These are the 10 changes I’m implementing in my own life. Published studies that support these steps are linked in the detailed information “below the fold.” You may choose to make none, some or all of the changes, depending on your personal situation and preferences.
1. Neutralize emotional chaos.
2. Sleep early and well.
3. Avoid alcohol and artificial hormones.
4. Eat organic whenever possible.
5. Get moving!
6. Get adequate iodine and vitamin D.
7. Invest in a good drinking water filter and shower filter.
8. Reduce xenoestrogens and toxins in your environment.
9. Take a good multivitamin, probiotics, and at least one great supplement.
10. Get outside during the day.
1. Neutralize emotional chaos. Possibly the most important step, since emotional shocks and pain may underlie 1 many physical 2 and mental symptoms. This “mind-clearing” can take many forms such as tai chi, qigong, yoga, meditation, deep breathing, or Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). One form of meditation that is helping me is The Healing Codes. If you can get past the authors’ religious overtones, the technique they describe really works for me — and they do provide non-religious “focus statements.”
2. Sleep early and well. Try to get to sleep before 11 p.m. and ideally by 10:30 p.m., and sleep in total darkness without getting up to use the bathroom. Exposure to bright light at night affects production of melatonin 3 — a key hormone for wellness. If you live in a city, you may find it difficult to make your bedroom truly dark. If so, options include wearing an eyemask or investing in heavy drapes. This is definitely the most difficult step for me — I never want to go to sleep early! I’d rather be working on this site.
3. Avoid alcohol and artificial hormones. This one is more important for women, because in most cases, women’s bodies process alcohol less efficiently than men’s. 4 Also, women are far more likely to use artificial hormones in the form of birth control pills/patches/rings/IUDs or hormone replacement therapy. The molecular structure of these hormones is not identical to the ones produced naturally by your own body, and studies are showing that this tiny difference, especially in artificial progestin 5 versus (apparently hugely beneficial 6) natural progesterone, may cause a host of side effects 7. What to do? For those in monogamous relationships, the copper IUD contains no hormones. For those not in monogamous relationships, condoms are a great idea anyway (though note that nonoxynol-9 8 spermicide may have harmful effects).
4. Eat organic whenever possible. I do not advocate any particular diet — the “right” diet seems to vary widely based on ethnic origin, lifestyle, and individual biochemistry. As an extreme example, “The China Study” makes a compelling argument for a vegetarian diet, yet the Inuits historically ate almost entirely meat and remained free of most degenerative diseases.
What can be said, almost with certainty, is the following: Eat real food, organic when possible. By “real” food, I mean food that is recognizable as food. I have a strong opinion about this: If an ingredient list reads like a chemistry experiment, perhaps it is one, and perhaps you are the test subject. Put it back on the shelf. In sending this simple message with your food choices, you encourage food producers to provide more real-food options.
On the organic front, it is true that organic food may not be more nutritious than conventional food, and it is almost always more expensive. But what it does not include — pesticides — can make a big difference in your health. Even grains and beans, if they are conventional, were likely sprayed with pesticides. And standards for pesticides on imported products are more lax than for U.S.-grown produce…. If you can’t afford to buy all-organic, this list identifies the most contaminated fruits and vegetables (aka worth buying organic) and the less contaminated (save your money and go conventional).
Another reason to buy organic is that, due to labeling laws, it remains one of the only ways to avoid genetically modified (GM) foods. These foods have slight differences from the natural foods that your body recognizes — and initial animal studies show significant 9 effects 10 as a result. Yet, these GM ingredients permeate nearly all processed foods and even some conventionally grown, apparently “real” foods, such as corn. The “four horsemen” of GM foods are corn, soy, cottonseed, and canola. If you look at ingredient lists, you will see these offenders in many forms, such as high-fructose corn syrup, canola oil, cottonseed oil, corn oil, cornstarch, and even lecithin (an emulsifier that is usually soy-based). Other GM foods include some Hawaiian papayas and, soon to come, alfalfa… more here.
5. Get moving. Unsurprisingly, exercise helps health. What’s surprising is the degree to which this is true. We evolved to move, not to sit in front of a computer for 8+ hours per day. Yes, exercise is difficult and can tempt procrastination, but for the small time investment required, the results are noticeable. I aim to walk (or do other exercise, like tai chi) for at least 30 continuous minutes at least five days a week. Most weeks I meet that goal. Some weeks I don’t. I don’t beat myself up over it — I just make sure I go outside and walk around the next day.
6. Get adequate iodine and vitamin D. Vitamin D made headlines worldwide in the past couple of years. Unlike studies of other vitamins showing no or minimal effects, studies of vitamin D levels show statistically significant and dramatic effects, including effects on all-cause mortality. Progressive doctors have begun ordering vitamin D tests for their patients. I was deficient in this vitamin and never knew it. Now, after 8 months on 5000 IU per day (what the medical establishment 10 years ago would have decried as a dangerous dose), my vitamin D levels are normal — barely. I have a long way to go.
The takeaway: If you’re only taking 400 or 800 IU of vitamin D per day, you may be deficient. Get your levels checked by a competent doctor, and make sure you supplement with vitamin D3 — the prescription form is vitamin D2, which won’t produce the desired results. If you’re taking vitamin D and your levels aren’t going up, you may have an absorption problem — try sublingual vitamin D, which bypasses the digestive tract. This is what finally seems to be getting my vitamin D levels up.
Iodine makes headlines nowhere — but its depletion from our environment is a huge story. Iodine is vital to the human body — its absence causes cretinism in extreme cases, but in less extreme cases iodine deficiency is a main culprit in fibrocystic breast disease, thyroid disease, and perhaps even cancer. Sources here…
Our grandparents likely took in about 500 mcg of iodine per day, because iodine was used in bread flour, and each slice of bread contained about 150 mcg of iodine — the entire RDA. Several decades ago, a shift from iodine to bromine (specifically, potassium bromate) in bread flour went unheralded. The main source of iodine in the Western diet was now iodized salt, providing a paltry fraction of prior intake amounts. Moreover, bromine is both a likely carcinogen 11 12 and an iodine antagonist — it blocks iodine uptake by the body. Some people, especially if their multivitamin does not provide iodine and they use sea salt instead of iodized salt, may take in virtually zero iodine. This was the case for me for about a decade.
The best solution for iodine depletion is to eat seaweed — kombu (kelp) and wakame contain large amounts of iodine and are eaten routinely in Asian countries with no ill effects. They contain complementary minerals that facilitate absorption and proper use of their iodine, and are one of the healthiest foods on Earth. One caveat — buy seaweed from a reputable company, since some seaweed can be contaminated with heavy metals. Supplemental iodine is also a possibility but should be undertaken with the supervision of a trained medical professional.
7. Invest in a good drinking water filter and shower filter. As any water quality report will show, tap water contains some combination of chlorine (a proven carcinogen), fluoride (a chemical of questionable value and arguable danger that is also an iodine blocker), and/or a variety of other minerals and chemical residues. In the past decade, studies have shown pharmaceutical traces of antidepressants, birth control pills, and other medicines. Some water supplies are better than others, but all public water supplies in the U.S. are contaminated to some degree. Brita water filters take out some of the worst pollutants, such as X and Y, but they do not remove chlorine entirely, they do not remove fluoride at all, and they do not remove pharmaceutical and some chemical residues.
Several companies do make effective water filters and shower filters — these tend to be more expensive up-front but less expensive over the long term. In my opinion, the best “bang for the buck” is provided by Aquasana water and shower filters. These filter out only 2 of the 4 fluoride ions; however, there’s a countertop version for $99 that doesn’t require any fancy under-sink work to install and that filters out almost all other unwanted residues, while leaving in valuable minerals. Moreover, your tap water may not be fluoridated at all — you can check at the CDC’s site. Other options include reverse-osmosis filters and more here…
8. Reduce xenoestrogens and toxins in your environment. Xenoestrogens, or artificial estrogenic compounds, are widespread in plastics (including water bottles, juice bottles, etc.), shampoos, soaps, lotions, cosmetics, dish detergents, and laundry detergents. The toxic chemical BHA is used in many cans and can leach into the food within. Antiperspirants contain many toxins as well. While this website does not advise going without antiperspirant or soap, there are healthier alternatives that won’t steadily accumulate in your organs or disrupt your endocrine system — source here… For example, I use an olive oil soap that has three ingredients: olive oil, water, and X here. Shampoo and detergents are a bit tougher — I’ve found that Seventh Generation products are reasonable dish and laundry detergents, and for scrubbing pots I use Earth Friendly Products. There are several good options — just browse your local health food store or even supermarket.
9. Take a good multivitamin, probiotics, and at least one great supplement. X% of U.S. adults now take a daily multivitamin, according to Y. Not all multivitamins are equal, though — many have possibly toxic additives, relatively non-absorptive forms of vitamins and minerals, or unbalanced proportions of nutrients. The best contain high-quality ingredients, few or no additives, and balanced nutrient doses based on age, gender, and activity level. Personally, I take Vitamin Code Raw Women’s multivitamin. There are several other good brands as well. How to identify them? Check the label and avoid additives like magnesium stearate, gelatin (often from beef), soy, and titanium dioxide. Look for easily absorbed forms of vitamins and minerals such as magnesium asporotate instead of oxide, X instead of ascorbic acid, and calcium forms other than carbonate [verify]. No multivitamin is ideal, but if you can find one that fits most of your these criteria, you’ll have done well.
Another key supplement is probiotics. The key here is to get a brand that requires refrigeration. That means it should have been refrigerated on the store shelf, and it should be refrigerated as soon as you get it home. It should contain multiple strains of beneficial bacteria, possibly with fructooligosaccharides (FOS). Personally, I take Primadophilus reuteri (a blend of a few strains) and Primadophilus Optima (a blend of many strains).
Beyond these basics, supplementation is primarily a matter of choice. Some people have had excellent results with supplements like dried barley greens, Cellect powder, Immunocal, or chaga mushroom. A magic bullet for one person may not work for another — so you’ll need to experiment to find what works best for your own body chemistry. Rest assured that there are great supplements for you — so, if you feel the need, find at least one and take it consistently.
10. Get outside during the day. Sunlight is underrated. It has been vilified for decades as a cause of melanoma and other skin cancers. But sun avoidance is also a cause of low vitamin D, which has been implicated in increased all-cause mortality. The most likely answer is that sunlight in moderation is beneficial. An important caveat is that glasses and contacts block ultraviolet rays required for vitamin D production and circadian rhythm setting VERIFY — so if you wear contacts or glasses during all waking hours, real sunlight may never strike your eyes. A compromised circadian rhythm can interfere with hormone production and sleep cycles, leading ultimately to compromised health. What’s the solution? Fifteen minutes of sun per day on exposed skin — without sunscreen — will increase vitamin D production in most people and help to maintain a healthy circadian rhythm.
- “Relationship of childhood abuse and household dysfunction to many of the leading causes of death in adults.” ↩
- “Reduced telomerase activity in human T lymphocytes exposed to cortisol.” ↩
- “Melatonin.” Wikipedia. ↩
- “Are Women More Vulnerable to Alcohol’s Effects?” Alcohol Alert, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, December 1999. ↩
- “Menopausal Estrogen and Estrogen-Progestin Replacement Therapy and Breast Cancer Risk.” The Journal of the American Medical Association, 2000 ↩
- “Breast Cancer Incidence in Women with a History of Progesterone Deficiency.” American Journal of Epidemiology, 1981 ↩
- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1616798“Relationship of hormone use to cancer risk.” Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Monographs. 1992 ↩
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nonoxynol-9“Nonoxynol-9.” Wikipedia. ↩
- “Biological effects of transgenic maize NK603xMON810 fed in long term reproduction studies in mice.” ↩
- “A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health.” International Journal of Biological Sciences, 2009. ↩
- Consumer Group Calls for Ban on “Flour Improver”: Potassium Bromate Termed a Cancer Threat, Center for Science in the Public Interest, 1999. ↩
- Potassium Bromate, Hazardous Substances Data Bank, U.S. National Library of Medicine ↩