Monday, September 30, 2013

Rabies Vaccine Dropped From the Sky

October 01, 2013 | 987 views

By Dr. Mercola
In 2009, there were just four human cases of rabies in the US. In 2010, there were two1… yet each year the US spends more than $300 million for rabies prevention,2 which includes the vaccination of companion animals, animal control programs, maintenance of rabies laboratories and medical costs.
Even at the turn of the century, rabies-related human deaths only numbered around 100 annually, and by the 1990s this had dropped to one or two.  While rabies is a serious, potentially deadly, illness, it is most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid wild animal – a risk factor that is negligible for many in the US.
Texas Department of Health is Dropping Experimental Rabies Vaccines From the Sky
About 92 percent of the reported rabies cases in 2010 were in wild animals, including raccoons, skunks, bats, foxes, rodents and others. This poses a theoretical risk not only to humans but also to family pets, which could then transmit rabies to their owners.
Nonetheless, human rabies cases remain extremely rare … but efforts are still underway to knock out the rabies virus in wild skunk populations in Texas.
The Texas Department of Health is actually using helicopters to spread 100,000 rabies vaccines in two counties. The vaccines, which are contained in plastic cases coated with fishmeal to entice wildlife to eat them, are part of a pilot program to help reduce the number of rabid skunks in the area.
No one knows yet if the program is going to work – skunks will need to be caught and tested for rabies 30-60 days after the vaccines are dropped – or if the indiscriminate spreading of a pharmaceutical product into the environment is going to have any unforeseen consequences to wildlife or the surrounding ecosystem.
Should Wildlife be Vaccinated Against a Disease that Infects 2-4 People a Year?
It’s also unclear why Texas is taking such aggressive measures against rabies. There has so far been only one reported case of human rabies in Texas in 2013, and the man was exposed in Guatemala, Mexico -- not in Texas. The last case of human rabies in Texas prior to that was in 2009 and prior to that in 2004 – for a total of just 6 human cases in the last decade.3
For comparison, there were 2,390 cases of campylobacteriosis in Texas in 2012 alone … an illness largely spread by contaminated poultry raised on concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). This illness, too, can be deadly if it infects a person with a compromised immune system, yet we’re not hearing about widespread efforts to curb its transmission …
Even if you factor in data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which states there were 6,153 reported cases of rabies in animals in 2010, that’s for animals in the entire US, and not only skunks but also raccoons, foxes, bats and others. Texas isn’t the only state to opt for preventative rabies vaccination of wildlife, either. According to the Human Society of the United States (HSUS):4
“Federal and state wildlife officials have been vaccinating wildlife in many regions over the past 15 years. They distribute vaccine-laden baits that the target animals eat and thereby vaccinate themselves. Right now, oral rabies vaccination of wildlife focuses on halting the spread of specific types of rabies in targeted carrier species. Next, it’s hoped that this tool can shrink the diseases’ range.”
The end question remains the same, not only for Texas but for the entire US: is it really necessary to spend $300 million a year on rabies prevention … and what are the potential consequences of vaccinating wildlife?
What Exactly is Rabies?
Rabies is a viral disease that most often enters your body through a bite or wound contaminated by the saliva from an infected animal. If it manages to infect the central nervous system it can lead to early symptoms that include fever, headache, weakness and discomfort. As the disease progresses it can lead to insomnia, anxiety, confusion, paralysis, hallucinations, difficulty swallowing, fear of water and death.
If you have been bitten by a wild animal (or a dog with unknown rabies status), wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water, as this will help to decrease your risk of infection.
Next, talk to a doctor about your next steps. He or she will probably contact the local or state health department and, if it’s deemed that the animal was rabid or at high risk of being rabid, you may need to start postexposure prophylaxis (PEP), which consists of a series of vaccines that can protect you from developing rabies. But remember, though rabies is serious, and frightening, it’s extremely rare. HSUS puts it into perspective:
“Given all the media attention that rabies regularly receives, it may be somewhat surprising to learn that very few people die from rabies nationwide each year. Over the past 10 years, rabies has killed only a total of 28 people in the U. S. This amounts to fewer than 3 fatalities a year nationwide.
People who contracted rabies in the United States were mostly infected by a bat. Most didn’t even know they were bitten. Some may have been sleeping when bitten. Others handled a bat bare-handed without realizing they’d been potentially exposed to rabies. But don’t panic over every bat sighting. Less than one-half of one percent of all bats in North America carries rabies. Although raccoons suffer from rabies more than any other mammal in the United States (about 35 percent of all animal rabies cases), only one human death from the raccoon strain of rabies has been recorded in the United States.”
What About Rabies Vaccines for Pets?
If you’re wondering about the rabies vaccine for your dog or cat, Mercola Healthy Pets with Dr. Karen Becker has a wealth of information. In many states you can choose either a 1-year or 3-year rabies vaccine for your pet. If you choose a 1-year shot, or if your state doesn’t offer a 3-year vaccine, the annual protocol is required by law.

If you have a pet and are not subscribed yet to Dr. Becker’s awesome newsletter, you are doing your pet a serious disservice, as her information is priceless. She simply is one of the best natural vets in the world. For a very informative interview with renowned veterinary vaccine expert Dr. Ronald Schultz, see the video below: “Does Your Pet Really Need That Rabies

Aspartame: By Far the Most Dangerous Substance Added to Most Foods Today

November 06, 2011 | 766,096 views

Aspartame is the technical name for the brand names NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful, and Equal-Measure. It was discovered by accident in 1965 when James Schlatter, a chemist of G.D. Searle Company, was testing an anti-ulcer drug.

Aspartame was approved for dry goods in 1981 and for carbonated beverages in 1983. It was originally approved for dry goods on July 26, 1974, but objections filed by neuroscience researcher Dr. John W. Olney and consumer attorney James Turner in August 1974, as well as investigations of G.D. Searle's research practices caused the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to put approval of aspartame on hold (December 5, 1974). In 1985, Monsanto purchased G.D. Searle and made Searle Pharmaceuticals and The NutraSweet Company separate subsidiaries.
Aspartame accounts for over 75 percent of the adverse reactions to food additives reported to the FDA. Many of these reactions are very serious, including seizures and death. A few of the 90 different documented symptoms listed in the report as being caused by aspartame include:
Muscle spasms
Weight gain
Vision problems
Hearing loss
Heart palpitations
Breathing difficulties
Anxiety attacks
Slurred speech
Loss of taste
Memory loss
Joint pain

According to researchers and physicians studying the adverse effects of aspartame, the following chronic illnesses can be triggered or worsened by ingesting of aspartame:
Brain tumors
Multiple sclerosis
Chronic fatigue syndrome
Parkinson's disease
Mental retardation
Birth defects

Aspartame is made up of three chemicals: aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol. The book Prescription for Nutritional Healing, by James and Phyllis Balch lists aspartame under the category of "chemical poison." As you shall see, that is exactly what it is.
What Is Aspartame Made Of?
Aspartic Acid (40 percent of Aspartame)
Dr. Russell L. Blaylock, a professor of neurosurgery at the Medical University of Mississippi, recently published a book thoroughly detailing the damage that is caused by the ingestion of excessive aspartic acid from aspartame. Blaylock makes use of almost 500 scientific references to show how excess free excitatory amino acids such as aspartic acid and glutamic acid (about 99 percent of monosodium glutamate or MSG is glutamic acid) in our food supply are causing serious chronic neurological disorders and a myriad of other acute symptoms.
How Aspartate (and Glutamate) Cause Damage

Aspartate and glutamate act as neurotransmitters in the brain by facilitating the transmission of information from neuron to neuron. Too much aspartate or glutamate in the brain kills certain neurons by allowing the influx of too much calcium into the cells. This influx triggers excessive amounts of free radicals, which kill the cells. The neural cell damage that can be caused by excessive aspartate and glutamate is why they are referred to as "excitotoxins." They "excite" or stimulate the neural cells to death.

Aspartic acid is an amino acid. Taken in its free form (unbound to proteins), it significantly raises the blood plasma level of aspartate and glutamate. The excess aspartate and glutamate in the blood plasma shortly after ingesting aspartame or products with free glutamic acid (glutamate precursor) leads to a high level of those neurotransmitters in certain areas of the brain.
The blood brain barrier (BBB), which normally protects the brain from excess glutamate and aspartate as well as toxins, 1) is not fully developed during childhood, 2) does not fully protect all areas of the brain, 3) is damaged by numerous chronic and acute conditions, and 4) allows seepage of excess glutamate and aspartate into the brain even when intact.
The excess glutamate and aspartate slowly begin to destroy neurons. The large majority (75 percent or more) of neural cells in a particular area of the brain are killed before any clinical symptoms of a chronic illness are noticed. A few of the many chronic illnesses that have been shown to be contributed to by long-term exposure to excitatory amino acid damage include:
Multiple sclerosis (MS)
Parkinson's disease
Memory loss
Hormonal problems
Brain lesions
Alzheimer's disease
Neuroendocrine disorders

The risk to infants, children, pregnant women, the elderly and persons with certain chronic health problems from excitotoxins are great. Even the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), which usually understates problems and mimics the FDA party-line, recently stated in a review that:
"It is prudent to avoid the use of dietary supplements of L-glutamic acid by pregnant women, infants, and children. The existence of evidence of potential endocrine responses, i.e., elevated cortisol and prolactin, and differential responses between males and females, would also suggest a neuroendocrine link and that supplemental L-glutamic acid should be avoided by women of childbearing age and individuals with affective disorders."
Aspartic acid from aspartame has the same deleterious effects on the body as glutamic acid.
The exact mechanism of acute reactions to excess free glutamate and aspartate is currently being debated. As reported to the FDA, those reactions include:

Fatigue (blocks sufficient glucose entry into brain)
Anxiety attacks
Sleep problems
Abdominal pains
Vision problems
Asthma/chest tightness

One common complaint of persons suffering from the effect of aspartame is memory loss. Ironically, in 1987, G.D. Searle, the manufacturer of aspartame, undertook a search for a drug to combat memory loss caused by excitatory amino acid damage. Blaylock is one of many scientists and physicians who are concerned about excitatory amino acid damage caused by ingestion of aspartame and MSG.
A few of the many experts who have spoken out against the damage being caused by aspartate and glutamate include Adrienne Samuels, Ph.D., an experimental psychologist specializing in research design. Another is Olney, a professor in the department of psychiatry, School of Medicine, Washington University, a neuroscientist and researcher, and one of the world's foremost authorities on excitotoxins. (He informed Searle in 1971 that aspartic acid caused holes in the brains of mice.)
Phenylalanine (50 percent of aspartame)

Phenylalanine is an amino acid normally found in the brain. Persons with the genetic disorder phenylketonuria (PKU) cannot metabolize phenylalanine. This leads to dangerously high levels of phenylalanine in the brain (sometimes lethal). It has been shown that ingesting aspartame, especially along with carbohydrates, can lead to excess levels of phenylalanine in the brain even in persons who do not have PKU.
This is not just a theory, as many people who have eaten large amounts of aspartame over a long period of time and do not have PKU have been shown to have excessive levels of phenylalanine in the blood. Excessive levels of phenylalanine in the brain can cause the levels of serotonin in the brain to decrease, leading to emotional disorders such as depression. It was shown in human testing that phenylalanine levels of the blood were increased significantly in human subjects who chronically used aspartame.
Even a single use of aspartame raised the blood phenylalanine levels. In his testimony before the U.S. Congress, Dr. Louis J. Elsas showed that high blood phenylalanine can be concentrated in parts of the brain and is especially dangerous for infants and fetuses. He also showed that phenylalanine is metabolized much more efficiently by rodents than by humans.
One account of a case of extremely high phenylalanine levels caused by aspartame was recently published by the Wednesday Journal in an article titled "An Aspartame Nightmare." John Cook began drinking six to eight diet drinks every day. His symptoms started out as memory loss and frequent headaches. He began to crave more aspartame-sweetened drinks. His condition deteriorated so much that he experienced wide mood swings and violent rages. Even though he did not suffer from PKU, a blood test revealed a phenylalanine level of 80 mg/dl. He also showed abnormal brain function and brain damage. After he kicked his aspartame habit, his symptoms improved dramatically.
As Blaylock points out in his book, early studies measuring phenylalanine buildup in the brain were flawed. Investigators who measured specific brain regions and not the average throughout the brain notice significant rises in phenylalanine levels. Specifically the hypothalamus, medulla oblongata, and corpus striatum areas of the brain had the largest increases in phenylalanine. Blaylock goes on to point out that excessive buildup of phenylalanine in the brain can cause schizophrenia or make one more susceptible to seizures.
Therefore, long-term, excessive use of aspartame may provide a boost to sales of serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as Prozac and drugs to control schizophrenia and seizures.
Methanol a.k.a wood alcohol/poison (10 percent of aspartame)
Methanol/wood alcohol is a deadly poison. Some people may remember methanol as the poison that has caused some "skid row" alcoholics to end up blind or dead. Methanol is gradually released in the small intestine when the methyl group of aspartame encounters the enzyme chymotrypsin.
The absorption of methanol into the body is sped up considerably when free methanol is ingested. Free methanol is created from aspartame when it is heated to above 86 Fahrenheit (30 Centigrade). This would occur when aspartame-containing product is improperly stored or when it is heated (e.g. as part of a "food" product such as Jello).

Methanol breaks down into formaldehyde in the body. Formaldehyde is a deadly neurotoxin. An EPA assessment of methanol states that methanol "is considered a cumulative poison due to the low rate of excretion once it is absorbed. In the body, methanol is oxidized to formaldehyde." They recommend a limit of consumption of 7.8 mg/day. A one-liter (approx. 1 quart) aspartame-sweetened beverage contains about 56 mg of methanol. Heavy users of aspartame-containing products consume as much as 250 mg of methanol daily or 32 times the EPA limit.
Symptoms from methanol poisoning include headaches, ear buzzing, dizziness, nausea, gastrointestinal disturbances, weakness, vertigo, chills, memory lapses, numbness and shooting pains in the extremities, behavioral disturbances, and neuritis. The most well known problems from methanol poisoning are vision problems including misty vision, progressive contraction of visual fields, blurring of vision, obscuration of vision, retinal damage, and blindness. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen, causes retinal damage, interferes with DNA replication and causes birth defects.
Due to the lack of a couple of key enzymes, humans are many times more sensitive to the toxic effects of methanol than animals. Therefore, tests of aspartame or methanol on animals do not accurately reflect the danger for humans. As pointed out by Dr. Woodrow C. Monte, director of the food science and nutrition laboratory at Arizona State University: "There are no human or mammalian studies to evaluate the possible mutagenic, teratogenic or carcinogenic effects of chronic administration of methyl alcohol."
He was so concerned about the unresolved safety issues that he filed suit with the FDA requesting a hearing to address these issues. He asked the FDA to:
"...[S]low down on this soft drink issue long enough to answer some of the important questions. It's not fair that you are leaving the full burden of proof on the few of us who are concerned and have such limited resources. You must remember that you are the American public's last defense. Once you allow usage (of aspartame) there is literally nothing I or my colleagues can do to reverse the course. Aspartame will then join saccharin, the sulfiting agents, and God knows how many other questionable compounds enjoined to insult the human constitution with governmental approval."
Shortly thereafter, the Commissioner of the FDA, Arthur Hull Hayes, Jr., approved the use of aspartame in carbonated beverage. He then left for a position with G.D. Searle's public relations firm.
It has been pointed out that some fruit juices and alcoholic beverages contain small amounts of methanol. It is important to remember, however, that methanol never appears alone. In every case, ethanol is present, usually in much higher amounts. Ethanol is an antidote for methanol toxicity in humans. The troops of Desert Storm were "treated" to large amounts of aspartame-sweetened beverages, which had been heated to over 86 degrees F in the Saudi Arabian sun. Many of them returned home with numerous disorders similar to what has been seen in persons who have been chemically poisoned by formaldehyde. The free methanol in the beverages may have been a contributing factor in these illnesses. Other breakdown products of aspartame such as DKP (discussed below) may also have been a factor.
In a 1993 act that can only be described as "unconscionable," the FDA approved aspartame as an ingredient in numerous food items that would always be heated to above 86 degree F (30 degree C).
Diketopiperazine (DKP)
DKP is a byproduct of aspartame metabolism. DKP has been implicated in the occurrence of brain tumors. Olney noticed that DKP, when nitrosated in the gut, produced a compound that was similar to N-nitrosourea, a powerful brain tumor causing chemical. Some authors have said that DKP is produced after aspartame ingestion. I am not sure if that is correct. It is definitely true that DKP is formed in liquid aspartame-containing products during prolonged storage.
G.D. Searle conducted animal experiments on the safety of DKP. The FDA found numerous experimental errors occurred, including "clerical errors, mixed-up animals, animals not getting drugs they were supposed to get, pathological specimens lost because of improper handling," and many other errors. These sloppy laboratory procedures may explain why both the test and control animals had 16 times more brain tumors than would be expected in experiments of this length.
In an ironic twist, shortly after these experimental errors were discovered, the FDA used guidelines recommended by G.D. Searle to develop the industry-wide FDA standards for good laboratory practices.

DKP has also been implicated as a cause of uterine polyps and changes in blood cholesterol by FDA Toxicologist Dr. Jacqueline Verrett in her testimony before the U.S. Senate.

The Latest Weapon in the War on Cancer: Honey Bees

November 24, 2012 | 346,854 views

By Dr. Mercola
Propolis, the "caulk" honeybees use to patch holes in their hives, has been used as a natural remedy since ancient times, treating ills ranging from sore throats and burns to allergies.
New research has revealed another exciting use for this seemingly miraculous substance, this time in the fight against cancer.
Propolis Slows Tumor Growth
Propolis has a number of well-known therapeutic properties, including potent antioxidant and anti-microbial action, and healing, analgesic, anesthetic, and anti-inflammatory properties. In the hive, bees use it as a disinfectant against bacteria and viruses, helping to seal cracks and "embalm" invaders that are too large to carry out.
It's been used for thousands of years in folk medicine, but despite its plethora of active components, research on this compound, and therefore its modern medical uses, is limited.
Researchers from the University of Chicago Medical Center, intrigued by propolis' anti-cancer potential, decided to look at one of its bioactive components, caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE), and its impact on human prostate cancer cells.
In cells grown in a lab, even small doses of CAPE slowed the growth of tumor cells. And when low oral doses were given to mice with prostate tumors, tumor growth slowed by 50 percent! What's more, feeding CAPE to mice daily caused the tumors to stop growing, although they returned when the CAPE was removed from their diets.
This suggests the propolis compound works by impacting signaling networks that control cancerous cell growth, rather than by killing the cells directly. However, there are at least four studies on propolis' apoptotic properties, indicating that technically it is capable of directly killing cancer cells, including prostate cancer, melanoma and more, as well.1
This is not the first time propolis has shown promise in treating cancer. In 2009, propolis was found to suppress the growth of neurofibromatosis-associated tumors (tumors on nerve tissue) by blocking PAK1 signaling. Researchers noted:2
"Since more than 70% of human cancers such as breast and prostate cancers require the kinase PAK1 for their growth, it is quite possible that GPE [green propolis extract] could be potentially useful for the treatment of these cancers, as is Bio 30 [a CAPE-based propolis extract]."
Propolis Has Powerful Immune-Modulating, Anti-Inflammatory Properties
What makes natural compounds so exciting, and often so powerful, is that they don't simply exhibit one therapeutic action the way, say, most drugs work. Instead, they contain numerous bioactive components that may exert dozens of beneficial actions within your body. This appears to be the case with propolis, which has been found to play a role in over 80 conditions, including:3
Radiation damage
Ear infections
Respiratory tract infections
Oxidative stress
Staph infection

Writing in Clinical Reviews in Allergy and Immunology, researchers expanded on some of propolis' potential effects:4
"Propolis, a waxy substance produced by the honeybee, has been adopted as a form of folk medicine since ancient times. It has a wide spectrum of alleged applications including potential anti-infection and anticancer effects. Many of the therapeutic effects can be attributed to its immunomodulatory functions. The composition of propolis can vary according to the geographic locations from where the bees obtained the ingredients.
Two main immunopotent chemicals have been identified as caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE) and artepillin C. Propolis, CAPE, and artepillin C have been shown to exert summative immunosuppressive function on T lymphocyte subsets but paradoxically activate macrophage function.
On the other hand, they also have potential antitumor properties by different postulated mechanisms such as suppressing cancer cells proliferation via its anti-inflammatory effects; decreasing the cancer stem cell populations; blocking specific oncogene signaling pathways; exerting antiangiogenic effects; and modulating the tumor microenvironment.
The good bioavailability by the oral route and good historical safety profile makes propolis an ideal adjuvant agent for future immunomodulatory or anticancer regimens."
Protein Intake Also Crucial for Cancers
Earlier this month I interviewed Dr. Ron Rosedale for several hours. He is one of the first physicians in the U.S. that started measuring leptin levels clinically and was far ahead of the curve on this one. In our interview, he helped me understand the major importance that excessive protein intake can have on cancer growth.
The mTOR pathway is short for mammalian target of rapamycin. This pathway is ancient but relatively recently appreciated and has only been known for less than 20 years. Odds are very high your doctor was never taught this is medical school and isn't even aware of it. Many new cancer drugs are actually being targeted to use this pathway. Drugs using this pathway have also been given to animals to radically extend their lifespan. But you don't have to use drugs to get this pathway to work for you.
You can biohack your body and merely restrict your protein intake and replace the decreased protein with healthy fats as this will provide virtually identical benefits as these dangerous and expensive drugs.
Eating excessive protein can be an additional synergistically powerful mechanism. Dr. Rosedale believes that when you consume protein in levels higher than one gram of protein per kilogram of LEAN body mass you can activate the mTOR pathway, which will radically increase your risk of cancers. It is very easy to consume excess protein and my guess is that most people reading this are. I know I was, and as a result of this new insight I have reduced my protein intake by about half.
To determine your lean body mass find out your percent body fat and subtract from 100. So if you are 20% body fat you would have 80% lean body mass. Just multiply that times your current weight to get lean body mass. For most people this means restricting protein intake from 35 to 75 grams. Pregnant women and those working out extensively need about 25% more protein though.
Of course when you reduce protein you need to replace it with other calories, so the key is to replace the lost calories with high-quality fats such as avocados, butter, coconut oil, olives, olive oil, nuts and eggs. It is also very helpful to avoid eating anything for three hours before going to bed as this allows you to have relatively low blood sugars while you are sleeping. This is another good trick to move your body to fat burning mode.
Nearly everyone is primarily in carb burning mode because of the amount of carbohydrate content that they consume. The beauty of shifting over to fat burning mode is that it virtually eliminates hunger. Intermittent fasting is one way to help achieve this, but radically cutting back on non-vegetable carbs is also very important. Coconut oil is particularly useful to use in making the transition to fat burning mode as it is primarily short and medium chain fats which break down very quickly and can be used as an energy source which is important for countering the decreased energy and other physical challenges that many encounter in the several weeks it typically takes to make the transition to fat burning mode .
Other Natural Remedies Also Show Cancer Promise
One of the reasons why conventional cancer treatment is such a dismal failure in the United States is because it relies on chemotherapy. Chemotherapy drugs are, by their very nature, extremely toxic and typically work against your body's natural ability to fight cancer, e.g. destroying host immunity instead of supporting it.
One of the biggest drawbacks to chemotherapy is the fact that it destroys healthy cells throughout your body right along with cancer cells, a "side effect" that often leads to accelerated death, not healing.
Another devastating side effect of chemotherapy is the way it actually supports the more chemo-resistant and malignant cell subpopulations within tumors (e.g. cancer stem cells), both killing the more benign cells and/or quiescent cells within the tumor that keep it slow-growing, or even harmless.
As a result, this unleashes a more aggressive, treatment-resistant type of cancer to wreak havoc on your body.
Like propolis, a handful of natural compounds have been discovered that show promise for treating cancer without such toxic effects. Some of these even exhibit an effect called "selective cytotoxicity," which means they are able to kill cancer cells while leaving healthy cells and tissue unharmed, and even benefited one such compound is bromelain, an enzyme that can be extracted from pineapple stems. Research published in the journal Planta Medica found that bromelain was superior to the chemotherapy drug 5-fluorauracil in treating cancer in an animal study .5
Researchers stated:
"This antitumoral effect [of bromelain] was superior to that of 5-FU [5-fluorouracil], whose survival index was approximately 263 %, relative to the untreated control."
What makes this impact particularly impressive is that the bromelain worked without causing additional harm to the animals. The chemo drug 5-fluorauracil, on the other hand, has a relatively unsuccessful and dangerous track record despite being used for nearly 40 years. Selective cytotoxicity is indeed a property that is only found among natural compounds; no chemotherapy drug yet developed is capable of this effect. Aside from bromelain, other examples of natural compounds that have been found to kill cancer cells without harming healthy cells include:
  • Vitamin C: Dr. Ronald Hunninghake carried out a 15-year research project called RECNAC (cancer spelled backwards). His groundbreaking research in cell cultures showed that vitamin C was selectively cytotoxic against cancer cells.
  • Eggplant extract: Solasodine rhamnosyl glycosides (BEC), which are a class of compounds extracted from plants of the Solanaceae family, such as eggplant, tomato, potato, Bell peppers, and tobacco, can also impact only cancerous cells leaving normal cells alone. Eggplant extract cream appears to be particularly useful in treating skin cancer . Dr. Bill E. Cham, a leading researcher in this area, explains:
  • "The mode of action of SRGs [glycoalkaloids solasodine rhamnosy glycosides (BEC)] is unlike any current antineoplastic [anti-tumor] agent. Specific receptors for the SRGs present only on cancer cells but not normal cells are the first step of events that lead to apoptosis in cancer cells only, and this may explain why during treatment the cancer cells were being eliminated and normal cells were replacing the killed cancer cells with no scar tissue being formed."
  • Turmeric (Curcumin Extract): Of all the natural cancer fighters out there, this spice has been the most intensely researched for exhibiting selective cytotoxicity.6 Remarkably, in a 2011 study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, rats administered curcumin, the primary polyphenol in turmeric, saw a decrease in experimentally-induced brain tumors in 9 out of 11 treated, while noting that the curcumin did not affect the viability of brain cells "suggesting that curcumin selectively targets the transformed [cancerous] cells ."7
Natural Strategies for Cancer Prevention
When it comes to cancer and other chronic diseases, effective prevention trumps progressive treatments in my eyes. I believe you can virtually eliminate your risk of ever developing cancer (and radically improve your chances of recovering from cancer if you currently have it) by following some relatively simple risk reduction strategies — all of which help promote a healthful biological environment in which your cells can thrive and combat disease naturally.

  • Optimize your vitamin D levels.
  • Reduce or eliminate your processed food, fructose and grain carbohydrate intake.
  • Control your fasting insulin and leptin levels. Normalizing your insulin levels is one of the most powerful physical actions you can take to lower your risk of cancer, and improved insulin and leptin control is the natural outcome of reducing or eliminating fructose, grains, and processed foods from your diet.
  • Normalize your ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats by taking a high-quality krill oil and reducing your intake of most processed vegetable oils.
  • Get regular exercise. One of the primary ways exercise lowers your risk for cancer is by reducing elevated insulin levels, which creates a low sugar environment that discourages the growth and spread of cancer cells, which thrive on sugar-based metabolism (anaerobic glycolysis). Controlling insulin levels is one of the most powerful ways to reduce your cancer risks. Additionally, exercise improves the circulation of immune cells in your blood. Your immune system is your first line of defense against everything from minor illnesses like a cold right up to devastating, life-threatening diseases like cancer.
  • The trick about exercise, though, is understanding how to use it as a precise tool. This ensures you are getting enough to achieve the benefit, not too much to cause injury, and the right variety to balance your entire physical structure and maintain strength and flexibility, and aerobic and anaerobic fitness levels. If you have limited time, high-intensity Peak Fitness exercises are your best bet but ideally you should have a good strength-training program as well. 
  • Get regular, good-quality sleep .
  • Reduce your exposure to environmental toxins like pesticides, household chemical cleaners, synthetic air fresheners and air pollution.
  • Limit your exposure and provide protection for yourself from EMF produced by cell phone towers, base stations, cell phones and WiFi stations. On May 31, 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an arm of the World Health Organization (WHO), declared that cell phones are "possibly carcinogenic to humans."
  • Avoid frying or charbroiling your food. Boil, poach or steam your foods instead.
  • Have a tool to permanently reprogram the neurological short-circuiting that can activate cancer genes. Even the CDC states that 85 percent of disease is caused by emotions. It is likely that this factor may be more important than all the other physical ones listed here, so make sure this is addressed. Energy psychology seems to be one of the best approaches and my particular favorite tool, as you may know, is the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) .
  • Eat at least one-third of your diet in the form of raw food.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Why I've Had a Change of Heart About Neutering Pets

September 30, 2013 | 3,888 views

By Dr. Becker
Whenever I discuss scientific evidence related to the health risks of spaying and neutering here at Mercola Healthy Pets or on my Facebook page, I receive a lot of negative feedback from people who are absolutely certain I’m encouraging pet overpopulation and irresponsible pet ownership. So, I decided to make a video to explain to those who are standing in judgment why nothing could be further from the truth.
I Was Once a Huge Advocate of Spaying or Neutering Every Dog at an Early Age
I started volunteering at an animal shelter when I was 13 years old. I started working there when I was 14. I cleaned cages. By the time I was 17, I had become certified as a euthanasia technician by the Iowa State College of Veterinary Medicine. The ten years I spent working at a kill shelter and the exposure to certain clients and cases in my veterinary practice over the years have taught me more than I ever wanted to know or could share in this video about abused, neglected, and unwanted pets.
When I first opened my animal hospital, I was so adamant about my clients spaying their female pets before the first heat cycle, that if they didn’t follow my advice, I really became upset. I tried not to show it outwardly, but I suggested that those clients might be more ethically aligned with another veterinarian who didn’t feel as strongly about the subject as I did.
That was my politically correct way of saying, “Maybe you should go to another vet,” because I would literally lose sleep over having intact patients in my practice. I spayed and neutered thousands of my patients when they were very, very young, assuming I was completing my moral task as an ethical veterinarian.
Five Years into Private Practice, Many of My Canine Patients Began to Develop Endocrine Imbalances and Related Diseases
About five years after my practice opened, many of my patients started to develop endocrine issues. This was obviously very concerning to me, as these animals were not over-vaccinated. They were all eating biologically appropriate, fresh food diets.
The first light bulb went off in my head when I started researching why up to 90 percent of ferrets die of endocrine imbalance, specifically adrenal disease or Cushing's disease. Mass-bred ferrets that enter the pet trade are desexed at about three weeks of age. The theory behind why most ferrets develop endocrine imbalance is that juvenile desexing creates a sex hormone deficiency, which ultimately taxes the last remaining tissues of the body capable of producing a small amount of sex hormone – the adrenal glands. So I began to wonder… could the same phenomenon be happening with my dog patients?
By 2006, the number of dogs I was diagnosing with hypothyroidism was at an all-time high. Diagnosing low thyroid levels is very easy compared to the complex adrenal testing required to show that a dog has adrenal disease. I started to wonder if hypothyroidism was just a symptom of a deeper hormonal imbalance in many of my patients. Because even after we got those thyroid levels balanced, the dogs still didn’t appear to be vibrantly healthy or entirely well.
I contacted Dr. Jack Oliver, who ran the University of Tennessee’s adrenal lab, and posed my theory to him. I was stunned when he told me that indeed adrenal disease was occurring at epidemic proportions in dogs in the U.S. and was certainly tied to sex hormone imbalance. Now, whether veterinarians were testing and identifying the epidemic was a whole different story.
In a Flash of Recognition, I Knew My Insistence on Desexing All My Patients at a Young Age Had Created Serious Health Problems for Many of Them
At this point, I became overwhelmed with guilt. For many years, I insisted my clients follow my advice to spay or neuter their pets at or before six months of age. It hit me like a lightning bolt that I was making this suggestion not based on what was physiologically best for my patients, but rather what I felt was morally best for their owners.
As all of the patients that I desexed at a young age cycled through, many of them with irreversible metabolic diseases, I started apologizing to my clients. I apologized to my patients as well. Through my blanket recommendation that all pets be desexed because humans may be irresponsible with an intact animal, I had inadvertently made many of my patients very ill. As a doctor, this revelation was devastating.
I began changing my recommendations on spaying and neutering. I advised my clients to leave their pets intact. Now, you must realize my veterinary practice is filled with wildly committed owners. I am not dealing with uneducated, uncaring, or unreliable clients.
Of course, there were and are exceptions to my advice against desexing. But in general, my recommendation as a holistic vet is to perform any surgery – including spaying and neutering – only when it’s a medical necessity and not an elective procedure.
I recently adopted a stray Dachshund who is intact, and I plan to leave him intact. I am an intact female myself. I am proud to say that I have not experienced a single unplanned pregnancy in my personal life or in my career at my practice as a holistic vet catering to thousands of intact animals.
If you are an irresponsible pet owner who allows your intact pet outside without a leash and direct supervision, this video is not for you. Please sterilize your pet before allowing him or her outside again, as you are contributing to the overpopulation problem. Please rethink how you care for your pet, or consider not having pets.
My Views on Sterilization of Shelter Pets
The subject of spay/neuter is a huge one, and if I were to attempt to cover every aspect of it, this video would be three hours long. Suffice it to say that until we get our nation’s shelter systems revamped, animals will continue to be spayed as juveniles. For now, that’s that. We won’t change anything with this video. Are we pushing for shelter vets to learn ovary-sparing techniques that allow for sterilization without sex hormone obliteration? Yes. But for now, that isn’t happening.
I could have made a dozen different choices in my professional career that would have been satisfying, including being a shelter vet. If I were a shelter vet right now, I would be pushing for sterilization techniques that preserve normal endocrine function. I chose the path of a wellness veterinarian because that resonated the most with my personal goals in life. As I’ve explained, I’ve made many mistakes. I’ve apologized directly to the owners and the dogs that I desexed as puppies before I knew any better.
I am as committed as ever to preventing and treating illness in individual family pets. I’m not, however, advocating the adoption of intact animals to people who may or may not be responsible pet owners. Shelter vets don’t have the luxury of building relationships with their adoptive families, so all the animals in their care must be sterilized prior to adoption. I totally agree with this. I don’t necessarily agree with the method of sterilization being used.
Why I Believe Sterilization, Not Desexing, Is the Better Option
As a proactive veterinarian, I have dedicated my life to keeping animals well. I have learned and continue to learn the best ways to help pets stay healthy and the reasons disease occurs. I am also a holistically oriented vet, which means I view animals as a whole – not just a collection of body parts or symptoms.
I believe there is a purpose for each organ we are born with, and that organ systems are interdependent. I believe removing any organ – certainly including all the organs of reproduction – will have health consequences. It’s inevitable. It’s simply common sense.
There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that desexing dogs, especially at an early age, can create health and behavior problems. When I use the term “desexing,” I’m referring to the traditional spay and neuter surgery where all the sex hormone-secreting tissues are removed. When I use the term “sterilization,” I’m referring to animals that can no longer reproduce, but maintain their sex hormone-secreting tissues.
In my view, I would not be fulfilling my obligation as an animal healthcare professional if I chose to ignore the scientific evidence and not pass it on to Healthy Pets readers and the clients at my practice who entrust me with the well being of their animals.
Health Issues Linked to Spaying and Neutering Dogs
Before I discuss some of the health issues now associated with desexing dogs, first let me point out that there are two medical conditions that actually can be totally eliminated by desexing: benign prostatic hypertrophy or BPH (enlarged prostate), and pyometra (a disease of the uterus). However, a wealth of information is mounting that preserving innate sex hormones, especially in the first years of life, may be beneficial to pets, whereas the risk of pyometra or BPH in an animal’s first year of life is incredibly low.
Recent research has also discredited a couple of myths about the supposed benefits of early spays and neuters, including:
  • A study from the U.K. suggests there isn’t much scientific evidence at all to support the idea that early spaying of female dogs decreases or eliminates future risk of mammary tumors or breast cancer. This has been a much promoted supposed benefit of early spays for decades. But as it turns out, it’s based on theory rather than scientific evidence.
  • Similar to the situation with early spaying and mammary tumors, there’s a common belief that neutering a male dog prevents prostate cancer. However, a small study conducted at Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine suggests that neutering – no matter the age – has no effect on the development of prostate cancer.
And now for some of the disorders and diseases linked to spaying/neutering:
Shortened lifespan. A study conducted and published in 2009 by the Gerald P. Murphy Cancer Foundation established a link between the age at which female Rottweilers are spayed and how long they live. Researchers compared long-lived Rotties that lived for 13 years or more with those who lived a normal lifespan of about 9 years. They discovered that while females live longer than males, removing the ovaries of female Rottweilers before five years of age evened the score. Females who kept their ovaries until at least 6 years of age were four times more likely to reach an exceptional age compared to Rotties who were spayed at a younger age.
I spayed my rescued Rottie, Isabelle, when I adopted her at seven years of age. She lived to be 17, and she was still unbelievably vibrant at 17. She slipped on the floor in a freak accident and became paralyzed, which ultimately led to her euthanasia. But she was the oldest and healthiest Rottweiler I have ever met.
With Isabelle, I provided literally no medical care because she didn’t need it. Her body naturally thrived throughout her life. I fed her a balanced raw diet. I checked her bloodwork every six months, which was perfect until the day she died. Isabelle was a great example of a thriving pet that lived above the level of disease. I believe her sex hormones greatly contributed to her longevity and her abundantly healthy life.
Atypical Cushing’s disease. It’s my professional opinion that early spaying and neutering plays a role in the development of atypical Cushing's disease as well. Typical Cushing’s means the middle layer of the adrenal gland is over-secreting cortisol. Atypical Cushing’s involves the outer and innermost layers of the adrenal glands and occurs when other types of hormones are over-produced, usually estrogen and progesterone.
When a dog is spayed or neutered before puberty, the endocrine, glandular and hormonal systems have not yet fully developed. A complete removal of the gonads, resulting in stopping production of all the body’s sex hormones (which is what happens during castration or the traditional spay), can force the adrenal glands to produce sex hormones because they’re the only remaining tissue in the body that can secrete them.
Over time, the adrenal glands become taxed from doing their own work plus the work of the missing gonads. It’s very difficult for these tiny little glands to keep up with the body’s demand for sex hormones. This is the condition of atypical Cushing’s. Hormone disruption is a central feature in Cushing’s disease. Any substance or procedure that affects the body’s hormonal balance should be absolutely evaluated as a potential root cause.
Cardiac tumors. A Veterinary Medical Database search of the years 1982 to 1985 revealed that in dogs with tumors of the heart, the relative risk for spayed females was over four times that of intact females. For the most common type of cardiac tumor, hemangiosarcoma, spayed females had a greater than five times risk vs. their intact counterparts. Neutered males had a slightly higher risk than intact males as well.
Bone cancer. In another Rottweiler study published 10 years ago for both males and females spayed or neutered before one year of age, there was a one in four lifetime risk of developing bone cancer. Desexed Rotties were significantly more likely to acquire the disease than intact dogs. In another study using the Veterinary Medical Database for 1980 to 1984, the risk of bone cancer in large-breed, purebred dogs increased two-fold for those dogs that were also desexed.
Abnormal bone growth and development. Studies done in the 1990s concluded dogs spayed or neutered under one year of age grew significantly taller than non-sterilized dogs or those dogs spayed or neutered after puberty. The earlier the spay or neuter procedure, the taller the dog. Research published in 2000 may explain why: it appears that the removal of estrogen-producing organs in immature dogs – both females and males – can cause growth plates to remain open. These animals continue to grow and wind up with abnormal growth patterns and bone structure. This results in irregular body proportions, possible cartilage issues, and joint conformation issues.
Higher rate of CCL ruptures. A study conducted at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center on cranial cruciate ligament injuries concluded that spayed and neutered dogs had a significantly higher incidence of rupture than their intact counterparts. While large-breed dogs had more CCL injuries, sterilized or desexed dogs of all breeds and sizes had an increased rupture rate.
Hip dysplasia. In a retrospective cohort study conducted at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, results showed that both male and female dogs sterilized at an early age were more prone to hip dysplasia.
Breed-specific effects of spay/neuter. A recent study conducted at the University of California Davis involving several hundred Golden Retrievers revealed that for the incidence of hip dysplasia, CCL tears, lymphosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, and mast cell tumors, the rates were significantly higher in both males and females that were neutered or spayed compared with intact dogs.
Other health concerns. Early spaying or neutering is commonly associated with urinary incontinence in female dogs and has been linked to increased incidence of urethral sphincter incontinence in males.
Spayed or neutered Golden Retrievers are much more likely to develop hypothyroidism.
A cohort study of shelter dogs conducted by the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University concluded that infectious diseases were more common in dogs that were spayed and neutered at under 24 weeks of age.
The AKC’s Canine Health Foundation issued a report pointing to higher incidence of adverse reactions to vaccines in spayed and neutered dogs as well.
Among the reports and studies pointing to health concerns associated with early spaying and neutering, we also find mention of increased incidence of behavior problems, including noise phobias, fear behavior, aggression, and undesirable sexual behaviors.
Options to Traditional Spaying and Neutering
Veterinarians in the U.S. and Canada are trained only to spay and neuter, which is unfortunate since there are less invasive alternatives, such as tubal ligation, hysterectomy, and vasectomy. These techniques are quick and easy and certainly effective. In fact, commonly, once the technique is mastered, they’re faster, less risky and potentially less costly than a full spay or neuter.
But unfortunately, nobody knows how to do them in this country. The reason they’re hard to come by is because U.S. veterinary schools simply don’t teach these alternative procedures. They’ve never had a reason to. And until pet owners start demanding sterilization options beyond spaying and neutering, the status quo will remain.
As author Ted Kerasote and I have discussed on numerous occasions, in many European countries, there are intact free-roaming dogs running about under voice control of their owners. When female dogs go into heat, owners simply manage the situation by removing them from group social events until their heat cycle is complete. They’re kept at home, sequestered away from males. They’re walked on a leash.
Ted tells the story of a British veterinarian he interviewed who said most of the requests he gets to neuter dogs come from U.S. and Canadian citizens who are living in London. Rather than immediately complying with the request, the veterinarian talks with the pet owner about the actual necessity to desex the dog. For example, if the dog is always on a leash and always under the owner’s control, then how exactly would the dog become pregnant (or mate with a female) if it’s constantly with the owner and never off leash? The veterinarian says that he rarely has a British pet owner request a spay or neuter procedure.
Most Americans can’t even comprehend that it’s possible to keep intact pet dogs and not have millions of litters of unwanted puppies. That’s because we’ve been conditioned to believe that a responsible pet owner means spaying and neutering your dog. I was taught to believe the same thing -- that keeping an intact pet was considered irresponsible even if the owner is meticulously careful about not allowing the pet to breed.
Of course, our dependence on spaying and neutering as the only form of birth control is the result of generations of irresponsible pet owners and millions of unwanted dogs and cats that are killed annually in our animal shelters.
It is a vicious cycle, and it’s a very frustrating cycle to witness. Irresponsible people need to have sterilized pets. No one’s going to argue that point. Unfortunately, spaying and neutering responsible people’s pets doesn’t make irresponsible people any more responsible. They remain the root cause of the overpopulation crisis in this country.
My problem with the spaying and neutering issue is it’s the only current solution to the overpopulation problem. We’re not just halting the animal’s ability to reproduce, we are also removing incredibly valuable sex hormone-secreting tissues like the ovaries and the testes. These organs serve a purpose.
We’re slowly waking up to the fact that in our rush to spay or neuter every possible animal we can get our hands on – the younger, the better – we are creating health problems, sometimes life-threatening health problems, that are non-existent or significantly less prevalent in intact pets.
Responsible Ownership of an Intact Female Dog
First of all, you should know that not everyone is cut out to be the owner of an intact male or female dog. Part of the popularity of full spays and neuters vs. other means of sterilization is that it’s just plain convenient for pet owners. Not only do spays and neuters render the animal unable to reproduce, but they also remove all of the messiness of female heat cycles and most of the pet’s key mating behaviors for both sexes.
Female dogs don’t have monthly periods like humans do. They have one, or usually two heats a year. You can typically tell a female heat cycle is on its way when your intact female’s vulva begins to enlarge. Just like humans there’s bleeding involved, but unlike human females who are not fertile during menstruation, dogs are just the opposite. Female dogs can get pregnant only during heats for about three to four days as unfertilized eggs ripen in their bodies.
Some dogs will signal during this time by flagging, which means lifting the tail base up and to the side. Some females will stand and can be mounted at any time during their heat cycle, including before and after they’re pregnant or fertile. Others show no behavior signs whatsoever. Owners of intact female dogs must be certain of the signs of heat in their pets, so that they can separate them from male dogs during this important time.
Never underestimate the determination of an intact male dog that wants to mate with a female dog in heat. I’m telling you, if you have a female dog, male dogs will come visit her from across a tri-state area because she’s putting out some very attractive pheromones.
With proper training, reinforcement, and constant supervision, however, male dogs can learn to be in the presence of a female while supervised, even when she’s in heat, without mating. Some people with both an intact male and female don’t want to put the effort into managing male dogs around cycling females and simply ship them off to a friend or relative’s house until the heat cycle is over.
If you have a female dog in heat, you should never leave her outside alone even for a second. It doesn’t matter if you have a fenced-in yard. If there’s an unsupervised male around, there’s absolutely a risk of impregnation through the fence (or over the fence, or under the fence).
The heat cycle of a female dog lasts about three weeks, but the menstrual bleeding can be unpredictable during that time. It’s neither consistently heavy nor is it every day, all day. Many owners of intact female dogs invest in special diapers or panties that can hold a sanitary napkin to contain the discharge.
At my house we just get a baby gate, and we gate our special lady of the month in the kitchen area. We put a dog bed in there, and then we just mop a couple of times a day. Typically, female dogs are incredibly good at keeping themselves very clean. Most of the time, there’s very little mess.
Responsible Ownership of an Intact Male Dog
Intact males should receive positive reinforcement behavior training to stop urine marking in the house as well as any humping behavior that may occur.
The intact, male, adult Dachsie we just rescued – his name is Lenny – became Lenny Loincloth after a few days in our house for obvious reasons. He acquired his last name because he marked absolutely every corner of every piece of furniture we own. To reduce this totally undesirable behavior and reinforce healthy housebreaking, we put a belly band on him. We call it his loincloth. It’s a little diaper that holds his penis to his abdomen. Dogs innately do not want to urinate on themselves; they want to pee and mark on objects. By belly banding him, we reinforce good behavior like going potty outside and not marking in the house. I’m proud to say that in one month’s time, we’ve really helped him kick his marking habit for the most part.
Constant positive reinforcement was really necessary with Lenny, as it is with all dogs. We also discovered the first day Lenny was in our house that he liked to hump everything in sight. He preferred humping pillows and dog beds. We simply picked those pillows and dog beds up. We didn’t give him access to objects that tempted his undesirable behavior. He hasn’t humped anything in three weeks. So there are ways to positively reinforce good behavior and extinguish negative intact male dog behaviors if you put in the effort.
Your unneutered male should never be off-leash unless you are absolutely sure you won’t run into an intact female dog or he’s under constant voice control around all dogs. You also need to be in control of your dog while he’s leashed. If your intact male or female dog is able to jerk away from you when he or she gets excited, then your dog is not under your control despite the leash.
I recommend positive reinforcement behavior training for all dogs, especially intact dogs. And it’s an absolute necessity for powerfully built, intact male dogs. Remaining in obedience class for a dog’s first 16 months of life is an excellent foundation for good manners for the rest of his life.
If your dog becomes assertive, desexing (a full neuter) can be an important part of managing long-term behavior issues. Again, in this instance, if you have an aggressive dog, we must evaluate the risks vs. benefits. The health benefits of leaving a temperamental dog intact do not outweigh the greater risk of this aggressive animal being re-homed, dumped, or abused – or hurting another animal or human. With behavior issues, spaying or neutering can be a logical choice. It’s better to have endocrine disease but be in a loving home, than be disease-free but dumped at a kill shelter for a behavior problem.
Keep in mind that out in the world, at least in North America, you and your intact dog will not have a whole lot of company in this day and age. You won’t be able to take your dog everywhere a spayed or neutered dog is allowed to go. If your dog is a male, prepare to deal with plenty of prying questions and even anger from people who will pre-judge you as totally irresponsible.
When Lenny sees people, he flops on his back and says, “Hello, hello, hello!” Everyone’s comment is, “What are those?” And then “When are those coming off,” pointing to his testicles.
What About My Cat?
Luckily, thus far, research has shown that our feline companions don’t have the same negative long-term physiologic consequences associated with desexing that plague our canine population. We may identify potential links in the future, but thus far, it appears our canine companions are more negatively affected by spaying or neutering.

I made this video so you could understand why I no longer take a cookie-cutter approach to desexing all juvenile pets. The decision to sterilize, spay, or neuter your pet, at what age, and with what technique is a very personal decision that is based on your dog’s breed, temperament, personality, and your commitment to training, lifestyle management, and responsible pet ownership.

Crude Awakening: Mineral Oil Contaminates Everyone's Bodies

Posted on: Monday, July 23rd 2012 at 12:45 pm
Written By: Sayer Ji, Founder

The scientific literature indicates that there are at least two dozen adverse health effects linked to exposure to mineral oil, a crude oil derivative. New research indicates these fat-soluble hydrocarbons are accumulating to disturbing levels in our bodies, and affecting newborns by contaminating breast milk.
How did they get there? Mineral oil is legally allowed to be added to our foods, drugs and cosmetics, where they accumulate in our bodies over time, with the highest concentrations found in our fat deposits. One autopsy study performed in 1985, revealed that 48% of the livers and 46% of the spleens of the 465 autopsies analyzed showed signs of mineral-oil induced lipogranuloma (a nodule of necrotic, fatty tissue associated with granulomatous inflammation or a foreign-body reaction around a deposit of an oily substance), indicating just how widespread pathological tissue changes associated with exposure really are.
In the United States, the FDA has approved mineral for use in cosmetic products, as well as a food additive up to 10 mg/kg a day. For a 150 lb adult (68.03 kilograms) this is the equivalent of 680 milligrams a day, or 248 grams (over half a pound!) a year.
According to the Code of Federal Regulations Title 21, mineral oil may be used for the following uses in ingestible products: 

Considering the fact that our food supply is now saturated through with "food-grade" petroleum, it is no wonder that a study published in the journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology in 2008, found that "mineral paraffins might be the largest contaminant of our body, widely amounting to 1g per person and reaching 10 g in extreme cases." 
In the study they took tissue samples from women undergoing Ceasarean section and found "concentrations varied between 15 and 360 mg/kg fat, with an average of 60.7 mg/kg and a median of 52.5 mg/kg." More disturbingly, milk samples taken from these same women 4 days after delivery showed "the same mixture of mineral paraffins as the tissue fat at concentrations between 10 and 355 mg/kg (average, 44.6 mg/kg; median, 30 mg/kg)." 
Infants, of course, are at much higher risk for adverse effects associated with mineral oil exposures due to their relatively far higher body burden (lower body weight vs. chemical exposure) and less developed blood-brain-barrier and detoxification systems in comparison with adults. Also, children have been found to accumulate higher levels than adults, either due to their higher consumption of de-dusted grains and glazing agents on confectionery products, or their inability to detoxify it as efficiently.
It should be noted that the health risks associated with mineral oil are not strictly theoretical. The World Health Organization classifies mineral oils (in untreated or lightly treated industrial-grade form) as Group 1 carcinogens to humans.1 The OSHA fact sheet on mineral oil also references research from 1991 indicating that it is carcinogenic to humans.2
Additionally, a study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology in 2009 found that commonly used moisturizing creams containing mineral oil are tumorigenic when applied topically to UVB-pretreated high-risk mice. The brands studied were Dermabase, Dermovan, Eucerin, or Vanicream, which millions of Americans apply daily to their skin. 
For additional information on natural substances which have been shown to ameliorate adverse health effects associated with petroleum and/or petroleum constituents, view our page on the topic.

2 Hathaway GJ, Proctor NH, Hughes JP, and Fischman ML [1991]. Proctor and Hughes' chemical hazards of the workplace. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

Sayer Ji is an author, researcher, lecturer, and advisory board member of the National Health Federation.

He founded in 2008 in order to provide the world an open access, evidence-based resource supporting natural and integrative modalities. It is widely recognized as the most widely referenced health resource of its kind.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of GreenMedInfo or its staff.

Cholesterol Drugs Linked To Eye Damage, JAMA Study Confirms Anew

Posted on: Friday, September 27th 2013 at 9:30 am
Written By: Sayer Ji, Founder

A new study published in JAMA Ophthalmology titled, "Association of Statin Use With Cataracts: A Propensity Score-Matched Analysis," reveals that the top-grossing, cholesterol-lowering drug class known as statins is significantly increasing the risk of cataracts within exposed populations.[1]
Statin-induced eye damage will be a surprising finding to some, especially to statin drug advocates who have argued that the purported 'antioxidant' effects of statins 'may slow the natural aging process of the lens.' This latter, strictly theoretical benefit is increasingly being disproved by the biomedical literature. In fact, last year, we reported in an article titled, "Blind To The Truth: The Eye-Damaging Effects of Statins," on findings published in Optometry and Vision Science, revealing that statin drugs users have a 48% higher risk of pathological eye lens changes commonly associated with cataract formation.
A cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye which leads to a decrease in vision, and is a leading cause of blindness in the world. The most commonly identified causes are aging, trauma and excessive UV radiation exposure, along with a still poorly understood genetic component. While there is preclinical evidence that the opacity of the lens can be reversed through natural substances such as wheatgrass,[2] the most common conventional approach is to treat the condition with surgery, which does nothing to mitigate or undo the underlying causes.
Researchers at San Antonio Military Medical Center, San Antonio Texas, compared the risks for development of cataracts between statin users and nonusers, using a military health care system database. The study design was described as follows:
"Based on medication fills during fiscal year 2005, patients were divided into 2 groups: (1) statin users (received at least a 90-day supply of statin) and (2) nonusers (never received a statin throughout the study). Among 46 249 patients meeting study criteria, we identified 13 626 statin users and 32 623 nonusers."
The main results were reported as follows:
"For our primary analysis, we matched 6972 pairs of statin users and nonusers. The risk for cataract was higher among statin users in comparison with nonusers in the propensity score-matched cohort (odds ratio, 1.09; 95% CI, 1.02-1.17). In secondary analyses, after adjusting for identified confounders, the incidence of cataract was higher in statin users in comparison with nonusers (odds ratio, 1.27; 95% CI, 1.15-1.40). Sensitivity analysis confirmed this relationship."
In other words, the risk for cataract was between 9% and 27% higher in statin users, leading the study authors to conclude: "The risk for cataract is increased among statin users as compared with nonusers. The risk-benefit ratio of statin use, specifically for primary prevention, should be carefully weighed, and further studies are warranted."

What is important to point out is that the human eye is an extension of the nervous system, which is the second most lipid- and cholesterol-concentrated tissue type next to adipose tissue in the human body. The lenses of mammals, but particularly the human lens, is extremely stable due in part to its cholesterol content. Amazingly, this is why the only reported lipid remaining in a frozen mammoth 40,000 years after its death was from its lens membranes.[3] Therefore, given the crucial role that cholesterol plays as a structural and functional biomolecule within the eye, is it any wonder that cholesterol-inhibiting drugs adversely affect them?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

How to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease—A Neurologist Speaks Out

September 29, 2013 | 18,590 views

By Dr. Mercola
Alzheimer's disease is at epidemic proportions, with 5.4 million Americans—including one in eight people aged 65 and over—living with the disease.1 In the next 20 years, it is projected that Alzheimer's will affect one in four Americans, rivaling the current prevalence of obesity and diabetes.
There is still no known accepted cure for this devastating disease, and no effective treatments. Alzheimer's drugs are often of little to no benefit at all, which underscores the importance of prevention throughout your lifetime.
Fortunately, Alzheimer’s prevention is actually easier than you might think. There’s exceptionally compelling research showing that your brain has great plasticity, which you control through your diet and lifestyle choices.
Here, Dr. David Perlmutter—probably the leading natural medicine neurologist in the US, from my perspective—shares his insights into this pervasive problem. I don’t know anyone who exceeds his level of expertise in traditional neurology and still shares the same philosophical orientation that I have.
He has a clinic in Naples, Florida, and he’s been very active in publishing his findings in peer-reviewed medical journals. He’s also a fellow of the American College of Nutrition, as am I.
“I have a very strong background in traditional neurology,” Dr. Perlmutter says. “As a neurologist for many years, I became more and more frustrated with our lack of ability to actually treat diseases. We were really only treating symptoms.
When I finally began to understand what the proximate cause of the various illnesses we were dealing with was, I realized that mainstream neurology, though I don’t want to sound too critical, really pays no attention to the causation part of the story.”
The Role of Grains in Disease Propagation
He realized an answer would never become apparent by simply writing prescriptions and hoping for the best. Instead, he began investigating the role of nutrition on brain health. Alzheimer’s, according to the RAND Corporation, is currently costing us some $200 million a year, yet it is largely preventable. And virtually no one talks about that!
“This is a disease that is highly revenue-producing for mega factories of various so-called Alzheimer’s drugs,” Dr. Perlmutter says. “The point is there is no meaningful treatment in 2013. It is a disease predicated on lifestyle choices primarily, because of the high amount of carbohydrates/sugar that we now, as Western-culture individuals, are consuming.
It’s a preventable disease. It surprises me at my core that no one’s talking about the fact that so many of these devastating neurological problems are, in fact, modifiable based upon lifestyle choices.”
Dr. Perlmutter specifically looked at the impact of gluten and casein, or wheat and dairy primarily, on autoimmune diseases. His New York Times Bestseller, Grain Brain, reveals his findings, the cornerstones of which are the powerfully toxic role of glucose (sugar) and carbohydrates in one's diet.
He also stresses that gluten sensitivity is involved in most chronic disease, including those affecting the brain, because of how gluten affects your immune system. Unfortunately, many people, physicians included, still believe that if you don’t have celiac disease, gluten is fair game and you can eat as much of it as you like.
Full-blown Celiac disease, which is gluten sensitivity affecting your small intestine, affects an estimated 1.8 percent of people in Western cultures. But  gluten sensitivity may actually affect as much as 30 to 40 percent of all people, and according to Dr. Alessio Fasano at Massachusetts General Hospital, virtually all of us are affected to some degree.
This is because we all create something called zonulin in the intestine in response to gluten. This protein, found in wheat, barley and rye, makes your gut more permeable, which allows proteins to get into your bloodstream that would otherwise have been excluded. That then sensitizes your immune system and promotes inflammation and autoimmunity. This kind of gut permeability is also promoted by things like antibiotics and chlorinated water.
The Gut-Brain Connection is Critical to Understand
Once gluten sensitizes your gut, it then becomes more permeable and all manner of previously excluded proteins—including casein and other dairy proteins—have direct access to your bloodstream, thereby challenging your immune system.
“They’ve been talking about it for years and years (which is now just gaining traction in mainstream medicine) that our health really depends on maintaining a barrier of the intestine from the bloodstream,” Dr. Perlmutter says.
“We now understand that the so-called blood-brain barrier, or that barrier that keeps things out of the brain where they don’t belong, is also affected by gluten, according to new research. It’s a very exciting time when we recognize that our biggest exposure to the environment is actually the lining of our intestines – not our lungs, not our skin. We are in fact very much dependent on the microbiota, the bacteria living in the gut, to maintain our health.”
According to Dr. Perlmutter, much of our current disease burden stems from the fact that we are contaminating our immune systems with proteins to which the human immune system has never, in the history of humankind, been previously exposed to. While not discussed in this interview, a MAJOR factor is the development of genetically engineered (GE) grains, which are now pervasive in most processed foods sold in the US. These GE crops create proteins never before encountered in any natural grain or food, so GE grains deliver a double-whammy against your immune system. Food allergies clearly appear to be one of the most noticeable side effects of a GE-grain diet.
“We recognize that food is far more than protein, carbohydrates, fat, and micronutrients, and that food really does represent information. The foods that we consume are instructing our genes. Therefore, that’s a very empowering notion: you can change your genetic destiny based upon the food choices that you make,” Dr. Perlmutter says.
Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, another neurologist who has also done remarkable work in this area as a result of seeking a solution for her autistic son, came to the same conclusion discussed by Dr. Perlmutter. Essentially, preventing and treating neurological disorders requires severe restriction of gluten and casein. You also need to address your gut flora.
“With specific response to your comments about autism, we do know that some of the milk-related proteins tend to lead to antibody production in the brains of autistic children, blocking what’s called the folate receptor,” Dr. Perlmutter says. “One of the propositions is that there’s this blockage of the ability of folate to get into the brains of certain children, and this leads to all kinds of cognitive and neurocognitive issues.
The State University of New York has actually developed a screen for looking at folate receptor antibodies. We have found that to be actually very helpful... It’s a very exciting time for those of us not just in neurology but in all branches of medicine, who are suddenly realizing that we’ve come full circle. We’re now back to understanding that nutrition plays a pivotal role in the health of humans.”
Avoiding Dairy Does NOT Include Avoiding Dairy Fats
I believe it would be wise for most people to avoid pasteurized dairy (primarily casein but also other proteins) and gluten. That said, there are subgroups of people who are particularly prone to harm from these proteins, and as a rule must avoid them in order to maintain their health. Bear in mind that dairy fat like butter, which has virtually no protein, is not problematic and can be consumed even by those who are sensitive to milk proteins. As stated by Dr. Perlmutter:
“We need to eat fat. We’re suggesting a revolutionary dietary change, telling people they should go on this new diet—which is only the diet humans have eaten for the past 2.6 million years! We’ve always eaten fat. Fat is the most wonderful health-providing food that we can obtain in the human diet. Of course, we have to qualify that with what type of fat you are eating.”
Beneficial health-promoting fats that your body—and your brain in particular—needs for optimal function include organic butter from raw milk, clarified butter called organic grass fed raw butter, olives, organic virgin olive oil and coconut oil, nuts like pecans and macadamia, free-range eggs, wild Alaskan salmon, and avocado, for example.
According to Dr. Perlmutter, our current dietary fat phobia “has absolutely been the cornerstone of our most common degenerative diseases of the day, including Alzheimer’s.” Why? Because when you cut dietary fat and keep protein about the same, you’re going to fill in the gaps with health-harming carbohydrate foods, predominantly grains.
“This whole grain goodness, as the US Department of Agriculture is trying to convince us we should focus on in terms of our dietary choices, is the cornerstone of our most devastating diseases. I mean, brain diseases like Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, and obviously, what leads to them, diabetes, which is so prevalent in Western societies. Again, it’s the getting away from fat and the substitution with wheat- and corn-based carbohydrate (high-fructose corn syrup) that really, in my opinion, explains this huge explosion of degenerative conditions that are crippling us medically and crippling us economically as well,” he says.
“But the quality of the fat that we consume is absolutely fundamental. When we’re saying high-fat diet, we’re not talking about prepared foods on the Twinkie aisle at the grocery store that contain modified trans fats; hydrogenated fats that are clearly coffin nails. They’re a great risk for brain disorders, heart disorders, diabetes, etc. We’re talking about these beautiful, natural fats that we have been consuming for more than two million years.”
Recommended Tests to Evaluate Disease Risks
There are specific tests that can help you determine your level of sensitivity to dairy proteins like casein, as well as gluten. The most effective test for gluten sensitivity, according to Dr. Perlmutter, is a test called the Cyrex Array 3 test. Most laboratories, when you order a test for either gluten sensitivity or celiac disease specifically, will look for antibodies against just one type of gliadin. However, there are dozens of different types of gliadin that can incite immune reaction or immune reactivity. The Cyrex test looks at 24 different parameters of gluten sensitivity, which gives you a much clearer picture.
“Most commonly when I’m seeing patients, they’ve already had some form of preliminary gluten sensitivity test which was negative, and we find [out the truth] by doing the Cyrex test,” he says.
The same lab offers another test, Cyrex Array 4, which looks at cross-sensitivity in people who are gluten-sensitive. This test includes a dairy product panel as well as amaranth, spelt, quinoa, rice, coffee, chocolate, and other foods that may be cross-reactive with respect to gliadin. Two other tests recommended by Dr. Perlmutter that are potent predictors of Alzheimer’s disease specifically are:
  • Fasting blood sugar, as this is a powerful predictor of your risk for Alzheimer’s disease. In this interview, he discusses research showing a very direct correlation between your fasting blood sugar and the rate at which your brain shrinks.  The higher your fasting blood sugar, the greater your risk. Interestingly, brain shrinkage occurs at blood sugar levels that are currently considered within the normal range (90-100), and even small elevations of blood sugar directly correlate to increased risk for having shrinkage of your hippocampus, your memory center, which is the hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Hemoglobin A1c. This is a marker of your average blood sugar over about a three-to four-month period of time. Again, there’s a striking correlation between hemoglobin A1c and the rate at which your brain is shrinking.
Both of these factors, your blood sugar and hemoglobin A1c, are entirely within your power to control, as they respond to dietary changes. Quite simply, you lower them by reducing your carbohydrate consumption. As stated by Dr. Perlmutter:
“You can absolutely control your blood sugar. It’s a lifestyle choice. Do you eat grain? Do you drink orange juice in the morning? Are you having cereal in the morning? Have you decided to go low-carb and high-fat? In the latter case, your hemoglobin A1c will come down, your fasting blood sugar will come down, and lo and behold, you have taken positive steps to reduce your risk of brain shrinkage.”
How the Science of Neuroplasticity Changes the Game
It’s important to realize that, despite what the media tells you, your brain is not “programmed” to shrink and fail as a matter of course as you age. We now know that every activity in which you engage—be it exercise, the foods you eat, the supplements you take, your personal relationships, your emotional state, your sleep patterns—all of these factors dramatically influence your genetic expression from moment to moment. Any given gene is not in a static “on” or “off” position. Neither are they deterministic. You may be a carrier of a gene that never gets expressed, simply because you never supply the required environment for it to turn on.
“We interact with our genome every moment of our lives, and we can do so very, very positively,” Dr. Perlmutter says. “Keeping your blood sugar low is very positive in terms of allowing the genes to express reduced inflammation, which increase the production of life-giving antioxidants. So that’s rule number one: You can change your genetic destiny.
Rule number two: you can change your genetic destiny to grow new brain cells, specifically in the hippocampus... Your brain’s memory center regenerates. You are constantly growing new brain cells into your 50s, 60s, 80s, and 90s – throughout your lifetime – through a process called neurogenesis.
That said, these two ideas come together because you can turn on your genes through lifestyle choices that enhance neurogenesis and that enhance regrowth of cells and expansion of your brain’s memory center. This was proven by researchers recently. They demonstrated that there are factors under our control that can make that happen.”
Lifestyle strategies that promote neurogenesis and regrowth of brain cells include the following. All of these strategies target a specific gene pathway called BDNF or brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which promotes brain cell growth and connectivity as demonstrated on MRI scans.
  • Exercise. In one year-long study, individuals who engaged in exercise were actually growing and expanding the brain’s memory center one to two percent per year, where typically that center would have continued to decline in size.
  • Reducing overall calorie consumption
  • Reducing carbohydrate consumption
  • Increasing healthy fat consumption
  • Increasing your omega-3 fat intake and reducing consumption of damaged omega-6 fats (think processed vegetable oils) in order to balance your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. I prefer krill oil to fish oil here, as krill oil also contains astaxanthin, which appears to be particularly beneficial for brain health. As explained by Dr. Perlmutter, it belongs to the class of carotenoids, and is very “focused” on reducing free radical-mediated damage to fat, and your brain is 60 or 70 percent fat
The Importance of Vitamin D and Cholesterol for Brain Health
Vitamin D also plays a fundamental role in brain health, immune function, and inflammation. According to Dr. Perlmutter, vitamin D influences the expression of more than 913 genes. Sadly, a vast majority of people are dramatically deficient in this critical steroid hormone, in large part because they’ve been fooled into fearing sun exposure. You’ve also been deceived into fearing cholesterol, which is another critical component of health.
“Obviously, sunshine makes vitamin D in your body from some precursor. When I ask my patients what is that precursor, nobody seems to know. I tell them it’s this horrible thing called cholesterol, and their eyebrows go up,” he says. “Cholesterol is so drastically important for health, because (1) it’s the precursor for which you make vitamin D and (2) it’s a fundamental compound of every cell in your body and made by every cell in your body. It’s a brain antioxidant. It’s a precursor for all the steroid sex hormones – it’s fundamentally important.”
According to Dr. Perlmutter, research shows that elderly individuals with the lowest cholesterol levels have the highest risk for Alzheimer’s. They also have the highest risk for dying. As he says, the war on cholesterol is fundamentally inappropriate and harmful.
“I say to my audiences very frequently, “If cholesterol is so bad, what you’re saying is that if you believe in evolution or if you believe in creation – either way – either nature got it wrong or God got it wrong by putting the ability to make cholesterol in every one of our cells. Why would that be a mistake?”
It’s not a mistake. We are desperate for cholesterol. It’s a fundamental player in every cell membrane. We’ve been on a high-cholesterol diet for millions of years, and it has served us well. In fact, our genome has been selected based upon that diet, being on a high-cholesterol diet – eating eggs, animal fat, and animal protein.”
The Benefits of Fasting
Dr. Perlmutter places most of his patients on a ketogenic, high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that is gluten-free, along with prescribed aerobic exercise. Certain supplements may also be used, especially if the patient is vitamin D deficient or has any other critical deficiency.
I’ve previously interviewed Dr. Seyfried, who is a researcher at Boston University and connected with Harvard. He was one of the leading investigators to adopt the ketogenic diet for a neurological condition, the treatment of seizures, and then from there started investigating its use for treatment of cancer. Another PhD, Dr. D’Agostino in Florida, is also doing similar work in this area.
It’s interesting to note that it all stemmed from the treatment of intractable seizure disorders; before they realized that it was also a potent treatment adjunct for cancer patients. Most interestingly, cancer cells do not have the ability to any significant degree to metabolize fat and are almost completely dependent on metabolizing sugar. When you go on a ketogenic diet, you effectively deprive the cancer cells of sugar, which starves them, while allowing normal cells to thrive. Beyond that, you also need to recognize that the balance of organisms in your intestine play a critical role in maintaining your immunity. Clearly, if you’re fighting disease of any kind, you want your immune system to function optimally.
“When you damage your microbiom, the balance of bacteria, in your gut by taking chemotherapy, at the very least add in an aggressive probiotic approach to keep bad bacteria count healthy,” Dr. Perlmutter says.
I’m particularly fond of using fermented vegetables, because they can deliver extraordinarily high levels of beneficial bacteria. Most people aren’t aware that in a healthy serving of sauerkraut – two to three ounces or so – you’re getting the equivalent of nearly 100 capsules of the highest-potency probiotic you can buy. It’s clearly one of the most cost-effective alternatives. Furthermore, if it’s fermented with a starter culture, which we’re going to be offering soon, you can also get very high levels of vitamin K2, which is crucial to balance vitamin D.
Dr. Perlmutter also highly recommends fasting. Contrary to popular belief, the ideal fuel for your brain is not glucose but ketones, which is the fat that your body mobilizes when you stop feeding it carbs and introduce coconut oil and other sources of healthy fats into your diet. A one-day fast can help your body to “reset” itself, and start to burn fat instead of sugar. As part of a healthy lifestyle, I prefer an intermittent fasting schedule that simply calls for limiting your eating to a narrower window of time each day. By restricting your eating to a 6-8 hour window, you effectively fast 16-18 hours each day. To learn more, please see this previous article.
“The easiest way to become ketotic is just to stop eating. Because if you go through your sugar stores and then your glycogen stores relatively soon, you begin to burn fat, the most incredibly powerful source of fuel for human physiology and especially for the brain,” he says.
More Information
To learn more, I highly recommend Dr. Perlmutter’s New York Times Best Selling book, Grain Brain. You can also find more information on his web site,,2 or on his Facebook page, which he posts to every day, highlighting recent research and upcoming conferences and lectures. You can also find more tips and guidelines in this previous article on Alzheimer’s prevention.
“These changes that people can make in their diets are not draconian,” he says. “The only thing that makes it difficult is because of what we are told by society we should be eating. Those statements are not given to us with good, sound scientific backing. Again, these are simple but profound choices that people can make.”
I couldn’t agree more. Applying the strategies discussed in this interview and article can dramatically reduce your risk of succumbing to Alzheimer’s and other chronic diseases. Overall, it will also raise your general quality of life. Clearly, prevention is much easier than treating it after the fact. And even though there is this element of neuroplasticity, it’s far better to prevent brain degeneration to begin with. As Dr. Perlutter says:

“The time to fix the roof is when the sun is shining. That’s the segment of the population I really want to target – people who have not yet had cognitive issues but are at risk, which is basically all of us. In fact, this is the time to make the changes – while you’re still healthy. Time to cut back on the carbohydrates, increase your consumption of good fats, get out and exercise... these are the fundamentals that could keep these problems from happening in the first place.”