Natural Health Blog


Why Statistical Significance Is Killing Science


In 2016, the American Statistical Association1 released an editorial warning against the misuse of statistical significance in interpreting scientific research. Another commentary was recently published in the journal Nature,2 calling for the research community to abandon the concept of statistical significance.

Before being published in Nature,3 the article states it was endorsed by more than 800 statisticians and scientists from around the world. Why are so many researchers concerned about the P-value in statistical analysis?

In 2014, George Cobb, a professor emeritus of mathematics and statistics, posed two questions to members of an American Statistical Association discussion forum.4 In the first question, he asked why colleges and grad schools teach P=0.05, and found this was the value used by the scientific community. In the second question he asked why the scientific community used this particular P-value and found this was what was taught in school.

In other words, it was circular logic that drove the continued belief in an arbitrary value of P=0.05. Additionally, researchers and manufacturers may alter the perception of statistical significance, demonstrating a positive response occurs in an experimental group over the control group simply by using either relative or absolute risk.

However, since many are not statisticians, it's helpful to first understand the mathematical basis behind P-values, confidence intervals and how absolute and relative risk may be easily manipulated.

Probability Frameworks Define How Researchers Present Numbers

At the beginning of a study, researchers define a hypothesis, or a proposed explanation made on limited evidence, which they hope research will either prove or disprove. Once the data are gathered, researchers employ statisticians to analyze the information to determine whether or not the experiment proved their hypothesis.

The world of statistics is all about probability, which is simply how likely it is that something will or will not happen, based on the data. These collections of data from sample sizes are used in science to infer whether or not what happens in the sample size would likely happen in the entire population.5

For instance, if you wanted to find the average height of men around the world, you couldn’t measure every man’s height to get the answer, so researchers would estimate the number. Samples would be gathered from subpopulations to infer the height. These numbers are then evaluated using a framework. In many instances, medical research6 uses a Bayesian framework.7

Under a Bayesian framework, researchers see probabilities as a general concept. This framework has no problem assigning probabilities to nonrepeatable events.

Frequentist framework defines probability in repeatable random events that are equal to the long-term frequency of occurrence. In other words, they don't attach probabilities to hypotheses or any fixed but unknown values in general.8

Within these frameworks the P-value is determined. The researcher first defines a null hypothesis, in which they state there is no difference or no change between the control group and the experimental group.9 The alternate hypothesis is opposite of the null hypothesis, stating there is a difference.

What’s Behind the Numbers?

The simple definition of the P-value is that it represents the probability of the null hypothesis being true. If P = 0.25 then there is a 25% probability of no change between the experimental group and the control group.10 In the medical field,11 the acceptable P-value is 0.05, or the cut-off number resulting in a threshold considered to be statistically significant.

When the P-value is 0.05, or 5%, researchers say they have a confidence interval of 95% that there is a difference between the two observations, as opposed to differences due to random variations, and the null hypothesis is disproved.12

Researchers look for a small P-value, typically less than 0.05, to indicate strong evidence the null hypothesis may be rejected. When P-values are close to the cutoff, they may be considered marginal and able to go either way in most other fields.13

Since “perfectly” random samples cannot be obtained and definitive conclusions are difficult to confirm without perfectly random samples, the P-value attempts to minimize the sources of uncertainty.14

The P-value may then be used to define the confidence interval and confidence level. Imagine you're trying to find out how many people from Ohio have taken two weeks of vacations in the past year. You could ask every resident in the state, but to save time and money you could sample a smaller group, and the answer would be an estimate.15 Each time you repeat the survey, the results may be slightly different.

When using this type of estimate, researchers use a confidence interval to determine a range of values above and below a finding the actual value is likely to fall. If the confidence interval is 4 and 47% of the sample takes a two-week vacation, researchers believe that had they asked the entire relevant population, then between 43% and 51% would have gone for a two-week vacation.

The confidence level is expressed as a percentage of how often the true percentage of the population would pick the answer lying within the confidence interval. If the confidence level is 95%, the researcher is 95% confident that between 43% and 51% would have gone on a two-week vacation.16

Scientists Rebelling Against Statistical Significance

Kenneth Rothman, professor of epidemiology and medicine at Boston University, took to Twitter with a copy of a letter to the JAMA editor after it was rejected from the medical journal.17 In the letter, signed by Rothman and two of his colleagues from Boston University, they outline their agreement with the American Statistical Association statement, stating,18 “Scientific conclusions and business or policy decisions should not be based only on whether a P-value passes a specific threshold.”

William M. Briggs, Ph.D., author and statistician, writes all statisticians have felt the stinging disappointment from clients when P-values do not fit the client's expectations, despite explanations of how this significance has no bearing on real life and how there may be better methods of evaluating the experiment’s success.19

After receiving emails from other statisticians outlining their reasons for maintaining the status quo of using P-values to ascertain the value of a study, and ignoring arguments he lays out, Briggs goes on to say:20

“A popular thrust is to say smart people wouldn’t use something dumb, like P-values. To which I respond smart people do lots of dumb things. And voting doesn’t give truth.”

Numbers May Not Accurately Represent Results

A recent editorial in the journal Nature delves into the reason why P-values, confidence intervals and confidence levels are not accurate representations of whether a study has proven or disproven its hypothesis. The authors urge researchers to:21

“[N]ever conclude there is ‘no difference’ or ‘no association’ just because a P value is larger than a threshold such as 0.05 or, equivalently, because a confidence interval includes zero. Neither should we conclude that two studies conflict because one had a statistically significant result and the other did not. These errors waste research efforts and misinform policy decisions.”

The authors compare an analysis of the effects of anti-inflammatory drugs between two studies. Although the actual data in both studies found the exact risk ratio of 1.2, since one study had more precise measurements, it found a statistically significant risk versus the second study, which did not. The authors wrote:22

“It is ludicrous to conclude that the statistically non-significant results showed ‘no association,’ when the interval estimate included serious risk increases; it is equally absurd to claim these results were in contrast with the earlier results showing an identical observed effect. Yet these common practices show how reliance on thresholds of statistical significance can mislead us.”

The authors call for the entire concept of statistical significance to be abandoned and urge researchers to embrace uncertainty. Scientists should describe practical implications of values and limits of the data rather than relying on proving a null hypothesis and claiming no associations if the value of the interval is deemed unimportant.23

They believe using confidence intervals as a comparison will eliminate bad practices and may introduce better ones. Instead of relying on statistical analysis, they hope scientists will include more detailed methods sections and emphasize their estimates by explicitly discussing the upper and lower limits in their confidence intervals.

Relative Risk or Absolute Risk?

George Canning was a British statesman and politician who served briefly as prime minister in England in 1827.24 He was quoted in the Dictionary of Thoughts published in 1908, saying, “I can prove anything by statistics except the truth.”25

As you read research or media stories, the risk associated with a particular action is usually expressed as relative risk or absolute risk. Unfortunately, the type of risk may not be identified. For instance, you may hear a particular action will reduce the risk of prostate cancer by 65%.

Unless you know if this refers to absolute risk or relative risk, it's difficult to determine how much this action would affect you. Relative risk is a number used to compare the risk between two different groups, often an experimental group and a control group. The absolute risk is a number that stands on its own and does not require comparison.26

For instance, imagine there were a clinical trial to evaluate a new medication researchers hypothesized would prevent prostate cancer, and 200 men signed up for the trial. The researchers split the group into two, with 100 men receiving a placebo and 100 men receiving the experimental drug.

In the control group, two men developed prostate cancer. In the treatment group only one man developed prostate cancer. When the two groups are compared, the researchers find there is a 50% reduction in prostate cancer when they talk about relative risk. This is because one developed it in the treatment group and two developed it in the control group.

Since one is half of two, there is a 50% reduction in the development of the disease. This number can sound really good and potentially encourage someone to take a medication with significant side effects if they believe it can cut their risk of prostate cancer in half.

The absolute risk, however, is far smaller. In the control group, 98 men never developed cancer. In the treatment group, 99 men never developed cancer. Put another way, in the control group, the risk of developing prostate cancer was 2%, since 2 out of 100 got cancer; while in the treatment group, the risk lowered to 1%.

This means there is a 1% absolute risk of developing prostate cancer with the medication, compared to 2%. The difference now — your absolute risk — is not 50% but 1% (2 minus 1). Knowing this, taking the drug may not seem worth it.

Big Pharma Would Like You to Look the Other Way

Now imagine your profit depends upon which risk ratio you publicize. Knowledge of the relative risk without understanding overall mortality does not tell the true story to those who need to make a decision. If the experiment were run with 1,000 people instead of 100, the relative risk would remain the same, 50%, but the absolute risk changes from 1% to 0.1%.

You may not be motivated to find and read the research to determine if the numbers being publicized are an accurate representation of the overall mortality rate of individuals taking experimental medications. However, without knowledge of the mortality rate, it is then nearly impossible to determine the actual risk your undertaking.

While it may not be possible to stop taking all medications, consider having a conversation with your physician to discuss what medications you may be able to stop taking as you change lifestyle choices, such as increasing exercise, changing your nutritional habits and improving your sleep habits.

You may be surprised by the number of ways these simple changes improve overall health. Although some experience being overwhelmed by making changes, if you choose to make one change at a time, and integrate them slowly into your routine, you’ll likely find it wasn’t nearly as difficult as if you tried to make a number of changes immediately. See my previous articles to get started:

The Mysterious Reason Hospitals Won’t Reveal Dangerous Pathogens


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has three levels of travel health notices. Watch Level 1 asks travelers to take precautions; Alert Level 2 recommends taking enhanced precautions; and Warning Level 3 warns U.S. residents to avoid nonessential travel.1

In January, the agency sent an urgent public warning2 of an Alert Level 2 when an antibiotic-resistant bacteria — Pseudomonas aeruginosa — affected at least 12 Americans3 having elective surgery in Tijuana, Mexico. Half of the 12 infected in Mexico had their surgery at Grand View Hospital.

The alert continued to outline the current situation and what travelers to Mexico may do to prevent the drug-resistant infection. However, when similar outbreaks occurred on U.S. soil, the agency did not warn citizens. A New York Times reporter stumbled on a compelling example in Alaska of a woman infected with a drug-resistant bacteria that nearly killed her and required multiple surgeries.4

As the reporter searched for an answer, he was turned away by the medical community. Digging deeper, the Times discovered this was not uncommon, but rather standard operating procedure as hospitals appear more intent on protecting their reputation than on transparency.5

Culture of Secrecy Affects Your Health Care

After contacting hospitals in New York, Chicago, Texas, England and India, the Times reporter realized the issue about secrecy was a big part of the story of antibiotic resistance. A physician in Spain commented the hospital didn't want bad press by seeming to be a hotbed for outbreaks of antifungal-resistant infections now responsible for a rising number of deaths.

The reporter commented,6 "One doctor in New York told me that patients, and their families, don't like being associated with the illness, as if they had a scarlet letter — 'A' for auris." The fungus they are referring to is Candida auris (C. auris). The CDC7 calls this an "emerging fungus that presents a serious global health threat," for three reasons:8

  1. The fungus is often multidrug-resistant, including several antifungal drugs commonly used to treat Candida infections
  2. The fungus is difficult to identify using standard lab methods. Additionally, it may be misidentified without specific technology, leading to inappropriate management
  3. Candida auris has caused outbreaks in health care settings, making quick identification necessary to stop the spread

Unfortunately, despite the CDC's outline of why the fungus is particularly virulent and dangerous, they have collaborated with U.S. hospitals to maintain confidentiality.

Kevin Kavanagh,9 board chairman of the advocacy group Health Watch USA, contrasted the difference in handling the infections in Tijuana against a 2016 outbreak of a drug-resistant pathogen, carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae at a rural hospital in Kentucky.

It wasn't until January 2018, nearly two years after the outbreak in Kentucky that the CDC10 reported it. Even then, the hospital remained unnamed. This infection has been dubbed a "nightmare" bacteria as they're resistant to most antibiotics and spread easily from person to person.11

Despite its virulence, the CDC and the Kentucky hospital chose not to inform the public. The focus of a second New York Times report, about a rising number of drug-resistant fungal infections from C. auris, is raising more questions about the secrecy behind infectious disease outbreaks in hospitals.12

Candida Auris — The Fungus Hospitals Are Not Talking About

In the fight against antibiotic-resistant infections, C. auris is an example of a new intractable threat. The New York Times tells the tale of a man admitted to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York who died after 90 days.

Tests showed C. auris was everywhere in his room, so special equipment was brought in to clean it. Some of the ceiling and floor tiles were even ripped out. The hospital president commented:13

"Everything was positive — the walls, the bed, the doors, the curtains, the phones, the sink, the whiteboard, the poles, the pump. The mattress, the bed rails, the canister holes, the window shades, the ceiling, everything in the room was positive."

In 2015, infectious disease expert Johanna Rhodes from Imperial College in London was contacted by Royal Brompton Hospital. Three months earlier, C. auris had taken root and the hospital had been unable to clear it. Under her direction, the hospital used a special device using aerosolized hydrogen peroxide.14

Working under the theory that the vapor could get into nooks and crannies where scrub brushes cannot, they left the device going for a week. After testing the room, only one organism grew back — C. auris. Although the infection was spreading, word about it was not.

The medical community and governments have been reluctant to publicize the outbreak of resistant infections believing there's no point in scaring patients, or prospective ones. In June 2016, a scientific paper15 reported an ongoing outbreak of 50 cases of C. auris in a European Hospital. Royal Brompton then took the extraordinary step of shutting down the ICU for 11 days, but without announcing why.

The New York Times reports an even bigger outbreak had begun in Valencia, Spain, responsible for 41.4% mortality rate in 30 days.16 The hospital in Spain has not made any announcement of the infections. Instead, they put out a statement saying:17

"It is very difficult to discern whether patients die from the pathogen or with it, since they are patients with many underlying diseases and in very serious general condition."

The collaboration between the CDC and states to hide outbreaks is promoted as a way to avoid frightening patients about a situation where the risks are unclear. However, knowledge of an outbreak in a hospital is important when you're making decisions about nonurgent matters, such as elective surgery.

The New York Times reports hospitals have hidden outbreaks even when disclosure could have saved lives. At a Seattle Hospital, 18 people died after being infected with a drug-resistant organism from a contaminated medical scope, but the outbreak was not disclosed at the time.18

Art Caplan, bioethicist at New York University, discussed the issue of full disclosure with the Times reporter. When the hospital is a treatment of last resort, he believes there will be patients with tough infections and yet he thinks there is greater value in promoting transparency, since public awareness could place pressure on hospitals to change the way they deal with infection control.19

Agricultural Fungicide Use Tied to Rising Infections

Antibiotics are used widely in farm animals and antifungals are applied to crops to prevent plants from rotting. In recent years, farmers have grown to rely on triazoles, a class of chemical used to fight fungi in humans. Globally, they're the most widely used fungicides and Europe and North America use the largest volumes.20

According to the CDC,21 500 metric tons of triazole were used in 1992, as compared to an estimated 2,500 metric tons in 2015; however, data from 2015 do not include estimates for seed treatment applications, so this number may be higher.

To date, there is no definitive link between agricultural use of fungicide treatment and the sudden emergence of C. auris. While its emergence is still a mystery, the coincidence is not lost on scientists. Farm-based fungicides have been under suspicion. According to the Times, Dr. Tom Chiller, chief of the CDC's mycotic diseases branch, believes C. auris has benefited from the heavy use of triazoles.22

Chiller theorizes the fungus has existed for thousands of years, hidden away, as it is not a particularly aggressive pathogen. However, as fungicides began destroying more prevalent fungi, C. auris was able to gain advantage. As a germ with the ability to resist fungicides and antifungal treatments, it is fully capable of resisting attack.23

In an interview with Mother Jones,24 Chiller reiterated the possibility of a link between triazole fungicides and the emergence of C. auris. He again stressed there is little known about the origin of the fungi and added he's not aware of any current research analyzing farm fields. Instead, researchers have been scrambling to determine how to control it. He commented:25

"[T]he ones that are going to survive are the ones that are resistant — and they're going to flourish. And so you could see how that could select for a relatively rare Candida like Candida auris."

A Second Fungus Linked to Fungicide Use

A second fungus linked to the rising tonnage of triazole dumped on agricultural lands is Aspergillus fumigatus (A. fumigatus). Like C. auris, A. fumigatus is triggering drug-resistant infections in immunocompromised patients.26 Fortunately, the infections appear to be isolated and do not travel from patient to patient.

By 2013, Europe had established the link between A. fumigatus infections and the use of triazole fungicides.27 While it is a ubiquitous organism, the spores are breathed in every day without people getting sick, according to the CDC.28

However, the spores may trigger serious infections in those with compromised immune systems. A study by the CDC29 found since the organism can withstand antifungal medications, mortality may exceed 50%.

Fungus May Be Tied to Inflammatory Diseases

No one really knows how many species of fungi inhabit the earth. One estimate published in Microbiology Spectrum30 suggests there may be 2.2 million to 3.8 million different species, only 120,000 of which have been documented.31

Many play a role in breaking down plant matter and redistributing nutrients. Less well appreciated and studied is the influence fungal infections have on human health. In the past few decades there's been a rising tide of fungal infections acquired, many of which are superficial, such as athlete's foot and thrush. These are relatively easy to diagnose and treat.32

However, as we've discussed, several species have developed resistance against antifungal medications and may trigger life threatening infections. Researchers are also learning fungi are linked to diseases we don't yet fully understand, such as allergy and asthma.33

Animal studies suggest alterations in the fungi living in your gut may affect the severity of ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease34 and even alcoholic liver disease.35 There are also reports linking fungi to neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease.36

David Underhill is a research chair for inflammatory bowel disease at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. His team is investigating links between fungi and inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn's. One fungus at the center of his research is Malassezia, a species of fungi specialized to live on your skin that is associated with eczema and dandruff.37

Underhill and his colleagues found a link between Malassezia and Crohn's disease. Those suffering from Crohn's had a higher concentration of the fungi on their intestinal walls, while those who had no evidence of Crohn's had almost none.38

The researchers were then able to demonstrate that adding this fungi to the gut in mice was enough to exacerbate the inflammatory response in much the same way as it is seen in Crohn's. His work is building on a growing body of scientific evidence linking fungi to other types of inflammatory bowel diseases.39

Health of Your Gut Microbiome Vital to Your Health

Your gastrointestinal tract is often referred to as your "second brain" as it is considered one of the most complex microbial ecosystems on Earth. Nearly 100 trillion bacteria, fungi, viruses and other microorganisms live in your gut microbiome. Advancing science finds these organisms play a major role in your health, and in fact you have more bacterial DNA than human DNA.

Up to 80% of your immune system is located in your gut, so a healthy gut is your first defense against major diseases and a factor in helping you maintain optimal health. In some cases, fungal infections are opportunistic and easily infect those who are immunocompromised.

By taking care of your gut microbiome and maintaining a balance of beneficial bacteria, you help to support your immune system and reduce your potential for infections. For a discussion of how to optimize your gut health, see my previous article, "Gut Microbiome May Be a Game-Changer for Cancer Prevention and Treatment."

How to Protect Yourself During a Hospital Stay

Also remember that hospitals are a primary source of many drug-resistant infections, so avoid going there unless absolutely necessary. According to 2017 statistics, 1 in 31 patients in the U.S. ends up contracting at least one health care-associated infection every day.40 While this number is going down by the year — in 201441 it was 1 in 25 — the CDC said "[M]ore needs to be done to prevent health care-associated infections in a variety of settings."42

To help safeguard your health, ask all personnel to wash their hands and change gloves before touching you or anything in your room at each visit. Visitors should also wash their hands, as should you, if you venture off your bed.

If you're having a colonoscopy or any other procedure using a flexible endoscope done, you can significantly reduce your risk of contracting an infection by asking the hospital or facility how the scope is cleaned, and which cleaning agent is used.

Some esophagoscopes and bronchoscopes have sterile sheaths with disposable air-water and biopsy channels, but many others do not, and must be cleaned between each use. If the hospital or clinic uses glutaraldehyde, or the brand name Cidex, cancel your appointment and go elsewhere.

About 80 percent of clinics use glutaraldehyde because it's a less expensive alternative; however, it does not do a good job of sterilizing the equipment. If they use peracetic acid, your likelihood of contracting an infection from a previous patient is slim. To learn more about this, see my interview with David Lewis, Ph.D., in "How Improper Sterilization of Endoscopes Could Put Your Health at Risk."

Avoid the Dark Side of Fasting and Ketosis With KetoFasting


Interview begins at 4:40

In the featured podcast,1 I discuss my new book, "KetoFast: A Step-By-Step Guide to Timing Your Ketogenic Meals" with fitness expert Ben Greenfield. As the name implies, it's a book about fasting. Where it veers from the norm is in the execution of your fast, and the fact that it's a complete system that starts out with intermittent fasting and a cyclical ketogenic diet, and then goes on to a partial fast instead of a water fast.

Taken together, it forms the basis for a lifestyle that you can live with for the rest of your life, and that will truly help you optimize your health and longevity. And, while fasting is a key component, it's not nearly as restrictive as you might think, because once you're able to burn fat for fuel and start doing this cyclical fasting regimen, you end up feasting — eating with very few restrictions — once or twice each week as well.

Fasting Has a Long History of Use

Fasting has been part of human history for centuries. It was often done for ritualistic purposes, and is still done to this day. But nowadays we also have a large body of science confirming the benefits of fasting for therapeutic purposes. Importantly, calorie restriction activates powerful metabolic processes that catalyze healing and rejuvenation.

The 15th century physician Paracelsus stated that fasting is the greatest remedy, the physician within. In the U.S. fasting gained popularity in the 1800s during the Natural Hygiene Movement. Herbert Shelton popularized it further in 1911.

Today, Dr. Jason Fung is one of the leading experts in the field, and he has written books and conducted a lot of important research into fasting, demonstrating both its benefits and its safety. Still, I became concerned with the release of toxins, which becomes very efficient during water fasting.

Most of us are toxic these days, and one of the downsides of multiday water fasting is the detox symptoms, which in and of themselves suggest your detox pathways may be impaired. KetoFasting addresses this by modifying the way you fast, and addressing nutrition that supports your detoxification pathways.

Fasting Activates Autophagy

One of the magnificent benefits of fasting is that it triggers autophagy — a natural process that clears out dysfunctional and diseased cell components that would otherwise clog the proverbial gears in your system and compromise your health. A foundational strategy to activate autophagy is to do daily intermittent fasting, where you eat all of your meals for the day within a six- to eight-hour window.

For the remaining 16 to 18 hours, you're fasting. This timing appears to be the sweet spot for autophagy, although, as we discuss in the interview, there may be exceptions where you can get away with fasting for as little as 12 hours a day, but this would typically only apply to athletes.

Research shows that autophagy is significantly increased once you pass the 16-hour mark, and since autophagy is such a significant benefit of fasting, it's important to not cut it too short and miss out on this process. To get the maximum benefit, however, you need to fast even longer, which is where multiday water fasting comes into play.

My KetoFast protocol is essentially a hybrid, designed to optimize the benefits of fasting while making the process as painless and easy to comply with as possible.

Autophagy targets damaged and defective cellular parts, not whole cells (which would be apoptosis, or programmed cell death). These defective cellular parts are marked and shuttled to lysosomes, which in turn destroy them via a process involving NADPH oxidase (NOX), which creates superoxide.

The superoxide combines with nitric oxide and forms peroxynitrite, which breaks down the constituting elements of the cellular parts. Those elements are then recycled in the repair and regeneration phase. That's a simple rundown of the autophagy process, which is what you activate when you fast.

AMPK and Autophagy

Fasting also increases adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK), which plays an integral role in autophagy. Adenosine monophosphate is the core of ATP, which gives you a clue to its importance for health. The K stands for kinase, an enzyme that attaches a phosphate to the AMP to convert it to ATP.

AMP is a nutrient sensor, so when ATP is low it increases. When AMPK rises, it activates autophagy. It stands to reason then that things that inhibit or lower AMPK will inhibit autophagy, because AMPK is one of the primary signals for autophagy — it puts your body into repair mode.

In doing so, it inhibits the mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR), a protein nutrient sensor and a powerful signaling pathway used for anabolism or growth. As you might suspect, AMPK and mTOR work in tandem, sort of like a see-saw, so when one is activated the other is deactivated.

Both are important, but neither should be chronically activated or you'll end up with health problems. For optimal health, you need to cycle in and out of AMPK and mTOR activation so that you rotate through the autophagy and rebuilding phases on a regular basis. One of the best ways to do that is to alternate between feast and famine cycles after you are metabolically flexible.

Nutrients That Inhibit Autophagy

While it's typically recommended to continue taking vitamins and minerals during fasting, it's important to realize there are supplements that will inhibit autophagy and therefore should be avoided during the fasting phase. These include colostrum, glutamine, methylfolate and vitamin B12.

You also need to avoid branched-chain amino acids such as leucine during fasting, as they stimulate mTOR and shut down autophagy. You could, however, use bone broth or collagen, which has virtually no branched-chain amino acids. Even at 20 or 30 grams, collagen will not activate mTOR.

Coenzyme A, a molecule that plays an important role in protein, carbohydrate and lipid metabolism, also inhibits autophagy, so you don't want high levels of it, either, when you are seeking to activate autophagy, as it will inhibit autophagy just like mTOR.

When you are in partial fasting mode your liver produces ketones, water soluble fats that are HDAC inhibitors. Ketones help radically lower inflammation and increase nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate hydrogen (NADPH), a reducing agent necessary for anabolic reactions, including lipid and nucleic acid synthesis,

You need NADPH for just about everything in your body. Importantly, it's a reservoir of electrons that your body uses to recharge your antioxidants, including the master antioxidant, glutathione.

Nutrients That Activate Autophagy

Getting back to autophagy, supplements and nutrients that activate autophagy by raising AMPK include:

  • Berberine
  • ECGC from green tea or wildcrafted apples
  • Pomegranate peel extract or pomegranate peel powder
  • Organic chamomile tea

I make my own autophagy-activating tea, blending Pau D'arco bark tea, hydroxycitric powder, garcinia powder, quercetin powder, glycine and organic chamomile tea. To mix the teas and powders together, I use a blender and drink it cold. To sweeten it, I use monkfruit sweetener, also known as Lo Han. I only use it on partial fasting days. Greenfield, with whom I previously shared this recipe, turned it into ice cream:

"I just took all the powder, put it in with cacao and six egg yolks, a can of coconut milk, a little bit of collagen for the joints, a little extra sweetener … and then I blended that and put it in the freezer in a stainless-steel bowl," he explains.

Fasting Triggers Stem Cell Regeneration

Another major benefit of fasting is the activation of new stem cells — cells that can be used to heal and regenerate any tissue or organ. This occurs during the regeneration phase, once autophagy is again inhibited by refeeding and your body starts rebuilding and replacing all those damaged cells that were cleared out.

Regeneration can be further boosted by doing strength training the morning of the day when you're planning to break your fast. The reason for this is because during fasting, your growth hormone level skyrockets, rising by about 300%. That may sound paradoxical, since growth hormone typically rises in tandem with IGF-1, and IGF-1 inhibits autophagy. However, during fasting, the growth hormone receptors in your liver become relatively insensitive, so your IGF-1 level actually drops.

So, fasting can in some ways be likened to getting a growth hormone injection and a stem cell transplant, and by incorporating strength training at the right time, just as you're refeeding, you really optimize all these regenerative benefits.

This also includes intestinal stem cell function, which is important for many struggling with leaky gut and other gut issues. When you do KetoFasting or other extended water-only fasts (not just intermittent fasting), it helps reduce gut permeability by stimulating brain-gut pathways and enhancing the integrity of your gut lining.

The Dark Side of Fasting

As mentioned earlier, the main reason why I decided against promoting multiday, water-only fasting is because most people are exposed to high amounts of toxins, and most have impaired detox systems. There are three detox systems. Phase 1 is where your body converts fat-soluble toxins to water. This is typically not a problem as it occurs automatically.

What most people have a problem with is Phase 2, where a molecule, such as methyl group, sulfur, acetyl group, amino acid, glycine or glutathione is attached to the toxin, making it less reactive and easier to excrete. You also need amino acids and proteins to fuel this phase of the process. If you don't have any, you're going to experience side effects related to toxicity.

In short, a five-day water fast could overwhelm your detox system, causing more harm than good. You can get around that by shortening the fast and doing it more frequently, so that through refeeding you're giving your body the nutrients it needs to effectively expel these toxins that are released during the fast.

If you were to do five-day water fasts, it's unlikely you'd do them any more than once a month, which means you'd complete about 12 in a year. Using the KetoFast protocol, on the other hand, allows you to go through this regenerative process anywhere from 52 to 104 times, depending on whether you're fasting once or twice a week.

Collectively, you're going to get far more benefit by doing it more frequently. You may not get as much detoxification and autophagy benefits during any given fast, but because you're doing it more frequently, over time you reap greater gains.

Drawbacks of Long-Term Ketosis

In my book I also discuss the "dark side" of nutritional ketosis, and why it may be inadvisable to stay in unbroken ketosis long-term. Long-term ketosis means you're doing significant and chronic calorie restriction, and the problem with that, especially for women, is that it can cause thyroid impairment. In some cases, you can develop a resistance to your thyroid hormones.

Essentially, it appears your body was not designed for long-term calorie restriction but rather intermittent or cyclical calorie restriction. A significant part of this is because continuous calorie restriction fails to activate and optimize your rejuvenation processes. Fasting primes your body for improvement, and it does this by removing the damaged parts through autophagy.

The rejuvenation, however, occurs during refeeding. That's when your body can rebuild and restore cells and tissues. It's largely the stem cell activation and giving yourself the nutrients and the metabolic activation through strength training that causes this repair, regeneration and anabolic growth.

Summary of KetoFast Protocol

The following is a summary of my KetoFast protocol. It is important to first note that those who are underweight, pregnant, breastfeeding or have an eating disorder should not do KetoFasting.

The first step is to compress your daily eating window to six to eight hours for at least four weeks, meaning you eat all of your calories for the day during those six to eight hours, and for the remaining 16 to 18 hours, you're fasting. This is your base.

Most people will become metabolically flexible after this protocol but you can test your ketones and confirm that you are, especially if you are heavy to start with, or diabetic, as it might take you longer to shift.

Once you've followed this intermittent fasting schedule for a month — or when you have restored your metabolic flexibility to burn fat for fuel — you can move into the second phase, which involves having a single reduced-calorie meal, ideally breakfast, followed by a 24-hour, water-only fast, once or twice a week.

This meal will typically be somewhere between 300 and 500 calories. To determine how many calories you should have at this meal, first calculate your lean body mass by subtracting your percent body fat from 100. (So, if you have 20% body fat, you have 80% lean body mass.)

Then multiply that percentage (in this case, 0.8) by your current total body weight to get your lean body mass in pounds (or kilos). Next, multiply your lean body mass in pounds/kilos by 3.5. This is the number of calories you'll want to eat for that meal.

Nutrient Ratios During KetoFasting

By eating just that one 300- to 500-calorie meal and then fasting for 24 hours, you essentially end up having eaten once in 42 hours. This will effectively allow your body to deplete the glycogen stores in your liver.

Even when you're intermittently fasting for 16 to 18 hours, you still have plenty of glycogen left, but when you fast for 42 hours, glycogen will be completely depleted, sending autophagy soaring. And, you can do this twice a week! Now, what should these 300 to 500 calories consist of? Ideally:

Carbs — Less than 10 grams of net carbohydrates (total carbs minus fiber) so as not to replete your glycogen stores. Primarily, your carbs would then be nonstarchy vegetables, seeds or nuts.

Protein — Half of your personalized daily protein requirement. If you're younger than 60, a general recommendation for your daily protein requirement would be 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of lean body mass, or 0.5 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass. Let's say your daily protein requirement is 80 grams. For this meal, you'd cut that in half to 40 grams.

The key here is not just lowering your overall protein intake but, rather, restricting your intake of branched-chain amino acids such as leucine, found primarily in meat and dairy products.

The reason you want to restrict branched-chain amino acids at this meal is because they activate mTOR and inhibit autophagy — essentially blocking the very cleanout process you're trying to activate through fasting. You can learn more about mTOR and autophagy in my interview with Fung.

An ideal form of protein to include in this meal is collagen, which provides great support for your connective tissue. Chlorella is another excellent protein you can include.

Fat — The remainder of your calories comes from healthy fats such as coconut oil, avocado, MCT oil, butter, olive oil and raw nuts.

After Your Fast, Feast!

The day after you've completed your 42-hour KetoFast is the perfect time to do hardcore strength training, and to load up on your protein. Immediately after is when you'll want to eat that grass fed organic steak and/or whey protein, as now you're in rebuilding mode, so you actually want and need to activate mTOR to build new muscle mass.

As mentioned, mTOR, governs growth and inhibits autophagy. In this way, KetoFasting allows you to really feast twice a week as well, which counters any feelings of deprivation you might have during fasting, and this may significantly improve adherence.

Supporting Your Fasting Protocol With Sauna Bathing

To further support detoxification during your fast, I recommend using a near-infrared sauna, which will help eliminate toxins through your sweat. An entire chapter of KetoFast is dedicated to the use of sauna, with specific do's and don'ts.

For more details on the science of near-infrared saunas, see "How to Achieve Superior Detoxification and Health Benefits With Near-Infrared Light," which features my interview with Brian Richards, founder of SaunaSpace. A near-infrared sauna with low electromagnetic fields (EMFs) can cost several thousand dollars. However, you can make one inexpensively yourself.

Aside from the fact that near-infrared bulbs heat you up more effectively than far-infrared saunas do, near-infrared light (660 and 850 nanometers) also stimulates nitric oxide release and ATP production. I do a 30-minute sauna just about every day that I'm home, followed by cryotherapy (cold thermogenesis) — essentially, I just jump directly into my unheated pool. An alternative would simply to rinse off in a cold shower. If you're brave, you could do an ice bath.

‘Boiled Frog’ Game Continues as New Yorkers Face Jail Time for Skipping Measles Vaccine


On March 26, 2019, Rockland County, New York, executive Ed Day issued a state of emergency, barring children under the age of 18 who had not gotten a measles-containing MMR shot from entering public places, including schools, restaurants, churches, synagogues and public transportation.1,2,3

The ban was initially set to expire once the state of emergency was lifted in 30 days, but was cut short when an acting New York State Supreme Court judge issued an injunction lifting the state of emergency on April 5, saying the number of measles cases did not meet the legal definition of an epidemic required for an emergency order declaration.4

A few days later, on April 8, 2019, New York City health officials ordered Orthodox Jewish schools and day care programs in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn to bar unvaccinated students from attending classes for the remainder of the measles outbreak, or face closure.

The next day, April 9, public health officials ordered residents in four Williamsburg, New York zip codes — 11205, 11206, 11211, 112495 — to get vaccinated within 48 hours or face a $1,000 fine or six months in jail.

The order applied to any individual who lives, works or goes to school in these Brooklyn zip codes and has not gotten an MMR shot and/or cannot show proof of natural immunity or does not have an approved medical vaccine exemption. According to the Daily Mail,6 city officials plan to “track unvaccinated people by tracing anyone who may have come into contact with people who have measles.”

In a follow-up move on April 15, 2019, on behalf of five Brooklyn mothers identified only by their initials, lawyers Robert Krakow, Robert F. Kennedy (of the litigation advocacy group Children’s Health Defense) and Patricia Finn filed a legal challenge in the New York State Trial Court,7,8 asking for a temporary restraining order against the New York City Department of Health and Human Hygiene and its commissioner as respondents for issuing the Williamsburg neighborhood MMR vaccination mandate.

Although New York Justice Lawrence Knipel initially denied a temporary restraining order, the preliminary injunction issue is expected to be argued in court.9

But not to be undone, in a game of moves and countermoves, the very next day, April 16, 2019, Rockland executive Day announced a new order that he and local health officials are now imposing: Get vaccinated or face a $2,000-per-violation, per day, fine.

“The new order would keep unvaccinated students who don’t have medical or religious exemptions in the most affected areas from going to school, and those who have measles or have been exposed to it and are not vaccinated from going to public places, both indoor and outdoor,” CBS2 New York reported.10

Rockland County leaders told CBS2 New York that they believe the new order will “stand up to legal challenges” because it also orders people to cooperate with investigators from the Board of Health. Beyond that, Day added, “We will restrategize at every opportunity regardless of what’s thrown in front of us. That’s just what we’re going to do.”

Vaccination Order in Williamsburg Raises Concerns About Forced Medical Treatments

As in Rockland County, the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn is home to thousands of predominantly orthodox Jewish families, many of whom object to vaccination on the grounds of their religious beliefs. According to the Chicago Tribune:11

“News of the order got a mixed reaction among Orthodox Jews in Williamsburg, the Brooklyn neighborhood affected by the order. Some residents — even those who support vaccination — said they felt uncomfortable about the city pushing inoculations on people who don't want them.

Others remain convinced, against expert assurances, that vaccines are unsafe. ‘It's true that a lot of people have measles, and measles are not a very good thing,’ said resident Aron Braver, but he thinks the vaccine is ‘also not a very good thing.’ ‘And it's everybody's option to do what he wants. What he decides,’ Braver added.”

Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, called the measure “extreme,” saying it “raises civil liberties concerns about forced medical treatment.”12

Indeed, if the government can threaten and force people to get MMR shots, what’s to stop forced vaccinations for influenza, or HIV infection, or any of the other hundreds of experimental vaccines currently being developed by the pharmaceutical industry and the federal government?

After that, what’s to stop forced use of prescription drugs when you’re diagnosed with an illness and government approved “standard of care” policy dictates that doctors prescribe you a particular drug for a particular health condition?

It’s a slippery slope. The irony is that vaccines are not without risk just like prescription drugs are not without risk. The difference between prescription drugs and vaccines is that drugs are given to sick people to theoretically make them well and vaccines are given to healthy people (at least most of the time) to theoretically keep them well if in the future they come in contact with a microbe that could make them sick.

Either way, there’s always going to be risk involved. Shouldn’t everyone have the right to decide which risk they’re most comfortable taking?

Why is it that government is so eager to protect you from the possibility you might get sick or die from natural causes, but appears unwilling to lift a finger to protect you from the harms of medical treatments?

Is Measles Really a Public Emergency Warranting Draconian Measures?

According to Day, the county’s 168 measles cases identified between October 2018 and the end of March qualified as a public health emergency. He said he plans to appeal the New York Supreme Court judge’s injunction that lifted the Rockland state of emergency declaration. “If this is not an emergency, what is?” Chicago Tribune quotes him as saying.13

I, for one, can think of a whole host of issues that might warrant declaring a state of emergency, but measles is not one of them. According to World Health Organization (WHO) data,14 measles killed 110,000 people in 2017, and that’s the global number. In the U.S. and other developed countries measles rarely leads to death. In fact, the last recorded measles-associated death in the U.S. occurred in 2015.15

Just how does an illness that hasn’t killed a single American in four years, and prior to measles vaccine being introduced in the early 1960s resulted in an average of between 450 to 50016 deaths annually, qualify as an emergency warranting the violation of First Amendment and other constitutional rights that protect us from government overreach?

If you’re old enough, you probably recall the days when no one batted an eye at the mention of measles because it was a common infection that most everyone experienced before age 10. If you’re not, the video above includes several clips from popular TV shows in the 1960s, illustrating people’s attitudes toward measles at the time. Similarly, a 1963 article in the Minneapolis Tribune (image below), which quotes Dr. Karl Lundeberg, the chief health officer for the city, notes:

“Children’s diseases, particularly red measles, seem to come in cycles of two or three years, said Lundeberg. The cycle pattern occurs because the disease is so highly contagious. ‘Everybody gets the measles during the epidemic, so they become immune,’ said Lundeberg. It usually takes two to three years before enough susceptible persons are born to transmit the disease.”

This 1963 article mentions the outbreak involved 2,325 reported cases of measles. The primary concern of parents and doctors at the time? How to keep the young patients’ boredom at bay. In this article, the advice given was to stock up on board games. Fast-forward some 55 years, and a couple of hundred cases are now spawning calls for forced vaccinations and the removal of civil rights.

measles outbreak

Times have indeed changed. But it’s mainly public perception, in response to unnecessary fear mongering by public health officials, vaccine developers and the media, that has morphed.

The disease itself remains one of the more benign — unless you get it when you’re older, are vitamin A deficient or live in an underdeveloped country where there is a lack of basic health care and sanitation. A 1964 paper17 describing the frequency of measles complications includes  comments by authors on the announcement of a measles vaccine, stating:

“One of the major sources of doubt about the need for immunization stems from the belief among many parents and doctors that measles is a mild disease in which serious complications are rare and almost never fatal in normal children.

Deaths have indeed declined rapidly in recent years to about 2 per 10,000 notifications, and a recent study has shown that about half of the deaths occur in persons with serious chronic disease or disability.”

You can learn more about the history of measles in the U.S. and other countries on the National Vaccine Information Center’s website.18

Measles Cannot Be Compared to Smallpox

Now, Day and others are trying to force the measles containing MMR vaccine on everyone, in some cases justifying forced use of MMR vaccine by comparing it to mandates issued for smallpox vaccination back in 1902.19 Mandatory use of the smallpox vaccine became common in the 19th century because smallpox had a complication and mortality rate of 30 percent.20

In 1905, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Massachusetts’ decision to mandate smallpox vaccination and revaccination during smallpox epidemics, which included a fine of $5 for those who refused.21

Rev. Henning Jacobson had sued the state, saying he and his son had experienced allergic reactions to the vaccine when they received it the first time, and therefore feared getting revaccinated might jeopardize their health. The judge in the case ruled their personal health concerns of a minority did not outweigh the greater good of the majority of society.

However, the 1905 Supreme Court justices also warned that mandatory vaccination laws should not be so inflexible that they become “cruel and inhuman to the last degree.” They commented, “All laws, this court has said, should receive sensible construction.”22

Measles is nowhere near as deadly as smallpox. In 1962, a year before the measles vaccine was licensed in the U.S., the measles death rate was reported to be 1 in 1,000 cases.23 However, chances are the death rate was much lower than that, as the case fatality figures are based on reported cases and most measles cases were benign and went unreported.24

Parents were not particularly worried about measles before the vaccine was widely used because, like chickenpox, it was accepted as a childhood rite of passage and complications were rare. However, measles does have more serious complications for older children and adults, which is why parents in the past wanted their children to get the disease when they were young.

Authors of a recent study25 in The Lancet Infectious Diseases reported that when measles infection is delayed, negative outcomes are 4.5 times worse “than would be expected in a prevaccine era in which the average age at infection would have been lower.”

Studies have also shown vitamin A deficiency tends to make measles deadlier, and this deficiency primarily affects developing countries, Africa and South-East Asia in particular.26 This is also where most of the measles deaths occur. Research has shown vitamin A therapy prevents pneumonia and measles-associated mortality,27,28 and the WHO recommends administering vitamin A at the time a diagnosis of measles is given.29

Illness Prevalence Versus Mortality

For some reason, when it comes to measles, public health officials and the media make it seem as though being sick is, in and of itself, a cause for hysteria, even though the absolute risk for death from that illness is minuscule. It is, in short, nonsensical. You cannot eradicate all infections, and if such an effort is undertaken, it would be wise to focus on diseases that have the highest mortality rates.

Naturally, any death, for any reason, is tragic, but you cannot avoid all causes of illness and death, and it certainly seems reasonable to ask whether it makes sense to mandate that children receive vaccines for diseases with low mortality when there are many other causes of death that are not only easier to prevent but would save far more lives.

According to a special report30,31 on child mortality published in 2018 in The New England Journal of Medicine, the two top causes of death among children aged 1 to 19 in 2016 were motor vehicle crashes (20% of total deaths; 4,074 children) and firearm-related injuries (15% of total deaths; 3,143 children).

In terms of disease, cancer was the primary cause of death (1,853 deaths), followed by suffocation (1,430 deaths) and drowning (995 deaths). A total of 982 children died from drug overdoses. Heart disease killed 599 children and chronic lower respiratory disease took the lives of 274.

So, where is the evidence that measles is a catastrophic public health concern comparable to smallpox that warrants forcing all children to get vaccinated or be banned from going out in public?

What’s more, let’s not forget that going through and recovering from measles confers natural lifelong immunity. The same cannot be said for the vaccine, which only provides an artificial immunity that can be temporary as health authorities found out in the early 1990s that one dose of MMR was not enough and now two doses of MMR are given. Measles outbreaks often occur even in highly vaccinated populations,32,33,34,35,36,37 so vaccination even with two doses is no guarantee the disease won’t spread.

Plus, because MMR vaccine is a live virus vaccine, people who get it can develop vaccine strain measles infection with symptoms like fever and a red rash that looks a lot like wild type measles. In fact, a study published in 2017 revealed that when samples of blood from “confirmed” measles cases in 2015 in the U.S. were lab tested, 37.63% (73 of 194 cases) turned out to be vaccine strain measles, not wild-type measles.38

Measles Outbreaks Have Repeatedly Occurred in Vaccinated Populations

By the early 1980s, about 95 percent of children entering kindergarten in the U.S. had received a dose of measles-containing vaccine but, in 1989-1990, there were outbreaks of measles among school-age children and college students.

Public health officials responded by recommending a second dose of MMR vaccine for all children. In an article published in Clinical Microbiology Reviews in 1995, researchers stated:39

“Measles, which was targeted for elimination from the United States in 1979, persisted at low incidence until 1989, when an epidemic swept the country. Cases occurred among appropriately vaccinated school-age populations and among unimmunized, inner-city preschool children.

In response to the epidemic, measles immunization recommendations have been modified. To prevent spread among school-age populations, a second dose of MMR vaccine is recommended at 5 to 6 or 11 to 12 years of age.”

Today, measles outbreaks are occurring even in populations that have received two or more doses of measles vaccine, and/or where vaccination rates are above the “herd immunity” threshold. For example:  

A 2017 measles outbreak in a highly vaccinated military population in Israel, ranging in age from 19 to 37. The first two patients identified had both received two doses of measles vaccine. Patient zero, a 21-year-old soldier, had documentation of having received three doses.40

A 2014 study41 conducted in the Zhejiang province in China found populations that have achieved a measles vaccination rate of 99 percent through mandatory vaccination programs still experience outbreaks far beyond what the World Health Organization expects.

What’s more, 93.6 percent of the 1,015 participants in this study tested seropositive for measles antibodies, which theoretically means they should have been protected against the disease.

A 1994 study42 looking at measles incidence in Cape Town, Africa, indicated that as vaccination rates increased, measles became a disease in populations where the majority of children had been vaccinated. The immunization coverage was 91 percent and vaccine efficacy was estimated to be 79 percent. According to the authors:

The epidemiology of measles in Cape Town has thus changed as evinced in this epidemic, with an increase in the number of cases occurring in older, previously vaccinated children. The possible reasons for this include both primary and secondary vaccine failure.”

The herd immunity threshold for vaccine-acquired artificial immunity is thought to be between 80 and 95 percent,43 depending on the disease in question. For measles, it’s between 90 and 95 percent. According to the CDC, over 94 percent of kindergarten children nationwide have received two doses of measles-containing MMR vaccine and only about 2 percent of children attend school with vaccine exemptions.44

Despite the high vaccination rate in the U.S., it’s not enough to thwart outbreaks, and evidence suggest outbreaks would probably continue to occur even if vaccine coverage was at 100 percent.

Lawsuit Is Being Mounted Against New York City

In response to the latest attempt to force vaccinate individuals in New York, civil rights lawyer Michael Sussman is mounting a lawsuit on behalf of families who feel the order unlawfully targets the Jewish community.

According to the Daily Mail,45 “Public health law experts say the case could swing either way; it will all rest on how deadly a judge believes measles to be.” If that’s truly the case, the outcome should be clear, seeing how no measles-associated deaths have been reported in the U.S. since 2015, and even before the measles vaccine became available, the death rate from measles was low. 

Update: Vaccine Refusers in Arizona Battle Department of Child Services

In a related update, on April 9 I wrote about a case in Arizona where a SWAT team used a battering-ram to break down the door to the home of a family whose 2-year-old son had a fever. Their doctor reported them to state authorities for failing to take the child to a hospital — a decision the parents say they made because the boy’s fever was already coming down. They also said they feared “possible repercussions” for not having vaccinated the child.46

The Department of Child Services (DCS) removed all three of the couple’s children. Arizona state Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, has spoken out in defense of the parents, calling on the DCS to release the children back into the parents’ custody.

On April 11, AZ Central reported47 that Maricopa County Juvenile Court judge Timothy J. Ryan barred Townsend from attending the April 10 pretrial hearing. Townsend said she’s following the case to make sure the couple’s legal and constitutional rights are not violated by DCS or the court. She told AZ Central she was “stunned” by the judge’s behavior. The article goes on to state:

Townsend had previously said she worried the parents … were unfairly targeted because they had not vaccinated their children. In Arizona, a parent may decline vaccinations for their child based on personal, religious or medical exemptions. 

She called on DCS to ‘immediately return the children who are also being traumatized’ and said the case was ‘a complete miscarriage of justice and a shame to the state of Arizona.’

Townsend said state lawmakers have required a presumption of open child-welfare court hearings ‘to protect everyone — children, parents, the entire process.’ Barring lawmakers from a courtroom doesn’t serve the public’s interest, she said …

Michael Ramey, executive director of the Parental Rights Foundation, said the case has drawn national attention from families worried about their right to parent. ‘Far too often, family courts are closed to the public, not to protect the families but to protect the secret, underhanded goings-on of the family court system,’ he said.”

Has Chronic Wasting Spread to Humans?


At least 26 U.S. states,1 three Canadian provinces and countries including South Korea, Finland, Sweden and Norway have been affected by chronic wasting disease (CWD), a contagious neurological disease that affects deer, elk, reindeer and moose.

Experts are racing to understand and contain this deadly condition before it wipes out entire herds or, worse, spreads to humans — a possibility that’s been raised by a number of studies. CWD is part of the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) disease family — the most notable member of which is bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as mad cow disease, a condition that affects cattle.

A human version of mad cow disease, known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), also exists and made headlines when it was discovered that it can be caused by eating beef contaminated with brain, spinal cord or other central nervous system tissue from infected cattle.2

Given the rising prevalence of CWD, experts are now asking whether the disease poses a risk to humans, especially since it has elements that make it fit for a horror movie. Epidemiologist Michael Osterholm said, speaking to Minnesota lawmakers, “This is kind of a worst-case nightmare … If Stephen King could write an infectious disease novel, he’d write it about prions.”3

What Are Prions, the Cause of Chronic Wasting Disease?

CWD is thought to be caused by prions, which are quite different from “ordinary” pathogens of the bacterial, viral or fungal nature. Colorado State University’s Prion Research Center calls prions “unprecedented infectious agents,”4 in part because they do not have a nucleic acid genome, such as DNA.

While viruses and bacteria need DNA or RNA to replicate, prions can do so even in its absence. Further, as noted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), “[P]rions exhibit an extraordinary resistance to common treatments used to stop other infectious agents, such as ultraviolet and ionizing radiation, exposure to chemical disinfectants, and heat treatments.”5

Prions can be transferred not only via direct transmission but also indirectly, via exposure to contaminated materials in the environment. The infectious agents in CWD persist in the environment, which is why deer and elk raised in captivity (or concentrated via artificial feeding) have an increased likelihood of transmitting the disease among them.

In fact, even plants may harbor infectious prions, as research shows they can bind to plant roots and leaves. In one study, hamsters were infected by eating prion-contaminated plants, and the infectious prions remained on the plants for several weeks. Plants can also uptake prions from contaminated soil,6 and prions are believed to persist in the environment for decades.

It’s possible then, though not proven, that CWD could even spread via agricultural crops, as wild deer defecate in the fields and the feces contaminate the crops or the infectious proteins are taken up by plants, such as wheat.

Further, it’s common practice for manure from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) to be spread over agricultural land, where it often runs off into waterways. If CWD mutates into a form that can infect cattle, this could have major implications for its spread.

To be clear, not all prions are problematic. We all have these proteins in our bodies. It’s when they become distorted, or misfolded, that they begin to damage brain cells, in a way similar to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

What Is Chronic Wasting Disease?

CWD causes progressive, neurological degeneration that leads to physiological and behavioral changes, including increased drinking and urination, weight loss, lowering of the head, listlessness, drooling, stumbling and death. Animals may be infected for a long period and show no symptoms, only to suddenly succumb to the disease.

“Through time [CWD] degrades, essentially, their brain tissue,” ecologist Heather Swanson told High Country News. “That seems to happen pretty rapidly. To our eyes, they look fairly healthy, and within a number of weeks they reach that point — and then they're gone.”7

Research by Swanson and colleagues found that mountain lions preyed on CWD-infected deer nearly four times more than noninfected deer,8 perhaps because they could sense that the deer were unwell — even though they appeared otherwise normal.

Despite the intense predation, “remarkably high infection rates sustained,” with about one-fourth of the deer sampled in the study infected.9 CWD was first identified in 1967 and is on the rise with new and ongoing outbreaks.

In Iowa County, Wisconsin, for instance, the proportion of adult white-tailed deer infected more than doubled over a six-year period, and as of 2016 approximately 40% to 50% of males and 20% to 30% of females were infected.10 Overall, in the U.S., the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated:11

“Nationwide, the overall occurrence of CWD in free-ranging deer and elk is relatively low. However, in several locations where the disease is established, infection rates may exceed 10 percent (1 in 10), and localized infection rates of more than 25 percent (1 in 4) have been reported.

The infection rates among some captive deer can be much higher, with a rate of 79% (nearly 4 in 5) reported from at least one captive herd.”

Subsidizing the Source

CWD was first identified in captive deer in Colorado and wasn’t found in wild deer until 1981.12 The transport of captive deer is thought to have contributed to the spread of CWD throughout the U.S. Today, deer farms persist across the U.S., including in Wisconsin, one of the states hardest hit by CWD.

The state has 380 deer or elk farms, 23 of which have tested positive for CWD. Fourteen of the facilities have been depopulated as a result,13 but some are allowed to stay open, despite the known presence of the disease. What’s more, when a deer farm tests positive for CWD and is depopulated, the business owner receives a subsidy or bailout from the government.

It may seem strange that a business such as a captive deer farm, which promotes the spread of CWD by raising animals in close quarters, would receive government subsidies. It occurs because captive deer are considered livestock and as a result are covered under the Condemnation of Diseased Animals statute, which was enacted in 1977.

In Wisconsin alone, deer farmers have received more than $330,000 in compensation from state and federal officials after their animals were killed over CWD fears.14 The money to bail out the diseased farms comes either from tax revenues paid by Wisconsin residents or, if there’s not enough available, from federal funds also generated by taxpayers.

In May 2018, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker announced new rules for deer farmers operating in counties affected by CWD, effective via an emergency order. Both captive deer breeding and hunting facilities were supposed to be required to install additional barriers around their facilities, while hunters would be required to cut hunted deer into quarters and leave the spinal cord, where the disease may concentrate, behind.15

Deer farmers in the state opposed the new measures, with some saying the requirements would put them out of business. The rule was amended, giving deer farmers a year to comply, but it expired in February 2019 — before it ever took effect.16 Further, in October 2018, lawmakers rejected the emergency rule’s limit on hunters moving deer carcasses from CWD-affected counties.

Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has allowed some deer farms with CWD-positive animals to continue operating, including Wilderness Game Farm Inc., which has had 84 known CWD cases and still sells hunts that cost up to $9,000.17 As prion disease continue to rise in animals, Alzheimer’s continues to rise in humans — a connection that deserves a much closer look.18

The Alzheimer’s Connection

The Prion Research Center regards other diseases that involve misfolding proteins, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Lou Gehrig's and Huntington’s diseases, as prion diseases, much like CWD.19 And there is reason to believe, according to a review in Medical Hypotheses, that Alzheimer’s may develop similarly to mad cow disease and other spongiform encephalopathies.

“In fact, Creutzfeldt-Jakob and Alzheimer's often coexist and at this point are thought to differ merely by time-dependent physical changes,” the researcher stated. “A recent study links up to 13% of all "Alzheimer's" victims as really having Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease … All of this brings up the unthinkable: that Alzheimer's, Cruetzfeldt-Jackob, and Mad Cow Disease might just be caused by eating the meat or dairy in consumer products or feed.”20

Another concern is antler velvet from elk, which is sometimes taken in supplement form. Prions have been detected in elk antler velvet, which suggests it plays a role in disease transmission among elk and “humans who consume antler velvet as a nutritional supplement are at risk for exposure to prions.”21

There is also growing suspicion that Alzheimer’s may have an infectious component capable of human-to-human transmission. More than 200 people are known to have developed CJD as the result of receiving growth hormone contaminated with prions that came from human cadavers.

When eight of them later were autopsied, four of them had buildups in the brain characteristic of early Alzheimer’s disease, with the researchers suggesting misfolded amyloid beta protein, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s, may be transmittable similar to other prions.22

Further, because prions aren’t killed by ordinary sterilization methods, it’s possible they could be transmitted during common medical procedures, including dental work and colonoscopies. Meanwhile, prions may be spread via contaminated feces, saliva, blood or urine, as well as via contact with contaminated soil, food or water.

Can Chronic Wasting Disease Be Transmitted to Humans?

The burning question is whether or not CWD can be transmitted to humans, and while hard data aren’t yet available, there are some concerning signs that the answer could be yes. In a study on macaques, monkeys that share genetic similarities with humans, the animals developed CWD after eating CWD-infected meat or brain tissue.23

Some of the meat came from deer that had CWD but showed no symptoms of the disease, yet was still able to spread the infection to monkeys.24 Studies are currently underway to determine if people in contact with CWD-infected animals or meat are at increased risk of prion diseases, but results won’t be available for some time.

The World Health Organization recommends products that could be contaminated with CWD or any related disease should be kept out of the human food chain.25

Some experts, including Osterholm, who serves as director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Prevention, tracked the ability of BSE to be transmitted to humans decades ago, however, and have already sounded the alarm. Many believed that mad cow disease couldn’t infect people — until it did. Osterholm believes the same fate will become of CWD:26

“It is my best professional judgment based on my public health experience and the risk of BSE transmission to humans in the 1980s and 1990s and my extensive review and evaluation of laboratory research studies … that it is probable that human cases of CWD associated with the consumption of contaminated meat will be documented in the years ahead. It is possible that number of human cases will be substantial and will not be isolated events.”

If You Eat Venison, Be Sure It’s Not Infected

If you’re a hunter or consume meat from elk or deer, you should ensure the meat is tested for CWD before it’s consumed. While some states require testing of deer from high-CWD areas, others do not, and some areas offer free testing while in others it must be done at the hunter’s expense.

If you’ve obtained a deer from a captive farm, which isn’t recommended, it’s especially important to have the animal tested, as the farms are high-risk zones for CWD. It’s important to understand that you cannot judge whether an animal has CWD by symptoms alone. It can be years before symptoms develop, and a healthy-looking animal may still be infected and capable of transmitting the disease.

In addition, the CDC recommends hunters use caution when handling a deer in the field, including wearing latex or rubber gloves when handling the meat and minimizing contact with the organs, especially the brain and spinal cord.

If CWD disease has already mutated into a form that could infect humans, symptoms may not be seen for years or decades, and they may appear similar to other prion diseases like vCJD, making the diseases virtually indistinguishable.

You Are a Guinea Pig — Undisclosed GMO Soybean Oil Released


The first commercially available gene-edited food is now on the market, but consumers won't know where it's being sold or if they've eaten food that contains it. The product, a gene-edited soybean oil created by biotech company Calyxt, was picked up by its first user — a Midwest company with both restaurant and foodservice locations, which is using it for frying as well as in dressings and sauces.1

Calyxt's soybean oil, Calyno, contains two inactivated genes, resulting in an oil with no trans fats, increased heart-healthy oleic acid and a longer shelf life. Along with refusing to identify the buyer of its gene-edited high-oleic soybean oil, Calyxt is marketing its product as "non-GMO," although it's clearly genetically engineered.

Using Semantics to Hide GMOs

Although they're genetically engineered, gene-edited foods are not marketed as GMOs, nor are they labeled as such. The difference comes down to a matter of semantics.

Calyxt used Transcription Activator-Like Effector Nuclease (TALEN) to find and edit DNA sequences in the making of its soybean oil, a process a company spokesperson went so far as to say could happen in nature. Speaking to Forbes, they stated:2

"[U]nlike GMOs, we simply edit existing genes within crops using our technology to speed up a process that otherwise could have happened in nature.

Through this process, we're able to provide outcomes quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively for the American people so that they can have healthier food ingredients without compromising the taste of what they already love. No foreign DNA is added to the product."

Unfortunately, they've also succeeded in introducing a genetically engineered oil to the U.S. food supply without the American people's knowledge or consent. The appeal to food manufacturers is clear: Calyxt's oil, with its zero trans fats and long shelf life, will appeal to companies eager to replace trans fats.

In an announcement through Bloomberg,3 Calyxt said this high-oleic oil contains "approximately 80 percent oleic acid and up to 20 percent less saturated fats." Calyxt also said they'd just completed the company's first commercial sale of a "premium," high oleic soybean meal as a livestock food additive that would be an "added benefit" for the livestock.

But the public may have another take on the matter, especially as many increasingly seek out real, whole foods in lieu of GMOs. One survey found only 32 percent of Americans are comfortable with GMOs in their food.4

By hiding behind the label of gene editing, they can pass off their genetically engineered Calyno oil as natural when it's clearly not. More than 100 farmers in the Midwest are reportedly growing Calyxt's high-oleic soybeans on more than 34,000 acres.5

Gene-Edited Chickens Created

If eating gene-edited soybean oil has you feeling like a guinea pig, you may be equally uneasy to know that gene-edited chickens are also a thing. At the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, chickens have been modified to resist flu, which spreads rapidly among CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) birds and has the potential to be transmitted to humans.

In order to create the transgenic chickens, scientists used the gene-editing technology known as CRISPR, or Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat. They targeted part of the ANP32 gene, which codes for a protein that flu viruses depend on,6 and cells without the gene were impervious to the flu.

The Roslin Institute has also used gene editing to create pigs that are resistant to a disease called Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome, or PRRS, edits that are permanent and passed down to other generations. Other companies are using gene editing to remove genes that grow horns in dairy cattle, therefore allowing them to bypass the inhumane process of removing horns from CAFO cattle with no pain relief.

There is talk that first using gene editing to ease animal suffering or fight agricultural disease could soften regulators' stance and create a more favorable profile to the public.7 But ultimately the technology will inevitably be used increasingly for the purpose of profits.

Case in point, one study funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture has added the SRY gene to cattle, which results in female cows that turn into males, complete with larger muscles, a penis and testicles, but no ability to make sperm.8 Male (or male-like) cattle are more valuable to the beef industry because they get bigger, faster, allowing companies to make greater profits in less time.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed classifying animals with edited or engineered DNA as drugs, prompting backlash from the biotech industry,9 which doesn't want such foods labeled. The Roslin Institute has also launched a survey to gauge people's views on gene-editing and whether or not they would eat gene-edited animals.10

However, because they contain no foreign genetic material, foods produced via gene-editing are not subject to regulation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) — although an advisory board recommended gene-edited foods could not be labeled organic — or other regulatory agencies.

Gene Editing Used to Create High-Fiber Wheat, Altered Potatoes

To date, gene editing has been used not only to produce soybeans with altered fatty acid profiles, but also potatoes that take longer to turn brown and potatoes that remain fresher longer and do not produce carcinogens when fried. Other uses for gene-editing in foods include the creation of low-gluten wheat, mushrooms that don't turn brown and tomatoes that can be produced in areas with shorter growing seasons.

The technology may even be used to create plants that withstand droughts and diseases or seeds that can be customized to unique growing conditions. Calyxt has also developed a high-fiber wheat that has been declared a "nonregulated article," by the USDA's Biotechnology Regulatory Services of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). The wheat is in Phase 1 of development and may launch as early as 2020 or 2021.11

Calyxt has lofty plans for expansion and is also working on gene-edited cold-storable potatoes and canola oil with improved composition, and hopes to eventually create products with many gene-edited targets in one. According to the company:12

"In particular, over time we may explore opportunities to apply our commercial strategy elsewhere around the world and leverage our North American products and footprint to target geographies where there are unmet consumer or farmer needs.

We also intend to explore the ability to add value through our existing product candidates once they are commercialized by combining traits in the same crop, which may allow us to create products with additional benefits without adding significant cost."

Gene Editing Isn't Always Precise, Carries Significant Risks

While gene-edited foods have already been released into the food supply, there safety is largely unknown. What is known, however, is that gene editing isn't a perfect science, and off-target edits could cause unintended changes to plant DNA, with consequences that could include growth disturbances, exposure to plant diseases or the introduction of allergens or toxins.13

In animals, gene editing has led to unexpected side effects, including enlarged tongues and extra vertebrae.14,15 Often researchers don't know the extent of a gene's functions until they attempt to tweak it, and something like an extra vertebra reveals itself. Speaking with Yale Insights, Dr. Greg Licholai, a biotech entrepreneur, explained some of the very real risks of CRISPR and other gene-editing technologies:16

"One of the biggest risks of CRISPR is what's called gene drive, or genetic drive. What that means is that because you're actually manipulating genes and those genes get incorporated into the genome, into the encyclopedia, basically, that sits within cells, potentially those genes can then be transferred on to other organisms.

And once they're transferred on to other organisms, once they become part of the cycle, then those genes are in the environment.

That's probably the biggest fear of CRISPR. Humans manipulating the genetic code, and those manipulations get passed on generation to generation to generation. We think we know what we're doing, we think we're measuring exactly what changes we're doing to the genes, but there's always the possibility that either we miss something or our technology can't pick up on other changes that have been made that haven't been directed by us.

And the fear then is that those changes lead to antibiotic resistance or other mutations that go out into the population and would be very difficult to control. Basically creating incurable diseases or other potential mutations that we wouldn't really have control over."

Japan Follows US, Says Gene Edited Foods Are Safe

While the European Union has ruled that gene edited crops must go through the same approval process as GMOs, Japan recently concluded that such foods could enter the consumer marketplace without any safety studies. "There is little difference between traditional breeding methods and gene editing in terms of safety," Hirohito Sone, an endocrinologist at Niigata University, stated.17

However, in an interview with GM Watch, Michael Antoniou, a London-based molecular geneticist, explained that significant changes could occur due to genetic editing, in both agricultural and medical contexts, necessitating long-term safety and toxicity studies. He explained:18

"Many of the genome editing-induced off-target mutations, as well as those induced by the tissue culture, will no doubt be benign in terms of effects on gene function. However, many will not be benign and their effects can carry through to the final marketed product, whether it be plant or animal …

Thus not only is it necessary to conduct whole genome sequencing to identify all off-target mutations from CRISPR-based genome editing, but it is also essential to ascertain the effects of these unintended changes on global patterns of gene function.

… In addition, it is important to acknowledge that the targeted intended change in a given gene may also have unintended effects. For example, the total disruption or modification of an enzyme function can lead to unexpected or unpredictable biochemical side-reactions that can markedly alter the composition of an organism, such as a food crop.

The compositional alterations in food products produced with genome editing techniques will not be fully revealed by the molecular profiling methods due to the current inherent limitations of these techniques. So it is still necessary to conduct long-term toxicity studies in established animal model systems. In the absence of these analyses, to claim that genome editing is precise and predictable is based on faith rather than science."

Organic Foods Are Not Gene Edited

Without a label requirement, there's no way for consumers to know whether they're eating gene-edited soybean oil — or one of the many future gene-edited products likely to hit the market. For now, however, gene-edited foods cannot be labeled organic, which is one more reason why seeking out organic and, even better, biodynamic foods, is so important.

This may not be the case forever, though, as some organic proponents have claimed gene editing falls within the realm of organic if used in a way that mimics nature.19 That being said, when the National Organic Standards Board voted (unanimously) to add CRISPR to the excluded methods list, one board member said:20

"It very clearly is a GMO [method] and has no field history of improved varieties to evaluate what unintended effects the technology might have on the environment, just like all of the GMOs released into the environment have had unintended effects that don't show up for a number of years."

Whether the U.S. government will ultimately decide to classify gene-edited foods similarly to GMOs or conventional foods, or to allow them under the organic label, remains to be seen, but for now the best way to avoid gene-edited foods, if you so choose, is to purchase organic.

The Effectiveness of Ginger for Nausea, Vomiting and More


Ginger (Zingiber officinale) was considered a luxury some 5,000 years ago. Commonly used in Indian and Chinese cooking, the root was also used as a tonic to treat common ailments. Ginger is an herbaceous perennial plant likely native to southeastern Asia. Today, as in days’ past, ginger is used both for its flavor and for its medicinal properties.1

Ginger has a slightly biting taste and is often used dried or ground to flavor sauces, curry dishes, pickles and ginger ale.2 The root may also be used to make tea. Some cultures enjoy slicing and eating it between dishes to clear the palate.

Ginger can also help combat bad breath (halitosis). A 2018 study3 identified the chemical component in ginger responsible for eliminating bad breath, finding that the compound 6-gingerol enables an enzyme in your saliva to break down unpleasant odors.

The plant grows a little over 2 feet high with leaves 6 to 12 inches long. It produces a flower of overlapping green bracts that may be edged with yellow.4 It is the underground stem, or rhizome, of the ginger plant that is prized for its medicinal substances.

Ginger appeared in Europe in the first century when the Romans traded with India. When Rome fell, Marco Polo brought it from his travels to the East.5 It was so highly valued in the Middle Ages the price of half a gram was the same as the cost of one sheep.

While it thrives in the Caribbean, India is currently the greatest producer6 in the world. When it comes to exports, though, it’s China that holds first place.7 Ginger offers many health benefits that may reduce your need for some medications.

Ginger May Protect Against DNA Damage

Compounds in rosemary, ginger and turmeric are effective in reducing the inflammatory response in the body. In a study published in the Journal of American College of Nutrition,8 researchers set out to determine the bioavailability of herbs and spices after consumption. They measured the ability the compound had to protect lymphocytes from oxidative injury.

According to Nutrition Facts,9 in the average person approximately 7% have signs of DNA damage. After the researchers examined DNA damage in participants subjected to free radicals, the damage rose to just under 10%.

However, those eating ginger for just one week before being attacked by free radicals experienced only a 1% rise in DNA damage, as opposed to the control group, in which DNA damage rose by 10%.10

A number of studies11 have documented the antioxidant and immunomodulatory effects of ginger, which may help prevent and treat several different types of cancer, including breast cancer, colorectal cancer12 and prostate cancer,13 primarily by inducing apoptosis, inhibiting proliferation of cancer cells and sensitizing tumors to radiotherapy and chemotherapy.14

Ginger May Prevent and Reduce Nausea in Pregnancy and During Chemotherapy

The most common and well-established use of ginger is for alleviating symptoms of nausea and vomiting.15 In one study,16 ginger root performed as well as other drugs prescribed for seasickness. In another,17 a fixed dose of 1 gram of ginger was more effective than a placebo in the prevention of postoperative nausea and vomiting, and researchers recommended it as an effective means of reducing these symptoms.

In other studies, researchers have evaluated the efficacy and potential benefits of using ginger to reduce nausea during pregnancy.18 These symptoms affect an estimated 80% of pregnant women during the first trimester.19,20 Also known as morning sickness, in a small percentage the condition may persist and result in dehydration, electrolyte imbalance and weight loss.21

Although several medications are available, each comes with a list of side effects. One meta-analysis of previous studies22 found formulations and dosages of ginger were predictably variable. Still, while the dosage and duration varied, the analysis demonstrated ginger was better than placebo when administered in a dose of approximately 1 gram for at least four days.

This same meta-analysis looked at studies evaluating chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, a major adverse effect suffered by cancer patients. The researchers evaluated seven trials and found five reported favorable results, while results from the other two clinical trials were unfavorable.

The mixed results may be explained by the use of nonstandardized ginger preparations and inconsistencies in study methods. The researchers went on to recommend an optimized design of clinical trials to more fully evaluate the efficacy of ginger in the prevention and treatment of nausea and vomiting.23

Anti-Inflammatory Properties May Help Many Conditions

In a study24 published in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers did a meta-analysis to review the current scientific evidence for ginger’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.

According to the researchers, inhibition of prostaglandin and leukotriene biosynthesis was likely the result of gingerol, shogaol and other structurally-related substances in ginger. These anti-inflammatory effects may be the underlying reason ginger is effective in pain management.

A University of Miami study25 showed it has the potential to replace nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. When a highly purified and standardized ginger extract was compared against a placebo in 247 patients with knee osteoarthritis, 63% those receiving ginger reported a reduction in pain and stiffness.

In a study published in the American Thoracic Society journal,26 researchers found as many as 40% of those with asthma used herbal remedies to manage their symptoms.

Results27 show the hypothesis that ginger can modulate intracellular calcium and induce bronchodilation in airway smooth muscle was true, leading the researchers to conclude the compounds found in ginger may be a therapeutic option for the treatment of asthma.

Ginger has also demonstrated effectiveness against painful menstrual cramps. As many as 10% of women have such severe cramps they're unable to maintain a normal schedule one to two days each month.28

A study29 in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine concluded that “Ginger was as effective as mefenamic acid and ibuprofen in relieving pain in women with primary dysmenorrhea.”

Ginger may also be effective against exercise-induced muscle pain. In one study,30 participants taking 2 grams of ginger per day for 11 days experienced a reduction in soreness after exercise. However, ginger doesn't appear to exert an immediate effect,31 but improves in effectiveness over time.

Ginger Has Antifungal and Antibacterial Properties

Antifungal and antibacterial properties of ginger may also help prevent or treat a number of conditions. In one study,32 researchers found ginger extract was able to break up fungi biofilm formation and had antifungal properties against Candida albicans and Candida krusei. These are opportunistic fungal infections in the oral cavity.

In another study,33 researchers found the strong antifungal activity was a promising agent to inhibit the growth of pathogenic fungi destroying Chinese olives. Yet another34 found it was effective in some solvents against Fusarium oxysporum, recognized as a devastating disease in tomato plants.

Studies have also demonstrated the effectiveness of ginger extract against Aspergillus flavus,35 a producer of aflatoxin,36 a potent carcinogen. This pathogen attacks cereal grains, legumes and tree nuts.

Ginger extract has also demonstrated antibacterial properties that can be useful against periodontal disease. In one test tube study,37 compounds found in ginger were able to inhibit the growth of oral pathogens, and in another,38 ginger extract demonstrated antibacterial activity against multidrug-resistant clinical pathogens.

Migraine Sufferers Benefit From Ginger

Globally, migraines are the third most common disease and sixth most common disabling disease. According to a 2018 study,39 1 in 7 American adults reported suffering from severe headaches or migraines in the previous three months. The economic burden is substantial. The annual cost for direct health care and reduced productivity is estimated at $36 billion.40

As of March 2016, the annual sales of sumatriptan injections (sold under the brand name Imitrex) were estimated at $183 million.41 Sumatriptan injection is used as a rescue drug for migraine headaches. Common side effects of the drug include pain or chest tightness, weakness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and drooling.42

Ginger has a history of being used for the treatment of headaches in Ayurvedic medicine,43 and has also been studied in a double-blind, randomized clinical trial of 100 patients with a history of acute migraine without aura.44

Patients were randomly selected to receive either ginger powder or sumatriptan. Researchers analyzed the onset of headache, severity and the interval between drug administration and response. Data from five migraine attacks per patient were collected. In both groups, the mean headache severity decreased significantly after two hours.

The patient satisfaction with both treatments did not differ. However, while the ginger treatment is statistically comparable to sumatriptan, it also has a much better side effect profile, as only a small number of participants experienced stomach upset.45

Reducing Systemic Inflammation Affects Blood Sugar, Weight and Liver Function

Ginger’s ability to reduce systemic inflammation may also make it a useful aid to improve blood sugar control, weight management and reduce your risk for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

In one study46 conducted to investigate the effects of ginger on fasting blood sugar, researchers collected data from a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial on 41 Type 2 diabetic patients.

One group received 2 grams of ginger powder supplement each day and the control group received 2 grams of lactose per day for 12 weeks. Researchers measured their fasting blood sugar, hemoglobin A1C and several other factors before and after the intervention.

Data showed ginger supplementation significantly reduced fasting blood sugar and A1C measurements compared to baseline and to the control group. In a second study,47 researchers conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial on 70 Type 2 diabetics. The experimental group took 1,600 milligrams of ginger daily for 12 weeks.

The group taking ginger had a reduction in fasting plasma glucose and hemoglobin A1C, as well as insulin, triglycerides and total cholesterol as compared to the placebo group. The researchers concluded ginger could be considered an effective treatment for the prevention of diabetes complications.48

As the name implies, NAFLD is fat buildup in the liver that is unrelated to alcohol consumption.49 It’s one of the most common chronic liver diseases worldwide. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial,50 researchers concluded the experimental group taking 2 grams of ginger supplement for 12 weeks showed beneficial effects on some of the characteristics of the disease.

Preparing Ginger at Home

While ginger is a safe food, in rare cases, high doses may trigger mild upset stomach, diarrhea, sleepiness, restlessness or heartburn. Taking ginger with food typically alleviates these challenges.

Ginger may also interact with medications such as anesthesia, anticoagulants and analgesics, possibly leading to poor wound healing, sun sensitivity, irregular heartbeat, bleeding and prolonged sedation.51

Since ginger has been proven effective for easing muscle pain caused by exercise, researchers of a study published in the Journal of Pain suggested trying a bit of grated ginger root in your food or steep a few teaspoons of it in a pot of very hot water for five minutes. The study noted that when ginger is heated,52 it exerts hypoanalgesic effects, helping to alleviate pain 23% to 25% better than placebo.

Weekly Health Quiz: Vertigo, Fasting and Choline


1 The following food is one of the best sources of choline — an important player in cell membrane function, nerve communication and the quenching of inflammation — which many are deficient in:

  • Skim milk cheese
  • Instant oatmeal
  • Raw beets
  • Eggs

    Eggs are one of the best sources of choline available. According to researchers, it's difficult to get enough choline from your diet unless you're eating eggs or taking a dietary supplement. Learn more.

2 A primary physical effect of 5G, which relies primarily on the bandwidth of the millimeter wave, that many may be able to sense is:

  • Pain

    5G technology relies primarily on the bandwidth of the millimeter wave (MMW), which is known to penetrate 1 to 2 millimeters of human skin tissue and may cause physical pain via nociceptors. Learn more.

  • Coldness
  • Paralysis
  • Hallucinations

3 The following is the most common cause of peripheral vertigo:

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Crystal deposits in your inner ear getting dislodged

    The most common cause of peripheral vertigo is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, which occurs when crystal deposits in your inner ear become dislodged and end up in your ear canal. As you move, the crystals disrupt the flow of the fluids, confusing your balance organs, resulting in dizziness. Learn more.

  • Brain and/or spinal cord tumors
  • Cranial nerve tumor

4 The following complementary treatment has been scientifically shown to reduce muscle spasms, pain, inflammation and mental health problems such as stress, anxiety and depression, while boosting immune function, flexibility and range of motion.

  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic
  • Massage therapy

    Massage has been shown to reduce muscle spasms, pain, inflammation and mental health problems such as stress, anxiety and depression, while boosting immune function, flexibility and range of motion. Learn more.

  • Mindfulness training

5 Which disease can dogs often detect through their excellent sense of smell?

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Cancer

    Dogs have amazing olfactory abilities because of their large noses and can even detect cancer. Learn more.

6 The following are two primary benefits of fasting:

  • Stem cell activation and autophagy

    Two primary benefits of fasting are stem cell activation and autophagy. By upregulating autophagy and boosting stem cells, you will lower your risk of most diseases, including cancer and neurodegeneration. Learn more.

  • Stem cell deactivation and mTOR activation
  • mTOR activation and reduced production of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor)
  • Decreased insulin and leptin sensitivity

Earth Day: Learn Why Biodynamic Soils Are the Healthiest


Earth Day is an annual event celebrated each year on April 22, to promote environmental awareness and protection. As noted by

"The history of Earth Day … dates back to 1970 when it was first celebrated … It was founded by Senator Gaylord Nelson to promote ecology and the respect for life on the planet as well as to encourage awareness of the growing problems of air, water and soil pollution."

You may be surprised to learn that of all the sources of pollution in our modern world, the greatest contributor is conventional agriculture. As explained by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations:2

"Over two-thirds of human water use is for agriculture … Crop and livestock production … are the main source of water pollution by nitrates, phosphates and pesticides. They are also the major anthropogenic source of the greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide, and contribute on a massive scale to other types of air and water pollution.

The extent and methods of agriculture, forestry and fishing are the leading causes of loss of the world's biodiversity … Agriculture also affects the basis for its own future through land degradation, salinization, the overextraction of water and the reduction of genetic diversity in crops and livestock …

If more sustainable production methods are used, the negative impacts of agriculture on the environment can be attenuated. Indeed, in some cases agriculture can play an important role in reversing them, for example by storing carbon in soils, enhancing the infiltration of water and preserving rural landscapes and biodiversity."

Modern Food Production Is a Disaster in More Ways Than One

Yes, the way we grow a vast majority of our food is simultaneously destroying the natural world, thereby threatening our very existence on this planet. Indeed, virtually every growing environmental and health problem can be traced back to modern food production, including:

Food insecurity and malnutrition amid mounting food waste

Promotion of foodborne illnesses and drug-resistant bacterial infections

Rising obesity and chronic disease rates despite growing health care outlays

Rapidly dwindling fresh water supplies

Toxic agricultural chemicals polluting air, soil and waterways, thereby threatening the entire food chain from top to bottom

Disruption of normal climate and rainfall patterns due to the destruction of ecosystems by pollution

The good news is there's a viable answer to all of these. As recognized by FAO, the answer hinges on the widespread implementation of regenerative agriculture and biodynamic farming. By affecting change through your shopping habits, there's hope we may avoid a complete breakdown of our ecosystem and food production.

One thing's for sure: We cannot wait for regulations to drive this change. We must push for it ourselves, and we do so by voting with our pocketbooks every time we shop for food.

How Conventional Agriculture Pollutes Our Air, Water and Soil

According to research3 published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters in 2016, emissions from farming far outweigh other sources of particulate matter, and agricultural fertilizer, especially the nitrogen component, is the greatest contributor to air pollution in much of the U.S., China and Russia.

As nitrogen fertilizers break down, ammonia is released into the air. When it reaches industrial areas, it combines with fossil fuel combustion creating microparticles. Although nitrogen is found naturally in air, water and soil, reactive nitrogen, a primary component in nitrogen-based fertilizers, is processed using large amounts of energy from fossil fuel-burning engines. This also contributes to industrial pollution.

When nitrogen-based fertilizer is added to the soil, it reduces the amount of sequestered carbon4 and severely disrupts the soil microbiome5 — both of which affect the soil's ability to support plant growth.6 The addition of nitrogen-based fertilizer also reduces the soil's pH and decreases bacterial diversity in the soil.7

Excess fertilizer runoff is also one of the largest contributors to ocean pollution — creating dead zones where oxygen is eliminated and fish and other marine life can no longer survive8 — and groundwater pollution, rendering our freshwater supplies unfit to drink.9

Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs)10 are equally notorious for polluting precious water supplies. According to a report11 by Environment America, corporate agribusiness is "one of the biggest threats to America's waterways." Tyson Foods Inc. was deemed among the worst, releasing 104.4 million pounds of toxic pollutants into waterways between 2010 and 2014.

Conventional Agriculture Is Also Draining Global Water Supplies

Conventional agriculture, due to its heavy use of potable water for irrigation, is also a primary cause of water scarcity around the world, with aquifers once thought to be inexhaustible being drained faster than they can be refilled.

In the High Plains Aquifer (also known as the Ogallala) in the American Midwest, for example, the water level has been dropping by an average of 6 feet per year, while the natural recharge rate is 1 inch or less.12 The depletion of the agricultural water supply is allegedly due to the activities of an oil and gas company, American Warrior,13 which has 1.3 thousand leases for drilling rights across Kansas.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, about 80 percent of U.S. consumptive water (and more than 90 percent in many Western states) is used for agricultural purposes.14

One-third of the world's largest groundwater aquifers are already nearing depletion,15,16 and according to a 2016 report17 by, global groundwater resources could be depleted within as little as three decades. This chilling prediction was made by Inge de Graaf, a hydrologist at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado, who presented her findings at the 2016 American Geophysical Union meeting.

James (Jay) Famiglietti, director of the Global Institute for Water Security at the University of Saskatchewan and former senior water scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, has also stated that the majority of our global groundwaters "are past sustainability tipping points,"18 so whether it's three decades or a few decades more, it's only a matter of time until we run out of fresh water.

The long-term solution to these water quality and water scarcity issues is to phase out the use of toxic pesticides, chemical fertilizers and soil additives, and to grow crops and raise food animals in such a way that the farm actually contributes to the overall health and balance of the environment rather than polluting it and creating a dysfunctional ecosystem.

Soil Degradation and Erosion — A Devastating Legacy of Conventional Farming

In addition to being a primary source of air, water and land pollution, conventional agriculture also threatens our very ability to continue food production by degrading and eroding agricultural soils.

In a 2012 Time magazine19 interview, former University of Sydney professor John Crawford, who now is the integrated solutions lab flagship leader for sustainable agricultural sciences at Rothamsted Research center, noted that about 40 percent of agricultural soils around the globe are classified as degraded or seriously degraded.

"Seriously degraded" means that 70 percent of the topsoil (the layer of soil in which plants grow) has already disappeared. At present, topsoil is being lost 10 to 40 times faster than nature can regenerate and replenish it naturally.

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification's Global Land Outlook report,20,21,22 published in 2017, concluded fertile soil is being lost at an average rate of 24 billion tons per year.

According to this report, one-third of Earth's soil is already "acutely degraded" as a result of tilling and heavy chemical use — agricultural methods that remove carbon from the soil and destroy the microbial balance in the soil responsible for plant nutrition and growth. Decreased productivity was noted on:

  • 20% of global cropland
  • 16% of forest land
  • 19% of grassland
  • 27% of rangeland

Soil Study by Organic Vineyard Demonstrates Benefits of Biodynamic Farming

A recent study23 by Bonterra Organic Vineyards, a leading organic wine brand in the U.S., demonstrates the beneficial impact organic and biodynamic farming have on soil health.

Pacific Agroecology,24 an environmental research and consulting company, performed the soil analyses of Bonterra's 13 vineyards in Mendocino County. Three of the vineyards use biodynamic methods, nine use organic methods and one uses conventional methods. Bonterra provides the following summary of these three farming methods:25

"Conventional — Farming practices … that permit the use of synthetic non-organic herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers for management of crops and competitive vegetation.

Organic — Agricultural practices that exclude the use of synthetic non-organic inputs — such as herbicides, pesticides and fertilizer — in favor of fostering the natural vitality of the farm through integrated pest management, cover crops, and building healthy soil.

Biodynamic — Formally defined in 1924, an approach to organic cultivation that views the farm as a living organism where plants, animals and humans interrelate as members of an intricately connected ecosystem that follows the cycles of nature."

Results reveal biodynamic sites have the greatest amounts of organic carbon in the soil, followed closely by sites using organic principles. Either method is far superior to conventional farming, sequestering 12.8% and 9.4% more carbon per acre respectively than the conventional site. More specifically, the comparison of organic carbon in the soil revealed:

  • Conventional land had 41,000 pounds of soil organic carbon per acre
  • Organic land had 45,200 pounds of soil organic carbon per acre
  • Biodynamic land had 46,300 pounds of soil organic carbon per acre

What's more, they also tested undeveloped wildland owned by Bonterra, finding total carbon storage was even higher here than in any of the cultivated areas. This finding suggests efforts to conserve wildland is an important undertaking. Joseph Brinkley, director of vineyards for Bonterra told NewHope:26

"Soil organic carbon — something regenerative farming strives to enhance — is a signal of how well a landscape captures and stores carbon, and also contributes many long-term benefits to soil health, such as improved aeration, drought resistance, and erosion prevention."

Elizabeth Drake, regenerative development manager for Bonterra, added,27 "We're excited about the potential impact of this study, which we hope inspires other farmers to examine the benefits of organic and biodynamic agriculture."

Biodynamic Farming Is Organic — And Then Some

Biodynamic farming is a spiritual-ethical-ecological approach to agriculture initially developed by Austrian scholar Rudolf Steiner,28 Ph.D., (1861-1925). He taught there is an invisible force that aids and sustains humanity, and biodynamic farming makes use of a wide variety of influences, including planetary influences and moon phases.

As just one of many examples of Steiner's comprehensive approach to farming, biodynamic farmers will not cut off the horns on their cows, as the animal's horns are a primary sensory organ, and a complex interrelated relationship exists between the horns and the animal's digestive system.

To this day, Steiner's book "Agriculture: Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of Agriculture" serves as the basis of biodynamic farming everywhere, and his agriculture course, first offered in 1924, is available for free online.29

Not only does biodynamic farming provide superior crops both in volume and increased density of nutrients, but biodynamic farms are also completely self-sustaining.

This self-sustainability is what sets biodynamic farms apart from organic farms, and translates into far stricter certification criteria. When something is certified biodynamic, you can be sure you're getting food that has been produced according to the most rigorous sustainability criteria available.

For example, while an organic farmer can section off as little as 10 percent of the farm for the growing of certified organic goods, in order to be certified as a biodynamic farmer, your entire farm must be biodynamic.

In addition to that, biodynamic certification also requires 10 percent of the land be dedicated to increasing biodiversity, such as forest, wetland or insectary. Biodynamic farming also has most or all of the features associated with regenerative agriculture, such as crop rotation, cover crops and so on.

Creating a Biodynamic Garden

If you're currently gardening or planning to start, consider implementing some biodynamic principles. As noted in a previous Mother Nature Network article on biodynamic gardening:30

"Biodynamic gardening starts with building truly healthy soil through thoughtfully integrating both plants and animals in the garden and creating fertility by rotating crops, growing green manures such as vetch or clover, and carefully composting plant waste, kitchen scraps and farm animal manures (such as chicken or rabbit) with the help of medicinal herbal preparations.

'It's not just about what chemicals you can't use but what you can actively do to create a healthy garden whole that sustains itself,' said Thea Maria Carlson, director of programs for the Biodynamic Association in Milwaukee. 'And it works on any scale, even in a small space.'

The ideal biodynamic garden includes both plants and animals. A growing number of cities and suburbs now allow homeowners to keep small numbers of chickens, rabbits, beehives or even goats.

But even without these domestic animals, creating a garden that attracts such common creatures as earthworms, bees, ladybugs, praying mantises, birds and other beneficial insects, including microbial ones in the soil, is something any small-scale gardener can do."

The article goes on to provide additional tips and guidance for budding biodynamic gardeners. For example, biodynamic principles include treating your compost with fermented medicinal herb preparations that enhance the availability of nutrients and microbial activity.

Biodynamic sprays, made from manure, ground quartz crystals and horsetail, are applied at certain times to further boost soil and plant health. You'd also want to follow a biodynamic planting calendar to ensure an optimal crop.

Basic Regenerative Farming Principles

While biodynamic principles are the gold standard, you can take a big step in the right direction simply by following these five basic regenerative principles for building a healthy soil ecosystem:

Avoid disturbing the soil microbiome with tillage, herbicides, pesticides and fungicides — The less mechanical disturbance, the better. The same applies in your home garden. The more you till, the faster the soil degrades and is destroyed, as it destroys soil aggregates and mycorrhizal fungi, which houses the microorganisms needed for nutrient transfer.

Similarly, by adding synthetic nitrogen to the soil, the biology is radically altered — it starts consuming carbon in the soil aggregate, which destroys the soil structure.

Without soil structure water cannot infiltrate and move throughout the soil profile and be stored via organic matter. The soil aggregates also provide the home for soil biology, which is critical to producing nutrient dense food.

Protect the soil's surface with cover crops and cover crop residue — Forest and prairie lands are completely covered with vegetation and this is the environment farmers need to emulate. That vegetation protects the soil not only from wind and water erosion, but also from excessive heating and cooling. These living plants are what end up actually "growing" topsoil.

In your home garden, you can use mulch, wood chips or lawn clippings to do this. You never want to leave soil bare, as bare soil will have a negative effect on soil biology and the water cycle. Cover crops and other forms of "soil armor," such as wood chips, effectively prevent water evaporation and lowers the soil temperature.

There is easily a 20-degree F difference or more between soil that is bare and soil that is covered. When air temperatures reach 90 degrees or so, soil temperatures will rise well above 100 degrees, which will dry everything out and fry the plants' roots.

"If you have good armor or residue on the soil surface, the temperature there can be in the 80-degree range. Those plants are growing. It's a huge difference in production for the producer," Brown says.

Diversify — Having a diverse array of plant life is essential, and cover crops fulfill this requirement as well. Home gardens will also benefit from cover crops, helping to improve the soil, attract beneficial insects and capture more sunlight (energy).

Maintain living roots in the ground as long as possible — In conventional farming, once a cash crop is harvested, there's nothing left in the field to capture sunlight and keep growing. Maintaining some kind of growth at all times is key. If you have a small vegetable garden, don't leave it bare once you've harvested your veggies. Instead, plant a cover crop in anticipation for the next season.

To make the transition back from cover crop to your chosen vegetables the following season, avoid the temptation to till the cover crop into the soil. Instead, use one of the following methods to kill off the cover crop and prepare the plot for new crop growth:

  • Stomp the cover crop into the ground with your feet or a board (simply attach two rope handles to a 2x4 board and then use the board to step down the crop)
  • If the cover crop has started to form seed heads, you can kill it off by rolling a crop roller or small barrel over it
  • Cut the growth down and leave the residue on top (although it works better if it's rolled or stepped down)

Once the cover crop has been killed off, you're ready to plant your vegetable seeds. For a small garden, use a hoe to part the cover crop remains over to the side. Create a small slice in the soil, drop in your seeds and cover with a small amount of soil. If you're planting a transplant, simply move the cover crop aside, dig the hole and plant as normal.

Integrate livestock and other animals, including insects — Centuries ago, large herds of bison and elk moved across the landscape, foraging, depositing manure and trampling vegetation into the ground. All of this is part of the natural cycle that is missing when animals are kept in concentrated animal feeding operations.

Many have started raising chickens in their backyards again and chickens are an excellent addition to a sustainable garden. Rabbits, pigeons and ducks are other alternatives that could work in some suburban areas, but even if circumstances or local laws prevent you from adding animals, be sure to plant flowering plants that attract pollinators and predator insects, as these will naturally help ward off pests that might otherwise decimate your main crop.

Protect the Earth by Voting With Your Pocketbook Every Day

Even if you're not inclined to grow your own food, you can help steer the agricultural industry toward safer, more sustainable systems by supporting your local farmers and choosing fresh, local produce, ideally organically or biodynamically grown.

Also, remember to choose organic, grass fed/pasture-raised beef, poultry and dairy, in addition to organic produce, as CAFOs are just as destructive as chemical-based agriculture. If you live in the U.S., the following organizations can help you find local sources of farm-fresh foods.

Demeter USA provides a directory of certified Biodynamic farms and brands.

American Grassfed Association (AGA) The goal of the American Grassfed Association is to promote the grass fed industry through government relations, research, concept marketing and public education.

Their website also allows you to search for AGA approved producers certified according to strict standards that include being raised on a diet of 100 percent forage; raised on pasture and never confined to a feedlot; never treated with antibiotics or hormones; and born and raised on American family farms. provides lists of farmers known to produce raw dairy products as well as grass fed beef and other farm-fresh produce (although not all are certified organic). Here you can also find information about local farmers markets, as well as local stores and restaurants that sell grass fed products.

Weston A. Price Foundation Weston A. Price has local chapters in most states, and many of them are connected with buying clubs in which you can easily purchase organic foods, including grass fed raw dairy products like milk and butter.

Grassfed Exchange The Grassfed Exchange has a listing of producers selling organic and grass fed meats across the U.S.

Local Harvest This website will help you find farmers markets, family farms and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass fed meats and many other goodies.

Farmers Markets A national listing of farmers markets.

Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, hotels and online outlets in the United States and Canada.

Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) — CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.

The Cornucopia Institute The Cornucopia Institute maintains web-based tools rating all certified organic brands of eggs, dairy products and other commodities, based on their ethical sourcing and authentic farming practices separating CAFO "organic" production from authentic organic practices. If you're still unsure of where to find raw milk, check out and They can tell you what the status is for legality in your state, and provide a listing of raw dairy farms in your area. The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund31 also provides a state-by-state review of raw milk laws.32 California residents can also find raw milk retailers using the store locator available at

20 Alternative Flours You Should Know


If you are still baking primarily with whole wheat flour because you believe it is better for your health, you may not be aware of the many alternative flours that exist. While some are worth checking out, there are others that are best avoided altogether, such as corn flour and soy flour, which did not make the list as they are often produced from genetically engineered crops.

Many of the 20 alternative flours highlighted below are gluten-free. If you have celiac disease, a gluten intolerance or have chosen to go gluten-free for other reasons, you are very likely familiar with some of them. Gluten, by the way, is a protein made of glutenin and gliadin molecules that forms an elastic bond in the presence of water, thereby holding bread and cakes together and giving them a spongier texture.

Gluten is a concern because it interferes with your body's ability to break down and absorb nutrients from food. Gluten contributes to the formation of a glue-like, constipating lump in your gut that can interfere with proper digestion.

Undigested gluten prompts your immune system to attack your villi, the fingerlike projections lining your small intestine, resulting in side effects such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation or nausea. Gluten consumption can also predispose you to increased inflammation, nutrient malabsorption and deficiencies and other health problems.

Eight Healthy Alternative Flours

The eight flours shown directly below are, in my opinion, the healthiest of the 20 alternative flours addressed in this article. Each is gluten- and wheat-free. Two of my personal favorites are almond and coconut flour. Again, you will need to experiment a bit to figure out which types of flours work best with your recipes. When in doubt, start with smaller amounts of each type of flour and adjust from there.

Almond1 Almond is produced by grinding and sifting blanched almonds into a fine powder. (The terms almond flour and almond meal are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same. Almond meal is made by grinding almonds with their skins intact, a process that produces a coarser end product.) Because almonds are a tree nut, almond flour is naturally gluten- and wheat-free.

Almond flour is sweeter than other flours, low in carbohydrates and packed with protein and fiber. It is a good source of copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and vitamin E. While almond flour can be used as a 1-to-1 replacement for wheat flour, it will have the effect of making baked goods denser and flatter than usual.

Amaranth2,3 Amaranth flour is a gluten-free, wheat-free flour produced by grinding the seeds of the amaranth plant into a fine powder. Not only does amaranth flour contain all nine essential amino acids, but it is also a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium and phosphorus. While technically not a grain, amaranth flour is grain-like and is described as having an earthy, nutty taste.

Because it is a dense flour, you will achieve better results when blending amaranth with other flours. Start with 25 percent amaranth and adjust from there. It does best in pancakes and quick breads and can also be used to thicken roux, soups, stews and white sauces.

Arrowroot4,5 Derived from the root of the plant of the same name, arrowroot flour (also known as arrowroot starch) is a tasteless, odorless powder useful as a thickening agent.

It is far superior to cornstarch, which is often genetically engineered. It also can be used as a breading for fish and meats or blended with other gluten-free/wheat-free flours to make baked goods.

Arrowroot contains a good amount of B vitamins, iron and potassium, but no protein, which gives it superior thickening power. As such, it is often used in confections because it creates a perfectly clear gel that can stand up to acidic ingredients and freezing. Accordingly, it is often used to thicken fruit gels and fruit sauces, including cranberry sauce and sweet and sour sauce.

Coconut6,7 Coconut flour consists of the dried meat of fresh coconuts after they've been pressed to make coconut milk and most of the oil has been extracted. When used as a replacement for conventional flour, it adds a mild coconut flavor while imparting a rich texture and natural sweetness.

Coconut flour is nutritious, in part, because it boasts the highest percentage (48 percent) of dietary fiber of any flour. It's also a good source of protein, while being very low in carbohydrates. And, it's naturally gluten- and wheat-free.

You can turn standard baked goods into delicious gluten-free, low-carb paleo treats by replacing the wheat flour with coconut flour and adding eggs. On average, add one egg for every ounce of coconut flour used ­­— this will help the ingredients hold together when baked. Also, because it is very dense, you will need to slightly increase the liquids in recipes involving coconut flour.

As a general rule of thumb, you can replace one-fifth of the flour in a recipe with coconut flour without compromising the taste or texture of the finished product. For a delicious breakfast treat, check out my recipe for coconut flour almond meal pancakes.

Hemp8 Hemp flour (also known as hemp powder) is produced by milling and sifting hemp seeds after they are crushed to extract the oil. Hemp flour is gluten- and wheat-free and adds a mild, nutty flavor to baked goods. It is about 33 percent protein, making it a great source of amino acids. It is high in fiber, iron, magnesium and zinc.

This dense flour does best when combined with other alternative flours for baking. Limiting hemp powder to 25 percent of your flour blend will ensure a lighter texture, especially when baking bread. Due to its oily nature, hemp powder will go rancid unless it is refrigerated.

Millet9,10,11 Millet is an ancient, drought-resistant grain — part of the grass family — grown widely in China, India and countries surrounding the Sahara Desert in western Africa. It has a protein structure similar to wheat, but is gluten- and wheat-free. It boasts a sweet, buttery, cornmeal-like flavor.

Millet is a good source of B vitamins and offers a decent amount of copper, manganese, magnesium, potassium and zinc. That said, millet also contains goitrogens, dietary substances known to impair your thyroid and iodine metabolism.

In countries in which millet is consumed as a staple, the development of goiter is common.12,13 As such, you'll want to moderate your intake.

Sorghum14,15 Sorghum flour, which is both gluten- and wheat-free, is ground from the grain of the same name. It is an important dietary staple for some 9 million people worldwide, and is used often in Africa and India to make porridge and flat, unleavened breads. The Ethiopian flatbread called injera and a particular type of Indian roti are both made with sorghum.

Sorghum flour is a good source of antioxidants, B vitamins, fiber, iron phosphorus and protein. It has a mild, slightly sweet taste, which makes it a good addition to flour blends. It does not work well in cup-for-cup substitutions with regular flour.

Tapioca (cassava)16,17 Tapioca flour is derived from the root of the cassava plant, producing a fine white flour useful as a thickener for gravies, sauces, soups and stir-fries. Tapioca adds chewiness to gluten-free and wheat-free baked items, and can be stored at room temperature for long periods of time.

Due to its bland taste, blending tapioca with other flours is best when using it for baking. Start by using 25 percent tapioca in your gluten-free blends and adjust according to your preference. When using sorghum flour for baking, you may want to increase your liquids slightly or add an extra egg to increase moisture content. If you are a diabetic or prediabetic, tapioca, as a digestive-resistant starch, is one of the recommended superfoods for diabetics.

Two additional "flours" I want to bring to your attention are those derived from cauliflower and macadamia nuts. To me, "cauli-flour" is simply riced cauliflower that can be spiced up to make a tasty flatbread or pizza crust. You can rice cauliflower by placing pieces of raw, washed cauliflower in your food processor and blending it until it is reduced to tiny, rice-sized pieces.

If you like cauliflower, check out these delicious recipes for nutritious golden cauliflower flatbread and cauliflower pizza crust. By using cauliflower instead of grain flours in these recipes, you replace starchy carbohydrates with whole-food nutrition and cut calories, while satisfying your craving for bread.

Similar to almond flour, macadamia flour is produced by using your food processor to transform whole, raw macadamia nuts into a fine powder. Macadamia flour has a sweet, nutty taste and is a healthy gluten-free, low-carb option. Macadamia flour is lower in both carbs and protein than almond flour. For a new taste twist, you can substitute macadamia flour into recipes calling for almond flour, including the coconut-almond pancake recipe mentioned above.

12 Flours to Avoid if You Want to Minimize Harmful Lectins

The 12 flours highlighted below are often touted as healthy alternatives to wheat, especially when it comes to gluten-free diets, whether it be celiac disease or simply a matter of personal preference. While some of these alternative flours are considered nutritious solely based on the amount of fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals they contain, their health benefits may be overshadowed by the presence of harmful plant lectins.

Lectins are sugar-binding plant proteins that attach to your cell membranes and can be a hidden source of weight gain and ill health, even if you eat an otherwise healthy diet. Many lectins are proinflammatory, immunotoxic, neurotoxic and cytotoxic.

Certain lectins may also increase blood viscosity, interfere with gene expression and disrupt endocrine function. Because the following flours are high in lectins, I recommend you use them sparingly or avoid them entirely, especially if you have an autoimmune disease.

Barley18 Barley flour is made from milled whole grain barley that's had its outer husk removed. This wheat-free flour contains some gluten and has a slightly sweet, nutty flavor. Barley flour is rich in fiber. Similar to oat flour (discussed later), it contains high amounts of soluble fiber composed of indigestible sugars called beta-glucans, which have been shown to lower your blood pressure.

For best results, use barley flour in a blend with other flours, and limit it to about 25 percent of the overall mix. It can also be used to thicken or flavor soups or stews.

Buckwheat19,20 Despite its name, buckwheat (also known as kasha when its toasted) flour is not a form of wheat, but actually a relative of rhubarb. Because it is ground from seeds, buckwheat flour is both gluten- and grain-free. Due to its strong nutty taste, which can be overpowering and somewhat bitter, buckwheat flour should not stand alone in a recipe.

Buckwheat, which is a good source of calcium, fiber and protein, is a very fine flour and can be used as a substitute for cornstarch in gluten-free bread recipes. Buckwheat is a low-glycemic carbohydrate offering better satiety than wheat bread, so you'll feel fuller longer. You can replace regular flour with buckwheat flour cup-for-cup. It is said to make excellent waffles and pancakes, including Russian blinis, as well as French buckwheat crepes.

Chia21,22 Chia flour is produced from ground chia seeds and is touted as a superfood because it is a source of concentrated energy and nutrition. Chia flour boasts a high calcium, fiber, omega-3 and protein content. When baking with chia flour, you will need to increase the amount if liquids and cooking time to achieve the best results. Chia flour is gluten- and wheat-free.

Chickpea23,24 Also known as garbanzo bean flour, chickpea flour possesses a distinctive, slightly nutty taste that does not do well on its own. When substituting it for conventional flours, use very small amounts in combination with other gluten- and wheat-free flours, otherwise its distinctive taste may dominate. Chickpea flour is high in fiber, folate, manganese and protein.

Lupin25,26 Lupin flour is derived from the "sweet lupin" legume that is in the same family as peanuts and soybeans. As such, this gluten- and wheat-free flour is high in fiber and protein and low in fat. The major caution about lupin flour is the possibility it may be life-threatening if you have a peanut or soybean allergy. Similar to other gluten-free grains, lupin does best when included in a flour blend.

Oat27,28 Oat flour is made from ground oats, which can be concerning if you have celiac disease since oats are often contaminated with wheat. Even if you avoid wheat, you still need to contend with avenin, a protein in oats that is similar to gluten and therefore can have negative effects on celiac sufferers.

Oat flour is often thought to be a healthy choice because it contains high amounts of soluble fiber comprised of indigestible sugars called beta-glucans, shown to lower your blood pressure. Oat flour is well suited for baking, but absorbs liquids, so plan to increase liquid ingredients when using it. Oat flour goes rancid quickly, so store it in your refrigerator or freezer, or make small batches using a food processor.

Potato29 Potato flour and potato starch, both of which are gluten- and wheat-free, are often confused. Potato flour possesses a very strong potato flavor, as well as the heaviness of potato. For these reasons, a little goes a long way in a recipe. It also has a short shelf life, so buy it only when you plan to use it.

Potato starch, on the other hand, has a light potato flavor and a consistency similar to cornstarch or tapioca. It has a longer shelf life, is a good thickener and has a taste virtually undetectable in recipes. If you are a diabetic or prediabetic, potato starch is one of the digestive-resistant starches recommended for diabetics. Both the flour and the starch cannot stand alone in recipes, and will do better when blended with other gluten-free flours.

Quinoa30,31 Quinoa flour is produced from milled quinoa seeds. This ancient grain with a nutty flavor is both gluten- and wheat-free. It is recognized for its high amounts of lysine and isoleucine that enable it to be a complete protein source. It is one of the few plant foods containing all nine essential amino acids.

As a whole grain or flour, quinoa is particularly rich in two flavonoids, kaempferol and quercetin, which have antioxidant properties. Quinoa flour tends to dry out baked goods when used in large amounts. For that reason, it is best to use only small amounts of this flour in sweets such as muffins and quick breads.

Rice32,33 Both brown and white rice flour are gluten- and wheat-free. Brown rice flour is the heavier, grainer of the two. While it has a higher nutritional content than its white cousin, brown rice flour can be a bit grainy and heavy in some recipes. Similar to potato and tapioca, brown rice flour is one of the digestive-resistant starches recommended if you are a diabetic or prediabetic.

Brown rice flour has a slightly nutty flavor, whereas white rich flour is quite bland. Given that white rice flour is milled from polished white rice, it has very little nutritional value. Its strength is in the light texture it imparts, making it ideal in recipes such as dumplings and pizza crust.

Keep in mind that rice contains chitin-binding lectins, which are similar to wheat lectin. Because chitins are long polymers of n-acetyl-glucosamine, the primary binding target of wheat lectin, wheat lectin and chitin-binding lectin are functionally identical. Given this reality, in my opinion, a grain-free diet often yields far superior health benefits as compared to a diet focused solely on eliminating wheat- and gluten-containing grains.

Rye34,35 Rye flour is a dark flour that possesses a distinctive flavor. It is wheat-free and has a low gluten content. Breads made with rye flour tend to be denser than those made with wheat. When milled, rye flour retains the germ, endosperm and bran, making it more nutritious than refined wheat flour. Rye flour is a good source of B vitamins, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc, as well as fiber and protein.

When used in baking, rye flour, due to its lower gluten content than wheat flour, is less elastic and therefore produces bread that is less airy. Rye dough also contains more free sugars than wheat, so it ferments faster.36

Spelt37,38 Spelt flour results from the milling of an ancient grain of the same name. Spelt flour contains a low amount of gluten, but is not entirely gluten-free. It is a good source of B vitamins, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc, and rich in fiber and protein. Spelt tends to absorb more moisture than wheat flour, so you will want to reduce liquids by 25 percent when substituting it.

When using spelt flour to make bread, take care to knead it lightly otherwise it will become dense. Spelt flour produces a bread similar in color to light rye, with a slightly sweet and nutty flavor. Some varieties of crackers and pretzels are made with spelt flour.

Teff39,40 Teff flour is made from milled teff, a tiny cereal grain originating from northern Africa. Teff flour is a primary ingredient in the spongy, slightly-sour flatbread called injera that is eaten daily in countries such as Eritrea and Ethiopia.

It is both gluten- and wheat-free, with a mild, nutty flavor. Teff is an excellent source of amino acids, and is high in calcium, iron and protein. Much of its fiber is a type known as resistant starch, which has been linked to health benefits such as improved blood sugar and weight management.

Final Thoughts About Alternative Flours

Using alternative flours will require patience and can be quite a challenge. If you are living a gluten-free lifestyle — either due to celiac disease, a gluten or wheat intolerance or simply as a matter of personal preference — you will need to do some experimenting to achieve your desired outcomes. The struggles and rewards of gluten-free baking come in blending several flours, adding eggs and adjusting liquids.

The biggest adjustment, however, will be in your expectations for the finished product. No matter how many techniques and tricks you use, it is virtually impossible to replicate the elasticity of gluten in most baked goods, particularly in yeast breads. In time, however, you'll acquire a taste for denser, flatter treats made with one or more of the healthy alternative flours.

As you make a conscious choice to eat less wheat-containing foods, or perhaps to avoid wheat altogether, mainly because it is an inflammatory food, you'll be happier and healthier. I would say the same for the alternative flours containing lectins — it's better to avoid them or moderate your use. If you are looking for new ideas for gluten-free cooking and baking, check out my Healthy Gluten-Free Recipes.

KetoFast Explained


In the featured JJ Virgin Lifestyle Show podcast, I discuss my KetoFast protocol, which is the topic of my latest book by the same name. KetoFast is the term I coined to describe a protocol that combines three key strategies: a cyclical ketogenic diet, intermittent fasting and cyclical partial fasting.

In this interview, I describe how to implement the KetoFast approach, including the meal timing and the types and amounts of foods you should be adding to your plate.

“KetoFast” is the follow-up to my bestselling book “Fat for Fuel,” and I strongly recommend implementing the strategies laid out in “Fat for Fuel” first (which include daily intermittent fasting and cyclical nutritional ketosis), before you move on to “KetoFast,” in which you add partial fasting to everything you’re already doing.

Why I Wrote ‘KetoFast’

As I explain in this interview, the impetus behind “KetoFast” was two major realizations: First, that water-only fasting is a tremendously beneficial health intervention; and second, that while water-only fasting used to be an ideal strategy, the fact that modern man is so toxic makes it potentially dangerous to do extended water fasts for most.

We’re now surrounded by and exposed to some 80,000 chemicals in our environment, many of which are fat soluble, meaning they accumulate in your fat cells. Meanwhile, fasting effectively drives toxins out of fat cells, which can have devastating results if you’re severely toxic.

What’s more, since you’re not eating, you’re also not providing your body with the nutrients it needs to effectively neutralize and eliminate those released toxins.

My answer to this dilemma was to devise — based on the best scientific evidence I could find — a fasting program that mimics multiday water-only fasting, while supporting your detox pathways and minimizing the risks associated with toxicity.

The KetoFast protocol is also easier to comply with than multiday water fasting, and provides greater benefits because you’re able to do it more frequently. At most, you might do a five-day water fast 12 times a year (once a month). With the KetoFast protocol, you can do 42-hour fasts anywhere between 50 to 100 times a year.

The caveat is you need to have done at least a month of daily intermittent fasting and achieved nutritional ketosis as laid out in “Fat for Fuel” before you move on to KetoFasting. Once you’re metabolically flexible and can burn fat for fuel, the combination of cyclical nutritional ketosis and cyclical fasting is phenomenal for weight loss and optimizing your health and longevity.

Eating Too Frequently Creates Metabolic Dysfunction

In his book “Circadian Code: Lose Weight, Supercharge Your Energy and Sleep Well Every Night,” Satchidananda Panda, Ph.D., cites research showing that 90 percent of people eat across a span of 12 hours a day, and many across even longer timespans. This is a prescription for metabolic disaster, and will radically increase your risk for obesity and chronic degenerative disease over time.

Part of the problem is that when you eat throughout the day your body adapts to burning sugar as its primary fuel, which down-regulates enzymes that utilize and burn your stored fat. If you struggle to lose weight, this may well be a significant part of the problem — your body has simply lost the metabolic flexibility to burn fat for fuel.

The intermittent and partial fasting regimen described in “KetoFast” essentially mimics ancestral eating patterns, allowing your body to work optimally by allowing for periods of breakdown and cleanout, and periods of rebuilding and rejuvenation.

It’s particularly important to avoid snacking or eating a meal close to bedtime. You really want to stop eating at least three hours before you go to sleep, as feeding your body at a time when it does not need the energy fuels the creation of free radicals instead. Essentially, late-night snacking is a prescription for chronic disease and early death as it will impair your mitochondrial function.

Recent research1 shows men who eat supper at least two hours before bedtime have a 26% lower risk of prostate cancer, and women have a 16% lower risk of breast cancer than those who eat dinner closer to bedtime.2,3 This reduction in cancer risk makes sense when you consider the effect late-night eating has on your mitochondria.

Chronic inflammation is a hallmark of cancer, and by feeding your body late at night, the excess free radicals generated in your mitochondria will simply fuel that inflammation. Mitochondrial dysfunction in general has also been shown to be a central problem that allows cancer to occur. To learn more about this, see "The Metabolic Theory of Cancer and the Key to Cancer Prevention and Recovery."

Benefits of Fasting

The two primary benefits of fasting, in my view, are stem cell activation and autophagy. Stem cells play an important role in longevity as they are instrumental in repairing and rejuvenating your cells and tissues, while autophagy is your body’s innate cleanout process, by which damaged mitochondria, proteins and cells are digested and eliminated.

By upregulating autophagy and mitophagy (autophagy in your mitochondria)4 and boosting stem cells you will lower your risk of most diseases, including cancer5 and neurodegeneration.6

Nutrient composition is important here, and in the book, I provide details on how to optimize the autophagy and stem cell activation processes by eating certain foods (and avoiding others) at the right time. Aside from autophagy and stem cell activation, fasting is known to provide many other health benefits, including:7,8,9,10,11

Releasing ketones into your bloodstream, which help preserve brain function and protect against epileptic seizures, cognitive impairment12 and other neurodegenerative diseases

Boosting production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which stimulates creation of new brain cells and triggers brain chemicals that protect against brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease13,14

Increasing growth hormone by as much as 1,300 percent in women and 2,000 percent in men,15 thereby promoting muscle development and vitality

Lowering insulin and improving your insulin sensitivity; studies have shown intermittent fasting can both prevent and reverse Type 2 diabetes, which is rooted in insulin resistance16,17,18,19

Increasing levels of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which helps your body break down fat to be used as fuel and benefits your metabolism20,21,22

Boosting mitochondrial energy efficiency and biosynthesis

Lowering oxidative stress and inflammation23

Improving circulating glucose24 and lipid levels

Reducing blood pressure

Improving metabolic efficiency and body composition, modulating levels of dangerous visceral fat and significantly reducing body weight in obese individuals

Reproducing some of the cardiovascular benefits associated with exercise

Regenerating the pancreas25 and improve pancreatic function, reversing diabetes

Protecting against cardiovascular disease

Reducing low-density lipoprotein and total cholesterol

Improving immune function26

Synchronizing your body’s biological clocks27

Eliminating sugar cravings as your body adapts to burning fat instead of sugar

Increasing longevity — There are a number of mechanisms contributing to this effect. Normalizing insulin sensitivity is a major one, but fasting also inhibits the mTOR pathway, which plays an important part in driving the aging process

Summary of KetoFast Protocol

The following is a summary of my KetoFast protocol, which is, of course, expounded upon in my book. The first step is to compress your daily eating window to six to eight hours for at least four weeks, meaning you eat all of your calories for the day during those six to eight hours, and for the remaining 16 to 18 hours, you’re fasting. This is your base.

Once you’ve followed this intermittent fasting schedule for a month — at which point you’ll have restored your metabolic flexibility to burn fat for fuel — you can move into the second phase, which involves having a single reduced-calorie meal, ideally breakfast, followed by a 24-hour water-only fast, once or twice a week.

This meal will typically be somewhere between 300 and 500 calories. To determine how many calories you should have at this meal, first calculate your lean body mass by subtracting your percent body fat from 100. (So, if you have 20% body fat, you have 80% lean body mass.)

Then multiply that percentage (in this case, 0.8) by your current total body weight to get your lean body mass in pounds (or kilos). Next, multiply your lean body mass in pounds/kilos by 3.5. This is the number of calories you’ll want to eat for that meal.

Nutrient Ratios During KetoFasting

By eating just that one 300- to 500-calorie meal and then fasting for 24 hours, you essentially end up having eaten once in 42 hours. This will effectively allow your body to deplete the glycogen stores in your liver.

Even when you’re intermittently fasting for 16 to 18 hours, you still have plenty of glycogen left, but when you fast for 42 hours, glycogen will be completely depleted, sending autophagy soaring. And, you can do this twice a week! Now, what should these 300 to 500 calories consist of? Ideally:

Carbs — Less than 10 grams of net carbohydrates (total carbs minus fiber) so as not to replete your glycogen stores. Primarily, your carbs would then be nonstarchy vegetables, seeds or nuts.

Protein — Half of your personalized daily protein requirement. If you’re younger than 60, a general recommendation for your daily protein requirement would be 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of lean body mass, or 0.5 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass. Let’s say your daily protein requirement is 80 grams. For this meal, you’d cut that in half to 40 grams.

The key here is not just lowering your overall protein intake but rather restricting your intake of branched-chain amino acids such as leucine, found primarily in meat and dairy products.

The reason you want to restrict branched-chain amino acids at this meal is because they activate mTOR and inhibit autophagy — essentially blocking the very cleanout process you’re trying to activate through fasting. You can learn more about mTOR and autophagy in my interview with Dr. Jason Fung.

An ideal form of protein to include in this meal is collagen, which provides great support for your connective tissue. Chlorella is another excellent protein you can include.

Fat — The remainder of your calories come from healthy fats such as coconut oil, avocado, MCT oil, butter, olive oil and raw nuts.

After Your Fast, Feast!

The day after you’ve completed your 42-hour KetoFast is the perfect time to do hardcore strength training, and to load up on your protein. Immediately after is when you’ll want to eat that grass fed organic steak and/or whey protein, as now you’re in rebuilding mode, so you actually want and need to activate mTOR to build new muscle mass.

As mentioned, mTOR, governs growth and inhibits autophagy. In this way, KetoFasting allows you to really feast twice a week as well, which counters any feelings of deprivation you might have during fasting, and this may significantly improve adherence.

An Introduction to Ulcerative Colitis


The large intestine is partly responsible for allowing good bowel movement, which is something that most people usually take for granted. But as with other parts of the body, your large intestine can also encounter its fair share of problems over time.

If you’ve been experiencing abdominal cramps that are accompanied by bloody diarrhea or the urge to frequently empty your bowels, then it’s likely that your large intestine is no longer in good shape, and you may be suffering from a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) known as ulcerative colitis.1 To fully understand this disease, let us first discuss what the large intestine is and how it works.

Understanding the Large Intestine

The large intestine is the final segment of the gastrointestinal tract. It’s a tubular structure with a length of about 5 feet and a diameter of approximately 3 inches.2 The primary function of this essential body part is to absorb water from undigested food to form a solid stool. It also aids in the absorption of vitamins and production of antibodies.3 There are different parts that make up the large intestine, and each one performs a specific function. These include:4,5,6

  1. Cecum — This is a pouch-like section that’s 2 inches long and found at the beginning of the large intestine. It absorbs the digestive fluids from the digestive waste that comes out of the small intestine.
  2. Appendix — This is a vestigial organ that’s located at the bottom the cecum.
  3. Colon — Some people use the term “colon” to refer to the entire large intestine, but this is actually just a part of it, and is where the majority of water absorption takes place. It’s also divided into four sections, namely ascending, transverse, descending and sigmoid colons.
  4. Rectum — Found at the end of the large intestine, the rectum is where the residual waste accumulates.
  5. Anus — The external opening at the end of the rectum through which stool leaves the body.

The entire large intestine will be compromised if one of its parts malfunctions. This may result in various medical problems that range from something as simple as intestinal gas to serious conditions like ulcerative colitis.7

What Happens When You Have Ulcerative Colitis?

Ulcerative colitis is a chronic IBD that causes the colon and rectum to become inflamed and develop ulcers or small open sores, which produce pus and mucus. It may also cause inflammation outside the intestine, particularly on the skin, joints and eyes.8

The exact culprit behind this disease is still unknown, but researchers believe that it’s a result of an overactive immune response. It’s also hard to predict when this disease is active since the remission period may last up to several years, only to be interrupted by an occasional flare-up just when you least expect it. The symptoms may vary from mild abdominal pain to excessive amounts of blood in stools, which may even require a blood transfusion.9,10

Ulcerative Colitis Can Be Controlled

Living with ulcerative colitis can be very hard. The urgent bowel movement that it causes can be embarrassing. On top of that, you also have to deal with abdominal pain, digestive disorders and other severe symptoms that may interfere with your daily life.

There is no permanent cure for ulcerative colitis yet, but there are holistic treatments and techniques that can help you control its symptoms, as well as achieve and maintain remission for a long period of time. Since it is a life-long disease, it usually requires ongoing treatment methods that are specifically suited for the type of ulcerative colitis that you have and the severity of your symptoms.11

Expanding your knowledge about this disease may also help you manage and avoid any possible complications that it may lead to. These pages contain helpful information about ulcerative colitis so you can learn more about its warning signs, the possible causes behind it, its different types and the recommended diet and treatment methods to keep flare-ups from occurring.


Ulcerative Colitis: Introduction

What Is Ulcerative Colitis?

Ulcerative Colitis Symptoms

Ulcerative Colitis Causes

Types of Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative Colitis Treatment

Ulcerative Colitis Prevention

Ulcerative Colitis Diet

Ulcerative Colitis FAQ

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What Is Ulcerative Colitis?

Delectable Keto Coconut Cacao Nests


Recipe by: Jennafer Ashley

Every year, children and chocolate-lovers alike enjoy brightly decorated chocolate Easter eggs to celebrate  Easter Sunday. Unfortunately, chocolate Easter eggs bought from supermarkets are often made from processed chocolate and loaded with excessive amounts of sugar that can put you or your loved ones at risk of chronic metabolic diseases.

If you’re looking for a healthy, guilt-free Easter treat that the whole family can enjoy, this Keto Coconut Cacao Nests recipe from Jennafer Ashley of Paleohacks is a must-try! Not only does this delectable dessert look adorable with its crunchy chocolate nest and macadamia “eggs,” but it’s rich in antioxidants and healthy fats, too.

Keto Coconut Cacao Nests Recipe

Servings: 6
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup raw cacao powder
1 teaspoon luo han guo (monk fruit) or stevia
2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
12 macadamia nutsProcedure:


  • Melt the coconut oil in a double boiler.
  • Stir in the raw cacao powder and monk fruit (or stevia); mix until smooth.
  • Remove the broiler from heat, and then stir in the shredded coconut.
  • Spoon the mixture into six muffin tins with paper liners. Create a divot in the center of each “nest” with a spoon, then freeze for 10 minutes.
  • Once hardened, place two macadamia nuts in the center of each nest and serve.

This Coconut-Filled  Dessert Benefits Your Health in Various Ways

Coconut meat is an excellent source of dietary fiber — a high intake of which may help lower your  risk for coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension, obesity and digestive diseases based on a study published in the journal Nutrition Reviews. It’s also a good source of manganese —  a mineral that plays an important role in bone formation and metabolism of amino acids, carbs and lipids. It is from this meat that coconut oil is extracted.

There are currently more than 2,000 studies on coconut oil’s discuss  long list of uses and benefits. The primary compounds that give coconut oil its health advantage are medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), a type of saturated fat that’s readily available to use for energy in your body and can even cross your blood-brain barrier.

Coconut oil is also found to have antioxidant, antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiobesity, antihypertensive and antimicrobial properties. Plus, it may help:

  • Promote heart health — Studies show that in regions  where coconut oil has been consumed as a part of a standard diet, people were found to have lower rates of cardiovascular disease. ,
  • Support healthy brain function — According to a 2015 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, coconut oil provides the brain with a healthier energy source in the form of ketones, which are produced when its MCTs are absorbed and metabolized by the liver.
  • Boost immune health — Animal studies suggest the antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties of coconut oil may help protect your gut against harmful pathogens and inflammation.
  • Shed excess body fat — A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that replacing long-chain triglycerides (LCTs) with MCTs in a diet helps reduce body weight without adversely affecting lipid profiles.
  • Improve oral health — The antimicrobial and antiseptic properties of coconut oil make it suitable for oil pulling. It also contains lauric acid, which may react with the alkalis in the saliva to produce a sodium laureate-soap like substance, which has cleaning action and may help reduce plaque adhesion and accumulation.
  • Fight against yeast infection — Research  shows that coconut oil exhibits antimicrobial activity against Candida species, making it useful for the treatment of fungal infections.

Macadamias Are a Nutritional Powerhouse

Macadamia nuts are one of my favorite nuts, as they contain the highest amount of healthy fats among nuts, yet they’re lower in protein and carbohydrates than other nuts. They also have the best omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, and are a good source of antioxidant flavonoids, dietary fiber, manganese, thiamin, magnesium, copper and phosphorous. Some of the benefits of macadamia nuts include:

  •  Promoting healthy heart function by lowering bad cholesterol levels
  • Providing antioxidants that help fight free radicals
  • Providing dietary fiber to help support healthy digestion and gut health
  •  Promoting healthy brain function
  • Supporting skeletal health
  • Helping to inhibit inflammation

Using Raw Cacao Powder Makes All the Difference in This Recipe

Raw cacao powder is close to the natural raw state of cacao, so it still contains the valuable polyphenols — catechins, epicathechins and procyanidins — that give chocolate its powerful antioxidant properties. These polyphenols also account for raw cacao’s bitter taste.

To make chocolate more palatable, manufacturers often remove their polyphenol content and add in large quantities of sugar. However, this process strips most of chocolate’s health benefits. So, if you’re after the nutritional value of cacao, using raw cacao powder is your best bet. If you do not have this on hand, look for a chocolate that has a high cacao and low sugar content. Steer clear of milk chocolates and white chocolates, as they contain excessive amounts of sweeteners.

Why Should Luo Han Guo or Stevia Be Your Choice of Sweetener?

Luo han guo and stevia have become known as healthy alternatives to sugar and artificial sweeteners, and for good reason. The extract of luo han guo is 150 to 250 times sweeter than your usual table sugar, yet it does not cause spikes in blood sugar levels.

Stevia, which is naturally 200 to 400 times sweeter than sugar, also does not have drastic effects on blood sugar levels and may even provide additional health benefits. However, this does not mean that it’s OK to consume too much stevia or luo han guo. I still recommend that you use these natural sweeteners in moderation, just as you would sugar.

About the Blog

Paleohacks is one of the largest Paleo communities on the web. They offer everything Paleo, from a Q&A forum where users get their top health questions answered, to a community blog featuring daily recipes, workouts and wellness content. You can also tune in to their podcast, where they bring in the top experts in the Paleo world to share the latest, cutting-edge health information.

Smell, Our Most Underestimated Sense


We humans do not appreciate our sense of smell. Compared to other senses like vision and hearing, we tend to ignore the information from our sense of smell with the exception of flowers, food being prepared and, of course, those lucky people who have discovered aromatherapy.

But according to a recent documentary, "Smell — Our Most Underestimated Sense," our sense of smell affects us much more than we realize. Certainly, we know that it protects us from dangers like fire because we smell the smoke, explosions because we smell natural gas and food poisoning because we smell spoilage. But few realize our sense of smell also lets us "read" other people much like dogs "read" each other by sniffing.

Of course, the olfactory read that humans conduct is not as obvious as that of dogs sniffing but, according to this film, people will oftentimes sniff their hands after shaking hands with someone new, indicating that important information has been gained. The sense of smell also helps newborns bond with their mothers, and "smell dysfunction" can impair such bonding.

Nevertheless, smell is so underappreciated people interviewed in the documentary said they would rather lose it than their "access to technology," such as their smart phones. If you're inclined to agree, after watching this remarkable documentary, you just might change your mind.

Aromatherapy Takes a Clue From Nature

I am a big believer in aromatherapy, which is based on the use of essential oils, also called volatile oils. In addition to inducing relaxation and sleep, and reducing blood pressure1 and stress, aromatherapy may be beneficial for depression,2 anxiety,3 dementia4 and pain relief.5

According to "Smell — Our Most Underestimated Sense," plants and flowers also use these healing fragrances for themselves! For example, flowers deliberately emit the chemical signals of a female bee so that the male bee will "mate" with the flower and pollinate it. Certain birds, butterflies, bats, moths and even honey possum also pollinate flowers.

The irreplaceable services of these pollinators are seriously threatened by pesticides and chemicals, posing an environmental crisis. It is important to remember that every time you shop for organic food you vote against these harmful chemicals that are creeping into our daily life.

Interestingly, the least pretty flowers are often the most fragrant ones, because they cannot rely on their visual beauty to attract pollinators says the documentary, Moreover, plants can emit odors to warn other plants of impending insect attacks, just as animals warn others about imminent predators.

Sensing Others Through Our Sense of Smell

Many have heard of the phenomenon of menstrual synchrony in which women who live or work together can begin to have their periods at the same time.6 In a T-shirt sniff study, says the documentary, women's testosterone levels changed in response to the scent of another woman, depending on where that woman was in her monthly cycle — though, of course, the women were not consciously aware of this.

Paul Moore, a professor at Bowling Green State University who specializes in chemical ecology and the role chemical signals play in an organism's ecological role, explains the reaction like this:7

"The chemical senses, I call them ninjas — they're hidden. So, they go into our brain, and we're not aware of it, we're not conscious of it, so it makes us respond emotionally, respond physiologically, before we actually think about the response. So, it's very subtle and it's very hidden ...

Testosterone is tied very much to social dominance and in competitiveness and aggression. And up-regulating or down-regulating testosterone through chemical signals could change your competitiveness."

Why would this happen? From an evolutionary standpoint, fertility could be governed by a competition won by dominant females so that less "alpha" females would cease to compete for males at a certain time.

The Hidden Powers of a Handshake

Our sense of smell does not just determine sexual rivals and fertility competition. In one study cited by the documentary, a hidden camera filmed people meeting strangers for the first time and sometimes shaking their hands. Greeters who shook hands smelled their hands afterward twice as often as those who didn't shake hands, presumably accessing the "information" the handshake gleaned.

Shaking hands is likely a human version of dogs sniffing each other — a way of acquiring a lot of social information in one quick impression, says Moore. When dogs sniff each other upon meeting, for example:

"They're sniffing and saying, 'Oh, I played with you last week. You're a good dog to play with,' or 'I smell you from last week. You were a little mean, so I'm not going to play with you.' They're going to pick up their dominant status, social status, their reproductive status, what they've eaten. All that kind of stuff that you and I would share in a conversation with words, they share with chemical signals. Their whole world is sense of smell."

Man's Best Friend Can Save Our Lives

One of the most dramatic facts shared in "Smell — Our Most Underestimated Sense," is dogs' proven ability to detect cancer in humans from subtle smells in breath, skin and more. Dogs have up to 300 million receptor nerve cells that detect smell (compared to 5 million in humans) and some dogs have been successfully trained to detect human cancers.

In a 2015 study published in the Israel Medical Association Journal,8 two dogs picked out the breast cancer cell cultures that they had been trained to detect 100 percent of the time. These "detective" dogs even picked out cancer specimens they were not trained to detect, but they never picked out control (noncancer) specimens, meaning "false positives," which plague diagnostic methods that are more high-tech than dogs.

The dogs picked out early-stage cancer as well as advanced cancer with amazing accuracy and specificity — a skill that would clearly save lives. In a 2017 study published in the European Journal of Cardio-Thoracic Surgery,9 a trained dog was also able to detect early lung cancer from the exhaled breath of patients with remarkable accuracy. Here is what the researchers wrote:

"After appropriate training, we exposed the dog (a 3-year-old cross-breed between a Labrador retriever and a pitbull) to 390 samples of exhaled gas collected from 113 individuals (85 patients with LC [lung cancer] and 28 controls, which included 11 patients without LC and 17 healthy individuals) for a total of 785 times.

The trained dog recognized LC in exhaled gas with a sensitivity of 0.95, a specificity of 0.98, a positive predictive value of 0.95 and a negative predictive value of 0.98."

Other Cancers Are Being Detected by Dogs

Canine olfactory abilities are also being studied in the screening for colorectal cancer (CRC) which takes the lives of approximately 50,630 Americans per year.10 This is what researchers writing in a 2010 article in BMJ said:11

"Among patients with CRC and controls, the sensitivity of canine scent detection of breath samples compared with conventional diagnosis by colonoscopy was 0.91 and the specificity was 0.99.

The sensitivity of canine scent detection of stool samples was 0.97 and the specificity was 0.99. The accuracy of canine scent detection was high even for early cancer. Canine scent detection was not confounded by current smoking, benign colorectal disease or inflammatory disease."

Such noninvasive and economical methods for early detection of colorectal cancer that avoid colonoscopy are sorely needed. Currently the occult blood test is one of the few affordable tests in the doctors' colorectal cancer arsenal.

Dogs can also detect the specific volatile organic compounds associated with prostate cancer in urine samples with high estimated sensitivity and specificity according to a 2015 study.12

And, in a 2013 study, dogs correctly identified all 42 blood samples of patients with ovarian cancer, achieving an accuracy rate of 100 percent.13 Even more encouraging, the dogs could determine whether cancer cells remained after surgery, which is crucially important since doctors generally cannot determine if residual cancer cells remain.

How Were Dogs' Medical Abilities Discovered?

How did an awareness of such canine abilities and their possible use in medicine develop? Here is how the researchers trace the origins of such dog detections:

"The idea of using a dog's olfactory sense for the early detection of cancer was first raised by Williams and Pembroke and reported in The Lancet in 1989. These authors described the case of a patient who visited the clinic because her dog showed a particular interest in a skin nevus she had. Following its excision, the pathological examination revealed malignant melanoma."

A 2013 case report in BMJ (previously the British Medical Journal) reported a similar phenomenon.14

"Our patient is a 75-year-old man who presented after his pet dog licked persistently at an asymptomatic lesion behind his right ear. Examination revealed a nodular lesion in the postauricular sulcus. Histology confirmed malignant melanoma, which was subsequently excised."

Another Important Function of Our Sense of Smell

Do you like different flavored jelly beans? People tasting them in "Smell — Our Most Underestimated Sense" quickly discovered that most of the "taste" was from their sense of smell not their sense of taste. When they were asked to pinch their noses, most tasted nothing.

One subject said he tasted "nothing so far." Another said, the jelly bean had "like, a sweetness, but I don't know the flavor." Once the subjects unpinched their noses they could describe the exact flavor of the jelly bean — which was really a smell. The loss of smell had a profound effect on Anna Barnes, featured in the documentary.

"I had a bad hit to the head, so I was kind of recovering from that. And then about a week afterwards, I thought, 'Hold on, something's not quite right here.' It became very clear to me, when I was well enough to go outside, that I'd lost my smell, because back then, the sewerage was open sewerage.

So, I lost my appetite for the first, I would say, four months. I was kind of retraining myself to remember, 'Oh, no, you have to eat' ...

When I lost my taste, fruit tasted for me, terrible. It's just gross. Fruit just tastes really slimy. It's all about texture ... I also had some early, you know, mix-ups, of accidentally drinking vodka, thinking it was water. And, you know, all the kind of stereotypical things that I guess people worry about."

It is clear that from "reading" other people to determining dangers to our enjoyment of food, our sense of smell is crucial — and certainly more important than our access to technology if we were asked to choose. Just as eye-opening is the ability of man's best friends to use their olfactory natural abilities to detect cancers as accurately as the most high-tech machines.

Astaxanthin: The Super Antioxidant That Comes From the Ocean


Antioxidants play an important role in promoting health by protecting your body from free radicals, which are molecules that interfere with the function of your organs, resulting in damage.1 In this regard, many people do their best to increase their intake of well-known antioxidants such as vitamin C and E, as well as flavonoids from plants. But sometimes, this is simply not enough.2

What if there is a certain antioxidant that trumps everything else? The answer you're looking for isn't found in a vegetable or a fruit, but from deep within the ocean: astaxanthin.

Astaxanthin, commonly called "King of the Carotenoids," is a naturally occurring substance found in a specific type of microalgae, as well as certain seafood. In addition, its red color is responsible for turning the flesh of salmon, crab, lobster and shrimp pink.3 The research regarding this antioxidant is promising, as it has shown that astaxanthin possesses a variety of health benefits.

The Best Astaxanthin Comes From Microalgae

You may have seen some astaxanthin supplements sold in your local health store. Be vigilant in reading the product labels because some of them are made using synthetic ingredients. Of course, you want to avoid these products because they're made using petrochemicals obtained from petroleum and natural gas.

If you want real astaxanthin, it must be straight from the source, which is the Haematococcus pluvialis microalgae. This type of algae produces the antioxidant once its water supply dries up, and goes into survival mode to protect itself from sunlight, ultraviolet radiation and low nutrition. Astaxanthin is a result of this process. In addition, there are several foods that contain generous amounts of astaxanthin, mainly seafood that consume the microalgae, such as:4

Astaxanthin is also available in various dosages. If you choose to go the supplement route, I strongly recommend getting the ones made from the Haematococcus pluvialis microalgae, not the ones made from petrochemicals. This ensures that you're getting the legitimate benefits the antioxidant is known for, as well as safeguarding your health.

Studies Regarding the Benefits of Astaxanthin

Astaxanthin is quite possibly one of the most valuable antioxidants you can ever take advantage of. Research about this substance is continually growing, and the results are very promising, such as:5

Improved Antioxidant Profile — One standout feature of astaxanthin is that it is 550 times stronger than vitamin E and 6,000 times more potent than vitamin C. In addition, it is 10 times more effective than zeaxanthin, lutein, canthaxanthin and beta-carotene.6

Research has shown that this antioxidant may benefit your health in important ways. In one example, astaxanthin exhibited digestive-protective properties in rats affected with gastric ulcers.7

Hearing Protection — Astaxanthin may benefit your hearing by raising your neurotrophin-3 (NT3) levels, a protein that plays a role in the communication between your ears and your brain. A study was able to support this hypothesis when researchers discovered that astaxanthin helped reverse hearing loss in mice.8

Management of Diabetes — Researchers suggest that astaxanthin may benefit diabetics by reducing oxidative stress in their pancreatic cells caused by high blood sugar levels, as well as improve glucose and serum insulin levels.9

Reduced Risk of Cardiovascular Disease — Taking astaxanthin regularly may reduce the risk of inflammation in your cardiovascular system.

In one study, participants who took 12 milligrams of astaxanthin per day were able to decrease the presence of C-reactive protein in their body, which is an indicator of inflammation. In another study, Sprague Dawley rats affected with myocardia had a reduced infarct size once astaxanthin was administered.10

Anticancer Properties — Astaxanthin has been shown to have potential in fighting cancer. Experts believe that the antioxidant works by decreasing mutagenesis and carcinogenesis by inhibiting oxidative damage to cells.

Furthermore, it restores cell-to-cell communication to help decrease tumor proliferation. In one example, astaxanthin exhibited growth-inhibitory effects in human colon cancer cells.11

Immune System Boost — Your immune system is constantly attacked by free radicals, and astaxanthin can help turn the situation around.

Reports strongly suggest that astaxanthin showed higher immunomodulating effects compared to beta-carotene, as well as enhanced antibody production and decreased humoral immune response.12,13

Better Eye Health — A few studies suggest that astaxanthin may help protect your eye from various conditions, such as:


Age-related macular degeneration


Inflammatory eye diseases

Diabetic retinopathy

Neuroprotective Effects — Several studies suggest that astaxanthin may be a powerful tool in maintaining brain health, thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. In one example, 10 elderly participants who took 12 milligrams of astaxanthin daily for 12 weeks displayed improved cognitive and psychomotor function.14

Side Effects of Astaxanthin Are Practically Nonexistent

One of the most interesting things about astaxanthin is that it is completely safe to consume, even at doses as high as 500 milligrams per day. The only documented side effect is a slight reddening of the skin, which can only occur if you increase your dosage. In any case, I still recommend that you visit a doctor to help assuage any concerns you might have before taking the supplement.

Astaxanthin Supplements Can Benefit Most People, but Consuming It Naturally May Be Better

Based on published data, it's clear that astaxanthin has strong potential for helping optimize your health in a convenient manner when taken as a supplement. However, it may be more beneficial to consume astaxanthin using a natural approach via the foods where it is commonly found.

For example, wild-caught Alaskan salmon is one of the most nutritious foods you can add to your diet. Aside from astaxanthin, it is rich in omega-3 fatty acids that can provide a wealth of benefits to your overall well-being, such as decreased risk of coronary heart disease and arrhythmia. Almost anyone can benefit from omega-3 fatty acids, as it is an essential nutrient that must be obtained through your diet. Going with a natural approach is essentially hitting two birds with one stone.

Frequently Asked Questions About Astaxanthin

Q: Should I take astaxanthin?

A: There's plenty of research that supports the potential health benefits of astaxanthin to your health. In other words, chances are high that taking astaxanthin will help optimize your health.

Q: What is astaxanthin used for?

A: Astaxanthin is generally taken to help improve the antioxidant profile in your system as well as helping lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, among other things.15

Q: What does astaxanthin do for the body?

A: Research has shown that astaxanthin may help manage diabetes, lower your risk of heart disease and cancer, and boost your immune system and antioxidant profile.16

Q: Is astaxanthin safe to take?

A: Yes, but this only applies to natural astaxanthin that comes from microalgae. Synthetic astaxanthin must be avoided.

Q: How do I take astaxanthin properly?

A: Astaxanthin supplements should be taken alongside foods rich in healthy fats to help improve absorption. This antioxidant may also be obtained naturally through seafood, such as wild-caught Alaskan salmon.


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