How to Cook Butternut Squash Like a Pro

Butternut squash is a popular winter squash that belongs to
the Cucurbita moschata species.[i],[ii]
Its slim neck and bulbous bottom give it a distinct elongated pear shape,
and it has an average weight of around 2 to 3 pounds.[iii]
Its thick and smooth cream-colored rind hides its bright orange flesh, which
contains fewer seeds and tastes relatively sweeter and nuttier compared to
other variants of squashes.[iv]

Even though butternut squash is considered a winter squash,
it’s actually a warm-weather crop.[v]
It’s grown in the summer and harvested during early fall to late winter.[vi],[vii]
You can keep it for a month or more, provided that you store it in a cool, dry
place away from direct sunlight.

While other foods lose their nutritional value when stored
for a long time, butternut squash tends to become even more nutritious during
the first two months of storage, as its carotenoids continue to accumulate.

Aside from providing a remarkable amount of nutrients, the
butternut squash is also a versatile ingredient that you can add to different
dishes, which is why it definitely deserves a spot in your kitchen. From soups
to desserts, you can use it to create a variety of mouthwatering meals, as long
as you know the different ways to cook it.

Here’s How to Cook Butternut Squash

Butternut squash is easy to prepare and cook, plus it has a
natural sweet flavor that complements different ingredients. Learning the
different ways to cook this vegetable can be a useful culinary skill,
especially if you need to whip up a tasty dish within minutes.

In order for you to create a delicious meal out of butternut
squash, make sure that you choose one that’s dense and heavy for its size. You
should also check its rind to see if it’s free of cracks, soft spots and other
blemishes.[viii]
Once you have the perfect butternut squash, turn it into a healthy and
satisfying dish using any of the cooking methods below.

How to Puree
Butternut Squash for Soups, Desserts and Baby Food

One of the simplest things that you can do with a butternut
squash is to puree it. This makes for a perfect base ingredient for soups,
desserts and side dishes. Plus, it’s a nutritious meal for babies and kids.
Here’s a simple guide on how to puree butternut squash:[ix],[x]

1.      
Cut the butternut squash lengthwise. Scoop out
the seeds and strings.

2.      
Place the squash on a cookie sheet, cut sides
down, and cook it in the oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit until its flesh becomes
soft.

3.      
Allow the squash to cool, then scoop out the
flesh and put it into a blender or food processor. Puree until you achieve the
desired consistency.

4.      
Mix with other veggies, fruits, meats or spices,
if desired.

When pureeing a butternut squash, take care not to include
the skin into the mixture, since it will make the consistency chunky instead of
smooth and velvety.

How to Cook Butternut
Squash in an Oven: Roasted to Perfection

Roasting butternut squash keeps its flesh moist and tender while
caramelizing its exterior, giving your dish a nice contrast in texture. Follow
this easy method from Better Homes and Gardens to roast your butternut squash perfectly
in an oven:[xi]

1.      
Cut the butternut squash in half, then scoop out
the seeds. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the squash, and then cut it into
1-inch-thick cubes.

2.      
Toss the squash cubes in a bit of coconut
oil
to keep them from drying out while roasting, and then spread them in an
even layer on a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with salt and
black pepper.

3.      
Roast in the oven at 450 degrees Fahrenheit,
uncovered, for 30 to 35 minutes or until tender and brown on the edges,
stirring once.

You may also opt to roast butternut squash without peeling
and/or dicing it into cubes. The roasting process can soften its rind, making
it easier to chew.[xii]

How to Cook Butternut
Squash on a Stove

Don’t have an oven? Don’t worry — butternut squash can be
easily cooked on the stove, too. The preparation for stovetop dishes is similar
— you just need to peel the squash, remove its seeds and dice it into cubes if desired.

If you want to fry it in a pan, set the heat to medium-high
and use grass fed butter or coconut oil for frying. Let the squash cook for
several minutes, and then sample a few pieces to see if they’re done to your
liking.[xiii]

You can also steam butternut squash on a stovetop. You simply
boil 1 inch of water in a large pot, put the squash in a steamer basket, and
then place the squash over the boiling water. Be sure to keep the pot covered
and allow the squash to cook for 10 to 20 minutes, or until it’s tender to
bite.[xiv]

Recreate These Delicious Butternut
Squash Recipes

Now that you know some of basic cooking methods that you can
do with a butternut squash, it’s time to show off your culinary prowess. Here
are some hearty and delectable recipes that you should try:

Spicy Roasted Butternut Squash Recipe

Ingredients:

1 butternut squash

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes, or to taste

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon curry powder

Fresh thyme
(optional)

Procedure:

1.      
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

2.      
Cut the butternut squash in half and remove the
seeds.

3.      
Combine the coconut oil, red pepper flakes,
salt, curry powder and thyme. Rub the mixture on the squash.

4.      
Place the sliced squash face up on a baking
sheet and bake for 30 minutes or until soft. Scoop out the insides of the
squash into a bowl and mix.

Note: If you have
time, you can peel the squash and cut it into cubes to save time when cooking.

Six-Spice Butternut Squash Recipe

Ingredients:

1 small butternut squash, under 2 pounds

2 tablespoons ghee, palm oil,
coconut oil or lard, melted

2 teaspoons coconut aminos (or 1 teaspoon fish sauce + 1 teaspoon
coconut sugar)

2 teaspoons coconut sugar

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 fresh basil
leaves

Procedures:

1.      
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

2.      
Cut off both ends of the squash by root and
stem, and peel the skin off with a vegetable peeler.

3.      
Cut the squash in half crosswise. Then, cut both
halves lengthwise and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds.

4.      
Cut the squash into 1-inch cubes.

5.      
In a mixing bowl, combine the melted fat with
the coconut aminos, coconut sugar and the rest of the spices except for the
basil.

6.      
Add the squash to the mixing bowl and toss well
to coat.

7.      
Roast for 25 minutes, turning the pieces after
15 minutes.

8.      
Thinly slice the basil by stacking the two
leaves, rolling tightly like a cigar, and slicing across to create ribbons.
Carefully mix the basil ribbons into the hot squash.

Butternut Squash Breakfast Bowl

Serving size: 2

Ingredients:

1 small or medium butternut squash, under 2 pounds,
roasted whole

1/2 fresh organic banana

2 teaspoons almond butter (preferably sprouted or
blanched, but any type of nut butter works)

2 teaspoons raw honey

Pumpkin spice or cinnamon powder to taste

2 tablespoons crushed or sliced nuts (pecans, walnuts or almonds)

Raw, grass fed butter (to warm squash when assembling
into bowls)

Toasted coconut flakes (optional)

Procedure:

Roasting a Whole
Butternut Squash:

1.      
Roast the butternut squash at night so it’s
ready in the morning. Simply place the whole squash in the oven and set the
heat to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. You can place the squash in the oven while it
preheats.

2.      
Check the squash after one hour. Stick a fork into
the top, bottom and center to see if it goes in easily — this is a sign that
the squash is done. If needed, you may roast it for another 30 minutes or until
it’s tender on all sides. You want it to have the softness of a banana, not
mush.

3.      
Allow the squash to cool on the counter for 15
to 30 minutes.

4.      
Being careful not to burn yourself, cut the
squash lengthwise down the center to open it like a book (don’t worry about the
stem).

5.      
Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and stringy
center.

6.      
As if you’re cutting an avocado, take the tip of
your knife and cut squares into the flesh, but not through the skin. Simply
scoop out the cubes of squash with a spoon.

7.      
Portion this in containers for breakfast bowls.
You get two main-meal servings or four side-dish servings per squash.
Refrigerate for the morning after.

Assembling Your
Breakfast Bowls:

1.      
Lightly warm your cubed squash in butter-greased
pan. You want it warm, not hot.

2.      
Warm the almond butter so that it’s easy to
drizzle. You can do this by running the almond butter jar under warm water.

3.      
Thinly slice half of the banana, and then scatter
the slices on your bowl.

4.      
Drizzle on the almond butter and raw honey.

5.      
Lightly sprinkle with pumpkin spice or cinnamon.

6.      
Top your bowl with nuts and/or toasted coconut
flakes.

Butternut Squash Boasts an
Impressive Nutritional Profile

Winter squashes, like the butternut, are among the
vegetables that I recommend you to include in your wholesome diet, as they’re
loaded with a wide array of nutrients that can help you take control of your
health.

The most notable benefit of butternut squash is its abundant
carotenoid content, which is an antioxidant that turns into an active form of
vitamin A in your body. Vitamin A is essential for your eye health, immune
system and cell growth, among others. Plus, it plays a role in the function of
vitamin D, vitamin K2, zinc
and magnesium.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture
(USDA) National Nutrient Database, a cup of cooked butternut squash provides
1,144 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin A, exceeding the recommended daily allowances
(RDA) of this vitamin for men and women, which are 900 mcg and 700 mcg,
respectively.[xv]

A cup of butternut squash also provides 17 percent of your
RDA for potassium,[xvi]
which may help lower your risk of cardiovascular diseases by counteracting the
negative effects of sodium on your blood pressure.

Some of the other valuable vitamins and minerals that
butternut squash can provide include:[xvii]

Manganese

Magnesium

Calcium

Vitamin C

Vitamin E

Iron

Vitamin B6

Thiamin

Niacin

Pantothenic acid

Folate

 

 

Butternut squash is also an excellent source of dietary
fiber
, which may help promote a healthy digestive system and immune
function, as well as prevent inflammation and gastrointestinal issues like
constipation.

Eat Butternut Squash
in Moderation

Before you chow down bowls of butternut squash to reap its
outstanding health benefits, keep in mind that it’s not OK to eat this food
excessively, since it contains high amounts of carbohydrates. In fact, around
90 percent of its calories come from carbs, half of which are starch-like.

While the starch from butternut squash may have a few unique
health benefits, it’s still best to limit your net carb intake to 40 to 50
grams per day. With that said, make sure that you eat butternut squash in
moderation, as its high carb content may cause you to unintentionally exceed
your daily limit for carbohydrates, which may increase your risk for high blood
sugar levels and chronic diseases.

Legal Updates on CBD and Homeopathy

By Dr. Mercola

Todd Harrison is a partner in the legal firm, Venable LLP — one of the “white hat” legal firms that helps defend us and many other companies against overreaches by federal regulatory agencies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In this interview, he discusses the latest legal developments involving cannabidiol (CBD) and homeopathy, both of which have come under recent serious attack.

Venable is a full-service law firm founded in Baltimore City in the 1800s. In the 1980s, the firm decided to develop a regulatory practice, which led to the opening of a Washington D.C. office. In the 2000s, offices were added in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco. “We do everything from intellectual property work to contracts and distribution agreements, to general corporate work,” Harrison says.

Harrison’s expertise is Food and Drug Law and advertising law, and many of his clients are companies that market nutritional supplements and cosmetics. Venable also has a number of lawyers who used to work for federal regulatory agencies and have had an inside view of their workings.

“For instance, in our New York office, we have Leonard Gordon [who] came out of the FTC. He was an East Coast regional director of the FTC. We recently brought in Michael Bloom, who was at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). While at DOJ, he oversaw not only FDA cases but also the FTC cases.”

Legal Update on CBD Oil

Cannabidiol (CBD) is the nonpsychoactive component of cannabis. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), it doesn’t induce a “high,” but has many clinical benefits, including the control of seizures and pain. With projections suggesting somewhere between 50,000 and 60,000 Americans will die from opioid overdoses this year, we are in dire need of nontoxic pain relief.

CBD oil is one of them. Unfortunately, cannabis is classified as a Class 1 narcotic, which makes the legalities surrounding CBD a bit more complex. Harrison explains:

“What people should realize is that cannabis and hemp are the same plant. It’s just the amount of THC that’s in that plant. The status of cannabis is quite clear. Under federal law, it’s a controlled substance. It cannot be marketed. It cannot be sold. That’s regardless of what the states have done … [T]he federal government [could] clamp down on the states that have legalized cannabis and take action against individuals in those states.

In states where they’ve legalized [cannabis], it really depends upon the good will of the federal government not to enforce the U.S. drug laws. CBD is a different issue. It’s kind of a complex issue. CBD is part of the hemp plant. It could also be part of the marijuana plant. It generally comes from the resin of the plant. CBD is considered … by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), to be a controlled substance. It’s considered to be marijuana.

There is a case now pending before the Ninth Circuit of Appeals. Oral hearings were … on whether DEA’s scheduling of [CBD] is appropriate. We will have a decision of the Ninth Circuit from a DEA perspective probably sometime midsummer. I would think no later than September …

I truly believe the Ninth Circuit will rule against the DEA. I think the DEA has overstepped [with] a nonpsychoactive. You can’t sit there and classify everything under marijuana to be a controlled substance. I think, in the end, it’s a fight that DEA is losing.

The lawsuit was brought by several hemp growers against the DEA. It’s been going on for a while. We’re at the Court of Appeals stage. We expect a decision. I think the arguments are very strong that the DEA has overstepped its bounds. From a controlled substance point of view, that decision of the Ninth Circuit will either be a game changer, or it will be the industry’s worst nightmare.”

Drug Industry May Ultimately Push for Descheduling of CBD

Considering CBD is nonpsychoactive, there’s really nothing for the DEA to be concerned about. You cannot get high from it and it’s not addictive. From these facts alone, it makes absolutely no sense to regulate CBD as a Class 1 narcotic. One possible ulterior motive might involve collusion with the drug industry.

By eliminating CBD, drug companies stand to make more money from drug sales. However, the drug industry may ultimately want CBD to be descheduled as well, as companies have started developing CBD-based drugs.

“They’re not going to want it to be a controlled substance,” Harrison says. “In the end, I think that even if the Ninth Circuit case goes badly, my prediction would be that once the FDA approves [GW Pharmaceuticals’] new drug, there’s going to be a recommendation to deschedule [CBD] from the FDA.”

CBD Industry Has Failed to Take Necessary Action

Unfortunately, even if the FDA calls for the descheduling of CBD to pave the way for CBD drugs, it won’t help manufacturers of CBD supplements. GW Pharmaceuticals have already been granted a patent for its CBD product and are pursuing classification as a drug. Once that drug application goes through, it becomes a crime to sell CBD oil unless you’ve gone through the FDA drug approval process. Harrison explains:

“In 2006, GW Pharma filed an investigational new drug (IND) application with the FDA to conduct clinical trials on CBD, because it held a lot of promise for patients with certain seizure disorders. To be able to make that type of claim, you’d have no choice but to go through clinical trials. And then they instituted clinical trials immediately after that.

Those dates are important because under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, if an ingredient is a subject of an IND and significant clinical trials prior to its use as a dietary ingredient, you’d have to get authorization from FDA to market that ingredient. Nobody paid attention to this.

The CBD industry just went hog-wild and decided they were going to get into it and ignored that part of the law. There’s still actually a limited time [for action]. Somebody could petition FDA to market CBD as a dietary ingredient.

The only way it ever becomes a preclusion is if somebody does an act prior to FDA approving CBD as a new drug. Once they approve it as a new drug, it would be precluded, unless FDA actually went ahead and permitted its use before that. That’s the rub here. It’s that there is a small window of time that a company could go forward with FDA.

There’s a good chance that the FDA may reject it. You may very well have a very good case to bring it to a court, because there’s no reason that CBD shouldn’t be able to be marketed as a dietary ingredient. But nobody is doing that right now.

Because of that, the industry risks that FDA — once it approves that [CBD] drug approval — there’s no way of being able to use CBD as a single moiety marketed as a dietary supplement. CBD companies, in many ways, act like the cannabis crowd, [saying] ‘If everybody is selling it, then we’re not going to have any problems. We’re going to force the law to change that way.’ There’s one big difference here.

Most pharmaceutical companies don’t have clinical trials on smoking weed. Here is a company that does very good work. Actually, if you talk to even some of the natural botanists out there, they’ve done extremely good work on CBD, THC and marijuana. They’re going to want to … protect their interests.

They may very well — and this is my speculation — tell FDA, ‘You need to do something at that point.’ Or they may try to do it themselves by bringing their own actions. That’s the risk that CBD industry takes …

I once argued, ‘Are you better off having the fight now or later?’ If the fight’s going to happen, should you just go ahead and do it now, or should you go ahead and do it later? From that perspective, maybe it’s better to have that fight now, while it’s not an approved drug. Because having the fight after it’s an approved drug is going to make it significantly more difficult…”

Hemp Products Are Legal, Even if They Contain CBD — At Least For Now

Considering the risks of not petitioning the FDA to have CBD approved as a dietary supplement, why hasn’t anyone done it already? Barring poor legal advice, the most likely reason is cost. As noted by Harrison, “To file a good petition with the FDA, with all the safety data and everything that you would need, you’re probably talking about $50,000 to $80,000. But if you lose to the FDA, the litigation costs could easily reach the mid-six figures to low-seven figures. I think that’s why people don’t do it.”

Now, as mentioned, CBD can come from either cannabis or hemp. Again, the distinction between these two plants hinges on the THC content. Hemp has very little if any THC, whereas cannabis will have varying amounts of THC depending on the species. Hemp products such as hemp oil and hemp extract are legal.

Even though they may have small amounts of CBD, hemp products can be lawfully marketed. This is a potential loophole the CBD industry could use. The drawback is hemp products may not have much CBD in them, and they may not be clinically effective.

“My hope is that there is a resolution to be had, and that CBD will be made available, but we’ll have to see. It’s a shame to have something that has potential health benefits outside what we call a drug claim not available to individuals,” Harrison says. “I think the idea that … it helps alleviate daily stress and things along that line … is appropriate for a dietary supplement.”

There are many instances where people have moved simply to avail themselves of legal medical cannabis. It’s truly sad that it’s not available across the nation. CBD products are currently available in all states, but that may soon change, depending on how this pending litigation plays out.

Legal Update on Homeopathics

The second topic Harrison addresses in this interview is the legal status of homeopathic medicines. The FDA has issued a draft document in which they state they intend to exercise enforcement discretion on homeopathic products, but made it clear they believe homeopathic medicines are unapproved new drugs.

“I believe they’re just wrong on the law. Homeopathy goes back a long time,” Harrison says. “It goes back to the original Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. It is recognized as a drug in the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act … Why are we vilifying a whole medicinal paradigm just because it doesn’t fit our ideas of Western medicine?”

Indeed, the FDA’s stance comes across as both irrational and inconsistent. On one hand, they’re saying there’s no way homeopathy can work since there’s no active ingredient. It’s just a “vibrational essence” or energy of an active ingredient left due to extreme dilution. On the other hand, they want to treat homeopathics as new drugs.

The legality that allows for this inconsistency is the fact that it’s the disease claim that makes a product a drug. In other words, if the product claims to treat a disease, it’s a drug. If it makes no claim to treat disease, it’s not a drug.

“It’s more about the intent of the product,” Harrison explains. “One of the problems I have … [is] we’ve decided that everything is a disease in this country. There’s nothing that’s not a disease. We don’t worry about maintaining health. But even if I wanted to say that FDA was right … why do we care if somebody is using a homeopathic medication for the alleviation of cold symptoms, cough or a rash on your body?

That’s just a waste of money. You don’t have to believe it works. Even if I wanted to assume it’s a placebo effect on individuals, those individuals believe it’s working. The placebo effect’s a real effect. It’s just that the whole rationale makes no sense. FDA admits that homeopathic drugs are safe. They are not going to cause harm. Whether you believe they’re effective or not is irrelevant, because the people who take them [believe it].

Regardless of the prescription products, that should be between the physician and his patients. They should discuss the pros and cons of whether a homeopathic product will work or not. Now, homeopathic products that treat serious conditions should not be made available over the counter, because we don’t even like conventional drug products that are intended to treat serious conditions over the counter.

But you can’t all of a sudden say, ‘Well, no. Not even a practitioner in his practice of medicine [can] recommend a homeopathic.’ I think that FDA is overstepping. But I also think that in many ways, the homeopathic industry is being lazy about it. [They say] ‘Well, FDA has decided that they’re going to exercise their enforcement discretion and not do anything’ … But what do you do when FDA decides to do something?

On top of it all, then you have plaintiff attorneys out there that are going to argue that FDA is on the record saying these products aren’t approved new drugs. That makes you illegal. Therefore, that’s a reason to be sued. I’m hoping that the industry wakes up and pushes back hard.

Not everything needs to be established by double-blind, placebo-controlled studies … People should be allowed to have their homeopathic products. If they believe in it, they should allow it. If you don’t believe in it, you don’t have to buy it.”

Future of Homeopathics Remains Uncertain

As for the future of homeopathic remedies in the U.S., Harrison believes they’ll remain under continual assault. That said, he doubts the FDA will ever finalize its draft guidance document because it “knows that when you finalize things, it has other repercussions.”

Unfortunately, homeopathic companies will likely continue to be sued until or unless the FDA admits that homeopathic remedies are appropriate and legal. Companies must also take care to be consistent with the materia medica to ensure their claims are not misleading.

“To boil down homeopathy simply, it’s that like cures like. If you have a poison ivy blister, you put poison ivy on yourself. But it’s a highly-diluted poison ivy. I think that in many ways, vaccines, like the smallpox vaccines and things like that, actually kind of grew out of that idea — that we give people minute quantities that will help their immune system respond …

My hope is that FDA will withdraw and just admit that homeopathic products may be lawfully marketed, as long as they are part of the materia medica, and that the FTC, on the other hand, doesn’t try to say, ‘The only way you can make a product for homeopathy is if you actually do a double-blind placebo-controlled study.’ I think that would be a huge mistake.”

Why Aren’t Homeopathics Grandfathered In?

A reasonable question to ask would be why homeopathic remedies aren’t grandfathered in. Drugs in use prior to 1938 are not required to have clinical studies to back up their claims, yet can still be used as drugs. Homeopathic remedies have been used far longer than that, so why are they being penalized? Harrison explains:

“Grandfather drugs are a very narrow category of drugs. Everything has to be identical, all your claims, all your warnings, your labels, your labeling has to be identical to that pre-1938 product. If you can’t show that it’s not absolutely identical to that product that was marketed prior to that, then you’re not grandfathered.

There are very few products FDA would ever admit that are grandfathered. But it’s not a bad argument to make, especially if you can go back and show this homeopathic remedy was marketed back in 1938. But part of the problem is that back in the old days, the homeopathic products tended to be single-ingredient products.

Almost all of the homeopathic products today are multi-ingredient. That will take you out of the grandfather. It complicates the issue. If I were to find a 1938 one and I copy that label identically … I would have a good argument that [it] is [grandfathered].”

Using single-ingredient remedies is a legal loophole that makers of homeopathics could resort to if push comes to shove in the years ahead. That said, it makes little sense to vilify something that is completely harmless and that many feel works. No one has ever died from taking a homeopathic preparation. It’s hard to imagine a medicine that could be safer. While many simply don’t believe homeopathic remedies work, this really should not be cause for their discontinuation.

It’s really about freedom of choice. If you feel a homeopathic is helping, you should be allowed to use it, especially when you consider all the other things you’re allowed to use that come with significant if not extreme risks, be it cigarettes, alcohol or over-the-counter medications. The FDA’s public comment period expired on March 30, so at this point, all we can do is wait and watch for further developments.

Staph Infections: Educate Yourself on How to Fight This Common Bacteria

It’s safe to say that beneficial bacteria are an essential part of human biology. They perform certain functions, such as helping improve our digestive health and protect us from gastrointestinal diseases. These bacteria are known as probiotics.1

On the other hand, there are certain types of bacteria living in you that do not provide any benefits at all. One example of such parasitic bacteria is Staphylococcus aureus, or simply known as “staph.”

You May Be a Carrier of Staph Bacteria and Might Not Know It

If you’re a healthy person, there’s a 15 to 40 percent chance that you’re a carrier of staph bacteria. This means that your body contains a small colony of inactive bacteria that won’t cause any disease or infection. Normally, staph bacteria live in your nostrils or flexures (skin folds), such as your elbows and armpits.2

However, if you’re exposed to additional amounts of these microorganisms from an outside source, your immune system won’t be able to fight them back. Should this happen, there’s a high chance you may develop a staph infection and pass it to others.

Common Infections Caused by Staph Bacteria

There are two types of infections staph bacteria can cause: skin infections and invasive infections. If you have a staphylococcal skin infection, various infections may arise depending on what part of the skin the bacteria will infect. Invasive staph infections are similar to skin infections, but with the difference being that the bacteria target your internal organs, hence, the name “invasive.” Some of the most common staph infections include:

Food Poisoning: This occurs when staph bacteria are directly ingested due to bacteria-laced food, causing diarrhea and vomiting. Stomach pains are common as well.3

Pneumonia: A condition wherein staph bacteria infect the air sacs in your lungs, causing difficulty in breathing, coughing and a fever. Additional symptoms include chest pains and fatigue.4

Impetigo: Common among toddlers and infants, impetigo is a skin infection characterized by large, red spots. Blisters and crusting of the skin may also occur.5

Boils: An infection of hair follicles or oil glands, boils are red, swollen spots that are painful and tender to the touch. They’re often filled with pus, and may eventually break open and drain.

Wound Infections: Cuts and wounds, such as those you might get from spending time outdoors, can create an opening in your skin. When staph bacteria invade these openings, they can infect the wound, creating a buildup of pus, along with swelling and pain.6

Learn All About Staph Infections in This Guide

Staph bacteria can cause various skin and invasive infections, some of which may be life-threatening if not treated immediately. This guide will help you learn about different diseases staph bacteria can cause, their symptoms and their corresponding treatments. You will learn various prevention methods as well, because staph is highly contagious and you may infect someone if you’re not careful.

MORE ABOUT STAPH INFECTION

Staph Infection: Introduction

What Is Staph Infection?

Staph Infection In Children

Is Staph Infection Contagious?

Staph Infection Duration

Staph Infection Causes

Staph Infection Types

Staph Infection Symptoms

Staph Infection Treatment

Staph Infection Prevention

Staph Infection Diet

Staph Infection FAQ

Next >

What Is Staph Infection?

Help Target Inflammation by Having a Sip of This Herbal Tea

Unless you come from parts of Asia where it’s been extensively used, it’s highly likely that you’re unfamiliar with burdock root. Popularly used as an ingredient in Japanese cuisine, burdock root is usually added to stir-fries,1 consumed raw,2 used as a broth3 or pickled in apple cider vinegar to prolong shelf life.4

However, an easy way to use burdock root and possibly obtain benefits is by steeping the roots in boiling water to make burdock root tea. Learn more about this tea’s uses, how you can make this beverage at home and what you must watch out for when drinking it.

What Is Burdock Root Tea?

Burdock root tea is concocted by steeping roots of the burdock (Arctium lappa) plant. For centuries now, burdock roots, leaves and flowers have been well-respected for their medicinal and nutritional abilities.5 The burdock plant stands between 1 and 2 meters (3.2 to 6.5 feet) when fully grown, and has large leaves that can grow up to 50 centimeters (19.6 inches), with white undersides. Between June and October, the plant bears purple flowers extending away from the plant’s bracts.  

Burdock Root Tea’s Health Benefits

Burdock root tea may be helpful in addressing certain conditions, such as:6,7

High blood pressure8

Colds

Flu

Fever

Arthritis

Gout

Headaches9

Indigestion10

Constipation11

Apart from targeting these diseases, burdock root tea may deliver these benefits:12

Promote antioxidant capabilities: The root contains antioxidants such as phenolic acids, quercetin and luteolin13 (all of which may be transferred to the tea) that can shield the body against cell-damaging free radicals.

In a 2011 article in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, researchers suggested that burdock root tea’s antioxidant content may aid in slowing down tumor cell growth.14

Promote diuretic effects: One of burdock root tea’s earliest uses was for detoxifying the body. It can also help purify the blood, and is known to induce sweating and urination.

This effect may benefit your liver, kidneys and lymphatic system. Because it’s a diuretic, burdock root tea may cause the body to eliminate excess toxins, salts and water.15

Act as an expectorant and decongestant: If you have coughs, colds or flu-like symptoms, drinking burdock root tea may help alleviate them by targeting phlegm and mucus. Burdock root tea has antibacterial properties as well.16

Alleviate hair issues: You can address concerns like hair loss and dandruff,17 and boost scalp and follicle health, as burdock root tea is known to contain helpful phytosterols in burdock root tea, while the burdock root plant contains hair-helping essential oils.

Serve as an anti-inflammatory: This drink may help people combat fever, aches, pains and joint disorders.18,19

Help people with liver-related issues: For people with either cirrhosis or hepatitis, burdock root tea may assist in promoting liver cell regrowth.20

This tea may help people with blood-borne diseases or those who have a liver that’s been damaged heavily by alcohol consumption.

Enhance the immune system: Burdock root tea’s vitamin C content may improve your immune system and boost white blood cell production.

Other immune-boosting effects this tea may offer include enhancing collagen production and promoting quicker healing and recovery after illness.21

Promote better heart health: Burdock root tea has potassium that may help maintain normal blood pressure levels and serve as a vasodilator, which may lower your risk for atherosclerosis, heart attacks and strokes.

This mineral is also important for heart health because it aids in maintaining fluid balance in the body.22

Help lower risk for cancer: Quercetin and luteolin, both found in burdock root tea, possess antimutagenic properties.

These nutrients eliminate free radicals, help prevent cellular mutation and reduce a person’s cancer risk.23

What Nutrients Can You Find in Burdock Root Tea?

Burdock root tea is home to antioxidants such as phenolic acids, luteolin and quercetin.24 It also contains the minerals potassium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, calcium and iron, as well as vitamins B1, B2, B3 and fiber.25 People who are sensitive to caffeine may drink this tea without any issues. As “The Tea Book” highlights, roasted and dried roots like burdock root may work as caffeine-free tea alternatives.26

How to Make Burdock Root Tea

Making your own burdock root tea at home is possible. Try following this recipe:27

Burdock Root Tea Recipe

Ingredients:

1 burdock root

2 liters (a little over 2 quarts) of water

Procedure:

1. Cut burdock root into thirds. Using a scouring pad, scrape off the dirt on its surface under running water. Do not peel the skin since most of its nutrients are in it. Cut the root into thin slices.

2. Spread all the burdock on a bamboo sieve, cover with a nylon food cover and place under clear sun for one to two days until dry, pliable or almost crisp. If you are not comfortable drying your food in the sun or the weather is not cooperating, use a dehydrator.

3. Place dried burdock in a pan with no oil or liquid. Stir constantly over low heat for 10 minutes until golden brown, crispy and fragrant.

4. Let the burdock cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Store immediately in an airtight glass container. Seal it to prevent moisture.

5. Burdock tea can be cooked or brewed. Boil the water. Add 10 grams (0.35 ounces) of burdock tea leaves and simmer for 10 minutes.

6. If you want to make a single cup of burdock root tea, pour 185- to 212-degree Fahrenheit water onto five to eight pieces of burdock tea leaves in a cup and brew for four to five minutes. Raw honey, chrysanthemum, red dates, wolf berries or mint leaves may be added to taste.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Total time: 20 minutes

A single-serving of this recipe makes 100 or more grams (about 3 1/2 ounces) of tea.

You can look for burdock root in Oriental markets, natural food stores and Japanese and Taiwanese grocery stores. Pick roots that are medium-sized, firm, unbroken and have taut skin. Do not purchase burdock roots that are overly dry or sunken, since these may not have a pleasant flavor.

When cleaned properly and kept in a cool, well-ventilated place, the root can stay fresh for many months. You can also preserve burdock roots by wrapping them in a paper towel, enclosing them inside a plastic bag and placing them inside your refrigerator’s vegetable compartment, where they can be kept for months.

Should the burdock root turn limp and/or dry, soak it in water until it’s firm again.28 For processed burdock root parts and slices, ensure that they are stored in the refrigerator and used as soon as possible.29 If you aren’t able to purchase fresh burdock root, there are burdock root tea bags available online. Just make sure you’re purchasing from a highly reputable source that provides high-quality tea.

Burdock Root Tea’s Side Effects

Burdock root tea may trigger allergic reactions, including dermatitis, among people who are sensitive to daises, chrysanthemums or ragweed. Should these adverse effects develop, stop drinking burdock root tea immediately.30 Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers should avoid this tea because there aren’t enough studies that confirm its safety for these groups.31

Drinking burdock root can lead to other side effects like hallucinations, dry mouth, blurred vision and urinary retention, as seen in the case of a 26-year-old woman who purchased burdock root tea from a health shop. As always, ensure that you’re purchasing high-quality tea from a reliable supplier.32,33

In the wild, burdock root can be confused with dangerous, poisonous plants like belladonna or deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna) because of the similarities in their physical appearance.34 Hence, do not pick burdock in the wild. Should negative reactions develop, stop drinking the tea and discard other root strips. Furthermore, avoid burdock root tea when taking the following medicines because it can interfere with the way they work:35

Diuretics (water pills): Dehydrated people should stay away from burdock since the roots can increase the pills’ diuretic effects and exacerbate dehydration.

Diabetes medications: Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar levels, may occur if you drink this tea with these medicines.

Blood-thinning medicines: Burdock root can worsen bleeding in people diagnosed with bleeding disorders who take these medications. It can slow down blood clotting too.36

Before taking burdock root tea, talk to your physician and verify if this herbal tea is good for you. By doing so, you can get an idea of the dosage that may be needed to address your condition and be guided on what you can do to avoid side effects.

Caution Is Needed if You Want to Try Burdock Root Tea

For many years now, burdock root has been widely valued in Asia for its potential effects toward the brain, heart and immune system. Drinking burdock root tea may allow you to reap the nutrients found in the plant and help boost your well-being.

However, before drinking burdock root tea, remember that there are contraindications linked to this beverage, especially among women who are pregnant and/or breastfeeding and people taking certain medicines. If you’re interested in trying burdock root tea, consult a doctor first, so you are aware of the ideal amount that would be both suitable for your condition and won’t put you at risk for adverse health effects.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Burdock Root Tea

Q: What are the health benefits of burdock root tea?

A: Burdock root tea may promote the following benefits:

Deliver antioxidant, expectorant, decongestant, anti-inflammatory and diuretic effects

Assist with relieving fevers, headaches, flu, gout and constipation, to name a few

Help address hair issues

Boost health in people with liver conditions

Improve the immune system

Help improve heart health

Detoxify the blood

Q: Where can you buy burdock root tea?

A: Fresh burdock root can be purchased from Oriental markets, natural food stores, and Japanese and Taiwanese grocery stores. While burdock root tea bags can be purchased online, do thorough research first. Only buy burdock root tea bags from a trustworthy source that sells high-quality tea made from real burdock root.

Q: Can drinking burdock root tea lead to side effects?

A: Yes. Some side effects that burdock root tea may trigger include:

Allergic reactions (including dermatitis, swelling, inflammation or skin rash) in people who are sensitive to daisies, chrysanthemums or ragweed

Toxicity symptoms such as blurred vision, hallucinations, dry mouth and urinary retention

Negative interactions with diuretic, diabetes and blood-thinning medicines


9 Fascinating Insights Your Tongue May Reveal About Your Health

By Dr. Mercola

For many illnesses and diseases there are recognizable symptoms. In some cases those symptoms are not evident until late in the disease process, while in others they appear immediately. Recognizing symptoms and associating them with specific conditions no longer relies on the memory of a diagnostician. Using the computer, you can check your own symptoms and end up with a list of possible conditions.

In some cases a symptom is just a sign of another condition, while in others it may be the condition itself. It is important to pay attention to changes in your physical appearance and in how you feel each day. These observations are important to maintaining your health and wellness.

The appearance of your tongue is one such indicator. Being able to recognize changes will help you to make lifestyle choices, enabling you to enjoy better health. However, before discussing what changes may appear on your tongue, it’s helpful to know what your tongue should look like.

Structure and Appearance of Your Tongue

Your tongue is a strong muscle covered with pink tissue called mucosa. The muscle is anchored to your mouth and held down in the front by a small fold of tissue called the frenulum. This word comes from Latin, meaning “little bridle.”1 In the back of the mouth the tongue is attached to the hyoid bone. Besides needing it for speech, your tongue is vital for chewing and swallowing food.

Another function is taste. When you experience some of the conditions described below, you may find your sense of taste is altered. The four common tastes are sweet, sour, bitter and salty. Although a taste map of the tongue used to describe areas most sensitive to these four tastes, the tongue actually has many nerves throughout the muscle transmitting signals to the brain. Since all parts of your tongue can detect all four of these common tastes, this taste map doesn’t really exist.2

When healthy, the tongue is covered with moist pink tissue and tiny bumps called papilla. The papilla give the tongue a rough texture and are home to thousands of taste buds, which are a collection of nerve-like cells connected to your brain. Evaluating your tongue is just one way of keeping track of your health. Stick out your tongue and look in the mirror; any deviations from its normal appearance, or any pain, may indicate it’s time to make some changes.

Vitamin Deficiencies May Be Evident on Your Tongue

Micronutrients are components, such as vitamins and minerals, required by your body in small amounts for development, disease prevention and well-being.3 Deficiencies in these micronutrients can have devastatingly negative health consequences in children and adults. Some of these include iron, folate, zinc and iodine.

Some changes to your tongue may be indicative of a vitamin deficiency. If your tongue is strawberry red, smooth and swollen, it may indicate a deficiency in iron, folate or vitamin B12.4 Also called glossitis, this swelling may cause the tongue to appear smooth. This means when the swelling goes down, the papilla will become more evident again. Naomi Ramer, DDS, director of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology at Mount Sinai Hospital, explains:5

“Vitamin B12 and iron are needed to mature papillae on the tongue. If you are deficient in those vitamins, you lose those papillae, which can make your tongue appear very smooth.”

A vitamin B12 deficiency may also cause sensory changes on your tongue as the vitamin is crucial for the proper neurological function of your taste buds.6 This may result in feelings of tingling, burning sensations, tenderness or numbness in the absence of any specific lesions. This condition has been found more frequently in middle-aged and elderly women who also experience altered taste sensation and dry mouth.

A vitamin A deficiency may be responsible for physical changes to your tongue called scalloped tongue glossitis.7 This is a rare condition characterized by pain, tenderness and swelling, as well as color changes and a scalloped appearance of the edges of the tongue. While vitamin A deficiency is one cause, the condition may also result from allergies to toothpaste or mouthwash, chronic dry mouth, oral infections or the chronic use of irritating substances such as snuff, alcohol or highly spiced foods.

A strawberry red, swollen tongue may also be the result of a condition called Kawasaki disease, seen most frequently in children under the age of 5 and accompanied by a high fever.8 The fever is often higher than 102.2 degrees Fahrenheit (F) and lasts more than three days. Symptoms of the disease are driven by inflammation of medium-sized arteries throughout the body. Other vitamins and nutrients play a critical role in the health of your tongue. Symptoms of the most obvious deficiencies include:9

Vitamin B

Deficiencies can lead to a swollen and sore tongue, fissures on the surface or teeth indentations. Food sources of vitamin B12 are found naturally in animal products. Consider a supplement if you are a vegetarian.

Iron

Deficiencies may cause swelling and painful sores in the mouth. Iron-rich foods include sardines, pastured, organic beef and spinach.10

Vitamin C and zinc

Your body uses vitamin C to keep capillaries and tissues strong. Deficiencies in vitamin C and zinc may lead to bleeding gums and an increased risk of infection. Foods rich in vitamin C include strawberries, pineapple, mango and Brussels sprouts.11 Foods rich in zinc include organically raised and pastured meat and dairy products, nuts and seeds.12

Poor Oral Hygiene May Result in More Than Cavities

Just like the hair on your head, the papilla on your tongue continue to grow throughout your life.13 Normally, these papilla are worn down through everyday chewing and drinking.14 Sometimes, if they become overgrown, they offer a unique hiding place for fungus and bacterial growth. This may result in what is called a black hairy tongue.

The black coating is the result of overgrowth of bacteria and yeast and may occur after a course of antibiotics.15 Individuals who suffer from diabetes or who have been receiving chemotherapy may also be at higher risk for developing black hairy tongue.16 In some cases it is just the result of poor oral hygiene and may be triggered by lifestyle choices such as smoking or drinking dark coffee and teas.

While visually unappealing and may be accompanied by bad breath or taste abnormalities, this condition is not life-threatening. It is important to determine the underlying cause of the overgrowth of papilla and bacteria or yeast, as it’s important to remove the offending source. It may also be a sign you should be evaluated for diabetes.

In some cases hairy tongue may be the result of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection in HIV positive individuals.17 Chronic administration of penicillin may also increase your risk of a fungal overgrowth, specifically aspergillus.

When not the result of infections concurrent with chronic administration of antibiotics or the results of an EBV infection, the condition will often resolve by removing the offending cause and practicing good oral hygiene. Brushing your tongue or using a tongue scraper twice a day prior to brushing your teeth is a good way to clean the papilla. Consider rinsing your mouth with diluted hydrogen peroxide once or twice to help remove the discoloration and include probiotics to help improve your gut function.18

Stress and Irritation May Trigger Pain and Discomfort


Canker sores are shallow ulcers forming in the mouth and tongue, which often make eating and talking uncomfortable. A simple canker sore is shown on this video and may occur when you’re stressed. These are most painful for the first four to five days.19

The intensity of the pain subsides, but the sore does not completely resolve for nearly two weeks. According to Dr. Dale Amanda Tylor, general and pediatric otolaryngologist at Washington Township Medical Foundation,20 “We don’t really know why people get canker sores, but it’s probably something viral. People who are run down or stressed are prone to these ulcers.”

In some individuals, foods that are acidic, such as citrus fruits, can trigger a canker sore.21 In other cases a sharp surface, such as a dental appliance or braces, may also trigger the formation of a canker sore on the inside of the mouth or tongue. Although they look similar, they are not the same as cold sores, also called fever blisters, which are triggered by the virus herpes simplex type 1. Unlike canker sores, which are not contagious, cold sores are caused by a virus and are extremely contagious.

Another reaction to chronic irritation to the mucous membranes of your mouth is leukoplakia. These are white or gray patches that can develop at any time during life, but is most commonly seen in seniors.22 An unusual form of leukoplakia is hairy leukoplakia, often triggered by EBV and usually only seen in people infected with HIV. Common leukoplakia white patches are the result of an excess growth of cells and usually painless.23

They are associated with smoking and have up to 17 percent chance of developing into oral cancer. The condition is triggered by irritation to the mucous membranes, so when the offending source has been eliminated, the lesion should disappear within a week or two. Dr. Ada Cooper, an American Dental Association consumer adviser, advises you see your dentist if the patches don’t disappear in two weeks, as your dentist may recommend a biopsy.

Infections May Pass From One to Another

Oral thrush is a yeast infection that can be easily passed between infant to breast during breastfeeding or from person to person with an exchange of oral fluids, such as when kissing. The infection appears as a white patch, often the consistency of cottage cheese.

The elderly, individuals with weakened immune systems, people with diabetes, individuals using inhaled steroids for asthma and those who have recently taken antibiotics are more likely to experience oral thrush.24 The yeast infection is caused by the overgrowth of candida, which may change your taste or cause discomfort.

Aging and Allergies Contribute to Symptoms on Your Tongue

Fissures, or deep grooves that form on the tongue surface, may be the result of aging, but may also be an inherited trait, occurring normally in 10 percent of the population.25 In most cases, they are not cause for concern. A fissured tongue may have cracks, grooves on the top and sides but affect only the tongue and vary in depth.

While they are not dangerous, they do allow debris to build up and increase the potential for an infection triggering bad breath and altered taste.26 These fissures often appear first during childhood, but do deepen with age and become more pronounced as you get older.27

Geographic tongue is a condition characterized by patches changing in size and location, which have a map-like appearance.28 In some cases, you may experience soreness or burning. Typically harmless, the condition affects up to 14 percent of Americans and may look like hills and valleys on your tongue.29 It can be triggered by stress, hormonal changes or allergies and once the offending source has been removed, the condition often resolves.

Higher Rates of Oral Cancer in Men Than Women

In 2017 an estimated 51,000 Americans were diagnosed with oral cancer.30 The rates of oral cancer are more than twice as high for men as they are for women and it is the eighth most common cause of cancer among men. While the number of men diagnosed with oral cancer has remained steady in recent years, the number of women has decreased slightly.

Cancer of the tongue is the second most common head and neck cancer.31 Major risk factors include tobacco and alcohol use.32 Persistent red lesions that do not resolve, or patches that don’t go away, maybe a sign of lingual cancer. Tylor comments,33 “With tongue cancer, you often think of an older, unhealthy person. But if you’re young and healthy and you have these, it doesn’t mean you’re OK. I’ve seen it in a 17-year-old girl.”

Oral cancers can also be caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) and many lesions don’t cause any pain or discomfort in the early stages. Other signs of oral cancer include bad breath from an infected ulcer, ear pain affecting one side of your head, unexplained weight loss, numbness in your mouth and unexplained loose teeth.34

Most Bottled Water Contaminated With Microplastics

By Dr. Mercola

Plastic has become an incredibly harmful convenience, now threatening environmental and human health alike, and in more ways than one. With Earth Day being tomorrow, there is no better time to analyze the impact bottled water has had on our planet. There’s the issue of bulk plastics in our landfills, where it will remain indefinitely since most plastic does not biodegrade,1 and microplastics — microscopic pieces of degraded plastic — which now choke waterways across the globe and contaminate drinking water and sea life.

On top of that, there are the chemicals used in the production of plastic, many of which have hormone-mimicking activity, thereby threatening animal and human health, including reproductive health. Disturbingly, recent tests reveal most bottled water contains microplastic pollution2 — contamination thought to originate from the manufacturing process of the bottles and caps.

The featured CBC marketplace investigation of bottled water found plastic contamination, including rayon and polyethylene, in 30 of 50 water bottles tested. Plastic was even found in bottled water that was sold in a glass container.

Researchers at the State University of New York also tested 259 bottles of 11 popular bottled water brands for the presence of microscopic plastic on behalf of Orb Media, a nonprofit journalism organization. Brands included Aquafina, Nestle Pure Life, Evian, Dasani and San Pelligerino. On average, the bottled water tested contained 325 pieces of microplastic per liter; just over 10 of those pieces were at least 100 microns in size, the rest were smaller.

Most of these bits and pieces are so tiny they’re invisible to the naked eye. To reveal them, the researchers used a special dye that binds to plastic, combined with infrared laser and blue light. Using orange-colored glasses, the particles appear lit up like stars in the night sky when the water sample is viewed under a microscope.

Bottled Water Contaminated With Microscopic Plastic


Overall, only 17 of the 259 bottles were found to be free of microplastic particles, and none of the brands tested consistently free of plastic contaminants. The worst offender was Nestlé Pure Life, the most contaminated sample of which contained 10,390 particles per liter, while the least contaminated brand, San Pellegrino, contained a high-end density of 74 particles per liter. Here’s a summary breakdown of the most and least contaminated brands:3

Most contaminated brands Least contaminated brands

Nestlé Pure Life

San Pellegrino

Bisleri

Evian

Gerolsteiner

Dasani

Aqua

Wahaha

Epura

Minalba

As noted in Orb Media’s “Plus Plastic” report:4

Humans need approximately 2 liters of fluids a day to stay hydrated and healthy — even more in hot and arid regions. Orb’s findings suggest that a person who drinks a liter of bottled water a day might be consuming tens of thousands of microplastic particles each year …

For microplastic debris around 100 microns in size … bottled water samples contained nearly twice as many pieces of microplastics per liter (10.4) than the tap water samples (4.45) … According to existing scientific research, the plastic particles you consume in food or drinks might interact with your body in a number of different ways …

Some particles might lodge in the intestinal wall. Others might be taken up by intestinal tissue to travel through the body’s lymphatic system. Particles around 110 microns in size (0.11 millimeters) can be taken into the body’s hepatic portal vein, which carries blood from the intestines, gallbladder, pancreas and spleen to the liver.

Smaller debris, in the range of 20 microns (0.02 mm) has been shown to enter the bloodstream before it lodges in the kidneys and liver … Ninety percent of the plastic particles we found … were between 100 and 6.5 microns — small enough … for some to cross the gut into your body.”

World Health Organization Launches Health Review

In response to Orb Media’s report, the World Health Organization (WHO) has vowed to launch a safety review to assess the potential short- and long-term health risks of consuming microplastic in water. WHO’s global water and sanitation coordinator, Bruce Gordon, told BBC News: 5

“When we think about the composition of the plastic, whether there might be toxins in it, to what extent they might carry harmful constituents, what actually the particles might do in the body — there’s just not the research there to tell us.

We normally have a ‘safe’ limit but to have a safe limit, to define that, we need to understand if these things are dangerous, and if they occur in water at concentrations that are dangerous. The public are obviously going to be concerned about whether this is going to make them sick in the short term and the long-term.”

Plastic Debris in World’s Oceans Predicted to Triple By 2025

In related news, a report by the U.K. Government Office for Science warns plastic debris littering the world’s oceans — 70 percent of which does not biodegrade — is likely to triple by 2025 unless radical steps are taken to curb pollution.6

Already, an estimated 150 million tons of plastic contaminate our oceans, with about 8 million tons being added each year. Ontario alone throws away an estimated 12,000 plastic water bottles every four minutes. At the rate we’re going, estimates by the World Economic Forum suggest that by 2050, our oceans will contain more plastic than fish by weight.7 Already, in some ocean waters plastic exceeds plankton by a factor of 6-to-1.8

“The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the Future of Plastics” — a 2016 joint report by the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, created as part of Project MainStream, a multi-industry, global initiative launched in 2014 — presented “a vision of a global economy in which plastics never become waste and outlines concrete steps toward achieving the systemic shift needed.”

A key problem is the fact that we dispose of as much as $120 billion-worth of plastic each year. To rein in plastic pollution, this disposal of plastic must be eliminated. To do this, the report proposes a new “circular economy” in which materials are reused and repurposed for as long as possible, if not indefinitely. Most plastic packaging is used only once, hence 95 percent of the value of this plastic is immediately lost after its very first use.

“The New Plastics Economy, outlined in this report, envisages a fundamental rethink for plastic packaging and plastics in general — a new model based on creating effective after-use pathways for plastics; drastically reducing leakage of plastics into natural systems, in particular oceans; and finding alternatives to crude oil and natural gas as the raw material of plastic production,” the press release states.9

“Achieving the systemic change needed to shift the global plastic value chain will require major collaboration efforts between all stakeholders across the global plastics value chain — consumer goods companies, plastic packaging producers and plastics manufacturers, businesses involved in collection, sorting and reprocessing, cities, policy-makers and NGOs.

The report proposes the creation of an independent coordinating vehicle to set direction, establish common standards and systems, overcome fragmentation, and foster innovation opportunities at scale. In line with the report’s recommendations, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation will establish an initiative to act as a cross-value-chain global dialogue mechanism and drive the shift toward a New Plastics Economy.”

Pacific ‘Garbage Patch’ Contains Far More Plastic Than Previously Thought

Yet another disturbing study10,11 suggests the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — a 1.6 million square kilometers — nearly 618,000 square miles — area of ocean between Hawaii and California — may contain anywhere from four to 16 times more plastic than estimated by earlier studies. This conclusion was reached by gathering both aerial survey and net catch data and creating a computer model to estimate the total burden.

According to these estimates, the density of plastic litter is estimated to be about 1 kilo of plastic per square kilometer around the perimeter, while exceeding 100 kilos per square kilometer at the center of the gyre. In all, this single garbage patch alone is thought to contain over 78,082 tons (79,000 metric tons) of plastic trash, and possibly as much as 142,198 tons (129,000 metric tons). More than three-quarters of all this trash is pieces larger than 5 centimeters. About 8 percent of the total mass is thought to be microplastics. 

Microbeads and Microfibers Also Pose Severe Environmental Hazards

In addition to all this larger-scale ocean trash, we also have microfibers12 and microbeads to contend with. While the microplastic found in bottled water was deemed to be byproducts of the manufacturing process, our global waterways also contain microplastics — primarily from clothing and personal care products — that threaten the ecosystem at large.

The tiny plastic pellets found in body washes, facial scrubs and toothpaste travel right through wastewater treatment plants, filling the bellies of sea animals with plastic that acts as a sponge for other toxins.

According to a 2016 National Geographic report,13 an estimated 4,360 tons of microbeads were used in personal care products sold in the European Union (EU) in 2012, all of which get flushed down the drain. One 2015 study14 estimates there may be as much as 236,000 tons of microbeads filling the water columns of our oceans.

Beginning July 2018, microbeads will also no longer be permitted in cosmetics sold in the U.S.15 As of July 2018, a ban on microbeads in personal care products also takes effect in Canada,16 while the EU has taken no action on the matter. This is a good start, but the question still remains how to remove the microplastic already in our waterways. As reported by National Geographic:

“As reiterated from the study by the French Institute for the Exploitation of the Sea, ‘Oysters that consume microplastics eat more algae and absorb it more efficiently … [their] ability to reproduce is almost halved’ … Filter feeding organisms are vital components of marine food webs, and their demise could mean severe threats to numerous trophic levels, and perhaps to the humans who rely on these species as a source of food.

Another concern … is that the chemicals comprising microplastics are causing reproductive complications in oysters, which is a very important point … Chemical toxins such as DDT and BPA have been found to adhere to microplastic particles … which then ‘enter the food chain when ingested by aquatic life, accumulating in birds, fish, marine mammals and potentially humans.’”

Acrylic Fibers Contribute to Environmental Pollution

With regard to microfibers released from clothing, acrylic fibers release the greatest amounts.17 Testing reveals each washing of a synthetic fleece jacket releases 1.7 grams of microfiber, and the older the jacket, the more microfibers are shed.18 Different types of machines also release different amounts of fibers and chemicals from your clothes. Top loading machines release about 530 percent more microfibers than front loading models.19

Up to 40 percent of these microfibers leave the wastewater treatment plant and end up in the surrounding lakes, rivers and oceans. To address the problem, scientists are urging appliance companies to add filters to catch the microfibers in their machines.20 Wexco is currently the exclusive distributor of the Filtrol 160 filter,21 designed to capture nonbiodegradable fibers from your washing machine discharge.

However, it doesn’t actually solve the problem in the long term, since the fibers will simply end up in landfills instead. Microfibers released during washing has been shown to raise mortality among water fleas,22 and reduce the overall food intake of crabs, worms and langoustines (Norway lobster), thereby threatening their growth and survival rates.23,24 Not surprisingly, microplastics and microfibers have also been linked to plastic contamination in fish.25

Both are easily consumed by fish and other sea creatures, and research shows these plastic particles tend to bioaccumulate, becoming increasingly concentrated in the bodies of animals higher up the food chain. And, since many of these toxins bind to fats, they allow the toxins to bioaccumulate in the body much faster, reaching ever higher amounts as you move up the food chain.

These chemicals have been shown to cause liver damage, liver tumors and signs of endocrine disruption in fish and other seafood, including lowered fertility and immune function.

How You Can Be Part of the Solution

Our cultural affection for all things disposable has left a trail of destruction. Now, how can you be part of the solution? In short, by becoming a more conscious consumer. Really give some thought to the manufacturing of the products you buy, how they may affect you during use, and what will happen to them once you dispose of them.

Few of us are capable of living a zero-waste lifestyle at this point in time, but every single one of us can take small but definitive steps toward the goal of reducing plastic trash in all of its forms. Here are a few suggestions to consider:

Avoid bottled water. Instead, invest in a good water filtration system for your home and fill your own reusable bottles with filtered tap water. Previous testing has revealed most bottled water is nothing but tap water anyway, which may or may not have undergone additional filtration. With over 267 toxins found in public tap water, it’s worth the investment to install a high-quality filter and bring your own water wherever you go

Reduce your use of all things plastic: Purchase products that are not made from or packaged in plastic. While the items involved are near-endless, here are a few ideas:

? Use reusable shopping bags for groceries

? Bring your own mug when indulging in a coffee drink, and skip the lid and the straw

? Store foods in glass containers or mason jars as opposed to plastic containers or bags

? Take your own leftover container to restaurants

? Request no plastic wrap on dry cleaning

Avoid personal care items containing microbeads. Many products containing microbeads will advertise them on the label, although they may also be listed as “polyethylene” or “polypropylene” in the ingredients list. Once the ban takes effect this summer, you shouldn’t be able to find any personal care items with microbeads in the U.S. or Canada, but keep your eyes open for them until then, and if you live in the EU, please avoid them wherever you find them

Avoid microfiber clothing such as fleece, and/or wash them as infrequently as possible. Ideally, look for 100 percent organic clothing, dyed with natural, nontoxic dyes

Recycle what you can: Take care to recycle and repurpose products whenever possible, and/or participate in “plastic drives” for local schools, where cash is paid by the pound