Antibiotic Resistance: From Hospitals or Farms?

Antibiotic_resistant_bacteriaA viewpoint article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) online this month reports that antibiotic resistant infections have become “a global crisis.” The article reports that drug-resistant infections cause approximately 23,000 deaths every year in the United States; methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is found in half of isolates from US hospitals; and a deadly bacteria called carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) has mutated from just 1 to 44 different strains within the last 10 years.

Publication of this article coincides with a report released by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). This report describes new attempts to combat antibiotic resistance, including the following: basic science research to better understand mutating bacteria, improvement in diagnostic tools to distinguish between bacterial and nonbacterial illness, development of new antibiotics, and possibilities for new vaccines.

All of these approaches focus on the role of human medicine in the cause and cure of antibiotic-resistant infections. But this approach overlooks the biggest player in antibiotic abuse: factory farms. Almost 4 times as many antibiotics are given to animals in the United States than are given to humans.(1) These antibiotics are used to promote growth of livestock and prevent disease among animals raised in confined and unsanitary conditions.

Confined-animal-feeding-operationA report released by federal scientists in February 2013 showed that the majority of meat on supermarket shelves across the United States is contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.(2) The Environmental Working Group then published an excellent summary and consumer meat-buying guide. The worst offender—ground turkey—contained antibiotic-resistant bacteria in 81% of samples. 87% of all meat samples contained Enterococcus bacteria, which indicates fecal contamination. There is no question about this: factory-farmed meat is DIRTY.

The way this works is simple: antibiotics are unnecessarily given to livestock; bacteria become antibiotic-resistant; bacteria travel from farms to stores; and meat can cause untreatable illness.

Meats that are raised organically and without antibiotics are much less likely to be contaminated by antibiotic-resistant superbugs. If you choose to eat meat, purchasing meats that are sustainably raised will minimize your own exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria and support a system of farming that will help solve the “global crisis” of antibiotic-resistance.

Visit the Environmental Working Group for their indispensible meat-buying guide.

 

1. Record High Antibiotic Sales for Meat and Poultry Production. The PEW Charitable Trust Web site. http://www.pewhealth.org/other-resource/record-high-antibiotic-sales-for-meat-and-poultry-production-85899449119. Accessed March 27, 2014.

2. FDA Announces Availability of the 2011 NARMS Retail Meat Annual Report. US Food and Drug Administration Web site. http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/NewsEvents/CVMUpdates/ucm335102.htm. Accessed March 27, 2014.

 

5 Ways to Love the Earth this Christmas

1. Think Outside the Box

According to a survey conducted by the American Research Group, Americans plan to spend an average of $801 for 2013 holiday gifts, with those making internet or catalog purchases planning to spend over $1100.1 What will we be giving? Another survey asked that question: gift cards topped the list, followed by electronics, clothing, books, and toys (in that order).2 With the exception of gift cards, most of these gifts come in boxes or packaging that end up in the landfill. But so what? Do boxes and packages make up a significant portion of landfill waste? According to a 2011 report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the largest portion of waste, by weight, in municipal landfills in the United States is, indeed, containers and packaging—30% or 76 million tons.3

So think outside the box. Avoid gifts with excessive packaging or give gifts that don’t even need to be wrapped: a homemade dinner, a house cleaning, concert tickets, or a massage.

2. Recycle your Wrapping

There are no hard statistics for the amount of wrapping paper used by Americans at Christmas. But the wrapping that ends up crumpled in the dumpster is, undeniably, wasteful. Ribbons, bows, and paper that is laminated or coated with foil or glitter cannot be recycled. Save what you can in order to use it next year. According to the Use-Less-Stuff Report, if every family reused two feet of ribbon, the 38,000 miles could tie a bow around our precious planet.4

Find a way to recycle anything that you cannot salvage. Many recycling companies either accept wrapping paper along with routine recyclables or hold collection events. Check with your local recycling facility.

3. Make Christmas Dinner Organic

A common tradition in our country is the Christmas ham. But most hogs in this country are raised in Confinement Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), which are an environmental disaster. The Union of Concerned Scientists reports the following:

“CAFOs produce some 300 million tons of untreated manure each year (about twice as much as is generated by the entire human population of the United States)… Manure is often handled, stored, and disposed of improperly, resulting in leakage, runoff, and spills of waste into surface and groundwater…[and] the cost to clean up the contaminated soil under every U.S. hog and dairy CAFO would approach $4.1 billion.” 5

If you don’t want to give up the ham, there are better options. Small pasture operations raise hogs in a more sustainable fashion and avoid the use of antibiotics or growth-promoting drugs. Look for a local farm or ask if your natural grocer has a quality source. If you cannot find a local source, plan ahead next time and order online: Prairie Pride Pork and Flying Pigs Farm will both ship sustainably-raised hams to your door.

You can also come up with a new tradition for Christmas dinner. No matter what you choose, make it a point to use ingredients that are organically or sustainably raised in order to minimize the impact of agricultural chemicals on our planet.

4. Switch to LED lights

Christmas lights are festive and fun. But they are also energy-suckers. LED lights use 80-90% less energy than traditional Christmas lights and last 66 times longer. Click here for a simple comparison of the two. But do not throw your old lights in the trash! Check with your local recycling center or click here for information on a mail-in recycling program for holiday lights.   

5. Make a Resolution

I view the holidays not only as a time to celebrate and enjoy the company of loved ones, but also as a time to reflect and commit to creating a better world. In this spirit, I encourage you to take some time to consider what it is you can do in the coming year to love our planet more and preserve what we have left.

You might take some of the recommendations here and commit to carrying them through the entire year: minimize waste, recycle more, choose sustainably-raised foods, or switch to energy-efficient lighting. Maybe you will go so far as to replace your SUV with a Prius.

Let’s commit to saving this planet for our children.

Happy Holidays to You and Yours!

References:

1.      2013 Christmas Gift Spending Plans Stall. American Research Group, Inc. 2013. Accessed on 12/20/13 at http://americanresearchgroup.com/holiday/

2.      Jasmine W. Gift Giving Statistics: What is Underneath Your Christmas Tree? CreditDonkeycom. 2013. Accessed on 12/20/13 at http://www.creditdonkey.com/gift-giving.html

3.      Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2011. United States Environmental Protection Agency. 2011. Accessed on 12/20/13 at http://www.epa.gov/osw/nonhaz/municipal/pubs/MSWcharacterization_508_053113_fs.pdf

4.      42 Ways to Trim Your Holiday Wasteline. Use Less Stuff. Accessed on 12/20/13 at http://www.use-less-stuff.com/ULSDAY/42ways.html

5.      The Hidden Costs of CAFOs: Smart Choices for U.S. Food Production. Union of Concerned Scientists. 2008. Accessed on 12/20/13 at http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/food_and_agriculture/cafo_issue-briefing-low-res.pdf

Easy 3-Day Holiday Cleanse

This easy cleanse can be done between the parties, feasts, and treats that define the holiday season. The cleanse is based on fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes, and raw nuts – all prepared in a way to leave you feeling warm and nourished even on the coldest of winter days. Take a look at the menu plan below: you will have cooked fruit for breakfast, salad for lunch, and soup for dinner. I also like to call this the “soup and salad cleanse.” After three easy days, you will feel light, refreshed, and ready for the next holiday party!

Time of Day Food Options Cleansing Benefits*
Upon Waking Warm water with fresh-squeezed lemon juice Lemons are an excellent source of vitamin C, which acts as an antioxidant to help neutralize toxins in the body.
Breakfast Steamed apples or pears and prunes. Top with cinnamon and raw walnuts or pecans. Prunes are high in fiber that feeds beneficial gut bacteria and prevents constipation. Prunes are also high in phenolic compounds that act as antioxidants.
Mid-morning Green tea or herbal tea with raw nuts and seeds Green tea contains epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which increases the activity of antioxidant enzymes in the small intestine, liver, and lungs.Nuts and seeds are good sources of essential fatty acids, vitamin E, protein, and minerals. Nuts are an excellent source of arginine, an amino acid that plays an important role in detoxification. Nuts keep blood sugars balanced.
Lunch Mixed greens salad topped with chopped vegetables, your choice of beans, and sunflower seeds. Make a dressing with olive oil or flax oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper. Mixed greens are high in chlorophyll and vitamin K. Bitter greens like dandelion stimulate digestion and may improve liver function.Garlic contains a compound called allicin, which protects against the toxic effects of cancer-causing chemicals.
Mid-afternoon Raw vegetables or fruit Fresh fruits and vegetables are good sources of fiber to promote elimination, potassium to balance electrolytes, and antioxidant vitamins to neutralize toxins.
Dinner Your choice of soup (see suggested recipes below). If choosing a bean or lentil soup, serve with a steamed vegetable. Lentils are a good source of protein, fiber, and trace minerals. They promote healthy elimination and good blood sugar balance.Vegetables in the cabbage family (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and kale) contain compounds that increase detoxification enzymes and exert antioxidant effects.
Evening Cup of herbal tea with optional piece of fresh fruit. Numerous herbal teas are available. Many are specifically formulated for detoxification. Choose one that you enjoy!

Suggested soup recipes:

SAM_0720Choose any soup recipe that fits your fancy, but I most highly recommend bean, lentil, or vegetable soups. If you feel best eating meat, you can certainly do a homemade chicken and vegetable soup or beef stew. Here are three of my favorites:

Roasted Vegetable Soup

Curried Lentil Soup with Carrots

White Bean and Kale Soup

 

*The information on cleansing benefits of the foods is taken from The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, ND and Joseph Pizzorno, ND. 

Roasted Vegetable Soup

This soup can be entirely pureed or partly pureed with chunky vegetables. The paprika is the key ingredient to its amazing flavor. This is a recipe that I originally found in Vegetarian Times and have since modified it to fit my kitchen and my taste.

  • 1 head garlic
  • 3 lbs of tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 large bell peppers, cut into ½-inch chunks
  • 2 medium zucchini, cut into ½-inch chunks
  • 1 head brocolii, chopped
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2-3 Tbsp balsamic or red wine vinegar
  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Rub papery skin off garlic, and cut off top of head to expose garlic gloves. Place on square foil, drizzle with 1 Tbsp water, and wrap the foil.
  3. Toss vegetables with oil, salt, pepper and plenty of paprika in large bowl. Spread vegetables (including the wrapped garlic) on 2 baking sheets and roast 35-45 minutes, or until vegetables are browned and tender, stirring once. Cool 10 minutes.

Squeeze roasted garlic cloves into a blender, add ½ of roasted vegetables and 1 cup water. Blend until smooth, then transfer to large bowl or saucepan with the rest of the vegetables. Warm and add vinegar.

Curried Lentil Soup with Carrots

This warming soup can be made as a lentil dish to serve over rice, or as a simple soup. Adjust the cayenne to your taste. Top with a dollop of plain yogurt.

  • 1 ½ cup red lentils
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 carrots, diced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 3 tsp curry powder
  • 1/8 – ¼ tsp cayenne
  1. Saute onions and carrots in oil.
  2. Add lentils, water, raisins, and curry. Bring to a boil. Then simmer partly covered for 20-30 minutes.
  3. Season with salt and cayenne.

White Bean and Kale Soup

This soup can be made with either dry beans (that you cook from scratch) or canned beans. It is a filling meal on its own, providing an excellent source of protein and fiber.

  • 1 cup dry navy beans (or 2 large cans of navy beans and water or vegetable broth)
  • kombu (optional)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 2 celery ribs, diced
  • 1 bunch kale, washed and chopped
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp black or white pepper
  1. Soak beans overnight.
  2. Rinse beans and cover with plenty of water. Add a stick of kombu (this is a sea vegetable that increases mineral content of the cooked beans; it is entirely optional). Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 2 hours.
  3. When beans are almost fully cooked, sauté the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic in a separate pan.  Add the sautéed vegetables, kale, and seasonings to the beans.  (If using canned beans, add them to the sautéed vegetables with water or vegetable broth at this point). Simmer for another 10 minutes until kale is wilted. Season to taste.

The Roundup on Roundup®

Source interview: Dr. Mercola interviews Dr. Don Huber, Professor Emeritus Purdue University

“We gain in science only when we recognize we have to address the system as a whole.”

–Don Huber, PhD

Dr. Don Huber is undeniably one of the most intelligent people on this planet. He has been a professor of plant pathology at Purdue University for the last 35 years. His research has led him to become very outspoken against genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the use of the herbicide glyphosate, which is also known as Roundup®. He recently spoke with Dr. Mercola about glyphosate and I want to share some highlights here.

Glyphosate is an herbicide (a weed killer) that is used extensively in agriculture, landscaping, and even along roadsides. It is the primary herbicide used on genetically modified plants such as Roundup-Ready® soybeans, alfalfa, and corn. Glyphosate was patented by Monsanto® in 1974. Since the introduction of GMO crops in 1996, its usage has increased exponentially. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to increase its allowable levels in food. On May 1, 2013, the EPA doubled the allowable level so that soybean oil can now contain 40 parts per million (ppm) of glyphosate.

As an herbicide, glyphosate does not actually kill weeds itself. Glyphosate is a chelator. That means that it immobilizes minerals, essentially depleting the nutrition from the plant. This weakens the plant so that it becomes susceptible to disease from pathogens like fungus in the soil. It is actually the soil pathogens that end up killing the weeds.

Glyphosate is also patented as a potent antibiotic. It kills beneficial gut bacteria in humans at a level of only 0.1 parts per million (ppm). Since the allowable level in food is now 400 times that amount, we can be fairly certain that eating foods that have been sprayed with glyphosate will devastate our microflora.

The link between glyphosate exposure and gut health is profound. Dr. Huber references an article published this year that details the biochemical connection between glyphosate, intestinal health, and diseases that are rapidly becoming epidemic in our society. He also references epidemiological data that shows a correlation between the increased prevalence of GMOs, glyphosate use, and more than 35 modern diseases. It is well established that modern diseases such as allergies, asthma, autism, irritable bowel, and autoimmune disease correlate with inflamed, leaky, or otherwise compromised gut health. It may be that glyphosate is playing a key role in that pathology.

Glyphosate does not just stay on the surface of the plant so that we can wash it off. It actually gets incorporated into the plant itself so that we inevitably eat it in our food. The best way to avoid glyphosate is to not eat genetically engineered foods. You can read more about GMOs and how to avoid them at the Institute for Responsible Technology or the NonGMO Project.

Dr. Huber asserts that glyphosate’s “primary claim to fame is to benefit the bottom line of a commercial enterprise.” We need to vote with our forks and do everything within our power not to support these corporate giants.

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