A Website Exposing How Much Big Pharma Pays Doctors

In 2014, Harvard University stated that prescription drugs are the 4th leading cause of death. North American culture practically worships the pharmaceutical industry and often fails to recognize many of the issues within it. Many Americans are completely unaware that new prescription drugs have a 1 in 5 chance of causing serious reactions, even after being approved.

In fact, approximately 1.9 million people are hospitalized annually due to properly prescribed medication (not including any overdoses, self-prescriptions, or mis-prescribing). 128,000 people die every year in the U.S. from drugs prescribed to them, so why is this still happening? The reality is, drug companies make a lot of money from selling prescriptions, and they even pay doctors to do it for them.

If you’ve ever questioned this industry and your doctor’s motives, here is some good news: You can now find out how much your doctor is paid annually to prescribe any drug. In addition, you can also search any company name and find out how much they pay doctors in total every year.

The Database That’s Exposing Big Pharma’s Money Trail 

The governmental website Open Payments Data

The two former options allow you to see how much doctors and hospitals are paid annually by pharmaceutical companies to prescribe drugs. If you search a specific company, on the other hand, you can see a detailed summary of their spendings. There’s specific information outlining which doctors are paid the highest amounts, how many doctors they pay nationwide, the nature of these payments, and then specific details of every single payment they made to doctors that year.

For example, when you type Big Pharma giant Gilead Science Inc. into the tool bar, you can see that the company spent $36,830,535.40 in Total General Payments and $45,394,349.76 in Total Research Payments in the year 2015 alone. 48.4% of payments were classified as “Compensation for services other than consulting, including serving as faculty or as a speaker at a venue other than a continuing education program.” The top paid physician made more than $600,000 in 2015 from simply prescribing drugs manufactured by Gilead Science Inc.

It doesn’t take much common sense to understand what this could mean, particularly since it’s hardly a secret that pharmaceutical companies essentially buy out the medical industry. Numerous pharmaceutical companies have paid doctors and researchers to understate the dangers of both drugs and their negative side effects, and to falsify research as well.

Arnold Relman, Harvard Professor and former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, put it perfectly when he said, “The medical profession is being bought by the pharmaceutical industry, not only in terms of the practice of medicine, but also in terms of teaching and research. . . . The academic institutions of this country are allowing themselves to be the paid agents of the pharmaceutical industry. I think it’s disgraceful.”

Don’t Be So Quick to Blame Your Doctor…

If you’ve visited Open Payments Data‘s platform and searched your doctor within their database, take a moment to reflect on what you’re really looking at. Just because your doctors receive payments from pharmaceutical companies doesn’t necessarily mean they’re terrible people; it could just mean that they’re doing their jobs.

It’s unlikely your personal doctor designed the current structure of the medical industry. Your doctor may not even understand the complexity of the pharmaceutical industry because MDs aren’t properly educated on these drugs. Many doctors genuinely believe they’re helping people through the use of medication; they don’t see the bigger picture here because it’s not included in their education. Plus, it’s often illegal for MDs to prescribe natural cures instead of pharmaceutical drugs and conventional treatments, particularly when it comes to the cancer industry (check out this CE article that exposes the truth about cancer).

In addition, when you actually think about it, it makes perfect sense that some doctors are being paid by pharmaceutical companies. Of course Big Pharma would require doctors’ help in creating drugs and validating their use; it’s completely legal and should be expected of them. However, there’s clearly a grey area here that cannot be ignored.

Pharmaceutical companies, rather than qualified and unbiased doctors, define a lot of the information that MDs are taught, and Big Pharma often influences medical professors and funds university programs. For example, 1,600 Harvard professors stated that they or a family member have ties to drug companies that could bias their teachings or research. The pharmaceutical industry donated more than $11.5 million to Harvard in 2008 for “research and continuing education classes.” Many Harvard students have expressed concern over this and it even made mainstream news when a student was belittled by his professor for asking about the side effects of a drug his professor was unlawfully promoting in class.

This has also been a prevalent issue within psychiatry. As Dr. Irwin Savodnik of UCLA explains, “The very vocabulary of psychiatry is now defined at all levels by the pharmaceutical industry.” This is partially because the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)the text most psychiatrists in the U.S. refer to to diagnose and treat their patients, is heavily biased toward using pharmaceutical drugs instead of therapy. Read more about this in our CE article here.

If you haven’t yet been exposed to this side of the U.S. medical industry, I can understand that there may be some confusion. Why would pharmaceutical companies and some doctors conspire to over-prescribe or mis-prescribe people when their sole purpose should be to help their patients? The simple answer is profit.

The main reason we take so many drugs is that drug companies don t sell drugs, they sell lies about drugs. This is what makes drugs so different from anything else in life… Virtually everything we know about drugs is what the companies have chosen to tell us and our doctors… the reason patients trust their medicine is that they extrapolate the trust they have in their doctors into the medicines they prescribe.

The patients don’t realize that, although their doctors may know a lot about diseases and human physiology and psychology, they know very, very little about drugs that’ve been carefully concocted and dressed up by the drug industry… If you don t think the system is out of control, please email me and explain why drugs are the third leading cause of death… If such a hugely lethal epidemic had been caused by a new bacterium or a virus, or even one-hundredth of it, we would have done everything we could to get it under control. – Dr. Peter Gotzsche, co-founder of the Cochrane Collaboration (source)

Why Big Pharma Wants You To Take Pills

This may be obvious to many of you, but, just to be clear: The entire medical industry is focused around profit. It’s similar to any other industry in that every service it provides you with, or item it convinces you to purchase, makes someone else a lot of many. In the case of a pharmaceutical company, they can only make money if you’re sick.

So, it wouldn’t really be in the best interest of Big Pharma to sell drugs without any negative side effects. If they produced drugs that actually 100% cured people, how would they continue to profit off our illnesses?

This is precisely why Big Pharma does not get involved with all-natural medicines; there is no profit to be made in plants. Anyone can grow a plant with the right climate and it’s much cheaper to manufacture than synthetic drugs. It’s also easier to make pills in larger quantities than plants. and then when you consider the economies of scale, Big Pharma is able to generate an even greater profit.

Big Pharma has infiltrated pharmaceutical drugs into other industries too. If you eat animal products, then you’re inadvertently ingesting the hormones, antibiotics, and other pharmaceutical drugs given to those animals. Antibiotics, birth control pills, painkillers, and other pharmaceutical drugs can be found in tap water as well.

Let’s take a moment to look at the bigger picture: Most industries are currently driven by money, not passion. It seems strange, but this is precisely the issue within the medical industry. I’m sure many doctors choose their occupation because they’re passionate about helping people. However, until Big Pharma stops playing such a crucial role in creating their job descriptions, it will be difficult for MDs to actually help people without simultaneously hurting them.

It’s clear that we need a systemic change in values. Until we start to work “for the people” rather than “for the profit,” we cannot expect these outcomes to change. It’s hardly surprising that Big Pharma wants you to be sick because they’re not just in the business to cure people — they also need to make a profit.

Is Everything We Know About Herpes Completely Wrong?

Let’s be honest: There’s a huge stigma surrounding herpes. It ends up being a make or break for tons of relationships and is something that’s feared and looked down upon in the dating world. For those with herpes, it can be a confidence crusher and a reason to remain disconnected from others, ultimately creating further division amongst us all.

Ask yourself: If you found out your current (or potential future) partner had herpes, would you stay with him or her? If you feel like you can answer that question without any hesitations, then I challenge you to question whether you even know what herpes really is and what its symptoms look like. Can you be positive you don’t have herpes? You could be a part of the 87.4% of infected individuals who don’t even know they have herpes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The truth of the matter is, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 3.7 billion people below the age of 50 have HSV-1, more commonly referred to as cold sores. Another 417 million people between the ages of 15 and 49 are infected with HSV-2, which is typically considered to be a sexually transmitted disease (STD). However, 140 million people get genital infections from HSV-1, those pesky cold sores you may have had in or around your mouth, meaning that half a billion people could sexually transmit either virus.

To gain a better understanding of herpes, let’s debunk some of the more commonly heard myths:

Myth #1: Cold sores and herpes are very different 

The CDC defines genital herpes as, “a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the herpes simplex viruses type 1 (HSV-1) or type 2 (HSV-2).” So, very clearly, you can become infected with herpes from cold sores or susception to the STD itself.

Raquel Dardik, MD, Clinical Associate Professor at NYU Langone’s Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health, states, “Many people wrongfully believe that cold sores don’t count as ‘real’ herpes.” It’s important to note that although their symptoms typically manifest differently, HSV-1 in the mouth and HSV-2 around the genitals, all it takes to transfer the infection is skin-to-skin contact. In other words, the sores from both viruses can form anywhere on your body.

Even if there’s no genital to genital interaction, you can still get HSV-2. For example, if you are performing oral sex on your partner, you can contract HSV-2 and develop sores in your mouth. Yes, it’s more common for HSV-1 to form around the mouth and HSV-2 on the genitals, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only place you can get a breakout.

Myth #2: If you’ve never had an outbreak, you don’t have herpes

Wrong. You could have herpes for your entire life and never have an outbreak, or at least the type of outbreak so many people are terrified of experiencing. Now that you know that, the fact that 87.4% of infected individuals have no clue they have herpes doesn’t seem so unimaginable.

As Fred Wyand, Director of Communications for the American Sexual Health Association, explains, “Outbreaks can be very mild and even confused with things like heat rash, jock itch, yeast infections, allergic reactions… So while some cases do involve pronounced symptoms, most never do.”

Myth #3: I get tested for STDs regularly, so I can’t have herpes

Like many other STDs, when it comes to herpes, it’s all about the timing of your test. Herpes takes at least two weeks to be detected, but can sometimes take months to appear. If you have a routine checkup for STDs, herpes often isn’t included, as the CDC doesn’t recommend frequent testing for it.

Myth #4: Herpes isn’t contagious if there’s no visible outbreak

Since we’ve already established that outbreaks aren’t always obvious or can be mistaken for other issues, this isn’t 100% true. This is due to viral shedding, which Wyand explains: “There are a few days a year when herpes is active, and possibly transmitted without any symptoms present…. This doesn’t happen on most days, but it’s tricky, because there’s no real way to know.”

Myth #5: I have herpes, so I can’t have kids

If you hope to have children one day, don’t worry — herpes won’t ruin that dream for you. Herpes in no way affects your fertility, so you’re just as likely to become pregnant with herpes as you are without the infection. You don’t need to be overly concerned about passing the virus to your children either, as there are numerous safe options for delivering your baby to avoid this.

However, there are still some added risks associated with having herpes while carrying a child. Unfortunately, genital herpes can increase the risk of miscarriage and premature birth, and in rare cases, herpes can be a dangerous infection in newborns, although this is only an issue if the mother has an outbreak at the time of birth.

Myth #6: My partner suddenly got herpes, so he/she clearly cheated on me

One of my former partners suddenly got genital warts from an unknown source after we’d been dating for quite some time. If a similar situation occurred with your partner, don’t automatically assume that he/she cheated on you.

In fact, even if you and your partner have been together for 20 years, this could still be a possibility. This is because you can have herpes without experiencing any symptoms or your partner could have mistaken previous symptoms as being a result of another health issue.

Of course, your partner may have cheated on you, but that’s not the only explanation. If you find yourself in this situation, you can either trust your partner’s explanation, or you could meditate on it and trust your own intuition.

It’s Time To Stop Hating On Herpes

Why are we so quick to judge others with herpes? Dating and connecting with others can be difficult for many people, let alone someone who has a physical obstacle they feel prevents them from doing so. If you find out your partner or someone you know has herpes, try to extend some compassion to their situation. Since there’s such a heavy stigma surrounding herpes, many infected people may struggle to talk about it. So, if they trust you with that type of information, try to remain empathetic to their feelings.

Like everything else in this world, herpes serves a purpose, so in some way it serves us. If you’re struggling with herpes or if you just found out your partner is infected, keep in mind that it’s just another aspect of the physical realm, and we are so much more than that. Yes, it’s extremely important to take care of your physical body, but at the end of the day, it isn’t the real you. 

The “Inconvenient Truth” About Mental Illness & Prescription Medications

A worrisome trend has emerged in the last few decades that many physicians are choosing to ignore: As the amount of psychiatric drug prescriptions increase, our mental health declines. It’s time we swallow the hard pill and ask ourselves, are psychiatrists doing more harm than good?

I know that, to some of you, this question seems absurd. Why would licensed medical practitioners purposefully harm their patients? But that isn’t really what’s happening here, as the issue relates more to the over-prescription and misuse of mental health drugs, and the corporately funded miseducation that prompts this behaviour, than any malicious intentions on the part of individual people.

The “Inconvenient Truth” About Mental Illness and Prescriptions

In 2013, approximately 17% of Americans were prescribed at least one mental health drug, in comparison to only 10% in 2011. The amount of people on psychiatric prescription drugs has drastically increased over the past 10 years and now 12% of adult Americans are taking some form of antidepressants alone (source).

It’s not just adults affected by the over-prescription of these drugs; according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 11% of children between the ages of 4 and 17 were diagnosed with ADHD as of 2011. However, the American Psychiatric Association maintains that even though only 5% of American children suffer from the disorder, the diagnosis is actually given to around 15% of American children. This number has been steadily rising, jumping from 7.8% in 2003 to 9.5% in 2007. The simple reason for this increase? Profit.

However, despite the fact that the number of mental health drugs prescribed increases every year, our mental health has actually decreased. The amount of people who are considered to be so disabled by mental illness that they require Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) has increased by almost two and a half times between 1987 and 2007, from one in 184 Americans to one in seventy-six. Not surprisingly, the rise in the number of children affected by this is even worse, with a thirty-five-fold increase in that same timeframe (source). So, if the number of prescriptions are increasing, why is our mental health declining?

This phenomenon is what Thomas Insel, former Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, refers to as the “inconvenient truth” of mental illness. Suicide rates per 100,000 people have reached a 30-year high and substance abuse, especially with opiates, has become a national epidemic.

Edmund S. Higgins, MD and Professor of Psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina, explains, “More people are getting treatment and taking medications today than ever before, so what is going on? I would argue that a lack of precision and objectivity in diagnosing and treating mental illness has stalled our progress.” Furthermore, Big Pharma has played a crucial role in creating the mental health drug epidemic.

Big Pharma’s Role in Increasing Prescriptions

This seems to be the general consensus of the North American population: If an advertisement or a misinformed MD says, “There’s a pill for that,” you take it. Our reliance on pharmaceutical drugs didn’t form by accident, however; it was carefully planned and funded by Big Pharma. The pharmaceutical industry manufactured it by heavily advertising drugs, bribing physicians, and funding health studies.

Big Pharma has done an excellent job of feeding the public propaganda through advertisements and education, as the more pills you take, the more money they make. The pharmaceutical industry has played a substantial role in increasing the amount of prescriptions and overall diagnoses of A.D.H.D. in the U.S. (read an article I wrote about this here) and other mental health illnesses. As Dr. Irwin Savodnik of UCLA explains, “The very vocabulary of psychiatry is now defined at all levels by the pharmaceutical industry.”

Doctors typically use the knowledge from the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to diagnose and treat mental illness. But the DSM has had its fair share of criticism, as it favours the use of pharmaceutical drugs over therapy and other healing modalities. Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine and Editor-in-Chief of The Carlat Psychiatry Report Daniel J. Carlat, M.D, criticized the DSM, stating, “In psychiatry, many diseases are treated equally well with medication or therapy, but the guidelines tend to be biased toward medication.”

Holistic mental health practitioner Dr. Tyler Woods further explains:

The DSM tends to pathologize normal behaviors. For instance, the label “Anxiety Disorder” can be given as a result of some kinds of normal and rather healthy anxieties but the DSM will have experts view it and treat it as mental illness. In addition simple shyness can be seen and treated as “Social Phobia”, while spirited and strong willed children as “Oppositional Disorder”. Consequently, many psychotherapists, regardless of their theoretical orientations, tend to follow the DSM as instructed. (source)

In fact, Big Pharma has played a significant role in manufacturing our very definitions of mental illnesses and how they form in the first place. For example, the U.S. considers A.D.H.D. a neurological disorder whose symptoms are the result of biological disfunction or a chemical imbalance in the brain, much like many other mental disorders. However, other countries such as France see these mental disorders, including A.D.H.D., as a social context issue rather than a biological one, with many contributing factors and recommended treatments other than drugs. Dr. Marcia Angell, a physician, author, and the Editor-in-Chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, states:

When it was found that psychoactive drugs affect neurotransmitter levels in the brain, as evidenced mainly by the levels of their breakdown products in the spinal fluid, the theory arose that the cause of mental illness is an abnormality in the brain’s concentration of these chemicals that is specifically countered by the appropriate drug. For example, because Thorazine was found to lower dopamine levels in the brain, it was postulated that psychoses like schizophrenia are caused by too much dopamine. . . .

That was a great leap in logic . . . It was entirely possible that drugs that affected neurotransmitter levels could relieve symptoms even if neurotransmitters had nothing to do with the illness in the first place (and even possible that they relieved symptoms through some other mode of action entirely).

Why Pills Cannot Solve All of Our Problems

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t take prescription medication for mental illness; that’s something that you and your doctor should decide. However, if your doctor fails to address any other means of dealing with your mental health, always choosing pills first rather than as a last or even second resort, then perhaps you should think about finding a doctor who understands the benefits of at least considering alternative options.

It’s important to note that even if prescription drugs are the reason our mental health is worsening, they’re certainly not the only reason. We’ve increased our amount of time spent using technology, staying indoors, and being sedentary, as well as worsened our diets and overall physical health with fast food, chemicals, toxins, animal products, and more — all of which may contribute to this decline in mental health.

However, there’s no denying the fact that Big Pharma has had a tangible and worrisome role in the psychiatric drug epidemic. Medical journalist and Pulitzer Prize nominee Robert Whitaker addresses this “inconvenient truth” by using depression as an example. Depression used to be considered a self-limiting illness that, even in severe situations where a patient requires hospitalization, could be cured within six to eight months. Very rarely would patients relapse, and if they did it would typically be many years later.

When antidepressants hit the market, our outlook on depression completely shifted. Even though antidepressants may have been created with good intentions, the reality is that patients taking these drugs are relapsing more quickly and more often. Whitaker explains that many patients on antidepressants will only recover partially in comparison to the full recoveries he’s seen in people who never took them in the first place.

In fact, only around 15% of those treated with antidepressants actually go into remission and maintain their mental health long-term. The other 85% are continuously relapsing or experience chronic depression.

It is clear that in many cases, we need to stop looking for outside help when it comes to our mental health. Our mental health is just that — it’s ours. It’s controlled by us, whether we like it or not. Many mental illnesses don’t stem from biological issues, contrary to what Big Pharma wants you to think, but are rather the result of different stressors in our lives. So, if we were able to connect with ourselves on a deeper level and actually get to the root of the problem, perhaps some of these disorders wouldn’t be so severe.

Related CE Content:

Study Finds Turmeric Is As Effective As Prozac For Treating Depression

Almost No Children In France Are Medicated For ADHD: Here’s How They Define & Treat It

Professor Outlines The “Surprisingly Dramatic” Role That Nutrition Plays In Treating & Curing Mental Illness

Picture source. 

 

Physicist Develops A “Natural Alternative” To Birth Control Pills

Birth control has been a popular topic of late! What was once viewed as an empowering pharmaceutical for women and a step forward in the women’s rights movement is now being questioned by the masses. Birth control poses numerous dangerous side effects to women, yet they’re often not discussed when the pills are prescribed or are vastly understated.

Birth control is the most commonly used drug in the world, with over 100 million women currently taking “the pill” and millions of women using alternative methods such as “the patch,” injectables, and implants. In the U.S. alone, pharmaceutical companies generate $2.8 billion in annual sales from the pill.

Medical doctors prescribe birth control to females as young as 12 and fail to mention the potential side effects. Years later, once these children become women and learn about the threats the pill poses to their health, it can be equally as terrifying to come off the pill as it is to continue taking it.

Well, Swedish nuclear physicist Elina Berglund Scherwitzl decided that she wanted a form of contraception that didn’t impact her hormones, so she designed an alternative called Natural Cycles.

Physicist Designs More Natural Alternative to Birth Control Pills

Using a combination of research and advanced mathematics, Scherwitzl created an algorithm that could identify exactly when she ovulates during her cycle. From that, Scherwitzl discovered when she would need to use protection or abstain from sexual intercourse in order to prevent pregnancy. The equation is allegedly more accurate in comparison to other natural birth control methods.

“Like many women I had tried many different contraception options since my teenage years and hadn’t really found a solution that fit me,” Scherwitzl noted.

“It was in my quest for an effective natural alternative that I discovered that you can see when you’re fertile by your temperature, and for me that was really a revelation.”

Scherwitzl founded her company, Natural Cycles, in 2014 and it has grown steadily, as her product is now being used by 300,000 women. Essentially, women measure their temperature and then use that data alongside the app to track their cycle trends.

Natural Cycles is advertised as being just “as effective as the pill,” as a large-scale clinical study showed that only 7% of women who used the app got pregnant, compared to 9% of women who take the pill. Of course, there could be some human error involved, but this is still an excellent statistic.

This process is admittedly more hands on than other birth control pills, as it requires users to be diligent with taking their temperature and using the app. However, it’s still an excellent alternative that doesn’t pose the same health risks as conventional birth control does.

“Just like the pill we need some effort from the user on a daily basis. But we really hope to be the default alternative if you don’t want to use hormonal contraception or IUDs,” Scherwitzl explained.

Natural Cycles isn’t actually the first of its kind, either. The Femtech company Kindara, which was founded in 2011, also sells a similar product/app duo. Kindara’s “Wink” machine will take your temperature, and then you use that in combination with the app to track your fertility.

CE wrote about another more natural alternative to birth control called Lady-Comp, which is one of the safest and effective forms of female birth control. You can read more about that here!

Why Shouldn’t You Take Conventional Birth Control?

If you’re unfamiliar with the dangers of taking the pill, here’s how it can harm your body:

  • It depletes your body of essential nutrients
  • Suppresses testosterone (and thus your sex drive)
  • Doubles your risk of depression
  • Heightens your risk of specific cancers (breast, ovarian, and cervical), osteoporosis, stroke, heart disease, migraines, and blood clots
  • Increases mood swings, discolouration of skin, bleeding and spotting, hair loss, fibroids, fatigue, and cellulite.

To learn more about the physical side effects of birth control, check out the following CE article:

The Dangers Of Birth Control: How To Safely Stop Taking “The Pill”

Another issue with birth control is that it literally controls when your period starts and finishes, and so for women taking birth control, their periods very rarely move and they often don’t experience irregularities. Since your cycle cannot freely flow, you can’t learn from it in the same way you could if you weren’t on birth control.

Your period is such a gift; it communicates with your body and can tell you when something is wrong or when something needs to be looked at. When you experience PMS, irregular periods, a shift in start time, or any other symptom regarding your menstruation, that’s your body telling you that your health requires attention.

Women’s periods also hold a deep connection to nature and their emotions, as many women used to experience their periods either on the Full Moon, or more commonly, on the New Moon. My period has always been synced with the New Moon, and the only time it changed since getting off birth control was after my grandmother passed away and during her burial months later, which were two of the more stressful and emotional periods of my life.

I was experiencing other irregular symptoms during my period, forcing me to look inwards. I realized I not only had a health issue affecting my menstruation, but I also had a severe block on my sacral chakra, which was in turn affecting my period. Immediately after I dealt with these issues, my period returned to its regular cycle and started on the New Moon once again.

Everything happens for a reason, especially in our bodies! If you’re experiencing painful menstrual cramps, that’s not just a “regular” symptom of having your period. Whenever we have pain in our bodies, it’s always telling us that we need to look deeper and search for the root cause of the issue. However, if you’re using birth control, you won’t be able to observe your period and learn from it as effectively as if you weren’t taking it.

You can learn more in our CE article below:

Rediscovering the Divine Feminine: How Menstruation Relates To Moon Cycles, Nature & Diets

Final Thoughts 

To be clear, I’m not telling you not to take birth control. I believe that every woman should have the right to make that decision herself, and that it should be made from an informed perspective. Research the potential side effects of birth control and develop a greater understanding of how it could affect your body, and then decide whether or not you’d like to take it. Be sure to ask your doctors questions and know that you can always explore other options!

 

The “BPA-Free” Marketing Scam: Plastic Is Still Toxic & Filled With Many Chemicals

Whenever we see “free” labelled on a product, it tends to trick our brains into thinking, “Hey, that must be good for me!” Seriously, think about it. When you see a cereal box label that reads “gluten-free,” do you immediately assume it’s healthy? When you read “paraben-free” on the front of a shampoo bottle, do you just assume it’s all-natural?

Although sometimes these labels can indicate that something is healthier or better suited for your dietary needs, they can also act as sources of misinformation or false advertising. For example, just because something’s labelled as “all-natural” doesn’t actually mean that it’s 100% natural.

We saw this trend within the plastics industry as well when restrictions started to be imposed on BPA and public awareness surrounding the health risks of BPA increased. Now, it’s very common to see “BPA-free” on the labels of water bottles and plastic containers.

Yes, this was a victory for human health, as BPA can harm our bodies. However, if BPA isn’t in our plastic, what exactly is, and how can that affect us?

BPA Alternatives in Plastic Could Be Just as Dangerous as BPA

A study published in Environmental Health Perspectives suggests that the chemicals used to replace BPA may be just as harmful as BPA itself, posing the same risks on the human body, ie. hormone disruption.

The researchers studied two different BPA alternatives: Bisphenol S and F, referred to as BPS and BPF. These alternatives were chosen because they perform similarly to BPA; however, it seems they also pose the same health risks. Although further research needs to be conducted to figure out how much these compounds could truly affect the body, this study suggests that there is some cause for concern.

“According to pretty much all the literature there is on these two substitutes, they are hormonally active in ways similar to BPA – similar mechanisms, similar potencies,” explained study author Johanna Rochester, a researcher for the Endocrine Disruption Exchange.

Interestingly enough, BPS and BPF have been found in tons of other products including personal care products like shampoos and body wash, paper products, and even food products including meat, dairy, and canned goods.

This isn’t the first study to show how BPA alternatives could be just as bad as BPA itself, either. In fact, one study conducted by the University of Calgary showed how BPS could negatively affect brain development.

You can read more about that study below in our CE article:

Study Shows Regularly Used BPA Alternative BPS Could Be Just As Dangerous

Final Thoughts 

To be clear, I’m not telling you just to revert back to buying regular plastic! There are tons of issues with plastic, only one of which is BPA. BPA has been linked to behavioural problems, endocrine and reproductive disorders, obesity, cancers, and immune deficiency disorders, which you can read more about in our CE article here.

A great alternative to plastic bottles is glassware! You can purchase glass containers at practically any home store and they’re even more durable than plastic, as many of them are oven-safe.

It’s important that we educate one another on potential health risks, not to scare one another, but to progress as a healthier and more educated society!

Trimming Your Pubic Hair May Increase Your Risk of STIs `

Grooming your pubic hair today seems to be just as popular as cutting the hair on your head. Whether you’ve trimmed it, waxed it, sugared it, or shaved it, numerous people feel the need to remove or decrease the hair in between their legs, particularly women.

The media and society encourage women to remove practically all of their hair and many of us succumb to this pressure, but how does that affect our health? A study published in the British Medical Journal’s publication on Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) explored the correlation between pubic hair and STIs.

Trimming Your Pubes May Increase Your Risk of STIs

recent study in the U.S. found a positive correlation between STIs and pubic hair grooming. Researchers surveyed 7,580 people between the ages of 18 and 65 years old, 56% of whom were men and 44% women. The survey determined participants’ sexual history, previous STIs, and pubic hair maintenance.

74% of those surveyed — 66% of men and 84% of women — stated they groomed their pubes. This isn’t necessarily surprising, as getting Brazilians and shaving has become a social norm, especially for women. The participants’ tool of choice was either the electric razor, which 42% of men used, the average razor, which 61% of women chose, or scissors, which approximately 25% of each group preferred.

The researchers then grouped the individuals who groomed their pubes into two categories: “extreme groomers,” or those who removed all of their pubic hair more than 11 times per year, and “high-frequency groomers,” those who trimmed it on a daily or weekly basis. Of the people surveyed, 17% were considered extreme groomers and 22% high-frequency groomers.

13% of the participants stated they have had herpes, human papilloma virus (HPV), syphilis, molluscum, gonorrhoea, chlamydia, HIV, or pubic lice. Regardless of how often they removed their pubic hair, the results showed that groomers had an 80% greater risk of contracting an STI after taking their age and total amount of sexual partners into consideration.

In addition, the extreme and high-frequency groomers were considered four times more likely to contract an STI than non-groomers. These groomers were found to be more susceptible to STIs contracted through skin-to-skin contact, including herpes and HPV. The researchers also found that those who didn’t groom their pubic hair were more likely to have a lice infestation down there. So, for those of you who groom for cleanliness reasons, there may be some scientific basis to that!

Interestingly enough, extreme groomers were found to have had sex with significantly more partners than any other group surveyed. This begs the question: Is there a correlation between pubic hair removal and increased number of sexual partners?

It’s important to note that groomers could easily nick themselves while doing so, which may be a contributing factor for contracting STIs in the first place, since having any sort of open wound makes you more susceptible to bacteria and viruses.

When Did We Start Hating Pubic Hair?

Contrary to popular belief, pubic hair removal gained popularity well before this century. In ancient Greek, Egyptian, and Indian art, many females had little to no hair between their legs. The same trend can be found in Renaissance Italian art as well, as many females were portrayed with no pubic hair (source).

It’s unclear whether or not the artists actually painted their realities; however, even if they didn’t paint exactly what they were seeing, the desire to see a woman without pubic hair was still apparent.

The number of females who removed their pubic hair significantly increased with the start of the new millennium. From the 1970s until 2000, most explicit magazines such as Playboy featured women with pubic hair. However, since 2000, most pornography and explicit magazines have depicted the women with absolutely none.

An Indiana University study found that pubic hair removal is largely based on age. Their findings suggest that the younger the woman, the more likely she is to completely remove her pubes. For example, 21% of women aged 18-24 removed everything “down there,” whereas only 2% of women over 50 did so.

There are numerous reasons for this correlation. Hair removal could simply be a trend amongst millennials, or perhaps the older the woman, the more comfortable she is in her own body. However, the majority of the participants in this study stated that their decision was just that, their decision. Their amount of pubic hair was not contingent on their partner’s or society’s opinions, but rather their own.

Learn to Love Your Pubes or Lose ‘Em — Who Cares!

The first time I was peer pressured into ditching my pubes was at a very young age. I falsely presumed that men would only be attracted to me if my entire body was smooth and hairless, so I spent years of my life falling into the “high-frequency groomer” category as discussed above. This was a direct result of the propaganda, media, and societal pressures I (along with billions of other women) was subject to.

The media tries to convince you that beauty is only skin deep and that in order to be beautiful, a woman must have skin as bald as a naked mole rat. There are also cultural expectations regarding hair removal; for example, many European women don’t shave or wax.

Whether you choose to remove your hair or keep it there, make your decision for you. Yes, the universe blessed you with hair there for a reason, but that doesn’t make it wrong to remove it!

Edward Snowden’s Tweet That Exposed What Our TV’s Are Doing To Us

Years ago, Edward Snowden accomplished one of the most significant intelligence leaks in U.S. history, confirming to the world that the government really does spy on you. Two years later, Samsung casually warned the public that their Smart TVs could record their living room banter.

Now, even if you’re alone in a room, if that room contains a laptop, computer, or Smart TV, it’s possible that someone out there is listening to you, and even watching you. The worst part? You wouldn’t even know.

A technology called TVision Insights was launched a few years ago, allowing companies to monitor TV watchers’ viewing habits. This means that they can literally watch you as you watch TV, and the technology even records data on where your eyes are looking, when you’re distracted, and what emotions you’re conveying.

How TVision Insights Watches You Watch TV

I first came across the technology when Edward Snowden tweeted the following image on February 26, 2017.

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As you can see, not only can the companies watch you watch TV, but the technology is intelligent enough to pick up on your facial expression, engagement level, and other significant data. This information has provided insight into not only what shows people watch the most or are the most engaged in, but what commercials they prefer to watch as well.

TVision was co-founded by Dan Schiffman and one of his classmates from the Sloan School of Management at MIT. Through the installation of a Microsoft Kinect device, most often used for Xbox video games, on top of TVs, TVision tracks the movement of people’s eyes in relation to the TV. The device can then record even tiny shifts from everyone in the room, and then the company matches the movements to what they’re watching.

The device’s sensors can record minute shifts in all of the people in the room. The company then matches those viewing patterns to shows and commercials using technology that listens to what is being broadcast on the TV.

Since the technology is still very new, it’s currently being voluntarily tested on 7,500 people in the Boston, Chicago, and Dallas-Fort Worth areas (source).

Obviously there are privacy concerns here. The company states that they aren’t storing any images or video footage, and it’s only a voluntary installation, at least for now. But we’ve already seen companies and the U.S. government abuse similar software to spy on us.

How can we guarantee this information won’t be publicized or sold to corporations or the government, since that’s already happened in the past? Where do we draw the line between wanting the latest technical gadgets and wanting to secure our privacy? Is it even possible to have both anymore?

Your TV Could Be Watching You Already

This isn’t the first example of surveillance through TVs, and it probably won’t be the last. In early 2015, Samsung released a statement warning customers that their Smart TVs were capable of listening to and recording conversations.

These TVs have voice recognition software, but this fancy piece of technology comes at a price, and that price is a complete and utter violation of privacy. Samsung actually warned its customers not to have important conversations or disclose personal information in front of their Smart TVs because the audio can be recorded and then transmitted to unidentified third parties.

Samsung’s privacy policy in regards to the TV actually reads: “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party.”

You can read more about the Samsung controversy in our CE article here.

Vizio TVs were also found to record people, but the company had to pay $2.2 million to settle charges for collecting and selling footage from millions of TVs without the knowledge or consent of its viewers. This is a pretty fair settlement given the fact that they had sold 11 million of these smart TVs. One can only imagine how many people were directly affected by this.

The software, Smart Interactivity, was marketed as a feature that “enables program offers and suggestions” for users. However, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Vizio didn’t actually offer any of these programs or suggestions for more than two years after being sold. The FTC suit, which was filed alongside the Attorney General of New Jersey and the Director of the State’s Division of Consumer Affairs,  claimed that Vizio and its subsidiary, Inscape Services, sold data to third parties (source).

The data collected was able to show what programs and commercials people watched, and when. It could also measure the effectiveness of advertisements, as it would use the IP address attached to all of the internet-connected technological devices in your home to see if you recently searched for anything in regards to that commercial. For example, if you watched a McDonald’s commercial and then ordered McDonald’s on your phone, the software would pick up on that and confirm that the commercial was successful. The software can also do this in reverse, so if you see an ad online for a cool show and then you decide to watch it after, the software would pick up on that, too. The software could also target ads to people on their other devices, like phones or laptops, based on what they just watched on TV.

Although Vizio never publicly identified the companies they sold their data to, the FTC claimed that it included personal information like “sex, age, income, marital status, household size, education, homeownership and household value” (source).

How Do We Take Back Our Privacy?

If you own a Smart TV, don’t stress too much! There are ways to opt out of these features (although who knows if this is guaranteed, but it’s certainly worth a shot). Just do a quick Google search and you can find out how to opt out of Vizio and Samsung Smart TVs, if not more.

It’s well-known now that laptop cameras and microphones are easy targets for hackers, particularly if those hackers are U.S. government agencies, as they can be activated remotely (and you may not even know it because that little green light next to your camera won’t necessarily turn on).

The entire CE office tapes over their laptop cameras in order to prevent anyone from potentially spying on us. Even Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg tapes over his laptop camera and microphone as an easy defence against people spying on him. I encourage you to do the same!

The reality is that we live in a world where everything is recorded and privacy isn’t always a choice anymore. There are little things here and there that we can do to avoid being taped or listened to, but that seems to be getting more and more difficult. We live in a technologically driven world, so it’s crucial that we voice our opinions and fight for our privacy. Even if you feel like you don’t have anything to hide, you should still have the right to do so!

Warning: Graphic Video Exposes A Cruel Truth Behind Designer Leather, Like Louis Vuitton

So many people, particularly those of us who live in more industrialized countries, have become obsessed with our appearance. People slave away behind a desk just so they can afford that new designer handbag or some other fashion craze. Very rarely do we ask ourselves, “Do I truly need this material item, or am I using it to fill a void?”

Even more rarely do we ask ourselves, “What material are my clothes made out of and where do they come from?” We just take a glimpse at a tag, recognize the label, and purchase it without second guessing what our money is supporting. If the process was shown to us visually, during our purchase, just think about how many people would walk away from that item.

This is how disconnected and ignorant we’ve become.

The sad truth is that the fashion industry is torturing and murdering innocent animals and destroying the environment in the process. A recent PETA video exposes the terrifying reality behind many designer leather items.

Warning: Graphic Video That Will Make You Ditch Leather Forever

Society not only considers it ‘normal’ to own leather products, but also encourages consumers to buy them because leather is considered a high quality material, one that only people with “higher statuses” can afford. In particular, crocodile skin has been a fad for a long time in the leather industry, as many luxury brands will make leather handbags, watches, shoes, belts, and other clothing items out of it.

The PETA video below features footage inside multiple crocodile farms in Vietnam. In the video, you can see that the crocodiles are still alive while being cut open and skinned. In fact, crocodiles can live for multiple hours after being skinned alive. One of the farms featured is one that provides crocodile leather for Louis Vuitton, which is often viewed as a symbol of prosperity, but should really be viewed as a symbol of cruelty.

The Chilling Truth Behind The Fashion Industry

Crocodiles aren’t the only animals to be tortured, skinned alive, and forced to endure a slow and painful death. Leather can be made from a variety of animals including the more obvious choices of cows, pigs, goats, and sheep; exotic animals like alligators, ostriches, and kangaroos; and even house pets such as dogs and cats. You may be thinking, “I’d never wear leather from cats and dogs!” However, ask yourself these two questions: What makes dogs and cats so different from other animals and how would you even be able to distinguish between leather made from a dog and leather made from a cow?

No, North America doesn’t kill dogs and cats for leather, but they do import leather products from China, where cats and dogs are killed for their meat and then skinned for leather. In fact, most leather actually comes from China or India and there’s no way to determine where (or whom) your leather is coming from (source).

Wool isn’t any better either; you’d assume that manufacturers would want to keep the animals alive and treat them with care since wool doesn’t technically require an animal to die. It seems this would be more economical, yet these animals are tortured and often die as a result of the brutality that takes place on wool farms (you can read about that here).

I’ve also heard people argue that leather is more environmentally sustainable than other cruelty-free alternatives. Yes, it may have a longer product lifecycle than some vegan alternatives; however, it’s also responsible for the same environmental degradation the meat industry causes and further pollution from the dying and tanning processes. To give you a few statistics:

“Livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.”

“Livestock is responsible for 65% of all human-related emissions of nitrous oxide – a greenhouse gas with 296 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, and which stays in the atmosphere for 150 years.”

“Cows produce 150 billion gallons of methane per day.” (source)

So, How Do We Transition To A Leather-Free Fashion Industry?

We torture and murder these animals, all for what? A pair of shoes? A wallet to hold the cards that are literally driving you into debt? I’ll admit, there’s a certain practicality behind leather because of its durability, but there are numerous vegan materials that are equally as strong and long-lasting. Some of the awesome, vegan, eco-friendly alternatives to leather include waxed cotton, paper, cork, tree bark “leather,” and one of my personal favourites, recycled tires! PETA has a comprehensive list of vegan leathers that are just as sleek and durable as real leather.

I ditched all of my leather products a long time ago; however, I completely understand the struggle to do so. If you own a lot of leather, it can be expensive and wasteful to simply throw it out. You have a few options: you could sell your leather goods, donate them to a shelter or a facility that refurbishes or recycles leather, or trade them with friends for other cruelty-free options!

It’s also important to recognize that, at one point in time, using animals to create our clothing served us. Animal skin and fur was able to provide our ancestors with enough warmth to survive in colder climates. It was also a more sustainable option for clothing at the time if they were killing the animal for food anyways (long before factory farming became mainstream).

However, now is the time to divest from animal products and move towards a cruelty-free future. We’ve seen how these animals are treated and there’s no way to justify the terror that takes place in these facilities. We know that consuming animal products is of a very low vibration and that simply cannot serve us if we want to raise our consciousness and lead the collective towards a brighter future. Animals weren’t put on this Earth to serve us; they’re not ours to take, just like the environment isn’t ours to destroy.

Say goodbye to your leather so you can look great on the outside and feel even better on the inside!

Tips & Techniques That May Help You Experience ‘Astral Projection’

Imagine this: You’ve gotten into bed and shut your eyes for a moment, and then all of a sudden, when you open them again, you’re hovering over your body. You’re conscious, but it’s not the you you typically identify as, the one with a face and clothing and jewelry, but the real you, your soul.

You’re looking down at your body and you realize you can move, almost as if you’re flying. You say goodbye to your body and begin to travel around your room, down your stairs, out your door, and then… you wake up. This is a form of astral projection, commonly referred to as an “out of body experience.”

Some people have reported astral projecting during a dream-like state, while others have experienced this same thing when they had a near-death experience. Some find the experience terrifying, and others find it humbling and exciting, knowing they can travel throughout the physical plane using only their astral bodies. If you’ve ever wanted to try astral projecting or wish to learn more about it, this article is for you!

What Is Astral Projection? 

When astral projecting, you are consciously aware of it. Many people will look at their physical bodies and recognize themselves while they’re in a sleep-like state.

It is said that astral projection is an out-of-body experience that can be achieved either through dreaming, deep meditation, or even when you’re awake. As far as I know, most people who astral project will simply explore the physical plane as they know it. However, it is said that the Akashic Records can be accessed from here and one can travel through timelines and even communicate with other beings (sometimes even other projectors).

It’s important to note that most people don’t experience the same third dimensional physical constraints when astral projecting. For example, most souls are able to travel while projecting out-of-body by way of flying or floating.

Astral projecting is very different from dreaming or even lucid dreaming. When you’re dreaming, you’re unconscious. When you’re experiencing a lucid dream, you are usually conscious of the fact that you’re dreaming, and thus you can manipulate scenarios and control your dreams. However, when you’re astral projecting, your soul literally exits the body, but you are consciously controlling it.

Techniques for Having an Out-of-Body Experience

Though many people don’t consciously plan to astral project, it is said that you can use certain techniques to help yourself astral project or have an out-of-body experience (OBE). If you’re interested in trying to astral project, give the following techniques a shot:

The Rope Technique

This is actually the only technique I’ve tried, and I sort of had success! Though I didn’t have a full-blown OBE, I definitely felt it coming on and left my body for a few moments, until I got too scared and decided to stop.

Basically, all you do is envision an invisible rope hanging from the top of your ceiling, directly over your body. You then imagine that you’re reaching out your “astral body hands” and slowly pull yourself up the imaginary rope. You may feel dizzy, which is completely normal. Keep concentrating on climbing the rope, hand over hand and very slowly, and don’t stop until you’ve freed your astral body.

Watch Yourself Falling Asleep

This method requires you to be very diligent as you begin to fall asleep. Tell yourself that you’re going to watch yourself fall asleep and actually stay conscious during the entire process, including when you enter into the dream state. Recognize every sensation you experience as your physical body falls asleep, as this will help you remain conscious.

As you fall deeper into a dream-like state, you may experience some buzzing and heaviness. Use this to help yourself stay conscious and visualize yourself floating above your body. Continue to visualize this until you hopefully reach the point of OBE.

Wake Back to Bed Method

Though not very enjoyable for those of us who enjoy sleeping, the “wake back” method is very popular to induce astral projection as well as lucid dreaming. Set your alarm for a few hours before you usually wake up, but don’t get up when it goes off, simply shut it off and lay back down once your mind is awake. Ideally, you want to keep your alarm close by so you barely need to move your body to shut it off. This way, your body will be close to falling back asleep but your mind will be awake.

Now, start to envision yourself astral projecting in the same way, while also allowing your body to go to sleep. Try to remain conscious but allow your body to get heavier and deeper into a sleep-state. Continuously focus on floating above your body until you’re astral projecting.

My Experience With Astral Projection

To be honest, I wasn’t really sure if I believed in astral projection until I actually experienced it myself. I had had tons of lucid dreams before, but still the thought of projecting my soul out of my body and consciously hovering over it didn’t seem realistic to me.

That is, until it happened one night last summer. I was sleeping with a friend and, despite having slept there multiple times before, I was having a lot of trouble falling asleep. My mind was racing for a period of time but it randomly shut off, and then I kept hearing this buzzing sound that didn’t really sound like any vibration or frequency I’d heard from his house before. I remember closing my eyes and immediately when I opened them, I was shocked. I was still staring at the ceiling, but instead of being 10 feet away, I was only a few inches in proximity. I immediately recognized that I couldn’t be lying down anymore and remember thinking to myself, “When did I stand up?”

To my dismay, when I looked down, I saw us sleeping. I then looked out the window and had somewhat of an internal battle on whether or not I should leave the bedroom. Though I wasn’t using any words or thinking, I intuitively knew that I was struggling to decide whether I should explore the night sky or stay in the comfort of the bedroom near my physical body. I remained looking out the window for a long time until I finally woke up, shocked that I had actually astral projected.

Though many of you reading this may feel as though I was simply having another dream, I know I wasn’t. I was confident that my soul had left my body, especially because everything in the bedroom was so clear, and I had a strong sense of Self throughout the entire dream. I’ve also had numerous “extremely realistic” dreams, so realistic that when I wake up, I’m shocked it was a dream, but this was very different. It was as if I had finally broken free from my shell, and though it was invigorating, empowering, and somewhat comforting, it was also slightly terrifying.

It’s experiences like these that make us seriously question our individuality, our uniqueness, and our personalities that form our identities on this planet. We are not our physical bodies; I am not Kalee, and that can be a scary reality to face (especially when you’re literally staring yourself in the face, soul to physical body). However, although astral projection can shatter your identity, you don’t have to abandon it.

Yes, underneath it all, you are not your physical body, nor are you your experiences and accomplishments. However, that doesn’t mean you have to give it all up! We are on this planet to experience and to feel. Though we are not our emotions at our cores, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have them. If it’s on this planet, its existence serves a purpose.

This is the heart of detachment  — knowing your “attachments” (or what many consider attachments, like emotions and people) don’t define you, because eventually, after “death,” you will no longer have them.

If you have any experiences with astral projection, feel free to share them in the comment section below!