September 23rd, 2014

Dark Chocolate Reduces Stress Hormones


Of all the foods available on planet Earth, those produced from the bean of the cacao tree (Theobroma cacao) are the most magical, interesting, and delectable. Our long- standing love for chocolate is now being matched by scientific research on its health benefits when consumed in the right form.

A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Bern in Switzerland has shown the consumption of dark chocolate can reduce the effects of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. This study provides another strong reason to eat a moderate amount of dark chocolate each day to promote better health.

Background Data:

One of the key areas of research into the benefits of chocolate consumption is its effect on cardiovascular disease. Much of the benefits are attributed to its high content of flavanols, a type of polyphenol – antioxidants found in foods like cocoa, tea, berries, and wine. A growing amount of recent research suggests that:

  • Chocolate flavanols are especially important in protecting against damage to cholesterol and the lining of the arteries.
  • Chocolate flavanols prevent the excessive clumping together of blood platelets that can cause blood clots.
  • Frequent chocolate consumption is associated with a nearly 40% reduced risk for heart disease and a 30% reduced risk for a stroke.

Another mechanism for chocolate flavanol consumption substantially lowering cardiovascular mortality may be its ability to dampen the stress response.

New Data:

To evaluate the effect of dark chocolate to impact the stress response, healthy, non-smoking men, not taking any medication (20 to 50 years of age) were assigned to the experimental dark chocolate group (n = 31) or the placebo control group (n = 34).

The dark chocolate used (“Noir 72%”; Chocolat Frey AG, Buchs/Aargau, Switzerland) contained 281 calories and 125 mg of the flavanol epicatechin per serving of 50 grams. The placebo looked and tasted identical, but was actually a flavanol-free white chocolate that was dyed and flavored to match the color, appearance, and smell of the dark chocolate.

Two hours after chocolate ingestion, both groups underwent an acute stressful situation (standardized psychosocial stress task combining public speaking and mental arithmetic). Measurements of the stress hormones cortisol, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) were taken prior to chocolate ingestion, before and several times after the stressful task. Plasma levels of the flavanol epicatechin were also determined.

Results showed that the dark chocolate group showed a significantly blunted reactivity of the peripheral adrenal gland hormones cortisol and epinephrine (adrenaline), as compared to the placebo group. The blunted reactivity of both these stress hormones related to higher plasma levels of epicatechin.

These results led the researchers to conclude that the flavanol-rich dark chocolate intake can help reduce the effects of stress on the body.


Without question, in the right form, chocolate is a true super food. I get my chocolate fix by having a big mug of hot cocoa nearly everyday by taking 3 tablespoons of organic Superfood Chocolate Hot Cacao Powder (click here) and 1 tablespoon of xylitol into my mug and then I add 12 ounces of decaffeinated coffee to it. I also regularly consume a small chunk of high flavanol content dark chocolate.


Wirtz PH, von Känel R, Meister RE, et al. Dark chocolate intake buffers stress reactivity in humans. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2014 Jun 3;63(21):2297-9.

September 16th, 2014

Natural Eggshell Membrane Produces Impressive Results in Relieving Arthritis Pain

Natural Eggshell Membrane (NEM®) is an innovative nutritional supplement that brings fast relief to people suffering from the pain, stiffness, and impaired mobility of osteoarthritis and other joint health problems according to the results of a recent study in Germany.

NEM® is a natural source of collagen, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid, each of which is known to support joint health. Much of the benefit with NEM® is thought to be the result of its nutrients boosting the production of critical joint molecules. In addition, NEM® has also been shown to reduce the production of various inflammatory compounds including interleukin-1 beta and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-a), two primary mediators of inflammation.

Background Data:
The clinical research on NEM began with a pilot study published in patients with mild-to-moderate joint pain received 500 mg NEM daily. After just seven days, participants had an average 26% improvement in pain and 28% improvement in flexibility. After 30 days, they had an average 73% reduction in pain, with 45% of participants reporting they were completely pain-free. They also had a 44% improvement in flexibility and 76% less pain through their range of motion. No adverse side effects were reported.

To further support the safety and efficacy of NEM in osteoarthritis, a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial was conducted involving 67 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. They received either 500 mg of NEM daily or a placebo. After only ten days, those receiving NEM supplements had a 12% reduction in pain and 17% less stiffness. At the end of the 60-day trial, those receiving NEM had an average pain reduction of 15%, and 31% less stiffness. One third of the patients receiving NEM experienced a reduction in pain of 40% or greater, and more than half had at least 50% less stiffness. No adverse side effects were reported.

New Data:
A new study was conducted at six different clinical sites throughout Germany to evaluate the efficacy and tolerability of NEM® for the relief of the pain and discomfort associated with osteoarthritis of the knee and/or hip.

Forty-four patients were treated with a daily dosage of 500 mg of NEM®. Clinic visits were scheduled for subjects at study initiation and at 60 days following the onset of treatment. Statistical analysis revealed that supplementation with NEM® produced a significant pain relieving effect within 10 days. On average, nearly 1/4th of the subjects experienced a 30% improvement in pain-related questions within 10 days and almost 20% of the study population experienced a 50% improvement in pain-related questions by the end of the study (60 days). Significant improvement for stiffness was noted at 30 and 60 days after treatment.

An indication of the pain relieving effect of NEM was a drop in analgesic use. For the 30 days prior to study commencement, patients consumed on average 7 doses of acetaminophen. Analgesic use had dropped considerably to 2.43 doses per 30 days after 30 days of supplementation with NEM®.

No side effects were noted with NEM®.

Osteoarthritis of the knee and hip is extremely common in North America. Unfortunately, most people look for a quick fix by taking ibuprofen, aspirin, Celebrex, or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. This approach is extremely unwise given the side effects of these drugs including their negative effects on cartilage repair. A much more rational approach is to use NEM®, glucosamine sulfate, hyaluronic acid, and/or other natural products with proven safety and efficacy in osteoarthritis by addressing the underlying factor – decreased formation of cartilage components.

Danesch U, Seybold M, Rittinghausen R, Treibel W, Bitterlich N. NEM® Brand Eggshell Membrane Effective in the Treatment of Pain Associated with Knee and Hip Osteoarthritis Results from a Six Center, Open Label German Clinical Study. J Arthritis 2014;3:136. doi: 10.4172/2167-7921.1000136

September 1st, 2014

Take Advantage of Natural Lighting for a Better Life


In a breakthrough study, office workers with more light exposure at the office had longer sleep duration, better sleep quality, more physical activity and better quality of life compared to office workers with less light exposure in the workplace.

The study highlights the importance of exposure to natural light to health, and stresses the need to switch the workplace lighting with the equivalence of natural daylight exposure for workers.

Background Data:

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is associated with winter depression and feeling “normal” or very happy in the summer. Typically, individuals with SAD feel depressed and generally slow down, oversleep, overeat, and crave carbohydrates in the winter. In the summer, these same people feel elated, active, and energetic.

Although many variables may be responsible for SAD, lack of exposure to full-spectrum natural light appears to be the most logical explanation. Full-spectrum light therapy, designed to replicate natural sunlight, has been used to treat both seasonal affective disorder as well as clinical depression.

These benefits may not be limited to SAD and depression. There is a growing body of data showing that exposure to full-spectrum natural light may help anyone feel better. The explanation given is that without natural light exposure, there is a reduced secretion of melatonin by the pineal gland, and an increased secretion of cortisol by the adrenal glands. These hormonal changes are associated with poor sleep quality, stress, and an increased appetite.

New Data:

In a study conducted by researchers from the University of Illinois and Northwestern University, the impact of daylight exposure on the health of office workers from the perspective of subjective well-being and sleep quality, as well as nighttime activity and sleep-wake patterns were examined.

Participants included 27 workers working in windowless environments and 22 comparable workers in workplaces with significantly more daylight. Windowless environment is defined as one without any windows or one where workstations were far from windows and without any exposure to daylight. Employees with windows in the workplace received 173 percent more natural light exposure during work hours.

Workers in windowless environments reported poorer scores than their counterparts on physical activity and vitality, as well as poorer overall sleep quality. In contrast, workers with windows at the workplace had more physical activity and better sleep quality. Employees with windows in the workplace slept an average of 46 minutes more per night, than employees who did not have the natural light exposure in the workplace.

The researchers concluded that the architectural design of office environments should place more emphasis on sufficient daylight exposure of the workers in order to promote office workers’ health and well-being.


Another option for the workplace (and home) is to replace typical lighting with full-spectrum alternatives. The latter is a bit more expensive, but the payoff in health benefits, especially mental health and physical energy, appears to be worth it.

Boubekri M, Cheung IN, Reid KJ, Wang CH, Zee PC. Impact of Windows and Daylight Exposure on Overall Health and Sleep Quality of Office Workers: A Case-Control Pilot Study. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 2014; DOI: 10.5664/jcsm.3780

September 1st, 2014

RDA for Vitamin D is “Grossly Inadequate”


A huge and growing amount of research has now shown that vitamin D deficiency is very common (at least 50% of the general population and 80% in infants), and plays a major role in the development in many of the chronic degenerative diseases. In fact, vitamin D deficiency may be the most common medical condition in the world, and vitamin D supplementation may be the most cost effective strategy in improving health, reducing disease, and living longer. Those deficient in vitamin D have twice the rate of death and a doubling of risk for many diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma and autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis.

The optimum blood levels of vitamin D and what constitutes vitamin D deficiency is somewhat controversial in mainstream medicine. For optimum health, most experts recommend blood levels of vitamin D3 (25(OH)D3) between 50-80 ng/mL (125-200 nmol/L).

Although an individual’s vitamin D requirement may be met through synthesis of vitamin D from 7-dehydrocholesterol in the skin through exposure to sunlight, most people have serum concentration of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in the subnormal range and require treatment with supplemental vitamin D.

A new study published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine demonstrates quite clearly that the RDA for vitamin D is grossly inadequate, and considerably higher dosages than the RDA are required to help meet a person’s vitamin D requirement.

Background Data:
Vitamin D3 acts as a vital key to unlock binding sites on the human genome for the expression of the genetic code. The human genome contains more than 2,700 binding sites for D3; those binding sites are near genes that are involved in virtually every known major disease of humans.

Vitamin D Deficiency Syndrome (VDDS) is newly designated disorder linked to blood levels of D3 less than 25 ng/ml and the presence of at least two of following conditions:

Risk Factors for Vitamin D Deficiency

  • Insufficient exposure to sunlight- working and playing indoors, covering up with clothes or sunscreen when outside, residing at a high latitude.
  • Aging – seniors are at greater risk due to lack of mobility and skin that is less responsive to ultraviolet light.
  • Darker skin – high incidence of vitamin D deficiency and its associated conditions in Blacks is widely documented. Blacks are at greatest risk of vitamin D deficiency, due to higher skin melanin content.
  • Breastfeeding – breastfeeding will result in vitamin D deficiency in the baby if the mother fails to ensure her own levels are high enough to provide for her baby’s needs. When the mother is deficient, the breast-fed child will be deficient due to the low vitamin D content of the mother’s breast milk.
  • Obesity – fat-soluble vitamin D gets trapped in fat tissue, preventing its utilization by the body.

New Data:
Researchers from the University of Missouri conducted a study to determine whether the recommended doses of vitamin D3 are adequate to correct deficiency and maintain normal blood levels. They also sought to develop a predictive equation for replacement doses of vitamin D.

They reviewed the response to vitamin D supplementation in 1,327 patients and 3,885 episodes of vitamin D supplementation. For the whole population, the average daily dose resulting in any increase in blood levels of vitamin D3 was 4,707 IU/day; corresponding values for ambulatory and nursing home patients were 4229 and 6103 IU/day, respectively.

The authors concluded that the recommended daily allowance for vitamin D (600 to 800 IU) is grossly inadequate for correcting low blood levels of D3 in many adult patients. They estimated that 5000 IU vitamin D3 per day is usually needed to correct deficiency, and the maintenance dose in adults should be equal to or greater than 2000 IU per day. Furthermore, for people living in nursing homes or not getting any direct sunlight, slightly higher dosages may be necessary.

This new study confirms that most adults need to be supplementing with 2,000 to 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 each day. Of course, the ideal method for determining the exact optimal dosage of vitamin D3 is to get a blood test for 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 or 25(OH)D3. Many doctors are now routinely checking vitamin D status in their patients, which is a great service. You can also order a test from where you collect a small blood sample by skin prick and send it in to the lab. Again, for optimum health, 25(OH)D3 blood levels should be around 50-80 ng/mL (125-200 nmol/L).

Singh G, Bonham AJ. A predictive equation to guide vitamin d replacement dose in patients. J Am Board Fam Med. 2014 Jul-Aug;27(4):495-509.


August 27th, 2014

6 Powerful (But Simple!) Tools To Cope With Stress

Whether you’re aware of it or not, you have a pattern for coping with stress. Unfortunately, most people have found patterns and methods that do not support good health.

If you want to be truly successful in coping with stress, you need to identify negative coping patterns, and replace them with the following, positive ways of coping.

1. Train yourself to think like an optimist.

What distinguishes an optimist from a pessimist is the way in which one explains both good and bad events. Instead of blaming, for example, you recognize that everyone makes mistakes. Instead of getting angry, you forgive. Instead of being down on yourself, you recognize that you did your best, given the circumstances.

2. Make a real effort to talk to yourself in a positive way.

There is a constant dialogue taking place in our heads, and our self-talk makes an impression on our subconscious mind. In order to develop or maintain a positive mental attitude, you must guard against negative self-talk.

Become aware of your self-talk and then consciously work to imprint positive self-talk on the subconscious mind. Two powerful tools for creating positive self-talk are questions and affirmations,

3. Ask better questions.

A powerful tool for improving the quality of self-talk and hence the quality of life is a series of questions originally given to me by Anthony Robbins, author of the bestsellers Unlimited Power and Awaken the Giant Within.

According to Tony, the quality of your life is equal to the quality of the questions you habitually ask yourself. For example: An individual is met with a particular challenge or problem. He or she can ask a number of questions in this situation, such as “Why does this always happen to me?” or, “Why am I always so stupid?”

The answers to these questions don’t build self-esteem. A better question would be, “What can I learn from this situation or do to make it better?” If you want more happiness in your life, simply ask yourself the following questions on a consistent basis: “What am I most happy about in my life right now?” and “Why does that make me happy?”

4. Use positive affirmations.

An affirmation is a short statement with some emotional intensity behind it. Positive affirmations can make imprints on the subconscious mind to create a healthy, positive self-image. In addition, affirmations can actually fuel the changes you desire.

You may want to have the following affirmations in plain sight to recite them over the course of the day:

  • I am blessed with an abundance of energy.
  • Love, joy, and happiness flow through me with every heartbeat.
  • I am thankful for all of my good fortune.
  • Yes, I can!

5. Set positive goals.

Learning to set goals is another powerful method for building a positive attitude and raising self-esteem. Goals can be used to create a “success cycle.”

Achieving goals helps you feel better about yourself, and the better you feel about yourself, the more likely that you will achieve your goals.

Here are some guidelines to use when setting goals:

  • State the goal in positive terms. For example, it’s better to say “I enjoy eating healthy, low-calorie, nutritious foods” than “I will not eat sugar, candy, ice cream, and other fattening foods.”
  • Make your goal attainable and realistic. Little things add up to make a major difference in the way you feel about yourself.
  • Be specific. The more clearly your goal is defined, the more likely you are to reach it.
  • State the goal in the present tense, not the future tense. In order to reach your goal, you have to believe you have already attained it.
  • Set short-term goals that can be used to help you achieve your long-term goals. Get into the habit of asking yourself the following question each morning and evening: “What must I do today to achieve my long-term goal?”

6. Practice positive visualizations.

Many people believe that we have to be able to see our lives the way we want them to be before it happens. In terms of ideal health, you absolutely must picture yourself in ideal health if you truly want to experience this state.

You can use visualization in all areas of your life, but especially for your health. Be creative and have fun with positive visualizations and you will soon find yourself living your dreams.

August 27th, 2014

Is Your Medicine Making You Sick?

Ever since we were children, we’ve been told to take pills when we feel bad—for headaches, insomnia, indigestion, aches and pains, even mild depression, to name a few common complaints. TV ads reinforce this message, with experts telling us what pills to take to stop our pain.

We’re so used to reaching for pharmaceuticals for fast relief that we don’t stop to ask three obvious questions:

  1. What is really causing the discomfort?
  2. Are these drugs really working?
  3. Are the side effects worse than the original symptoms?

We’re encouraged to mask our symptoms, and the medical and pharmaceutical industries are more than happy to indulge us. The catch is, a headache is not caused by aspirin deficiency, so even five types of aspirin are not going to cure it!

In fact, many common drugs we take to relieve our symptoms—both over-the-counter and prescription medications—often make the symptoms worse. You can end up sicker than if you never took them!


Below are some beliefs and facts about common drug store medications you may turn to regularly whenever you feel out of sorts, and some alternatives that may be better and cost less.

“Meds” That May Be Making You Sick

1. Antacids

Belief: The wonder cure for indigestion.

Fact: Antacids harm your digestive system.

Antacid therapy—particularly the proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as Nexium, Prilosec, and Prevacid—actually increase the risks of various gastrointestinal cancers. Use of these meds can lead to serious nutrient deficiencies and intestinal infections, along with other side effects. They prevent your body from performing its normal digestive process.

Safer alternatives: Eliminate the foods from your diet that may be causing the problem. Learn how to prepare hydrochloric acid in the right dosage. Try digestive enzymes, deglycyrrhizinated licorice, and peppermint oil. Switch to a high-fiber diet, and help yourself to 6-8 glasses of water a day.

2. Aspirins and Other Headache Pills

Belief: Aspirins stop headaches, so take as many as you want; no side effects!

Fact: Headache meds can actually cause headaches.

The medicines most people use to treat chronic tension headaches actually make them worse, including aspirin and acetaminophen (Tylenol). In one study, 200 headache sufferers improved after they stopped taking the headache medications they were using.

Safer alternatives: Relaxing your neck, face, and scalp muscles (using self-massage, breathing, and other simple procedures) usually brings immediate relief. Chiropractic care, physical therapy (correcting your posture and stretching your cervical muscles, for example), and massage therapy can help, as do exercise workouts and stress-management techniques. Look on the labels of your other “meds” and see if “headache” is listed as a possible side effect.

3. Sleeping Pills

Belief: Sleeping pills just help you sleep.

Fact: Sleeping pills actually deprive you of sleep.

Most people don’t realize that these popular meds disrupt healthy sleep cycles. We need our sleep to feel rested, happy, and ready to face the day, and sleeping pills can end up depriving us of that. Don’t kid yourself: sleeping pills are powerful drugs that interfere with normal brain function, and they are also highly addictive. They can cause depression, and can produce a 25 percent increase in early mortality and all causes of cancer.

Safer alternatives: Avoid substances that throw off your sleeping patterns, including alcohol, caffeine, and recreational drugs such as marijuana. Instead, take 3 mg of melatonin or other natural sleep aids like magnesium, 5-HTP, L-theanine, or valerian. These supplements are very safe and effective. Daily exercise and progressive relaxation techniques are also great remedies for sleeplessness.

4. Antidepressants

Belief: Antidepressants are fairly safe and well worth the trouble.

Fact: Look out! Antidepressants make you fat!

SSRI-type antidepressants (for example, Prozac and Zolof) alter an area of the brain that regulates both serotonin levels and the utilization of glucose, causing an increase in obesity. In one study, some patients gained 40-60 pounds in a short period of time, and once that process begins, it usually doesn’t end. This makes you feel even more depressed, and threatens your health in many ways.

Safer alternatives: St. John’s Wort extract (SJWE) standardized to contain 3-5 percent hyperforin has proven to be more effective than antidepressants for mild to moderate depression, 900 mg/day to 1,800 mg/day, depending on the severity of the symptoms. Also explore cognitive therapy and a technique called “learned optimism,” both of which have shown great results too.

5. Osteoarthritis Pills

Belief: Popping pills for arthritis is just part of growing older.

Fact: Osteoarthritis drugs lead to joint destruction.

Meds for the aches and pains of osteoarthritis, including NSAIDS and COX-2 inhibitors, actually make the condition worse than if the patient took nothing at all. Both types of drugs speed up osteoarthritis and joint destruction by interfering with cartilage repair.

Safer alternatives: Glucosamine sulfate, taken as a supplement, stimulates the body’s natural production of glycosaminoglycans, the structural components of cartilage. It is also more effective for pain relief than conventional osteoarthritis meds.

The Takeaway

Before you reach for that quick-fix drug, ask yourself these questions:  What is the real cause of my discomfort, and will this pill help address it? Has this drug really worked for me in the past, in all aspects, and with long-term benefits? Have I really thought about what the side effects were for me in the past? What do clinical studies say?

If you don’t like the answers, you will be happy to know that there are often safe alternatives to prescription medications, ones that actually cure the underlying condition. In short, you can enjoy symptom relief without the dangerous side effects, and improve your health for good.