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Cannabinoid herbs and superfoods - Dr. Axe

It’s a hot topic in the news and among our law makers today — controversial cannabis oil and its therapeutic value. We know that cannabinoids, the compounds found in cannabis that allow for the plant’s many health benefits, can help to improve a number of serious diseases, from cardiovascular disease to schizophrenia.

But using the plant for medicine doesn’t come without concerns, like its potential side effects, such as a decrease in concentration, memory and the ability to think straight, and its psychoactive ingredient, THC.

That’s why more and more research is being conducted on CBD benefits — exploring the properties of another class of ingredients found in cannabis called cannabinoids. Researchers are finding that cannabinoids act as ligands that bind to proteins and modulate receptors in the brain and throughout the body. (1)

But did you know that there are several common plants that actually mimic the biological activity of cannabinoids? These plants contain compounds that are “cannabimimetic,” which means that even though they don’t share the same biological structure as cannabinoids, they have similar effects on the body.

These herbs and superfoods that mimic cannabinoids are of increasing importance among researchers who study the medicinal value of cannabis. They work by nourishing our endocannabinoid system (ECS) — a biological system that’s made up of neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors in the brain and other areas of the central and peripheral nervous systems.


Cannabinoids and the Endocannabinoid System

The endocannabinoid system plays a role in many cognitive and physiological processes, and is responsible for maintaining homeostasis, or a stable, well-functioning internal environment.

It wasn’t until scientists started studying the beneficial effects of cannabis that they discovered this biochemical communication system in the human body. And now it’s thought to be one of the most important physiological systems involved in maintaining our health. This incredible system is made up endocannabinoid receptors that respond to cannabinoid compounds, which can be found in cannabis and a number of other plants.

Endocannabinoid receptors are found throughout our bodies — in our brains, immune cells, connective tissues, glands and organs. Research published in Pharmacological Reviews points out that modulating the activity of the endocannabinoid system holds therapeutic promise in a wide range of diseases and pathological conditions, including mood and anxiety disorders, cardiovascular disease, obesity, metabolic syndrome, osteoporosis, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis and cancer. (2)

It’s these cannabinoid receptors, which are found in all vertebrate species, that allow for a variety physiological processes to take place within the body. So far, researchers have identified two types of cannabinoid receptors — CB1 receptors, which are present in our connective tissues, glands, organs, gonads and nervous system, and CB2 receptors, which are found in the immune system. And although thousands of studies have been conducted on the role of cannabinoids in the body, scientists believe that we are just beginning to scratch the surface.

It was once believed that only THC and a few other phytocannabinoids affected these receptors, but we are now learning that other plants and foods can modulate them as well. Cannabimimetics, the compounds that mimic cannabinoids, are also able to bind to cannabinoid receptors and have a positive effect on the endocannabinoid system.


10 Herbs & Superfoods that Mimic Cannabinoids

1. Essential Oils of Rosemary, Black Pepper, Ylang Ylang, Lavender, Cinnamon and Cloves 

Terpenes, the aroma molecules found in essential oils, engage CB2, the cannabinoid receptor that’s found predominately in the immune system. Black pepper, lavender, clove, rosemary and cinnamon essential oils contain a sesquiterpenoid that’s called beta-caryophyllene (βCP).

In vivo studies show that βCP selectively binds to the CB2 receptor and that it’s a functional CB2 agonist, meaning that it initiates a physiological response. βCP is a major component in cannabis and a common constituent found in essential oils of numerous spice and plant foods. Therefore, essential oils containing βCP have natural cannabimimetic effects and can be used as functional non-psychoactive CB2 receptor ligands that have anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting effects. (3)

2. Echinacea

Echinacea is a coneflower that’s known as a powerful immune system stimulator. People often use echinacea to reduce the chances of catching a cold and reducing the duration of cold symptoms. Some other echinacea benefits include its ability to alleviate pain and improve mental health.

Echinacea contains fatty acid compounds called N-acylethanolamines, which are known to bind to and activate cannabinoid receptors. When engaging with CB2 receptors, these compounds in echinacea help to regulate immune function and reduce inflammation. (4, 5)

3. Truffles

Recent research shows that truffles, specifically black truffle, or Tuber melanosporum, contain anandamide and the major metabolic enzymes of the endocannabinoid system. Anandamide is a mood-enhancing compound that might play a role in the truffle’s maturation process and its interaction with the environment, according to research published in Phytochemistry.

Studies show that anandamide is well-equipped with endocannabinoid-binding receptors and releases chemicals in the human brain that have a similar biological mechanism as THC. That’s why some scientists are even calling anandamide a “bliss molecule,” as it may help to improve your mood, appetite, memory and fertility. (6, 7)

 

Herbs and superfoods that mimic cannabinoids - Dr. Axe

 

4. Cacao

Like black truffles, cacao nibs contains anandamide, an endocannabinoid that’s produced in the brain and is known as the bliss neurotransmitter. Cacao also works to deactivate fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), which is an enzyme that’s part of the endocannabinoid system and breaks down anandamide. This allows the body to retain the bliss-promoting compound at higher levels, allowing you to feel more relaxed and euphoric. (8)

5. Helichrysum 

Helichrysum italicum is a plant that’s known for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial and antifungal properties. The plant has been used for its medicinal properties for thousands of years and today, helichrysum essential oil is often used as a natural mood stabilizer and immune-booster.

Helichrysum is a major producer of compounds that mimic cannabigerol (CBG) and cannabigerol acid (CBGa). These particular compounds are known to be one of the most structurally diversified types of phytocannabinoids that are found in the cannabis plant. More research is needed to determine exactly how these non-cannabis CBG compounds work within the body, but researchers believe that it begins from the plant’s aromatic acid. (9)

6. Omega-3 Fats

You’ve probably heard about the many omega-3 benefits before, but researchers are discovering that some of these benefits come from the body’s ability to convert omega-3 foods into endocannabinoids.

A recent study conducted at the University of Illinois found that cannabinoids are produced naturally in the body from omega-3 fatty acids. When scientists analyzed animal tissue, they discovered an enzymatic pathway that converts omega-3-derived endocannabinoids into more powerful anti-inflammatory molecules that bind to receptors in the immune system.

This means that omega-3 fats can actually produce some of the same medicinal qualities as cannabis, like supporting the immune system and reducing inflammation, without the psychotropic effects. (10)

7. Kava 

Kava root has been used for centuries for medicinal and recreational purposes. Today, kava is most commonly used to calm anxiety, stress and insomnia, and it’s used for headaches, muscle pain and even cancer prevention.

Kava contains compounds that are called kavalactones, and one in particular, yangonin, is able to interact directly with CB1 receptors. Scientists believe that these specific compounds that are able to interact with proteins of the endocannabinoid system are responsible for kava’s well-known anti-anxiety effects. (11)

8. Maca

Maca root is a type of cruciferous vegetable that’s available in powder form. It’s considered an adaptogen that helps the body to deal with stress, and it has been used as a superfood in regions of the Andes Mountains for thousands of years.

A recent study published in the Journal of Natural Products suggests that maca root contains compounds called N-alkylamides (NAAs) that mimic the biological actions of cannabinoids. These compounds found in maca are said to have an effect on various protein targets in the endocannabinoid system. (12)

9. Copaiba 

Copaiba oil resin, or Copaifera reticulata, is used in Brazilian folk medicine as a healing and anti-inflammatory agent. Studies also show that copaiba has neuroprotecting effects following acute damage to the central nervous system.

Research shows that 40–57 percent of copaiba oil is made up of β-caryophyllene, a dietary cannabinoid that has powerful anti-inflammatory effects. β-caryophyllene binds to CB2 receptors and inhibits pro-inflammatory pathways. (13)

10. Holy Basil 

Holy basil, also known as tulsi, is a plant that’s used in traditional medicine for a number of health ailments, including respiratory conditions, hypertension, diabetes, arthritis and cancer. (14)

Like capaiba oil and many other essential oils, like black pepper, lavender and clove, holy basil contains β-caryophyllene, a compound that mimics those of cannabis by reducing inflammation and pain.

Researchers believe that compounds in holy basil work as peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) agonists, or activators, that help to regulate brain inflammation and oxidative stress. This may help to improve symptoms of epilepsy, as the condition has been linked to low levels of cannabinoids and PPARs. In this way, cannabis and holy basil work similarly. (15)


Precautions

Any time you are adding a new herbal product to your health regime, it’s best to check with your healthcare provider to be sure that there aren’t any interactions with your prescribed medications, if you’re taking any.

The proper dosage of these herbs and superfoods, especially when you are using them to improve the symptoms of a certain condition will vary, depending on the product formula and brand. Make sure to read the label carefully to determine the correct dosage for you. If you are experiencing any adverse side effects after using any of these herbs or superfoods, stop using it and consult your healthcare practitioner.


Final Thoughts

  • Researchers are beginning to explore a number of plants and superfoods that contain compounds that are “cannabimimetic,” meaning that even though they don’t share the same biological structure as cannabinoids, they have similar effects on the body.
  • These cannabimimetic plants and foods nourish the endocannabinoid system — a biological system that’s made up of neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors in the brain and other areas of the central and peripheral nervous systems.
  • By acting like cannabinoids and nourishing the endocannabinoid system, these plants and foods may help to improve the symptoms of a number of health conditions, from depression, to Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis. Plus, users don’t have to be concerned about the potential unwanted side effects of using cannabis.

10 Herbs & Superfoods that Mimic Cannabinoids

  1. Essential oils of rosemary, black pepper, ylang ylang, lavender, cinnamon and cloves
  2. Echinacea
  3. Cacao
  4. Truffles
  5. Helichrysum
  6. Omega-3 fatty acids
  7. Kava
  8. Maca
  9. Copaiba
  10. Holy basil

Read Next: 8 “You Won’t Believe It!” Natural Painkillers

The post 10 Herbs & Superfoods with Cannabinoids Similar to Cannabis appeared first on Dr. Axe.

Source: dr axe

Looking for a fun way to personalize gift giving this year? Look no further. These Holiday Sachets are the perfect […]

The post Essentials Video: DIY Scented Holiday Sachets appeared first on Plant Therapy Blog.

Source: plant therapy Blog

Whew! Now that we got essential oil safety with infants and toddlers out of the way, we can move on […]

The post Teething and Essential Oils: A Definitive Guide appeared first on Plant Therapy Blog.

Source: plant therapy Blog

Coumarin - Dr. Axe

Despite its sweet flavor and pleasant aroma, coumarin is a chemical that can have serious effects on health when consumed in high amounts. In fact, high doses have been linked to liver damage, impaired cognitive development and even cancer formation in both animal and human studies. However, coumarin is found distributed throughout the food supply and is naturally present in many otherwise nutrient-dense foods like cinnamon, celery, strawberries and apricots. Plus, it’s commonly used in the production of blood-thinning medications and is often added to fragrances and cosmetics alike.

So is coumarin safe, and how can you be sure you’re not going over the recommended daily limit? Here’s what you need to know about this controversial chemical.


What Is Coumarin?

Coumarin is a chemical compound found in a variety of different plants. It has a fragrant, sweet odor and flavor and is often added to fragrances and cosmetics. It’s also used as a precursor to anticoagulant medications, such as warfarin and Coumadin, which help promote blood circulation and prevent the formation of blood clots.

Many different foods contain coumarin, but it’s typically found in very small amounts well under the daily limit of 0.05 milligrams/pound of body weight. The exception is cassia cinnamon, which is one of the most concentrated sources of coumarin in the diet. In fact, even a few teaspoons of cassia cinnamon can put you over the recommended daily limit.

In the past, synthetic coumarin was also used as a food additive to enhance the flavor of foods. However, in 1954, the U.S. Food and Drug Agency banned the use of coumarin as a food additive due to reports of its potentially harmful effects on health in animal studies. (1)

High doses of coumarin consumption have been associated with a range of adverse side effects, including liver damage and impaired cognitive development. Plus, it may also promote tumor formation and could cause short-term side effects like nausea, diarrhea and headaches, according to animal models, case reports and human studies.


Coumarin Side Effects and Dangers

  1. Can Damage Liver Health
  2. May Promote Cancer Development
  3. Could Impair Cognitive Development
  4. Causes Short-Term Negative Side Effects

1. Can Damage Liver Health

One of the primary concerns associated with coumarin consumption is its potential to cause liver disease. Its use as a food additive was even banned in the United States following an animal study that evaluated the effects of coumarin toxicity and showed that it could have liver-damaging effects when administered to rats. (2)

While research is still mostly restricted to animal models, some studies have even found that it could have similar effects on liver function in humans as well. In fact, one report published by the Department of Internal Medicine at University Hospital in Frankfurt, Germany described a case of severe hepatitis and liver damage in a 56-year-old woman that was caused by the use of an anticoagulant drug derived from coumarin. (3)

2. May Promote Cancer Development

Some research suggests that coumarin may be carcinogenic and could promote the formation of tumor cells when consumed in very high doses. In particular, animal models have found that it may be especially harmful for the liver and lungs and could potentially lead to cancer development.

Unfortunately, though, evidence on the carcinogenic effects of coumarin in humans is very limited, so it’s unclear whether it may have the same cancer-causing effects in people taking high doses. According to a review published in Food and Chemical Toxicology, exposure to coumarin from food or cosmetic products poses no health risk to humans. (4) However, more research is still needed to understand how it may affect the general population.

3. Could Impair Cognitive Development

Findings from several studies show that coumarin and certain medications derived from it may play a role in cognitive development. Some research reports that fetal exposure to it may be linked to an increased risk of neurological problems and cognitive deficits later in life.

One study published in the journal Early Human Development, for example, showed that exposure to coumarin derivatives while in utero was tied to a 90 percent increased risk of mild neurological dysfunction, especially when exposure occurred during the second or third trimester. (5) Similarly, another study published in Early Human Development compared a group of children who had been exposed to coumarins during pregnancy with a control group and found that those who scored the lowest in terms of IQ and neurological development had been exposed to coumarin-derived medications.

Keep in mind, however, that these studies looked at the effects of blood-thinning medications derived from coumarin rather than from food sources alone. Additional studies are needed to examine how exposure to high doses from food may affect cognitive development.

4. Causes Short-Term Negative Side Effects

When consumed in high doses, coumarin can cause several short-term negative side effects, most of which will usually resolve on their own with time. Some of the most commonly reported adverse symptoms of coumarin include blurred vision, nausea, diarrhea, headaches and loss of appetite. Talk to your doctor immediately if you experience these or other side effects like unusual bleeding, bruising or blood in the urine or stools, all of which could indicate a more serious problem.

 

Coumarin - Dr. Axe

 


Any Potential Benefits?

It’s generally recommended to limit coumarin consumption due to the long list of potential side effects and dangers that it is commonly associated with. However, some studies have found that it may have some benefits as well and could even be useful in the treatment of certain medical conditions. In fact, studies have also found that it may possess powerful antifungal, antiviral, anti-hypertensive, neuro-protective and anti-hyperglycemic properties. (6)

So what is coumarin used for? Studies show that it may be especially beneficial in the treatment of lymphedema. Lymphedema is a condition characterized by the swelling of your arms or legs due to the buildup of lymph fluid under the skin. (7)

Coumarin may also increase levels of antithrombin, an important protein that helps regulate blood clotting. (8) For this reason, it is used as a precursor to Coumadin/warfarin, a medication that acts as an anticoagulant and blood thinner.

Research shows that it may also help relieve inflammation to reduce the risk of chronic disease. For instance, one animal study published in the journal Phytomedicine showed that coumarin derivatives had antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and were able to protect cells against damage to aid in the prevention of inflammatory intestinal conditions. (9)


Top 14 Coumarin Foods

Coumarin is found naturally in many plant foods and may also be added to certain food additives and flavorings, like vanilla extract. Keep in mind that many healthy foods may contain small amounts of this compound but can still be included as part of a balanced diet when consumed in moderation.

Here are some of the most common sources of coumarin in the diet (10, 11):

  1. Cassia Cinnamon
  2. Mexican Vanilla
  3. Tonka Beans
  4. Strawberries
  5. Cherries
  6. Apricots
  7. Green Tea
  8. Celery
  9. Bilberry
  10. Honey
  11. Carrots
  12. Sweet Clover
  13. Peppermint
  14. Licorice Root

Coumarin in Ayurveda and TCM

Although coumarin is not typically used in holistic forms of medicine, many of the foods that it’s found in are. Cassia cinnamon, in particular, contains a highly concentrated dose in each serving. It is often considered a staple ingredient in both Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Cassia cinnamon has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. It is revered for its potent healing properties. It’s most often used to boost energy levels and circulation. Plus, cassia cinnamon is used to treat issues like gas, colds, nausea, diarrhea and painful menstruation.

Meanwhile, it is frequently used on the Ayurvedic diet to enhance libido, prevent gastrointestinal problems, increase circulation and relieve indigestion. It’s typically recommended for people with the kapha dosha. Cassia cinnamon is considered a natural treatment for diabetes and high blood sugar as well.


Coumarin vs. Coumadin vs. Curcumin

Coumarin is a naturally occurring compound found in many plants. It is responsible for the sweet smell of ingredients like sweet woodruff and sweet clover. The coumarin in cinnamon is the most concentrated dietary source, with some reports showing that cassia cinnamon contains up to 63 times more coumarin than Ceylon. (12) It is also synthesized and used as a precursor to coumarin drugs like warfarin, also known as Coumadin.

Coumadin is a type of prescription blood-thinning medication that is used to help treat and prevent the formation of blood clots in the body. This ensures proper blood flow. It can reduce the risk of serious problems like heart attack, pulmonary embolism and stroke to keep you healthy. Coumadin is not found in nature and should be taken under medical supervision due to the high risk of adverse side effects.

Curcumin, on the other hand, is the active ingredient found in turmeric that is responsible for supplying it with its vibrant yellow hue and powerful health-promoting properties. The benefits of curcumin have been well-documented. Studies show that it can do everything from relieve pain to balance cholesterol levels and beyond. (13, 14) Like Coumadin, it may also help inhibit platelet aggregation to block blood clot formation. This could potentially reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke. (15, 16)


How to Limit Consumption

Coumarin is found in many different food sources, many of which are nutritious and can be included in moderation as part of a healthy, well-rounded diet. Green tea, for example, contains a small amount but is also loaded with catechins and antioxidants that can help fight free radical formation and promote better health. Similarly, strawberries may contain some, but they are also incredibly nutrient-dense and pack tons of important vitamins and minerals into each serving.

Cassia cinnamon supplies the highest amount of coumarin in the diet, containing about 5 milligrams in each teaspoon. It’s typically recommended to keep intake under 0.05 milligrams/pound of body weight. That means that it takes just 1.5 teaspoons to go over the daily limit for a person who is 150 pounds.

Swapping cassia cinnamon for Ceylon cinnamon is the best way to reduce coumarin consumption while still taking advantage of the unique health benefits of cinnamon. These include reduced inflammation, better blood sugar levels and protection against neurodegenerative disorders. (17, 18, 19)

Additionally, be sure to opt for pure vanilla extract rather than Mexican vanilla flavoring. Mexican vanilla flavoring may contain high amounts of coumarin. Although coumarin is banned as a food additive in the United States due to its potentially harmful effects on health, its use is not as tightly regulated in other countries. Read the label carefully to ensure you get pure vanilla rather than a cheap imitation that could come with negative side effects.


History/Facts

Coumarin was initially isolated from tonka beans in 1820 by scientist August Vogel, who actually mistook it for benzoic acid due to its similar chemical structure. That same year, Nicholas Jean Baptiste Gaston Guibourt, another scientist from France, also isolated it but recognized that it was different from benzoic acid. Guibourt named the substance “coumarine,” which stems from the French word for tonka beans, coumarou. (20)

A few years later in 1868, an English scientist named William Henry Perkin was the first to successfully synthesize coumarin in the lab. Because of its pleasant and sweet aroma, it became a staple ingredient in cosmetics and fragrances. It was also used as a precursor to anticoagulants, including many that are frequently used today, such as warfarin and Coumadin.

In 1954, the U.S. Food and Drug Agency banned its use as a food additive after a series of animal models reported that it could cause liver damage and may have potentially harmful effects on health. Today, coumarin itself is still not added to foods or beverages. However, natural additives that contain it, such as sweet woodruff, are often used to flavor some alcoholic drinks.


Precautions

Coumarin has been associated with many adverse effects on health. That doesn’t mean it needs to be avoided altogether. In fact, it’s naturally found in many foods that are highly nutritious, including strawberries, green tea and apricots. To sidestep negative symptoms, be sure to stay well below the recommended daily limit by reducing your intake of highly concentrated sources of coumarin, such as cassia cinnamon and Mexican vanilla flavoring.


Final Thoughts

  • Coumarin is a chemical compound found in many different plants, including the tonka bean, sweet clover and sweet woodruff.
  • In the past, it was used as a food additive and common ingredient in fragrances and cosmetics. One of the current coumarin uses includes the synthesis of anticoagulant drugs like warfarin and Coumadin.
  • Coumarin has been shown to reduce inflammation, prevent the buildup of lymph fluid under the skin and increase levels of antithrombin, a protein involved in blood clotting.
  • However, high doses of coumarin and coumarin-derived medications can cause liver damage and may contribute to cognitive impairment and cancer formation.
  • It is found naturally in many sources, including strawberries, cherries, apricots and green tea. Cassia cinnamon is one of the most highly concentrated sources of coumarin, and even a teaspoon can easily put you over the daily limit.
  • For this reason, it’s best to opt for Ceylon cinnamon whenever possible and limit coumarin intake to maximize the health of your diet.

Read Next: Pepsin: Signs You Need More of This Digestive Enzyme & How to Get It in Your Diet

The post Coumarin: Inflammation Fighter or Toxic Danger? appeared first on Dr. Axe.

Source: dr axe

Lavender is a perennial flowering shrub native to North Africa and the Mediterranean region, with a history dating back to more than 2,500 years ago. It has been used by ancient civilizations, such as the Phoenicians, Arabians and Egyptians, for perfumes and mummification. The Greeks, Romans and Persians added it to their bathwater to wash and help purify their skin.1

Today, lavender is sold in different forms, and is a common fixture among households and professionals. It can be used in different ways, such as for cooking, home decorations and aromatherapy. Lavender has a sweet, floral, herbaceous and slightly woody scent.

The Various Benefits of Lavender

Due to the rich, long history of lavender, it's no surprise that many cultures have used it in various ways to help treat different conditions. Below are some of lavender's research-backed health benefits:

Promoting hair health — According to a study published in Archives of Dermatology, lavender oil, along with a mixture of other essential oils, may help treat alopecia areata (hair loss), and that it was able to show improvement in 43 percent of the total test participants.2 In another study that used mice as test subjects, lavender oil exhibited hair growth-promoting effects.3

Eliminating microbes — Research shows that lavender oil possesses antibacterial properties that are effective against 65 different strains, such as E. coli and S. aureus. In addition, it may also help fight fungi.4

Improving blood circulation — Lavender may help boost proper blood circulation throughout your body.5

Relieving respiratory disorders — If diffused via an inhaler or a vaporizer, lavender essential oil can help treat inflammatory respiratory conditions like asthma.6

Providing pain relief — Applying lavender essential oil to your muscles may help relieve soreness, joint pain and rheumatism.7

Boosting skin healing — A 2016 study notes that topical application of lavender oil can help promote acceleration of collagen synthesis and differentiation of fibroblasts, thereby promoting wound healing.8

Other Great Uses of Lavender

Aside from the therapeutic and topical benefits of lavender, it has other useful applications for:

  • Cooking — Dried lavender buds or petals can help enhance the aroma of dishes, most notably desserts and salads. Make sure to grind them finely first before cooking so that when you eat the finished product, you don't have leaves or petals stuck in your mouth. Use them sparingly as well, as they have a powerful flavor and aroma that can overpower the other ingredients in your dish.9
  • Keeping air fresh and clothes fragrant — Lavender sachets can enrich the atmosphere in your house, making you feel like you live right beside a lavender field in rural France. To liven up your home, you can leave lavender sachets inside your drawer to make your clothes fragrant. They're also a safe insect repellent that may help preserve your prized clothing.10
  • Home decorating — Lavender flowers are very pleasing to the eye, making them popular choices for home decorations. You can plant them in patterns to create natural borders in your garden, construct a path or grow a hedge.11 The possibilities are endless when it comes to decorating with lavender, and there are many home decoration tips you can find online to help you.

How to Grow Lavender in Your Home

Growing lavender can be easily done in the comfort of your own home. Not only does it provide you easy access to its amazing health benefits, but it also makes your garden look better. To grow lavender, there are three aspects you need to focus on:12

Planting and soil conditions — Plant lavender seeds in an open area that has lots of circulation and full sunlight exposure, spacing them 12 to 18 inches apart. The soil must have a pH between 6.7 and 7.3, and should be well-drained. This is important because lavender flowers should not have excess water in the soil, or the quality of the plants will suffer.

As the plants bloom, clip any wilted flowers to maintain the quality and prune them lightly to promote branching. Expect the flowers to fully mature when summer arrives.

Maintenance — It's important to remember that in growing lavender, you should have an area with a good water circulation system and good air exposure. When watering, always add moderate amounts to prevent excess water from building up. If you're watering during the hot season, add sand to the soil to increase evaporation speed, because humid surroundings can cause fungi growth, causing the plants to deteriorate.

Harvesting and storage — Once fully mature, you can harvest the flowers at your own leisure. To dry the flowers, gather a group of stems and hang them upside down in a dark, well-ventilated place to prevent molds from growing. In terms of storage, the flowers can maintain their fragrance for months if you harvest them before they entirely open.

Cooking With Lavender: Peach and Feta Salad With Lavender Dressing

If you want to try incorporating lavender into a meal, a salad is a great way to experience it. This recipe, which comes from Honest Cooking, contains a mixture of lettuce, onions, feta and peaches to provide various essential nutrients for optimal health. It’s easy to prepare, tastes great and best of all, smells amazing thanks to the lavender.13

Ingredients

  • 3 cups romaine lettuce, torn
  • 1 red onion, cut into rings
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 peaches, cut into segments

Dressing

  • 1 teaspoon fresh lavender flowers
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Juice of half a lemon (at least 4 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Procedure

  1. Mix the lemon juice, salt, lavender, mustard, garlic and balsamic vinegar in a bowl, then whisk. Slowly drizzle the olive oil while whisking until you’ve added enough.
  2. Add the onion rings to the dressing. This helps remove some of the sharp flavor of the onions.
  3. Lightly cook the peaches on a grill or in a pan on the stovetop.
  4. Arrange the torn lettuce in a plate, then top with the grilled peach segments.
  5. Remove the onions from the dressing then arrange on top of the lettuce.
  6. Top with the crumbled feta cheese, and decorate with a few lavender twigs.
  7. Drizzle the dressing on the salad and serve.

Lavender Essential Oil — The Best Way to Use Lavender

Out of all the various uses lavender is known for, its essential oil form is probably the most popular. Lavender oil is prized for its anti-inflammatory, antifungal and therapeutic benefits. It's rich in esters, which are aromatic molecules that contain antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory and adaptogenic properties.14

Making Lavender Essential Oil

Lavender essential oil is manufactured through steam distillation. In this process, lavender flowers are placed over a still and are slowly steamed. Eventually, the steam forces the essential compounds of the flowers to be released in oil form, which is then gathered and packaged.15

Using Lavender Essential Oil

There are many ways to apply lavender essential oil. Some of the most commonly used methods include:

  • Bath — Adding a few drops of lavender oil to your bathwater may help you experience the therapeutic benefits throughout your body almost instantly.16
  • Massage — You can apply diluted lavender essential oil directly to your skin and massage it to help feel relaxed.17 You can use it on athlete’s foot and other fungal infections as well to help speed up the healing process.18 Diluting it with a carrier oil is important because it has a very strong aroma, and an undiluted application can possibly sting your skin.
  • Diffuser — You can use a diffuser to help ease any respiratory conditions you might have. This method can help you feel relaxed and may help you breathe easier.19
  • Compress — Adding lavender oil to a cold towel compress may help ease plant stings caused by poison ivy or stinging nettles.20

Things to Remember Before Using Lavender Essential Oil

Before using lavender essential oil, or any essential oil for that matter, it's always important to do a skin test to check for any allergic reaction. To perform the test, apply one drop of diluted lavender oil to your arm to see if your skin becomes irritated. If nothing happens, then you can proceed with using the oil (make sure it's diluted with a carrier oil when you do so). Should any irritation occur, stop using the oil immediately and contact your doctor if the irritation doesn't subside.


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In a survey of 20,000 U.S. adults, 46 percent said they sometimes or always feel alone.1 While on the surface this may seem to be a mental health issue, it's one that's intricately tied to physical health as well. Increasingly, research is showing that loneliness exacts a significant toll on your health, one that's equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day2 and increases your risk of premature death.3

Your brain health may also suffer as a result of feeling lonely, with a recent study — including the largest sample to date — showing loneliness is associated with increased risk of dementia.4 While this association has been revealed previously, the latest study is unique in that it included a diverse sample of more than 12,000 individuals with a long 10-year follow-up time.

The results showed that feeling lonely is a strong predictor of dementia, and one modifiable risk factor that can potentially be improved to reduce dementia risk.

Loneliness Is Associated With a 40 Percent Increased Dementia Risk

For the study, researchers from Florida State University (FSU) in Tallahassee used data from a sample of people aged 50 and older. Telephone interviews had been conducted measuring loneliness and social isolation and participants had also conducted assessments of cognitive ability every two years during the 10-year study.

Loneliness was associated with a 40 percent increased risk of dementia over the study period, and the link was independent of other risk factors including gender, education, race, ethnicity and even social isolation. Social isolation is an important distinction, as it is an objective measure that refers to the number of contacts a person has socially.

A person can have a large quantity of social contacts yet still feel lonely, or have a low number of social contacts and feel fulfilled, so social isolation is not always the best measure of how a person is feeling internally. This is where loneliness comes in, as it refers to the subjective experience of social isolation.

Only people who felt lonely had an increased dementia risk. They were also more likely to have other dementia risk factors, including depression, high blood pressure, diabetes and a history of smoking and less physical activity. However, the loneliness/dementia link remained even when these factors were accounted for.5

Study author Angelina Sutin, an associate professor at FSU in the college's department of behavioral sciences and social medicine, explained the difference between loneliness and social isolation, and how it's not always readily apparent who's lonely and who's not:6

"It's a feeling that you do not fit in or do not belong with the people around you … You can have somebody who lives alone, who doesn't have very much contact with people, but has enough — and that fills their internal need for socializing. So even though objectively you might think that person is socially isolated, they don't feel lonely.

The flip side is that you can be around a lot of people and be socially engaged and interactive and still feel like you don't belong. From the outside it looks like you have great social engagement, but the subjective feeling is that you're not part of the group."

Past Research Links Loneliness to Double the Risk of Alzheimer's

In 2007, research published in the Archives of General Psychiatry also revealed that people who felt lonely had double the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease compared to those who did not.7 Study author Robert S. Wilson, Ph. D., explained in a news release:8

"Humans are very social creatures. We need healthy interactions with others to maintain our health … The results of our study suggest that people who are persistently lonely may be more vulnerable to the deleterious effects of age-related neuropathology …

If loneliness is causing changes in the brain, it is quite possible that … changes in behavior could lessen the effects of these negative emotions and reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease."

Indeed, yet another study looking into the link between loneliness and dementia revealed that feeling lonely, but not necessarily being alone, is associated with an increased risk of dementia in later life.

The association was so strong that researchers concluded feelings of loneliness may be a prodromal stage of dementia and noted, "A better understanding of the background of feeling lonely may help us to identify vulnerable persons and develop interventions to improve outcome in older persons at risk of dementia."9

Loneliness may affect dementia risk in multiple ways, including by increasing inflammation in the body along with blood pressure, both of which may affect dementia risk.

Feeling lonely may also encourage you to engage in unhealthy behaviors linked to dementia, including excessive drinking or not exercising. Further, if you're lonely, you may not be engaging in social activities or challenging your mind, which can further affect your cognitive function.10

Strong Social Networks With Friends Are Important for Health and Memory

While social isolation hasn't been linked to dementia the way loneliness has in the featured study, strong social networks are still an important factor for your overall health. Further, different types of social networks, such as those involving friends, children or other relatives, may have different effects on your health.

In one study, it was revealed that having a large network of good friends may have significant benefits for your memory later in life, much more so than social networks with children, relatives or confidants.11 The researchers suggested that friends may encourage healthy behaviors, such as physical activity, and that health advice from friends may be better received than that coming from family.

Further, strong friendships may be beneficial for other factors that influence brain health, including depression, self-efficacy, self-esteem, coping and morale and a sense of personal control.

"It is possible that these effects are due to the reinforcement of social roles, or because interactions with friends can become increasingly discretionary with age. The friendship networks that are retained in late life may offer high levels of socioemotional support, and thus confer benefit to individuals," the researchers explained.12 As for why social networks benefit memory, specifically, the researchers noted:13

"Social networks are the basis for social engagement, which is cognitively stimulating and may enhance neural plasticity in aging, thereby maintaining cognitive reserve. Thus better social networks might lead to continued psychological stimulation, delaying cognitive decline, or impairment.

An alternative possible mechanism is that the stronger social networks may serve to buffer against stress, through modifying its effects on the activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis of the central nervous system.

This affects neuronal functioning, and in this way individuals with better social networks are protected from some of these neuroendocrine processes. Another possibility is that social networks facilitate access to health care, indirectly forestalling brain pathology and other disease processes that affect cognition."

Dr. Kristen Fuller, a clinical mental health writer for Center for Discovery, added several other reasons why healthy friendships are so good for you:14

Friends encourage you and are there for you in good times and bad

Friends may push you outside your comfort zone, helping you develop social skills and grow as a person

Friends can give you a healthy reality check by being truthful

Friends help you learn how to communicate and compromise, which helps you develop healthy romantic relationships

Being friends with other couples can provide support during life transitions like engagement, marriage and having children

Loneliness and Social Isolation May Be Worse Than Smoking and Obesity

Loneliness affects your health in myriad ways. Two meta-analyses presented at the 2017 Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association even concluded loneliness and social isolation pose greater threats to public health than obesity, raising your risk for premature death by as much as 50 percent.15

The first analysis, which looked at 148 studies involving more than 300,000 adults, found social isolation increased the risk of premature death by 50 percent. The second, which evaluated 70 studies that included more than 3.4 million individuals, found social isolation, loneliness and living alone correlated with a 29 percent, 26 percent and 32 percent increased risk of mortality respectively.16

This is comparable to the risk of premature death associated with obesity and other risk factors for mortality, including smoking. In fact, loneliness has been linked to a host of mental and physical health problems, including an increased risk of:17

Metabolic syndrome

High blood pressure

Coronary heart disease

Psychosis

Suicide

Depression

Obesity

Unhealthy lifestyle

Feeling Lonely? Make Sure You're Sleeping Well

Lack of sleep has been identified as a public health crisis much like loneliness, and it turns out the two may be related. Research suggests loneliness may be tied to lack of sleep, as the more sleep deprived you are, the less social you become, and others pick up on the cue that you want to be left alone.18

It's a vicious cycle, as people who struggle with loneliness also tend to have trouble sleeping. For example, a 2011 study found that for each 1-point increase on the UCLA loneliness scale, an individual is 8 percent more likely to experience some sort of sleep disruption.19

Researchers have suggested that sleep loss actually causes loneliness by instigating "a propagating, self-reinforcing cycle of social separation and withdrawal."20 There are many causes of loneliness, however, above and beyond lack of sleep. Common reasons include:

  • Long work hours
  • Use of social media surpassing face-to-face interaction
  • Frequent travel for work
  • Living far from family
  • Delaying and/or forgoing marriage

With that in mind, if you're feeling lonely, be sure to tend to your sleep hygiene habits for a better night's rest. In addition, tend to the other underlying factors that may be contributing to your emotional state. The following strategies can help you to make meaningful connections with others in your community to help address feelings of loneliness and social isolation:

Join a club that interests you

Volunteer for a cause you believe in

Enroll in a class to learn a new skill or hobby

Create rituals of connection, such as calling a certain friend every Monday

Join a gym or sign up for a fitness class so you can exercise with others

Frequent local shops and markets, where you can build relationships with shop owners and other regular customers

Talk to strangers during your daily commute, at the grocery store and while walking your dog

Consider adopting a pet, such as a dog, which can provide companionship and a source of unconditional love

Move to be closer to your friends and family

Attend religious services or support groups

Simple Trick to Reduce Your Dementia Risk by 90 Percent

Addressing loneliness is an important strategy for reducing your dementia risk, but it's not the only one. In addition to improving this facet of your emotional and physical health, you'll also want to be sure you're paying attention to your cardiovascular fitness.

In fact, researchers from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden revealed that women with the highest cardiovascular fitness had an 88 percent lower risk of dementia than those with moderate fitness.21 Further, even maintaining average fitness is worthwhile, as women with the lowest fitness had a 41 percent greater risk of dementia than those of average fitness.

Fitness, in this case, is not the same as exercise, and the study did not measure how often the women exercised. Instead, it focused on cardiovascular fitness, as measured by a stepwise-increased maximal ergometer cycling test. Cardiovascular fitness can be a measure of how well blood is circulating to your heart and brain.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is an important component of reaching high levels of fitness, and it requires only a fraction of the time compared to typical moderate or low-intensity gym workouts. Restoring mitochondrial function is another cornerstone of successful dementia prevention and treatment. In addition to exercise, one of the most powerful ways to optimize mitochondrial function is cyclical ketosis.

The upside of using exercise as a tool to reduce your dementia risk is that it may also improve your sleep and mood, which in turn may make it easier to get motivated to build new connections and relationships, alleviating loneliness and slashing your dementia risk even more.


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Studies have found strong links between acute and/or chronic stress and a wide variety of health issues, including your brain function and risk for dementia. For example, animal research1 published in 2014 reported that elevated levels of stress hormones can speed up short-term memory loss in older adults by inducing structural changes in the brain.

The findings indicate that how your body responds to stress may be a factor that influences how your brain ages over time. Previous research has also linked chronic stress with working memory impairment2 and an increased risk for early onset of Alzheimer's disease.3

Fortunately, there's compelling research showing your brain has great plasticity and capacity for regeneration, which you control through your diet and lifestyle.

Based on the findings linking dementia with chronic stress, having effective tools to address stress can be an important part of Alzheimer's prevention, not to mention achieving and maintaining optimal health in general.

Stress Impairs Cognition and Memory, Recent Research Shows

Most recently, researchers warn that having elevated blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol can impair your thinking skills and memory over time.4,5,6,7 The researchers used the government-sponsored Framingham Heart Study database to identify more than 2,200 people who did not have any signs of dementia, and followed them for eight years. As reported by The New York Times:8

"Researchers gave tests for memory, abstract reasoning, visual perception and attention to 2,231 people, average age 49 and free of dementia. They recorded blood levels of cortisol and did MRI examinations to assess brain volume.

The study,9 in Neurology, controlled for age, sex, education, body mass index, blood pressure and many other variables, and found that compared with people with average levels of cortisol, those with the highest levels had lower scores on the cognitive tests.

In women, but not in men, higher cortisol was also associated with reduced brain volume. There was no association of the lowest cortisol levels with either cognitive test scores or brain size."

A significant limitation of the study is the fact that blood levels of cortisol were only checked once, at the end of the study, and may therefore not be representative of people's long-term exposure to this stress chemical.

Still, a number of other studies have reported similar findings, so the link between stress and cognitive decline certainly appears to be real. Lead author Dr. Justin Echouffo-Tcheugui, assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, commented on the findings:10

"Our research detected memory loss and brain shrinkage in middle-aged people before symptoms started to show in ordinary, daily activities.

So, it's important for people to find ways to reduce stress, such as getting enough sleep, engaging in moderate exercise, incorporating relaxation techniques into their daily lives, or asking their doctor about their cortisol levels and taking a cortisol-reducing medication if needed. It's important for physicians to counsel all people with higher cortisol levels."

Stress Hormones Have a Corrosive Effect in Your Brain

When you're stressed, your cortisol rises and, together with adrenaline, triggers your body's fight-or-flight response. Cortisol also increases the glucose level in your bloodstream and temporarily enhances your brain's use of that glucose, while simultaneously suppressing bodily functions deemed irrelevant during an emergency, such as digestion.

While this cascade of biochemical effects is beneficial when you're in immediate physical danger, cortisol has a corrosive effect that, over time, actually wears down the synapses responsible for memory storage and processing. This was demonstrated in the 2014 animal study11 mentioned earlier.

According to that study,12 elevated levels of cortisol affect your memory by causing a gradual loss of synapses in your prefrontal cortex, the brain region associated with short-term memory. As noted by the authors:

"Short-term increases in cortisol are critical for survival. They promote coping and help us respond to life's challenges by making us more alert and able to think on our feet.

But abnormally high or prolonged spikes in cortisol — like what happens when we are dealing with long-term stress — can lead to negative consequences that numerous bodies of research have shown to include digestion problems, anxiety, weight gain and high blood pressure."

While the authors of the Neurology study state that it is "premature to consider intervention" based on their findings,13 they suggest that lowering your cortisol may be a beneficial first step. The 2014 study authors also suggested you may be able to protect your future memory function by normalizing your cortisol levels.

Such intervention would be particularly beneficial for those who are at high risk for elevated cortisol, such as those who are depressed or are dealing with long-term stress following a traumatic event.

Stress May Trigger Clinical Onset of Alzheimer's

Other scientific findings have linked stress and severe dementia. Argentinian research14 presented at the World Congress of Neurology in 2013 suggests stress may actually act as a trigger for the onset of Alzheimer's disease, as nearly 3 in 4 Alzheimer's patients (72 percent) had experienced severe emotional stress during the two years preceding their diagnosis.

In the control group, only 26 percent, or 1 in 4, had undergone major stress or grief. Most of the stresses encountered by the Alzheimer's group involved:

  • Bereavement — death of a spouse, partner, or child
  • Violent experiences, such as assault or robbery
  • Car accidents
  • Financial problems, including "pension shock"
  • Diagnosis of a family member's severe illness

According to lead author Dr. Edgardo Reich:15

"Stress, according to our findings, is probably a trigger for initial symptoms of dementia. Though I rule out stress as monocausal in dementia, research is solidifying the evidence that stress can trigger a degenerative process in the brain and precipitate dysfunction in the neuroendocrine and immune system. It is an observational finding and does not imply direct causality. Further studies are needed to examine these mechanisms in detail."

Vision and Hearing Problems Also Linked to Dementia

Aside from managing daily stresses, protecting your vision and hearing are other important factors that can influence your dementia risk. In fact, recent research16 suggests you can actually slow down cognitive decline by restoring your hearing and/or vision, and by a significant degree.

Lead author Dr. Asri Maharani, a researcher at the University of Manchester in the division of neuroscience and experimental psychology, told NPR,17 "We found the rate of cognitive decline was slowed by 75 percent following the adoption of hearing aids. It is a surprising result."

While the researchers were surprised by the findings, it does make sense. As noted by Dina Rollins, an audiologist who was not involved in the study, "Stimulating your ears stimulates the nerves that stimulate your brain," so by restoring hearing, you're "giving your brain what it needs to make sense of what you're hearing."

Another possible reason for this link has to do with the fact that hearing loss leads to social isolation, which has also been shown to speed cognitive decline and raise your risk of dementia. A related study18 by the same research group shows cognitive decline is also slowed by restoring vision. Here, Maharani's team found that cataract surgery slowed the rate of cognitive decline by 50 percent.

Ketogenic Diet Protects Against Dementia

As mentioned, there's good news in all of this, and it's that your brain has a natural capacity for regeneration and rejuvenation. Among the most valuable dementia prevention strategies is a cyclical ketogenic diet described in my book, "Fat for Fuel" and many other articles. If you're new to this topic, see "Burn Fat for Fuel" or "A Beginner's Guide to the Ketogenic Diet" for an introduction.

In short, a ketogenic diet, being high in healthy fats and low in net carbohydrates, allows your body to start burning fat as its primary fuel and results in the creation of ketones. And, compared to glucose, ketones:

  • Burn more efficiently
  • Are a superior fuel for your brain
  • Generate fewer reactive oxygen species and less free radical damage
  • Influence DNA expression to increase detoxification and antioxidant production
  • Inhibit inflammation

Recent research19,20,21,22,23 shows a ketogenic diet improves neurovascular integrity and function and clearance of amyloid-beta (a main component of the plaque that accumulates in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s disease) — in part by improving the gut microbiome — and neurovascular function plays a major role in cognitive capability.

More specifically, poor neurovascular function is strongly associated with loss of language, memory and attention, while reduced cerebral blood flow raises your risk for depression, anxiety and dementia. Impaired blood-brain barrier function has also been linked to brain inflammation, dysfunction of synapses, impaired clearance of amyloid-beta plaques, psychiatric disorders and dementia.24

According to the authors, "Our findings suggest that ketogenic diet intervention started in the early stage may enhance brain vascular function, increase beneficial gut microbiota, improve metabolic profile, and reduce risk for Alzheimer's disease."

High-Sugar Diet Is a Recipe for Dementia

It's important to realize the adverse impact sugar has on your brain. A high-sugar diet triggers insulin resistance, and there's a very strong link between insulin resistance and Alzheimer's.25 For example, a longitudinal study26 published in the journal Diabetologia in January 2018, found that the higher an individual's blood sugar, the faster their rate of cognitive decline.

Even mild elevation of blood sugar and mild insulin resistance are associated with an elevated risk for dementia.27,28 Research29 published in 2013 showed that sugar and other carbohydrates disrupt your brain function primarily by shrinking your hippocampus, a brain region involved with the formation, organization and storage of memories.

The authors suggest that “strategies aimed at lowering glucose levels even in the normal range may beneficially influence cognition in the older population.” A similar study30 published in 2014 found that Type 2 diabetics lose more gray matter with age than expected, and this brain atrophy also helps explain why diabetics have a higher risk for dementia, and have earlier onset of dementia than nondiabetics.

As noted by Dr. Sam Gandy, director of the Center for Cognitive Health at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, these findings “suggest that chronic high levels of insulin and sugar may be directly toxic to brain cells” and that “this would definitely be a potential cause of dementia."31

Perhaps one of the most striking studies32 on carbohydrates and brain health revealed high-carb diets increase your risk of dementia by 89 percent, while high-fat diets lower it by 44 percent.

Sleep, Exercise and EMF Avoidance Are Other Key Dementia Prevention Strategies

Aside from stress and diet, three other lifestyle areas that play important roles in the development of dementia are sleep, physical fitness and exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs), the influence of which are summarized below.

Sleep — Wakefulness is associated with mitochondrial stress. Without sufficient sleep, neuron degeneration sets in, which can lead to dementia.33,34,35 In fact, sleep deprivation is a risk factor for severe dementia, and animal research36 reveals inconsistent, intermittent sleep results in considerable and irreversible brain damage.

Research published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging37 suggests people with chronic sleep problems also develop Alzheimer's disease sooner than those who sleep well.

Your blood-brain barrier becomes more permeable with age, allowing more toxins to enter.38 This, in conjunction with reduced efficiency of the glymphatic system due to lack of sleep, allows for more rapid damage to occur in your brain and this deterioration is thought to play a significant role in the development of Alzheimer's.

Exercise — Recent research39 found women with the highest cardiovascular fitness had an 88 percent lower risk of dementia than those with moderate fitness. Even maintaining average fitness is worthwhile, as women with the lowest fitness had a 41 percent greater risk of dementia than those of average fitness.

Electromagnetic field (EMF) exposure — Microwaves emitted from cellphones, Wi-Fi routers, computers and tablets (when not in airplane mode) harm your brain by increasing intracellular calcium through the voltage gated calcium channels (VGCCs) in your cells.

The tissues with the highest density of VGCCs are your brain, the pacemaker in your heart and male testes. Once VGCCs are stimulated, they trigger the release of neurotransmitters, neuroendocrine hormones and highly damaging reactive oxygen species, significantly raising your risk of anxiety, depression and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.40

Basic prevention strategies include turning your Wi-Fi off at night, not carrying your cellphone on your body and not keeping portable phones, cellphones and other electric devices in your bedroom. To learn more, see my interview with professor Martin Pall. A more extensive list of prevention strategies to minimize your EMF exposure can be found in "Electromagnetic Radiation Specialist Reveals the Hidden Dangers of Electric Fields."

While I believe these are among the most important prevention strategies, there are of course many other factors that can come into play. To learn more about the prevention and reversal of cognitive decline, see my interview with Dr. Dale Bredesen, director of neurodegenerative disease research at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine, whose unique ReCODE (Reversal of Cognitive Decline) program offers hope for many.

In 2014, Bredesen published a paper that demonstrates the power of lifestyle choices for the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer's. By leveraging 36 healthy lifestyle parameters, he was able to reverse Alzheimer's in 9 out of 10 patients. This included the use of exercise, ketogenic diet, optimizing vitamin D and other hormones, increasing sleep, meditation, detoxification and eliminating gluten and processed food.

In all, Bredesen has identified 150 different variables that can have a significant influence on Alzheimer's, but at the heart of it all is mitochondrial dysfunction, and one of the pronounced health effects of a cyclical ketogenic diet is the optimization of mitochondrial function. Not surprisingly, Bredesen's ReCODE Protocol also includes nutritional ketosis. You can download Bredesen's full-text case paper41 online, which details the full program.


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Exogenous ketones - Dr. Axe

Researchers believe that humans, and many other animal species, too, developed the capacity to produce ketones (or ketone bodies) in order to prolong survival during periods of caloric deprivation. (1) Ketones are beneficial for our muscles, brains and other tissues during times of stress — such as when we’re intentionally restricting calories because we’re fasting, cutting out carbohydrates from our diets or doing endurance exercise. (2)

What is a ketone supplement exactly, and what would be the purpose of using one? Ketones are considered the most energy-efficient source of fuel for the body, releasing high amounts of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which is often referred to as “the energy currency of life.”  Not only can your body make ketones in response to things like fasting or very low-carb, very high-fat dieting, but you can also acquire ketones from exogenous ketone supplements.

Exogenous ketones, such as ketone esters and BHB salts, help to amplify the many positive effects of the ketogenic diet — while also mitigating “keto flu” symptoms like fatigue and brain fog.

Other benefits associated with ketone supplements include:

  • helping you to shed excess weight
  • controlling hunger and cravings
  • supplying your brain with an energy supply, which boosts cognitive performance
  • helping you to perform physically and recover more easily from exercise

What Are Exogenous Ketones? What Do They Do?

Exogenous ketones are ketones supplements that come from outside the body. What do exogenous ketones do? Exogenous ketones mimic the effects of ketones that are naturally produced by our bodies under certain circumstances. The liver naturally produces endogenous (meaning inside) ketones while in the metabolic state of ketosis, while exogenous (meaning outside) ketones are those provided from supplements.

What are ketones exactly? Ketones are defined as intermediate products of the breakdown of fats in the body. When you follow a very-low carb, very-high fat diet — also known as the ketogenic diet — your body starts producing organic ketone compounds, which serve as an alternative fuel source to carbohydrates. Basically, the keto diet fires up your fat-burning capacity by changing the way your body utilizes energy.

Ketones (or ketone bodies) are made when:

  • Someone is following the keto diet (also referred to as a very-low carb ketogenic diet, or VLCKD), which puts them in the metabolic state called ketosis. Most low-carb diets will not lead to increased ketone levels, only the ketogenic diet can effectively do this. To stay in ketosis you need to get 70–80 percent of your daily calories from fat, no more than 20–25 percent of calories from protein, and no more than 5–10 percent carbs of daily calories from carbohydrates.
  • Someone is fasting for 16 hours (intermittent fasting) or more, or purposefully restricting their calorie intake.
  • Or if someone is starving.
  • Ketone production is also boosted by high-intensity/endurance exercise, especially if it lasts more than 60 minutes.

The human body produces three types of ketones: (3)

  • Beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) — accounts for roughly 78 percent of total ketones in the blood.
  • Acetoacetate (AcAc) — accounts for approximately 20 percent of ketones in the blood.
  • Acetone — accounts for only about 2 percent of ketones in the blood.

Beta hydroxybutyrate (or BHB) is the most abundant type of ketone that we produce, helping to provide the bulk of energy when our diets are nearly devoid of all carbohydrates. While there’s three types of ketone bodies, the ketone found in exogenous ketone supplements is usually only or mostly beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB).


Exogenous Ketones Benefits & Uses

Exogenous ketone are usually taken to boost the effects that the keto diet and intermittent fasting have to offer. Exogenous ketone bodies have functions and benefits that include:

  • Helping you to get into ketosis more quickly
  • Mitigating side effects associated with ketosis, such as irritability, headaches and fatigue
  • Supporting weight loss, especially fat burning
  • Improving metabolic pathways, including preventing or treating diabetes and insulin resistance
  • Suppressing your appetite
  • Fighting cancer
  • Reducing anxiety
  • Helping to protecting the brain and cognitive health, including decreasing the risk for neurodegenerative diseases
  • And potentially increasing lifespan/longevity

Here’s more about how exogenous ketones can support both physical and cognitive health:

1. Helps You Transition Into Ketosis

You can use exogenous ketones to help you transition into ketosis (the metabolic state where your body is using fatty acids for its primary source of energy) more easily and quickly, since ketone supplements supply your body with a direct source of ketones that are easily used as fuel.

Once you’re in ketosis, you’ll experience benefits including: more stabilized blood sugar, reduced hunger/cravings and help with loss of excess body fat. If you take a break from the keto diet (let’s say you’re carb-cycling, for example), then you can use ketone supplements for support transitioning back the diet.

Taking a ketone supplement may also help you avoid keto flu, the cluster of symptoms that occurs when the brain has no glucose for energy and before the liver is producing generous amounts of ketone bodies. Keto flu can lead to diarrhea, cramping, nausea, constipation, bad breath, overall weakness and rash, but these symptoms abate after you’re in ketosis (or when you supplement with ketones). (4)

2. Can Help With Fat-Burning & Weight Loss

How do ketones help burn fat? As mentioned above, they’re beneficial for getting you into ketosis. However, taking ketone supplements may not lead to weight loss if you aren’t also following a very low-carb ketogenic diet.

In other words, ketone supplements are helpful for keeping you in ketosis, but they aren’t a magic bullet when it comes to weight loss. You will still need to track your fat, protein and carbohydrate intake (at least at first) to make sure you’re actually in ketosis and burning fat. Once you have a good idea of what it takes to stay in ketosis, you can use exogenous ketones to keep your energy up and to decrease symptoms that mess with your success, such as fatigue and cravings.

You may also use exogenous ketone supplements to deepen your level of ketosis while practicing intermittent fasting, as your body begins to product some ketone bodies after 12 hours of fasting.

 

Exogenous ketone benefits - Dr. Axe

 

3. Can Improve Energy Levels & Prevent Fatigue

Exogenous ketones can be used to help improve energy levels, power output, physical performance and recovery from exercise. (5)

In some animal studies, researchers use ketone esters to increase rats’ blood ketone levels and to test the effects on their physical performance, cardiovascular functioning, and more. In one study, when rats were given chow (food) that was supplemented with the ketone ester called (R)-3-hydroxybutyrate that accounted for 30 percent of their daily calories for five days, the rats could run 32 percent further on a treadmill compared to rats eating a diet supplemented with either equal amounts of corn starch or palm oil. (6)

4. Help to Decrease Brain Fog & Improve Mental Performance

When glucose is not available from your diet, fatty acids as well as ketone bodies can be metabolized by the brain. Studies have found that ketones benefit cognitive/mental health by: improving cognition in memory-impaired adults, focus, attention and learning, (7, 8)

In the same rat study mentioned above, ketone-fed rats were able to complete a maze test 38 percent faster than rats fed the control diet because they made significantly more correct decisions prior to making a mistake.

Ketones may also prevent the formation of free radicals in the brain that can damage mitochondria can contribute to neurological problems. (9)

5. Helps Improve Metabolic Functions

In certain animal studies, giving exogenous ketones to rats has been shown to decrease blood glucose and insulin levels, even when the rats are eating highly processed diets high in refined carbs like corn starch. (10) Ketone esters are also used to raise ketone levels while simultaneously lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

6. May Fight Some Cancers

A newer branch of research on ketone supplements, there is some hefty research completed in animals that suggests exogenous ketones (both with or without adherence to the keto diet) may help slow or stop the growth of cancer. When animals with metastatic (late-stage, multi-organ) cancer are given ketone supplements, they seem to survive up to 69 percent longer than control subjects. (11)

This may be due to the effect of both the ketogenic diet and ketone supplements to independently influence the Warburg effect, a little-understood action that aids the growth of cancer cells. (12)

7. Could Reduce Anxiety

Research studies have found that exogenous ketone supplementation may reduce symptoms of anxiety, even when the animals were not following a ketogenic diet. (13)

8. Helps Regulate Blood Sugar

Again with or without a keto diet, ketone supplements help to decrease blood glucose levels, suggesting that they may be helpful for diabetics. (14)

9. Improves Exercise Performance and Recovery

Have you ever heard that ketosis makes it harder to perform physical tasks or work out? Nothing could be further from the truth! In fact, entering a state of ketosis has no noticeable impact on even high-intensity exercise performance. (15)

But the news gets better — exogenous ketones may actually increase both exercise performance and muscle recovery. (16) This could be particularly helpful for high-intensity athletes who wish to follow a ketogenic lifestyle.


Types of Exogenous Ketones: Ketone Salts & Ketone Esters

 There are three main types of ketone supplements:

  • Ketone salts (sometimes called BHB salts), which are ketones that are bound to minerals, including sodium, calcium, magnesium or potassium. (17) The minerals in ketone salts can actually help to decrease keto side effects, such as muscle weakness and digestive issues. Ketone salts are typically the type used in powdered ketone products, which contain some combination of BHB, sodium and other ingredients.
  • Ketone esters, which are basically “raw ketones” that metabolize quickly into BHB. This type is not widely available for most consumers but is typically used in research/studies. While esters have the benefit of raising blood ketone levels quickly, they are also notorious for tasting terrible and causing unpleasant digestive issues. However, new ketone ester products are now hitting the market that claim to taste better and work rapidly. (18)
  • Ketone oils, which can include MCT oil. MCT (medium chain triglyceride) oils are used to boost ketones and help with fat burning. They may also support training, exercise performance and growth of lean muscle mass. (19) Coconut oil also contains medium chained triglycerides, but MCT oil is a more concentrated source. MCTs must be broken down first before they can be used for energy, making this type of supplement slightly less effective than ketone salts or esters.

Beta-hydroxybutyrate is the most active type of ketone body that can be used by your tissues for energy, so that is the ketone that most exogenous ketone supplements aim to increase.

Ketones can be taken in various forms including: capsules, oils, powders or drinks. No matter which type you use, it should be able to help raise BHB levels by supplying you with an immediate usable source of ketones. Some products will provide medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) to help with your natural production of ketones.

Products may also contain other ingredients that support ketosis and decrease keto flu symptoms, such as bone broth, caffeine, coffee or coffee extract, apple cider vinegar, spices, collagen, probiotics and/or adaptogen herbs like ashwagandha. Because powdered ketone supplements don’t tend to have the best taste, other ingredients like cocoa, vanilla extract or stevia may be used to enhance the flavor.

Different ketone products also vary in terms of their calorie and macronutrient content. Some contain only fat, while others provide an ideal ratio of both fat and protein with very minimal carbohydrates (this is typical of some powdered products that are used to make ketone drinks/smoothies/shakes). One advantage of using capsules and powdered ketone products is that they are easy to travel with, shelf-stable and can be mixed with other ingredients to make their taste more appealing.


Exogenous Ketones vs. MCT Oil

The very best foods for increasing natural ketone production are healthy fats — especially MCT oil, butter, and coconut oil.

  • MCT oil is a very popular food/supplement among people following the keto diet because it can be used to quickly increase fat intake, boost natural ketone production, increase energy, support digestive health, and reduce appetite and cravings.
  • MCT stands for “medium chain triglycerides,” which are a type of fat that your body is capable of breaking down into ketones easily and quickly. Coconut oil contains MCTs (as do some other foods like cheese, butter, whole milk and yogurt) but not as much as MCT oil. MCT oil is a more concentrated source of medium chained fats, making it ideal for supporting ketosis.
  • MCT oil has an advantage over exogenous ketones when it comes to cost. It tends to be less expensive than many exogenous ketone supplements.
  • What are ways that you can use MCT oil? MCT oil can be taken just like a supplement, by having a tablespoon on its once daily. You can also add a tablespoon or more to your keto coffee in the morning, a shake or smoothie. It’s mostly flavorless but does add fattiness/creaminess to anything it’s mixed with. It tends to be easy to digest and can be better tolerated than some ketone supplements.
  • Many people choose to use emulsified MCT oil because it mixes well with beverages and does not have an oily residue. It tends to have a better flavor than certain keto supplements and is masked easily by other keto foods and ingredients.
  • While the most common way to consume MCT oil is in liquid oil form, there are now also some newer dried MCT oil powders available. These can be used like other exogenous ketone powders, such as added to keto shakes, smoothies or coffee.

How to Get Exogenous Ketones in Your Diet

How & Why to Use Exogenous Ketones:

By now it should be clear that the benefits of adding a ketone supplement to your routine include: helping with the transition into a state of ketosis, supporting energy levels when in a fasted state, preventing keto flu symptoms, and improving athletic/exercise performance and recovery.

Ketone supplements can be used in between meals or before a workout to provide you with a quick source of ketones. You can also use ketone supplements to help you get back into ketosis more easily and quickly if you’ve abandoned the diet for a period of time.

They can be taken with food or on an empty stomach, but may be more impactful if you take them on an empty stomach (such as first thing in the morning) or when fasting. If you’re using a powdered ketone supplement, try mixing one scoop/serving with about 12 ounces of water, plain almond milk, coffee or tea. Ketone drinks/smoothies can be enjoyed warm or cold.

Exogenous Ketones Supplementation & Dosage:

  • How you use exogenous supplements depends on your goals.  Because there are many types of ketone products available that are used differently, always read directions and dosage recommendations.
  • You might use exogenous ketones for about 3–5 days while you’re transitioning into ketosis. Use about 1/2 to 1 serving (such as one scoop or 3–6 capsules) per day. Another approach is to try having smaller amounts/doses spread throughout the day so your body has a steady supply of energy coming in. Depending on the type of product you use, it might be recommended that you take 1/3 – 1/2 of a scoop/serving at a time, several times per day.
  • To help keep keto side effects to a minimum, you might decide to have one scoop of a ketone product in the morning, or to use half a servings 1–3 times per day.
  • For help with exercise performance and recovery, use one serving/scoop about one hour before a workout.
  • If you’re taking keto capsules, a typical dose will be about 6 capsules daily with 8 ounces of water. Capsules can be taken with or without food.

How to Balance Ketones on the Keto Diet

Remember, while ketone supplements may have a number of benefits, you can still naturally increase/optimize your own production of ketones, which may have more lasting health effects. Other than taking exogenous ketones, there are also dietary changes you can make and other lifestyle habits that increase ketone production. These include: eating a very-low carb, high-fat diet (aka the keto diet), fasting and doing intense exercise (especially if it lasts more than 90 minutes).

To really maximize ketone production and enhance effects like fat-burning, you can combine a ketogenic diet, intermittent fasting, exercise and exogenous ketones like ketone capsules, a powdered product or BHB salts.

If weight loss is your primarily goal, you’ll want to track your progress. What level of ketosis is good for weight loss?

  • The optimal range of blood ketone levels is between 0.6-6.0 mmol/L, depending on your goals and the condition you’re treating. When you’re not purposefully limiting carb take, levels will stay below 0.5 mmol/L.
  • Quality ketone products can help increase your blood ketone levels to as high as 1.5 mmol/L. Following a keto diet correctly can increase levels even more. Most people on the keto diet will have ketone levels between 2-3 mmol/L. (20)
  • For general weight loss, aim to get your ketone levels above 0.6 mmol/L.
  • Doctors may sometimes aim for higher levels of ketones in patients that are being treated for therapeutic purposes, up tp 3-6 mmol/L. (21) But with this level of ketosis, it’s best to be monitored and to work with a practitioner.

Precautions/Side Effects

Wondering if the keto diet is safe, and what potential side effects exogenous ketones might have? Side effects associated with ketosis can include: unpleasant taste in your mouth, fatigue, weakness, indigestion, dizziness, low blood sugar, sleep related issues, mood changes, frequent urination, constipation, cramps, and trouble exercising or recovering.

With time your body gets used to being ketosis and producing more ketone bodies, so symptoms should only be temporary and last for about 1–2 weeks. Ketone supplements should not make symptoms worse, but can sometimes cause loose stools/diarrhea. If this happens, decrease your dosage until you notice improvements. Be sure to drink enough water, rest and sleep enough, and to not over-exercise while you’re dealing with any keto side effects.


Final Thoughts on Exogenous Ketones

  • Exogenous ketones are ketones supplements that come from outside the body. Exogenous ketones mimic the effects of ketones that are naturally produced by our bodies under certain circumstances, including when following the keto diet or fasting.
  • Benefits associated with ketone supplements include: help transitioning into ketosis, help staying in ketosis, decreased keto flu symptoms, more energy, enhanced physical performance and recovery, and improved cognitive health/mental performance.
  • There are three main types of ketone supplements: ketone salts (sometimes called BHB salts), ketone esters and ketone oils (such as MCT oil). Ketone products some in various forms: liquid, oil, capsules, extracts or powdered mixes.
  • You can use exogenous ketones for about 3–5 days while you’re transitioning into ketosis, have smaller amounts/doses spread throughout the day so your body has a steady supply of energy coming in, have a scoop of a ketone product in the morning to help keep side effects away, or use one serving/scoop about 30 minutes to an one hour before a workout. If you’re taking keto capsules, a typical dose will be about 6 capsules daily with 8 ounces of water
  • Ketone supplements are usually well-tolerated, but some have an unpleasant taste. When used in high doses they may be cause diarrhea and GI issues, so start slowly and increase your dose depending on your reaction.

Read Next: Keto Diet for Women: Benefits, Food List & Tips to Overcome Side Effects

The post Exogenous Ketones: How They Help During Dieting or Exercising appeared first on Dr. Axe.

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Palo Santo Latin name: Bursera graveolens Aroma Description: A medium, woody aroma with a hint of citrus and licorice. Therapeutic benefits […]

The post Palo Santo: Essential Oil Spotlight of the Week appeared first on Plant Therapy Blog.

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There are multiple areas in your home where bacteria find it easy to grow. Bacteria thrive in a warm, moist environments. One common household item that can harbor nearly 360 different species of bacteria is your kitchen sponge. However, while putting a sponge in the microwave for several minutes may kill some bacteria it doesn’t kill the worst ones.1

This is one reason Philip Tierno,2 professor of microbiology and pathology at New York University School of Medicine, says water temperatures need to be at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit (F) to kill bacteria and germs on your clothing (most automatic dishwashers are set at 120 F). The truth is bacteria are very resilient, even to heat.

Other common household items you may not have recently cleaned that are also prime environments for bacterial buildup are your trash can, computer keyboard, remote controls and cellphones.

Items handled frequently but cleaned infrequently are potential targets for bacterial growth. For instance, cellphones may have more total bacteria on the keys and screen than your toilet seat, kitchen counter and doorknobs combined.3

In a recent study, researchers found your showerhead is another household item likely growing more bacteria than you may imagine. Data analysis found regions in the U.S. where Mycobacteria were most prevalent in shower heads were the same areas where nontuberculous Mycobacteria (NTM) lung infections were most common.4

Nontuberculous Mycobacteria May Reside in Your Showerhead

Researchers from the University of Colorado surveyed 656 household showerheads from across the U.S. and Europe,5 finding they often harbor abundant Mycobacterial communities which differ depending upon the geographic location, water chemistry and water source.6

They also found U.S. water systems treated with chlorine disinfectants had a particularly high abundance of certain types of Mycobacteria not found in Europe where chlorine is not used.7 The results highlight public health concerns related to biofilm buildup in water systems and shower heads.8

The researchers found areas of the U.S. where showerheads had a particularly high number of potentially pathogenic communities of Mycobacteria overlapped with regions where NTM lung disease were most prevalent. These areas include New York City, Hawaii, southern California and Florida.9 They believe this further demonstrates distribution of showerhead biofilms are predictable.10

The results of the featured study support previous research showing biofilm growing on showerheads contained opportunistic pathogens, including NTM, leading the researchers to conclude showerheads present a significant potential exposure to aerosolized bacteria.11

Data also revealed plastic showerheads had a wider range of bacterial growth than metal heads.12 The study's lead author, research technician Matthew Gebert from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado, explained the results of the study and the importance for homeowners to routinely clean their showerheads:13

“Bacteria grow and persist in biofilms coating the inside of showerheads and shower hoses despite the seemingly inhospitable conditions found in these habitats.

These bacteria must tolerate rapid temperature fluctuations, long intervals of stagnation or desiccation followed by high-shear turbulent flow events, and the low nutrient and organic carbon concentrations typical of most drinking water.

In many cases, showerhead-associated bacteria must also be able to tolerate residue from the chemical disinfectants — including chlorinated compounds — which are often added to municipal drinking water to limit bacterial contamination.

Most of the bacteria that can become aerosolized and inhaled when the shower is in use are likely harmless. However, this is not always the case. Bacteria within the genus Mycobacterium are commonly detected in showerhead biofilms and throughout the water distribution system.”

What Are NTM Lung Infections?

NTM are found in the soil and water and affect humans and animals. When the bacterium gets into your lungs it can trigger a serious infection that may slowly scar and damage your lung tissue.14 In mild cases, you may not require treatment. However, more serious infections may require as much as two years of treatment to clear completely.

NTM lung disease is not tuberculosis, so you cannot pass it from one person to another. Instead, you get it from eating food or breathing air or mist containing the bacteria. The nontuberculous Mycobacteria get into your lung tissue, potentially triggering an infection and inflammation.

Most who swallow NTM don't get sick. You're more likely to get the disease after inhalation if you already have chronic obstructive lung disease, a weakened immune system, cystic fibrosis, a past infection with tuberculosis or any autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis.15

You may be at a higher risk for NTM lung disease if you're a smoker, female, slender and white. The NTM germ lives in warm wet places, such as hot tubs, heated indoor pools and steamy bathrooms. Unfortunately, recurring infections or a relapse is not uncommon.16

Surgical resection may be necessary in selected cases with localized disease or when the infection is complicated by the formation of an abscess. According to the American Lung Association, there are over 80,000 people with NTM pulmonary disease in the U.S.17 Many of these are in older adults.

In some cases, the infections can become chronic, requiring ongoing treatment and have a significant impact on quality of life. The most common symptoms are cough that won't resolve, shortness of breath when active and coughing up blood (hemoptysis).18 Other symptoms include fatigue, low grade fever, night sweats and weight loss.

Disinfect Your Showerhead and Other Fixtures

While the research was completed on showerheads, it is likely prudent to also clean the other faucets in your home. In many cases removing the showerhead makes the process easier. However, in some cases this may not be possible, and it certainly is not easy to remove your bathroom and kitchen faucets for routine cleaning.

Showerheads may spray unevenly as they develop mineral deposits. This slows the flow of water and may increase the risk of bacterial buildup. You can remove these deposits on showerheads and in your faucets by soaking them with vinegar. In cases where the mineral deposits are particularly resistant, add baking soda to the soak.

If you're unable to remove the showerhead you can simply soak it by using a rubber band and plastic bag. Remember to use this only with a fixture made with chrome, stainless steel or another protected metal surface so the vinegar doesn't eat away at the surface.19

Slip the rubber band over the top of the shower head or faucet, looping it around the shower arm or faucet head once or twice so the bag stays in place. Fill a bag with white vinegar and attach it to the fixture slipping it underneath the rubber band. Allow it to soak for up to an hour before removing it, polishing the fixture and running clear water through it.

If the mineral deposits are still present, you may want to use a toothbrush to loosen the debris or a toothpick or safety pin to poke out additional deposits. Once the mineral deposits have been removed, disinfect your showerhead by soaking it in a diluted solution of colloidal silver and water. Use the same process with a bag and rubber bands if the fixture is unable to be removed.20

Silver has been used medicinally since ancient times and it's often referred to as the world's oldest antibiotic. In the Middle Ages wealthy people would eat with silver utensils to reduce the risk of illness, which is where eating utensils derive their name — silverware — despite being made from other metals today.21 

Over the past years, several studies have shown silver is one of the most effective weapons in the battle against antibiotic-resistant superbugs.22,23 Silver interferes with bacteria's metabolism, increasing production of reactive oxygen species, products of normal metabolic processes in your body, which, in excess, can damage cell membranes and DNA.24

Add a Filter to Reduce Aerosolized Chlorine

Other substances can also be aerosolized from your showerhead. As I describe in this short video, chlorine, added to most municipal water supplies to reduce bacterial growth, is aerosolized during your shower. When chlorine interacts with organic material in the water supply or your body, it forms disinfection byproducts (DBPs).

These DBPs are far more dangerous to your health than chlorine and are, in fact, responsible for the vast majority of toxic effects from chlorinated water. Some of the most common DBPs forming from the reaction of chlorine and organic matter are trihalomethanes, classified as a Group 2B carcinogen.25

Although researchers once believed the majority of exposure to DBPs came from swallowing water, data now reveals this is not the only risk and may not be the most severe. On average you drink between 1 and 2 gallons of water per day, but expose yourself to 25 gallons when you shower.

Up to two-thirds of harmful chlorine exposure may be due to skin absorption and inhalation. Steam inhalation during a shower can contain up to 20 times the concentration of chlorine as tap water. The bottom line is chlorine and DBPs are another unseen danger in almost every shower.

You may minimize your exposure to aerosolized DBPs and bacteria by limiting the amount of time you spend in the shower or bath to 10 minutes or less and lowering the temperature of your water. Hot water opens the pores of your skin and allows a higher absorption rate of chlorine and other chemicals.

Additionally, steam contains high concentrations of vaporized gases and bacteria you can inhale. Using lower water pressure will decrease the amount of water and contaminants coming from the fixture. This is why I recommend if you can install only one filter, make it a shower filter.


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