It's that time again — time to embrace a new year and a fresh start in our continued journey toward a healthier, happier life. With a nod to our upcoming 20th anniversary in 2017, I've selected 20 tips from my 20 most popular articles of 2016.
If you haven't yet read them all, you're in for a treat, as they cover a wide variety of health topics.
Implementing some or all of these could help protect your health and well-being in the years to come. And be sure to stay tuned to the newsletter for more empowering health wisdom as 2017 unfolds.
The heading of each section is a hyperlink and if you click on it you will go to the article that has far more details.
1. Optimize Your Mitochondrial Metabolism
We're now starting to realize that mitochondrial dysfunction is at the core of virtually all diseases, and support for nutritional ketosis is growing by leaps and bounds. 2016 was a breakthrough year for this kind of information.
For over 80 years, nutritional ketosis has been the standard of care for intractable seizures in children.
Now we're finding it can benefit a wide array of other diseases, including neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, obesity, diabetes, heart failure, heart disease, arthritis and more.
One of the reasons it works so well is because it drives your inflammation down to very low levels. When inflammation disappears, your body can heal. It also takes the proverbial foot off the gas pedal of aging. My next book, "Fat for Fuel," scheduled for release in May 2017, will explain it all in detail.
Without this information, people will continue to die prematurely. At present, the cancer industry is focusing on the downstream effects of the problem, which is why the "war on cancer" has been such a miserable failure.
When you view cancer as a metabolic disease, you can actually target and manage the disease without creating systemic toxicity. You do this primarily by targeting the fuels the cancer cells use (primarily glucose).
Without the appropriate fuel, the cancer cells cannot grow and multiply. Six strategies that will help optimize your mitochondrial function include:
✓ Peak Fasting and other types of fasting
✓ Eating foods low in net carbs and protein and high in healthy fats
✓ Optimize your iron levels by getting ferritin to 60 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL)
✓ Reduce mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS) production by avoiding food for at least three hours before bedtime
✓ Get sensible sun exposure, as a majority of the energy your body needs to maintain systemic equilibrium comes from environmental infrared light exposure, and avoid light-emitting diode (LED) lighting (see next section)
2. Avoid LED Lights
The importance of near-infrared light exposure to health and the adverse effects of LED lighting, as explained by Dr. Alexander Wunsch, a world class expert on photobiology, was another breakthrough health revelation of 2016.
LED lighting may actually be one of the most damaging, non-native EMF radiation exposures you have on a daily basis. You cannot feel near-infrared as heat, and you cannot see it, but it has a major beneficial impact in terms of health.
Near-infrared frequencies are what is missing in non-thermal artificial light sources like LEDs and fluorescents. Importantly, it appears to promote age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is the leading cause of blindness.
The primarily blue light emitted by LEDs also generates excessive amounts of ROS, thereby exacerbating health problems rooted in mitochondrial dysfunction, which run the gamut from metabolic disorder to cancer.
The healthiest indoor lighting includes clear incandescent light bulbs (a 2,700 K incandescent, thermal analog light source), low-voltage halogen lights operated on DC (not AC, which generates dirty electricity) and/or fragrance-free candles.
Be particularly mindful to only use incandescents at night. After sunset, consider it is best to put on a pair of blue-blocking glasses.
3. Try Peak Fasting
One lifestyle factor that appears to be driving obesity and many chronic disease processes is the fact that we eat too frequently. When you eat throughout the day and never skip a meal, your body adapts to burning sugar as its primary fuel, which down regulates enzymes that utilize and burn stored fat.
Many biological repair and rejuvenation processes also take place when your body is not busy processing food. Mounting research suggests your body was designed to cycle through periods of feast and famine, and without periods of fasting, your health suffers.
Intermittent fasting, which mimics the eating habits of our ancestors, helps restore your body to a more natural state that allows a whole host of biochemical benefits to occur.
"Peak fasting" involves fasting for 13 to 18 hours each day and eating all of your meals within the remaining window of six to 11 hours. To make this schedule work, you need to skip either breakfast or dinner. However, if you chose to eat dinner, be sure to do so at least three hours before bedtime.
When sleeping, your body needs the least amount of energy. Eating at a time when energy is not needed ends up creating a situation in which your mitochondria create excessive amounts of damaging free radicals.
This is another important factor that can help optimize your mitochondrial function and limit cellular damage that drives aging and disease.
4. Monitor Your Iron Levels
Iron overload is incredibly common and likely as dangerous to your health as vitamin D deficiency. Elevated iron creates excessive free radicals that damage your mitochondrial DNA, cell membranes and electron transport proteins.
If left untreated, it can damage your organs and contribute to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases and many other disorders. The serum ferritin test measures your stored iron. I strongly recommend all adults to get this test done on an annual basis.
Ideally, your serum ferritin should be between 20 and 80 ng/mL; somewhere between 40 and 60 ng/mL is the sweet spot for adult men and non-menstruating women.
If your ferritin level is above 80 ng/mL, the solution is to donate your blood. If it's over 200 ng/mL, a more aggressive phlebotomy schedule is recommended.
5. Boost Your Body's Repair and Regeneration
The term autophagy means "self-eating," and refers to the processes by which your body cleans out various debris, including toxins, and recycles damaged cell components.
By boosting your body's autophagy process, you dampen inflammation, slow down the aging process and optimize biological function. Here are four strategies to boost your body's autophagy process:
1. Exercise. The amount of exercise required to stimulate autophagy in humans is still unknown; however, it is believed that intense exercise is more effective than mild exercise.
Research shows the "Goldilocks zone" in which exercise produces the greatest benefit for longevity is between 150 to 450 minutes of moderate exercise per week, lowering your risk of early death by 31 and 39 percent respectively.
Spending at least 30 percent of your workout on high-intensity exercises further boosts longevity by about 13 percent, compared to exercising at a consistently moderate pace. Following these general guidelines will likely put you in the most advantageous position for maximizing autophagy.
2. Avoid excessive protein. One of the quickest ways to shut down autophagy is to eat large amounts of protein, as this stimulates mTOR, and IGF-1, both of which are potent inhibitors of autophagy. To avoid this, limit your protein to 1 gram of protein for every kilogram of lean body mass, or one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body mass.
3. Fasting is another biological stressor that produces many beneficial results, including autophagy. In fact, some of the benefits associated with fasting — such as a reduced risk of diabetes and heart disease — can at least in part be attributed to this process.
4. Nutritional ketogenesis is a fourth strategy that will help boost autophagy, and to accomplish that, you need to cut down on the non-fiber carbs and increase the amount of healthy fat in your diet, along with a moderate amount of protein.
6. Implement Nutritional Ketosis
Nutritional ketosis is an effective way to improve your health, and can be used both for the prevention and treatment of chronic disease, including cancer and diseases rooted in toxicity. If your mitochondria are functioning well, they will efficiently metabolize fat. If they don't, it suggests you're primarily burning carbohydrates as a primary fuel.
Nutritional ketosis involves removing sugars and processed carbohydrates, replacing the lost calories with healthy fats and a moderate amount of high-quality protein. Doing so will shift your body into a metabolic state in which your body burns fat rather than glucose as its primary fuel.
As a general rule, you'll want at least 50 to 75 percent of your total calories (some may benefit from as much as 85 percent) from healthy fats, such as olives, avocados, coconut oil, MCT oil, organic pastured butter, cacao butter, raw nuts such as macadamia and pecans, seeds such as black sesame, cumin, pumpkin and hemp seeds, organic pastured eggs, grass-fed meats, lard and tallow.
A tool that will radically improve your ability to understand what you're eating and follow a ketogenic diet is a nutrient tracker. There are a number of them available, but the most accurate one is Cronometer.com/Mercola. That's our revision of the basic tracker, and it's already set up for nutritional ketosis.
7. Increase Your Consumption of MCT Oil
The disastrous "low-fat diet" dogma of the last half century has led to a devastating drop in most people's intake of healthy saturated fats, including MCTs. Besides coconuts, coconut oil and palm kernel oil, small amounts of MCT can be found in butter and other high-fat dairy products from grass-fed cows and goats.
MCTs can be divided into four groups based on their carbon length, which ranges from six to 12 carbons.1 As a general rule, the shorter the carbon chain, the more efficiently the MCT will be turned into ketones, which are an excellent source of energy for your body — far preferable to glucose, as ketones produce far less ROS when they are metabolized to produce ATP.
My personal preference is straight caprylic acid (C8), as it converts to ketones far more rapidly than the more common C8 and C10 mixtures. Since MCT oil, and especially caprylic acid (C8) oil, is a far more concentrated source than coconut oil, it's often appropriate for clinical uses, which include:2
- Appetite reduction and weight loss3,4
- Improved cognitive and neurological function with possible implications in neurodegenerative diseases
- Increased energy levels and improved athletic performance
- Improved mitochondrial function and subsequent reduced risk for diseases such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases and epilepsy5
- Prevention of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)6
8. Eat More of These 18 Foods to Promote Muscle Growth
The common belief is that if you want to build muscle, you need to eat lots of protein and carbohydrates because carbs fuel your muscles and protein builds them up. However, carb- and protein-loading can have significant drawbacks in terms of long-term health, and mounting evidence suggests you don't need either in excessive amounts to build muscle.
One particularly intriguing finding is that your body has a mechanism that allows it to build muscle even when deprived of food. Certain amino acids — most notably branched chain amino acids like leucine — signal muscle genes to grow and to build protein, and they do that even during times of food deprivation as long as these amino acids are circulating through your blood stream.
Including the following foods in your cooking as often as possible will provide you with leucine and other nutrients that play important roles in muscle building and maintenance. Just be careful to limit whey protein to days that you are strength training.
✓ Wild-caught Alaskan salmon
✓ Coconut oil
✓ MCT oil
✓ Raw nuts
✓ Grass-fed beef
✓ Authentic virgin olive oil
✓ Whey protein
9. Properly Manage Your Intake of Vitamins and Nutrients
As a general rule, I recommend getting the bulk of your nutrition from eating real food. That said, in some cases, taking specific nutrients may be therapeutically valuable or necessary, and can be far less toxic and less expensive than drug treatments. Moreover, in my view there are certain supplements that most people will benefit from taking.
Vitamin D3 (unless you're able to get sufficient amounts of sun exposure year-round) is at the top of that list, along with vitamin K2. Animal-based omega-3 fat, such as the fat found in krill oil, is another nutrient that most people simply don't get enough of.
If you still have not shifted away from processed foods, vitamin C may be worth considering, as processed foods will not provide you much of this vitamin. If you're not eating traditionally fermented foods, you'd also be wise to take a high-quality probiotic supplement, and at the very least consider increasing your consumption of fresh vegetables, as the fiber provides important nourishment for beneficial bacteria in your gut that help calibrate your immune system.
When selecting a high-quality dietary supplement, be sure it is as close as possible to its natural (whole food) form and follows industry standards for quality assurance including ISO 9001, ISO 17025 and Good Manufacturing Processes (GMP) certifications.
10. Maintain Healthy Kidneys
Kidney stones can be truly agonizing. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent them from ever occurring. Recent research shows that an extract of a compound called hydroxycitrate from the Asian garcinia cambogia fruit, also known as Malabar tamarind, has the power to inhibit the growth of kidney stones. It can even be used to dissolve them after a stone has been generated.
If all goes as hoped, hydroxycitrate would be the most dramatic advance in treating kidney stones in three decades. However, rigorous trials in humans have not yet begun, so it's still too early to justify its use. In the meantime, to prevent keep your kidneys healthy and prevent kidney stones:
- Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration
- Limit your protein intake to one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body mass
- Avoid foods high in oxalate, such as Swiss chard, beets, tea, sweet potatoes, rhubarb, chocolate, okra, almonds and spinach if you're at high risk for kidney stones
- Make sure you're getting enough magnesium (especially if you avoid the high-oxalate foods above, which are also high in magnesium)
11. Eat Magnesium-Rich Foods
Magnesium is vitally important for biological function and optimal health. If you're lacking in cellular magnesium, it can lead to the deterioration of your cellular metabolic function, which in turn can snowball into more serious health problems. Importantly, magnesium is vital for the optimization of your mitochondria.
Eating plenty of organic unprocessed foods tend to be your best bet, but since most soils have become severely depleted of nutrients, some magnesium experts believe virtually everyone needs to take supplemental magnesium.
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) is around 310 to 420 milligrams (mg) per day depending on your age and sex, although some researchers believe we may need as much as 600 to 900 mg/day for optimal health. One way to identify your ideal dose is to use your intestinal reaction as a marker. Start out by taking 200 mg of oral magnesium citrate per day, and gradually increase your dose until you develop slightly loose stools.
When your body has too much magnesium it flushes it out, so in this way you can determine your own individual cutoff point. (Be sure to use magnesium citrate, as it's known for having a laxative effect.)
When it comes to magnesium supplements, my personal preference is magnesium threonate, as it seems to be most efficient at penetrating cell membranes, including your mitochondria, which can help boost your energy level. It also penetrates your blood-brain barrier and may help improve memory.
12. Try These Low-Carb Vegetables
Most vegetables are very low in net carbs while being high in healthy fiber and the valuable vitamins and minerals your body needs for optimal health. However, some are more beneficial than others. Among the top performers are:
- Sprouts, especially watercress, broccoli sprouts and sunflower seeds
- Cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower and broccoli
- Leafy greens such as kale, beet greens, arugula, spinach, Swiss chard and collard greens
- Peppers, such as bell peppers, banana peppers, Poblano and chili peppers
- Certain root vegetables, specifically ginger, turmeric and onions
13. Manage Your Sugar / Fructose Intake
As much as 40 percent of U.S. health care expenditures are for diseases directly related to the overconsumption of sugar.7 One of the key mechanisms by which sugar promotes cancer and other chronic disease is by causing mitochondrial dysfunction. As mentioned earlier, sugar is not an ideal fuel as it creates far more ROS than fat. This generates free radicals, which in turn causes mitochondrial and nuclear DNA damage along with cell membrane and protein impairment.
I recommend reducing your total fructose intake to a maximum of 25 grams per day from all sources, including fruit. If you are insulin resistant, you'd do well to make your upper limit 15 grams per day. Cancer patients would likely be best served by even stricter limits. Moreover, I personally believe that most would benefit from reducing all non-fiber carbs (total carbs minus fiber), not just fructose, to less than 100 grams per day.
The easiest way to dramatically cut down on your sugar and fructose consumption is to switch to REAL foods, as most of the added sugar you end up with comes from processed foods. Other ways to cut down includes:
- Cutting back on the amount of sugar you add to your food and drink
- Using Stevia or Lo Han instead of sugar and/or artificial sweeteners. You can learn more about the best and worst of sugar substitutes in my previous article, "Sugar Substitutes — What's Safe and What's Not"
- Using fresh fruit in lieu of canned fruit or sugar for meals or recipes calling for a bit of sweetness
- Using spices instead of sugar to add flavor to your meal
14. Do This to Help Fight Gray Hair
Your hair color comes from pigment called melanin. With age, melanin is reduced, which is why your hair turns gray and, ultimately, white once there's no melanin left. In 2016, researchers discovered a gene that accounts for about 30 percent of hair graying. The other 70 percent is likely due to factors such as age, toxic exposures, nutritional deficiencies and stress. To limit the grays:
- Avoid smoking
- Minimize oxidative stress by avoiding pollution and stress
- Eat a healthy antioxidant-rich diet
- Increase your vitamin B12 intake
- Normalize your weight
15. Eliminate Gluten From Your Diet
Mounting research confirms that many people experience adverse reactions to gluten even if they test negative for celiac disease — an autoimmune disorder in which gluten must be avoided at all cost. This suggests gluten-sensitivity is a real problem,8 and that gluten-free diets may benefit many, not just those with celiac. In one recent study,9,10 people who reacted to gluten despite not having celiac disease were found to have leaky gut, which is likely what caused the immune activation.
The obvious treatment for celiac disease and gluten intolerance is a gluten-free diet, which means abstaining from any food that contains gluten.
This is largely because most is contaminated with Roundup used in the drying process, which tends to damage your intestinal cellular connections. However, keep in mind that while gluten-free has many advantages, just because a food is gluten-free does not automatically make it healthy. There are plenty of gluten-free junk foods out there, so be mindful of your choices.
16. Exercise to Combat Osteoarthritis
If you have osteoarthritis — a degenerative form of arthritic joint disease — exercise is absolutely crucial to your well-being. The notion that exercise is detrimental to your joints is a misconception; there is no evidence to support this belief. Importantly, exercise can help reduce joint pain and make it easier for you to perform daily tasks.
That said, people with arthritis should be careful to avoid activities that aggravate joint pain, and any exercise that strains a significantly unstable joint. Aside from that, you can include a range of activities in your exercise program, just as any other exerciser would.
Weight training, high-intensity cardio, stretching and core work can all be integrated into your routine according to your ability. The featured article also includes a series of flexibility exercises that will help strengthen your hips, which are suitable for those with hip osteoarthritis.
17. Don't Let Political Stress Overtake You
This year's presidential election has unleashed an avalanche of anxiety and emotional distress, with more than 8 in 10 voters reporting feeling "repulsed" by the campaign.11 Sadly, many have fallen into victim mentality, forgetting that the power of the individual is still alive and well even in this deeply flawed system.
It becomes yours by stepping OUTSIDE of the system with every decision and purchase you make. With every action you take, you also set the example for others to follow, thereby making you a change-agent within your own small circle of family, friends and acquaintances. In the end, our collective actions will create the changes that are so desperately needed.
If you don't like the state of the nation (or the world), stop eating processed and ultra-processed junk foods. Some may initially think this decision would have nothing to do with anything that is wrong in the world, but if you really give it some thought, you'll realize that the more independence you gain with your food, the more independence you will create in other areas as well.
18. Save Time by Exercising More Efficiently
Workout intensity and workout volume are inversely proportional, so the greater the intensity, the less time you spend working out, and the less frequently you need to exercise. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) can significantly reduce the amount of exercise you need to do, cutting your hour-long workouts down to 15 minutes once a week or less.
Moreover, as intensity goes up, you also need longer recovery times in between sessions, so the frequency of your workouts also goes down. At most, you might be able to do HIIT three times a week. You can perform HIIT using a recumbent bicycle, a treadmill or by sprinting, for example.
Or you can use weights — a technique known as SuperSlow weight training. A sample workout routine is given in the featured article. In terms of health effects, HIIT may help improve a number of biomarkers associated with improved metabolic activity and good health, including:
- Improved insulin sensitivity and reversal of type 2 diabetes
- Normalized cholesterol, eliminating the need for statin drugs
- Reversal of bone mineral loss and reversal of osteoporosis
- Improved C-reactive protein levels (marker for inflammation)
19. Address Your Heart Burn Without Hazardous, Habit Forming Drugs
Research clearly shows that proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are severely overprescribed and misused, and do far more harm than good in the long run.12 If you suffer from frequent heartburn, there are many alternative treatment strategies that can help you eliminate this problem without the serious side effects associated with PPIs, which include kidney disease, pneumonia, osteoporosis, hip fractures, dementia and an increased risk for heart disease13 and heart attacks.14
The long-term answer to heartburn and acid indigestion is to restore your natural gastric balance and function. The most important step is to eat real food, as processed foods and sugars are a surefire way to exacerbate acid reflux. Reseeding your gut with beneficial bacteria, either from traditionally fermented foods or a high-quality probiotic supplement is also important. Other drug-free treatment strategies include the use of:
✓ Raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar
✓ Baking soda
✓ Aloe Vera juice
✓ Ginger root
✓ Vitamin D
✓ Slippery elm
✓ Folate (vitamin B9) and other B vitamins
20. Consider Seeing a Wellness Chiropractor
Contrary to popular belief, chiropractic can be used to optimize wellness, not just treat pain. Research suggests chiropractic treatments can help prevent progressive spinal degeneration, i.e. osteoarthritis or disc disease.
Your spinal column, the vertebrae and the discs, protect your most delicate and important system — your nervous system — and impingements can contribute to a number of health problems and ailments. Hence protecting and nurturing spine will promote greater expression of nerve intelligence and more vibrant health.
Granted, some chiropractors focus primarily on pain and injuries, and do not have the full skill set required to address issues like allergies or disease. So make sure the chiropractor you choose has the appropriate vitalistic philosophy.
We remain committed to helping you take control of your health. Together, with your help, we have made it easier for millions to make informed health choices, and we hope that with our continuous service, you will stay motivated to take control of your health this year, and well into the future.
I also want to express my sincere thanks. Time and time again, your participation has allowed this valuable work to be accomplished. Truly, it is through your participation and engagement in important issues that change is being manifested.
You are the ones changing the world — one Facebook post, Twitter share, petition signature and donation at a time. So, from the Mercola.com family to yours, may 2017 be a year when you take the reins of your life firmly in hand to manifest the highest level of health and happiness possible.