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Treating Pain Without Drugs – 5 Tips to Feel Better and Use Less Medicine

Most patients think doctors never hurt. Not true. I’ve lived with pain every day for the last 40+ years, so I know a thing or two about what I’m saying. Not that I never take pain medication, but Tylenol or an occasional Advil is about it – no narcotics.

Does that mean my pain isn’t worthy of anything stronger? I don’t think so. But I would say my attitude toward pain is different than many of my patients. For me, it’s just a part of life. Many older adults would say the same thing.

But in 20 years as a family physician I’ve met thousands of people who see pain differently. For them, pain is something to be avoided at all costs. Fear of pain is a big issue for them. Also, many people spend too much time resenting that life isn’t fair. Get over it! You’ll be much happier.

Pain isn’t all about a physical problem. It is shaded by our emotions, or energy level, or degree of happiness. If the underlying problem cannot be remedied, controlling other factors will help you find ways to deal with the pain without resorting to addictive drugs.

Here are 5 proven tips that have helped me as well as my patients deal with on-going pain.

1. Get enough rest. Pain is often a cumulative thing. If you can nip it in the bud, your body can reset to a lower level of discomfort. I learned long ago that I’m not a person who can live on 4 hours of sleep. It is counterproductive for me to even try. Although occasionally I’ll go with 5 or 6, for the most part I must have 7 to 8 hours nightly to function at my best. Sometimes this means taking a nap. Nighttime rest helps the body recover from the stress of life and gravity, but afternoon naps also give the body a boost in several ways. They help muscles relax, and temporarily relieve the pressure on joints and body parts that are subject to the compressive effects of gravity. A nap can refresh the mind, allowing a person to tackle a job with renewed energy. Also, as the body is falling asleep, chemicals are released (endorphins and others) that are natural pain killers and muscle relaxants. You do not have to sleep long for this to occur – 20 minutes will do – but it does require falling into at least a light sleep.

2. Do things that make you happy. I love music and direct a choir, which requires standing continuously for two hours. Now, if I had to wait in line that long for a roller coaster, I’d find myself in terrible torment. I hate wasting my time, especially for something I don’t much want to do in the first place. But as long as I’m engaged in my music, the pain is at bay. Of course, I may collapse into my seat afterward, but an activity that engages your mind in a positive way will not only take your mind off your discomfort, but helps release endorphins as well.

3. Use wraps and supports. Pain medication is not the only answer to swollen limbs, bad backs, and aching joints. In fact, pain is our friend. It tells us that our body requires maintenance or TLC. Sometimes taking pain medicine just hides the problem, like a fresh coat of paint over a mildew-stained basement. In fact, pain medication may disguise a problem, allowing you to be more active that your body can tolerate, resulting in additional damage. It can be a fine line, however, knowing how active to be – a good question to discuss with your doctor. However, little if any harm will result from using splints, ACE wraps, compression hose, or back supports that relieve part of the exertion-related strain on an injured body part.

4. Be careful how you sleep. A pillow under the knees can relieve lumbar strain for a back-sleeper. A flatter pillow can relieve neck strain for a stomach-sleeper. A pillow between the knees can decrease pain related to the knees, hips, or lower back. A carpal tunnel splint can keep your wrist in an anatomical position so you don’t awaken with a painful hand.

5. Find a comfortable exercise. For many people with back problems or arthritis, swimming is the best answer. For others, walking 20 minutes a day helps maintain sufficient limberness to decrease joint pain. Some amount of exercise helps nearly every physical problem, however too much can worsen the condition. It’s really up to the patient to determine what is best, although your doctor, chiropractor, or physical therapist can offer you guidance and advice. For example, I’m sure I have a torn cartilage in my knee, but it doesn’t usually bother me. I can walk 25 minutes without a problem, but at 35 minutes it’s starting to ache. However, it actually feels better if I do walk daily than if I rest it all the time. My back feels better if I do a little weeding, however 10 seconds of tugging my 70-lb. goldendoodle into the car can do me in for several days. Get to know your body, your tolerances and limits, and stop short of what causes pain.

In summary, get up with a smile, try to keep it all day, get a good night’s rest, don’t push yourself unnecessarily, and remember: early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.

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Top 10 Reasons Your Blood Sugar is Too High

Are you diabetic? Is your blood sugar too high?

In 20 years of seeing diabetic patients, one becomes familiar with certain patterns of illness and behavior. Any seasoned physician can list a dozen reasons why a patient’s blood sugar may be uncontrolled.

Here is my top 10 list of reasons why your blood sugar may be too high.

1. Your overall calorie intake is too high. For most Type 2 diabetics, the body is still capable of producing some insulin, but perhaps not enough to help you metabolize your food adequately. Cutting your calories back by a third may be all you need to do.

2. You eat foods with a high glycemic index. When it comes to diabetes, not all food is created equal. Simple carbohydrates (sugars, bread, cereal, rice, potatoes, pasta) are absorbed quickly, thereby elevating the blood glucose level quickly – too quickly for the pancreas to respond adequately. Eating the same calories in the form of foods that are absorbed more slowly (protein, fat) will cause less of a spike in your blood sugar.

3. Your body mass index is too high. Having too much adipose tissue within the body makes it more difficult for the body to utilize insulin. Once you’ve dropped your extra weight, you may be able to eat the same number of calories, but have your diabetes under better control.

4. You don’t take your medication as directed. Many patients not only ‘cheat’ by eating a cookie now and then, but by skipping their medicine more frequently than they admit to. Lying to yourself will make it difficult for both you and your doctor to keep your diabetes under control.

5. You’re not on enough diabetic medicine. Although your diabetic treatment probably started with only a single medication, it’s quite common to require additional medicine as time goes by. This may be accomplished by using either a higher dose of the drug you’re already on, or by taking a combination of two or more medications.

6. You don’t exercise enough. Exercise not only helps lower blood sugar, but also builds muscle mass, which utilizes blood glucose more efficiently than fatty tissue does.

7. Your pancreas is wearing out and you need to be on insulin. By the time you are taking three or even four oral diabetic medicines, you are getting to the point where your pancreas is just not able to produce sufficient insulin to counteract your blood sugar. If your pancreas is simply wearing out, there is no medication that can make it ‘young’ again.

8. You have an infection. Some infections are obvious, others less so. Urinary tract infections, for example, frequently elevate the blood sugar, but may cause few other symptoms. Patients also commonly confuse the frequent urination associated with an infection with that caused by diabetes. Any type of infection may raise your blood sugar, from stomach flu, to ear infection, to influenza or pneumonia.

9. You’re taking medicine that elevates the blood sugar. Steroids and diuretics are the two most common drugs that elevate the blood sugar in both diabetics and non-diabetics. Any time you start a new medication and notice that your blood sugar is running higher, you have cause to question your doctor whether the medicine might be the culprit.

10. A combination of several of the above. This is really the most common. Diabetics often eat too much and/or too much of the wrong foods, exercise too little, are already overweight, and are taking multiple medications.

If your blood sugar is too high, the above list is a place to start. Talk to your doctor about what you can do to modify your lifestyle. Diabetic teaching classes are a good idea and can provide you both general information and specific guidance relevant to your particular situation. Once you’ve identified the cause, you’re well on your way to finding an answer.

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5 Reasons Doctors Love Dr House

Most doctors I know get a kick out of the television show, “House.” Though we’re all aghast at his bedside manner and cavalier attitude, still there is a certain attraction. Those not in the medical field may wonder how physicians can enjoy watching such a callous fellow.

Here are the five top reasons doctors love Dr. House.

1. Dr. Gregory House says things doctors would like to say themselves, but don’t have the nerve. Most doctors filter what comes out of their mouths. They may think curse words, but seldom say them. We rarely accuse our patients of lying, even when we suspect it. We may think our patients have behaved foolishly, but we keep our thoughts to ourselves. It comes as a catharsis to finally hear a doctor (albeit an imaginary one) say things that cross every doctor’s mind.

2. Dr. House doesn’t do any paperwork. Doctors hate paperwork. It’s not only beyond boring, but sometimes perceived as interfering with patient care. The benefits are usually invisible, uncompensated, and extend the workday (needlessly, he would add).

3. Dr. House walks away from boring cases. Few doctors have this privilege. Physicians take patients as they come, without guarantee of intellectual stimulation. For family physicians, this means seeing high blood pressure patients, day after day after. For dermatologists, it’s acne, psoriasis, and eczema, and for cardiologists it’s heart attack, heart attack, heart attack. Even poor Dr. Wilson sees cancer, cancer, cancer.

4. Dr. House doesn’t worry about getting paid. He’s apparently on a salary, and gets paid the same no matter how few patients he sees or clinic hours he skips. Other doctors get paid by the patient or by the hour and are expected to produce. Most of us would be happy to have an afternoon to spend watching TV or surfing the web, while others are busy doing our work for us.

5. Dr. House doesn’t worry about what anything costs. For a doctor it’s a burden to not only worry that the right tests are ordered, but that they’ll be paid for, either by insurance, the patient, or the government. House simply doesn’t care. He orders every test in the book. In real life it’s not the hospital administrators who are looking over our shoulders to see what tests we’ve ordered – it’s the insurance companies that require pre-authorization and proof that less expensive therapies have already been tried. Being an advocate for our patients, and taking the extra time to make sure appropriate testing is obtained, generally amounts to more uncompensated paperwork. Bullying your way through simply does not work for real doctors.

Aside from his diagnostic skills, Dr. House is the antithesis of a good physician. But still he’s funny, and now and then I learn a thing or two. Once or twice a season I solve the case before the esteemed Dr. House – which keeps me coming back for more. The cases are true, by the way, all oddballs that the average doctor might see once in a lifetime. In medical school we’re taught that when you hear hoofbeats, you should think horses, not zebras. But in Dr. House’s case, he’s got a stableful of zebras.

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The Vital Role Of The Walk-In Clinic In America

Facing more than 110 million annual visits, emergency room doctors are busier than ever. While many of the patients they see are in need of urgent care, many of the visits aren’t for true emergencies. As such, wait times have grown in hospitals across the country, leading many to seek out more timely, convenient alternatives to the ER. It is no wonder the walk-in clinic has seen a remarkable resurgence as of late.

The Numbers

Since 2008, the number of urgent care facilities jumped from 8,000 to 9,300. In addition to long wait times at the ER, the growth of the walk-in clinic has been fueled by a steep reduction in the availability of primary care providers. According to a recent report, less than one-quarter of new doctors go into the primary care field. Because this record low in new doctors corresponds with a growing population, there is now a critical shortage of personal physicians. An inevitable result of this disparity is an increase in visits to both ERs and urgent care facilities.

What’s Next?

The numbers make it crystal clear that more options are needed. One simple solution is to redirect people who do not have a medical emergency from the ER to the nearest walk-in clinic. The reason? ERs are not designed to treat patients with minor medical issues. The walk-in facility, on the other hand, is designed for people who require less urgent assistance but cannot see their primary physician, either because they are not at the office or are busy with other patients.

How Does It Work?

As the name suggests, a person simply walks into a clinic and asks to see a medical professional. Although different establishments have different rules, most will accept any patient as long as they have insurance or can afford to pay. There are also free facilities that offer their services without payment in some economically disadvantaged communities. Why should the average sick or injured person go to an urgent care facility instead of an ER? There are several good reasons.

The Benefits

First, and most important, the average clinic is much cheaper than the average emergency room. Why? Because ERs provide specialized treatment that requires expensive equipment and the top doctors in the field. The same is not true of the average clinic. Since most of their patients have only minor medical issues, these facilities do not need state-of-the-art tools or doctors with advanced training in emergency medicine. As a result, the average bill is much smaller than what you’d get at the ER. There are also much shorter wait times, and, since most of these facilities are located in residential communities, they are often much closer than the nearest hospital.


At the end of the day, the walk-in clinic provides immediate treatment for people who do not have access to a personal physician or cannot afford the high cost of an emergency room visit.

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The 9 Foods You Should Never Eat

By Dr. Mercola

Many foods have been heavily promoted as being healthy when they are nothing more than pernicious junk foods. In the featured article, Clean Plates1founder Jared Koch shared his list of nine staple foods that are far less “good for you” than you’ve been led to believe. Unhealthy-Foods (1)

Here, I expand on the selections that are mentioned in the featured article.

1. Canned Tomatoes

Many leading brands of canned foods contain BPA — a toxic chemical linked to reproductive abnormalities, neurological effects, heightened risk of breast and prostate cancers, diabetes, heart disease and other serious health problems. According to Consumer Reports‘ testing, just a couple of servings of canned food can exceed the safety limits for daily BPA exposure for children.

High acidity — a prominent characteristic of tomatoes – causes BPA to leach into your food. To avoid this hazardous chemical, avoid canned foods entirely and stick to fresh fruits and vegetables, or switch over to brands that use glass containers instead—especially for acidic foods like tomatoes.

2. Processed Meats

As Koch warns, processed deli meats like salami, ham, and roast beef are typically made with meats from animals raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

This means they’re given growth hormones, antibiotics and other veterinary drugs, and raised in deplorable conditions that promote disease, these meats are also filled with sodium nitrite (a commonly used preservative and antimicrobial agent that also adds color and flavor) and other chemical flavorings and dyes.

Nitrites can be converted into nitrosamines in your body, which are potent cancer-causing chemicals. Research has linked nitrites to higher rates of colorectal, stomach and pancreatic cancer. But that’s not all. Most processed deli meats also contain other cancer-promoting chemicals that are created during cooking. These include:

  • Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs) which are hazardous compounds created in meats and other foods that have been cooked at high temperatures. According to research, processed meats are clearly associated with an increased risk of stomach, colon and breast cancers.
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs): Many processed meats are smoked as part of the curing process, which causes PAHs to form. PAHs can also form when grilling. When fat drips onto the heat source, causing excess smoke, and the smoke surrounds your food, it can transfer cancer-causing PAHs to the meat.
  • Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs): When food is cooked at high temperatures—including when it is pasteurized or sterilized—it increases the formation of AGEs in your food. AGEs build up in your body over time leading to oxidative stress, inflammation and an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease.

The truth is, processed meats are not a healthful choice for anyone and should be avoided entirely, according to a 2011 review of more than 7,000 clinical studies examining the connection between diet and cancer. The report was commissioned by The World Cancer Research Fund2 (WCRF) using money raised from the general public. Therefore the findings were not influenced by any vested interests, which makes it all the more reliable.

It’s the biggest review of the evidence ever undertaken, and it confirms previous findings: Processed meats increase your risk of cancer, especially bowel cancer, and NO amount of processed meat is “safe.” You’re far better off ditching the deli meats and opting instead for fresh organically-raised grass-fed meats, or wild caught salmon.

3. Margarine

The unfortunate result of the low-fat diet craze has been the shunning of healthful fats such as butter, and public health has declined as a result of this folly. There are a myriad of unhealthy components to margarine and other butter impostors, including:

  • Trans fats: These unnatural fats in margarine, shortenings and spreads are formed during the process of hydrogenation, which turns liquid vegetable oils into a solid fat. Trans fats contribute to heart disease, cancer, bone problems, hormonal imbalance and skin disease; infertility, difficulties in pregnancy and problems with lactation; and low birth weight, growth problems and learning disabilities in children. A US government panel of scientists determined that man-made trans fats are unsafe at any level.
  • Free radicals: Free radicals and other toxic breakdown products are the result of high temperature industrial processing of vegetable oils. They contribute to numerous health problems, including cancer and heart disease.
  • Emulsifiers and preservatives: Numerous additives of questionable safety are added to margarines and spreads. Most vegetable shortening is stabilized with preservatives like BHT.
  • Hexane and other solvents: Used in the extraction process, these industrial chemicals can have toxic effects.

    4. Vegetable Oils

    Of all the destructive foods available to us, those made with heated vegetable oils are some of the worst. Make no mistake about it–vegetable oils are not the health food that you were lead to believe they were. This is largely due to the fact that they are highly processed, and when consumed in massive amounts, as they are by most Americans, they seriously distort the important omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. Ideally, this ratio is 1:1.

    Anytime you cook a food, you run the risk of creating heat-induced damage. The oils you choose to cook with must be stable enough to resist chemical changes when heated to high temperatures, or you run the risk of damaging your health. One of the ways vegetable oils can inflict damage is by converting your good cholesterol into bad cholesterol—by oxidizing it. When you cook with polyunsaturated vegetable oils (such as canola, corn, and soy oils), oxidized cholesterol is introduced into your system.

    As the oil is heated and mixed with oxygen, it goes rancid. Rancid oil is oxidized oil and should NOT be consumed—it leads directly to vascular disease. Trans-fats are introduced when these oils are hydrogenated, which increases your risk of chronic diseases like breast cancer and heart disease.

    So what’s the best oil to cook with?

    Of all the available oils, coconut oil is the oil of choice for cooking because it is nearly a completely saturated fat, which means it is much less susceptible to heat damage. And coconut oil is one of the most unique and beneficial fats for your body. For more in-depth information about the many benefits of coconut oil, please see this special report. Olive oil, while certainly a healthful oil, is easily damaged by heat and is best reserved for drizzling cold over salad.

    5. Microwave Popcorn

    Perfluoroalkyls, which include perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), are chemicals used to keep grease from leaking through fast food wrappers, are being ingested by people through their food and showing up as contaminants in blood. Microwave popcorn bags are lined with PFOA, and when they are heated the compound leaches onto the popcorn.

    These chemicals are part of an expanding group of chemicals commonly referred to as “gender-bending” chemicals, because they can disrupt your endocrine system and affect your sex hormones. The EPA has ruled PFCs as “likely carcinogens,” and has stated that PFOA “poses developmental and reproductive risks to humans.” Researchers have also linked various PFCs to a range of other health dangers, such as:

    • Infertility — A study published in the journal Human Reproduction3 found that both PFOA and PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate), dramatically increased the odds of infertility. PFOA was linked to a 60 to 154 percent increase in the chance of infertility.
    • Thyroid disease — A 2010 study4 found that PFOA can damage your thyroid function. Individuals with the highest PFOA concentrations were more than twice as likely to report current thyroid disease, compared to those with the lowest PFOA concentrations. Your thyroid contains thyroglobulin protein, which binds to iodine to form hormones, which in turn influence essentially every organ, tissue and cell in your body. Thyroid hormones are also required for growth and development in children. Thyroid disease, if left untreated, can lead to heart disease, infertility, muscle weakness, and osteoporosis.
    • Cancer — PFOA has been associated with tumors in at least four different organs in animal tests (liver, pancreas, testicles and mammary glands in rats), and has been associated with increases in prostate cancer in PFOA plant workers.
    • Immune system problems — Several studies by scientists in Sweden indicate that PFCs have an adverse effect on your immune system. As described in a report on PFCs by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), PFOA was found to decrease all immune cell subpopulations studied, in the thymus and spleen, and caused immunosupression.
    • Increased LDL cholesterol levels – A 2010 study in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine5 found that children and teens with higher PFOA levels had higher levels of total cholesterol and LDL or “bad” cholesterol, while PFOS was associated with increased total cholesterol, including both LDL cholesterol and HDL or “good” cholesterol.

    I strongly recommend avoiding any product you know containing these toxic compounds, particularly non-stick cookware, but also foods sold in grease-proof food packaging, such as fast food and microwave popcorn. Clearly, if you’re eating fast food or junk food, PFCs from the wrapper may be the least of your problems, but I think it’s still important to realize that not only are you not getting proper nutrition from the food itself, the wrappers may also add to your toxic burden.

    6. Non-Organic Potatoes and Other Fresh Produce Known for High Pesticide Contamination

    Your best bet is to buy only organic fruits and vegetables, as synthetic agricultural chemicals are not permissible under the USDA organic rules. That said, not all conventionally grown fruits and vegetables are subjected to the same amount of pesticide load. While Koch focuses on potatoes, as they tend to take up a lot of pesticides and other agricultural chemicals present in the soil, I would recommend reviewing the “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce”6 by the Environmental Working Group.

    7. Table Salt

    Salt is essential for life—you cannot live without it. However, regular ‘table salt’ and the salt found in processed foods are NOT identical to the salt your body really needs. In fact, table salt has practically nothing in common with natural salt. One is health damaging, and the other is healing.

    • Processed salt is 98 percent sodium chloride, and the remaining two percent comprises man-made chemicals, such as moisture absorbents, and a little added iodine. These are dangerous chemicals like ferrocyanide and aluminosilicate. Some European countries, where water fluoridation is not practiced, also add fluoride to table salt
    • Natural salt is about 84 percent sodium chloride. The remaining 16 percent of natural salt consists of other naturally occurring minerals, including trace minerals like silicon, phosphorous and vanadium

    Given that salt is absolutely essential to good health, I recommend switching to a pure, unrefined salt. My favorite is an ancient, all-natural sea salt from the Himalayas. Himalayan salt is completely pure, having spent many thousands of years maturing under extreme tectonic pressure, far away from impurities, so it isn’t polluted with the heavy metals and industrial toxins of today. And it’s hand-mined, hand-washed, and minimally processed. Himalayan salt is only 85 percent sodium chloride, the remaining 15 percent contains 84 trace minerals from our prehistoric seas. Unrefined natural salt is important to many biological processes, including:

    • Being a major component of your blood plasma, lymphatic fluid, extracellular fluid, and even amniotic fluid
    • Carrying nutrients into and out of your cells
    • Maintain and regulate blood pressure
    • Increasing the glial cells in your brain, which are responsible for creative thinking and long-term planning
    • Helping your brain communicate with your muscles, so that you can move on demand via sodium-potassium ion exchange

    While natural unprocessed salt has many health benefits, that does not mean you should use it with impunity. Another important factor is the potassium to sodium ratio of your diet. Imbalance in this ratio can not only lead to hypertension (high blood pressure) and other health problems, including heart disease, memory decline, erectile dysfunction and more. The easiest way to avoid this imbalance is by avoiding processed foods, which are notoriously low in potassium while high in sodium. Instead, eat a diet of whole, ideally organically-grown foods to ensure optimal nutrient content. This type of diet will naturally provide much larger amounts of potassium in relation to sodium.

    8. Soy Protein Isolate and Other Unfermented Soy Products

    Sadly, most of what you have been led to believe by the media about soy is simply untrue. One of the worst problems with soy comes from the fact that 90 to 95 percent of soybeans grown in the US are genetically engineered (GE), and these are used to create soy protein isolate. Genetically engineered soybeans are designed to be “Roundup ready,” which means they’re engineered to withstand otherwise lethal doses of herbicide.

    The active ingredient in Roundup herbicide is called glyphosate, which is responsible for the disruption of the delicate hormonal balance of the female reproductive cycle. What’s more, glyphosate is toxic to the placenta, which is responsible for delivering vital nutrients from mother to child, and eliminating waste products. Once the placenta has been damaged or destroyed, the result can be miscarriage. In those children born to mothers who have been exposed to even a small amount of glyphosate, serious birth defects can result.

    Glyphosate’s mechanism of harm was only recently identified, and demonstrates how this chemical disrupts cellular function and induce many of our modern diseases, including autism. Soy protein isolate can be found in protein bars, meal replacement shakes, bottled fruit drinks, soups and sauces, meat analogs, baked goods, breakfast cereals and some dietary supplements.

    Even if you are not a vegetarian and do not use soymilk or tofu, it is important to be a serious label reader. There are so many different names for soy additives, you could be bringing home a genetically modified soy-based product without even realizing it. Soy expert Dr. Kaayla Daniel offers a free Special Report7, “Where the Soys Are,” on her Web site. It lists the many “aliases” that soy might be hiding under in ingredient lists — words like “bouillon,” “natural flavor” and “textured plant protein.”

    Besides soy protein isolate, ALL unfermented soy products are best avoided if you value your health. Thousands of studies have linked unfermented soy to malnutrition, digestive distress, immune-system breakdown, thyroid dysfunction, cognitive decline, reproductive disorders and infertility—even cancer and heart disease.

    The only soy with health benefits is organic soy that has been properly fermented, and these are the only soy products I ever recommend consuming. After a long fermentation process, the phytate and “anti-nutrient” levels of soybeans are reduced, and their beneficial properties become available to your digestive system. To learn more, please see this previous article detailing the dangers of unfermented soy.

    9. Artificial Sweeteners

    Contrary to popular belief, studies have found that artificial sweeteners such as aspartame can stimulate your appetite, increase carbohydrate cravings, and stimulate fat storage and weight gain. In one of the most recent of such studies8, saccharin and aspartame were found to cause greater weight gain than sugar.

    Aspartame is perhaps one of the most problematic. It is primarily made up of aspartic acid and phenylalanine. The phenylalanine has been synthetically modified to carry a methyl group, which provides the majority of the sweetness. That phenylalanine methyl bond, called a methyl ester, is very weak, which allows the methyl group on the phenylalanine to easily break off and form methanol.

    You may have heard the claim that aspartame is harmless because methanol is also found in fruits and vegetables. However, in fruits and vegetables, the methanol is firmly bonded to pectin, allowing it to be safely passed through your digestive tract. Not so with the methanol created by aspartame; there it’s not bonded to anything that can help eliminate it from your body.

    Methanol acts as a Trojan horse; it’s carried into susceptible tissues in your body, like your brain and bone marrow, where the alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) enzyme converts it into formaldehyde, which wreaks havoc with sensitive proteins and DNA. All animals EXCEPT HUMANS have a protective mechanism that allows methanol to be broken down into harmless formic acid. This is why toxicology testing on animals is a flawed model. It doesn’t fully apply to people.

    Guidelines for Healthy Food

    Whatever food you’re looking to eat, whether organic or locally grown, from either your local supermarket or a farmer’s market, the following are signs of a high-quality, healthy food. Most often, the best place to find these foods is from asustainable agricultural group in your area. You can also review my free nutrition plan to get started on a healthy eating program today:

    • It’s grown without pesticides and chemical fertilizers (organic foods fit this description, but so do some non-organic foods)
    • It’s not genetically engineered
    • It contains no added growth hormones, antibiotics, or other drugs
    • It does not contain artificial anything, nor any preservatives
    • It is fresh (if you have to choose between wilted organic produce or fresh conventional produce, the latter may still be the better option as freshness is important for optimal nutrient content)
    • It was not grown in a factory farm
    • It is grown with the laws of nature in mind (meaning animals are fed their native diets, not a mix of grains and animal byproducts, and have free-range access to the outdoors)
    • It is grown in a sustainable way (using minimal amounts of water, protecting the soil from burnout, and turning animal wastes into natural fertilizers instead of environmental pollutants)


Modern Human Leg Mummified Using Ancient Egyptian Methods

The ancient Egyptians famously mummified the dead to preserve their loved ones in perpetuity, and now, scientists have mummified fresh tissue from a human corpse to gain insight into these ancient preservation techniques. modern-mummy-2

The team adhered to ancient Egyptian techniques to mummify part of the human body, which had been donated to science. They placed the tissue in a salt solution, and measured the progress of preservation using state-of-the-art microscopy and imaging techniques.

The findings, detailed Friday (May 22) in the journal The Anatomical Record, give researchers some fascinating new clues about the ancient Egyptian embalming process.

“We wanted to have an evidence-based methodology” for understanding what the mummification process looked like, said Christina Papageorgopoulou, one of the researchers on the new study and a physical anthropologist at the Democritus University of Thrace in Greece. “The only way you can do this is by [doing] the experiment yourself.” [See photos of mummification in progress]

Making a mummy

Most of what scientists know about ancient Egyptian mummification comes from the Greek historian Herodotus, who lived during the fifth century B.C. First, embalmers would have removed the dead individual’s organs — including the brain, which would be extracted through the nose. Then, they would sterilize the chest and abdominal cavities, before placing the body in a salty fluid containing natron — a mixture of soda ash and sodium bicarbonate — which would drain the bodily fluids and prevent the body from rotting. Finally, they would swaddle the body in strips of linen and bury it in a tomb or grave.

Some studies have attempted to use these techniques to mummify animals or human organs, and there have been one or two attempts to mummify a complete human body. But the process had never been studied using modern scientific techniques while the mummification was in progress.

In this new study, Papageorgopoulou and her colleagues used the Egyptian salt-based preservation method to mummify the leg of a female human body that had been donated to the University of Zurich in Switzerland, where the experiment was conducted. “If we used the whole body, we would have had to cut it up and take out the intestines [and other organs],” Papageorgopoulou told Live Science.

For comparison, they also attempted to mummify a limb “naturally,” using dry heat, but that attempt failed and was stopped after a week.

The researchers took samples of the tissue every two to three days, and examined it using a variety of methods: the naked eye, a microscope, DNA analysis, and X-ray imaging methods.

Ancient process revealed

For the most part, the mummification was successful, but it took nearly seven months (208 days), which is much longer than the two months the ancient Egyptian method took, according to Herodotus. (Other accounts report that it took even less time.)

“We were not so quick like the ancient Egyptians,” Papageorgopoulou said. She suspects the cooler, damper conditions in the lab in Zurich, compared with the arid environment of ancient Egypt, may explain the discrepancy.

The salt solution effectively removed the water from the leg tissue, which prevented bacteria and fungi from degrading it. The microscopic analysis revealed good preservation of the skin and muscle tissue, as well.

The results show just how effective the Egyptian embalming methods were, and offer a detailed view of how the process worked. “It’s more or less state-of-the-art documentation on how the ancient Egyptians mummified their bodies,” Papageorgopoulou said.

The study revealed that the environment’s temperature, acidity and humidity were all crucial factors in the speed of the mummification process. The experiment also showed how the removal of water from the tissues using salts prevented the body from degrading. Overall, the mummification process preserved the muscle and skin tissue very well, the researchers said.

Bizarre Virus That Survives Boiling Acid Can Help Battle Human Diseases

A group of scientists say they have unlocked the secrets of a bizarre virus, which can lead to the development of a new tool to battle human ailments. The nearly indestructible virus, which can survive harsh environments such as boiling acid, is expected to help scientists use genetic therapy to cure diseases.virus

The virus, called “SIRV2,” infects a microscopic organism that lives in “extremely unusual” conditions such as acidic hot springs where temperatures top 175 degrees Fahrenheit. The researchers identified similarities between the way SIRV2 forces its DNA into a protective structural state, called “A-form,” and the methods used by bacterial spores to survive in inhospitable environments.

“Some of these spores are responsible for very, very horrific diseases that are hard to treat, like anthrax,” Edward H. Egelman of the University of Virginia’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Geneticssaid in a statement. “So we show in this paper that this virus actually functions in a similar way to some of the proteins present in bacterial spores.”

According to the scientists, finding an effective way for DNA delivery that’s necessary for successful gene therapy is important because the human body has several ways to degrade a foreign DNA to combat harmful viruses. But this protective mechanism has been a major obstacle for doctors who seek to use foreign genes to battle diseases.

Creating an impenetrable DNA package would overcome that problem, with SIRV2 offering a promising template to achieve that goal, scientists said in a study, published in the journal Science last week.

“We’ve discovered what appears to be a basic mechanism of resistance – to heat, to desiccation, to ultraviolet radiation,” Egelman said. “And knowing that, then, we can go in many different directions, including developing ways to package DNA for gene therapy.”

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