brown rice has a GI of 50 and white rice has a GI of 89, meaning that white increases blood sugar levels much faster than brown.
Eating high-GI foods has been associated with several health conditions, including type 2 diabetes.
Bottom Line: Eating brown rice may help lower blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. White rice, on the other hand, may actually increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Other Health Effects of White and Brown Rice
White and brown rice may affect other aspects of health differently as well.
This includes heart disease risk, antioxidant levels and weight control.
Heart Disease Risk Factors
Brown rice contains lignans, plant compounds that can help protect against heart disease.
Lignans have been shown to reduce the amount of fat in the blood, lower blood pressure and decrease inflammation in the arteries.
Studies suggest that eating brown rice helps reduce several risk factors for heart disease.
An analysis of 45 studies found that people who ate the most whole grains, including brown rice, had a 16–21% lower risk of heart disease compared to people who ate the fewest whole grains.
An analysis of 285,000 men and women found that eating an average of 2.5 servings of whole-grain foods each day may lower heart disease risk by almost 25%.
Whole grains like brown rice may also lower total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Brown rice has even been linked to an increase in HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
The bran of brown rice contains many powerful antioxidants.
Studies show that due to their antioxidant levels, whole grains like brown rice can help prevent chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes.
Studies also show that brown rice can help increase blood antioxidant levels in obese women.
In addition, a recent animal study suggests that eating white rice may decrease blood antioxidant levels in type 2 diabetics.
Eating brown rice instead of white may also significantly reduce weight, body mass index (BMI) and circumference of the waist and hips.
One study collected data on 29,683 adults and 15,280 children. The researchers found that the more whole grains people ate, the lower their body weight was.
In another study, researchers followed more than 74,000 women for 12 years and found that women who consumed more whole grains consistently weighed less than women who consumed fewer whole grains.
Additionally, a randomized controlled trial in 40 overweight and obese women found that brown rice reduced body weight and waist size compared to white rice.
Bottom Line: Eating brown rice and other whole grains may help increase blood antioxidant levels and reduce the risk of heart disease and obesity.
Which Type Should You Eat?
Brown rice is the best choice in terms of nutritional quality and health benefits.
That said, either type of rice can be part of a healthy diet and there is nothing wrong with some white rice every now and then.