Archive for the ‘English’ Category

by Marilyn Rogers

Grounding, also referred to as earthing, means having direct contact with the earth — such as walking barefoot. Researchers have found numerous benefits when we do grounding, such as reducing pain and inflammation, and even improving sleep.

It might be too unbelievable that walking barefoot could actually improve our health. But there’re scientific reasons behind… As the earth emits negative electrons, they penetrate our bodies when we walk barefoot. These electrons have remarkable benefits that many of us have never imagined.

It will reduce free radicals and inflammation in your body

Free radicals are produced from our electronic devices, the sun’s rays, x-rays, cigarettes, and various chemicals. We’re always in a battle with free radicals and it’s impossible to avoid them. Free radicals are necessary for metabolic processes, but too many free radicals can hurt our bodies and cause chronic diseases.

Research indicates that antioxidants neutralize the free radicals that contribute to our body’s inflammatory responses. Because grounding has antioxidant effects, it can disarm these free radicals, thus reducing inflammation.

It will improve your mood

Does a day spent walking barefoot at the beach or in your backyard improve your mood? You’re not alone. According to a study by Gaétan Chevalier, participants who were grounded for one hour reported improvements in their moods, as opposed to those who were not grounded. The study concludes that additional studies are warranted. However, if the positive effects are confirmed, grounding could be an easy way to decrease depression, anxiety, and stress.

It will improve your sleep

If you’re one of the many who suffer from chronic sleep issues or occasional insomnia, grounding might help you get the sleep you need by reducing cortisol levels. In a study published by The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, subjects that grounded during sleep by using a conductive mattress pad had reduced nighttime levels of cortisol and their 24-hour circadian cortisol profiles became closer to normal. Cortisol has been called the “stress hormone” that can lower our quality of sleep.

It will accelerate tissue repair and wound healing

It has been reported that Tour De France racers have successfully used Earthing Recovery Bags for tissue repair and recovery with amazing results. The Earthing Recovery Bag, which resembles a sleeping bag, cocoons the athletes in energy to provide healing properties. With this being said, if you want to speed up tissue repair, try exercising, meditating, or practicing yoga outdoors while barefoot. It’s an inexpensive way to incorporate grounding into your daily life and reap the benefits that these elite athletes have experienced.

It will boost your heart health

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States — it results in about 610,000 deaths each year. According to a grounding study, earthing or grounding can boost heart health by reducing blood viscosity and clumping. Essentially, grounding increases the Zeta Potential on red blood cells. Red blood cells have a negative electrical charge. When the negative charge is greater, the cells repel one another, which improves blood flow. It should be noted that those who take blood thinners should consult with their physicians before adding grounding to their daily routines.

It will reduce the symptoms of PMS

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms such as bloating, irritability, fatigue, headache, and depression can be uncomfortable and bothersome. Traditional ways of relieving PMS, such as medications and lifestyle changes, are not always effective. Grounding can help relief PMS symptoms for some women by reducing cortisol. Stress, which leads to high cortisol levels, can make PMS worse. This is why many women report improvements in PMS when practicing grounding. As an added benefit, grounding can reduce pain and inflammation, which are common PMS symptoms.

It will help you recover from your workouts

Muscle soreness after workouts, generally referred to as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), is a common side effect of strenuous or new exercise. There are several ways to relieve it, such as supplements, ice, massage, and foam rolling. Moreover, a pilot study from The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine shows that grounding has the potential to reduce the recovery time from DOMS and improve muscle function.

It will help you lose weight

When our energy is out of balance, we tend to make bad food choices by consuming things that are not good for us. Also, when we’re under stress, cortisol is released which signals our brains to seek out comfort foods and drinks, such as sugary sweets and alcoholic drinks. On the other hand, when we’re getting adequate sleep, not having pain, and feeling less stress, it’s easier to make healthy choices. As a result, all of these benefits of grounding work together to assist in weight loss.

How to get grounded

Every day find some time to take off your shoes as most of them are insulators which stop electrons from the earth penetrating into our bodies. Surfaces that allow grounding:

  • sand
  • grass
  • bare soil
  • unpainted/unsealed concrete and brick

Surfaces that can’t get us grounded:

  • wood
  • vinyl
  • carpet
  • sealed tiles

by KALEE BROWN

We have published many articles on the concept that we, as human beings, house a soul in our physical bodies and that our eyes are the gateway to this essence. We’ve talked a lot about the relationship between the mind, body, and soul and the importance of keeping it balanced and in harmony. However, have you ever contemplated what the physical muscle of the soul could be? Well, therapist and filmmaker Danielle Prohom Olson has; in fact, she claims that by relaxing  your psoas, or what she terms “the muscle of the soul,” you can reconnect with the powerful energy of the Earth.

What Is Your Psoas?

The correct pronunciation of the psoas is “so-az.” The psoas is literally the deepest muscle of the human body. You have one on each side of the spine, attached to your sides and spanning laterally from the 12th thoracic vertebra to each of the lumbar vertebra. It then moves through the abdominal core and the pelvis without attaching to the bone, and then connects to the iliacus muscle in a common tendon at the top of the femur (thigh) bone.

The diagram below shows the location of the psoas in the human body:

psoasdiagram

The psoas is crucial for proper body movement, as it affects our structural balance, muscular integrity, flexibility, strength, range of motion, joint mobility, and organ functioning. Without your psoas, you wouldn’t be able to maintain proper posture or move your legs to walk. While you’re walking, a healthy psoas moves with ease, continuously massaging the spine as well as the organs, blood vessels, and nerves of the trunk. This process promotes the flow of fluids throughout the body and creates the feeling of being grounded and centered.

The psoas is the only muscle to connect the spine to the legs. The psoas is also linked to the diaphragm through fascia (connective tissue), impacting our fear reflex and breathing. This is due to the connection between the psoas and the reptilian brain, the most ancient inner part of the brain stem and spinal cord.

Liz Koch, author of The Psaos Book and founder of Core Awareness, explains, “Long before the spoken word or the organizing capacity of the cortex developed, the reptilian brain, known for its survival instincts, maintained our essential core functioning.”

Why The Psoas Is Considered the Muscle of the Soul

Prior to learning about the connection the psoas has to energy, Olson started implementing more hip opening poses at the beginning and end of her yoga practice. Although her intention was simply to relax her psoas, in doing so, she experienced a significant decrease in tension and a newfound strength. Once she was exposed to Koch’s research and Taoism, she connected the dots between the psoas, stress, and spirituality and started referring to the psoas as “the muscle of the soul.”

Taoism is a philosophy, often referred to as a religion, that attempts to explain our relationship to nature and the universe. Practicing Taoists heavily focus on genuineness, health, immortality, detachment, spontaneity, transformation, and spirituality. Within the Taoist tradition, the psoas is considered the seat or the muscle of the soul and resides in the lower “Dan tien,” one of the human body’s most prominent energy centres. It is said that a flexible and strong psoas helps ground us and circulate energy throughout the body.

The Relationship Between Stress and the Psoas and How to Release It

Stress, anxiety, and fear are typically perceived as mental health issues, thus doctors often prescribe medication that target the mind. Although this approach has helped many people, we should be looking at stress through a broader lense and striving to understand what causes these emotional imbalances in the first place, including the relationship stress has to the psoas. Through their research, Koch and Olson have both discovered that by opening the psoas, one can release stress and tension through it.

Many people chase after the fast-paced, high-stress lifestyle that is the “American Dream,” characterized by spending most days at a “desk job” and most nights partying until the sun rises, then repeating the process. Koch believes that chronic triggers and tightening of the psoas are products of this unhealthy lifestyle as well as other common elements of modern day life, such as the chairs we sit in and the constrictive pants and shoes we wear. If we continuously contract the psoas as a result of increased stress or tension, the muscle becomes shorter, causing negative side effects such as lower back pain, sciatica, disc problems, scoliosis, hip degeneration, menstruation pain, infertility, and digestive issues.

If you suffer from any of these health issues or are looking to decrease or prevent stress, try the following yoga poses that help open the psoas:

By Chris Kesser (web)

Bone broth and your health

At this point, I hope you have a solid understanding of the components of bone broth. Now let’s get on to the health benefits!

Skin health
Skin is composed of two layers, the epidermis and the dermis. The epidermis, or upper layer, is composed of keratinocytes and is largely responsible for skin barrier function. Underneath is the dermis, a dense matrix of collagen, along with some GAGs, that provides structural and nutritive support (22). Keratin, collagen, and GAGs are abundant in bone broth, particularly if the skin from the animal is included in the cooking process.

In a 2014 randomized and controlled trial, collagen consumption significantly improved skin elasticity and tended to improve skin moisture content (23). Collagen scaffolds are widely used in medical applications to promote tissue regeneration and heal wounds (24). One study in mice found that supplementing the diet with gelatin was able to protect against UV-induced skin damage (25). GAGs offer additional skin benefits. The GAG hyaluronic acid has been shown to promote skin cell proliferation and increase the presence of retinoic acid, which improves the skin’s hydration (26), and dermatan sulfate has been shown to aid in cell turnover and wound repair (27).

Metabolic and cardiovascular health
Remember glycine, an amino acid that is particularly abundant in bone broth? Glycine plays a role in blood sugar regulation by controlling gluconeogenesis, the production of glucose in the liver (28), and has even been suggested to counteract some of the negative effects of dietary fructose consumption (29). Glycine has also been shown to reduce the size of heart attacks (30).

Furthermore, glycine balances out methionine intake. Muscle meats and eggs are high in methionine, an amino acid that raises homocysteine levels in the blood. High homocysteine is a significant risk factor for serious diseases like heart disease, stroke, mental illness, and fractures and increases our need for homocysteine-neutralizing nutrients like vitamins B6, B12, folate, and choline (31). Those eating lots of animal protein need adequate glycine to balance out the methionine from meat, and you’ll get that from bone broth. For more information, check out Denise Minger’s awesome presentation in which she discusses this very issue.

Muscle and performance
Glycine is also important for the synthesis of hemoglobin and myoglobin, which transport oxygen throughout the blood and muscle tissue, respectively (32). Glycine also increases creatine levels, which leads to an increase in anaerobic (high-intensity) exercise capacity, and stimulates the secretion of human growth hormone (HGH), which may enhance muscle repair (33, 34, 35). Recent evidence suggests that proline may play a role in regulating the mTOR cellular signaling pathway, which integrates signals from nutrients, growth factors, stress factors, and cellular energy status to affect cell function and growth. Proline, together with other amino acids, activates mTOR, resulting in enhanced muscle protein synthesis (36).

Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the chemical form of energy in the body that can be used to perform work. Phosphorus is required for the formation of this compound, and ATP cannot be biologically active unless bound to a magnesium ion. Phosphorus deficiency has been shown to reduce muscle performance (37, 38). Both phosphorus and magnesium are present in bone broth in modest amounts.

Bones and joints
It should be pretty obvious that the best way to get the nutrients necessary to build bone is from bone itself! Drinking bone broth provides all of the raw material for building healthy bones: calcium, phosphorus, amino acids, and more. A deficiency of the raw materials for building bone can result in a number of different conditions. For example, osteoporosis is associated with reduced levels of collagen and calcium in the bones (39, 40). Of course, you’ll also need the nutrients required to support the building process, like vitamins D, K2, and C. (To learn more about building healthy bones and where to get these nutrients on a Paleo diet, check out this article.)

As for joint health, lubrication by GAGs is the key to a full range of motion, whereby part of one bone can slide smoothly and painlessly over part of another. Sure, you could buy expensive supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate to keep your joints healthy, but why, when these and a host of other beneficial nutrients can easily be obtained from bone broth? After all, GAGs are not the only component of broth that improves joint health. Collagen supplementation has been shown to reduce joint pain in athletes (41).

Gut health
A healthy colon contains a single tight layer of epithelial cells, a thick mucus layer, and a diverse collection of microbes. Microbial dysbiosis and a thinning of this mucus layer can quickly compromise the integrity of the epithelial barrier. Microbes and dietary proteins can then “leak” into the bloodstream and invoke an inflammatory response by the immune system. Lipopolysaccharide (LPS), a component of bacterial cell walls, stimulates a particularly robust immune response (42).

Bone broth is a staple of gut-healing diets, and rightfully so! Gelatin absorbs water and helps maintain the layer of mucus that keeps gut microbes away from the intestinal barrier. In a mouse model, gelatin supplementation reduced the severity of colitis by strengthening the mucus layer and altering gut microbiota composition (43). Gelatin and glycine have also been shown to reduce the inflammation caused by LPS (44, 45). Glycine has been shown to protect against gastric ulcers as well (46). Glutamine also helps maintain the integrity of the gut mucosa and intestinal barrier (47).

Digestion
Bone broth has so many benefits to gut health that I had to make digestion its own section! Drinking broth with meals is an excellent way to aid digestion. Glycine stimulates the production of stomach acid, which is essential for the proper digestion of food (48). Low stomach acid (hypochlorhydria) is surprisingly common in developed countries and can lead to a number of health issues.

Glycine is also an important component of bile acid, which is released to aid in the digestion of fats in the small intestine (49). Bile acid is important for maintaining normal blood cholesterol levels. The presence of gelatin in the gut also draws fluid into the intestine, improving gut motility and supporting healthy bowel movements. Low blood levels of collagen have been associated with inflammatory bowel disease (50).

Detoxification, liver, and kidney health
Recently, there has been some concern regarding the lead toxicity of bone broth. However, the vitamins and minerals that are abundant in bone broth, and in Paleo diets in general, can protect against the harmful effects of toxins like lead. Glycine also stimulates production of glutathione, the body’s master antioxidant (51). In animal models, glycine has been shown to speed recovery from alcohol-induced fatty liver disease (52), protect liver cells against hypoxia (53), and improve survival after liver transplantation (54). In humans, glycine reduces oxidative stress in patients with metabolic syndrome (55).

Proline plays a role in apoptosis, the process by which the body breaks down old cells, clears up waste products, and recycles raw materials for use in healthy cells (56). Proline can scavenge free radicals, effectively acting as an antioxidant (57). Glutamine, on the other hand, acts as a nontoxic nitrogen transporter, carrying amine groups safely through the bloodstream to the kidney. In the kidney, the conversion of glutamine to glutamate regulates acid–base balance by producing ammonium (58).

Eye health
Yes, bone broth may improve eye health. The cornea consists of three primary layers: an outer epithelial layer, a middle layer, and an inner endothelial layer. Hyaluronic acid stimulates proliferation of the epithelial cells that line the cornea (59) and is commonly used during eye surgery to help replace lost fluids (60). The middle, or stromal, layer is largely made of collagen, keratan sulfates, and chondroitin sulfates. Keratan sulfates have been shown to be essential to the transparency of the cornea (61), while chondroitin sulfate has been shown to influence the development of neural pathways in the retina (62). The amino acid glycine has also been shown to delay the progression of cataracts in a rat model of diabetes (63).

Brain health
Numerous components of bone broth influence the nervous system. The healthy fats in bone broth, particularly if made with marrow bones, provide a source of fuel and raw material for the brain. After all, more than 60 percent of the human brain is composed of fat (64). Glycine has been shown to protect against neuronal death after ischemic stroke (65) and likely plays a pertinent role in the development of the brain in the womb and during the first few months after birth (66). Calcium is essential for nerve conduction. When a nerve cell is stimulated, the influx of calcium triggers neurotransmitter release, allowing the signal to be passed on to the next nerve cell. Calcium deficiency affects this transmission and can result in symptoms of depression, insomnia, and hyperactivity. Lastly, chondroitin sulfate plays an important role in regeneration and plasticity in the central nervous system (67), meaning it is essential for learning and memory.

Mood and sleep
Bone broth can also improve both mood and sleep. Glycine is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning it can decrease anxiety, promote mental calmness, and help with sleep (68). One study found that three grams of glycine given to subjects before bedtime produced measurable improvements in sleep quality (69).

Unlike methionine, glycine does not compete with tryptophan for transport across the blood–brain barrier (70). Tryptophan is the precursor (raw material) for serotonin, a neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of well-being. Serotonin, in turn, is a precursor to melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep–wake cycles. This is why a diet that includes bone broth and fattier cuts of meat can help prevent the depression and insomnia that some people may experience when eating a diet high in methionine-rich lean meat and eggs.

Immune function
While ancient folk wisdom suggests that bone broth can cure the common cold, modern science has confirmed that the components of bone broth do indeed influence the immune system. For example, glycine receptors have been identified on the outer surface of several different types of immune cells (71, 72). The effect is a dampening of the immune response, resulting in reduced inflammatory signaling molecules and oxidative stress that may reduce damage to lungs and other tissues (73). The GAG heparin sulfate has been shown to influence B cell function, T cell function, and macrophage activity (74).

Where to source bone broth

To summarize, bone broth has an incredible number of potential health benefits and is rooted in a long history of human use. It makes an excellent addition to any diet and can be used in a multitude of dishes. Bone broth can be made at home or it can be bought pre-made.

Homemade bone broth is simple to make. Ask your local farmers if they have soup bones, or roast a whole pastured chicken and save the bones for making broth. Chicken feet, chicken necks, calves’ feet, and marrow bones are particularly valuable additions to broth. You can find a good basic recipe over at the Weston A. Price Foundation website.

Pre-made bone broth is also a good option. Be sure to:

  • Buy broth that is organic and made from pasture-raised animals or wild-caught fish (this minimizes the toxins and maximizes the nutrients you get from the bone broth).
  • Avoid cans and other containers that contain bisphenol A (BPA), a potent endocrine disruptor, or other BPA substitutes.
  • Check out my favorite brand of broth: Kettle and Fire uses bones of organic, pasture-raised animals along with organic vegetables, sea salt, and herbs, all slow-simmered for 24 hours.

However you choose to get your hands on this liquid gold, be sure to make bone broth a staple in your diet!

 

By Chris Kesser (web)

Bone broth: a nutrient gold mine

Bones contain an abundance of minerals as well as 17 different amino acids, many of which are found in broth as proteThe Bountiful Benefits of Bone Broth: a Comprehensive Guide Vol.1ins like collagen and gelatin. Though the exact nutritional content varies based on the bones used, cooking time, and cooking method, the following nutrients are consistently found in most bone broths.

Collagen
With 28 different types, collagen makes up about 30 percent of the protein in your body (4) and is the main component of connective tissues like cartilage, ligaments, tendons, bone, and skin. It is also present in the blood vessels, cornea, and lens of the eye. The name collagen comes from the Greek “kólla,” meaning “glue, and the suffix “-gen,” which means “producing.” In fact, early glue was made from collagen more than 8,000 years ago, likely by boiling the skin and sinews of animals (5). In addition to providing structure, collagen also plays an important role in tissue development and regulation (6, 7).

Gelatin
When collagen is simmered, it forms gelatin. This hydrolysis of collagen is irreversible and results in the breakdown of long collagen protein fibrils into smaller protein peptides. However, its chemical composition is very similar to its parent molecule, collagen (8). Gelatin is what gives bone broth or stock its Jell-O-like consistency once it has cooled.

Glycosaminoglycans
Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) are complex carbohydrates that participate in many biological processes. They can attach to proteins in order to form proteoglycans, which are integral parts of connective tissue and synovial fluid, the lubricant that surrounds the joint (9). If the connective tissue, such as tendons, ligaments, and cartilage, is still attached, the bones in broth will provide our bodies with the whole spectrum of GAGs, including keratan sulfates, dermatan sulfates, chondroitin sulfates, and hyaluronic acid, which are the raw materials for skin, bone, and cartilage formation.

Glycine
Glycine is an amino acid that makes up more than a third of collagen. It also acts as a neurotransmitter, binding to glycine receptors present throughout the nervous system and peripheral tissues. Signaling through this receptor is particularly important in mediating inhibitory neurotransmission in the brainstem and spinal cord (10, 11).

Proline
Proline is an amino acid that makes up about 17 percent of collagen. The addition of hydroxyl groups to proline significantly increases the stability of collagen and is essential to its structure. Though small amounts of proline can be manufactured in the body, evidence shows that adequate dietary proline is necessary to maintain an optimal level of proline in the body (12, 13). Proline is not typically thought of as a neurotransmitter, but it is able to weakly bind to glutamate receptors and glycine receptors (14).

Glutamine
Glutamine is yet another important amino acid found in bone broth and is the most abundant amino acid in the blood (15). It is one of the few amino acids that can directly cross the blood–brain barrier (16). Intestinal epithelial cells and activated immune cells eagerly consume glutamine for cellular energy (17, 18).

Bone marrow
Inside the center cavity of the bone is the bone marrow, consisting of two types, red and yellow. Both types contain collagen. Red bone marrow is the site of manufacturing for new immune cells and red blood cells, while yellow marrow consists of healthy fats (19, 20). It is thought that important nutritional and immune support factors might be extracted from marrow during cooking, but the bioavailability of these factors has not been studied.

Minerals
Bone is also full of minerals, including calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and zinc (21). An acidic medium is necessary to extract these minerals from food. When making broth, always add a splash of vinegar or other acid in order to extract the most minerals from the bone.

Vol.3 coming soon

By Chris Kesser (web)

Traditional cooking uses meat bones as a base for delicious stock because it is the secret to cooking great recipes. But it’s also incredibly nutritious and has scores of health benefits. Read on to learn more about bone broth and why you should make it a staple in your diet.

benefits of bone broth
istock.com/kazoka30

The Weston A. Price Foundation and advocates of the Paleo and Primal lifestyles favor bone broth for its wide array of nutrients that are difficult to find in any other food source. Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride has made bone and meat stock the foundation of the GAPS protocol because of its ability to heal and seal the gut lining and reduce overgrowth of harmful microbes. Chicken broth has also been suggested to reduce the migration of immune cells during illness. These are just some of the many reasons to love bone broth.

Bone broth is mentioned in dozens of articles on my blog, but I haven’t really provided a thorough analysis in a single, convenient place for my readers. So here it is: everything you need to know about bone broth! In this research-dense article, I will cover the role of broth in traditional cultures, the nutritive components of bone broth, the numerous health benefits, and the best ways to source it.

Bone broth in traditional cultures

A South American proverb says “good broth will resurrect the dead.” While this is certainly a stretch of the imagination, the ability of broth, and chicken broth in particular, to treat the common cold has long been touted as ancient folk wisdom. Scientists at the University of Nebraska sought to test this folklore in 2000 and found that in vitro (in a Petri dish), some components of chicken soup were able to inhibit the migration of innate immune cells called neutrophils, effectively acting as an anti-inflammatory that could, in theory, reduce symptoms of illness (1). Whether this effect occurs in vivo (in a living organism) is still unclear, but this preliminary data suggests that our ancestors may have been onto something. We’ll explore the bone broth–immune system connection more in a later section.

Evidence of the existence of soup can be found as far back as about 20,000 BC (2), and it’s well accepted that broth of some sort was, and remains, a staple in many traditional cultures. In Danish and German culture, large hens were specifically reserved for making soup, and the cooked meat was retained for other dishes or added back to the soup. In East Asian diets, dishes like miso sometimes contain meat stock. In Greece, beaten eggs mixed with lemon are commonly added to chicken broth as a traditional remedy for colds and digestive upset. Chicken soup in Hungary usually included organs like chicken liver and heart, while in Vietnam and the Philippines, beef bone marrow was used as the base for making soup. In India, chicken soup is popularly sold by roadside vendors in the winter and takes on many different forms. Chicken soup was a traditional dish of Jewish kitchens; it has even been called “Jewish penicillin” and is used to treat and prevent illness. In American tradition, chicken soup was prepared using old hens that were too tough to be roasted or cooked but still made excellent soup. Unfortunately, the only soup that most Americans eat today is canned, highly processed, and devoid of nutrients.

Traditional cultures wisely practiced nose-to-tail eating and consumed all parts of the animal, including the skin, cartilage, tendons, and other gelatinous cuts of meat. This provided a balanced intake of all the amino acids necessary to build and maintain those same structures in the human body. Some anthropologists have even suggested that in some regions of the world, early humans were scavengers rather than hunters, using tools to crack open the bones of carcasses left by lions and other large predators to expose the rich bone marrow (3). Unfortunately, many modern cultures have lost the practice of whole-animal eating, and the old-age tradition of having a pot of broth constantly simmering on the hearth has been lost in favor of modern convenience, microwaves, and highly processed canned soups. Bringing bone broth back into the modern diet offers a simple and delicious means of obtaining the nutrition from parts of the animal that traditional cultures prized.

Vol.2 coming soon

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There are a lot of people who believe that it’s not “humane” to eat meat. I get it. On the surface, it can seem that the most humane thing to do is to not eat meat. Avoiding meat can also appear to be the best for sustainability and the “cleanest” way to eat. I understand that having compassion for animals seems at odds with eating them. This is why I don’t support factory-raised meat.

There are some important environmental reasons why we need herbivores.

Recently, I wrote a piece explaining how grazing animals are beneficial for the soil. Their chomping on grass stimulates new growth, their hooves, urine and manure work critical microbes into the land, increasing the biodiversity of life underground, which helps in the carbon sequestration process. I explained how most of the studies showing how much water it takes to make a burger are actually looking at green water (includes rain) and not blue water (water used for drinking by the cattle). When you look at this study, which uses the blue water methodology, “typical” beef production has a similar water footprint to rice, avocados, walnuts and sugar. I also explained that when you look at the amount of land not suitable for crops, and only usable as pasture, that cattle and other herbivores don’t need to compete with vegetables for space. Here’s a great graph explaining the environmental impact of grass-fed beef.

There is another recent study from Tufts University explaining how a vegan diet is not the most sustainable from a land use perspective. Cropping all of the usable land in order to produce vegetables is simply not an efficient use of space. The study looked at land usage, and again, when we consider that much of the earth’s land surface is not suitable for vegetable production, it’s clear that including animal protein in the human diet is efficient from a land use perspective. What the study didn’t consider is pasture-based herbivores as the primary source of protein. It considered “typical” meat intake. Factory-raised meat chickens, which have seen an increase of nearly 400% of global animal protein intake, eat grain. If we swap out chicken meat for grass-fed and finished beef, then the equation would look much different.

The other day, I received the following comment on the post:

“Why is it necessary to eat the animals? I don’t understand why it’s assumed that this is an acceptable part of the process. If the herbivores are to be ‘used’, could they not simply live out their lives fertilising the soil for more effective crop production?”

This comment clearly required it’s own post, so here are my thoughts:

Is it more “humane” to the animal to let it die “naturally”? What does dying “naturally” mean to people? There are many ways animals die in nature. Natural death doesn’t = painless death. Not all animals simply die in their sleep of old age. In fact, (just as in humans) this is rarely the case.

Being eaten by another animal is a common way to go. This usually involves a stressful encounter and a painful death. More often than not, it’s relatively slow, compared to a quick bullet to the head or a slit to the throat, as is the practice in this short film I helped to produce. Small-scale slaughterhouses that employ humane handling techniques make sure the animal dies quickly and with the least pain possible. The people working there honestly care about this process and take pride in taking the animal to “the next phase of their existence”: feeding lots of people. By contrast, hyenas are not very “humane” when it comes to their treatment of wildebeests.  On our farm, sheep are sometimes consumed by coyotes. Does this sheep have rights? If so, did the coyote violate the sheep’s rights by eating it? Coyotes play an important role in nature, and they need to eat too. What about the hawks that eat our chickens, or eat field mice?

Besides violent death, sickness may take over an animal and kill it. This process is also not painless. But let’s say the animal is completely protected from predators, doesn’t die from sickness or infection, and lives out life to a very old age. By the end of it’s life, it’s organs start to fail and the animal can no longer eat or drink. Maybe it goes blind. Is this process painless and fast? Is allowing the animal to suffer a better way to go? Life is great when you’re young and healthy, but nothing stays young and healthy forever. When see images of herds of healthy looking zebras or deer in the wild, they are only healthy looking because the sick and old have been culled by predators. Do we then remove the predators? Is this “more humane?”

Let’s say we all decide that we allow herbivores to restore our soils and we don’t consume them as protein. We have to ask, how are we going to control their populations? Is it better to let the wolves and hyenas control their populations and be well fed while we eat tofurky and drink soylent? Should we sterilize a certain percentage of these herbivores so they can’t reproduce? Is sterilization more or less humane than death by hyena? Another question to ask is how is a system of grazing cows to support healthy soils going to be financially sustainable? Cows are worth a lot of money as dairy and meat. They’re not worth as much to a farmer if they are simply “soil improvers.” Responsible farmers/ranchers are treating their animals right and making money at the same time. Who would be responsible for making sure they have fresh pasture, water, and are treated when injured or sick if they’re not getting paid? Systems need to include financial sustainability as well.

“But it’s all about intent.”

It’s important to understand that a meatless diet is not a bloodless diet. Many animals lose their lives in the process of farming vegetables. Birds and butterflies are poisoned by chemicals, rabbits and mice are run over by tractors, and vast fields of mono-cropped vegetables displace native populations of animals that once lived on the land. The farming of vegetables is not humane to rabbits.

I have heard people respond say that as long as they didn’t intend to kill the bunnies for their soy burger, then it’s morally ok. The idea of intent is complex, but If you know that your actions will cause death as a side effect, and you do it, then you are still causing death.

If I drive to a certain store to buy some tofu and on the way I accidently run over a chipmunk, did I still kill it? Yes. But do I have any guilt or culpability? No. it is clear that I had neither foreknowledge nor intention that my driving would kill the chimpmunk.

What if I told you that each time you went to that store to buy tofu, you were definitely going to run over a family of chipmunks on your way, that this was inevitable. If you know that you are going to kill the chipmunks on the way to the store to buy tofu, is it still morally ok to go to the store, even if you’re not intending to kill the chipmunks?

It seems to me that if you’re aware that your actions cause a known effect, then intent is present.

I am now officially stating again that in order to produce vegetables, animals are killed in the process. Is it still morally better to eat vegetables?

If you equate the life of a rabbit or chipmunk as equal to that of a cow, and are truly looking to kill the least amount of lives to feed your own, then I would argue that killing one cow that lived on pasture is actually causing less death than the number of animal lives that are lost by modern row cropping techniques. The principle of least harm may actually require the consumption of large herbivores (red meat.)

Here are a few more responses I often hear from people looking to do “least harm.”
“I only consume dairy and eggs.”

Ok, I get it. You don’t want the animals to die, but you’ll consume their milk and eat their eggs. This may seem better from a moral perspective. Is the milk you’re drinking from 100% grass-fed cows? If it’s not, then did you know that those cows are likely not moving much and spend the majority of their lives indoors? Do you know how you get a cow to produce milk? You need to get it pregnant. How do you think this happens? Naturally? Do you know what happens to the babies of these cows? What about your eggs, are they from 100% pasture raised chickens? If not, those chickens, just like dairy cows, are not really living the life of a “natural” chicken. What do you think happens to the male chickens, the ones that don’t produce eggs? I think it’s certainly healthier to consume dairy and eggs than to eat 100% plant based, but there are many more considerations that need to be questioned if you have a moral issue with death.

“Ok, I’ll eat fish, and maybe chicken, but definitely not red meat.”

I wonder why it’s “better” for those eating “clean” to think fish and chicken are superior to red meat on a moral level. Is it because the flesh of fish and chicken is white? Is it easier to eat it when there are no bones and you can’t see “blood?” (Actually, the red juice in those steak packages isn’t actually blood, it’s myoglobin.) Is it easier to buy smaller pieces of white flesh rather than large red hunks of beef on the bone? Are chickens and fish somehow less of an animal than a cow? Is it because beef has fat on it? Is everyone forgetting that saturated fat is no longer a bad guy?

Nutritionally, are all of our health woes really caused by our “increased” consumption of red meat? Again, when you look at what people are actually eating, red meat consumption has not increased in 50 years, but our chicken consumption has increased nearly 400%. We eat a whole lot of fish as well. Studies that vilify red meat consumption are observational, using self-reported data. People might remember the burger they ate last week, but they tend to “forget” to report the deep fried apple pie, 72oz soda, and large fries they had along with the burger. It’s not the meat that’s so damaging, it’s how we raise it, how we prepare it, and what we eat it with.

“I feel more (virtuous, clean, pure, etc.) eating only plants.”

Here are some other questions to consider. In addition to the animals that are dying during the tilling and harvesting of your crops, there are also many animals harmed in the production of many vegetarian products. Palm oil is a great example. I’m not sure that palm oil should really be considered “ok” on a vegan diet when you consider the impact this industry has on orangutans. What about the humans that are harvesting your vegetables? I see very little attention given by those in the plant-based world to human social justice issues. What about the 400,000 children that are migrant farm workers? Do you eat bananas, chocolate or drink coffee? There are so many issues going on within the food industry well beyond whether or not it’s “ok” to eat meat.

What’s the most “moral” way to eat?

If you truly are looking to cause the least harm to animals, be the most sustainable and ethically responsible with your food consumption, then your lens has to open a bit to include some other questions. If you know animals will die for your soylent, is it ok to drink it? If you know that the spraying of non-organic bananas also means schools and local homes are also sprayed with toxic chemicals, causing incredible illness and birth defects, is it still ok to eat them?  Is it ok to eat tomatoes when you don’t know who harvested them? If you knew that a 12 yr old girl had worked a 12 hr day instead of going to school so that you could have red tomatoes in January, are tomatoes more virtuous and cleaner than lamb? If you don’t see “blood” or bones in your plastic wrapped package of chicken, does that make it easier for you to eat it? Is white meat “cleaner” to eat? Are birds less of an animal than a cow? Is it ok to drink milk from a confined dairy cow but not ok to eat the meat from a cow that has spent it’s entire life on pasture? Which process allows the cow to live a good life, (ok, maybe a grass-fed cow has one bad day, but that dairy cow will also die.) Which system is better to support? Are Meatless Mondays changing cow cows are treated?

By opting out of the system entirely, and not eating meat at all, are you changing how meat is produced?

Factory farming is not the answer, but in my personal opinion, if we all had more exposure to sustainable food production, then there would be far less confusion about what is right. If everyone had the experience of working or living on a small-scale organic farm that integrated pasture-based animals (like I do) then the answers to these questions would be much more clear. We are part of nature. As much as we like to avoid the thought, life is not possible without death.

If we agree that cows are critical for soil health, then we should also eat them.

Further reading: Caroline Watson wrote a great post on the morals of meat eating. The Vegetarian Myth, written by an ex-vegan, also does a good job explaining the moral argument to consume meat, and I just purchased Vegan Betrayal, by Mara Kahn and am looking forward to diving into. On the flip side, I also recently purchased The Humane Economy, by vegan and head of The Humane Society Wayne Pacelle, to better understand where animal rights activists are coming from. I believe it’s critical to explore both sides of a story in order to understand it fully. While I appreciate the “intent” of those who choose not to eat meat, I simply disagree with their logic.

by Chris Kresser (web)

Have you been told you need more vitamin D? Healthcare practitioners are increasingly aware of the risks of low vitamin D levels, but many are not aware that high levels of vitamin D can have toxic effects. Read on to learn the risks of over-supplementation, what factors determine your optimal vitamin D level, and the many reasons to get sunlight exposure beyond just vitamin D.

Vitamin D bottle

Vitamin D is critical for health. Virtually every cell in the body has a vitamin D receptor, which, when bound to vitamin D, can influence the expression of more than 200 genes (1, 2). Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption in the intestine and maintains calcium and phosphate levels in the blood, protecting against osteoporosis, rickets, and bone fracture (3, 4). It also regulates immune function, cell growth, and neuromuscular function (5, 6).

With the many roles that vitamin D plays in the body, deficiency of this fat-soluble vitamin is a real cause for concern. Vitamin D deficiency has been found to increase the risk of heart attack, cancer, diabetes, asthma, and autoimmune disease (7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12). Our modern indoor lifestyle limits our sun exposure, and we can only get a small amount of vitamin D from diet (13). According to the lower boundary of the U.S. lab range of 30 ng/mL, as many as 70 percent of Americans are considered deficient (14, 15).

It’s great that awareness about vitamin D deficiency is increasing, with more doctors than ever testing vitamin D levels. However, like many nutrients, vitamin D follows a U-shaped curve, meaning that both low levels and very high levels are associated with negative health outcomes (16). Unfortunately, few practitioners are aware of the dangers of vitamin D toxicity, and many just test serum vitamin D once and recommend a daily 5,000 or 10,000 IU supplement to their patients.

In this article, I’ll discuss the risks of over-supplementation, why you should get most of your vitamin D from sunlight, and the reasoning behind my current approach to vitamin D.

Risks of excess vitamin D supplementation

Vitamin D status is measured by 25(OH)D in blood. We’ll dive further into vitamin D metabolism later, but for now, just understand that this is the precursor to active vitamin D and is generally considered the most accurate single marker to assess vitamin D status. The U.S. laboratory reference range for adequate 25(OH)D is 30 to 74 ng/mL, while the Vitamin D Council suggests a higher range of 40 to 80 ng/mL, with a target of 50 ng/mL (17).

But a large body of evidence in the medical literature strongly suggests that optimal vitamin D levels might be lower than these figures. There is little to no evidence showing benefit to 25(OH)D levels above 50 ng/mL, and increasing evidence to suggest that levels of this magnitude may cause harm. Consequences of vitamin D toxicity include heart attack, stroke, kidney stones, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, weight loss, and low bone density (18).

Furthermore, in most studies, taking vitamin D supplements does not decrease risk of death, cardiovascular disease, or other conditions. Based on an exhaustive review of over 1,000 studies in 2011, the Institute of Medicine recommends a much more conservative range of 20 to 50 ng/mL (19).

Some research on Israeli lifeguards suggests that, contrary to popular belief, vitamin D toxicity from sunlight alone (in the absence of supplementation) is possible (20). That said, it is  much more difficult to achieve toxic levels through sun exposure alone. Sunlight is the optimal source of vitamin D, and has numerous  benefits above and beyond improving vitamin D status.

Beyond vitamin D: The many benefits of sunlight

Vitamin D is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the benefits of sunlight. A recent 20-year study following 29,518 subjects found that those individuals avoiding sun exposure were twice as likely to die from all causes (21). While this study did not assess vitamin D levels, findings from other epidemiological studies suggest that this cannot be accounted for by the increase in vitamin D production alone.

Indeed, humans make several important peptide and hormone “photoproducts” when our skin is exposed to the UVB wavelength of sunlight (22). These include:

  • β-Endorphin: a natural opiate that induces relaxation and increases pain tolerance (23, 24)
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide: a vasodilator that protects against hypertension, vascular inflammation, and oxidative stress (25)
  • Substance P: a neuropeptide that promotes blood flow and regulates the immune system in response to acute stressors (26)
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone: a polypeptide hormone that controls cortisol release by the adrenal glands, thus regulating the immune system and inflammation (27)
  • Melanocyte-Stimulating Hormone: a polypeptide hormone that reduces appetite, increases libido, and is also responsible for increased skin pigmentation (27)

Exposure to the UVA wavelength of sunlight has also been shown to have benefits, including increasing the release of nitric oxide from storage (28). Nitric oxide is a potent cellular signaling molecule that dilates the blood vessels and thus reduces blood pressure (29).

In addition to the production of photoproducts and release of nitric oxide, sunlight also entrains circadian rhythms. Exposure to bright light during the day activates neurons in the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus, which sends signals to the pineal gland that regulate melatonin production. Disruption of circadian rhythm has been associated with mood disorders, cognitive deficits, and metabolic syndrome (30, 31).

Vitamin D Optimal Levels

Optimal vitamin D range depends on many factors

So how much do you need? At the first annual IHH-UCSF Paleo Symposium in San Francisco this year, nutritional biochemist Dr. Chris Masterjohn summarized evidence suggesting that optimal vitamin D levels may vary from population to population, despite the fact that there is currently only one reference range used for all patients.

Ethnicity is one major consideration. For example, blacks have lower 25(OH)D than whites in the U.S., yet they typically have much higher bone mineral density. Furthermore, non-Caucasians have lower 25(OH)D levels than Caucasians, even at their ancestral latitudes (32). From these and other studies, it has been suggested that people with non-white ancestry may be adapted to a lower optimal 25(OH)D level than people with white ancestry.

Another factor that influences toxicity is nutritional status. The fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K work synergistically, and adequate vitamin A and K may protect against toxic effects of excess vitamin D (33). Sufficient levels of potassium and magnesium have also been suggested to protect against vitamin D toxicity (34). Unfortunately, most people are deficient in these micronutrients in the developed world, making them more susceptible to vitamin D toxicity.

What about optimal vitamin D range from an evolutionary perspective? A study on traditionally living hunter–gatherer populations in East Africa found that the Masai and Hadzabe tribes had average 25(OH)D concentrations of 48 ng/mL and 44 ng/mL, respectively (35). These indigenous populations get a great deal of sun exposure but also have very high intakes of vitamins A and K, suggesting that these levels are probably towards the higher end of the optimal range for most people in the modern world.

Using parathyroid hormone levels to individualize vitamin D testing

As we saw in the last section, 25(OH)D lab ranges should vary by population, genetics, and nutritional status. In the absence of specific ranges, we need other biological markers that can help to clarify vitamin D status. To find these biological markers, we need to look at how vitamin D is metabolized.

When UVB contacts the skin epidermis, vitamin D is produced from 7-dehydrocholesterol. This vitamin D then travels in the blood to the liver, where it undergoes primary hydroxylation (the addition of a hydroxyl group, consisting of one oxygen and one hydrogen atom) on the 25th carbon atom. The result is 25(OH)D, which is the metabolite most widely used to assess nutritional vitamin D status. This compound circulates in the blood until it undergoes secondary hydroxylation on the first carbon atom in the kidney, resulting in 1,25(OH)2D, the active form of vitamin D (36).

You might be wondering: why don’t we test the active form? While certainly informative, the amount of active vitamin D is not directly reflective of nutritional vitamin D status because the secondary hydroxylation step is tightly regulated by parathyroid hormone (37). When the parathyroid glands sense a drop of blood calcium levels, they secrete parathyroid hormone (PTH). PTH stimulates the formation of active vitamin D, which increases calcium absorption in the small intestine and calcium release from bone in an attempt to restore normal blood calcium levels (38). High PTH levels can therefore lead to high 1,25(OH)2D, low bone mineral density, increased risk of fractures, and osteoporosis (39).

With a basic understanding of this pathway, we can use PTH, calcium, and active vitamin D3 as markers to give us a more complete picture of someone’s vitamin D status. In his presentation at IHH-UCSF, Dr. Masterjohn suggested that serum PTH levels above 30 pg/mL may be indicative of biological vitamin D deficiency when 25(OH)D levels are borderline low. Conversely, if 25(OH)D levels are borderline low or even slightly below the laboratory reference range (e.g., 25 to 30 ng/mL), but PTH is less than 30 pg/mL, it is unlikely that the patient is vitamin D deficient, and supplementation is not warranted.

Instead of focusing on the 25(OH)D level itself, what we really want to achieve is maximum suppression of PTH levels for optimal calcium homeostasis and bone health. Beyond this level, more vitamin D is not necessarily better.

Conclusion

Based on my assessment of the literature and my own clinical experience, I believe the functional range for 25(OH)D is around 35 to 60 ng/mL. However, I can’t stress enough that there is significant variation among populations. For those with non-white ancestry, the optimal range may be a bit lower. For those with autoimmune disease, the optimal range might be a bit higher (45 to 60 ng/mL) to maximize the immune-regulating benefits of vitamin D. Here are a few recommendations for optimizing your vitamin D level.

  1. Don’t supplement blindly.
    If your 25(OH)D level is:
  • less than 20 ng/mL: you likely need some combination of UV exposure, cod liver oil, and a vitamin D supplement
  • 20 to 35 ng/mL: get your PTH tested. If PTH is adequately suppressed (less than 30 pg/mL), supplementing is probably unnecessary.
  • 35 to 50 ng/mL: continue your current diet and lifestyle for maintaining adequate vitamin D
  • greater than 50 ng/mL: try reducing your vitamin D supplements, and make sure you are getting adequate amounts of the other fat-soluble vitamins to protect against toxicity
  1. Get retested!
    Check your levels after three to four months to see if you have achieved or maintained adequate levels of vitamin D. If not, adjust your diet, lifestyle, or supplements accordingly and check again in another three to four months.
  1. Get sunlight or UV exposure as your primary form of vitamin D.
    Reap the many benefits of sunlight beyond just subcutaneous production of vitamin D, and reduce your chance of achieving toxic levels. Spend about 15 to 30 minutes, or about half the time it takes your skin to turn pink, in direct sunlight. Sunscreens not only block production of vitamin D, but also all of the other beneficial photoproducts produced in the skin in response to UVB.
  1. Mind your micronutrients to protect against toxicity.
    Try cod liver oil as a good source of vitamins A and D and high-vitamin butter oil or pastured butter and ghee for vitamin K. Sweet potatoes, bananas, plantains, and avocados all contain significant amounts of potassium. Considersupplementing with magnesium as it is very difficult to get adequate amounts of this micronutrient from food due to soil depletion.