Saturday, November 19, 2011

How Toxic is Your Mattress?

We spend 1/3 of our lives in bed, but how can we sleep safely when there are tons of toxic chemicals used in mattresses and bedding? Most mattress companies have their materials loaded with votatile organic compounds (VOCs). A very toxic flame retardant, PDBE, alters thyroid hormone metabolism and is linked to low birth weight in babies. Its use in mattresses was banned in 2005, but if your mattress is older than this, it likely contains it. Today's conventional mattresses are treated with other types of toxic organophosphate fire retardants. Water Bader, the author of Sleep Safe in a Toxic World, states that the average conventional mattress contains more toxic chemicals than a 50-gallon drum of oil, including formaldehyde, benzene, and toulene. A 2009 article in the New York Times pointed out that polyurethane foam, a primary component of traditional mattresses, is made from petroleum.

Mary Cordaro, a healthy building and interiors consultant for decades, recommends using only natural latex, organic cotton, and natural, chemical-free wool in mattresses. Walter Bader reminds us to avoid propaganda perpetuated by mattress retailers claiming to be “chemical free.” When shopping for an organic mattress, ignore the "green" or "eco" ratings.  They are unregulated and therefore likely false claims. Okeo-Tex is an independent third-party rating company whereby mattress companies can voluntarily have their product rated. The only rating that is meaningful in the world of mattresses is "organic."

Greater awareness of the importance of a non-toxic sleep environment has given rise to several companies committed to making organic mattresses. Mary Cordaro recommends Green for Bedroom and Baby. Walter Bader co-founded Lifekind, which makes organic bedding and pillows in addition to mattresses. Other online sources are Dremata and Green Mattress Factory. In the Los Angeles area, check out Living Green in Culver City.  Essentia in Santa Monica claims to be non-toxic, but some research suggests they are making false claims.  For a checklist on how to choose a healthy mattress, click here.

Do you sleep on an organic mattress? Share your feedback below.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Facts About BPA

Bisphenol A, or BPA, is a harmful chemical found in some plastics. Governor Brown recently signed legislation that will ban the use of BPA in baby bottles and child sippy cups as of July 2013. While this is great news, use of BPA is widespread, and I strongly recommend you avoid using products that contain it.  It is commonly found in plastic bottles (#7 in particular) and in the lining of canned goods. It is also used in thermal cash register receipts, so it's important to throw such receipts away rather than recycle them to help break the cycle of BPA in our environment.

BPA is xenobiotic, meaning it mimics life. Its structure is similar to that of estrogen, allowing it to get into the body and act like a toxic estrogen. This results in weight gain and loss of DNA integrity. Young women are experiencing periods earlier in life due to BPA, and for older women BPA makes menopause worse by blocking healthy estrogen. In men it contributes to breast development, lack of sex drive, and prostatitis. It's also linked to other conditions such as infertility, PCOS, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

The Environmental Working Group has a great guide on how to avoid bisphenol A.  [edited on March 27, 2012 to add:]  Real Age has also published an article on how to avoid BPA. Educate yourself and lower your chance of BPA's adverse health effects.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Vitamin Use and Longevity

A study published in the October 10 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine claims that multivitamin use is associated with an increased risk of mortality in women in their 60s. There is no cause for alarm: this study is flawed. It was poorly done, with a small population, and with wildly broad variables, including lifestyle factors and the person’s overall toxicity burden to begin with. Around 39,000 women were surveyed in 1986, 1997, and 2004. The results were based on questionnaires these women filled out. There was no control study group; the results were just measured against statistics from the general population. Essentially, 39,000 women were measured against another 39,000 women, but where did those other 39,000 women come from? What slice of the population were they in? A response by Thorne Research points out “it must be emphasized that… the study is a retrospective study of already collected data. It is not a prospective, controlled intervention study, i.e., it is not a ‘clinical trial,’ in which participants would be given a specific dietary supplement or a placebo and then followed closely over time to observe not only the specific outcomes but also the factors possibly contributing to those outcomes.”

We need to take into consideration who funds multimillion dollar studies such as the one published in Archives of Internal Medicine:  the pharmacological companies who want exclusive rights to patent these ingredients. They are not a source to be trusted.

Additionally, there is no mention of the quality of the brand of multivitamin used. Commonplace multivitamins like Centrum always show up as toxic when I test them on my patients. In this way, the findings of this study are accurate: they prove that taking a toxic supplement will shorten your life span.

The supplements I recommend for my patients are purity-certified with consistent third party testing to confirm that purity. They’re made under the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) seal, which means that they’re high quality, pure, and that their ingredients contain exactly what is listed on the label. Countless studies prove that quality micronutrients signal to your DNA to express health and promote efficient detoxification.

Avoiding toxic supplements is just as important as avoiding toxic household products and cosmetics. Check the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetic Safety Database to find out what’s in the cosmetic products you are exposing your body to every day.  I am happy to test you on all supplements, medications, and cosmetics you use to ensure that you are not putting toxins into your body. Together we will put you on the path to well-being and longevity.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Vaccination: The Other Side

The recent LA Times articles on vaccination does not give voice to the other side: parents of vaccine-injured children. Nor does it explain the risks associated with vaccines.  For more facts, visit the National Vaccine Information Center website.  Good journalism always shows both sides of an issue and the LA Times has failed in these articles.

Monday, July 25, 2011

My Take on MyPlate

Last month, the USDA announced it had discarded its hard-to-interpret Food Pyramid  and replaced it with “MyPlate,” a simple, colorful, icon designed to teach Americans how to eat more healthily. The pyramid was terribly flawed (it suggested 6-11 daily servings of “bread, cereal, rice, and pasta,” for example) and MyPlate is an improvement on that. The USDA’s website encourages us to “enjoy your food, but eat less,” and “avoid oversized portions,” which are great ways to avoid adrenal burnout and maintain a healthy metabolism and weight. 

Though I disagree with some of its recommendations, the good news is that MyPlate emphasizes vegetables and fruits. If I were to create my own version of MyPlate, I would use half the plate for vegetables, eliminate the dairy category, and move fruits over to where dairy is now: eat fruit for dessert. All the meats would be grass fed, and the produce would be organic. Looking at MyPlate’s grains serving, if you are under 22, it’s okay to include whole, unprocessed, gluten-free grains as 25% of every meal. Most adults, however, should be eating far less.

MyPlate also doesn’t take food allergies and sensitivities into consideration. Many people suffer from allergies and sensitivities that have not been diagnosed. Making a blanket statement that everyone should eat grains and dairy is unwise.

On an interesting side note, the federal subsidies that support farming are not in line with MyPlate at all. MyPlate shows us that each meal should be comprised of about 50% fruits and vegetables, yet fruit and vegetable farmers receive less than 1% of subsidies. Please contact your congresspeople to let them know that while MyPlate is a step in the right direction, the government needs to alter its agricultural policies in order to truly promote healthy eating.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Meat Eaters Guide

The Environmental Working Group has done a great study on the different protein options we have and their impact on our health and on the environment. When eating beef or pork, it is important to eat grass-fed, organic meat free of hormones and antibiotics. Poultry, as long as it’s free-range and organic, is a better option for everyday consumption because it’s less expensive and has a smaller carbon footprint. For years I’ve been saying we need to eat beef less frequently and eat only premium-grade grass-fed beef. It’s nice to have the EWG back this up with all the facts!  

If you choose not to eat meat it's vital to get enough protein from beans, legumes, and/or clean protein powder.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

FDA Trying to Ban Supplements

On July 1, 2011, the FDA proposed new guidelines for food and drug manufacturers to follow to get approval for New Dietary Ingredients, or NDIs.  Bill S.1310, the "Dietary Supplement Labeling Act," would require supplement companies  to adhere to these guidelines, which state that any supplement currently sold that was not sold prior to 1994 must go through the same approval process that medication does.

In theory, this is a great idea: the government wants to make sure that substances people are consuming are safe. In reality, this could spell the end of the supplement industry, because the red tape is extensive. According to the FDA, a product would be classified as an NDI if any aspect of it is changed: if a capsule that was approved at 50 mg is now manufactured in 100 mg capsules, for example. If a supplement that was sold prior to 1994 has been chemically altered in any way, it would now be considered an NDI – and “chemically altered” includes baking, cooking, or using a botanical ingredient at a different life stage, such as using a bud instead of a flower. Supplements that contain several different ingredients would go through a separate approval process for every single one of those ingredients, making it cost prohibitive to bring them to market.

Additionally, each supplement company would have to seek approval for every single NDI they sell. If one company gets Vitamin B12 approved, that doesn’t mean that Vitamin B12 is approved for all companies. This is akin to every bread, cereal, and cookie company in the country being forced to seek approval for flour.

And here’s the tricky part:  if a drug company conducts research on a dietary ingredient as a medication and publishes its findings, that dietary ingredient can be patented by Big Pharma and supplement companies will no longer be able to use it. In 2009, this happened with a form of Vitamin B6 used in treating kidney disease.

Because the substances found in supplements occur naturally in nature, they cannot be patented. Big Pharmaceutical companies want to make it so the natural ingredients are able to be patented.  That way, they can have exclusive rights to the ingredients in order to make them prescription only, which means 3000% mark up or more.

We must act now and let the FDA and our Congresspeople know about our concerns. We must convince them that the FDA's new definition of NDI is too broad and that the approval process is so burdensome as to threaten the entire supplement industry – an industry we and our families depend upon for our health. The Alliance for Natural Health has an online petition you can send directly to the FDA, your Senators, and your Representative. I urge you to speak up, and to encourage your friends to speak up as well.  Don’t let the corruption in Washington take away your right to affordable supplements that nourish your health.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Child Labor and Cocoa Farming

Are you aware that the chocolate you eat may be the product of child slavery?  At least seventy percent of the world’s chocolate supply originates in West Africa, with the Ivory Coast and Ghana as leading producers. A shocking report in 2001 called “A Taste of Slavery” exposed a world in which boys as young as 12 were forced to work 13-hour work days on cacao plantations in the Ivory Coast, enduring malnutrition, beatings, and psychological abuse. 

The easiest way to make a difference?  Vote with your purchases.   The major chocolate companies – Hershey, Kraft, and Nestle – do not have fair trade certification, which includes strict policies that monitor and prohibit child labor.  These certifications also ensure that suppliers earn an appropriate fair wage. Look for fair-trade chocolates made by Alter Eco, Coco-Zen, Divine, Equal Exchange, Sjaak’s, Sweet Earth Organic, and Theo Chocolate. All of these chocolates are organic, too! An added benefit of buying chocolate from companies that support fair trade is that they tend to be more health-conscious, socially responsible, and environmentally friendly. Alter Eco’s products are made using sustainable farming methods, for example, and 45% of Divine is actually owned by the cacao farmers themselves.

To take further action, write to your congresspeople and encourage them to make sure the International Cocoa Initiative implements ethical labor practices. You can also write to the major chocolate companies and urge them to adopt third-party certification for their cocoa. Green American magazine provides a form on their website that you can email directly to Hershey.

By shifting our focus as consumers to companies that promote social responsibility instead of ignore it, we can have an impact on ending child labor.

Updated on December 18, 2012 to add:  

Hershey has recently pledged to source 100% third-party certified cocoa by 2020. The company has also announced plans to spend $10 million on solving child labor problems in West Africa.

Korfhage, Andrew: “Valentine Chocolates Tainted by Child Labor.” Green American, January-February 2011
Raghavan, Sudarsan and Sumana Chatterjee: “A Taste of Slavery.” Knight Ridder newspapers, June 24, 2001.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Cell Phones and Brain Cancer

Three alarming studies conducted in the past two years show undeniable evidence that cell phone usage is linked to increased chances of developing brain cancer. Scientists in the Netherlands discovered that exposing certain deciduous trees to radio-frequency radiation (such as that emitted by cell phones and wireless internet) resulted in “various forms of tissue death” including bark fissures and leaf discoloration.

Oncology and neurology experts are now warning that using a cell phone for ten years or more raises your risk for brain tumors 10-30%, and President Obama’s Cancer Panel report stated in 2010 that increasing cell phone use is of “great concern,” and that more safety studies are “urgently needed.” Dr. Devra Davis, a senior advisor in the US Department of Health and Human Services, recently authored a book entitled Disconnect, which urges us to be more cautious about cell phone use. Some are predicting the book will do for cell phone use what Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring did for DDT. Dr. Davis also points to studies that show that sperm exposed to cell phone radiation dies four times faster: a good reason for men to avoid keeping their phones in their front pockets.

With five billion cell phones in use worldwide and telecom companies reluctant to admit their products are causing us any danger, it’s up to us as individuals to reduce our risk.  Here are steps you can take to protect yourself from radio-frequency radiation:

  • Always use a hands-free headset or the speakerphone when talking on your cell phone.
  • Keep the phone off of your body, meaning not in your pocket, and not in a holster on your belt.
  • Text when you can, instead of talking, because holding the phone away from your head exposes you to less radiation.
  • Turn your phone off or put it in “airplane mode” when not in use because when the phone is searching for or receiving a signal, it’s emitting radiation.
  • At home, use phones with cords rather than cordless phones: cordless phones and their charging stations also emit radiation.
  • Use a low-radiation cell phone. Go to the FCC's website to find out the specific absorbency rate (SAR) of your phone, or visit the Environmental Working Group’s database.
  • Keep your wireless internet modem in a part of your house that has little traffic. The bedroom is not a good place for the wireless modem.
  • Don’t let children play with cell phones. If they are using them to play a game, make sure the phone is set to “airplane mode.”
  • Older children who have cell phones should be educated on the ways they can reduce radiation exposure.


Davis, Devra. Disconnect. New York: Dutton, 2010.
Khurana, Vini G., Charles Teo, Michael Kundi, Lennart Hardell, and Michael Carlberg. “Cell Phones and Brain Tumors: A Review Including the Long-Term Epidemiologic Data.” Surgical Neurology, March 31, 2009
Myung, Seung-Kwon, Woong Ju, Diana D. McDonnell, Yeon Ji Lee, Gene Kazinets, Chih-Tao Cheng, and Joel M. Moskowitz. “Mobile Phone Use and Risk of Tumors: A Meta-Analysis.Journal of Clinical Oncology, November 20, 2009
Rysavy, Tracy Fernandez. “Danger Calling?” Green American, January / February 2011
Shoemaker, Rene. “Wifi Makes Trees Sick, Study Says.PC World, November 19, 2010

Monday, March 7, 2011

Food Rights and GMOs

Modern medicine is an interesting juxtaposition of brilliant scientific research vicariously mixed with big pharma/chemistry for profit.  The very nature of natural medicine is that the ingredients cannot be patented, commandeered to be exclusive ingredient horses.

It is very frightening that multinational companies, such as Monsanto, DuPont, and Syngenta, are constantly pushing the boundaries on their relentless efforts to patent the DNA of food – in other words, the DNA of life! Their exclusive rights to Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs, literally reverse engineer their original purpose, which was to improve yield and simplify production.  Instead, they break the very cycle of life by creating seeds that germinate one time only, so the farmer must continually purchase seed and cannot do his own seed saving. In addition, the companies that hold the patents prevent or restrict independent researchers from testing the seeds and examining their long-term effects, with devastating consequences.   BT (bacterio-toxic) corn, which was created to be poisonous to insect pests, is linked the Colony Collapse Disorder that has been wiping out honeybees all across the nation.

Regulatory boards like the FDA and USDA are in place to protect us, the consumers.  However, the Bush administration installed leaders who had ties to Monsanto and other such corporations. President Obama has been systematically replacing the leaders of the regulatory boards with science-based leaders. Since the midterm elections, the regulatory boards have been much more lax: planting of genetically-modified alfalfa has been approved, and it looks like GM salmon will be next. To my disappointment, it seems Washington has given up promoting our food rights for its centrist efforts.

How then can we change this fundamental driving force for medicine and pure, unaltered food?  Is it not that food rights are so basic to life that they should be protected from profits? What are your thoughts?

There are two great documentary films that cover genetically modified food and the American food industry as a whole: Food Inc and The Future of Food. Both are available on DVD.

Other references include:

Eastabrook, Barry. “Feds on GMO Labeling: Don’t Tell, Don’t Ask.” The Atlantic, April 26, 2010
Gurian-Sherman, Doug. “No Seeds, No Independent Research.” The Los Angeles Times, February 13, 2011
Judis, John B. “Obama’s Quiet Revolution.” The Utne Reader, July-August 2010
Lean, Geoffrey, Volker Angres and Louise Jury. “GM Genes Can Spread to People and Animals.” The Independent (UK), May 28, 2000
Pollack, Andrew.  “Genetically Modified Salmon Gets Closer to Table.” The New York Times, June 25, 2010
Pollack, Andrew. “U.S. Approves Genetically Modified Alfalfa.” The New York Times, January 27, 2011
Smith, Jeffrey M. Seeds of Deception. Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction, VT,2003