Lifestyle, Uncategorized

How Friends Impact Your Health

How Friends Impact Your Health

How Friends Impact Your Health

 

There is a strong connection between friendship and health. Recall the happiest times of your life, and those memories likely include friends celebrating with you. Just as important, true friends support you through the bad times that happen in every life, from everyday disappointments to the heartbreak of loss. That’s what good friends do.

Friendship enriches our existence and makes life’s journey more enjoyable. Friends give us a sense of belonging and bolster our self-esteem. Yet, our closest friends will “tell it like it is” and encourage us to change bad habits or adopt good ones. Best friends assume the role of trusted confidante. Who better to listen to your rant in a non-judgmental way than your best friend? Having someone with whom you can talk about anything promotes healthy stress management.

Even self-described loners need interaction with people. Appropriate doses of companionship are especially helpful to prevent loneliness if you live by yourself. The never-married or single-again adult can too easily fall into the trap of staying home too much and eating solitary dinners off a tray in front of the TV. A tendency toward reclusivity may become more pronounced after retirement. Finding one still wearing pajamas mid-day is a red flag that it’s time to get out of a rut.

Many people carry friendships from high school or college into adulthood. New friendships are formed with compatible individuals met through work or after moves to new neighborhoods. Sometimes, life changes—increased workloads, rearing children, caring for aging parents—interfere with existing friendships, and we let them slip out of our lives. Career moves may require relocation and leaving friends behind.

Extroverts—naturally outgoing and sociable— find it easy to meet people and form new friendships. They are often described as, “She never meets a stranger,” or “He makes friends everywhere he goes.”

The naturally shy, socially anxious, or introverted person does not meet people or form new attachments easily. Social events are often avoided. Small talk is dreaded like torture. Without coaxing from others to join in or a personal effort to overcome inhibitions and fears, this individual may let friendship slide—perhaps forever.

It takes effort to make friends and nurture friendships. While social networking can provide connections and relieve loneliness to some extent, making 100 new “friends” online does not take the place of face time in offline relationships. Meeting new people and discovering common interests and values requires getting off the sofa and going out there….Go where you will find other people doing things you are likely to enjoy.

If you like to read, join a book discussion group. Think about those things you really enjoy—cooking, gardening, crafts, music, live theater—and search for groups that share your interests. Volunteer your time with a charitable organization where you’ll come together with others whose compassion for these issues matches your own. Take a continuing education class at your local community college—inexpensive, short-termed and a broad variety of topics. Learning something new enhances conversation.

Friendships—whether existing or new—must be nurtured to last and grow. In order to have (and keep) friends in your life, you must also be a good friend. Forge a positive attitude, practice tolerance, and don’t be judgmental. Friendship is a two-way street, and both parties in the relationship must be willing to give, not just take. Cultivate active listening skills. (Some of the best listeners are those who don’t like to talk, but make a great audience for the more talkative.)

Cultivating and cherishing friendships can affect anyone’s longevity. A ten-year Australian study of 1500 senior citizens by Flinders University’s Centre for Ageing Studies found that the participants who had a large support group of friends outlived those with the least friends by 22%. As one’s social connections decrease, the risk for mortality increases. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at Brigham Young University, states the mortality risk is nearly as great as that created by smoking.

So…fill the friendship “prescription” for good health. It’s a renewable prescription for life!

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Lifestyle, Uncategorized

The High Cost of Ignoring Your Intuition

The High Cost of Ignoring Your Intuition

 

The High Cost of Ignoring Your Intuition

 

Cindy met Bill through her tennis club. He was charming, good-looking, and he swept her off her feet in a whirlwind courtship. Pushing for a quick marriage, he proposed after only two months. Though she felt a few flutters of anxiety, Cindy accepted, hoping for true love. Six months later, she deeply regretted the haste. Bill turned out to be both alcoholic and verbally abusive, with the threat of physical abuse lurking in the volatile atmosphere. Frightened, she moved out and filed for divorce. Later, she reflected on how she had gotten herself in such a painful place.

Something deep inside Cindy had sent up warning flares, telling her that she was moving too fast. But she’d plunged ahead, repressing her own better judgment, which was trying to get her to slow down. Why had she ignored the signals?

“I was afraid that if I told him I wanted to slow down, he might lose interest. He was so passionate, so full of life, and I felt so flattered that this great looking guy wanted me. All the women liked him. It wasn’t hard to imagine that he might drop me and move on to someone more willing.”

The high cost of ignoring your own signals? High-risk relationships and the likelihood of divorce. But most of all, the cost is to your own self-esteem, because the bottom line is that you let yourself down. You failed at your most basic job in life: taking care of you.

These days, Cindy is reluctant to accept even the most seemingly safe dates. She doesn’t trust herself, fearful of repeating the past and making another disastrous mistake. Self-forgiveness is the hardest when we know we didn’t protect ourselves.

The lesson is simple: never let your desire for a particular person override your common sense. When your gut is screaming at you, listen, honor what it is telling you, and proceed with caution. And this goes for any area of your life, not just relationships – trust your intuition, go with your gut.

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Health and Disease, Lifestyle, Uncategorized

How to Recover From an Affair – When You’re the Cheater

How to Recover From an Affair – When You’re the Cheater

cheater

I addressed people whose spouses have cheated on them and tried to offer some guidelines for surviving the crisis. In this post I’d like to speak to those on the other side of the equation, namely, the cheaters. In particular I will be speaking to folks who have already been caught and who would like to save the marriage – if you are planning to leave the marriage anyway, that is a whole different kettle of fish, and if you haven’t been caught, you have a major moral decision to make. Perhaps we can tackle this in a future post.

What are the things you need to know in order to repair the damage of your extremely poor choice? Note that I will not be mincing words here – if you cheated on your spouse, you did something wrong. Certainly you can change and seek forgiveness – we all make mistakes –but it was a mistake nonetheless. So that is our first point:

1. Take responsibility

If you are serious about saving your marriage, you will have to accept that you acted in error. Unfaithful spouses who blame their partner – even a little bit – for the affair are not going to be successful at rebuilding the relationship. (In a relationship that is already characterized by emotional abuse, the cheated-on spouse might be accustomed to being mistreated by their partner and then manipulated into accepting responsibility for it. This does not mean that the cheater is going to succeed in saving the relationship without taking responsibility. What it actually means is there wasn’t really a true relationship to save in the first place.)

It doesn’t matter if your husband was distant. It doesn’t matter if your wife was not being sexual with you. Nobody forced you to have an affair; there are many ways to deal with problems in your marriage (couples counseling, anyone?), and you made the choice to pursue this one. Only once you are willing to accept responsibility for your actions can you hope to achieve forgiveness from your spouse and re-enter into a balanced relationship. If you are still saying or thinking, “Well,if s/he hadn’t…” – you are not ready to fix your marriage.

2. Take appropriate steps to provide security to your spouse

I am assuming that – having accepted full responsibility for the infidelity – you have already apologized profusely, and will continue to do so for a while. That is certainly necessary, but not sufficient. Actions speak louder than words; if you say you’re sorry but keep your affair partner “as a friend,” you are not respecting your spouse. Your spouse needs an extra dose of commitment, trustworthiness, and respect at this point. You do this by cutting off all communications with your affair partner – all communications– to show your spouse that you value him/her above anyone and anything else. If you are concerned about the feelings of the person who you will be cutting off, then you are unconcerned about the feelings of your spouse.

This might become pretty drastic. If the person in question is a co-worker, you may need to change jobs. If it was a neighbor, you may seriously have to consider moving – if your marriage is that important to you, that is.

There are other important steps to take, all of which might very well be hard for you. You need to be punctilious about letting your spouse know your whereabouts. There are many apps these days that allow you to be located by your spouse at all times via GPS. If your spouse finds this reassuring, you should give him/her that reassurance without hesitation. Likewise, your spouse should have full access to your phone, texts, e-mails, Facebook account, and anything else s/he asks for. If you are concerned about your own need for privacy, then you are unconcerned about your spouse’s need for security at this time.

3. Take time

Even once you have accepted responsibility, apologized, and properly addressed your spouse’s need for security and respect, it will take time. You can’t expect that your spouse will be ready to forgive and forget just as soon as you check off all the things on the list. You probably have caused significant emotional pain, and that will take time to heal. If at any time you find yourself wanting to say, “Can’t you just get over it already?” or, “I said I’m sorry!” you need to check in with yourself and think about whether you are really seeking forgiveness, or demanding it. You are not entitled to forgiveness; it is something you must earn. And your spouse is not obligated to offer it. If you are truly remorseful and invested in repairing your relationship, that means giving your partner the time and space to recover at his/her own pace. (However, if you find yourself in a situation where your spouse is throwing your mistake in your face on a daily basis, or holding the grudge for years, professional help may be necessary.)

This article is just a short accounting of what a person who was unfaithful must do to save their marriage; it is not an exhaustive guide. Certainly seeking out a qualified marriage counselor would be of benefit for anyone in this situation. An affair does not have to mean the end of a marriage – but without appropriate repentance on the part of the guilty party, it is likely that it will be.

 

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Health and Disease, Uncategorized

Dad Can Pass on Ovarian Cancer Genes

 

Health and Wellness Associates

 

dadgenes

Dad Can Pass on Ovarian Cancer Genes

 

A gene mutation that’s passed down from a father is associated with earlier onset of ovarian cancer in daughters and prostate cancer in the father and his sons, a new study suggests.

 

Previous research had shown that sisters of women with ovarian cancer have a higher risk for the disease than their mother, but the reasons for this were unclear.

 

“Our study may explain why we find families with multiple affected daughters: Because a dad’s chromosomes determine the sex of his children, all of his daughters have to carry the same X chromosome genes,” said study author Kevin Eng. He’s an assistant professor of oncology at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, in Buffalo, N.Y.

 

Eng’s team decided to look at whether genes on the X chromosome passed down from the father might influence a daughter’s risk of ovarian cancer.

 

The researchers examined data about pairs of granddaughters and grandmothers. They also sequenced portions of the X chromosome from 186 women affected by ovarian cancer.

 

The investigators discovered that women with ovarian cancer linked to genes inherited from their father’s mother developed the cancer much earlier than those with ovarian cancer linked to genes from their mother. In addition, the same genes from the father’s mother are also associated with higher rates of prostate cancer in fathers and sons.

 

Further investigation led the researchers to a previously unknown mutation on the X chromosome that may be associated with cases of ovarian cancer that develop more than six years earlier than average.

 

The findings suggest that a gene on the X chromosome may increase a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer, independent of other known risk genes, such as the BRCA genes. But the researchers did not prove that this gene causes ovarian cancer risk to rise.

 

Further research is needed to confirm the identity and function of this gene, the study authors added.

 

The study was published Feb. 15 in the journal PLoS Genetics.

 

“What we have to do next is make sure we have the right gene by sequencing more families,” Eng said in a journal news release.

 

“This finding has sparked a lot of discussion within our group about how to find these X-linked families,” Eng said. “It’s an all-or-none kind of pattern: A family with three daughters who all have ovarian cancer is more likely to be driven by inherited X mutations than by BRCA mutations.”

 

 

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Health and Disease, Uncategorized

Blood Thinners – Actually Cause Strokes

Health and Wellness Associates

 

Could a Blood Thinner Actually Raise Stroke Risk for Some?

bloodthinners

Taking blood-thinning drugs is typically thought to ward off stroke in people with the heart rhythm disorder atrial fibrillation.

 

However, new research out of Britain hints — but cannot prove — that the drugs might actually raise the odds of stroke in seniors with a-fib who also have kidney disease.

 

“Chronic kidney disease is common among older people, and one in three people affected also have atrial fibrillation, commonly called an irregular heartbeat — and for that, they typically get prescribed blood thinners to reduce their risk of stroke,” noted lead researcher Shankar Kumar, of University College London (UCL).

 

However, “we found that in this particular group, their medication seems to do the opposite of its intended effect,” Kumar, a researcher with UCL’s Centre for Medical Imaging, said in a university news release.

 

Still, one U.S. cardiologist said that patients who fall into this category don’t need to panic.

 

Dr. Michael Goyman directs clinical cardiology at Northwell Health’s Long Island Jewish Forest Hills hospital, in Forest Hills, N.Y. He stressed that the new study couldn’t prove cause-and-effect and contained numerous limitations.

 

So, while the findings do need to be followed up in a more rigorous trial, “patients should not make decisions about the benefit of blood thinners without consulting their physicians,” Goyman said.

 

The new study included more than 4,800 British people, aged 65 and older, who had chronic kidney disease plus a recent diagnosis of a-fib.

 

Half of the patients were taking some sort of blood thinner for the heart condition.

 

Over an average follow-up of nearly 17 months, those taking blood thinners were 2.6 times more likely to have a stroke and 2.4 times more likely to have bleeding than those who did not take the drugs.

 

However, the death rate in the blood thinner group was slightly lower, and might have been due to a reduced risk of fatal stroke or heart attack, according to the study.

 

The findings were published Feb. 14 in the BMJ journal.

 

According to Kumar’s group, the new findings suggest doctors need to be more careful about prescribing blood thinners to seniors with chronic kidney disease, at least until more research provides a clearer idea of the risks.

 

“People with chronic kidney disease tend to have numerous severe complications, including cardiovascular illnesses,” explained senior study author John Camm, a professor of clinical cardiology at St George’s, University of London.

 

“As their blood clots more but they also bleed more easily, it is extremely difficult to strike a balance between different treatments,” he said.

 

Kumar added: “This is clearly a very complex area. We strongly call for randomized, controlled studies to test the clinical value and safety of anticoagulant drug therapy for people with both atrial fibrillation and chronic kidney disease.”

 

Dr. Satjit Bhusri is a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. He wasn’t involved in the new research but reviewed the findings and agreed that — for now at least — patients shouldn’t be concerned.

 

“This observational study is just that, observational,” and as such can’t prove that the blood thinners are somehow causing more strokes, Bhusri said. He added that important details — the types of blood thinners used, for example — weren’t included in the study.

 

In the end, Bhusri agreed with Kumar and Giyfman that more research is needed.

 

In the meantime, he said, “the choice of blood thinner should be a patient-specific preference and risk-versus-benefit should be an active discussion. I would not rely on this study as a source of reference in that discussion.”

 

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Lifestyle, Uncategorized

How to Tell a Friend to Get Help

How to Tell a Friend to Get Help How to Tell a Friend to Get Help

We all have friends and family that are struggling and could benefit from therapy. I often hear people say “He/she really needs some help.” It can be quite obvious when someone needs additional support, but how can you possibly suggest that someone see a psychologist or therapist of some sort?

Recommending professional help is a delicate issue. You certainly risk being met with anger and resentment. However doing nothing can be even more harmful than having to encounter some resistance. When someone you know is showing obvious signs of being in distress, you can assume that they have been struggling for quite some time and might actually be desperate for some help and change.

Here are a few pointers that might make your conversation easier:

– Listen to their story and how they are doing

– Ask some questions and look for signs of hope for change

– Ask the person what they have tried to get better

– Offer some personal experiences with therapy (if you are willing to disclose)

– Ask what kind of change the person is hoping for in life

– Recommend therapy as a tool to find support, healing, and growth

It is scary and it might feel inappropriate to suggest to someone that they get professional help. You’d be surprised by how cared for and understood some people feel by such a suggestion. People don’t want to feel miserable and struggle, and they often don’t know how to create positive change. With a gentle nudge in the right direction you can have a big impact on someone’s direction in life and you might even be able to save a life!

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Lifestyle, Uncategorized

Anti-Aging Supplements That Can Lead to Ultimate Skin Renewal

Anti-Aging Supplements That Can Lead to Ultimate Skin Renewal

antiaging

Anti-aging supplements – are they even a thing? Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, they are very real. They can contain potent nutrients which have been proven to be capable of staving off signs of aging. In fact, a few of these nutrients are also some of the main ingredients in natural anti-aging creams and serums too. These supplements are becoming very popular among consumers as well as doctors.

 

If you are thinking about trying them but don’t know where to begin, check out the list below. These are some of  the best in my opinion.

 

Alpha-Lipoic Acid

 

Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA) is one of the naturally found compounds in every cell of your body. It is a potent, yet versatile, antioxidant that fights against inflammation and counteracts the reactive free radicals. This fat and water soluble antioxidant also balances blood sugar, as it gets converted into energy. What makes it special is the way it boosts the effectiveness of other oxidants in the body. Thus, making it one of the finest anti-aging supplements that you can take.

 

Even though your body does produce ALA, it often does not make as much as is needed to keep your skin healthy and young. So, you can look for external sources, such as from supplements or in your diet. If you are over age 40, ALA should be one of your “go to” supplements.

 

Resveratrol

 

The scientific literature indicates that resveratrol is one of the most effective compounds for maintaining optimal health as well as promoting longevity. It works to cleanse the body of pollutants and other contaminants, which helps to keep your skin fresher, healthier, and more elastic. This also helps to prevent the formation of new wrinkles and reduces the appearance of any existing ones.

 

Argireline

 

Most of you have heard about Botox. Botox works by preventing muscle contraction where wrinkles usually form easily. This is done by blocking protein from connecting with cells in the body to trigger muscle contraction. But have you heard about Argireline? Argireline is found in Botox, but Argireline only temporarily disables the proteins in order to relax the muscle, whereas Botox destroys these proteins. Thus, Argireline is considered a safer way to reduce the appearance of deep wrinkles.

 

S-Acetyl Glutathione

 

Glutathione is one of the best known detoxifiers which can protect you against the toxins found in food, air, and water. But, what’s even better are its remarkable anti-aging properties. It is made of 3 amino acids and is one of the single most powerful antioxidants produced by the liver. Low levels of glutathione have been linked to every major aging process in the human body. After the age of 20, natural production of it slows down and by the time you reach age 60 you will be producing only half of what you did in your teens. Thus, taking this supplement can help slow this process.

 

Coenzyme Q-10

 

Coenzyme Q-10 is a remarkably powerful antioxidant that facilitates and regulates the oxidation of fats and sugar into energy. It boosts energy, supports cellular health and even protects the heart. To choose the right form of CoQ-10 look for it in ubiquinol form as that is more readily used by the body than the more commonly available ubiquinone form.

 

Please consult with your physician before adding these supplements to your diet, just to make sure they don’t conflict with anything else going on in your body or with any medications you might be taking currently. If you do further research on your own you’ll probably find a few more you might want to add to your list as well.

 

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Preventative and Restorative Medicine

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Foods, Health and Disease, Uncategorized

Why Some Nitrates Are Healthy While Others Are Harmful

farmersmarket

 

Why Some Nitrates Are Healthy While Others Are Harmful

 

Nitrate-rich plant foods are a valuable part of your diet as they help promote heart health. Meanwhile, the nitrates in cured and processed meats such as bacon and hotdogs are known to be carcinogenic. So, what’s the deal? Why are plant-based nitrates healthy and animal-based nitrates harmful? The answer to that question has to do with biochemistry — how the nitrates are processed in your body based on cofactors found in their source.

 

Plant- Versus Animal-Based Nitrates

In a recent Nutrition Action article on this topic, Gunter Kuhnle, professor of food and nutritional sciences at the University of Reading, U.K., explains the core differences between plant- and animal-based nitrates:1

 

“When you eat nitrates, they are converted to nitrites by bacteria in your mouth. Once the nitrites reach the stomach’s acid, they can turn into either nitric oxide [NO] or N-nitroso compounds. N-nitroso compounds like nitrosamines are carcinogenic. What makes processed meats so ideal for forming N-nitroso compounds is that they have a combination of nitrite and proteins from the meat. And the meat’s heme seems to help convert them into N-nitroso compounds.”

 

Nitrates are also more prone to converting into carcinogenic nitrosamines when heated. According to a review of more than 7,000 clinical studies, the World Cancer Research Fund concluded there’s no safe lower limit for processed meats2 and that they should be avoided altogether to minimize your cancer risk.

 

Plants, on the other hand, contain antioxidants (such as vitamin C and polyphenols) that impede the formation of harmful nitrosamines. The presence of these compounds help to ensure that the nitrites are converted into beneficial NO once they reach your stomach rather than harmful N-nitroso compounds.3 Most plant foods are also not cooked or fried at high temperatures, which further minimizes the chances that harmful substances will be produced.

 

The Benefits of Nitric Oxide

NO is a soluble gas, and while it’s a free radical, it’s also an important biological signaling molecule that supports normal endothelial function and protects your mitochondria — the little “power stations” in your cells that produce a majority of your body’s energy in the form of ATP. NO is a potent vasodilator, helping relax and widen the diameter of your blood vessels, thereby allowing a greater volume of blood to flow through.

 

Healthy blood flow in turn helps your body function optimally, carrying oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and organs while removing waste material and carbon dioxide. Importantly, NO infuses into areas that are hypoxic, meaning in need of oxygen, and both your heart and brain4,5 are heavy oxygen users.

 

NO has actually been shown to improve brain neuroplasticity by improving oxygenation of the somatomotor cortex (a brain area that is often affected in the early stages of dementia).6,7 As for your heart, cardiologist Dr. Stephen Sinatra explains the importance of NO, saying:8

 

“Adequate NO production is the first step in a chain reaction that promotes healthy cardiovascular function, while insufficient NO triggers a cascade of destruction that eventually results in heart disease… NO promotes healthy dilation of the veins and arteries so blood can move throughout your body. Plus, it prevents red blood cells from sticking together to create dangerous clots and blockages.”

 

Nitrate-Rich Foods Offer Potent Benefits

While NO is continually produced from the amino acid L-arginine inside your cells, you can also boost your body’s NO production by eating certain NO-boosting foods and/or performing high-intensity exercises such as the Nitric Oxide Dump (see demonstration below). Research9 shows a nitrate-rich diet can be a powerful strategy for the treatment of prehypertension and hypertension (high blood pressure), and as such helps protect against heart attacks.

 

In conventional medicine, nitrates are used to treat angina and congestive heart failure, and research shows a glass of beetroot juice has the same effect as prescription nitrates.10 Raw beets — which are high in nitrates — have been shown to lower blood pressure by an average of four to five points within a few hours.11

 

Another study12 found drinking 8 ounces of beet juice per day lowered blood pressure by an average of nearly eight points after the first week, which is more than most blood pressure medications. Raw beets have also been shown to boost stamina during exercise by as much as 16 percent,13 courtesy of increased NO production.

 

The caveat with beets is they’re high in sugar, which is why I recommend them only in limited amounts or in fermented form. Fermenting your beets rather than eating them raw gives you all the health-boosting benefits of raw beets without the concerns of high sugar content, as the beneficial bacteria created during fermentation consume most of the naturally occurring sugars.

 

The Hazards of Nitrosamines

While NO has potent health benefits, the same cannot be said for the nitrosamines formed when nitrites from processed meats react with gastric acid in your stomach.

 

Again, the reason meat-based nitrites don’t boost NO production but rather turn into harmful N-nitroso compounds has to do with the presence of proteins and heme14 (an iron-containing compound that makes up part of the hemoglobin molecule in blood) and the absence of antioxidant compounds. The evidence against processed meats — including bacon, ham, pastrami, salami, pepperoni, chorizo, hot dogs, sausages, hamburgers and more — is fairly extensive. For example:

 

  • Studies have linked processed meats like sausages, hot dogs and sandwich meats to an increased risk of cancer, male infertility and early death.

 

  • A 2007 analysis15 by the World Cancer Research Fund found eating just 1.8 ounces of processed meat per day — about one sausage or two to three slices of bacon — was found to raise your likelihood of bowel cancer by 20 percent.

 

  • The American Institute for Cancer Research16 recommends avoiding processed meats entirely to minimize your risk of bowel cancer, and explicitly warns that “there is no safe threshold” for eating processed meats. They also recommend limiting red meat a maximum of 18 ounces per week, to avoid raising your risk for colorectal cancer.

 

  • After reviewing some 800 studies, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization, concluded that processed meat can cause colorectal cancer in humans,17,18 and has classified processed meat as a Group 1 carcinogen, right next to tobacco and asbestos. The agency estimates a daily serving of 1.8 ounces of processed meat can increase your risk for colorectal cancer by 18 percent. Higher amounts may raise your risk even higher.

 

(Keep in mind the IARC’s classifications of carcinogens are based on strength of evidence, not degree of risk, so this does not mean processed meats are as hazardous as smoking and asbestos exposure. It simply means the strength of the evidence is the same.)

 

  • A British study19 published in January this year, which evaluated data from more than 262,000 women, found eating just 9 grams of bacon per day significantly raises a woman’s risk for breast cancer later in life.

 

Nitrate-Free Bacon Is a Safer Alternative

While the presence of saturated fat is not a valid reason to shun bacon, the presence of nitrates is of real concern. Still, bacon can be a healthy addition to your diet, in small amounts, provided you take certain precautions. First, make sure your bacon comes from organic pasture-raised pigs, as this will reduce the risk of pathogenic contaminations20 that factory farmed pigs are prone to. Second, make sure it’s free of added nitrates. The easiest way is to check the label, but the color of the meat can also be a powerful tipoff.

 

As noted in The Guardian,21 “The pinkness of bacon — or cooked ham, or salami — is a sign that it has been treated with chemicals, more specifically with nitrates and nitrites.” The article includes commentary from French journalist Guillaume Coudray, author of the book “Cochonneries,” which loosely translates into “junk food,” but also means “piggeries.”

 

In his book, Coudray argues that it’s really the addition of nitrates that creates the problem, and the processed meat industry could easily make these foods far less hazardous. As reported by The Guardian:

 

“’Pure insane crazy madness’ is how Coudray described the continuing use of nitrates and nitrites in processed meats … The madness, in his view, is that it is possible to make bacon and ham in ways that would be less carcinogenic. The most basic way to cure any meat is to salt it — either with a dry salt rub or a wet brine — and to wait for time to do the rest.

 

Coudray notes that ham and bacon manufacturers claim this old-fashioned way of curing isn’t safe. But the real reason they reject it is cost: it takes much longer for processed meats to develop their flavor this way, which cuts into profits … The health risk of bacon is largely to do with two food additives: potassium nitrate (also known as saltpetre) and sodium nitrite.

 

It is these that give salamis, bacons and cooked hams their alluring pink color … when otherwise it would be a murky greyish brown … It is this nitrite that allows the bacteria responsible for cured flavor to emerge quicker, by inhibiting the growth of other bacteria …  It is the use of these chemicals that is widely believed to be the reason why ‘processed meat’ is much more carcinogenic than unprocessed meat.”

 

Healthy Nitrate Sources — Fresh Veggies

Hopefully, you can now appreciate the difference between nitrates from plants versus those from processed meats. A nitrate-rich diet is indeed a boon to your health, but only when the nitrates come from the plant kingdom. Here’s a list of the Top 10 most nitrate-rich ones to add to your diet.22,23,24 Eating garlic also helps boost NO production. While low in nitrates, garlic increases nitric oxide synthase, which converts L-arginine to NO in the presence of cofactors such as vitamins B2 and B3.25

 

Arugula, 480 mg of nitrates per 100 grams

Rhubarb, 281 mg

Cilantro, 247 mg

Butter leaf lettuce, 200 mg

Spring greens like mesclun mix, 188 mg

Basil, 183 mg

Beet greens, 177 mg

Oak leaf lettuce, 155 mg

Swiss chard, 151 mg

Red beets, 110 mg

Three-Minute Exercise to Boost NO Production

 

As mentioned earlier, high-intensity exercise will also trigger NO production in your body and, ideally, you’d both eat nitrate-rich veggies and exercise. The Nitric Oxide Dump exercise, developed by Dr. Zach Bush and demonstrated in the video above, will help:

 

Improve blood flow by relaxing and widening your arteries, thinning your blood and decreasing its viscosity. The latter also decreases platelet aggregation, which will discourage the development of blood clots that may cause a heart attack or stroke

Lower your blood pressure

Boost your mitochondrial health

Slow down age-related muscle decline

Improve immune function

Your body stores NO in the lining of your blood vessels (the endothelium). It’s produced inside your endothelial cells from the amino acid L-arginine, and acts as an important signaling molecule throughout your body. When you exercise and your muscles ache, it’s because you’ve run out of oxygen, which your body compensates for by releasing NO (to dilate your blood vessels making it easier for oxygen to be delivered).

 

This process fuels muscle development, but here’s the secret that’s not widely known: When you exercise, it takes only about 90 seconds for your blood vessels to run out of stored nitric oxide and begin the process of making more. “So working each major muscle group out for 90 seconds,” says Bush, “gives you the most efficient workout to tone and build muscles.”26 Indeed, the key to harnessing your body’s NO-generating powers is to engage in short bursts of high-intensity activity.

 

You also want to wait at least two hours between sessions because that’s how long it takes for NO to synthesize for subsequent release. “Your body has the ability to regenerate nitric oxide every couple of hours, giving you the opportunity to release it multiple times a day,” Bush says. “What that means is the most effective way to increase your muscle function is to work out very briefly every few hours.”27

 

Increasing NO Is an Important ‘Antiaging’ Strategy

Your body loses about 10 percent of its ability to produce NO for every decade of life, which is why it’s important to take steps to increase your NO production, especially as you age. One way to do this is by eating nitrate-rich plant foods such as arugula and beets, as the plant-based nitrates are converted into NO in your body.

 

Just remember that nitrates from processed meats will not have this effect. On the contrary, processed meats will encourage the creation of carcinogenic substances — again because of the combination of a lack of antioxidants and the presence of proteins and heme, which triggers the creation of N-nitroso compounds rather than NO. This is an important distinction, so don’t get confused.

 

Beyond diet and high-intensity exercises such as the Nitric Oxide Dump, you can also increase NO by getting sensible sun exposure on large portions of your body, as NO is released into your bloodstream when UVA from sunlight touches your skin.28,29 Certain supplements, like olive extract and bitter melon, as well as acupuncture,30 may also enhance your body’s generation of NO, as may using a sauna31 or even taking a hot bath.32

 

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How to Prevent Kidney Problems with Food

thekidneys

How to Prevent and Treat Kidney Problems With Food

 

Your kidneys — two bean-shaped organs — are located just below your rib cage one on either side of your spine. Positioned on top of each kidney are your adrenal glands. Each day, your kidneys filter up to 150 quarts of blood and flush out waste products through your urine.

 

One of the reasons why you need to drink enough water is to ensure healthy kidney function. In fact, chronic low-grade dehydration is one of the most common causes of kidney stones.

 

Poor kidney function is also associated with a number of other serious health problems, including diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Common signs of kidney problems include:

 

Frequent urination

Problems urinating

Pain or burning sensation during urination

Constant thirst

Good kidney function1 is essential for maintaining homeostasis in your body, starting with the composition of your blood. For example, your kidneys are responsible for maintaining proper pH level and electrolyte balance (the ratios of sodium, potassium and phosphates).

 

They also produce hormones that make red blood cells, and those that help regulate your blood pressure.

 

Dietary Factors That Threaten Kidney Health

Waste products removed by your kidneys and eliminated through your urine include urea and uric acid, produced from the breakdown of proteins and nucleic acids respectively.

 

Excessive protein intake increases urea, while uric acid is a byproduct of both protein and fructose metabolism. Fructose typically increases uric acid within minutes of ingestion.

 

I became fully aware of the dramatic and devastating impact fructose has on your uric acid levels when I interviewed Dr. Richard Johnson on this topic.

 

Most Americans consume three to five times more protein than they need, and two to four times (or more) fructose than is considered safe. These two dietary factors, alone and especially in combination, places significant stress on your kidneys and promote kidney disease and kidney stones.

 

Kidney stones are particularly linked to a diet high in processed fructose and other sugars, as sugar upsets the mineral relationships in your body by interfering with calcium and magnesium absorption. The phosphorus acid in soda also acidifies your urine, which promotes stone formation.

 

Analgesic drugs are also known to damage your kidneys when taken in excess, and/or over long periods of time. This includes aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), ibuprofen, naproxen, and acetaminophen — especially when taken in combination with alcohol, even if the amount of alcohol is small.

 

Research2,3 shows that combining alcohol with acetaminophen raises your risk of kidney damage by 123 percent, compared to taking either of them individually. Long term alcohol consumption and smoking also take their toll on kidney function.

 

3 Dietary Keys to Protect Kidney Function

To protect your kidney function, keep the following three basic factors in mind:

 

  • Restrict protein to just what your body needs. An ideal protein intake is likely around one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body mass, which for most is 40 to 70 grams a day.

 

The American Kidney Fund recommends restricting protein to a maximum of 50 grams if you have kidney disease4

 

  • Restrict fructose to 25 grams per day (about 6 teaspoons), or less (especially if you’re insulin/leptin resistant)

 

  • Drink pure, clean water. Simply swapping out sweetened beverages like sodas and fruit juices for pure water can go a long way toward improving your kidney function and overall health.

 

The best way to gauge your water needs is to observe the color of your urine (it should be light pale yellow) and the frequency of your bathroom visits (ideally, this is around seven to eight times per day).

 

How to Calculate Your Protein Requirement

Considering the fact that the majority of Americans are overweight or obese, I recommend calculating your individual protein requirement based on lean bodyweight (your total weight minus your fat) only.

 

For optimal health, I believe most adults need about 1 gram of protein per kilogram of lean body mass (not total body weight), or 0.5 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass.

 

In this formula, you must first determine your lean body mass. To do that, subtract your percent body fat from 100. For example, if you have 30 percent body fat, then you have 70 percent lean body mass.

 

Then multiply that percentage (in this case, 0.7) by your current weight to get your lean body mass in pounds or kilos. As an example, if you weigh 170 pounds; 0.7 multiplied by 170 equals 119 pounds of lean body mass.

 

Using the “0.5 gram of protein” rule, you would need 59.5 or just under 60 grams of protein per day.

 

100 – % of body fat = % of lean mass X actual weight X 0.5 gm protein = total grams of protein recommended

 

Example: A 170 lb individual with 30% fat mass

 

100% total weight – 30% fat mass = 70 % lean mass

 

0.70 X 170 = 119 X 0.5 = 60 grams of protein recommended

 

Requirements Into Foods Translating Ideal Protein

To determine whether you’re getting too much protein, simply calculate your lean body mass as described above, then write down everything you’re eating for a few days, and calculate the amount of daily protein from all sources.

 

Again, you’re aiming for one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body mass, which would place most people in the range of 40 to 70 grams of protein per day. If you’re currently averaging a lot more than that, adjust downward accordingly.

 

The chart below can give you a general idea of the protein content of many foods. I personally use Cronometer.com to enter everything I eat and carefully calculate my protein requirement to the gram.

 

Just be sure to enter the correct foods and amounts into the program, as the results will be inaccurate if you don’t enter the correct details.

 

Red meat, pork, and poultry average 6 to 9 grams of protein per ounce.

 

An ideal amount for most people would be a 3-ounce serving of meat (not 9 or 12 ounce steaks!), which will provide about 18 to 27 grams of protein

 

Eggs contain about 6 to 8 grams of protein per egg.

 

So an omelet made from two eggs would give you about 12 to 16 grams of protein.

 

If you add cheese, you need to calculate that protein in as well (check the label of your cheese)

 

Seeds and nuts contain on average 4 to 8 grams of protein per quarter cup

 

Cooked beans average about 7 to 8 grams per half cup

 

Cooked grains average about 5 to 7 grams per cup

 

Most vegetables contain about 1 to 2 grams of protein per ounce

 

Interestingly, while fish is typically considered a good source of protein, most fish contain only HALF of the protein found in beef and chicken. The reduced protein content in fish may actually be one reason why the Mediterranean diet is linked to life extension and reduced risk for chronic disease.5 In essence, those who eat more fish than red meat are automatically getting far less protein.

 

Other Dietary Dos and Don’ts If You Have Kidney Disease and/or Stones

 

If you have kidney disease, you also need to reduce consumption of foods rich in phosphorous, as they may promote the formation of kidney stones. On the other hand, if you have problems urinating but don’t yet have kidney disease, try adding more potassium-rich foods (primarily vegetables and seeds) to your diet. Depending on the type of kidney stone you have, you may also need to modify your diet in other ways:

 

  • Struvite stones: Found more often in women, these are almost always the result of urinary tract infections

 

  • Cystine stones: Represent a very small percentage of kidney stones. These are the result of a hereditary disorder that causes your kidneys to excrete massive amounts of certain amino acids (cystinuria)

 

  • Uric acid stones: These are a byproduct of protein and fructose metabolism, and are commonly seen with gout. Cutting your protein and fructose consumption is essential for preventing and treating these types of stones. Taking potassium citrate (which lowers urine acidity and reduces urine excretion of calcium) may also help prevent uric acid stones6

 

  • Calcium oxalate stones:7 These are the most common. About 80 percent of kidney stones are calcium based, and about 80 percent of those are calcium oxalate stones. Typically, they are the result of insufficient water intake and dietary factors, including excessive oxalate, protein, and processed salt consumption

 

Oxalate is found in some fruits and vegetables, but your liver produces most of your oxalate. If you are found to have oxalate stones, your physician may recommend avoiding oxalate-rich foods. Also, make sure you’re getting enough magnesium, as magnesium helps prevent calcium from combining with oxalate to form stones8

 

If you have calcium oxalate stones, rather than reducing your calcium intake you’ll want to minimize the amount of oxalates in your body. Soy and beer are two primary culprits that should be avoided. For reasons that are unclear, grapefruit juice has been shown to increase the risk of kidney stones9 and is therefore best avoided. Other foods that contain high levels of oxalate10 that you’ll want to avoid if you have calcium oxalate kidney stones include:

 

Spinach

 

Rhubarb

 

Chocolate

 

Parsley

 

Beetroot

 

Most legumes,11 including green beans

 

Wheat and other grain-based flours12

 

Pepper

 

Nuts13

 

Potassium and Kidney Health

Potassium is a nutrient that receives a great deal of attention when you have kidney disease. On the one hand, potassium (a mineral and electrolyte) is essential for your cells, tissues, and organs to function properly. It plays a vital role in heart health, digestive, and muscular function, bone health, and more.

 

While potassium is found in many foods commonly consumed in the U.S. — including fruits, vegetables, dairy products, salmon, sardines, and nuts — only 2 percent of U.S. adults get the recommended daily amount of 4,700 milligrams (mg).

 

This can be problematic because potassium needs to be kept in proper balance with sodium in your blood. If you consume too much sodium, which is common if you eat many processed foods, you’ll have an increased need for potassium. Others who are at particular risk of low potassium (hypokalemia) are those with chronic malabsorption syndromes, such as Crohn’s disease, or those taking heart medicine (particularly loop diuretics).

 

However, anyone who eats a poor diet — an excess of processed foods and not enough fresh, whole foods — is potentially at risk of inadequate potassium levels.

 

All of that said, if you have severe kidney impairment, you typically need to restrict your intake of high-potassium foods.14 Why? Because your kidneys are responsible for maintaining the proper amount of potassium in your body, and when they’re not working well, your levels could become excessively elevated.

 

Potassium helps maintain a regular heart rhythm and plays a role in muscle function, and when your potassium level gets too high, it can lead to irregular heartbeat and/or a heart attack.

 

Recommended Potassium Intake Varies Depending on the Health of Your Kidneys

If your kidneys are working well, the recommended amount of potassium is about 4,700 mg per day,15 which also needs to be balanced with sodium. As a general rule, your potassium to sodium ratio should be around 5:1. The easiest way to achieve this ratio is to eat REAL food (lots of fresh vegetables), ideally organically and locally grown to ensure optimal nutrient content.

 

This type of whole food diet will naturally provide much larger amounts of potassium in relation to sodium, whereas a processed food diet is virtually guaranteed to provide you with an upside-down ratio. Juicing your vegetables is a good way to ensure you’re getting enough potassium.

 

If you have kidney disease, you need to pay careful attention to your potassium level and dietary intake. Most who are being treated for kidney disease will monitor their potassium level by measuring it monthly, and potassium- restricted diets typically recommend keeping potassium intake to about 2,000 mg per day.

 

Kidney-Friendly Superfoods

Besides monitoring your protein and sugar/fructose intake and drinking plenty of water, adding the following foods to your diet can also help promote optimal kidney function.16,17,18,19,20

 

Red bell peppers: low in potassium, rich in vitamins A, B6, C, folic acid and fiber

 

Cherries: rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals

 

Cabbage: low in potassium, rich in vitamins C and K, and fiber, and phytochemicals that protect against free radical damage

 

Red and purple grapes: rich in antioxidants; the skin is particularly rich in resveratrol

 

Cauliflower: high in vitamin C, folate and fiber

 

Watermelon: rich in water, with diuretic properties, allowing you to produce more urine to flush out toxins

 

Garlic: antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-clotting properties

 

Lemon juice: helps reduce kidney stone formation

 

Onion: low in potassium, rich in antioxidants, particularly quercetin, which has natural antihistamine properties

 

Pumpkin seeds: rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, especially magnesium, which helps reduce the risk of kidney stones

 

Apples: high in fiber, antioxidants, and anti- inflammatory compounds. Raw organic apple cider vinegar is helpful for the prevention of kidney stones

 

Kale: lower in potassium, good source of vitamins A and C, rich in iron — the latter of which is important for kidney health. Many with kidney disease are also iron deficient21

 

Berries,22 including blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries

 

Sweet potatoes: rich in beta-carotene, vitamins A and C, and fiber, and a good source of B6 and potassium

 

Herbal Kidney Cleansers

A number of herbs also have kidney-cleansing properties, including the following:

 

Ginger: purifies the blood and kidneys of toxins

 

Red clover: diuretic that stimulates waste removal from the kidneys

 

Turmeric: has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties that help prevent and treat kidney infections and inflammation

 

Chanca Piedra: Used in South America to break up kidney stones (its Spanish name actually means “stone breaker”)

 

Dandelion: a natural diuretic that helps strengthen the kidneys and soothe urinary tract problems

 

Hydrangea root: Native American remedy for kidney stones

 

Nettle: natural diuretic that helps purify blood and treat urinary tract infections; also high in iron, making it beneficial for building blood

 

Uva ursi root: helps treat urinary and bladder problems

 

Marshmallow root: natural diuretic that helps treat urinary tract infections, kidney stones, and bladder infections

 

Gravel root (Joe-Pye weed): Indian remedy for urinary tract and kidney health

 

Juniper: improves kidney function and helps treat urinary tract infections and kidney and/or bladder stones.

 

Avoid juniper berry if you have a kidney infection and/or are pregnant. Also don’t take continuously for more than four weeks

 

Goldenrod root: Native American remedy traditionally used to support urinary tract and kidney health

 

Yarrow root: a natural diuretic with antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties; helpful for urinary tract infections

 

 

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The Big Bad Flu Data – What You Need to Know About Vaccine Effectiveness and Alternatives

 

Doctor Blows Whistle on Flu ShotDoctor Blows Whistle on Flu Shot: ‘It’s Designed to Spread Cancer

 

The Big Bad Flu Data

What You Need to Know About Vaccine Effectiveness and Alternatives

 

 

How effective is the flu vaccine, and will getting vaccinated reduce the severity of your illness even if the vaccine is a poor match to circulating influenza virus strains? While public health officials insist vaccination is the best way to prevent the seasonal flu, the evidence calls this assumption into question, and most health care professionals won’t even get the flu shot if it’s voluntary.1

 

In its 2014 meta-analysis2 of the available research on inactivated influenza vaccines, the Cochrane Collaboration (which is considered by many as the gold-standard for scientific meta-reviews), reviewed evidence related to influenza and influenza-like illness (ILI) that people experience during flu seasons and stated:

 

“Over 200 viruses cause ILI, which produces the same symptoms (fever, headache, aches, pains, cough and runny nose) as influenza. Without laboratory tests, doctors cannot distinguish between ILI and influenza because both last for days and rarely cause serious illness or death.

 

The types of virus contained in influenza vaccines are usually those that are expected to circulate in the following influenza seasons, according to recommendations of the World Health Organization (seasonal vaccine).”

 

The Cochrane researchers concluded that:

 

“Injected influenza vaccines probably have a small protective effect against influenza and ILI (moderate-certainty evidence), as 71 people would need to be vaccinated to avoid one influenza case, and 29 would need to be vaccinated to avoid one case of ILI. Vaccination may have little or no appreciable effect on hospitalizations (low-certainty evidence) or number of working days lost.”

 

If 71 people have to be vaccinated in order for a single case of influenza to be avoided, this means that flu shots have a rather abysmal effectiveness rating. And it isn’t surprising that flu shots have “little or no appreciable effect on hospitalizations or number of working days lost,” considering its ineffectiveness at preventing illness. Similarly, while many assert that getting vaccinated will render flu symptoms less severe — should it fail to protect you after all — there’s really no good evidence for this either.

 

Interim Estimates of Flu Vaccine Effectiveness Are In

On February 16, the CDC published interim estimates of the 2017/2018 seasonal influenza vaccine’s effectiveness for the U.S.3 Based on data from 4,562 children and adults enrolled in the U.S. Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness Network between November 2, 2017 and February 3, 2018, the CDC reports the overall adjusted vaccine effectiveness against “influenza A and influenza B virus infection associated with medically attended acute respiratory illness” was 36 percent. More precisely, vaccine effectiveness is estimated to be:

 

25 percent effective against the A(H3N2) virus

67 percent effective against A(H1N1)pdm09 viruses

42 percent effective against influenza B viruses

In 2015, a CDC analysis4 revealed that, between 2005 and 2015, the flu vaccine was less than 50 percent effective more than half of the time, so this year’s low effectiveness rating (36 percent) comes as no great surprise. However, there’s a significant problem with how this effectiveness rating is attained. As in previous years, the 4,562 individuals upon which this statistic is derived were all diagnosed with an acute respiratory illness. No healthy people were included.

 

To be eligible for inclusion, they had to have developed an acute respiratory infection with cough at least seven days prior to admittance. They also could not have been treated with antiviral medication. Participants were interviewed about their health status, symptoms, and flu vaccination status.

 

Swabs were taken to identify the virus responsible for the infection. In all, 38 percent of subjects tested positive for influenza virus (the rest had respiratory symptoms that looked like influenza but were actually caused by other types of viruses or bacteria).

 

The percentage of patients who were vaccinated ranged between 45 and 59 percent, depending on which of the five study sites they belonged to. Of those who tested positive for influenza, 43 percent had received the 2017/2018 seasonal flu vaccine. Of those whose illness was related to another type of viral or bacterial organism, 53 percent had been vaccinated against seasonal influenza.

 

Ironically, CDC officials continue to “recommend influenza vaccination because the vaccine can still prevent some infections with currently circulating influenza viruses,”5 completely ignoring that simple vitamin D supplementation has greater efficacy and none of the risks associated with flu shots.

 

If preventing “some” infections is good enough for vaccines, why isn’t preventing more of them with vitamin D a viable alternative? I’ll discuss this further toward the end of this article, as research clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of vitamin D when it comes to prevention of illness during the flu season.

 

Does Vaccination Really Lessen Flu Symptoms?

While health officials are fond of saying that getting a flu shot will lessen your symptoms should you contract influenza, French researchers disagree, noting that “very few studies have addressed the question of whether the vaccine mitigates influenza severity among those who develop the illness despite being vaccinated.”

 

Vaccine researchers in France decided to test the hypothesis by looking at data from vaccinated and unvaccinated elderly patients diagnosed with influenza. The results were published in April 2017.6 What they found was a rather insignificant lessening of symptoms, limited to a reduction in initial headache complaints among those who had been vaccinated:

 

“Compared to non-vaccinated influenza patients, those who had been vaccinated had a slightly reduced maximum temperature and presented less frequently with myalgia, shivering and headache. In stratified analyses, the observed effect was limited to patients infected with A(H3) or type B viruses. After adjusting by age group, virus (sub)type and season, the difference remained statistically significant only for headache, which was less frequent among vaccinated individuals.”

 

How and Why the Flu Shot Might Make You More Susceptible to the Flu

Not only is substantial scientific evidence for symptom alleviation lacking, there’s reason to suspect influenza vaccine may actually have the ability to make you more vulnerable to infection, and there are plenty of anecdotal reports that for some people it can be more severe than infection acquired from exposure to influenza viruses in the environment.

 

In a September 2017 Medium article,7 Andre Angelantoni counters claims made by Carol Lynn Curchoe, Ph.D., who in an earlier article8 stated that “Getting the flu shot ‘primes’ your body to recognize and fight all strains of the flu.” This, apparently, has become a commonly accepted myth, even among some health professionals but, as explained by Angelantoni, the vaccines don’t work that way:

 

“[Your] immune system is being programmed by the flu shot making it ready for the exact strains in the shot. It does not protect against other strains but instead opens you up to other flu strains and infection from other pathogens. It’s called heterologous immunity … an extension of basic immunology.

 

After all … Prevnar is superseded by Synflorix and Prevnar 13 because the body was not ‘primed’ to handle all strains of pneumococcus. It’s not clear where [Curchoe] got the idea that the flu vaccine has this magical ability that other vaccines do not and [she] provide[s] no reference for [her] assertion; it appears to be a completely made up ‘fact.’”

 

Heterologous Immunity and Directional Programming of Your Immune System

Angelantoni goes on to cite research I’ve covered on a number of occasions, such as the 2010 Canadian study9 that found people who were vaccinated against seasonal influenza were more susceptible to the pandemic H1N1 strain; the 2014 ferret study10 in which these effects were replicated; as well as a 2012 Chinese study11 that found a child’s chances of contracting a respiratory infection after getting the seasonal flu shot rose more than fourfold.

 

“Heterologous immunity roughly means ‘unequal immunity’ and it’s the concept that the immune system is programmed in a directional way,” Angelantoni writes. “This can sometimes work in the body’s favor if a subsequent antigen is similar enough to the one for which antibodies have just been made.

 

In this case, the directionality means that the body is already prepared to some degree because it has encountered a pathogen ‘similar enough’ to the new one. However, often it works against the body, too, as in the case of the flu vaccines. The body learns how to protect against the strains given in the shot and thereby — by design — becomes less able to handle other strains and other invaders.”

 

As noted in a 2014 paper on heterologous immunity:12

 

“Immunity to previously encountered viruses can alter responses to unrelated pathogens … Heterologous immunity … may be beneficial by boosting protective responses. However, heterologous reactivity can also result in severe immunopathology. The key features that define heterologous immune modulation include alterations in the CD4 and CD8 T cell compartments and changes in viral dynamics and disease progression.”

 

In other words, while influenza vaccine may offer some level of protection against the three or four viral strains included in the vaccine, depending on whether the vaccine used is trivalent or quadrivalent, it may simultaneously diminish your ability to ward off infection by other influenza strains and other types of viral or bacterial infections.

 

Heterologous immunity is also addressed in a 2013 paper,13 which notes that “vaccines modulate general resistance,” and “have nonspecific effects on the ability of the immune system to handle other pathogens.” It also states that:

 

“… [O]ur current perception of the immune system is … simplistic. It was, to a large extent, shaped in the 1950s with the formulation of the clonal selection hypothesis. This line of thinking has emphasized the adaptive immune system and the specific antigen recognition and specific memory, which have been crucial in vaccine development, perhaps at the expense of examining cross-reactive features of the immune system as well as the memory capacity of the innate immune system.

 

Although tens of thousands of studies assessing disease-specific, antibody-inducing effects of vaccines have been conducted, most people have not examined whether vaccines have nonspecific effects because current perception excludes such effects.”

 

Poor Immune Response Blamed for Low Flu Vaccine Effectiveness

Poor influenza vaccine effectiveness is often blamed on viral mutations occurring while the selected influenza viruses are grown in the lab but, according to a team of researchers from the University of Chicago and Harvard University, poor immune responses in individuals appear to be a more likely reason. In their study,14 the flu vaccine failed to elicit a strong immune response in most participants. As explained in the press release:15

 

“What’s at play seems to be a phenomenon known as ‘original antigenic sin.’ Flu vaccines are designed to get the immune system to produce antibodies that recognize the specific strains of the virus someone may encounter in a given year. These antibodies target unique sites on the virus, and latch onto them to disable it.

 

Once the immune system already has antibodies to target a given site on the virus, it preferentially reactivates the same immune cells the next time it encounters the virus. This is efficient for the immune system, but the problem is that the virus changes ever so slightly from year to year. The site the antibodies recognize could still be there, but it may no longer be the crucial one to neutralize the virus.

 

Antibodies produced from our first encounters with the flu, either from vaccines or infection, tend to take precedence over ones generated by later inoculations. So even when the vaccine is a good match for a given year, if someone has a history with the flu, the immune response to a new vaccine could be less protective.”

 

Philip Morris to Produce Next GMO Flu Vaccine Grown in Tobacco Plant

The fact that most flu vaccine viruses are grown in eggs, which allows the influenza virus to mutate ever so slightly, does contribute to mismatches between the vaccine and the most prevalent circulating influenza A and B strains in a given flu season, however. In a study published last year, egg adaptations were found to have caused mismatches in the most commonly used influenza vaccine during the 2016/2017 season. It may be a factor in this year’s low vaccine efficacy rating as well.

 

Some flu vaccine manufacturers are now starting to switch to vaccine strain viruses grown without eggs, using either genetically modified insect cells or canine kidney cells. The Canadian biotech company Medicago — owned by Philip Morris and Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma — has also begun stage 3 clinical trials on a genetically engineered flu vaccine manufactured in Nicotiana benthamiana, a type of tobacco plant known for its ability to make proteins at a high rate of speed.16

 

Medicago is also using “virus-like particles” in lieu of inactivated influenza viruses. The particles have “the structure of the influenza virus but not its full genetic code.”

 

The company theorizes that these virus-like particles will “mobilize special immune cells to eliminate flu-infected cells, regardless of the subtype they may have mutated into.” This combination of factors allows Medicago to produce a vaccine in as little as six weeks, compared to the six months it normally takes to produce an egg-based vaccine.

 

As reported by Forbes,17 “The vaccine is produced by introducing genetic material from the flu virus into the plants, which are then incubated for four to 10 days. The plants act like mini-bioreactors, producing the [virus-like particles] in their leaves.”

 

Optimizing Vitamin D Effective During Flu Season

One can only speculate, at this point, what the side effects of injecting a genetically engineered tobacco plant-based flu vaccine into your body might be. Fortunately, you don’t have to pin your hopes on such developments — studies have repeatedly demonstrated the excellent track record of vitamin D for preventing respiratory infections. Most recently, a 2017 scientific review18,19 of 25 randomized controlled trials found that vitamin D supplementation cuts rates of acute respiratory infections among all participants.

 

The studies included nearly 11,000 individuals from more than a dozen countries, and showed that people who regularly took vitamin D supplements were less likely to contract acute respiratory tract infections compared to those who did not take supplemental vitamin D. Those with blood levels below 10 ng/mL, which is a serious deficiency state, cut their risk of infection by half.

 

People with higher vitamin D levels reduced their risk by about 10 percent. According to this international research team, vitamin D supplementation could prevent more than 3.25 million cases of cold and flu each year in the U.K. alone.20 Another statistic showing vitamin D is a very effective strategy in preventing respiratory illness during the flu season is the NNT.

 

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the Cochrane Collaboration concluded in 2014 that the NNT for the flu vaccine is 71. In this 2017 respiratory infection study, the NNT for vitamin D was 33, meaning one person would be spared from acute respiratory infection for every 33 people taking a vitamin D supplement.

 

Among those with severe vitamin D deficiency at baseline, the NNT was 4. If you’re going to gamble, which odds would you rather have — a 1 in 71 chance of being protected against respiratory infection, or a 1 in 33 chance (or 1 in 4 should you be severely vitamin D deficient)? In my view, optimizing your vitamin D levels is one of the absolute best respiratory illness prevention and optimal health strategies available.

 

Tamiflu or Quercetin?

Should you or your child get sick and a doctor or pediatrician recommends Tamiflu,21 please understand that this antiviral drug shortens the duration of flu symptoms by less than 17 hours.22,23 It also does not reduce viral transmission and does not lower your risk of complications, such as pneumonia.24,25

 

Some scientists have also warned that Tamiflu’s serious risks outweigh the benefits.26 These risks include convulsions, brain infections, psychosis and other neuropsychiatric problems.27,28 The drug is particularly risky for children, and more than half of all children taking Tamiflu suffer side effects from the drug.29,30

 

Considering Tamiflu’s risks and limited effectiveness, quercetin is safe and effective. Quercetin, a plant flavonol found naturally in apples, plums, red grapes, green tea, elder flower and onions, packs a powerful antiviral punch.31 Some of its mechanisms of action include inhibiting the ability of viruses to infect cells and inhibiting replication of already infected cells. A number of studies have confirmed quercetin’s effectiveness against viral infections, including the following:

 

A 1985 study found quercetin inhibits infectivity and replication of herpes simplex virus type 1, polio-virus type 1, parainfluenza virus type 3 and respiratory syncytial virus.32

 

A 2010 animal study found that quercetin inhibits both influenza A and B viruses. Two other important discoveries were made. Firstly, the viruses were unable to develop resistance to quercetin and, secondly, when used concomitant with antiviral drugs (amantadine or oseltamivir), the effect was significantly amplified — and it prevented drug-resistance from developing.33

 

A 2004 animal study investigating quercetin’s effect on influenza used a strain of the H3N2 virus. According to the authors:34

 

“In the mice, instillation of influenza virus A/Udorn/317/72(H3N2) intranasally resulted in a significant decrease in the pulmonary concentrations of catalase, reduced glutathione and superoxide dismutase … These effects were observed on the 5th day after viral instillation.

 

Oral supplementation with quercetin simultaneous with viral instillation produced significant increases in the pulmonary concentrations of catalase, reduced glutathione and superoxide dismutase …

 

It is concluded that during influenza virus infection, there is ‘oxidative stress.’ Because quercetin restored the concentrations of many antioxidants, it is proposed that it may be useful as a drug in protecting the lung from the deleterious effects of oxygen derived free radicals released during influenza virus infection.”

 

In 2014, researchers noted that quercetin appears to be “a promising treatment for the common cold,” caused by the rhinovirus, adding that “Quercetin has been shown to reduce viral internalization and replication in vitro, and viral load, lung inflammation and airways hyper-responsiveness in vivo.”35

 

By attenuating oxidative damage, it also lowers your risk of secondary bacterial infections, which is actually the primary cause of influenza-related deaths. Importantly, quercetin increases mitochondrial biogenesis in skeletal muscle, which suggests part of its antiviral effects are due to enhanced mitochondrial antiviral signaling.

 

A 2016 study found quercetin offered protection against influenza A virus H1N1 by modulating protein expression. More specifically, the regulation of heat shock proteins, fibronectin 1 and prohibitin was instrumental in reducing viral replication.36

 

A second study published in 2016 found quercetin inhibited a wide spectrum of influenza strains, including H1N1, H3N2 and H5N1. According to the authors, “This study indicates that quercetin showing inhibitory activity in the early stage of influenza infection provides a future therapeutic option to develop effective, safe and affordable natural products for the treatment and prophylaxis of [influenza A viruses] infections.”37

 

Prevention of Respiratory Infections Shouldn’t Be so Risky

Aside from vitamin D and quercetin, maintaining good levels of vitamins B1 and C may go a long way toward keeping you healthy through the flu season and beyond. Influenza has also been treated with high-dose vitamin C,38 and vitamin C also boosts the effectiveness of quercetin. Taking zinc lozenges at the first sign of respiratory illness can also be helpful.

 

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