Could Most COVID-19 Deaths Have Been Prevented?

In recent weeks and months, there’s been an upshot of studies1 demonstrating the benefits of vitamin D against COVID-19. The evidence is so compelling, more than 100 doctors, scientists and leading authorities have signed an open letter2 calling for increased use of vitamin D in the fight against COVID-19.

“Research shows low vitamin D levels almost certainly promote COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. Given its safety, we call for immediate widespread increased vitamin D intakes,” the letter states, adding:“Vitamin D modulates thousands of genes and many aspects of immune function, both innate and adaptive. The scientific evidence shows that:

Higher vitamin D blood levels are associated with lower rates of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Higher D levels are associated with lower risk of a severe case (hospitalization, ICU, or death).

Intervention studies (including RCTs) indicate that vitamin D can be a very effective treatment. Many papers reveal several biological mechanisms by which vitamin D influences COVID-19.

Causal inference modelling, Hill’s criteria, the intervention studies & the biological mechanisms indicate that vitamin D’s influence on COVID-19 is very likely causal, not just correlation.”

The letter recommends taking enough vitamin D to achieve a blood level of at least 30 ng/mL (75 nmol/L). They also urge testing of all hospitalized COVID-19 patients and adding vitamin D to the treatment protocol for any patient whose level is below 30 ng/mL. Many other doctors are also urging government health agencies to get onboard with vitamin D recommendations. As reported by NL Times:4

“‘There is a growing consensus in the scientific world about the important role of vitamin D,’ says Manfred Eggersdorfer, professor of Healthy Aging at the University Medical Center Groningen. He argues that ‘it can reduce the chance that you will get corona and the infection can last shorter.’

The wait-and-see attitude adopted by governments does not sit well in the scientific community. Professor of immunology at Wageningen University, Huub Savelkoul, called the attitude ‘frustrating.’

He states that ‘there are more and more studies showing the benefit of vitamin D. I think it is a kind of arrogance that the government wants to wait for a meta-study first. It seems as if we don’t care that people come to the hospital and die in the meantime. You have to be careful with that comment, but that’s where my frustration lies.'”

Vitamin D Optimization Is Powerful Prevention

In a December 23, 2020, Fox News interview5,6 (above), Dr. Peter Osborne with the Origins Nutrition Center stated that the most recent studies suggest 9 out of 10 COVID-19 deaths could have been prevented had people had adequate vitamin D levels.

While I suspect this might be an overestimation, there’s no doubt in my mind that optimizing vitamin D levels among the general population would significantly lower COVID-19 incidence and death.

“At the East Virginia School of Medicine there’s a COVID protocol that includes Vitamin D,” Osborne said. “So, if you’re hospitalized for COVID, they’re automatically putting you on between 20,000 and 60,000 units of vitamin D. This is part of their standard of care protocol in that hospital system.”

Osborne also recommends using vitamin C and zinc, as well as quercetin, which allows for greater zinc absorption. Quercetin also boosts type 1 interferon, which signals infected cells to produce proteins that stop the virus from replicating, and works synergistically with vitamin C. This is all good advice. As noted in a December 2020 Frontiers in Nutrition review:7

“… Zinc and vitamins C and D stand out for having immunomodulatory functions and for playing roles in preserving physical tissue barriers. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the adequate intake of zinc and vitamins C and D may represent a promising pharmacological tool due to the high demand for these nutrients in the case of contact with the virus and onset of the inflammatory process.”

However, vitamin D is not my first choice for acute illness that requires immediate treatment. While high-dose vitamin D loading may be helpful in some respects, my No. 1 choice for treating acute respiratory illness is nebulized hydrogen peroxide, which I’ll discuss at the end of this article. It goes to work immediately, while vitamin D requires time, at bare minimum, days, to make a difference.

With respect to preventing COVID-19 deaths, I strongly believe that nebulized hydrogen peroxide could easily prevent at least 90% of the deaths if administered properly. It deeply saddens me to see so many die needlessly because they don’t use this incredibly inexpensive and safe therapy.

Vitamin D Improves COVID-19 Outcomes

Now, bear in mind that prevention and treatment are not the same. I firmly believe that vitamin D optimization will help prevent COVID-19 infection and reduce your risk of severe symptoms should you contract it.

In fact, I launched an information campaign about vitamin D back in June 2020, which included the release of a downloadable scientific report that detailed the science behind vitamin D. This report, as well as a two-minute COVID risk quiz is available on StopCovidCold.com.

There’s also evidence to show high-dose vitamin D loading can improve COVID-19 outcomes even in acute and severe cases. According to a December 2020 randomized, double-blind study8 in the European Journal of Integrative Medicine, giving critically ill COVID-19 patients high doses of vitamin D significantly reduced the number of days they had to spend in the ICU. They were also less likely to need ventilation. According to the authors:9

“Thirty patients completed the study. The results show that injection of vitamin D leads to a significant increase in the mean changes of vitamin D level on the seventh day of the study and TAC [total antioxidant capacity] levels.

ICU length of stay was 18.3±8.4 and 25.4±6.6 days in the intervention and placebo arms of the study. Twelve patients in the placebo group and 5 in the vitamin D group died within the 28-day study period. The duration of mechanical ventilation was 15.7± 9.3 vs. 22.6± 9.1 days in vitamin D and placebo arms, respectively.”

Similarly, a mathematical reanalysis10 of a calcifediol trial concluded there’s a “strong role for vitamin D in reducing ICU admissions of hospitalized COVID-19 patients.” The analysis looked at data from an earlier trial11 done on hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Córdoba, Spain. As explained by the authors of the analysis:12

… the treatment was associated with reduced ICU admissions with very large effect size and high statistical significance, but the study has had limited impact because it had only 76 patients and imperfect blinding, and did not measure vitamin D levels pre- and post-treatment or adjust for several comorbidities.”

In an effort to account for these shortcomings, they reanalyzed the data using statistical techniques, concluding that “the randomization, large effect size, and high statistical significance address many of these concerns.”

For starters, they found that “random assignment of patients to treatment and control groups is highly unlikely to distribute comorbidities or other prognostic indicators sufficiently unevenly to account for the large effect size.”

They also demonstrated that the imperfect blinding did not have a negative impact, as it would have had to have “an implausibly large effect to account for the reported results.”

To double-check their findings, they also compared the data with two other randomized clinical trials of vitamin D supplementation for COVID-19, one from India and another from Brazil. In conclusion, the authors stated that:

“… the Córdoba study provides sufficient evidence to warrant immediate, well-designed pivotal clinical trials of early calcifediol administration in a broader cohort of inpatients and outpatients with COVID-19.”

Irish Experts Call for Increased Recognition of Vitamin D

In addition to the open letter mentioned earlier, the Irish Covit-D Consortium is also calling for greater use of vitamin D against COVID-19, citing evidence showing it can lower the risk of death from COVID-19 in the elderly by as much as 700%.13

In a position statement14 published in the Irish Journal of Medical Science, the team urges health professionals and policy-makers “to recognize the importance of enhanced vitamin D in … the optimization of immune response” and to “Develop explicit population guidance and clinical protocols for vitamin D supplementation at … effective doses.” As reported by the Herald:15

“Dr. Dan McCartney, programme director of Human Nutrition and Dietetics at TU Dublin and Trinity College Dublin, said ‘the accumulation of evidence linking low vitamin D levels and COVID-19 is now considerable.

This evidence includes studies which show an increased risk of infection in those with low vitamin D levels and a 25 to 30-fold reduced risk of ICU admission and a substantial reduction risk of death in older COVID-19 patients supplemented with vitamin D.'”

Vitamin D Speeds Viral Clearance

Another recent study,16 published in November 2020 in the Postgraduate Medical Journal, looked at oral vitamin D supplementation on SARS-CoV-2 viral clearance. This study included only asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic SARS-CoV-2-positive individuals who also had vitamin D deficiency (a vitamin D blood level below 20 ng/mL).

Participants were randomly assigned to receive either 60,000 IUs of oral cholecalciferol (nano-liquid droplets) or a placebo for seven days. The target blood level was 50 ng/mL. Anyone who had not achieved a blood level of 50 ng/mL after the first seven days continued to receive the supplement until they reached the target level.

Periodically, all participants were tested for SARS-CoV-2 as well as fibrinogen, D-dimer, procalcitonin and CRP, all of which are inflammatory markers. The primary outcome measure of the study was the proportion of patients testing negative for COVID-19 before day 21 of the study, as well as changes in inflammatory markers. As reported by the authors:17

“Forty SARS-CoV-2 RNA positive individuals were randomized to intervention (n=16) or control (n=24) group. Baseline serum 25(OH)D was 8.6 and 9.54 ng/mL, in the intervention and control group, respectively.

10 out of 16 patients could achieve 25(OH)D>50 ng/ml by day-7 and another two by day-14 … 10 (62.5%) participants in the intervention group and 5 (20.8%) participants in the control arm became SARS-CoV-2 RNA negative. Fibrinogen levels significantly decreased with cholecalciferol supplementation unlike other inflammatory biomarkers.

[A] greater proportion of vitamin D-deficient individuals with SARS-CoV-2 infection turned SARS-CoV-2 RNA negative with a significant decrease in fibrinogen on high-dose cholecalciferol supplementation.”

Vitamin D Slows COVID-19 Spread

As reported by KRGV 5 News (above), a Texas news station, doctors in the Rio Grande Valley are also urging people to check their vitamin D levels and supplement if they’re deficient. The reason?

Research18,19 published in the Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism suggests people who have low vitamin D levels are more prone to contracting SARS-CoV-2 infection, and that also makes them more likely to spread the infection to others. As noted in that paper:

“Vitamin D deficiency was found in 82.2% of COVID-19 cases and 47.2% of population-based controls … Vitamin D-deficient COVID-19 patients had … a longer length of hospital stay than those with serum 25OHD levels ≥20 ng/mL …

According to our results, vitamin D treatment should be recommended in COVID-19 patients with serum 25OHD deficiency, since this approach might have beneficial effects in both the musculoskeletal and the immune system.”

How Vitamin D Impacts COVID-19

October 31, 2020, my own vitamin D review,20 co-written with William Grant, Ph.D., and Dr. Carol Wagner, both of whom are part of the GrassrootsHealth expert vitamin D panel, was published in the peer-reviewed journal Nutrients. You can read the paper for free on the journal’s website.

As noted in that paper, dark skin color, increased age, pre-existing chronic conditions and vitamin D deficiency are all features of severe COVID disease, and of these, vitamin D deficiency is the only factor that is readily and easily modifiable.

You may be able to reverse chronic disease, but that typically takes time. Optimizing your vitamin D, on the other hand, can be achieved in just a few weeks, thereby significantly lowering your risk of severe COVID-19.

In our paper, we review several of the mechanisms by which vitamin D can reduce your risk of COVID-19 and other respiratory infections, including but not limited to the following:21

  • Reducing the survival and replication of viruses22 and inflammatory cytokine production
  • Maintaining endothelial integrity — Endothelial dysfunction contributes to vascular inflammation and impaired blood clotting, two hallmarks of severe COVID-19
  • Increasing angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) concentrations, which prevents the virus from entering cells via the ACE2 receptor — ACE2 is downregulated by SARS-CoV-2 infection, and by increasing ACE2, you also avoid excessive accumulation of angiotensin II, a peptide hormone known to increase the severity of COVID-19 

Vitamin D is also an important component of COVID-19 prevention and treatment for the fact that it:

  • Boosts your overall immune function by modulating your innate and adaptive immune responses and reduces respiratory distress23 and improves overall lung function
  • Helps produce surfactants in your lungs that aid in fluid clearance24 and lowers your risk of comorbidities associated with poor COVID-19 prognosis, including obesity,25 Type 2 diabetes,26 high blood pressure27 and heart disease28

Data from 14 observational studies — summarized in Table 1 of our paper29 — suggest that vitamin D blood levels are inversely correlated with the incidence and/or severity of COVID-19, and the evidence currently available generally satisfies Hill’s criteria for causality in a biological system.30

COVID-19 Features Related to Vitamin D Status

Our paper31 also details several features of COVID-19 that suggest vitamin D deficiency is at play in this illness. For starters, SARS-CoV-2 emerged in the winter in the northern hemisphere, and as we moved into summer, positive tests, hospitalizations and death rates fell. So, generally, COVID-19 prevalence has been inversely correlated with solar UVB doses and vitamin D production, just like seasonal influenza.

Secondly, people with darker skin have higher COVID-19 case and death rates than Caucasians. Vitamin D is produced in your skin in response to sun exposure, but the darker your skin, the more sun exposure you need in order to maintain an optimal vitamin D level. As a result, vitamin D deficiency tends to be far higher among Blacks and dark-skinned Hispanics. Blacks and Hispanics are also high-risk groups for COVID-19.

Thirdly, one of the lethal hallmarks of COVID-19 is the cytokine storm that can develop in severe cases, which manifests as hyperinflammation and tissue damage. Vitamin D is known to regulate inflammatory cytokine production, thereby lowering this risk. Lastly, vitamin D is an important regulator of your immune system, and dysregulation of the immune system is a hallmark of severe COVID-19.

Nebulized Peroxide — My Favorite Treatment Choice

As mentioned earlier, while vitamin D is certainly important, if you develop symptoms of COVID-19, or any other respiratory infection for that matter, downing vitamin D may be too little, too late. I believe your best option at this point is to use nebulized peroxide. This is a home remedy I recommend everyone familiarize themselves with, as in many cases it can improve symptoms in mere hours.

Nebulizing hydrogen peroxide into your sinuses, throat and lungs is a simple, straightforward way to augment your body’s natural expression of hydrogen peroxide to combat infections and can be used both prophylactically after known exposure to COVID-19 and as a treatment for mild, moderate and even severe illness.

Dr. David Brownstein, who has successfully treated over 100 COVID-19 patients with nebulized peroxide, published a case paper32 about this treatment in the July 2020 issue of Science, Public Health Policy and The Law. He also reviews its benefits in “How Nebulized Peroxide Helps Against Respiratory Infections.”

Nebulized hydrogen peroxide is extremely safe, and all you need is a desktop nebulizer and food-grade hydrogen peroxide, which you’ll need to dilute with saline to 0.1% strength. I recommend buying these items beforehand so that you have everything you need and can begin treatment at home at the first signs of a respiratory infection. In the video above, I go over the basics of this treatment.

hydrogen peroxide dilution chart

Weekly Health Quiz: Linoleic Acid, Hacks and Pathogens

1 According to recent research, the reason why some COVID-19 patients develop life-threatening organ failure is because they:

  • Are deficient in calcium
  • Consume excessive amounts of unsaturated fats such as omega-6 linoleic acid

    A compelling report in the journal Gastroenterology offers a novel explanation as to why some COVID-19 patients develop life-threatening organ failure, namely their high unsaturated fat intake. Unsaturated fat intake is associated with increased mortality from COVID-19, while saturated fat intake lowers your risk of death. Learn more.

  • Eat too many eggs
  • Have not exercised enough

2 Which of the following vaccine ingredients is suspected of being the culprit causing allergic, including life-threatening anaphylactic responses in some recipients of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine?

  • mRNA
  • Thimerosal
  • Polyethylene glycol (PEG)

    Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine contains polyethylene glycol (PEG), and studies have shown 70% of people develop antibodies against this substance. This suggests PEG may trigger fatal allergic reactions in many who receive the vaccine. Learn more.

  • Egg albumen

3 The SARS-CoV-2 PCR test was developed based on:

  • Viral isolate of SARS-CoV-2 collected from patient zero in Wuhan, China
  • Viral isolate from a single American with cold symptoms
  • The full genetic sequence obtained from viral isolate
  • An incomplete genetic sequence published by Chinese scientists

    The SARS-CoV-2 PCR test was developed based on a genetic sequence published by Chinese scientists, not the viral isolate. Missing genetic code was simply made up. Learn more.

4 Which of the following is a technique that allows scientists to make a pathogen more virulent?

  • Serial passaging

    One technique that allows scientists to make a pathogen more virulent is called “serial passaging.” By passing the virus through a series of cells from different animals, the virus progressively adapts to the new host cell. Learn more.

  • Sequential massaging
  • Fromage processing
  • Prime addition

5 Which of the following countries detained or arrested the greatest number of journalists in 2020?

  • The Philippines
  • China

    China tops the list of countries where suppression of journalism is taking place. As of December 1, 2020, 117 Chinese journalists had been arrested, many because of their reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic. December 28, 2020, the Shanghai Pudong People’s Court sentenced citizen journalist Zhang Zhan to four years in prison for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” Learn more.

  • Norway
  • Serbia

6 According to financial guru and former assistant secretary of housing, Catherine Austin Fitts, the riots that occurred in the U.S. during 2020 were:

  • An emotional response to racial inequality
  • The result of poor upbringing
  • Part of a real estate acquisition scheme

    The riots in the U.S. were not random. According to Catherine Austin Fitts, the pattern suggests they were part of a real estate acquisition plan. Learn more.

  • An outgrowth of pandemic restrictions

7 Which of the following “hacks” will make fasting easier by preventing hunger pangs?

  • Eating a high-carb breakfast
  • Never fasting for longer than 12 hours
  • Avoiding exercise while fasting
  • Having coffee, with or without MCT oil, butter and/or prebiotics, first thing in the morning

    A simple hack that will make fasting easier is to raise your ketone level with black mycotoxin-free coffee, with or without added MCT oil and grass fed butter. Adding prebiotics to your morning coffee will also prevent hunger. Learn more.

Milk Thistle Promotes Liver Function

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is a member of the Asteraceae family and an herbaceous perennial native to Southern Europe and Asia. The plant enjoys full sun and grows to a height of nearly 5 feet. It blooms between July and August with deep purple to pink flowers.1

Throughout history, people have used the fruit and seeds of the milk thistle plant as a treatment for liver disorders. The plant goes by several other names, including Holy thistle, Mary thistle, Our Lady’s thistle, wild artichoke and St. Mary thistle.2

Traditionally, the leaves have been harvested to use in salads and the flower may be roasted and used as a coffee substitute. However, it is the seeds of the milk thistle that were prized for their medicinal activity.

According to the NIH, the oldest recorded use of the plant was by Dioscorides, who believed it could be used as a treatment for snake bites.3 During the Middle Ages it was used as an antidote for liver toxins and by 1898 physicians were using it to treat liver, kidney and spleen disorders. Currently, the German Commission E lists milk thistle for the treatment of hepatic cirrhosis and toxin-induced liver damage and to support chronic inflammatory liver conditions.

Milk Thistle Protects Your Liver Health

The main bioactive compound in milk thistle is a group of flavonolignans called silymarin.4 Flavonolignans are a group of flavonoids with known hepatoprotective properties.5 Silymarin consists of seven different flavonolignans among which silybin has the highest concentration and biological effect. Nearly 70% of silymarin is in the form of silybin A and silybin B.6

Silymarin can be isolated from milk thistle seeds, and while the term milk thistle and silymarin have been used interchangeably, it is technically inaccurate. Multiple studies have demonstrated the ability of silymarin to help protect your liver, and it is regularly used in individuals whose liver has been damaged by nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, hepatitis and liver cancer.7,8

Silymarin also has a protective effect against amatoxin, a deadly toxin produced by the death cap mushroom. Nearly 90% of fatalities from mushrooms worldwide are due to the death cap mushroom.9 Symptoms manifest six to eight hours after ingestion and are followed by kidney and liver failure.

In one review, researchers found nearly 1,500 documented cases where the mortality was less than 10% in patients treated with Legalon® SIL, a pharmaceutical silibinin compound. In another case report,10 doctors successfully treated two patients who accidentally ingested the death cap mushroom with a combination of n-acetylcysteine, cimetidine, silibinin and high-dose penicillin.

Benefits to liver health from silymarin likely result from the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antifibrotic properties of the compound. Silymarin also has demonstrated the ability to reduce virus-related liver damage and has a direct antiviral effect when administered intravenously in patients with hepatitis C.11

Silymarin has a positive effect on nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which is a more advanced form of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.12 The compound can also help reduce the fibrotic changes that lead to liver cirrhosis.13 In combination with vitamin E, researchers found silymarin helps improve liver function tests and can be:14

“… an alternative valid therapeutic option particularly when other drugs are not indicated or have failed or as a complementary treatment associated with other therapeutic programs.”

Your Liver: The Great Detoxifier

One of the largest organs in your body is your liver, and for good reason. It performs many metabolic and detoxifying functions, helping to convert toxic substances into harmless substances that are then released from your body.15

Your liver is in your upper abdominal cavity just under your right diaphragm, where it sits on top of your stomach. A normal healthy adult liver weighs about 3 pounds and is made of two lobes connected by a band of connective tissue.16

Just inside the hollow under the liver is the gallbladder, where your body stores bile. At any given time, your liver holds about 13% of your body’s blood supply, which it filters and then excretes toxins in 800 milliliters to 1,000 milliliters of bile each day.17 This is emptied into your gallbladder.

In addition to detoxifying your blood, your liver also produces some of the proteins for blood plasma, converts excess sugar into glycogen and helps balance the production of glucose.18 Your liver is also responsible for regulating blood clotting mechanisms, resisting infections and clearing bilirubin that is formed when hemoglobin breaks down.

Silymarin offers significant benefits to your liver, including the ability to increase glutathione, which is a powerful antioxidant crucial for liver detoxification.19 Researchers have also found it may help your liver cells to regenerate, supporting the only organ in your body capable of regeneration.20

Incidence of Liver Disease on the Rise

As you can imagine, liver damage affects these functions and more. Although many tend to equate liver disease with alcohol use, as many as 100 million people suffer from nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD),21 which is associated with obesity.22 As the incidence of obesity in the U.S. has risen, so has NAFLD. In 2017-2018, the age adjusted prevalence of obesity in the U.S. was 42.4% of adults.23 

Risk factors for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease include obesity, diabetes, high triglyceride levels and poor eating habits. The condition is sometimes called a silent disease because you may not experience any symptoms and many people may live with the condition without developing further liver damage.24 If NAFLD progresses with signs of inflammation and cell damage, it is called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).

NAFLD is also the most common type of liver disease found in children.25 Data released in January 202026 from a large cohort in the U.K. found 20% of young adults had NAFLD.

When the researchers widened the data set, they found over 20% had evidence of NAFLD and 2.5% had developed fibrosis. Breaking out the data further, they found at 17 years, 2.5% had moderate to severe levels, yet by age 24 this had risen to 13%.

Silymarin Reduces Cellular Inflammation

Many of the health benefits attributed to silymarin are the result of the compound’s capacity to help reduce cellular inflammation. Research has suggested silymarin does this using a two-phase process similar to that used by other natural compounds such as curcumin and epigallocatechin gallate, found in green tea.27

During the first phase there was a rapid increase in genetic expression that is linked with cellular stress. After this follows a longer sustained depression of genetic expression that is found with inflammation. As described by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, in this study, silymarin:28

  • Induced endoplasmic reticulum stress
  • Triggered activating transcription factor 4 (ATF-4) and AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), and inhibited mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR)
  • Modulated the actions of many types of metabolites
  • Inhibited inflammatory signaling pathways, when given on a prolonged basis (at 24 hours, in this study)

An important factor in those steps is the activation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK). This is an enzyme that sometimes is called the “metabolic master switch” since it plays an important role in regulating metabolism.29 According to the Natural Medicine Journal, AMPK regulates biological activities to normalize energy imbalances. In addition:30

“AMPK helps coordinate the response to these stressors, shifting energy toward cellular repair, maintenance, or a return to homeostasis and improved likelihood of survival. The hormones leptin and adiponectin activate AMPK. In other words, activating AMPK can produce the same benefits as exercise, dieting, and weight loss — the lifestyle modifications considered beneficial for a range of maladies.”

More Health Benefits With Milk Thistle

These factors mean milk thistle offers a wide range of health benefits. Milk thistle extracts have been tested for anticancer actions in prostate cancer both in the lab and in clinical trials. According to one study, “extracts enriched for isosilybin B, or isosilybin B alone, might possess improved potency in prostate cancer prevention and treatment.”31

The plant also has neuroprotective effects and has been used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease in modern society and neurological diseases such as cerebral ischemia for well over 2,000 years.32 The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties may contribute to the neuroprotective effects that help prevent a decline in brain function as you age.33

In one study, researchers used silymarin to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in an animal model that helped reduce the potential for dementia in obese animal subjects.34 Other studies have also demonstrated the ability of milk thistle to reduce amyloid plaques in animal models associated with Alzheimer’s disease.35,36

Silymarin has also demonstrated antiosteoclastic activity in animal studies, causing one research team to conclude it significantly prevents bone loss, potentially “either due to direct interaction with Erbeta [an estrogen receptor beta-isoform] or increasing bone formation parameters including calcium, phosphorus, osteocalcin and PTH.”37

The American Pregnancy Association writes that blessed thistle has been used for hundreds of years to raise a woman’s milk supply, and it is especially effective when taken with fenugreek.38

One published study of 50 healthy lactating women demonstrated oral supplementation with 420 milligrams per day of silymarin boosted their milk supply by 85.94% as compared to the women taking a placebo whose milk supply went up 32.09%.39 None of the women dropped out and no one reported unwanted side effects.

Considerations Before Planting Milk Thistle at Home

Before planting milk thistle in your garden or picking up a milk thistle supplement, there are a few things to consider. Research has found silibinin is poorly absorbed as it has low water solubility. Using a novel formulation, combining silibinin with phosphatidylcholine, researchers were able to improve the solubility and bioavailability, which markedly improved the therapeutic efficiency.40

If you’re hoping to grow your own plants in your backyard and harvest for tea and salads, be forewarned the plant is highly invasive and spreads quickly. While you may not mind having it all over your yard, it doesn’t respect your neighbor’s boundaries and will likely end up in their yard as well.

Milk thistle is also highly toxic to livestock, so if you have grazing animals it’s important you don’t plant it outside.41 Milk thistle has adapted to growing even in poor quality soil. The plants enjoy full sun and once the flowers have begun to dry, they’ll be ready for harvest.42

Cut the flowers and place them in a paper bag, storing the bag in a dry place so the flower heads dry. Once all the moisture is gone, shake the bag to separate the seeds, which can then be kept in a dry airtight container.

The seeds can be powdered in a coffee grinder and sprinkled on your salads, added to smoothies or even raw juice. You can use the seeds to make your own tea, which you’ll find a recipe for in “Magnificent Milk Thistle.”

Mind to Matter: How Your Brain Creates Material Reality

Dr. Mercola Interviews the Experts

This article is part of a weekly series in which Dr. Mercola interviews various experts on a variety of health issues. To see more expert interviews, click here.

Dawson Church,1 Ph.D., is a leader in the energy psychology movement, one of the most common forms being the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), which I have promoted for years. Church investigated and built on the EFT techniques developed by Gary Craig2 in the 1990s (which in turn was a derivative of the founder of energy tapping, Roger Callahan’s, work3).

While Craig was not a clinical investigator, Dawson’s work has led to over 100 clinical trials on EFT. In this interview, Church shares insights from his experience, which he has also documented in the books “Mind to Matter: The Astonishing Science of How Your Brain Creates Material Reality” and “Bliss Brain: The Neuroscience of Remodeling Your Brain for Resilience, Creativity and Joy.”

This information is particularly timely in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While the infection itself has been shown to be far less lethal than initially suspected, government responses to it have undoubtedly led to an epidemic of fear and stress, which can have serious health consequences. As explained by Church:

“The stress we feel in our minds and bodies can often do far more harm than pathogens. I’ve done several randomized controlled trials of cortisol.

When you think a negative thought, when you feel stress, when you have a fearful belief, your cortisol level rises within three minutes. Chronically high cortisol produces all kinds of ill effects in your body, including depressed immune function and increased inflammation. The fear will get you even if the virus doesn’t.”

The Importance of Positive Thinking

As noted by Church, our brains are hard-wired and evolutionarily adapted to pay attention to potential threats. Failing to notice a threat can get you killed, whereas there’s no evolutionary reward for failing to notice the good stuff. As a result, most of us need to train our brain to notice the positive, and to feel gratitude.

“We’re subject to a constant barrage of bad news, so it takes meditation, it takes tapping, it takes time in nature,” Church says. “You really have to be deliberate in your efforts to redirect your attention and not have meditation it hijacked by all the bad stuff out there.

What I do in response is to read positive blogs, news and media. That doesn’t mean I never read any bad news, I stay informed, but I make sure I read positive things. I’m reading Marcus Aurelius right now … I meditate for an hour every day. And I anchor myself in what I call in my book ‘Mind to Matter,’ Nonlocal mind.

Tune into nonlocal mind, look out the window and see the roses and the bees and the sunset, and then it’s a lot easier to stay centered when confronted by difficult local events. I also focus on compassion.”

The Benefits of EcoMeditation

In 2008, Church attended a conference where he presented with Roland McCraty,4 head researcher in how the heart and mind interconnect from HeartMath Institute, and Joe Dispenza,5 whose fields include mind-body medicine and brain/heart coherence.

Curious about what would happen if he combined the best evidence-based methods, he came up with what eventually became known as “EcoMeditation” — a conglomerate of techniques proven to rapidly increase positivity and well-being. They include:

  • EFT tapping
  • Neurofeedback (heart rate variability control)
  • Mindfulness
  • HeartMath’s quick coherence technique
  • Self hypnosis

According to Church, when you do them together, they reinforce each other. “The whole is more than the sum of its parts,” he says. EcoMeditation has now been empirically tested and refined, showing that it can lower baseline cortisol levels by one-third in as little as a week. And, when stress chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline decline, the neurochemicals of repair and rejuvenation such as DHEA, serotonin and dopamine increase.

In one trial, Church looked at the effects of EcoMeditation on immunoglobulins, antibodies that bind to and neutralize corona viruses. In just two days, participants who did EcoMeditation had a 27% rise in these antibodies in their mucous membranes.

“You produce a huge shift in your immunity by lowering stress,” Church says. “Meditate, tap, use your favorite methods to lower your stress level. This automatically upregulates your immune system.”

Emotions Are Contagious

The year 2020 has been challenging for most people. The drumbeat of negative news can overwhelm even the most resilient among us. In Chapter 2 of “Mind to Matter,” Church talks about a phenomenon called “emotional contagion.” In a nutshell, researchers have shown that emotions have an impact similar to that of infectious disease. They’re contagious, and affect those around us.

He cites one study in which they found that the next-door neighbor of a happy person is 35% more likely to be happy as well, and the neighbor twice removed is 15% more likely to be happy. That person’s neighbor, in turn, who is 3 degrees removed from the happy person is 6% more likely to be happy. The same contagion rule applies when the emotions are negative.

“We’re in the middle of this mass contagion of fear,” Dawson says, “and it is depressing our immune systems, rendering us less resilient, affecting us psychospiritually, making us less able to cope. That’s when we need a bigger dose of positivity, joy and gratitude. We need to do that deliberately. That means meditation, it means consuming positive media. It means not exposing yourself to needless negative emotions.”

The Chemical Effects of Meditation

One of the reasons Dawson recommends meditation is because of the distinct biochemical effects it produces. He explains:

“Mystics describe this experience of oneness with the universe. When they meditate, they lose any sense of as isolated beings. If you look at MRIs of Tibetan monks, you find that the part of the brain that constructs the sense of self — the mid-prefrontal cortex — downregulates. They lose themselves.

Another part of the brain that downregulates is the part of the parietal lobe, the temporal parietal junction that handles ‘proprioception’, the location of our body in space. When they’re in this deep mystical experience, their sense of self has turned off and their brains’ ability to locate their bodies and space is turned off.

At the same time, oxytocin, the love hormone, floods their cells. They experience this ecstatic bliss as anandamide, serotonin and dopamine flood their brains and they’ve lost the sense of who they are and where they are, and they’re literally feeling one with the universe.

Do that each morning using EcoMeditation and you’re one with what I call nonlocal mind. You have that experience of mystical unity. Then, after meditation, you come back into your body, come back to your local mind, your mid prefrontal cortex turns back on, you’re a local self again, your parietal lobe comes back. You know where you are in time and space.

You then bring all the resilience of that contact with nonlocal mind into local reality and you’re then far more effective … Over time, these parts of the brain start to shift into this function as the neurological wiring changes, and then it becomes a trait.”

To show you how effective meditation can be in daily life, Dawson cites a 10-year-long study of high performing people by the McKinsey Consulting Group. It found that those who are able to enter this flow state are five times as productive as ordinary people.

Another study by DARPA described in his book “Bliss Brain” found people who meditate improved their ability to solve complex problems by 490%. “That’s why meditation is a powerful antidote to dealing with all the chaos of the world around us,” Dawson says. These and many other studies can be found on www.eftuniverse.com/research-studies/eft-research.

EcoMeditation Summarized

As mentioned, EcoMeditation incorporates several different techniques, including EFT tapping, breath control and meditation. To download a free EcoMeditation audio track that guides you through each of the steps, see EcoMeditation.com. Step 1 involves tapping a series of acupuncture meridian end points. Dawson explains their relevance:

“Over 100 clinical trials have shown that [tapping] regulates the body. It downregulates your stress. It improves your mood, it decreases anxiety and depression very, very quickly … The research shows that symptoms of trauma, hypervigilance, intrusive negative thoughts, depression — all of these things are regulated by tapping.”

When you’re doing EFT, you first focus on a target problem by formulating a statement. The target problem might be ‘I’m afraid of catching the virus.’ It might be, ‘I’m afraid of dying.’ It might be ‘I’ve lost my job, I don’t know how I will cope.’ However, in EcoMeditation, you tap the points without defining a specific target problem.

“We know that general tapping produces an effect,” Dawson says. It basically regulates your energy system in a general way and helps you enter a space of calm. Next, you add in heart coherent breathing, muscular relaxation, neurofeedback techniques and meditation on compassion.

“There are several things that move the needle in terms of neuroplasticity in the brain quicker than others,” Dawson says the one that changes the brain the quickest is compassion … a response to the suffering of the world and just a sense of acceptance of people just as they are.

We get people to this compassionate state and then they start to feel really centered, really resilient, really happy. Focus on a person who makes you feel unconditionally loved. That might be a Saint. It might be a historical figure. It might be a childhood hero … Focus on that person and then … expand that compassion to every atom in the universe.

That’s the very general conceptual framework we use to keep people out of trauma. We’ve had to really refine this thing over the years because a lot of people traumatized and it’s very easy to trigger traumatic memories.

If you go into that altered state without adequate preparation, it can be produce what’s called retraumatization. The instructions for EcoMeditation have been very carefully calibrated to avoid the possibility of retraumatization, which of course is the opposite of resilience, which we’re trying to produce.”

Emotional intensity is also important for optimal results, and the emotion of gratitude typically generates this. As such, compassion and gratitude go hand in hand and work very well together. Lastly, you need to recenter in your body. So, at the end of the meditation, open your eyes and take in your surroundings. You feel the weight of your body in the chair or on the cushion as you re-anchor yourself in the here and now.

“We don’t want people to bliss out and then not be able to bring it back down to the immediate issues of their lives,” Dawson explains. “We want to have them experience that mystical state, and then come back and be effective in their daily lives.”

Sheltering in Love

When California issued its first round of lockdown orders, Dawson and his wife agreed to use that time of increased togetherness to be extra nice to each other — to literally shelter in love. He explains:

“We realized we would be together a lot more than usual. We said we’re going to use this as a crucible to really be nice to each other. We weren’t not nice to each other before, but we knew we’d have tension.

We used this as a way to shelter in love, get to know each other better … I began to learn things about her. I began to be fascinated by her. We used the crisis to strengthen our relationship. Families are systems. When you change one element of a system, you change the whole system.

That’s why, in a marriage, in a family, not everyone has to change. People think that ‘Oh, my husband has to change. My wife has to change. My kid has to change. My parent has to change.’ Actually … your chances of getting them to change are approximately zero. The only person you have leverage over is yourself …

We know, through that new science of emotional contagion, that your emotions are contagious. So, make that choice to work on yourself, to find your negative emotion, to release it, to be this agent of positive emotional contagion all around you and soon you’ll find it spreads far beyond you.

Be proactive. Do the things it’ll take to shift your mood. When we shift psychology, we shift biology. People don’t realize how dependent their biology is on their psychology. For example, in study of a weekend EcoMeditation, anxiety went down by 26%. Depression went down by 32%. PTSD symptoms went down by 18%. Pain went down 43%. All of these are psychological shifts people are making as they tap and meditate.

Average resting cortisol went down significantly by 29%. The resting heart rate went down by 5% and their immunoglobulins went up by 27%. These are your leverage points and you can decide proactively to meditate to tap and to release all that negative emotion you have.

Fill your mind with positive thoughts. I’m not saying don’t read anything negative. You can’t avoid it. You need to be well informed. But be informed and see it through the lens of that positive being. Tune into nonlocal mind every day. That’s something you can choose to do.

EcoMeditation is about 15 to 20 minutes long. It doesn’t take long and you’re making a powerful declaration that you are choosing to be that agent of positive emotional contagion. You then enter your day after that morning meditation as a resourceful person, a resilient person.

Are there still problems — financial problems, medical problems, family problems? Sure. There might be all those problems. But now you are a resilient person who is facing those problems and bringing five times the problem-solving ability into that situation.”

For me, personally, the COVID-19 pandemic has probably been one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. I have never been healthier, I think, in my life as a result of this forced discipline to stay at home and pursue a healthy lifestyle, many of which are detailed in Dawson’s book. It’s a great toolbox.

More Information and Free Resources

Again, to learn more about the scientific underpinnings of tapping, visit www.eftuniverse.com/research-studies/eft-research, and for a free EcoMeditation audio track, see EcoMeditation.com. If you want professional EFT help, you can tap with a practitioner, live via the internet, on tappingplace.com. Free tapping resources and meditations are also available on DawsonGift.org

Also consider picking up a copy of “Mind to Matter: The Astonishing Science of How Your Brain Creates Material Reality,” in which you’ll find 30 different practices that will help reprogram your mind and energetic system, including yoga, Chi Gung, Tai Chi, spending time in nature, grounding and much more. The book is available on Amazon, but you can also get it free — just cover the cost of shipping — if you order it on mindtomatter.com.

“Pick the ones that fit your lifestyle and love yourself enough to do that,” Dawson says. “Make a practice of doing them. Be that proactive person and then you’ll find your whole lifestyle to change.

One of the problems that meditators have [is that] we really have to calibrate ourselves when we meet other people because they’re not here, they’re not full of love, joy and laughter. They’re full of anguish, stress and doubt. [So] you listen to people, you hear their grief and pain and sorrow and loss.

Then, by the end of your time with them, they’ve been affected by your positive emotional contagion and we then can change the emotional tone of our whole world. One of the cool things about those studies is that positive emotions travel out to affect those around you. So, do negative ones, but negative ones only affect people 2 degrees of separation out.

Positive ones affect people 3 degrees of separation out. We’re actually more effective as agents of emotional contagion if we’re positive than negative. So, go out there and meet people where they are. Listen to them if they’re suffering, but then bring the power of joy and beauty and all those benefits of nonlocal mind into your local world and be that powerful change agent …

Do things to love your mind and body, and then be that vibrant person who helps those around you shift. A suffering world needs us now more than ever.”

Fibromyalgia Linked to Extensive Brain Inflammation

Fibromyalgia, characterized by chronic, widespread pain is an often-debilitating condition that primarily affects women. While as many as 10 million Americans have fibromyalgia, its cause remains a mystery.

Brain scans of fibromyalgia patients have offered hard evidence that the pain they experience is indeed real — mainly because their threshold for tolerating pain impulses is substantially lower than that of most individuals. But the mechanism causing this lowered pain threshold is still unknown.

Some experts, such as Dr. Frederick Wolfe, the director of the National Databank for Rheumatic Diseases and the lead author of the 1990 paper that first defined fibromyalgia’s diagnostic guidelines, believe fibromyalgia is mainly a physical response to mental and emotional stress.

But while stress and emotions may indeed play an important role, more recent research shows fibromyalgia patients tend to have severe inflammation in their body, including their nervous system and brain.

Signs and Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

Diagnosis can be a challenge, but the updated case definitions of fibromyalgia, issued in 2010 and later simplified in 2012, claim to correctly diagnose about 83 percent of cases.1 Originally, the condition was thought to be a peripheral musculoskeletal disease. Today, fibromyalgia has become increasingly recognized as a neurobiological problem causing central pain sensitization.

Unfortunately, there are currently no laboratory tests available for diagnosing fibromyalgia, so physicians primarily depend on patient histories, reported symptoms and physical exam findings. Classic symptoms of this condition include:

Pain — The key marker of fibromyalgia is pain, which is profound, widespread and chronic. Pain inside of your elbows and knees, collarbones and hips is indicative of fibromyalgia when it’s present on both sides.

People also frequently report pain all over their bodies — including in their muscles, ligaments and tendons — and the pain tends to vary in intensity. It has been described as deep muscular aching, stabbing, shooting, throbbing and twitching.

Neurological complaints add to the discomfort, such as numbness, tingling and burning. The severity of the pain and stiffness is often worse in the morning. Aggravating factors include cold/humid weather, nonrestorative sleep, fatigue, excessive physical activity, physical inactivity, anxiety and stress.

Cognitive impairment — So-called “fibro-fog” or foggy-headedness is a common complaint.

Fatigue — The fatigue of fibromyalgia is different from the fatigue that many people complain of in today’s busy world. It is more than being tired; it’s an all-encompassing exhaustion that interferes with even the simplest daily activities, often leaving the patient with a limited ability to function both mentally and physically for an extended period of time.

Sleep disruption — Another major part of the diagnostic criteria for this condition is some type of significant sleep disturbance. In fact, part of an effective treatment program is to make sure you’re sleeping better.

Medical researchers have documented specific and distinctive abnormalities in the Stage 4 deep sleep of fibromyalgia patients. During sleep, they are constantly interrupted by bursts of awake-like brain activity, limiting the amount of time they spend in deep sleep.

Other symptoms — Other common symptoms include irritable bowel and bladder, headaches and migraines, restless leg syndrome and periodic limb movements, impaired memory and concentration, skin sensitivities and rashes, dry eyes and mouth, anxiety, depression, ringing in the ears, dizziness, Raynaud’s Syndrome and impaired coordination.

Conventional treatment typically involves some form of pain medication, and perhaps psychotropic drugs like antidepressants. I don’t recommend either as they fail to address the cause of your problem. Many fibromyalgia sufferers also do not respond to conventional painkillers, which can set in motion a vicious circle of overmedicating on these dangerous drugs.

Brain Inflammation — Another Hallmark of Fibromyalgia

Using PET imaging, a recent investigation2 by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and Karolinska Institutet in Sweden revealed the presence of widespread brain inflammation in patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia.3,4

Earlier research5 conducted at Karolinska Institutet also discovered high concentrations of cytokines (inflammatory proteins) in the cerebrospinal fluid, suggesting fibromyalgia patients have inflammation in their nervous system as well.6

The team at Massachusetts General Hospital, meanwhile, has previously shown that neural inflammation, and glial cell (immune cells) activation specifically, plays a role in chronic back pain. Animal studies have also offered evidence for the hypothesis that glial cell activation can be a cause of chronic pain in general.7

Here, they found that when glial cells in the cerebral cortex were activated, the more aggressive the activation, the greater the fatigue experienced by the patient. As reported by Medical Life Sciences:8

“The current study first assessed fibromyalgia symptoms in patients using a questionnaire. A PET tracer was then used, that is, a radioactive marker which binds a specific protein called translocator protein (TSPO) that is expressed at levels much above the normal in activated glial cells, namely, astrocytes and microglia …

[G]lial activation was found to be present at significantly higher levels in multiple brain areas in patients who had fibromyalgia than in controls. Glial cell activation causes inflammatory chemicals to be released, which cause the pain pathways to be more sensitive to pain, and promote fatigue …

One area showing higher TSPO binding in direct proportion to the self-reported level of fatigue was the cingulate gyrus, an area of the brain linked to emotional processing. Previous research has reported that this area is inflamed in chronic fatigue syndrome.”

Brain Inflammation Linked to Loss of Brain Cells

In related news, German researchers investigating inflammation mechanisms in the brain have found that as mice get older and regulation of inflammatory responses become increasingly impaired, they start losing brain cells.9

Interestingly, the cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1), which produces the “high” in response to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in marijuana, also helps regulate inflammatory reactions in your brain. In short, chronic brain inflammation is in part driven by the CB1 receptors’ failure to respond. To understand how this works, you need to know a little bit about how microglial cells work.

Microglial cells are specialized immune cells found in your central nervous system, including your spinal cord and brain. These immune cells respond to bacteria and are responsible for clearing out malfunctioning nerve cells. They also signal and recruit other immune cells when needed and trigger the inflammatory response when necessary.

Problems arise when the inflammatory response becomes dysregulated and overactive. In the brain, the inflammation can easily damage healthy brain tissue. The “brake signal” that instructs glial cells to stop their inflammatory activity is endocannabinoids, and the endocannabinoids work by binding to certain receptors, including CB1 and cannabinoid receptor type 2 (CB2).

Immune Cells Communicate and Influence Inflammatory Response Using Endocannabinoids

Curiously, microglial cells have virtually no CB1 and very few CB2 receptors, yet they still react to endocannabinoids. The present study was designed to investigate this puzzling riddle. As it turns out, there’s a type of neuron that does contain a large number of CB1 receptors, and it appears that it is the CB1 receptors on these specific neurons that control microglial cell activity.

In other words, it appears microglial cells do not communicate with nerve cells directly; rather, they release endocannabinoids, which then bind to CB1 receptors found in nearby neurons. These neurons in turn communicate directly with other nerve cells. So, the brain’s immune response is regulated in an indirect manner rather than a direct one.

Now, what happens with age is that your natural production of endocannabinoids decreases, which then leads to impaired immune response regulation and chronic inflammation. As noted by coauthor Dr. Andras Bilkei-Gorzo:10

“Since the neuronal CB1 receptors are no longer sufficiently activated, the glial cells are almost constantly in inflammatory mode. More regulatory neurons die as a result, so the immune response is less regulated and may become free-running.”

Earlier research11 by this same team found that THC can help restore cognitive function in older brains, and the current study also hints at THC-containing cannabis may have valuable neuroprotective benefits in older people by quelling brain inflammation and preventing loss of brain cells. As the study was done on mice, further research is needed to confirm that the same mechanisms apply to humans, but it’s compelling nonetheless.

Are You Living an Inflammatory Lifestyle?

Your diet can either promote or decrease inflammation. For example, foods that increase the inflammatory response in your body include:

  • Sugar, especially processed corn syrup
  • Synthetically produced trans fats
  • Processed vegetable and seed oils, high in oxidized omega-6 fat
  • Processed meats
  • Refined carbohydrates

Meanwhile, marine-based omega-3 fats have powerful anti-inflammatory effects, and are crucial for healthy brain function in general. Antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables are also important for controlling inflammation, as is optimizing your vitamin D to a level of 60 to 80 ng/mL, ideally through sensible sun exposure.

In addition to anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties, vitamin D receptors appear in a wide variety of brain tissue, and researchers believe optimal vitamin D levels may enhance important chemicals in your brain and protect brain cells by increasing the effectiveness of glial cells that help nurse damaged neurons back to health.

A number of ubiquitous chemicals have also been implicated in inflammation, so if you struggle with fibromyalgia you’d be wise to take a close look at your choice of foods, household and personal care products. As mentioned earlier, getting enough high-quality sleep is another key treatment component for fibromyalgia.

Ketogenic Diet Massively Decreases Brain Inflammation

Research12 published last year suggests ketogenic diets — which are high in healthy fats and low in net carbs — are a particularly powerful ally for suppressing brain inflammation, as ketones are powerful HDAC (histone deacetylase inhibitors) that suppress the primary NF-κB inflammatory pathway.

As explained by Medical Xpress,13 the defining moment of the study14 came when the team “identified a pivotal protein that links the diet to inflammatory genes, which, if blocked, could mirror the anti-inflammatory effects of ketogenic diets.”

A ketogenic diet changes the way your body uses energy, converting your body from burning carbohydrates for energy to burning fat as your primary source of fuel. When your body is able to burn fat, your liver creates ketones, which burn more efficiently than carbs, thus creating far less reactive oxygen species and secondary free radicals that can damage your cellular and mitochondrial cell membranes, proteins and DNA.

Animals (rats) used in this study were found to have reduced inflammation when the researchers used a molecule called 2-deoxyglucose (2DG) to block glucose metabolism and induce a ketogenic state, similar to what would occur if you followed a ketogenic diet. By doing this, inflammation was brought down to levels near those found in controls.

Suppressing Inflammation Improves Pain

Senior study author Dr. Raymond Swanson, a professor of neurology at UCSF and chief of the neurology service at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, commented on the results, saying:

“I was most surprised by the magnitude of this effect, because I thought ketogenic diets might help just a little bit. But when we got these big effects with 2DG, I thought wow, there’s really something here.

The team further found that reduced glucose metabolism lowered a key barometer of energy metabolism — the NADH/NAD+ ratio — which in turn activated a protein called CtBP that acts to suppress activity of inflammatory genes.”

The study also pointed out that a ketogenic diet may relieve pain via several mechanisms, similar to the ways it’s known to help epilepsy.

“Like seizures, chronic pain is thought to involve increased excitability of neurons; for pain, this can involve peripheral and/or central neurons. Thus, there is some similarity of the underlying biology,” the authors stated, adding:

A major research focus should be on how metabolic interventions such as a ketogenic diet can ameliorate common, comorbid and difficult-to-treat conditions such as pain and inflammation.”15

Cyclical Ketosis for Optimal Health


Eating a ketogenic diet doesn’t have to be complicated or painful. My book “Fat for Fuel” presents a complete Mitochondrial Metabolic Therapy (MMT) program, complemented by an online course created in collaboration with nutritionist Miriam Kalamian, who specializes in nutritional ketosis.

The course, which consists of seven comprehensive lessons, teaches you the keys to fighting chronic disease and optimizing your health and longevity. In summary, the MMT diet is a cyclical ketogenic diet, high in healthy fats and fiber, low in net carbs with a moderate amount of protein.

The cyclical component is important, as long-term continuous ketosis has drawbacks that may actually undermine your health and longevity. One of the primary reasons to cycle in and out of ketosis is because the “metabolic magic” in the mitochondria actually occurs during the refeeding phase, not during the starvation phase.

Ideally, once you have established ketosis you cycle healthy carbs back in to about 100 to 150 grams on days when you do strength training. MMT has a number of really important health benefits, and may just be the U-turn you’ve been searching for if you’re struggling with a chronic health condition. You can learn more by following the hyperlinks provided in the text above.

Address Emotional Contributors

Since fibromyalgia is a chronic condition, it becomes emotionally challenging in addition to the physical challenges it imposes on your life. Having a game plan to deal with your emotional well-being is especially important if you suffer from any chronic disease.

If you have fibromyalgia, you might be able to trace it back to a triggering event, or you might not. Any traumatic experience has the potential to linger in your mind for a lifetime. You can have the perfect diet, the perfect exercise routine, and an ideal life; but if you have lingering unresolved emotional issues, you can still become very sick.

A tool that can help release this emotional sludge is the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). If you are a regular reader of my newsletter, this won’t be an unfamiliar term to you. EFT is a form of bioenergetic normalization. If you have fibromyalgia, this is something that is going to be extremely helpful. You can do this yourself, at home, and it takes just a few minutes to learn. For a demonstration, see the video above.

Another Way to Kill Small U.S. Farmers: Seize Their Bank Accounts on Phony Charges

By Dr. Mercola

In its latest move against small farmers who dare to operate outside the umbrella of CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) and Monsanto-dominated crops, the U.S. government has seized $70,000 from a small dairy farmer in Maryland. The feds did this under the “Bank Secrecy Act,” which requires that paperwork be filled out for any cash deposit in excess of $10,000.

The farmers, Randy Sowers and his wife Karen, made deposits totaling more than $295,000 from May 2011 to February 2012, but each transaction was less than $10,000.

Now they are being accused of “structuring,” a violation of federal currency reporting requirements, as the feds are accusing them of deliberately depositing money in increments of less than $10,000 in an attempt to evade Currency Transaction Reporting requirements.

Government Seizes $70,000 On What Grounds?

The dairy farmer’s “crime” stems from his weekly sales at local farmers’ markets. The sales averaged about the same amount each week and, dutifully, the Sowers deposited them. They’d reportedly never even heard of the Bank Secrecy Act or “structuring,” but that was of no interest to the feds—the consistency of the amount the Sowers deposited, always less than $10,000, raised red flags to the feds, who claimed that this was indicative of a crime.

The government promptly seized about $70,000 from the bank account, then issued a warrant for the seizures. As reported by Food Freedom News:1

“The Dept. of Justice has since sued to keep $63,000 of the Sowers’ money, though they committed no crime other than maintaining their privacy. Without funds, they will be unable to make purchases for the spring planting. When a similar action was taken against Taylor’s Produce Stand last year, the feds seized $90,000, dropped the charges, and kept $45,000 of Taylor’s money.

Knowing that most farms operate on a very thin margin, such abuse of power wipes out a family’s income, and for a bonus, the feds enhance the monopoly power of Monsanto, Big Dairy and their supply chain.… Former Maryland assistant U.S. attorney Steven Levin told the paper [City Paper], “The emphasis is on basically seizing money, whether it is legally or illegally earned. It can lead to financial ruin for business owners, and there’s a potential for abuse here by the government.””

The raid on the Sowers was conducted by an agency created in 2009 to go after money-laundering criminals. The agency started out with a bang by seizing $1.2 billion from a real money launderer, but it appears that what it’s interested in now is making criminals out of small business persons, including small farmers.

Why Are Family Farms Under Attack?

If they’re not seizing bank accounts, it seems the government will find other ways to attack small farmers. A family farm in rural Michigan—and possibly others—may be shut down by a new state law that designates certain breeds of hogs as a threat to neighboring hog breeders and croplands.

Basically, the fight is over the definition of feral hogs vs. domestic hogs. The dictionary definition of “feral” refers to an animal running wild. But Michigan authorities have taken it a step further and extended the definition to include enclosed private hunting preserves and small farms that house what authorities call an “invasive species” of hogs.

There is no genetic test to determine whether the species on these farms are truly invasive, so authorities are basing their cases against these farmers solely on visual observations. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) uses this vague description to describe the prohibited hogs, and makes it clear that this does not apply to the domestic hogs raised on CAFOs:2

“Wild boar, wild hog, wild swine, feral pig, feral hog, feral swine, Old world swine, razorback, eurasian wild boar, Russian wild boar (Sus scrofa Linnaeus). This subsection does not and is not intended to affect sus domestica involved in domestic hog production.”

Other descriptions supplied by the MDNR include such a wide variety of characteristics that virtually any pig other than the familiar pink domestic breed raised on CAFOs could potentially be deemed “feral”:

  • Erect or folded/floppy ear structure
  • Straight or curly tail
  • Solid black, wild/grizzled, solid red/brown, black and white spotted, or black and red/brown spotted coat colorations
  • “Other characteristics” not currently known to the MDNR

Interestingly, the Big Pork industry has been planning this anti-feral pig campaign for years, and even bragged about it in a 2010 newsletter.3 It was the same newsletter where they declared a win against the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in Ohio, where HSUS was seeking legislation to end the practice of sow gestation stalls (cages so small the sow can’t turn around or move).

What this means for residents of Michigan is that soon they will be unable to purchase sustainably and humanely grown meat from the Mangalitsa “wooly” hogs raised on Baker’s Green Acres farm. This particular breed is being raised by only a handful of small farms across the country; whereas more than 2 million pigs are slaughtered each week in the United States, only about 50 of them are Mangalitsas (which have been called the “it” pig by the New York Times, as several high-end restaurants and specialty markets have featured the rich, naturally raised meat4).

But, of course, this issue is about much more than pasture-raised pork from a heritage breed … it’s about your ability, your right, to purchase and consume pure, unadulterated food – a right that continues to be threated for those living in the United States.

FDA Also Threatens Your Right to Food Choice …

Another glaring example of government going out of its way to prohibit your access to pure, unprocessed food is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) war against raw milk. When the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) filed a lawsuit against the FDA over their raw milk ban, stating that banning raw milk in interstate commerce is unconstitutional, the FDA rebutted with the following extremely concerning and outrageous statements:

  • “There is no absolute right to consume or feed children any particular food.”
  • “There is no ‘deeply rooted’ historical tradition of unfettered access to foods of all kinds.”
  • “Plaintiffs’ assertion of a ‘fundamental right to their own bodily and physical health, which includes what foods they do and do not choose to consume for themselves and their families’ is similarly unavailing because plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to obtain any food they wish.”
  • FDA’s brief goes on to state that “even if such a right did exist, it would not render FDA’s regulations unconstitutional because prohibiting the interstate sale and distribution of unpasteurized milk promotes bodily and physical health.”
  • “There is no fundamental right to freedom of contract.”

Since when did the FDA have authority to tell you what you can and cannot eat and feed your children? Apparently they believe they’ve had it all along. If you go by these assertions, it means the FDA has the authority to prohibit any food of their choosing and make it a crime for you to seek it out. If, one day, the FDA deems tomatoes, broccoli or cashews capable of causing you harm (which is just as ludicrous as their assertions that raw milk is harmful), they could therefore enact such a ban and legally enforce it.

What this means is that freedom of food choice is a myth if you live in the United States, and this simply is not acceptable. No one, and certainly not any government agency, should be able to restrict your access to pure, unadulterated food, but the dairy industry and other industrial farmers that depend on CAFOs employ powerful lobbyists will stop at nothing to persuade government to remove the small farmers from the market entirely. The truth is, if enough people start demanding naturally, sustainably and humanely raised meat, dairy and produce, the giant farming monopolies that currently dominate the market would not be able to compete.

Their businesses depend on pesticides, CAFOs, genetically modified seeds, growth hormones and the like … so when they see all-natural creameries like the one operated by Randy Sowers and his wife Karen, or natural farms like Bakers Green Acres gaining loyal and growing customer bases, they get nervous – and they get the government involved in any way they can.

Please Support Your Local Small Farms

The healthiest food choices are nearly always those that come from responsible, high-quality, sustainable sources.

This is why I encourage you to support the small family farms in your area. This includes not only visiting the farm directly, if you have one nearby, but also taking part in farmer’s markets and community-supported agriculture programs. Now that summer is almost here in the United States, fresh produce and other wonderful whole foods are available in abundance. Not only is the food so much tastier and healthier when you get it from sustainable, non-CAFO sources, but there is something about shopping for fresh foods in an open-air, social environment that just feels right. An artificially lit, dreary supermarket — home to virtually every CAFO food made — just can’t compete.

If you want to experience some of these benefits first-hand, here are some great resources to obtain wholesome food that supports not only you but also the environment:

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

Finally, for more information on the ongoing attacks against small family farms in the United States consider watching Farmageddon: The Unseen War on American Family Farms, a documentary by Kristin Canty. But I warn you … the injustices it contains may just make your blood boil.

What Biotech Company Blamed for Bee Collapse Just Bought Leading Bee Research Firm?

By Dr. Mercola

Bee colonies around the globe are mysteriously disappearing, a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder (CCD). Since 2006, it’s estimated that close to one-third of all honey bee colonies have simply vanished into thin air. Where are the bees going? What’s causing their devastating demise?

One forerunning theory is that genetic engineering of crops is involved, either through the genetically modified crops themselves or the pesticides and herbicides that go with them.

Monsanto, which is the world leader in this type of biotechnology, is likely none too pleased about the recent accusations hurled against their product, so they’ve taken matters into their own hands and purchased one of the leading bee research firms – one that, conveniently, lists its primary goal as studying colony collapse disorder.

If this isn’t the classic example of the fox guarding the henhouse then I don’t know what is.

Why Your Food Supply Depends on Independent Bee Research

It is absolutely crucial to the food supply that the dedicated application of research is allowed to continue surrounding colony collapse disorder. To get an idea of the magnitude of importance, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) estimates that without bees to act as pollinators, the United States alone could lose $15 billion worth of crops.i

Do you enjoy apples? How about beets? You’d better get your fill now, because without bees these, and the crops listed below, will disappear. In all, bees pollinate at least 130 different crops in the U.S. alone, including fruits, vegetables and tree nuts.

Almonds Sunflower Apricots Avocadoes Blueberries
Boysenberries Cherries Citrus Cranberries Grapes
Kiwifruit Loganberries Macadamia nuts Nectarines Olives
Peaches Pears Plums/Prunes Raspberries Strawberries
Asparagus Broccoli Carrots Cauliflower Celery
Cucumbers Cantaloupe Honeydew Onions Pumpkins
Squash Watermelons Alfalfa Hay Alfalfa Seed Cotton Lint
Cotton Seed Legume Seed Peanuts Rapeseed Soybeans

Bee Research Goes to the Wolves…

Beeologics says their mission is to become the “guardian of bee health worldwide,” and states they are dedicated to “restoring bee health and protecting the future of insect pollination” with its primary goal to control the colony collapse disorder and Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV) infection crises.” Monsanto bought the company in September 2011, just months before Poland announced it would ban growing of Monsanto’s genetically modified (GM) MON810 maize, noting, poignantly, that “pollen of this strain could have a harmful effect on bees.”ii

The ongoing blight of GM crops has been implicated in CCD for years now. In one German study,iii when bees were released in a GM rapeseed crop, then fed the pollen to younger bees, scientists discovered the bacteria in the guts of the young ones mirrored the same genetic traits as ones found in the GM crop, indicating that horizontal gene transfer had occurred.

Further, the newer systemic insecticides, known as neonicotinoids, have become the fastest growing insecticides in the world. Two prominent examples, Imidacloprid and Clothianidin, are used as seed treatments in hundreds of crops. Virtually all of today’s genetically engineered Bt corn is treated with neonicotinoids.

Bee colonies began disappearing in the U.S. shortly after the EPA allowed these new insecticides on the market. Even the EPA itself admits that “pesticide poisoning” is a likely cause of bee colony collapse.

These insecticides are highly toxic to bees because they are systemic, water soluble, and very pervasive. They get into the soil and groundwater where they can accumulate and remain for many years and present long-term toxicity to the hive. They enter the vascular system of the plant and are carried to all parts of it, as well as to the pollen and nectar. Neonicotinoids affect insects’ central nervous systems in ways that are cumulative and irreversible. Even minute amounts can have profound effects over time. And the little bees are being exposed over and over again as pesticides become more necessary due to the inherent weaknesses of monoculture.

One of the observed effects of these insecticides is weakening of the bee’s immune system.

Forager bees bring pesticide-laden pollen back to the hive, where it’s consumed by all of the bees. Six months later, their immune systems fail, and they fall prey to natural bee infections, such as parasites, mites, viruses, fungi and bacteria. Indeed, pathogens such as Varroa mites, Nosema, fungal and bacterial infections, and IAPV are found in large amounts in honey bee hives on the verge of collapse. In addition to immune dysfunction and opportunistic diseases, the honey bees also appear to suffer from neurological problems, disorientation, and impaired navigation.

A bee can’t survive for more than 24 hours if she becomes disoriented and unable to find her way back to the hive.

Even butterflies are suffering… A decline in the North American monarch butterfly population has been linked to increased plantings of herbicide-tolerant GM crops, and overuse of the herbicide glyphosate, which is the key chemical in Monsanto’s Roundup.iv Glyphosate is killing milkweed, upon which monarchs rely for habitat and food.

GM Crops Lead to Monoculture…

Monoculture is the growing of just one type of crop on a massive scale. Where farms used to consist of multiple types of produce, pigs, chickens and cows, today you see mile upon mile of corn and soybeans… Monoculture farming practices have sadly resulted in a widespread shift away from sustainable family farms and locally produced foods, and toward industrialized agriculture, massive farming complexes, and confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), all driven by large corporations whose chief motivation is maximizing profit.

Monoculture increases dependency on chemical pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). In fact, the use of GM crops like corn and soy (the United States leads the world in GM crop acreage, by the way) is the very definition of monoculture! Why is this an important point to remember? Because, ironically, Monsanto-owned Beeologics states right on their website that large-scale monoculture and pesticide use are key reasons why bees are dying!

“Assorted factors have been implicated in the reduced capability of bees to survive in recent years, including the dearth of resources and poor nutrition which are a key factor in bee and colony loss. Every doctor prescribes exercise and a healthy diet as preventive measures to disease. And every beekeeper knows that good forage over time is the ultimate cure. Bees, as a community, overcome almost all diseases easily when the weather is favorable and wild flowers bloom prolifically. However, in recent years, large scale monoculture has resulted in a lack of natural weeds, and all too often pesticide-laden crop forage.”v

It will be interesting to see how long this information remains on their site, or if Monsanto will realize the irony in these words and have it taken down… the problem, of course, is that now Monsanto will be able to massage any forthcoming “research” to make sure it exonerates their prized GM creations from having any role in CCD…

A recent Global Research article reports:

“Owning a major organization that focuses heavily on the bee collapse and is recognized by the USDA for their mission statement of “restoring bee health and protecting the future of insect pollination” could be very advantageous for Monsanto. In fact, Beelogics’ company information states that the primary goal of the firm is to study the very collapse disorder that is thought to be a result — at least in part — of Monsanto’s own creations.”

What Can You do to Help the Honeybees?

The documentary film Vanishing of the Bees recommends four actions you can take to help preserve our honey bees:

  • Support organic farmers and shop at local farmer’s markets as often as possible. You can “vote with your fork” three times a day. [When you buy organic, you are making a statement by saying “no” to GMOs!]
  • Cut the use of toxic chemicals in your house and on your lawn, and use organic pest control.
  • Better yet, get rid of your lawn altogether and plant a garden. Lawns offer very little benefit for the environment. Both flower and vegetable gardens provide good honey bee habitats.
  • Become an amateur beekeeper. Having a hive in your garden requires only about an hour of your time per week, benefits your local ecosystem, and you can enjoy your own honey!

If you are interested in more information about bee preservation, the following organizations are a good place to start.

  • Pesticide Action Network Bee Campaign vi
  • The Foundation for the Preservation of Honey Beesvii
  • American Beekeeping Federationviii
  • Help the Honey Beesix

Foods That Chronic Pain Sufferers Need to Avoid

chronic painChronic pain is a pervasive issue and fibromyalgia is a very common form. It is a chronic condition whose symptoms include muscle and tissue pain, fatigue, depression, and sleep disturbances.

Recent data suggests that central sensitization, in which neurons in your spinal cord become sensitized by inflammation or cell damage, may be involved in the way fibromyalgia sufferers process pain.

Certain chemicals in the foods you eat may trigger the release of neurotransmitters that heighten this sensitivity.

Although there have been only a handful of studies on diet and fibromyalgia, the following eating rules can’t hurt, and may help, when dealing with chronic pain.

Limit Sugar as Much as Possible. Increased insulin levels will typically dramatically worsen pain. So you will want to limit all sugars and this would typically include fresh fruit juices. Whole fresh fruit is the preferred method for consuming fruit products.

If you are overweight, have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, you will also want to limit grains as much as possible as they are metabolized very similarly to sugars. This would also include organic unprocessed grains. Wheat and gluten grains are the top ones to avoid.

Eat fresh foods. Eating a diet of fresh foods, devoid of preservatives and additives, may ease symptoms triggered by coexisting conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

It’s also a good idea to buy organic food when possible, as it’s best to avoid pesticides and chemicals. However, fresh is best. So if you have to choose between local, fresh, non-organic and organic but wilting – go with fresh, and clean properly.

Avoid caffeine. Fibromyalgia is believed to be linked to an imbalance of brain chemicals that control mood, and it is often linked with inadequate sleep and fatigue. The temptation is to artificially and temporarily eliminate feelings of fatigue with stimulants like caffeine, but this approach does more harm than good in the long run. Though caffeine provides an initial boost of energy, it is no substitute for sleep, and is likely to keep you awake.

Try avoiding nightshade vegetables. Nightshade vegetables like tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant may trigger arthritis and pain conditions in some people.

Be Careful with Your Fats. Animal based omega-3 fats like DHA and EPA have been touted as a heart-healthy food, and they may help with pain, as well. They can help reduce inflammation and improve brain function. At the same time, you want to eliminate all trans fat and fried foods, as these will promote inflammation.

Use yeast sparingly. Consuming yeast may also contribute to the growth of yeast fungus, which can contribute to pain.

Avoid pasteurized dairy. Many fibromyalgia sufferers have trouble digesting milk and dairy products. However, many find that raw dairy products, especially from grass fed organic sources, are well tolerated.

Cut down on carbs. About 90 percent of fibromyalgia patients have low adrenal functioning, which affects metabolism of carbohydrates and may lead to hypoglycemia.

Avoid aspartame. The artificial sweetener found in some diet sodas and many sugar-free sweets is part of a chemical group called excitotoxins, which activate neurons that can increase your sensitivity to pain.

Avoid additives. Food additives such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) often cause trouble for pain patients. MSG is an excitatory neurotransmitter that may stimulate pain receptors; glutamate levels in spinal fluid have been shown to correlate with pain levels in fibromyalgia patients.

Stay away from junk food. Limit or eliminate fast food, candy, and vending-machine products. In addition to contributing to weight gain and the development of unhealthy eating habits, these diet-wreckers may also irritate your muscles, disrupt your sleep, and compromise your immune system.

How to Avoid Being Fooled at the Supermarket

How and what you eat has radically changed over the past few decades with the all-consuming rise of the supermarket. But what price are you paying for this homogenized, cheap and convenient food? This video investigates how supermarkets have affected the food on your plate, and reveals the telltale signs that the food you buy may not have been grown in the way you think.