FDA Approves Nextstellis (drospirenone and estetrol) Oral Contraceptive for Birth Control – Health News
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FDA Approves Nextstellis (drospirenone and estetrol) Oral Contraceptive for Birth Control

FDA Approves Nextstellis (drospirenone and estetrol) Oral Contraceptive for Birth Control 15 April 2021, Adelaide, Australia and Liege, Belgium: Mayne Pharma Group Limited (ASX: MYX) and Mithra Pharmaceuticals, SA (Euronext Brussels: MITRA) are very pleased to announce that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the New Drug Application (NDA) for the novel […]

FDA Approves Nextstellis (drospirenone and estetrol) Oral Contraceptive for Birth Control

15 April 2021, Adelaide, Australia and Liege, Belgium: Mayne Pharma Group Limited (ASX: MYX) and Mithra Pharmaceuticals, SA (Euronext Brussels: MITRA) are very pleased to announce that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the New Drug Application (NDA) for the novel combined oral contraceptive Estelle® under the trademark Nextstellis® (15 mg Estetrol (E4) / 3 mg drospirenone (DRSP)). Mayne Pharma anticipates the commercial launch of Estelle® by the end of June 2021.

Developed by Mithra, Estelle® is the first and only contraceptive pill containing estetrol, a native estrogen, now produced from a plant source. Estetrol is the first new estrogen introduced in the US in more than 50 years.

Nearly 10 million American women use short-acting combination (estrogen and progestin) contraceptives. The US market for combined hormonal contraceptives generated US $ 3.6 billion (around EUR 3 billion) in sales according to IQVIA for the 12-month period ending January 20211 .

Mitchell Creinin, Professor and Director of Family Planning at the University of California said “When speaking with patients about their contraceptive options, one of the most common concerns is side effects. Nextstellis® is a new innovative contraceptive that has been shown in clinical trials to be not only safe and effective but also well tolerated with a desirable bleeding profile and a minimal impact on triglycerides, cholesterol and glucose, as well as weight, and endocrine markers.”

Mayne Pharma’s CEO, Scott Richards said “The approval of Nextstellis® represents an important milestone, providing women with a new choice for their reproductive health. We are delighted to be introducing a new estrogen and bringing to market this novel, safe and effective option for women to consider with their healthcare providers.”

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As a result of receiving FDA approval for Estelle®, Mayne Pharma will pay Mithra USD 11 million (around EUR 9.2 million) in cash and issue 85.8 million ordinary Mayne Pharma shares. Mithra is also entitled to a Mayne Pharma Board position. The new appointment will be subject to shareholder approval at the next Annual General Meeting in November 2021.

Mithra’s CEO, Leon Van Rompay said “We are very proud that our teams achieved this important milestone for the commercialisation of Estelle® in the world’s largest pharmaceutical market. We look forward to working closely with our partner Mayne Pharma to make this commercial launch a success. The approval of Estelle® represents a huge achievement for a biotech company such as Mithra and all the teams who made this ambitious project come to fruition. This is a critical step in Mithra’s journey to bring innovative medicines to the US women’s health market. We believe the approval of Estelle® represents a new era in contraception and demonstrates the potential of our Estetrol portfolio.”

1 IQVIA, MAT Sales January 2021

About Estelle® / Nextstellis® 

Developed by Mithra, Estelle® / Nextstellis® is a novel patent protected combined oral contraceptive pill containing 3 mg drospirenone (DRSP) and 15 mg estetrol (E4). E4 is a naturally produced estrogen during pregnancy, which can now be made from a plant source. In two phase 3 clinical studies conducted in 3,725 women, Estelle® was shown to be both safe and effective and met its primary efficacy endpoint of pregnancy prevention. It also delivered excellent results on a variety of secondary endpoints that demonstrated outstanding cycle control, bleeding control, safety, and tolerability. Mithra has signed 15 licensing deals for Estelle® / Nextstellis® with a number of leading women’s health companies covering more than 100 countries in the world.

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About Mayne Pharma

Mayne Pharma is an ASX-listed specialty pharmaceutical company focused on applying its drug delivery expertise to commercialise branded and generic pharmaceuticals, offering patients better, safe and more accessible medicines. Mayne Pharma also provides contract development and manufacturing services to more than 100 clients worldwide. Mayne Pharma has a 40-year track record of innovation and success in developing new oral drug delivery systems and these technologies have been successfully commercialised in numerous products that continue to be marketed around the world. Mayne Pharma has two facilities based in Salisbury, Australia and Greenville, USA with expertise in the formulation of complex oral and topical dose forms including potent compounds, modified-release products and poorly soluble compounds.

About Mithra

Mithra (Euronext: MITRA) is a Belgian biotech company dedicated to transforming Women’s Health by offering new choices through innovation, with a particular focus on contraception and menopause. Mithra’s goal is to develop products offering better efficacy, safety and convenience, meeting women’s needs throughout their life span. Mithra explores the potential of the unique native estrogen Estetrol in a wide range of applications in women health and beyond (Covid-19, neuroprotection…). Mithra also develops and manufactures complex therapeutics in the areas of contraception, menopause and hormone-dependent cancers. It offers partners a complete spectrum of research, development and specialist manufacturing at its technological platform Mithra CDMO. Active in more than 100 countries around the world, Mithra has an approximate headcount of 300 staff members and is headquartered in Liège, Belgium.

Important information The contents of this announcement include statements that are, or may be deemed to be, “forward-looking statements”. These forward-looking statements can be identified by the use of forward-looking terminology, including the words “believes”, “estimates,” “anticipates”, “expects”, “intends”, “may”, “will”, “plans”, “continue”, “ongoing”, “potential”, “predict”, “project”, “target”, “seek” or “should”, and include statements the Company makes concerning the intended results of its strategy. By their nature, forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties and readers are cautioned that any such forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance. The Company’s actual results may differ materially from those predicted by the forward-looking statements. The Company undertakes no obligation to publicly update or revise forward-looking statements, except as may be required by law.

Source: Mithra

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Nextstellis (drospirenone and estetrol) FDA Approval History

Drugs.com – New Drug Approvals

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Are Baby Carrots as Good for You as Full Size?

Editor’s Note: This article is a reprint. It was originally published February 4, 2017. Carrots, and especially baby carrots, are a popular snack in the U.S., for adults and children alike. Parents use the bite-sized, sweet treats in children’s lunches to boost the nutrient value of their mid-day meal. They are easy to dip, snack […]

Editor’s Note: This article is a reprint. It was originally published February 4, 2017.

Carrots, and especially baby carrots, are a popular snack in the U.S., for adults and children alike. Parents use the bite-sized, sweet treats in children’s lunches to boost the nutrient value of their mid-day meal. They are easy to dip, snack on and require little to no preparation.

Baby carrots today are a breed apart from the original product, which were peeled and reshaped from broken or misshapen larger carrots. California carrot farmer Mike Yurosek was the entrepreneur in the 1980s who reshaped the way you think about carrots.1

As Yurosek’s method of peeling and reshaping has evolved over the years, the popularity of the product has grown. Today, farmers produce hybrid carrots designed to meet the needs of the consumer who wants a fresh out-of-the-bag snack without the hassle of peeling and cleaning. But, does all that convenience come at a price?

Do Small Size Carrots Have Full-Size Nutrients?

Baby carrots appeal to many, as they both taste good and deliver an additional nutritional punch to a diet potentially high in processed foods. Carrots are a root vegetable that are commonly orange in color. Purple, black, red, white and yellow varieties have also been developed, although not as baby carrots.

The current 2-inch carrots are cut from a special variety of plant that grows slim and remains tender.2 The ends of the carrots, or broken pieces, are now used for juicing or are processed into cattle feed.

The carrots used for baby carrots are grown in close proximity, to encourage the root to grow deep and slender, as well as being harvested approximately 40 to 60 days earlier than full grown variety.3

Baby carrots are also not peeled as they once were. Instead, the carrots are shaped from small, slender carrots that don’t have the characteristic lighter colored core, and then are buffed and polished in a tumble drum.4

According to a comparison between baby carrots5 and full-sized carrots6 in the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release, baby carrots have slightly more water and slightly fewer calories.

They each have approximately the same amount of sugar, but baby carrots have less iron, phosphorus and magnesium. Comparing 100 grams of each type of carrot, baby carrots also carry less vitamin A and vitamin C, but significantly more folate than the larger variety.

Although the nutrient value between the two types of carrots is not equal, this may be offset if you are more tempted to eat a greater number of baby carrots than you are the larger, thicker variety.

Benefits of Carrots and Beta-Carotene

In this short video, I briefly go over the role and importance of antioxidants to your health. Carrots are a potent source of antioxidants in your diet, including lycopene, beta-carotene and vitamin A. Half a cup of chopped carrots, whether the larger or smaller baby carrot, contains over 200% of the average daily recommended amount of vitamin A.

The high vitamin A content comes from beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in your liver. Beta-carotene is also a strong antioxidant, effective against free radicals and reducing oxidative stress. By developing a habit of including carrots in your daily diet, you will enjoy some important health benefits.

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Cancer — Antioxidants in carrots may play a role in cancer prevention. Research has demonstrated smokers who eat carrots more than once a week have a lower risk of lung cancer,7 while a beta-carotene-rich diet may also protect against prostate cancer.8,9

Further research demonstrates the association between beta-carotene and a lower risk of colon cancer,10 a positive effect against leukemia11 and reduced risk of gastric cancer.12 A natural toxin carrots use against fungal disease, falcarinol, may stimulate cancer-fighting mechanisms in your body, and has demonstrated the ability to reduce the risk of tumors in rats.13

Vision — Vitamin A deficiency may cause your eye’s photoreceptors to deteriorate, leading to vision problems. Eating foods rich in beta-carotene may restore vision,14 lending truth to the old adage that carrots are good for your eyes.

Carrots may reduce your risk of age-related macular degeneration15 and the incidence of cataracts.16 Additionally, research shows women may reduce their risk of glaucoma by 64% by consuming more than two servings of carrots per week.17

Heart health — Fruits and vegetables that are deep orange in color are associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). Carrots are associated with a 32% lower risk of CHD18 and have been associated with a lower risk of heart attacks in women.19

Metabolic syndrome — Beta-carotene and lycopene, two carotenoids found in carrots, have been associated with a lower incidence of metabolic syndrome in middle aged men.20 Metabolic syndrome is associated with heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

Skin — Orange-red vegetables, rich in beta-carotene, may help prevent cell damage and premature skin aging.

People who suffer from leukoplakia, white lesions found in the mouth and tongue of people exposed to years of smoking or alcohol consumption, and who took a beta-carotene supplement experienced fewer symptoms.21

Researchers have also found people who suffer from scleroderma, a connective tissue disorder causing hardening of the skin, had low levels of beta-carotene.22

Oral health — Carrots may help reduce the number of cavities you get and help keep your teeth clean. Saliva is an alkaline substance, helping to reduce bacteria and plaque production on your teeth. Eating carrots helps to increase your production of saliva and stimulates your gums.23

Brain health — Carrot extract has demonstrated a positive effect on the management of cognitive dysfunction.24 Eating a high number of root vegetables, such as carrots, reduce cognitive decline in middle-aged men and women.25

Liver function — Carrot extract may also help protect your liver from environmental toxins.26 The hepatoprotective benefits of carrots are experienced with both the vegetable and the extract.27

Antiaging effects — Antioxidants help to ward off the damage caused by free radicals, and are a strong antiaging force. Carrots are a valuable source of these antioxidants.28

Anti-inflammatory — The anti-inflammatory properties in carrots are significant even when compared to anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen.29

Cutting Carrots May Enhance the Nutrient Value

Since baby carrots are buffed, removing the outer protective layer, they require refrigeration to extend their shelf life. Even in the refrigerator, they may start to spoil within 30 days of picking and processing. Many of the health benefits of carrots come from their strong antioxidant activity, which may be enhanced through cooking or cutting the vegetable.

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Plants have a rudimentary form of communication and a means of protection. In one study, researchers discovered when a tobacco plant was attacked by a specific insect, the plant released a compound that attracted the insect’s predator, thus protecting itself.30 This same process of chemical change may increase the antioxidant concentration in a carrot after it has been cut.

Both humans and plants use antioxidants to limit the damaging effects of oxidative reactions and stress in cells. Oxidative stress may predispose you to diseases, such as heart disease and cancer. Plant-based phenolic antioxidants may reduce the risk of developing these conditions.31 Some of the phenolic antioxidants produced by plants appear in blood plasma and tissue, which may improve the function of these antioxidants in your body.

Studies suggest that wounding a carrot by cutting or shredding will increase the production of antioxidants in the plant. Author of one study, Luis Cisneros-Zevallos, Ph.D., director of the Plant Bioactives & Bioprocessing Research Lab at Texas A&M University, commented:32

“Wounding fresh produce sends a signal to the cells, which perceive that as if they were under attack or facing adverse conditions. As a result, oxidative stress increases in the cell and they start synthesizing antioxidant molecules to protect the cell from that stress.”

Researchers found the more the plant was wounded or stressed, the greater the antioxidant production at the cellular level.33 The higher the intensity of the damage, the longer the plant produced antioxidants, measured over four days during the study, making carrots rich sources of phenolic antioxidant compounds.

Cooking Your Carrots May Release More Carotenoids

Cooking carrots may also increase the level of beta-carotene and phenolic acids produced by the carrot. Since raw carrots have a tough cell wall, less than 25% of the beta-carotene in carrots is able to be converted into vitamin A.34 During cooking the cellulose walls are dissolved, freeing up nutrients. An increase in total carotenoids available after steam blanching have been demonstrated. When dehydrated, the carotenoids are protected but do not increase.

Another study evaluating the effects of boiling, steaming and frying on carotenoids in vegetables, found steamed vegetables kept the best texture quality, but all three means of cooking demonstrated an overall increase in values.35 Just resist the urge to cut your carrots before cooking to make more antioxidants available for absorption.

Baby Carrots Take a Chlorine Bath

Part of the process baby carrots undergo before reaching the grocery store is a chlorine bath. The largest carrot farm, Grimmway Farms, reports that chlorine is used on all their baby carrots to prevent food poisoning.36 After their chlorine wash they are rinsed, packaged and shipped.

Chlorine is also used to extend the shelf life of the baby carrots.37 As baby carrots begin to age they develop a white appearance on the outer layer. This doesn’t affect the nutrient value of the carrots, but does impact how appetizing they appear. Buffing and processing baby carrots increase the rate at which the carrots begin deteriorating and develop a white blush on the exterior caused from drying out.38

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The rate at which this white coating appears will depend upon the condition of the carrots before processing, the amount of abrasiveness of the processing and the humidity levels during storage. Chlorine, used to clean and preserve the carrots, is a common chemical found in your water supply, pesticides, paper and plastics. In the last 30 years, a growing body of evidence has suggested that chlorine and by-products trigger significant negative health conditions.

Although the amount of chlorine in baby carrots is minute, it is added to your overall toxic burden from other sources. It isn’t the chlorine that causes the problems, but rather the disinfection byproducts (DBPs) produced when chlorine interacts with organic matter. These byproducts are far more toxic than the chlorine, including trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids. In this instance, the term organic is used to mean a compound that is carbon-based.

This means these byproducts are produced in all carrots, whether toxic pesticides were used in the growing process or not. Long-term risks of exposure to DBPs include excessive free radical formation, which accelerates aging and vulnerability to gene mutation and cancer. More than 600 DBPs have been discovered, some of which are linked to liver malfunction, arteriosclerotic damage and neurodegenerative changes.39

Scientists are only beginning to understand the long- and short-term impact of chlorine-based chemicals. The healthiest option is to buy whole, unprocessed carrots — ideally organic — then wash, peel and cut them yourself.

Create a Super Trio

Here are three excerpts from studies showing how ginger, turmeric and carrots — three superfoods — were effective in both treatment and prevention of several cancers:

Ginger — “Although the medicinal properties of ginger have been known for thousands of years, a significant number of in vitro, in vivo, and epidemiological studies further provide substantial evidence that ginger and its active compounds are effective against wide variety of human diseases including GI [gastrointestinal] cancer.

Ginger has been found to be effective against various GI cancers such as gastric cancer, pancreatic cancer, liver cancer, colorectal cancer and cholangiocarcinoma.”40

Turmeric — “Curcumin is among the more successful chemopreventive compounds investigated in recent years, and is currently in human trials to prevent cancer. The mechanism of action of curcumin is complex and likely multifactorial. We have made the unexpected observation that curcumin strikingly modulates proteins of iron metabolism in cells and in tissues, suggesting that curcumin has properties of an iron chelator.”41

Carrots — This study has shown that extracts from carrots can induce apoptosis and cause cell cycle arrest in leukemia cell lines.42

Get all three of these powerful antioxidants in one delicious dish: Steam a few cups of carrots in a few tablespoons of water, just until tender-crisp. Add a few teaspoons of butter, sea salt to taste and a half-teaspoon each of grated turmeric and ginger (or half that amount of the ground variety). To serve, mash lightly or serve whole for a wildly healthy, delicious side dish.

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Just How Far Will the FDA Go to Protect a Bad Drug?

In yesterday’s article, I reviewed the immensely concerning data that emerged throughout the SSRI antidepressant trials. Sadly, rather than this data being listened to, it was given a pass by the FDA, a pattern we have tragically seen occur with numerous highly lucrative pharmaceuticals. In my eyes, three things stand out about the SSRI saga.

The first is that numerous whistleblowers came forward and provided clear proof of exactly how this corruption transpired. The second is that the corruption reached the highest levels of government.

The third is that the FDA went to incredible lengths to protect the SSRIs, something many of us would not believe could be possible had we not just witnessed it throughout COVID-19.

Note: One of the greatest issues with the SSRIs is how addictive the drugs are (stopping them can cause severe withdrawals which are highly damaging to the nervous system and sometimes precipitate violent psychosis). If you are considering stopping them, I strongly recommend working with a health professional who is experienced in this regard.

For those who do not have access to one, I compiled a detailed summary of how to safely withdraw from them here (in the second half of this article).

John Virapen

It is exceedingly rare for a pharmaceutical executive to speak out against their industry (as doing so will permanently blacklist them from being hired again). In turn, the only ones I know of (besides an executive I’ve privately corresponded with) are Peter Rost and John Virapen, both of whom found themselves in very unique circumstances which enabled and compelled them to speak out against their industry and disclose the sociopathic behavior they observed within it.

Note: Rost’s story, along with similar accounts from the other Pfizer whistleblowers can be found in this article and this article.

One of the pharmaceutical executives directly involved in obtaining the approval for the original SSRI antidepressant, Prozac, developed a great deal of guilt for what he was complicit in once a large number of SSRI-linked deaths occurred. In turn, after he was unjustly fired, John Virapen chose to speak out.

Virapen chronicled those events in “Side Effects: Death — Confessions of a Pharma Insider.” These included outrageous acts of bribery to get his drugs approved, and photographing physicians with prostitutes provided by Eli Lilly so that they could be blackmailed into prescribing Lilly’s drugs. For those interested, this is a brief talk that Virapen gave about his experiences. I greatly appreciate the fact he used candid language rather than the euphemisms almost everyone else does:

At the start of the saga, Lilly’s senior management knew Prozac was garbage and wanted to shelve the drug, but since Lilly in dire financial straits they decided to go all in on the approval of Prozac in the hope it could save the company. Prozac, in turn, had initially been proposed as a treatment for weight loss (as this side effect of Prozac had been observed in treatment subjects).

However, Lilly ultimately concluded (as explained above) it would be much easier to create the illusion Prozac treated “depression” and then get a post-marketing approval for the treatment of weight loss.

As Prozac took off, it became clear that depression was a much better market, and the obesity aspect was forgotten. Lilly then used a common industry tactic and worked tirelessly to expand the definition of depression so that everyone could become eligible for the drug and aggressively marketed this need for happiness to the public, before long, transforming depression from a rare to a common one.

Unfortunately, while the marketing machine had no difficulties creating a demand for Prozac, the initial clinical trial data made it abundantly clear that the first SSRI, Prozac, was dangerous and ineffective. Lilly settled on the strategy of obtaining regulatory approval in Sweden, and using this approval as a precedent to obtain approval in other countries.

Virapen was assigned to this task and told by his superiors that if he failed, his career was over. Virapen, unfortunately, discovered that whenever he provided Lilly’s clinical trial data to experts, they laughed and had trouble believing he was actually seeking regulatory approval as Prozac’s trial data was just that bad.

Sweden (following their regulatory procedures) elected to allow an outside independent expert to make the final determination on whether Prozac should be approved or not. The identity of this expert witness was concealed, but Virapen was able to determine that it was Anders Forsman, a forensic psychiatrist and member of the legal council on the Swedish National Board of Health.

After meeting with Virapen, Forsman proposed an untraceable bribe. Then, upon receiving payment, wrote a glowing letter in support of Prozac, fully reversing his previous position (he had ridiculed it just two weeks before) and guided Virapen through re-writing the trial to conceal the 5 attempted (4 of which were successful) SSRI suicides in it.

Forsman’s “expert” opinion resulted in Prozac being partially approved and formally priced for reimbursement in Sweden, which was then used as a precedent to market it around the world at that same lucrative price.

Note: After leaving Lilly, Virapen tried to have Forsman prosecuted for bribery. Despite the chairman for the Institute against Bribery submitting a report to the Department of Justice affirming bribery had indeed occurred, Forsman (who repeatedly lied throughout the process) was not prosecuted because he was not an official employee of the agency. Forsman in turn was allowed to continue his professional career and was employed by the state long after the investigation ended.

Virapen noted that during this time, German drug regulators who had clearly and unambiguously stated that Prozac was “totally unsuitable for the treatment of depression” suddenly reversed their position, leading Virapen to suspect that similar under-the-table activity must have occurred in Germany.

David Healey, a doctor and director of the North Wales School of psychological medicine, likewise concluded that the German approval was due to “unorthodox lobbying methods exercised on independent members of the regulatory authorities.”

Note: A key reason why the German regulators initially refused to approve Prozac was because the specific criteria used for determining an improvement in depression was highly subjective and the benefit was only being reported by the trial psychiatrists but not the participants themselves.

Not long after saving Eli Lilly, Virapen was fired. Virapen believes he was fired because he was a man of color in an otherwise Caucasian company (he was told this by his supervisor).

Peter Gøtzsche, a leading expert in pharmaceutical research fraud, on the other hand, attributed this to typical organized crime tactics where Lilly sought to conceal their illegal activity by firing Virapen and his two assistants (as immediately after their abrupt termination, none of them were permitted to access their offices, and thus could not obtain any of the files that proved that they had bribed Forsman).

In short, given how horrendous the data supporting their safety and efficacy was, you must be wondering how the SSRIs made it through the regulatory approval process.

George H.W. Bush

There is a lot of dark history to the Bush family. The Bush dynasty was founded by Prescott Bush, who built his family fortune by collaborating with the Nazis directly against the wishes of the U.S. government (The Guardian, for example, confirms it here).

His son, George H.W. Bush had the unique accomplishment of being the only CIA chief to later become president, and during his brief tenure there was responsible for numerous crimes against humanity in South America. After leaving the CIA once Carter became president, Bush (senior) served as a board member for Eli Lilly.

He then joined the Reagan Administration as Vice President, where he helped to push through the catastrophic decision for the FDA to approve aspartame for consumer use (aspartame was so dangerous even the FDA did not want to approve it). After succeeding Ronald Reagan as President, Bush chose Dan Quayle as his Vice President:

“In Talking Back to Prozac (1994), I pointed out that Prozac was approved under the first Bush administration and that George Bush had been a member of the board of directors of Eli Lilly, the manufacturer of Prozac. I also pointed out that Vice President Dan Quayle was from Indiana, the home state and international headquarters for Eli Lilly.

At the time the FDA was approving Prozac, Quayle employed former Eli Lilly personnel on his own staff, and Quayle had considerable leverage over the FDA as the chair of a special committee that was investigating its operations.

I questioned whether the FDA might have rejected Prozac and that the entire SSRI onslaught might never have gotten started if the president and vice president of the United States had not been so closely affiliated with Eli Lilly.”

Bush’s son, President George W. Bush likewise followed in his father’s footsteps and appointed Eli Lilly executives to senior positions within his administration. In fact, he even inserted a provision into the Patriot Act to exempt vaccine manufacturers, including Eli Lilly, from liability for thimerosal (Mercury) within vaccinations.

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In short, Bush profoundly changed the FDA’s regulatory conduct. Consider this example shared by John Virapen that occurred a few years before Bush became president. In 1980, Eli Lilly applied for the approval of benoxaprofen, and aggressively promoted this new blockbuster medication.

Not long after being approved, in 1982, benoxaprofen was taken off the market after being linked to a small number of deaths, and Eli Lilly underwent a lengthy investigation conducted by the Justice Department, where it was concluded that Lilly intentionally covered up the deaths caused by their drug. Benoxaprofen is banned, but nothing remotely similar has been done for the SSRIs.

SSRIs and the FDA

The FDA’s treatment of the SSRIs is one of the only instances I know of, where, like the COVID vaccines, the agency has not only ignored, but actively tried to conceal a horrific number of adverse events for a pharmaceutical despite receiving widespread protest from the public. This was most likely heavily influenced by the Bush Administration being in bed with Eli Lilly.

As such, it is insightful to see how this has played out over decades, as we ponder how the FDA will handle the COVID vaccines and what we need to do to address this mess. First, consider the FDA’s behavior when Bush was not yet the president:

Initially, the FDA was skeptical and noted serious flaws in Lilly’s trials. An FDA officer wrote in 1984 that patients who didn’t do well after two weeks had their blinding broken, and if they were on placebo, they were switched to fluoxetine (resulting in six weeks of fluoxetine being compared to two weeks on placebo).

An FDA review also discovered that 25% of the patients had taken an additional drug, and when the FDA in 1985 removed patients on other drugs from Lilly’s trials, there was no significant effect of fluoxetine.

By adding benzodiazepines, Lilly broke the rules for its trials but didn’t inform the FDA, and when the FDA later learned about it, the agency permitted it and thereby broke its own rules. The public and the doctors were never informed about this ruse.”

Prozac was ultimately approved in December 1987, at which point 3 of the 4 studies that this approval was based upon used benzodiazepines to conceal the agitating or psychotic syndromes created by the SSRI drugs.

Note: A good case can be made that many of the benefits attributed to SSRIs actually were due to the benzodiazepines that were used concurrently with them.

Once Prozac entered the market in 1988, adverse event reports began to accumulate, and by 1991, Prozac had one of the highest rates of adverse events ever reported to FAERS (similar to VAERS but for other pharmaceutical injuries).

As there was less regulatory capture at the time, these red flags were sufficient to convene a Congressional hearing on the SSRIs (whereas today, except for one held a month ago by Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, this still has not happened for the COVID-19 vaccines).

Note: In the first nine years, the FDA received 39,000 adverse event reports, far more than for any other drug. In those, there were thousands of suicides (e.g., by 1999 over 2000 Prozac suicides had been reported), horrendous crimes, hostility, psychoses, confusion, abnormal thinking, convulsions, amnesia and sexual dysfunction.

A 1991 FDA hearing was convened where many witnesses told stories about out-of-character suicides and homicides. The advisory committee members, many of whom had financial ties to pharmaceutical companies producing SSRIs, ignored those reports and unanimously rejected the following proposal:

“There is credible evidence to support a conclusion that antidepressant drugs cause the emergence and/or the intensification of suicidality and/or other violent behaviors.”

Note: Internal Lilly documents revealed that the FDA had already been working with Lilly on the suicide issue (and that previously Lilly had disclosed to German regulators that Prozac doubled the risk of suicide compared to placebo). However, at the meeting, the chair of the FDA committee interrupted an outside expert who tried to share this, resulting in most of the presentation being conducted by Lilly employees who were able to present Lilly’s narrative to everyone).

Similarly, at the time this hearing occurred, the FDA’s own employees had been raising concerns about the safety of Prozac. Furthermore, a later obtained document showed that the FDA knew that the suicide rate on Prozac was 0.52% (vs. 0.18% on placebo), and that in Pfizer’s Zoloft submission (which reported a 26% decrease in suicide attempts), when the FDA counted the deaths correctly, there was actually a 29% increase in them.

Sadly, buying out “expert” committees is a standard industry practice. To further illustrate the illegitimacy of these committees (who are entrusted to decide much of public policy), consider this report from Kim Witczak, a citizen activist who was able be appointed to one of them:

“Fast forward, after Pfizer settled the Chantix lawsuits Pfizer went to the FDA to ask to have the black box neuropsychiatric warning removed from their drug label. By this time, I was the Consumer Representative on the FDA Psychopharmacologic Drugs Advisory Committee.

We were going to review Pfizer’s new EAGLE study. I was really looking forward to being part of this committee and had many questions to ask about the safety, the lawsuits, the internal company documents discovered and reviewed by experts, and most importantly, the victims.

After all, Pfizer just settled the lawsuits for almost $ 300 million and silenced everyone. One would think the FDA committee would want to have all information including what was discovered in lawsuits involving 2700+ victims before making any decisions to remove the warnings.

A few days before the FDA Advisory Committee, I received an email from the FDA that they wanted to talk with me about the upcoming advisory committee meeting. Someone (cough Pfizer) brought it to their attention that I had an “intellectual bias” and shouldn’t serve on the committee.

The roomful of FDA staffers told me that I was being recused from serving on this meeting. I told them if they think safety is an intellectual bias (or a point of view), I will always have one.

Much to their surprise, I said I would still like to address the committee and speak during the open public hearing. I ended up flying out a few days later on my own time and dime to make sure my comments and questions were asked even though they wouldn’t be part of the official public record of this meeting.

Ultimately, in an unprecedented move, the FDA removed this serious black box warning that involved violence, hallucinations, suicide, and other psychiatric side effects. To this day, this story has never really been told by the media. These side effects didn’t suddenly go away. Just the FDA black box warnings.”

As detailed above, lawsuits against SSRI manufacturers like Lilly have repeatedly revealed those companies deliberately concealed the adverse events that occurred in their trials. Similarly, Lilly also chose to commit fraud by illegally failing to report 76 of 97 cases of suicidality from Prozac in a post-marketing surveillance study it submitted to the FDA.

Furthermore, Lilly also failed to report that, Cymbalta, an SNRI frequently marketed for treating chronic pain, was found to cause severe withdrawals once discontinued in half of those who had received it for at least 8 weeks. In turn, in the first quarter of 2012, more reports were submitted to the FDA on serious drug withdrawal effects for Cymbalta than for any other regularly monitored drug, including two opioids.

Note: Paxil is also notorious for being highly addictive (e.g., in their original license application they stated 30% of trial subjects experienced withdrawals), but for the first ten years it was on the market, GSK adamantly claimed it was not addictive. Eventually (in 2001) the WHO stated Paxil had the greatest withdrawal issues of any SSRI on the market (which was followed by a warning from the FDA in 2002).

GSK in turn finally “admitted” this by revising its prescribing instructions to state the risk of withdrawals was not 0.2% but instead 25% (a 125 fold increase).

Organized Cover-Ups

One of the most blatant examples of how far the FDA will go to protect the industry occurred in 2003, when while examining a clinical trial for giving Paxil to children, the FDA noticed that more episodes of “emotional lability” (rapid, often exaggerated changes in mood) were reported in children on Paxil than those on a placebo.

The FDA decided to investigate what the actual symptom Paxil’s manufacturer was concealing behind this label, and was informed most cases referred to suicidality. One of the FDA’s safety officers, Andrew Mosholder, a child psychiatrist, further investigated this issue and concluded that 22 studies showed that children given antidepressants were nearly twice as likely to become suicidal as those given placebos.

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His superiors at the FDA who had recently hidden Paxil’s tendency to cause suicidality in children predictably disputed his report, and did not allow it to be released to the public or presented at an advisory meeting. A year later in 2004, the report was leaked, and in a very telling move, the FDA chose to conduct a criminal investigation of the leak rather than address the clear safety concerns it had raised.

Kim Witczak spearheaded many different initiatives against the SSRIs. For example, she filed a wrongful death, failure to warn lawsuit against Pfizer (which Pfizer responded to by sending investigators around her neighborhood to dig up dirt on her). Her lawsuit was able to obtain many crucial documents from Pfizer proving that they knew how dangerous their SSRI was (including the same out-of-body experiences which her husband had had before killing himself).

Her lawsuit eventually provided the ammunition to get a black box warning (easily visible red-alerts the FDA occasionally mandates for pharmaceuticals) placed on the SSRIs.

Note: Documents showed that Lilly initially planned to have a warning for Prozac causing psychosis in the USA package insert, but ultimately only did so in Germany, as their regulators, unlike the FDA, required Lilly to insert this warning.

Because of her efforts, like the previous example showed, Witczak was provided with a direct view into the corruption within the FDA. For example, this is how they addressed the “problem” that lawsuits against the SSRI manufacturers were causing their confidential documents (detailing the actual harms of the drugs) to be released:

“Pfizer used the FDA to intervene in Baum Hedlund’s civil lawsuits. It was discovered that Pfizer paid industry defense lawyer Dan Troy $ 300k for some legal work shortly before he was appointed FDA Chief Counsel by President Bush. In his new role at the FDA, Dan Troy was the mastermind behind the FDA preemption amicus “friend of the court” brief intervening on behalf of pharmaceutical companies in civil lawsuits.

The brief [falsely] argued that because drug was FDA approved, the lawsuits were “preempted” and should be dismissed.

The brief [falsely] claimed even if a company wanted to warn consumers, the FDA wouldn’t let them update their warning label if the FDA didn’t agree. Many Zoloft suicide lawsuits were tossed out by judges who believed the FDA was final authority on the drug label. Pfizer even tried arguing the FDA preemption brief in my lawsuit. Not once, but twice.

Federal Chief Justice James Rosenbaum disagreed with Pfizer and allowed my lawsuit to proceed.

We worked with NY Representative Maurice Hinchey to help expose the $ 300k Dan Troy received from Pfizer. Ultimately Dan Troy resigned his FDA Chief Counsel post but not before damage was done. He ultimately went back to work for private industry including becoming global Chief Counsel at GlaxoSmithKline, the maker of Paxil, another SSRI.”

Sadly, paying off regulators (e.g., by giving them cushy jobs of the pharmaceutical industry) is very common (the practice is known as the “revolving door”). For instance, many of the authors of government studies (e.g., FDA employees) who questionably determined the SSRIs were “safe and effective” were also paid off by the SSRI manufacturers.

In 2004, due to the mounting political pressure, the FDA finally released a black box warning linking SSRIs to increased suicidality in children. Despite knowing about this problem long before the SSRIs came to market, it took over two decades for the FDA to provide this critical warning.

More importantly, this only happened after massive public pressure, countless lawsuits proving these effects were deliberately concealed by the manufacturers, public hearings, and leaked reports publicly shaming the FDA.

Note: In 2006, the warning was extended to everyone under the age of 25. As this cut off was completely arbitrary (many of the SSRI suicides occurred in much older individuals) a large press conference was organized the day beforehand so those believing it needed to be applied to all ages could have the time to speak the FDA would not permit them to have during its hearing.

Although their action did not convince the FDA to change course, next year in 2006, the FDA did and applied that warning to all ages groups.

By 1990, the public was demanding for the FDA to determine if SSRIs were linked to increased suicidality. As the evidence proving this was unambiguous, the FDA deliberately avoided publishing a report on this topic. Sixteen years later, shortly after the FDA was exposed for suppressing the link between suicidality in children and SSRIs, the FDA finally published a meta-analysis addressing this question.

The 2006 meta-analysis encompassed 372 placebo-controlled trials of SSRIs (and related drugs) involving 100,000 patients, and showed that up to the age of 40, SSRIs increased suicidal behavior, while in older patients SSRIs decreased this risk.

Note: A common tactic in the pharmaceutical industry is to hyper-focus on one specific set of side effects so that the other side effects can be covered up.

For example, from comparing the incidences of blood clots I hear about relative to the percentage of people who chose the J&J vaccine, I am relatively certain that the mRNA vaccines are more likely to cause blood clots than J&J’s, but whenever this topic is raised, people default to believing only J&J can cause blood clots since it was linked to a few cases of central venous thrombosis and there was a brief period where the vaccine was suspended by the FDA to “assess” this risk.

I suspect that the FDA’s long-delayed meta-analysis and the black box warning were a direct response to the leaked report proving an indisputable link between SSRIs and adolescent suicidality that was produced to shield the other side effects from scrutiny. Sadly, these warnings have done very little to curb the usage of these drugs, as evidenced by how large their market has become.

Rather they served as a way to protect that market as they both were an alternative to pulling the drugs (which is what should have happened) and downplayed the side effects as much as possible (e.g., borrowing from the industry’s playbook, “abnormal thoughts” became abnormal dreams).

Furthermore, the FDA’s meta-analysis almost certainly also understated the risk. For example, the FDA gave the studies they analyzed a free pass on the variety of design flaws that made it easy to conceal their adverse events. In fact, the FDA reached out to many of the SSRI manufacturers and asked them to adjudicate (remove) possibly suicide-related adverse events in their trials as they saw fit and send those results to the FDA.

When analyzing the 2006 meta-analysis, Gøtzsche found numerous other signs of deliberate fraud by the FDA. For example, in many cases (often due to data revealed from litigation), a single study within the meta-analysis was shown to contain more cases of suicide from an SSRI than the 5 suicides the FDA claimed had occurred throughout all 372 of its studies.

From extensively reviewing all the data, Peter Gøtzsche, reached the overall conclusion that there are likely to have been 15 times more suicides on antidepressant drugs than reported by the FDA in its 2006 meta-analysis.

Note: In 2006, 35 million was spent by American’s National Institutes of Mental Health to conduct the STAR*D study, which assessed if SSRIs cured “treatment resistant” depression (making it the largest study on SSRI efficacy ever conducted) and was designed to assess typical patients in real life scenarios (although the care they received was likely better than what is seen in clinical practice).

It found 3% or less of subjects had their depression cured (with it not remitting for the year of observation within the trial). However, the NIMH repeatedly stated “about 70% of those who did not withdraw from the study became symptom-free,” significantly exaggerated the improvements in the patients, and that SSRI treatment was far more effective that placebo, despite no placebos being used in the trial.

In my personal opinion, when your results are off by an order of magnitude, this can only occur through deliberate fraud, something many of us have regrettably come to realize has occurred at both the CDC and the FDA throughout the COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

As it so happened, by 2013, the FDA employee in charge of the 2006 meta-analysis had completely transitioned to the private sector and had made a consulting firm dedicated to helping psychiatric drugs sail through the FDA.

Note: A variety of other large studies have used similar methods to conceal the dangers of the SSRIs. Since I can’t cover all of them here, I chose to focus on ones conducted by the US government.

The Big Lie

When Hitler wrote Mein Kampf in 1925, he described how people could be induced to believe a colossal a lie because they would not believe that someone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.” While he initially used this idea to attack others (e.g., the Jews), before long he fully adopted it, allowing the Nazi regime to become one of the most powerful forces of propaganda in history.

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Many others have also used this approach. For example (as discussed in a recent article), for decades, US health authorities (and professional medical associations) have repeated the mantra that their vaccine is “safe and effective” while simultaneously suppressing all evidence to the contrary (e.g., from their own scientists).

This in turn has resulted in numerous disastrous vaccines (which everyone knew were bad) being pushed onto the market and not being taken off until a significant amount of injuries had occurred. With the SSRIs, we see a similar degree of audacity, as time and time again the SSRI advocates will insist their drugs are safe and effective despite all evidence to the contrary. For example:

“In 2014, the medical director at the Norwegian drug agency, Steinar Madsen, said at a meeting that antidepressants work for 50-60% of the patients. I [Peter Gøtzche] replied that his statement illustrated why we cannot trust our drug regulators and reminded him that the FDA had found in their analysis of 100,000 patients that antidepressants worked for only 10% of the patients.

Throughout the 1990s, while swearing publicly that fluoxetine didn’t increase the risk of suicide or violence, Lilly quietly settled lawsuits out of court and kept the incriminating evidence hidden by obtaining court orders to seal the documents.

[In 2011 the CEO of a company that sold five antidepressants], claimed in a radio programme that SSRIs reduce suicides in children and adolescents. When the stunned reporter asked him why the package inserts warned against suicide attempts, also for Lundbeck’s drugs, he replied that he expected the leaflets would be changed by the authorities!

The radio interview took place while Lundbeck’s US partner, Forest Laboratories, was negotiating compensation with 54 families whose children had committed or attempted suicide under the influence of Lundbeck’s antidepressant drugs.

[BBC Journalist] Shelley Joffre, showed that the GSK spokesperson, Dr Alastair Benbow, lied in front of a running camera. He denied, for example, that paroxetine could cause suicidality or self-harm while he sent data to the drug regulator one month later that showed exactly this, and which immediately led to a ban on using paroxetine in children.”

Note: The UK drug regulators also lied to the public to cover for GSK (which is based in the UK) by stating that the discovery Paxil caused those suicides was completely new to the company (whereas documents showed it had in fact known about it for at least eight years). Furthermore, when US senator Charles Grassley later asked GSK for how long the company had known that paroxetine increases the suicide risk, GSK repeated this lie, claiming GSK had not detected the risk until 2006.

Given their willingness to blatantly lie, even to a US Senator, it should come as no surprise these companies concocted elaborate ways to silence their critics. For example, GSK has publicly stated:

“Major depressive disorder is a potentially very serious illness associated with substantial morbidity, mortality, suicidal ideation, suicide attempts and completed suicide. Unwarranted conclusions about the use and risk of antidepressants, including paroxetine, do a disservice to patients and physicians.”

Many psychiatrists (especially those being paid off by the pharmaceutical industry) in turn have used similar arguments to silence all criticisms of their drugs. Sadly these tactics are not unique to the psychiatric industry. For example, in a previous article I discussed the significant dangers (and complete lack of benefit) from statins.

In turn, whenever statins are questioned, rather that defend them, cardiologists will often insist you are “killing patients” by scaring them away from the drugs, and this argument has been successfully against both physicians and news programs which questioned statins. In turn, as you might guess, that tactic has also been used against critics of the SSRIs.

“In New Zealand, psychiatrists and suicidologists managed to convince the government [with very weak evidence] that publishing information on suicides causes copycat suicide, which in turn made it a criminal offense for victims or the media to publicly discuss SSRI suicides.”

Likewise, this same playbook has been used against critics of a controversial vaccine. Sadly, since there had been numerous trial runs with other deadly products, by the time COVID-19 happened, the “dangerous misinformation” playbook had been developed, and that label was immediately plastered onto anyone who questioned any part of the pandemic response (e.g., the lockdowns, the suppression of early treatment or the COVID-19 vaccines).

This in turn set the stage for where it somehow became acceptable to argue people should be forced to vaccinate against their will despite a significant amount of evidence (and public opinion) existing that argued against vaccinating. In many ways, this is not that different from how psychiatric medication mandates are often pushed upon patients who (due to their side effects) simply do not want them.

Note: There are many sad stories of this — including numerous ones where the courts supported the psychiatric mandate no matter how much work was done to overturn them.

Conclusion

In my eyes, one of the most important things to consider in this article is just how many people are taking SSRIs, and by extension, just how many injuries the percentages I provided in this article translate to. Whenever a drug is being considered for approval, one of the primary concerns by the regulator used to be the total expected harms suggested by the preliminary data — yet as we can see both in the SSRI saga and throughout COVID-19, that principle has simply been discarded.

As I ponder how things could have gotten this way and how symbiotic the relationship has become between the pharmaceutical companies and the drug regulators, I am reminded of this iconic scene from Idiocracy:

The saddest thing about the SSRI saga is that as inexcusable as it was, things were much less corrupt then than they are now, especially within the federal government. At the time that the public challenged the SSRIs, the media would air stories critical of the malfeasance within the federal government and lawsuits could compel the pharmaceutical companies to disclose the harms they were hiding from the public, and Congress was willing to investigate.

Now, all the vaccine manufacturers have almost complete protection from liability and except for a few commentators on Fox News, no one so much as dares to question the vaccines (or any other pharmaceutical for that matter). One comment Kim made on our sad state of affairs really stuck with me:

kim witczak comment

Note: Renowned journalist Sharyl Attkisson has made an excellent case the prolific censorship we have become accustomed to began during the Obama presidency.

My hope is that the harm of the COVID-19 vaccines is so egregious and unambiguous, and more importantly, has affected so many people, that it will prompt enough public outcry to fix or at least improve this systemic corruption.

In this series, I have tried to illustrate how the gross malfeasance that allowed the SSRIs to be brought onto the market and kept there despite countless red flags telling the FDA the drugs were not safe. Overcoming the pressure to take these drugs off the market in turn required a lot of money to be behind those drugs.

In the final part of this series, we will explore how the SSRI industry convinced the world everyone needed their (typically worthless) pills (while simultaneously causing many effective SSRI treatments to be dismissed and forgotten). Much of our culture is shaped by the pharmaceutical industry brands diseases and I believe the tactics they use must be recognized so our society stops falling victim to them.

I thank each of you for reading this series and helping bring attention to this tragedy as many people I am close to have been.

A Note From Dr. Mercola About the Author

A Midwestern Doctor (AMD) is a board-certified physician in the Midwest and a longtime reader of Mercola.com. I appreciate his exceptional insight on a wide range of topics and I’m grateful to share them. I also respect his desire to remain anonymous as he is still on the front lines treating patients. To find more of AMD’s work, be sure to check out The Forgotten Side of Medicine on Substack.

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How to Get Rid of a Stye in Your Eye

Editor’s Note: This article is a reprint. It was originally published June 28, 2017.

Your eyelids protect your eye from injury, help regulate how much light is admitted to your retina and maintain a film of tears by distributing tears over your eye and pumping tears from the conjunctival and lacrimal sacs. You have Meibomian glands at the base of your eyelids, near your eyelashes.

These glands secrete an oil that combines with your watery tears to lubricate and protect your eye from drying.1 Without enough quality tears to lubricate and nourish the eye, the orb can become irritated and you may develop an inflammation of the cornea, leading to blurry vision, redness and a burning and scratchy sensation, if left untreated.2

A stye may develop on your eyelid in the Meibomian gland duct. These irritations present as red lumps along the edge of the eyelid. While they can be annoying or painful, they are rarely serious. Styes can often be successfully treated at home, but before determining your course of treatment, you’ll want to make sure you’re not dealing with chalazion or cellulitis, which may require other or additional medical treatment.

What Is a Stye?

A stye is also known as a hordeolum. It is an infection, often involving the bacteria Staphylococcus3 that grows along the edge of your eyelid. The infection creates a small painful bump that may take on the appearance of a small pimple or boil. It’s common for it to be filled with pus. More often than not, styes appear one at a time, as they are not contagious and don’t spread along the lid in the way other infections may.

However, it is possible to have more than one stye at a time. A stye is formed when dead skin, dirt or oil builds up in the oil glands along the edge of your eyelids and bacteria begins to grow inside, causing the stye to develop.4 A stye may also occur under the eyelid, as there are oil gland openings there as well. When this happens, it is called an internal hordeolum.5 These styes are treated in the same way as those you find along the edge of your eyelid.

How to Identify a Stye

As a stye grows, your eyelid may become swollen, red and inflamed. The growth period often lasts three days before the stye naturally breaks open and begins to drain.6 Your eyelid may become painful and it may feel like there is something in your eye that doesn’t come out.

A stye may be itchy, but refrain from scratching it. The area may also have crust along the edges of the stye and your eye may water.7 The infected gland triggers these symptoms but, while irritating, they do not threaten your eyesight and are not serious. It is important to differentiate between a stye and another infection of your eyelid that is far more serious and may threaten your eyesight, such as cellulitis.

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Cellulitis is also an infection and may occur on the eyelid tissue, but it is an infection that affects a larger area and doesn’t appear similar to a pimple or boil. This infection is often triggered by a trauma to the eyelid, such as an insect bite, or from a sinus infection.8 Although both a stye and cellulitis may cause redness and swelling of the eyelid, cellulitis often causes a greater amount of swelling, including the tissue around your eye.

Complications from cellulitis may include spread of the infection to the eye socket and the eyeball, causing eye pain, vision problems and even blindness. Confusing a stye with cellulitis may lead to serious permanent problems. Take care to fully evaluate your eye swelling and infection before deciding to treat your eye at home.

How to Treat Your Stye at Home

A stye infection typically responds relatively quickly to the treatments you use at home. If you notice the infection getting worse, spreading or becoming more painful, seek medical care for evaluation and treatment. These strategies help reduce the swelling from the stye and help it to mature and heal more quickly.9,10

Wash hands frequently — Keep your hands away from your eyes and your face as much as possible. Your hands carry small particles of dust, dirt and grime that may easily clog your oil glands, triggering a stye, or may irritate a stye you already have. Washing your hands frequently helps to reduce the irritation to your eyelid and speed healing.

Warm compress — The most effective means of treating a stye and reducing your discomfort is a warm wet compress over the eyelid. You may make one of these with a wash cloth and warm water from the sink. Never warm the washcloth in the microwave with the intent of placing it over the delicate skin of your eye as it may burn your skin. Test your warm compress against the skin of your wrist to ensure it’s not too hot.

Keep the compress over your eye for 15 minutes, three to four times each day. When the wet compress becomes cold, run it under warm water again. If it doesn’t cause too much discomfort, you may massage the area while the compress is in place.

Keep your eyelids clean — Styes may be triggered when the glands on your eyelids become clogged, so keeping them clean helps to prevent a new stye and will help to heal the one you already have. Use a mild, chemical-free soap to gently wash your face and eye area.

Refrain from using makeup or contact lenses — The stye is filled with bacteria, so you may infect your makeup and contact lenses with the bacteria and reinfect yourself later. This includes any makeup that is applied near your eye, such as mascara, eye shadow or concealer.

Contact lenses not only may carry the bacteria but may also increase the risk of damage to your eye or your contact lens from the stye. Be sure to throw away any items used near your eye right before the stye developed to avoid reinfection.

Let the stye open naturally — Squeezing the stye can release pus filled with bacteria, and thus spread the infection to other oil glands or to your other eye.

Coriander seed wash — Coriander has antibacterial qualities that may help your stye to heal. Brew a coriander tea from the seeds and then use the fluid to clean your eyes after the fluid has cooled.

Warm tea bags — Typically black or green tea bags work well for warm compresses over your eye. Naturally antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, tea will help reduce the irritating inflammation around your eye and help heal the infection in the stye. Steep a cup of tea and let the bag cool so it doesn’t burn your skin when you apply it. Keep it over your closed eye for 10 minutes and discard the tea bag after one use.

Discomfort relief — Cool moisture helps to bring relief from the discomfort of the stye and reduce the inflammation. Cold cucumber slices are a simple and effective method of reducing the irritation from a stye. Slice a cucumber from the refrigerator and place a slice on your eye for 10 minutes.

Avoid painkillers — A stye is uncomfortable and irritating, but over-the-counter painkillers do nothing to reduce the inflammation or treat the infection. A better option is to frequently use warm compresses and intersperse them with cool moisture to help alleviate the discomfort.

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When to Call the Doctor

An infection on your eyelid has the potential for reaching your eye socket or your eye, increasing your risk of vision loss. These are some of the symptoms that may indicate it’s time to seek medical attention:11,12

The stye gets worse quickly

The stye bleeds

Your vision is affected

The stye spreads to your eyeball

The skin around your eye or cheeks becomes red and swollen

Your eye, not just the eyelid, hurts

You can’t open your eye from the swelling

You get recurring styes

Your eyelid turns red

Your stye gets very large

What May Trigger a Stye?

Once you’ve had a stye or eye infection, it’s important to replace your eye makeup, including your mascara and eye shadow, to prevent recurrence of an infection. Eye makeup should also be replaced every six months as it may become a breeding ground for bacterial growth, increasing your risk of infection. Wearing too much eye makeup, eye liner or sharing eye makeup with other women may increase your risk of developing a stye.

Wearing makeup overnight increases the risk of plugging your glands with mascara or eye liner and developing an environment for bacterial growth.13 Men and women who are under a significant amount of stress may also find they experience an increased risk of developing a stye.14 If you touch your eyes frequently, or insert your contact lenses without disinfecting them, you may increase your risk of depositing dust or dirt near the Meibomian gland duct.15

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A stye may be triggered when the oil glands are blocked by dirt, grime and dust, so keeping your eyelashes clean helps to prevent styes from developing. A lack of essential fatty acids in your diet may result in flaky skin, which may also block your oil glands. Essential fatty acids are not produced by your body and must be consumed in your diet.

Essential fatty acids help the formation of healthy cell membranes, thyroid and adrenal activity, and support healthy skin and hair and hormone production.16 Linoleic acid is an omega-6 fatty acid and a-linolenic acid is an omega-3 fatty acid, both of which are needed in your diet since you cannot synthesize them in your body.

A lack of these fatty acids increases the risk of your skin becoming flaky, and thus increases the risk dead skin may plug your Meibomian glands and develop into a stye.

You might be at higher risk of developing a stye if you suffer from blepharitis, or inflammation of the eyelids when the oil glands are blocked. This may occur more frequently when you suffer from environmental allergies, such as allergies to pollen.17 The condition triggers the formation of dandruff-type scales along the eyelid and eyelashes. In many cases, a regular cleaning routine to your eyelashes will help control the condition.

Stye or Chalazion?

A stye is very similar to a chalazion. In the case of a stye, the inflammation and swelling is the result of a bacterial infection. A chalazion is triggered from some of the same risk factors discussed above, but the swelling does not include a bacterial infection. A stye often resolves within a week with simple home treatments, while a chalazion will present with swelling and redness but not discomfort or pain.

A chalazion is often larger than a stye and will be located under the upper lid and not along the eyelid. The formation of a chalazion occurs when your oil glands are blocked and the oil forms a swelling. The lump is painless, often on the upper lid, and less frequently on the lower lid.18 The fluid in the oil gland thickens and is unable to be excreted. You may experience tearing, mild irritation and blurred vision if the lump is large enough to press against the eyeball.

A chalazion is more common in adults than children, while styes are more commonly found in children. Although many chalazions will disappear without treatment, they often recur if you don’t address the trigger that caused the chalazion in the first place. These triggers are the same as those for styes and also include acne rosacea, seborrhea, viral infections and tuberculosis.19

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Will the Rich Be the Only Ones Able to Reproduce in the Future?

While the propaganda machine insists the world will face dire consequences due to overpopulation, the data actually point us in the opposite direction, as infertility among both sexes is skyrocketing.

There are many potential reasons for that, from vaccines that impair fertility and endocrine-disrupting chemicals, to electromagnetic field (EMF) exposure. The the promotion of transgender ideology doesn’t help either, as children and young adults are literally having their reproductive organs surgically removed and/or made permanently dysfunctional with hormone therapies.

Soon enough population growth will plateau and begin to slide backward. Already, global birth rates are at a record low. According to World Bank data, the number of children born dropped 50% between 1960 and 2018.1 Many countries also saw shocking birth rate decreases following the rollout of the COVID shots.

The Global Fertility Crisis No One Is Talking About

According to an April 2023 report2 by the World Health Organization, infertility now affects 1 in 6 people globally. In the U.S., fertility problems affect 9% of men and 11% of women. Even among healthy couples under the age of 30, 40% to 60% fail to conceive in the first three months of having unprotected sex.3

It’s not surprising, then, that one-third of American adults say they’ve used fertility treatments, or know someone who has.4 The problem, of course, is that infertility treatments are expensive. A single in vitro fertilization cycle can cost between $ 15,000 and $ 30,000.5

However, since your chances of conceiving is only 29% after the first cycle and 43% after six cycles,6,7 the cost can rack up. As noted by Salon staff writer Matthew Rozsa,8 “I believe our species faces a future in which only the rich will be able to reproduce.”

Sperm Counts Are Plummeting Around the World

Sperm counts in men have trended downward for several decades already. According to environmental and reproductive epidemiologist Shanna Swan, Ph.D., author of the 2021 book “Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race,” average sperm counts among Western men in 2011 were less than half of what they were in 1973 (47 million per milliliter, down from 99 million/mL).9

According to Swan, if the curve of declining sperm counts continues, by 2045 the median sperm count will be zero,10 and couples desiring children will have no choice but to seek reproductive help.

Similarly, research11 by Hagai Levine, professor of epidemiology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, shows sperm counts declined an average of 1.2% annually between 1973 to 2018, and the pace of decline is speeding up.

As of 2000, the annual rate of decline is 2.64%.12 “We are facing a public health crisis and we don’t know if it’s reversible,” Levine told BBC news in a March 2023 interview.13 And to quote Rozsa again:14

“… once our average sperm count reaches less than 15 million per milliliter, the only people able to reproduce will be those who can afford expensive medical technology like in vitro fertilization (IVF) … (Levine places the threshold sperm count number at 40 million per milliliter.)”

Indeed, the emergence of a new class difference, where only the wealthy can afford to bear the cost of reproductive technologies, seems unavoidable at this point. As such, this trend will eventually have massive social justice implications.

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Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals Impair Fertility

Swan believes endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are among the key culprits behind the infertility trend, as they directly interfere with the functioning of our steroid hormones, which are crucial for pregnancy and fetal development. Top offenders include phthalates and bisphenols found in plastics, personal care products, cosmetics, and processed and packaged food.

Many EDCs mimic hormones, effectively taking their place. But, of course, the chemical doesn’t function the way the natural hormone does, so whatever that hormone controls won’t function well either. As explained in the 2019 report, “Male Infertility and Environmental Factors”:15

“Classically the EDCs bind to the androgen or estrogen receptor triggering an agonist or antagonist action. These in turn lead to increased or decreased gene expression of sex-specific genes.

In addition, EDCs act on steroidogenic enzymes and the metabolism of hormones, for example, inhibit the activity of 5-α reductase, which is the most important enzyme in the production of dihydrotestosterone and hence the regulation of the masculinization of the external genitalia and the prostate. Furthermore, P450 enzymes in the liver that metabolize steroid hormones may be affected.”

As Swan told Salon magazine in April 2021,16 if there’s insufficient testosterone during the development of a male fetus, several problems may arise. For starters, his genitals may not develop properly. As he grows older, he may also not have sufficient sperm counts to be fertile. He’s also at increased risk for testicular cancer. Evidence of these ill effects are all around us. As noted by Swan:17

“We also see declines in testosterone in several studies around the world. We see increases in erectile dysfunction. We see increases in rates of genital abnormalities … We see increases in testicular cancer rates.”

EDCs can also fragment the DNA in sperm, which is a factor that can contribute to early-term miscarriages.18 Of course, women are also being adversely affected. Importantly, rates of diminished ovarian reserve are on the rise, which means a woman may not have enough eggs left to conceive when she gets older.19

‘Forever Chemicals’ Impair Reproductive Health

Another class of chemicals linked to lower sperm counts are per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), colloquially known as “forever chemicals,” found in grease- and stain-resistant products, including food packaging, clothing, personal care products and household items.

A 2022 study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found “a statistically significant association between exposure to a mixture of PFAS in early pregnancy and lower sperm concentration and total sperm count and higher proportion of non-progressive and immotile sperm” in male offspring.20

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PFAS have also been shown to disrupt reproductive hormones, delay the onset of puberty, and increase the risk of endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome in women.21

Pesticides Take a Toll on Fertility

Pesticides are another contributor. According to a November 2023 scientific review22,23 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, organophosphates and N-methyl carbamates — two common classes of insecticides — lower sperm counts. As reported in this paper:24

“Across 20 studies, 21 study populations, 42 effect sizes, and 1,774 adult men, the pooled bias-adjusted standardized mean difference in sperm concentration between adult men more- and less-exposed to OP and NMC insecticides was -0.30 …

Although the pooled effect estimate was modified by risk of bias, insecticide class, exposure setting, and recruitment setting, it remained negative in direction across all meta-analyses. The body of evidence was rated to be of moderate quality, with sufficient evidence of an association between higher adult OP and NMC insecticide exposure and lower sperm concentration.”

Pesticides have also been linked to decreased fertility in women, as well as ovarian disorders, stillbirths, premature births and developmental abnormalities.25

Are Vaccines Being Used to Reduce Fertility?

Vaccines may also be contributing to the infertility trend. As detailed in “Infertility: A Diabolical Agenda,” which features a documentary by the same name, the World Health Organization has been working on anti-fertility vaccines since the 1970s, and a UNICEF tetanus program was in the mid-1990s found to have used a tetanus vaccine laced with hCG.

HCG is the first signal that tells the woman’s body she’s pregnant. In response to this signal, her ovaries then produce progesterone, which maintains the pregnancy to term. By combining hCG with tetanus toxoid, it causes this crucial pregnancy hormone to be attacked and destroyed by the woman’s own immune system.

There’s reason to suspect the COVID shots can impair infertility as well. Doctors and scientists have warned the shots may cross-react with syncytin and reproductive genes in sperm, ova and placenta in ways that might impair reproduction.

At least one study26,27 has confirmed that Pfizer’s mRNA shot impairs semen concentration and motile count in men for about three months. Women of all ages have also reported menstrual changes after getting the jab, which could have an effect on fertility.

Shocking declines in birth rates around the world after the rollout of the COVID shots seem to confirm there’s a problem. For example, German data showed a 10% decline in birth rate during the first quarter of 2022.28 Between January and April 2022, Switzerland’s birth rate was 15% lower than expected; the U.K.’s was down by 10%; and Taiwan’s was down 23%.29,30,31

In a July 5, 2022, Counter Signal article, Mike Campbell reported that in the five countries with the highest COVID jab uptake, fertility dropped by an average of 15.2%, whereas the five countries with the lowest COVID jab uptake saw an average reduction of just 4.66%.

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U.S. data have also revealed a drop in live births. For example, provisional data from North Dakota showed a 10% decline in February 2022, 13% reduction in March and an 11% reduction in April, compared to the corresponding months in 2021.32

EMFs May Also Be Involved

I believe EMF exposures are another significant factor for the observed decrease in male sperm count. Martin Pall, Ph.D., discovered a previously unknown mechanism of biological harm from microwaves emitted by cellphones and other wireless technologies via voltage gated calcium channels (VGCCs) embedded in your cell membranes.33

VGCCs are activated by microwaves, and when that happens, about 1 million calcium ions per second are released. This massive excess of intracellular calcium then stimulates the release of nitric oxide (NO) inside your cell and mitochondria, which combines with superoxide to form peroxynitrite.

Not only do peroxynitrites cause oxidative damage, but they also create hydroxyl free radicals — the most destructive free radicals known. Hydroxyl free radicals decimate mitochondrial and nuclear DNA, their membranes and proteins, resulting in mitochondrial dysfunction.

During a 2013 children’s health expert panel on cellphone and Wi-Fi exposures, it was noted that “The testicular barrier, that protects sperm, is the most sensitive of tissues in the body … Besides sperm count and function, the mitochondrial DNA of sperm are damaged three times more if exposed to cellphone radiation.”34

Writing in Clinical and Experimental Reproductive Medicine, researchers also noted that many in vivo and in vitro studies have revealed the EMF exposure can alter reproductive function, including sperm motility, with effects varying according to the frequency, duration of exposure and strength of EMFs.35

How to Protect Your Reproductive Health

While many of the key culprits may seem near-impossible to avoid, it would behoove you to give it your best shot if you want to have children, or want your children to be able to bear children:

Avoid chemical exposures of all kinds, but EDCs and PFAS in particular. Examples of items that can contain these chemicals include canned goods, dental sealants, nonstick food wrappers, hard plastic cups and bottles, grease- and stain-resistant products and clothing, personal care products, shampoos, lotions and cosmetics.

Ideally, eat whole unprocessed foods that you cook yourself as much as possible, and use all-natural unscented personal care and household products.

Avoid pesticides by buying organic foods whenever possible.

Avoid COVID shots, and for safe measure, any other gene-based “vaccines” as well.

Limit your EMF exposure by connecting your desktop computer to the internet via a wired connection (remember to put it in airplane mode once hardwired), shutting off your home’s Wi-Fi when not in use (especially at night when you are sleeping), and minimizing your cellphone use. Ideally, work toward hardwiring your house so you can turn off the Wi-Fi at all times.

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What Causes Healthy People to Faint?

About 40% of people faint at some point during their lifetime.1 While the experience can be jarring — both for the victim and those around them — and can be indicative of a serious underlying condition, most often the cause is benign.

Vasovagal syncope, or fainting, is the most common type, accounting for one-third of cases.2 During a vasovagal syncope episode, your heart rate and blood pressure drop suddenly, reducing circulation to your brain and causing you to lose consciousness.

The vagus nerve, the primary information highway between your gut and your brain, which connects the two organs, is involved, but according to research published in Nature,3 it’s the nerve’s connection to your heart that may trigger people to faint.

Heart-Brain Pathway May Trigger Fainting

While it was long believed that your vagus nerve was simply a way for your brain to communicate with your organs, it’s now known that information is sent both ways; for instance, from your gut to your brain. Your heart, however, also sends signals to your brain via the vagus nerve, and a disruption in these signals may be responsible for fainting.4

The fact that your vagus nerve is involved in fainting isn’t new knowledge. This has been known since the 19th century, according to study author Vineet Augustine, a neurobiologist at the University of California San Diego. Speaking with NPR, Augustine explained:5

“What was not clear was which part of the vagus nerve [was involved]. The vagus nerve is big. It’s a major highway between the body and the brain …What we were trying to argue — well, the heart also sends signals back to the brain, which can influence its function and behavior.”

The scientists found nerve cells that link the heart’s blood-pumping ventricles with the area postrema in the brain, a region that controls breathing and heart rate.6,7 When the pathway was stimulated with a laser in mice, it led to fainting-like symptoms. “When the pulse hits them, the heart rate immediately dips. They wobble around a little bit, and then around seven seconds, they fall over,” Augustine said.8

It’s possible the finding could lead to new treatment options to help prevent fainting due to autonomic disorders, including the rise in fainting cases that occurred since the COVID-19 pandemic. Autonomic dysfunction is common in patients with long COVID, including symptoms like dizziness and fainting, and it’s possible COVID-19 may influence signals passing through the vagus nerve.9

The vagus nerve influences many crucial bodily functions, as it’s a primary part of the parasympathetic nervous system. It’s involved in controlling your mood, immune response, digestion and heart rate, and transmits information about different inner organs to the brain via afferent fibers.

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In addition to affecting fainting, vagus nerve stimulation is being looked into as a potential treatment for depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, inflammatory bowel disease and more.10 Interestingly, since the vagal tone is influenced by breathing, yoga, which involves breath work, may offer benefits via the vagus nerve. It’s been found, for instance, that yoga therapy can reduce fainting frequency and pre-fainting symptoms among people with recurrent fainting.11

Common Fainting Triggers

Cerebral blood flow is necessary to provide your brain with a steady supply of glucose to function properly. A disruption in blood flow of even a few seconds is all it takes to cause fainting or loss of consciousness. As noted in the National Library of Medicine’s Stat Pearls:12

“Cerebral blood flow is maintained by a complex mechanism involving cardiac output, systemic vascular resistance, mean arterial pressure, and intravascular volume. Any defect in one or more of these systems leads to decreased cerebral blood flow.”

Fainting, which is sometimes described as blacking out, accounts for 1% to 3.5% of emergency department visits and 6% of hospital visits in the U.S.13 Many factors increase the risk, including prolonged standing, crowded places, hot temperatures, severe pain, extreme fatigue, anxiety and stress.14 Some people may also faint if they see blood.

Bed rest, underlying conditions that affect the nervous system and certain medications, particularly those that influence blood pressure or fluid levels, can also trigger fainting.15 Standing up too quickly, meanwhile, can cause a drop in blood pressure known as orthostatic hypotension, which can lead to lightheadedness and fainting.16

Dehydration is another common cause of fainting. If you don’t drink enough water, your blood becomes thicker and circulates less, which may lead to muscle cramps, as well as trigger your kidneys to hold on to water, so your urine output decreases. Further, according to Toby Mündel, senior lecturer in sport and exercise science, Massey University, New Zealand:17

“The thicker and more concentrated your blood becomes, the harder it is for your cardiovascular system to compensate by increasing heart rate to maintain blood pressure. When your dehydrated body is ‘pushed’ — such as when exercising or faced with heat stress — the risk of exhaustion or collapse increases. This can cause you to faint, for instance, when you stand up too quickly.”

Signs You’re About to Faint

Often, symptoms occur prior to the fainting episode. These include:18,19

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Blurred vision

Nausea

Dizziness

Weakness

Sweating

Pale appearance

Headache

Disorientation

Confusion

Slurred speech

Less commonly, irregular heart rhythms may cause a person to faint. This may be a sign of a potentially serious condition. Aortic stenosis, enlarged heart and both fast or slow heart rates can trigger fainting.

Atrial fibrillation, an abnormal, often rapid, heart rhythm that occurs when the atria, your heart’s upper chambers, beat out of sync with the ventricles, may also lead to fainting.20 In cardiac fainting, heart palpitations may occur prior to the episode.21 If you pass out with no warning, it’s possible heart rhythm problems are to blame.22

Fainting Is Common After Vaccines

Medical procedures can trigger fainting, and this includes vaccinations. In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it has received reports of people fainting after nearly all vaccines, including the flu shot. NPR reported the case of a 39-year-old man who fainted five minutes after a flu shot, requiring a trip to the emergency room and resulting in a bill for $ 4,692.23

However, fainting after vaccines is particularly common in adolescents and most often occurs after the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, meningococcal conjugate vaccine and the tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine.24 The CDC noted:25

“Because the ingredients of these three vaccines are different, yet fainting is seen with all of them, scientists think that fainting is due to the vaccination process and not to the vaccines themselves. However, there is not yet a definite answer about whether an ingredient of the vaccines is responsible for the fainting or if adolescents are simply more likely than children or adults to experience fainting.”

According to the CDC, the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) receives many reports each year of people fainting after vaccinations, “and many more are likely to go unreported.” It’s estimated that 62% of fainting reports after vaccines occur among adolescents aged 11 to 18 years.26

Another study of 9- to 18-year-olds who received a vaccine or venipuncture found that 2.99 per 10,000 vaccination events resulted in fainting, as did 16.33 per 10,000 venipunctures.27 Fainting became more likely when more than one vaccine was given, rising from 1.51 per 10,000 vaccination events following a single vaccine to 9.94 per 10,000 following three or more vaccines. In about 15% of vaccine and venipuncture events, fainting resulted in injury.

Fainting-related falls can be serious, with head injury the most significant risk. One study of fainting-related reports to VAERS found that 7% of the fainting episodes were serious, and 12% involved head injuries.28 The CDC described one case as follows:29

“A girl aged 13 years fainted within 10 minutes of receiving HPV and MCV4 vaccinations. She fell backward and hit her head on the carpeted floor of the clinic. The girl was admitted to the pediatric intensive-care unit because of skull fractures and subarachnoid hemorrhage.”

In another case reported in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, a 15-year-old boy with no known medical problems fainted several minutes after receiving the third dose of hepatitis B vaccine.30 He fell backward onto a concrete floor covered by a thin carpet, striking the back of his head.

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He regained consciousness but had convulsions, went into cardiopulmonary arrest and died. An autopsy revealed he suffered from traumatic brain injury, including frontal lobe contusions, along with brain swelling and bleeding, even though he had no skull fracture.

Due to these risks, the CDC recommends patients sit or lie down while receiving a vaccine, and be observed for 15 minutes afterward, as 70% of fainting episodes typically occur within that timeframe.31 However, this means 30% may occur outside of this window. And with many shots given at pharmacies and other non-doctors’ office settings, these observation periods are often neglected.

What to Do if You Feel Like You’re Going to Faint

If you start to feel dizzy, lightheaded and clammy, and your vision gets blurry or filled with spots, sit or lie down immediately. Not only does this reduce your chances of getting hurt by falling, but the horizontal position helps get blood flowing to your head.32

Using applied tension can also help reduce symptoms and lower the risk of fainting. In a study of adult blood donors — a population that often experiences fainting symptoms and fainting — applied tension helped reduce symptoms and lowered the risk of a vasovagal reaction consistent with fainting.33 This can be as simple as:34

  • Making a fist
  • Crossing your legs
  • Squeezing your thighs together
  • Tightening the muscles in your arms

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke recommends lying down for 10 to 15 minutes in a cool, quiet spot. If this isn’t an option, sit with your head between your knees, and sip cold water. Typically, recovery occurs within a few minutes to a few hours,35 but you should seek medical care to rule out potentially serious complications and underlying causes.

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Can Valerian Root Help You Sleep Better?

Editor’s Note: This article is a reprint. It was originally published May 4, 2018.

Insomnia is defined as a medical condition involving difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep through the night. While aggravating in and of itself, insomnia can also lead to or exacerbate many other health problems, ranging from fatigue and an increased risk of accidents to a heightened risk of diabetes and cancer.

According to the latest estimates, insomnia may affect upward of 70 million American adults, with men reporting a higher incidence than women.1

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third of American adults fail to get at least seven hours of sleep on a regular basis,2 which is associated with an increased risk of chronic ill health and mental distress. As noted by Dr. Wayne Giles, director of CDC’s Division of Population Health:3

“As a nation we are not getting enough sleep. Lifestyle changes such as going to bed at the same time each night; rising at the same time each morning; and turning off or removing televisions, computers, mobile devices from the bedroom, can help people get the healthy sleep they need.”

Another really crucial lifestyle aspect that can have a profound impact on your ability to sleep is sunlight and artificial light exposure during the day and night. Getting appropriate light exposure at the appropriate time of day — which I’ll discuss further below — is perhaps one of the most important factors that needs to be addressed if you’re having trouble sleeping.

One of the worst things you can do is reach for a sleeping pill. That said, certain natural supplements may be helpful as a temporary fix while you address the root causes. Here, I’ll review a couple of supplements known for their beneficial influence on sleep.

Valerian Root — Nature’s Valium

Frequently referred to as “nature’s Valium,” valerian root (Valeriana officinalis) has a sedative effect and has been used in traditional medicine to promote relaxation and sleep for at least 2,000 years. Some of the sedating compounds in valerian root include:

Valerenic acid — As noted by Authority Nutrition,4 stress can lower your levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which in turn has been linked to anxiety and impaired, poor quality sleep. The valerenic acid in valerian root has been shown to inhibit breakdown of GABA, resulting in greater calm and relaxation. Valium and Xanax work in similar ways.

Isovaleric acid, which helps prevent involuntary muscle contractions. Its action is similar to valproic acid, used to treat epilepsy

Hesperidin, an antioxidant with sedative properties

Linarin, an antioxidant with sedative properties

Valerian has also been shown to help maintain serotonin levels in the brain, which has a mood stabilizing effect. In fact, a number of studies have noted valerian root (sometimes in combination with other herbs, such as lemon balm), can be useful for anxiety brought on by acute or chronic stress.

Studies have also demonstrated its usefulness for hyperactivity, generalized anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, too high a dose can have the converse effect, increasing anxiety. In one study, anxiety was increased when the highest dose, 1,800 milligrams (mg), was administered.5

Valerian May Improve Sleep

Valerian is one of the most commonly used herbal remedies for insomnia. Studies have found it helps improve6 the speed at which you fall asleep, depth of sleep (achieving deep sleep 36% faster7), and overall quality of sleep. Bear in mind, however, that herbs can affect different people in different ways, and 1 in 10 people actually tend to feel energized by valerian root, which may impede sleep. If you notice this tendency, clearly valerian is not a good sleep aid for you.

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Higher dosages can also have this reverse effect, so always start with a minimal dose, and use the lowest dose needed to achieve the desired effect. Typical dosages used in studies range between 400 mg and 900 mg, taken anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours before bed.

A 2011 study,8 which focused on post-menopausal women, found 30% of participants experienced improved sleep quality after taking 530 mg of valerian twice a day for four weeks. An earlier study,9 published in 2001, also found that people who are regularly kept awake at night, plagued by thoughts of work deadlines, relationship problems or other stressful life events might find relief from either valerian or kava.

In that study, adults who had suffered from stress-induced insomnia for over 15 years first received 120 mg daily of kava for six weeks. Then, after two weeks off treatment, they received 600 mg of valerian daily for another 6 weeks.

Overall, participants reported that both herbs significantly relieved their symptoms of stress and insomnia, and while the majority, 58%, reported no side effects from either treatment, 16% reported vivid dreams after taking valerian and 12% experienced dizziness with kava.

In a 1989 study,10 44% of participants reported “perfect” sleep and 89% reported improved sleep after taking a 400 mg of a valerian preparation called Valerina Natt.

Side Effects and Contraindications

Importantly, studies have not found any serious adverse effects from valerian, although some users report headache, stomach ache, irregular heartbeat or dizziness.11,12 Unlike sleeping pills, when used as directed, valerian will not adversely affect your reaction time, alertness or concentration the following day.

That said, avoid valerian if you’re on any kind of sedatives (either drugs or natural herbs or supplements with sedative effects), narcotics, antidepressants or anti-seizure medication. Also, do not take it with alcohol, and do not drive or use machinery within several hours of taking valerian. Valerian may also be contraindicated if you are pregnant or have liver problems, and should not be given to children under the age of 3.

Melatonin May Be an Even Better Option

I personally believe melatonin is one of the best options available, as far as supplemental sleep aids are concerned. Melatonin is a hormone produced by your pineal gland, which is affected by light and dark.

At night, when it gets dark, your pineal gland begins producing melatonin, which makes you feel sleepy. (Melatonin also acts as an antioxidant and regulator of mitochondrial functions,13 which is why chronic sleep problems can raise your risk of disease,14 including cancer15).

When functioning normally, your melatonin levels will remain elevated for about 12 hours (usually between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m.). Then, as the sun rises, your pineal gland typically stops producing melatonin and the levels in your blood decrease, signaling it’s time to wake up.

The pineal gland’s sensitivity to light explains why LED lights and electronics should be filtered or avoided at least an hour or two before bed, and why something as simple as turning on a light in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom can interfere with your sleep for the rest of the night.

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Interestingly enough, studies have shown lower doses of melatonin are more effective, so do not make the mistake of thinking that more is better. You can start with as little as 0.25 mg of melatonin and work your way up in quarter-milligram increments from there until you get the desired effect.

As with valerian, too high a dose can have the reverse effect, making it more difficult to fall and stay asleep. Still, even melatonin is only a short-term solution. The best option if you regularly have trouble sleeping is to try to find out the root cause of your insomnia. More often than not, the trouble can be traced back to insufficient sunlight exposure during the day and inappropriate and/or excessive artificial lighting at night.

To Sleep Well, Mind Your 24-Hour Light Exposure

If you have trouble sleeping at night, be sure to:

Get bright sunlight exposure during the day, as this helps “set” your internal body clock or circadian rhythm. Your body requires exposure to bright daylight, especially in the early morning, to produce healthy amounts of melatonin each night.

Artificial indoor lighting is several magnitudes lower than daylight, so there’s really no substitute for spending at least 15 to 30 minutes outdoors at some point between 9 a.m. and noon, ideally without sunglasses or regular glasses on.

Avoid or filter blue light sources in the evening, such as LED lighting, fluorescent lighting and electronic screens, as blue light suppresses melatonin production, thereby impeding your ability to fall asleep and reducing sleep quality.16 You can mitigate the negative impact of artificial lights and electronic screens by wearing blue-blocking glasses.

I now put on my red-colored glasses as soon as the sun sets, as they also filter out yellow and green, which can also disturb melatonin production. I use $ 12.99 red laser eye protection safety glasses from Amazon.17 I only wear them after sunset. If I need to shield myself from blue light before sunset I use amber-colored glasses.

Historically, the only light source our ancient ancestors had at night was fire, which has virtually no blue or green light. Even moonlight and starlight is a form of solar (i.e., a form of fire) radiation, and while there is some blue there, it is greatly diminished and nowhere near that of a fluorescent or LED light bulb, or your computer or TV screen.

Exposure to these blue light frequencies after sunset virtually assures that you will lower your melatonin and melanopsin levels. It also increases your risk of blindness from macular degeneration.

Sleep in total darkness — My rule of thumb is, if you can see your hand in front of your face, then there is too much light for optimal sleep. If you find blackout shades too costly, you could just wear a well-fitting sleep mask to prevent stray light from filtering through your eyelids. It is not as good, though, as your skin has some sensitivity to light, so strive for complete darkness whenever possible.

Electromagnetic Fields Can Also Impair Sleep

Aside from getting the correct kind of light exposure during the day and avoiding excessive amounts of light and blue light at night, it’s also important to address the electromagnetic field (EMF) emitted from wiring and electronic devices.

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While blue light at night reduces your melatonin secretion and therefore antioxidant protection for your mitochondrial function, EMF from electronic devices not only impairs melatonin secretion, it also harms your mitochondria by producing oxidative damage. Thus, your computer, cellphone and other electronic devices may impair sleep and damage your health in more ways than one.

Cancer is one major concern of EMF exposure,18,19,20 as mitochondrial damage lays the foundation for future cancer development. DNA damage triggered by EMF also leads to changes in cellular function and premature cell death. In 2011, the World Health Organization actually classified cellphone radiation as a 2B carcinogen, or “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”21

EMF also has a detrimental effect on the health of your brain, altering function and potentially fueling dementia. Even though measured EMF from cellphones is considered low, studies have demonstrated it can alter your brain function and activity.22 EMF from cellphones and Wi-Fi is also linked to changes in brain neurons that affect memory and the ability to learn.23

EMF-Proofing Your Bedroom

Eliminating EMF exposure can be tricky business, as most homes are quite literally swimming in electric currents. Still, there are ways to reduce EMF to a smaller or greater degree, depending on how far you’re willing to go. Here are some suggestions, ranging from modest to more extreme:

Avoid running electrical cords underneath your bed.

One of the most important is to turn off your Wi-Fi at night. Since you don’t need internet access while sleeping, this is a simple remedy that most people can implement.

Move alarm clocks and other electrical devices away from your head, or ideally out of the room. If these devices must be used, keep them as far away from your bed as possible, preferably at least three feet. Cellphone chargers should be kept at least 4 feet away from your bed, while portable phone bases and wireless routers should be kept as far away from your bedroom as possible.

Avoid sleeping with your head against a wall that contains unshielded electric wiring and/or electric meters, circuit breaker panels, televisions or stereos on the other side. Unfortunately, few communities in the U.S. require wall wiring to be placed in metal-clad conduit. This is primarily done for fire prevention, but it also eliminates most electric fields.

Therefore, more than likely, you are exposed to electric fields that radiate from the wires in the wall at the head of your bed, even if you don’t have any electronics on the other side of the wall. The solutions in both instances are to move your bed 3 feet away from the wall, install an EMF protection canopy over your bed, or turn off the power breaker to your bedroom.

Pull your circuit breaker before bed to kill all power in your house.

To Sleep Well, Don’t Rely on Temporary Fixes

It’s important to understand that while herbs are far less problematic than sleeping pills (which fail to live up to their promises while carrying significant health risks), ultimately even these natural supplements are just temporary fixes that don’t address the root cause. If you’re struggling with insomnia on a regular basis, you are far better off seeking to correct the problem at its foundation, as discussed above.

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Vitamin C, B1 and Hydrocortisone Dramatically Reduce Mortality From Sepsis

Editor’s Note: This article is a reprint. It was originally published April 5, 2017.

Sepsis1 is a progressive disease process caused by an aggressive, dysfunctional immune response to an infection in the bloodstream. It starts with symptoms of infection that can progress to septic shock.

Unless treated — and the earlier the better — sepsis can result in extremely low blood pressure that is unresponsive to fluid replacement, weakening of the heart, and multiple-organ failure. Sepsis is a common hospital-acquired infection,2,3 but common illnesses such as bronchitis, pneumonia, strep throat or kidney infection can also turn septic, as can localized infections caused by bacteria, fungi or viruses.

The condition becomes particularly problematic and deadly if the infection involves methicillin-resistant or vancomycin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA or VRSA) bacteria. Each year, an estimated 1 million Americans get sepsis4 and up to half of them die.5,6 Treatment can be a challenge, and is becoming even more so as drug-resistant infections become more prevalent.

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, sepsis is the most expensive condition being treated in U.S. hospitals, costing more than $ 20 billion in 20117 and $ 24 billion in 2014.8 The good news is a critical care physician just may have found a way to save tens of thousands of lives and billions of dollars each year using two readily available vitamins and a steroid.

Vitamin C and Thiamine — An Inexpensive Cure for Sepsis

Vitamin C is well-known for its ability to prevent and treat infectious diseases. Previous research has shown it effectively lowers pro-inflammatory cytokines and C-reactive protein.9,10 Influenza,11 encephalitis and measles12 have all been successfully treated with high-dose vitamin C.

Studies have even shown vitamin C is selectively cytotoxic to cancer cells by generating hydrogen peroxide when administered intravenously (IV) in high doses. It also has a number of heart and cardiovascular benefits.

The anti-infective power of vitamin C has now been demonstrated yet again by Dr. Paul Marik, a critical care doctor at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in East Virginia. Last January, when faced with yet another deathly ill patient, Marik decided to try a combination of intravenous (IV) vitamin C with hydrocortisone as a last-ditch effort to save the woman’s life.13

He’d recently read a colleague’s paper on vitamin C, and he knew vitamin C acts like the steroid hydrocortisone, so on a hunch, he administered the two together. It worked. While everyone expected her to die, the woman made a remarkable overnight recovery. As reported by NBC4i News:14

“The staff couldn’t believe it, so they tried it again and again — with the same results. They added a third element, thiamine, to the IV treatment as well. Today, they have used the treatment on about 150 patients and they say the result is the same …

A researcher at Old Dominion University, John Catravas, Ph.D., … did an independent lab study that confirms the treatment’s effectiveness.”

Interestingly, Marik used a relatively small amount of vitamin C — only 1.5 grams IV. Most natural medicine physicians tend to use 25 grams or more when giving IV vitamin C, more than 20 times the dose used here. One can only wonder how much more effective a larger dose would be.

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It’s All About the Right Combination of Ingredients

For the first two or three patients, only vitamin C and hydrocortisone were used. Marik then decided to add thiamine for a number of reasons. Importantly, it’s required for metabolism of some of the metabolites of vitamin C.

Research has also shown many patients with sepsis are vitamin deficient, and when thiamine is given, it reduces mortality. Septic shock patients who receive thiamine have also been shown to have a reduced risk of renal failure.

Marik’s retrospective before-after clinical study,15,16 published in the journal Chest, showed that giving patients IV vitamin C with hydrocortisone and thiamine (vitamin B1) for two days reduced mortality nearly five-fold, from 40% to 8.5%.

Of the 50 patients treated, only four died — and none of them actually died from sepsis. They died from their underlying disease.

Interestingly, further lab testing found that while neither vitamin C nor hydrocortisone alone are able to prevent cell death following exposure to toxins produced by bacteria, when given in combination, the concoction does protect the cells. Turns out Marik’s hunch had been a truly inspired one.

Other research has also shown thiamine reduces mortality from sepsis and helps protect against renal failure, which is why Marik decided to add it to his mixture.

The treatment has now become part of the hospital’s standard of care for sepsis, and will hopefully become standard of care for sepsis elsewhere as well. As noted by Marik, sepsis kills about 1,000 people each day in the U.S. — that’s like having three jumbo jets crash each day.

Sepsis kills more than breast cancer, colon cancer and AIDS combined, and here’s a treatment that is not only profoundly effective, but also has no side effects and is inexpensive, readily available and simple to administer. Patients and doctors really have nothing to lose by trying it.

Potential Contraindication

While more research is needed to validate the findings, vitamin C and thiamine (vitamin B1) administration is so safe there’s really no need to avoid it. It certainly isn’t going to make the situation worse — unless you happen to be glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficient (a genetic disorder).17

G6PD is an enzyme your red blood cells need to maintain membrane integrity. High-dose IV vitamin C is a strong pro-oxidant, and giving a pro-oxidant to a G6PD-deficient individual can cause their red blood cells to rupture, which could have disastrous consequences.

Fortunately, G6PC deficiency is relatively uncommon, and can be tested for. People of Mediterranean and African descent are at greater risk of being G6PC deficient. Worldwide, G6PD deficiency is thought to affect 400 million individuals, and in the U.S., an estimated 1 in 10 African American males have it.18

Anecdotal Evidence Suggests Near-Infrared Light May Protect Against Kidney Failure

On a side note, your risk of kidney failure — which is a very common outcome of sepsis — may be reduced or prevented by shining a near-infrared light on the area. I know, that sounds too amazing to be true, but according to Michael Hamblin, Ph.D., a photodynamic therapy researcher, the anecdotal evidence for this is quite strong.

“Kidney failure is the third leading cause of death. These are old folks who are dying from kidney failure. You can’t really give them transplants because they’re elderly. You put a near-infrared LED array where their kidneys are and it seems to work like a dream. [But] it’s hardly been studied at all,” Hamblin said.

Again, the worst that could happen is nothing, as red and near-infrared light (630 to 830 nanometer range) is quite safe.

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Other Health Benefits of Thiamine

Thiamine or vitamin B1,19 found in pork, dark leafy greens, wheat germ, green peas, lentils and nuts,20 is perhaps best known for its role in cellular production of energy and supporting normal neuronal activity. However, it also has a wide range of other health benefits.21 According to the Mayo Clinic, studies confirm thiamine can be helpful for a long list of diseases and disorders, including:22

  • Metabolic and mitochondrial disorders23
  • Blood clots and clogged arteries24
  • Cerebellar ataxia (movement disorder caused by neurological damage)25
  • Coma26
  • Kidney dysfunction27

Research28 published in 2013 also found thiamine supplementation can improve cardiac function in those with heart failure. Overall, patients with heart failure tend to be deficient in thiamine, as well as other micronutrients. Thiamine deficiency has also been linked to delirium,29 thyroid fatigue and Hashimoto’s (a thyroid autoimmune disorder).30 These and other health effects may help explain why thiamine works so well (in conjunction with vitamin C and hydrocortisone) for sepsis.

For general health purposes, adult men and women need about 1.2 and 1.1 milligrams (mg) of thiamine respectively each day. Also be aware that thiamine conversion is dependent on having sufficient amounts of sulfur. Good sources of dietary sulfur include organic pastured eggs, legumes, garlic, onion, Brussel sprouts, asparagus, kale and wheat germ.

Moreover, all B vitamins, including thiamine, are produced within your gut31 provided you have a healthy gut microbiome. So, eating real food, ideally organic, along with fermented foods will provide your microbiome with important fiber and beneficial bacteria to help optimize your internal vitamin B production.

To Avoid Sepsis, Understand the Cause

With sepsis affecting more than a million Americans each year, how can you avoid becoming a statistic? First, be aware that ANY infection can lead to sepsis. While it’s typically associated with hospital-acquired infections, nearly half of all cases are in fact the result of an infection acquired outside a hospital setting.32

Part of what makes it so deadly is that people typically do not suspect it, and the longer you wait to treat it, the deadlier it gets. As noted in a special report on sepsis by Consumer Reports:33

“Whenever the body develops an infection, the immune system normally kicks in, producing chemicals to fight the infection. But sometimes — either because the triggering bacteria is unusually powerful or because the person’s immune system is already weakened by other health problems — those chemicals are set loose in the bloodstream and course through the body.

Instead of just fighting the local infection, those chemicals unleashed by the immune system cause widespread inflammation and damage tissues in the liver, kidneys, heart and other organs.

Within hours, blood clots can begin to form, and damage to blood vessels causes blood pressure to drop, which in turn slows the delivery of vital nutrients to those organs already under attack. In the final stages, the heart weakens and organs begin to fail.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you’re at higher risk for sepsis if you have:

  • Chronic disease — A vast majority — 7 out of 10 — of people who develop sepsis have some kind of chronic health condition. Those with diabetes, lung, kidney or liver disease tend to be particularly susceptible to infection, which raises the risk.
  • Weakened immune system, AIDS or cancer.
  • Recently spent time in a hospital, nursing home or other health care facility, as exposure to infection-causing bacteria is common in these places.
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Common Sense Strategies to Reduce Your Risk of Sepsis

While health care workers have a responsibility to prevent infections that could potentially turn septic and to educate patients about warning signs of sepsis, you can lower your own risk by:

Promptly treating urinary tract infections (UTIs) — UTIs are the second most common type of infection in the body, sending more than 8 million people to their health care providers every year in the U.S. alone,34 and one-quarter of sepsis cases are related to urinary tract infections.

Conventional treatment typically involves antibiotics, but research shows 90% of UTIs can be successfully treated with D-Mannose, a naturally occurring sugar that’s closely related to glucose.

Properly clean skin wounds — About 1 in 10 sepsis cases are due to skin infections, so always take the time to properly clean and care for wounds and scrapes. Wash the wound with mild soap and water to clean out dirt and debris, then cover with a sterile bandage. Diabetics should follow good foot care to avoid dangerous foot infections.

Avoid infections in hospitals — When visiting a health care facility, be sure to wash your own hands, and remind doctors and nurses to wash theirs (and/or change gloves) before touching you or any equipment being used on you.

If you have to undergo a colonoscopy or other testing using a flexible medical scope, remember to call and ask how they clean their scopes and what kind of cleaning solution they use. If the answer is glutaraldehyde (brand name Cidex), find another hospital or clinic — one that uses peracetic acid. This preliminary legwork will significantly decrease your risk of contracting an infection from a contaminated scope.

In the video below, Andrew Saul, Ph.D., co-author of the book, “Hospitals and Health: Your Orthomolecular Guide to a Shorter, Safer Hospital Stay,” discusses the dangers of hospital stays, the type of patient that tends to get killed the most, and how you can protect your health and life in the event you have to spend time in a hospital.

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Should You Wash Your Produce?

Editor’s Note: This article is a reprint. It was originally published January 9, 2019.

Bacteria live on your skin and nearly every other unsterilized surface. However, not every bacterium is dangerous or harmful to your health. In fact, data have demonstrated the more children are exposed to bacteria the lower their risk of developing allergies.1,2

Your skin is the largest organ in your body and colonized by a diverse number of microorganisms, many of which are harmless or even beneficial. Your skin acts as a physical barrier to prevent the invasion of foreign pathogens and at the same time provides a home to your microbiome.

Despite environmental variations, the skin microbiota of a healthy adult often remains stable over time. These microorganisms play an important role in the effectiveness of your cutaneous immune system. Researchers have found reversion of an altered microbial state may help prevent or treat disease.3

A break in the skin can lead to local or systemic infection when bacteria are allowed to invade. Data have demonstrated simple household items, such as a smartphone4 or kitchen sponge,5 may harbor a significant number of harmful bacteria.

Groceries are another way you may bring bacteria into your home. Meat is a suitable growth medium for a host of microorganisms6 and produce has been recalled after multistate outbreaks from E. coli contamination. In 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that avocado skins carry Listeria and Salmonella.7

FDA Finds Listeria and Salmonella on Some Avocado Skins

Starting in 2014, the FDA began microbial surveillance, sampling of whole fresh avocados as part of their preventive approach with “the ultimate goal of keeping contaminated food from reaching consumers.”8 In an 18-month sampling period, the agency collected just over 1,600 avocados to determine the prevalence of Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes.

They gathered 70% of the samples from imported avocados, and the rest were grown domestically in the U.S. In all, just over 17% of the avocado skins contained Listeria, but less than 1% of the meat of the avocados was contaminated.9

Salmonella was detected on only 12 skin samples from domestically grown products; none from the imported avocados had the bacteria. The FDA took these findings to confirm Salmonella could potentially be present on avocado skin. On the FDA website, they recommend consumers take steps to reduce the possibility of microbial exposure via avocados. Foodsafety.gov10 recommends:11

“[W]ashing all produce thoroughly under running water before eating, cutting or cooking. Even if you plan to cut the rind or peel off the produce before eating, it is still important to wash it first so dirt and bacteria aren’t transferred from the knife into the fruit.”

Salmonella can lead to diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps, which can become so severe they lead to hospitalization. Symptoms of Listeria infection depend on the individual but include fever, diarrhea and muscle aches. Symptoms can show up a few days after eating the contaminated food but it may take as long as 30 days before the first signs of infection begin.

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Listeria may spread to the nervous system and trigger headache, stiff neck, confusion, convulsions and loss of balance. Those at greatest risk are pregnant women who may suffer a mild Illness but could experience miscarriage, stillbirth or premature birth, and those with a weakened immune system.12

The FDA Is Unclear About What Should and Shouldn’t Be Washed

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)13 estimates there are 9.4 million foodborne illnesses each year from 31 known pathogens. This accounts for only 20% of the total number of foodborne illnesses each year. Annually there are just over 3,000 deaths from all foodborne pathogen triggered illnesses and over 125,000 hospitalizations.

One of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) food safety educators says people are still shocked when told not to wash poultry, even though it has been known for at least a decade that washing ends up dispersing food pathogens around the kitchen and increases the risk of foodborne illnesses.14

According to associate professor Benjamin Chapman, Ph.D., who heads up the North Carolina State University’s agricultural and human sciences department, washing chicken does not remove bacteria; rather it spreads the germs to hands, work surfaces, clothing and even nearby utensils and food.15 “The washing process can really only increase risk.”

In a collaborative effort between North Carolina State University and the USDA, preliminary results from a multiyear study demonstrate participants spread bacteria from raw meat across the kitchen to spice containers, refrigerator handles and even salads without realizing it.16

Recommendations from the FDA are confusing though. According to the agency, consumers should rinse their fresh fruit and vegetables with cold water, even though cold water doesn’t reduce the number of pathogens or kill bacteria,17 but not raw poultry, meat or eggs as this disperses foodborne pathogens.18

The International Association for Food Protection also states that produce clearly labeled as having already been washed should not be washed again as it doesn’t reduce pathogens, but increases the risk of spreading bacteria around the kitchen.19 According to Chapman:20

“Pathogens are just so small and the surface of produce is so creviced, that the pathogens do a really good job attaching and hiding where water can’t even get to. There are a lot of myths out there that if I wash, I can wash the pathogens off. You can wash a little bit off, but not enough to significantly reduce your risk.”

Keep Soap and Detergents Away From Your Produce

The FDA also recommends keeping soaps and detergents away from your produce as they leave a residue on the product and likely also affect the taste. According to Kaiser Health News:21

“There are no FDA-approved food cleaners on the market, and the agency hasn’t found anything to be more effective at removing bacteria than cold running water.”

However, it’s important to remember bacteria are particularly adept at adhering to surfaces, including your skin, produce, meat and kitchen surfaces. In order to remove all bacteria from your produce, your skin and counter surfaces must first be sterilized. Once you handle the produce, bacteria from the skin of an avocado, or leaf of lettuce may then adhere to your skin.

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The process becomes a cycle of cleaning your hands, kitchen surfaces and then produce — and then back to your hands and kitchen surfaces again — all while not truly killing pathogens but only displacing them to another area of produce or the kitchen.

Pesticide Exposure Is Not Harmless

It may seem innocuous to add a few squirts of dish soap to your produce with the intention of removing bacterial pathogens, but of the 232 hand-washing soaps listed on the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Healthy Cleaning database,22 58 scored an F. Those receiving the lowest score contained specific toxic ingredients detailed by Treehugger, including:23

Cocamide DEA — Suspicions include cancer, chronic aquatic toxicity, acute aquatic toxicity.

DMDM hydantoin — Suspicions include chemical release of formaldehyde and irritation of the skin, eyes or lungs.

Ethanolamine — Suspicions include respiratory effects, general systemic/organ effects, chronic aquatic toxicity, nervous system effects, skin irritation/allergies/damage.

Formaldehyde — Suspicions include cancer, general systemic and organ effects, skin irritation/allergies/damage, acute aquatic toxicity.

Sodium borate — Suspicions include developmental, endocrine and reproductive effects, skin irritation, allergies and damage, and respiratory effects.

Sulfuric acid — Suspicions include cancer, respiratory effects, skin irritation and allergies.

Triclosan — Suspicions include aquatic and general ecotoxicity, developmental, endocrine and reproductive effects, cancer and immune system effects.

Washing produce helps reduce your exposure to the vast amounts of pesticides and insecticides used in agriculture today. The very same companies that developed chemical warfare weapons during World War II transitioned into agriculture after the war, using some of the same chemicals on food.

Nearly 80% of the genetically engineered crops are designed to withstand herbicide application, most often a glyphosate-based product. As a result, foods contain far greater quantities of pesticides than ever before.

The Endocrine Society Task Force warns the health effects of hormone-disrupting chemicals is so great everyone needs to take proactive steps to avoid them, especially those seeking to get pregnant, pregnant women and young children.24 Even at extremely low levels, pesticide exposure increases the risk of certain diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease.25

According to the pesticide residue report from the USDA, nearly 85% of more than 10,000 samples of fresh fruits and vegetables were contaminated with pesticide residues. A similar report from the FDA also showed a majority of U.S. fruits and vegetables are contaminated with pesticides.

In an analysis from EWG of 48 fruits and vegetables, strawberries have earned the dubious moniker of most contaminated with pesticide residues for the last several years. This year the top 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables are:26

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Strawberries

Spinach

Nectarines

Apples

Grapes

Peaches

Cherries

Pears

Tomatoes

Celery

Potatoes

Sweet bell peppers

Safe Food Handling

It is safer to separate and clean produce and meat to help prevent cross-contamination. Raw meat and poultry should also be kept separate in your grocery bag, in your refrigerator and during food preparation.

Food safety experts recommend washing utensils and anything else used in food preparation in hot, soapy water to remove food pathogens. Washing your hands properly before and after handling food can help prevent contamination of other kitchen items.

While washing meat doesn’t remove pathogens, cooking it does. Therefore, cooking your pastured, organic meat to the correct temperature helps reduce your risk of foodborne illness. Washing produce presents a different challenge as many times your fruits and vegetables are eaten raw.

Effectively and Efficiently Clean Your Produce

A research team from the University of Massachusetts27 undertook a study to compare three methods of reducing toxins on produce. The team used apples to examine the effectiveness of commercial and homemade washing agents to remove pesticide residue.

They applied two common pesticides to organic Gala apples and then washed them with three different liquids: tap water, 1% baking soda water solution and an EPA-approved commercial bleach solution often used on produce. Using specialized analysis the scientists found surface pesticide residues on apples were removed most effectively using baking soda.

Dr. Philip Landrigan, researcher at the Arnhold Institute for Global Health from the school of medicine at Mount Sinai, advises people to eat organic as often as possible, but to at least wash your fruits and vegetables.28

Organic foods have a 30% lower risk of pesticide contamination,29 but it’s not entirely possible to guarantee organic produce is pesticide-free, as it is sometimes located in adjacent fields to farms where pesticides are used.

The research team believe the alkalinity of baking soda likely degrades pesticides faster, making it easier to physically remove the chemicals through washing. The researchers recommended a concentration of 1 teaspoon of baking soda for every 2 cups of water and gentle scrubbing.30

You may also reduce your exposure to foodborne pathogens from produce by using white vinegar, as the acidic vinegar crosses bacterial cell membranes and kills the cells.31 Before misting thoroughly with a blend of vinegar and water in a 1-to-3 ratio, ensure you’ve removed the baking soda, as it will neutralize the vinegar. Let the produce rest for 30 minutes and then wash lightly under cold running water.32

Through the practice of safe food handling, separating meat and produce, and washing your produce to reduce your exposure to pesticides, you may reduce your risk for exposure to foodborne pathogen illnesses and risks of exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals and known carcinogens.

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