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Epigenetic Memories Are Passed Down 14 Successive Generations, Game-Changing Research Reveals

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    It's amazing how much information can be passed on to our offspring. Scientist have discovered that our DNA has memories, and these can also be passed down. We are talking about thoughts, feelings, emotions and perceptions.

  • Reflect On:

    Biological changes are shaped by our environment, as well as our thoughts, feelings, emotions and reaction to that environment. Our DNA can be changed with belief, the placebo is a great example. Thoughts feelings and emotions are huge in biology.

This article was written by the Greenmedinfo research group, from Greenmedinfo.com. Posted here with permission.

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Until recently, it was believed that our genes dictate our destiny. That we are slated for the diseases that will ultimately beset us based upon the pre-wired indecipherable code written in stone in our genetic material. The burgeoning field of epigenetics, however, is overturning these tenets, and ushering in a school of thought where nurture, not nature, is seen to be the predominant influence when it comes to genetic expression and our freedom from or affliction by chronic disease.

Epigenetics: The Demise of Biological Determinism

Epigenetics, or the study of the physiological mechanisms that silence or activate genes, encompasses processes which alter gene function without changing the sequence of nucleotide base pairs in our DNA. Translated literally to mean “in addition to changes in genetic sequence,” epigenetics includes processes such as methylation, acetylation, phosphorylation, sumolyation, and ubiquitylation which can be transmitted to daughter cells upon cell division (1). Methylation, for example, is the attachment of simple methyl group tags to DNA molecules, which can repress transcription of a gene when it occurs in the region of a gene promoter. This simple methyl group, or a carbon bound to three hydrogen molecules, effectively turns the gene off.

Post-translational modifications of histone proteins is another epigenetic process. Histones help to package and condense the DNA double helix into the cell nucleus in a complex called chromatin, which can be modified by enzymes, acetyl groups, and forms of RNA called small interfering RNAs and microRNAs (1). These chemical modifications of chromatin influence its three-dimensional structure, which in turn governs its accessibility for DNA transcription and dictates whether genes are expressed or not.

We inherit one allele, or variant, of each gene from our mother and the other from our father. If the result of epigenetic processes is imprinting, a phenomenon where one of the two alleles of a gene pair is turned off, this can generate a deleterious health outcome if the expressed allele is defective or increases our susceptibility to infections or toxicants (1). Studies link cancers of nearly all types, neurobehavioral and cognitive dysfunction, respiratory illnessesautoimmune disorders, reproductive anomalies, and cardiovascular disease to epigenetic mechanisms (1). For example, the cardiac antiarrhythmic drug procainamide and the antihypertensive agent hydralazine can cause lupus in some people by causing aberrant patterns of DNA methylation and disrupting signalling pathways (1).

Genes Load the Gun, Environment Pulls the Trigger

Pharmaceuticals, however, are not the only agents that can induce epigenetic disturbances. Whether you were born via vaginal birth or Cesarean section, breastfed or bottle-fed, raised with a pet in the house, or infected with certain childhood illnesses all influence your epigenetic expression. Whether you are sedentary, pray, smoke, mediate, do yoga, have an extensive network of social support or are alienated from your community—all of your lifestyle choices play into your risk for disease operating through mechanisms of epigenetics.

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In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that genetics account for only 10% of disease, with the remaining 90% owing to environmental variables (2). An article published in the Public Library of Science One (PLoS One) entitled “Genetic factors are not the major causes of chronic diseases” echoes these claims, citing that chronic disease is only 16.4% genetic, and 84.6% environmental (3). These concepts make sense in light of research on the exposome, the cumulative measure of all the environmental insults an individual incurs during their life course that determines susceptibility to disease (4)

In delineating the totality of exposures to which an individual is subjected over their lifetime, the exposome can be subdivided into three overlapping and intertwined domains. One segment of the exposome called the internal environment is comprised of processes innate to the body which impinge on the cellular milieu. This encompasses hormones and other cellular messengers, oxidative stress, inflammation, lipid peroxidation, bodily morphology, the gut microbiotaaging and biochemical stress (5).

Another portion of the exposome, the specific external environment, consists of exposures including pathogens, radiation, chemical contaminants and pollutants, and medical interventions, as well as dietary, lifestyle, and occupational elements (5). At an even broader sociocultural and ecological level is the segment of the exposome called the general external environment, which may circumscribe factors such as psychological stress, socioeconomic status, geopolitical variables, educational attainment, urban or rural residence, and climate (5).

Transgenerational Inheritance of Epigenetic Change: Endocrine Disruptors Trigger Infertility in Future Generations

Scientists formerly speculated that epigenetic changes disappear with each new generation during gametogenesis, the formation of sperm and ovum, and after fertilization. However, this theory was first challenged by research published in the journal Science which demonstrated that transient exposure of pregnant rats to the insecticide methoxychlor, an estrogenic compound, or the fungicide vinclozolin, an antiandrogenic compound, resulted in increased incidence of male infertility and decreased sperm production and viability in 90% of the males of four subsequent generations that were tracked (1).

Most notably, these reproductive effects were associated with derangements in DNA methylation patterns in the germ line, suggesting that epigenetic changes are passed on to future generations. The authors concluded, “The ability of an environmental factor (for example, endocrine disruptor) to reprogram the germ line and to promote a transgenerational disease state has significant implications for evolutionary biology and disease etiology” (6, p. 1466). This may suggest that the endocrine-disrupting, fragrance-laden personal care products and commercial cleaning supplies to which we are all exposed may trigger fertility problems in multiple future generations.

Transgenerational Inheritance of Traumatic Episodes: Parental Experience Shapes Traits of Offspring

In addition, traumatic experiences may be transmitted to future generations via epigenetics as a way to inform progeny about salient information needed for their survival (7). In one study, researchers wafted the cherry-like chemical acetophenone into the chambers of mice while administering electric shocks, conditioning the mice to fear the scent (7). This reaction was passed onto two successive generations, which shuddered significantly more in the presence of acetophenone despite never having encountered it compared to descendants of mice that had not received this conditioning (7).

The study suggests that certain characteristics of the parental sensory environment experienced before conception can remodel the sensory nervous system and neuroanatomy in subsequently conceived generations (7). Alterations in brain structures that process olfactory stimuli were observed, as well as enhanced representation of the receptor that perceives the odor compared to control mice and their progeny (7). These changes were conveyed by epigenetic mechanisms, as illustrated by evidence that the acetophenone-sensing genes in fearful mice were hypomethylated, which may have enhanced expression of odorant-receptor genes during development leading to acetophenone sensitivity (7).

The Human Experience of Famine and Tragedy Spans Generations

The mouse study, which illustrates how germ cells (egg and sperm) exhibit dynamic plasticity and adaptability in response to environmental signals, is mirrored by human studies. For instance, exposures to certain stressors such as starvation during the gestational period are associated with poor health outcomes for offspring. Women who undergo famine before conception of her offspring have been demonstrated to give birth to children with lower self-reported mental health and quality of life, for example (8).

Studies similarly highlight that, “Maternal famine exposure around the time of conception has been related to prevalence of major affective disorders, antisocial personality disorders, schizophrenia, decreased intracranial volume, and congenital abnormalities of the central nervous system” (8). Gestational exposure to the Dutch Famine of the mid-twentieth century is also associated with lower perceived health (9), as well as enhanced incidence of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and obesity in offspring (8). Maternal undernourishment during pregnancy leads to neonatal adiposity, which is a predictor of future obesity (10), in the grandchildren (11).

The impact of epigenetics is also exemplified by research on the intergenerational effects of trauma, which illuminates that descendants of people who survived the Holocaust exhibit abnormal stresshormone profiles, and low cortisol production in particular (12). Because of their impaired cortisol response and altered stress reactivity, children of Holocaust survivors are often at enhanced risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression (13).

Intrauterine exposure to maternal stress in the form of intimate partner violence during pregnancy can also lead to changes in the methylation status of the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) of their adolescent offspring (14). These studies suggest that an individual’s experience of trauma can predispose their descendants to mental illness, behavioral problems, and psychological abnormalities due to “transgenerational epigenetic programming of genes operating in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis,” a complex set of interactions among endocrine glands which determine stress response and resilience (14).

Body Cells Pass Genetic Information Directly Into Sperm Cells

Not only that, but studies are illuminating that genetic information can be transferred through the germ line cells of a species in real time. These paradigm-shifting findings overturn conventional logic which postulates that genetic change occurs over the protracted time scale of hundreds of thousands or even millions of years. In a relatively recent study, exosomes were found to be the medium through which information was transferred from somatic cells to gametes.

This experiment entailed xenotransplantation, a process where living cells from one species are grafted into a recipient of another species. Specifically, human melanoma tumor cells genetically engineered to express genes for a fluorescent tracer enzyme called EGFP-encoding plasmid were transplanted into mice. The experimenters found that information-containing molecules containing the EGFP tracer were released into the animals’ blood (15). Exosomes, or “specialized membranous nano-sized vesicles derived from endocytic compartments that are released by many cell types” were found among the EGFP trackable molecules (16, p. 447).

Exosomes, which are synthesized by all plant and animal cells, contain distinct protein repertoires and are created when inward budding occurs from the membrane of multivesicular bodies (MVBs), a type of organelle that serves as a membrane-bound sorting compartment within eukaryotic cells (16). Exosomes contain microRNA (miRNA) and small RNA, types of non-coding RNA involved in regulating gene expression (16). In this study, exosomes delivered RNAs to mature sperm cells (spermatozoa) and remained stored there (15).

The researchers highlight that this kind of RNA can behave as a “transgenerational determinant of inheritable epigenetic variations and that spermatozoal RNA can carry and deliver information that cause phenotypic variations in the progeny” (15). In other words, the RNA carried to sperm cells by exosomes can preside over gene expression in a way that changes the observable traits and disease risk of the offspring as well as its morphology, development, and physiology.

This study was the first to elucidate RNA-mediated transfer of information from somatic to germ cells, which fundamentally overturns what is known as the Weisman barrier, a principle which states that the movement of hereditary information from genes to body cells is unidirectional, and that the information transmitted by egg and sperm to future generations remains independent of somatic cells and parental experience (15).

Further, this may bear implications for cancer risk, as exosomes contain vast amounts of genetic information which can be source of lateral gene transfer (17) and are abundantly liberated from tumor cells (18). This can be reconciled with the fact that exosome-resembling vesicles have been observed in various mammals (15), including humans, in close proximity to sperm in anatomical structures such as the epididymis as well as in seminal fluid (19). These exosomes may thereafter be propagated to future generations with fertilization and augment cancer risk in the offspring (20).

The researchers concluded that sperm cells can act as the final repositories of somatic cell-derived information, which suggests that epigenetic insults to our body cells can be relayed to future generations. This notion is confirmatory of the evolutionary theory of “soft inheritance” proposed by French naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, whereby characteristics acquired over the life of an organism are transmitted to offspring, a concept which modern genetics previously rejected before the epigenetics arrived on the scene. In this way, the sperm are able to spontaneously assimilate exogenous DNA and RNA molecules, behaving both as vector of their native genome and of extrachromosomal foreign genetic material which is “then delivered to oocytes at fertilization with the ensuing generation of phenotypically modified animals” (15).

Epigenetic Changes Endure Longer Than Ever Predicted

In a recent study, nematode worms were manipulated to harbor a transgene for a fluorescent protein, which made the worms glow under ultraviolet light when the gene was activated (21). When the worms were incubated under the ambient temperature of 20° Celsius (68° Fahrenheit), negligible glowing was observed, indicating low activity of the transgene (21). However, transferring the worms to a warmer climate of 25°C (77° F) stimulated expression of the gene, as the worms glowed brightly (21).

In addition, this temperature-induced alteration in gene expression was found to persist for at least 14 generations, representing the preservation of epigenetic memories of environmental change across an unprecedented number of generations (21). In other words, the worms transmitted memories of past environmental conditions to their descendants, through the vehicle of epigenetic change, as a way to prepare their offspring for prevailing environmental conditions and ensure their survivability.

Future Directions: Where Do We Go From Here?

Taken cumulatively, the aforementioned research challenges traditional Mendelian laws of genetics, which postulate that genetic inheritance occurs exclusively through sexual reproduction and that traits are passed to offspring through the chromosomes contained in germ line cells, and never through somatic (bodily) cells. Effectively, this proves the existence of non-Mendelian transgenerational inheritance, where traits separate from chromosomal genes are transmitted to progeny, resulting in persistent phenotypes that endure across generations (22).

This research imparts new meaning to the principle of seven generation stewardship taught by Native Americans, which mandates that we consider the welfare of seven generations to come in each of our decisions. Not only should we embody this approach in practices of environmental sustainability, but we would be wise to consider how the conditions to which we subject our bodies—the pollution and toxicants which permeate the landscape and pervade our bodies, the nutrient-devoid soil that engenders micronutrient-poor food, the disruptions to our circadian rhythm due to the ubiquity of electronic devices, our divorce from nature and the demise of our tribal affiliations—may translate into ill health effects and diminished quality of life for a previously unfathomed number of subsequent generations.

Hazards of modern agriculture, the industrial revolution, and contemporary living are the “known or suspected drivers behind epigenetic processes…including heavy metals, pesticides, diesel exhaust, tobacco smoke, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, hormones, radioactivity, viruses, bacteria, and basic nutrients” (1, p. A160). Serendipitously, however, many inputs such as exercise, mindfulness, and bioactive components in fruits and vegetables such as sulforaphane in cruciferous vegetables, resveratrol from red grapes, genistein from soy, diallyl sulphide from garlic, curcumin from turmeric, betaine from beets, and green tea catechin can favorably modify epigenetic phenomena “either by directly inhibiting enzymes that catalyze DNA methylation or histone modifications, or by altering the availability of substrates necessary for those enzymatic reactions” (23, p. 8).

This quintessentially underscores that the air we breathe, the food we eat, the thoughts we allow, the toxins to which we are exposed, and the experiences we undergo may persevere in our descendants and remain in our progeny long after we are gone. We must be cognizant of the effects of our actions, as they elicit a ripple effect through the proverbial sands of time.

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References

1. Weinhold, B. (2006). Epigenetics: The Science of Change. Environmental Health Perspectives, 114(3), A160-A167.

2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Exposome and Exposomics. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/exposome/

3. Rappaport, S.M. (2016). Genetic factors are not the major causes of chronic diseases. PLoS One, 11(4), e0154387.

4. Vrijheid, M. (2014). The exposome: a new paradigm to study the impact of environment on health. Thorax, 69(9), 876-878. doi: 10.1136/thoraxjnl-2013-204949.

5. Wild, C.P. (2012). The exposome: from concept to utility. International Journal of Epidemiology, 41, 24–32. doi:10.1093/ije/dyr236

6. Anway, M.D. et al. (2005). Epigenetic transgenerational actions of endocrine disruptors and male fertility. Science, 308(5727), 1466-1469.

7. Dias, B.G., & Ressler, K.J. (2014). Parental olfactory experience influences behavior and neural structure in subsequent generations. Nature Neuroscience, 17(1), 89-98.

8. Stein, A.D. et al. (2009). Maternal exposure to the Dutch Famine before conception and during pregnancy: quality of life and depressive symptoms in adult offspring. Epidemiology, 20(6), doi:  10.1097/EDE.0b013e3181b5f227.

9. Roseboom, T.J. et al. (2003). Perceived health of adults after prenatal exposure to the Dutch famine. Paediatrics Perinatal Epidemiology, 17, 391–397.

10. Badon, S.E. et al. (2014). Gestational Weight Gain and Neonatal Adiposity in the Hyperglycemia and Adverse Pregnancy Outcome Study-North American Region. Obesity (Silver Spring), 22(7), 1731–1738.

11. Veenendaal, M.V. et al. (2013). Transgenerational effects of prenatal exposure to the 1944-45 Dutch famine. BJOG, 120(5), 548-53. doi: 10.1111/1471-0528.

12. Yehuda, R., & Bierer, L.M. (2008). Transgenerational transmission of cortisol and PTSD risk. Progress in Brain Research, 167, 121-135.

13. Aviad-Wilcheck, Y. et al. (2013). The effects of the survival characteristics of parent Holocaust survivors on offsprings’ anxiety and depression symptoms. The Israel Journal of Psychiatry and Related Sciences, 50(3), 210-216.

14. Radke, K.M. et al. (2011). Transgenerational impact of intimate partner violence on methylation in the promoter of the glucocorticoid receptor. Translational Psychiatry, 1, e21. doi: 10.1038/tp.2011.21.

15. Cossetti, C. et al. (2014). Soma-to-Germline Transmission of RNA in Mice Xenografted with Human Tumour Cells: Possible Transport by Exosomes. PLoS One, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0101629.

16. Zomer, A. et al. (2010). Exosomes: Fit to deliver small RNA. Communicative and Integrative Biology, 3(5), 447–450.

17. Balaj, L. et al. (2011) Tumour microvesicles contain retrotransposon elements and amplified oncogene sequences. Natural Communications, 2, 180.

18. Azmi, A.S., Bao, B., & Sarkar, F.H. (2013). Exosomes in cancer development, metastasis, and drug resistance: a comprehensive review. Cancer Metastasis Review, 32, 623-643

19. Poliakov, A. et al. (2009). Structural heterogeneity and protein composition of exosomes-like vesicles (prostasomes) in human semen. Prostate, 69, 159-167.

20. Cheng, R.Y. et al. (2004) Epigenetic and gene expression changes related to transgenerational carcinogenesis. Molecular Carcinogenesis, 40, 1–11.

21. Klosin, A. et al. (2017). Transgenerational transmission of environmental information in C. elegans. Science, 356(6335).

22. Lim, J.P., & Brunet, A. (2013). Bridging the transgenerational gap with epigenetic memory. Trends in Genetics, 29(3), 176-186. doi: 10.1016/j.tig.2012.12.008

23. Choi, S.-W., & Friso, S. (2010). Epigenetics: A New Bridge between Nutrition and Health Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal, 1(1), 8-16. doi:10.3945/an.110.1004.

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What Happens To Someone’s Brain When They Complain Too Much

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    The more we complain, the more we wire our brain to focus on the negative aspects of our lives. Luckily this is a two-way street, and we can undo the damage and begin to step into a more positive mindset and outlook.

  • Reflect On:

    How much do you complain? The first step towards fixing this issue is by becoming aware of it. Be honest with yourself, and take note of your thoughts, and what you are choosing to talk about.

We all know those types of people who always find something to complain about, maybe we are even one of them! How much of an effect does complaining actually have on the brain and what can we do about it? New research shows exactly how complaining every day might be affecting our brain and because the brain is an amazing and resilient organ we can even reverse these effects. The first step is becoming aware of the issue.

What is your first thought when you wake up in the morning? Are you already dreading the day ahead? Is it cloudy, and thus right out of bed, you find yourself in a grumpy mood? Well, if this is you, know that it is not too late to make a change. Complaining can become a habit, and the more we do it, the more we continue to do it. With some effort, we can break this habit and start to see the world in a more positive light, if we choose to take action.

Neuroplasticity

Within the past couple of decades, thanks to the development of brain imaging and neuroscience, we can now clearly see that the brain is indeed capable of rewiring itself. It is up to us, however, to make these necessary adjustments in order to allow for this to happen. Neuroplasticity means the brains ability to change and form new neural pathways and synapses, this is what allows us to break old habits, form new ones, learn new skills, grow, change and essentially, evolve.

Because of neuroplasticity, we have the capability to:

  • Increase our intelligence
  • Learn new and life-changing skills.
  • Recover from certain types of brain damage
  • Become more emotionally intelligent
  • Unlearn harmful beliefs, habits and behaviors

For Better Or For Worse

‘Neurons that fire together, wire together.”

It is important to know, that there are two sides of the coin and we can indeed rewire our brains for the worse, if we pick up habits and behaviors that are detrimental to our well being, such as complaining.

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According to Alex Korb, Ph.D., and author of The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change At A Time,

“In depression, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the brain. It’s simply that the particular tuning of neural circuits creates the tendency toward a pattern of depression. It has to do with the way the brain deals with stress, planning, habits, decision-making and a dozen other things — the dynamic interaction of all those circuits. And once a pattern starts to form, it causes dozens of tiny changes throughout the brain that create a downward spiral.”

How Does Complaining Affect The Brain?

When we get caught up in the habit of continually complaining, in the form of thoughts in our heads or out loud to anyone and everyone we come into contact with, it will directly alter our thought processes. Altered thoughts lead to altered beliefs, which will inevitably lead to a change in behavior.

In fact, our brain possesses something that is called the negativity bias, meaning that the brain has a tendency to focus more on what’s wrong, not what’s going right or the positive events in our life. These negative thoughts can actually drown out the positive experiences over time so that you aren’t able to even see the positive events that are taking place in your life.

Neuroscientist, Dr. Rick Hanson sums up the negativity bias quite nicely,

“Negative Stimuli produce more neural activity than do equally intensive positive ones. They are also perceived more easily and quickly.”

So, by continually allowing ourselves to complain we are strengthening this behavior, as mentioned above, the first step towards changing this is to become aware of the problem. That alone, will make see the issue and likely ponder on your negative thoughts.

How Can We Change Our Brain?

This isn’t to say that we always need to “think positive” a common new-age misconception, but we should take the necessary action steps to counteract the effects of thinking negatively all the time.

A simple and effective technique is to wear a complaining bracelet, this is a tactic that I learned from watching an episode of Oprah years ago. You simply wear a bracelet, any kind that can easily come off, and every time you catch yourself complaining about something, in your head or out loud to someone else, you switch wrists. To hold yourself accountable, let your family, friends, and co-workers know of your challenge so in case you don’t realize that you’re complaining, they can call you out too. The goal is to see how long you can go without having to switch the bracelet, but this technique is also powerful for showing you how much you are actually complaining in the first place.

Meditation & Mindfulness Practices

Barbara Fredrickson, a positive psychology researcher and her colleagues from the University of North Carolina showed how people who meditate daily have more positive emotions that those who don’t.

After a three-month experiment, Fredrickson’s team found that “people who meditated daily continued to display increased mindfulness, purpose in life, social support and decreased illness symptoms.”

If you are new to meditation, there are a ton of resources available to help get you started. Just 15 to 20 minutes a day could be enough to change your brain and your entire life, for the better!

Much Love

Meditation Resources

5 Meditation Apps That Are Available Right Now For Download

An Introduction To Mindfulness Meditation

Meditation For Beginners: 20 Tips To Help Quiet The Mind

Meditation For People Who Don’t Meditate: A Simple Guide

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Awareness

Alternatives To Viagra That May Treat Erectile Dysfunction

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Erectile dysfunction is something that affects man men. It seems the only solution is medication, but their maybe other alternatives available.

  • Reflect On:

    Why is there such a lack of resources when it comes to the research of alternatives methods for treat certain health problem?

For many men experiencing erectile dysfunction, a little blue pill known as Viagra can be a quick fix thanks to modern medicine. However, like many other quick fixes developed by the pharmaceutical industry, those benefits don’t come without some added risks. Pharmaceuticals often impose the “bandaid effect” on our bodies, covering up the problem rather than actually solving it through addressing the root cause of the health issue. 

When it comes to Viagra, choosing to take this little blue pill is sort of like choosing the blue pill in the Matrix. Sometimes we can become so blinded by the advantages of something that we forget about its potential side effects, and ultimately fail to address the real issue at hand. So, in hearing that this blue pill could seemingly fix your sex life again, many men choose to take it, while simultaneously ignoring the risks.

In reality, there are some pretty serious health risks associated with Viagra. Like many other pharmaceutical products, by ‘fixing’ one area of the body, you could be harming another.

The Viagra website states it can potentially cause some serious side effects, including:

  • Priapism, otherwise known as a long-term erection that can permanently damage your penis
  • Loss of vision in one of both eyes
  • Hearing loss, damage to hearing, or ringing in ears
  • Headache
  • Upset stomach or nausea
  • Back pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Rash
  • Heart attack or irregular heartbeat
  • Stroke
  • Death

Despite these potential risks, over 23 million men have been prescribed Viagra. This indicates there’s a huge number of men who experience erectile dysfunction, and it’s understandable they’d turn to Viagra given how normalized pharmaceuticals are in our society and how cruelly men who suffer from this problem are portrayed in the media.

Instead of going deeper and asking ourselves why our health problems occur, we tend to go to the pharmacy for a quick fix or ask our doctors to prescribe us some pills. However, just like any other health problem, erectile dysfunction is simply a symptom of your current state of being. Our health issues don’t just “happen to us,” they manifest as a result of our past and current health and wellbeing.

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Erectile dysfunction can occur due to high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, high cholesterol, hormonal problems, alcohol abuse, smoking, cocaine use, pelvic injuries, spinal issues, radiation therapy around the pelvic region, obesity, and more.

These underlying causes of erectile dysfunction may explain why some of the side effects of Viagra can be so life-threatening in the first place. When men take those blue pills, they can get lost in the excitement of the experience and end up exerting themselves beyond their physical limitations. If these men already have preexisting conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure (which could all be the root causes of their erectile dysfunction), they could already be at risk of having a heart attack or a stroke.

Though the root problem could be considered more difficult to identify and treat than taking that little blue pill, it’s ultimately the only sustainable, long-term solution, and it could save your health (or even your life)!

However, if you are in need of a quick fix while you’re trying to figure out what that root cause could be, there are plenty of alternatives to Viagra that don’t pose the same health risks.

Here’s a list of all-natural alternatives to Viagra:

L-arginine and Pycnogenol

L-arginine is a non-essential amino acid that is important during times of trauma or stress. During these times, the body is unable to produce as much as it needs, and so taking this supplement while you’re stressed is often beneficial. What’s more, studies have found that taking this amino acid supplement can treat erectile function.

It has been found to perform well when taken in combination with pycnogenol. One study involving men experiencing erectile dysfunction found that taking these two supplements together restored participants’ sexual ability to 80% in about a month. After only a few months, 92.5% of the men experienced a normal erection.

Red Ginseng

This incredible herb has been used to improve erectile dysfunction for centuries, and as it turns out, there’s now science to support the herbal wisdom behind it.

2012 study published in the International Journal of Impotence Research concluded that red ginseng can be used as an alternative to erectile dysfunction medication, and another review published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) determined that red ginseng could improve erectile dysfunction and sexual performance, though further research is required.

Maca

Maca is well-known for being nature’s own powerful aphrodisiac. In a study on patients with mild erectile dysfunction, maca was found to produce a “small but significant effect” on both the participants’ general and sexual wellbeing.

You could try adding some maca to your morning smoothies or beverages, or even take a supplement. Plus, maca is an excellent source of vitamin C, iron, potassium, and copper, so you’ll be loading up on nutrients in addition to boosting your sex drive.

Saffron

That’s right: That expensive member of your herbs and spices cabinet can also aid men who suffer from erectile dysfunction! One study found that saffron works surprisingly quickly, showing “a positive effect on sexual function with increased number and duration of erectile events seen in patients with ED even only after taking it for ten days.”

Tribulus terrestris

Tribulus terrestris is a plant often used in Ayurvedic medicine, as the root and fruits are said to benefit both male virility and general wellbeing. A study published in NCBI suggests that tribulus terrestris can be beneficial in treating men who experience erectile dysfunction.

Studies in primates, rabbits, and rats have yielded some promising results, with Tribulus terrestris being found to increase some sex hormones and effectively treating mild and moderate cases of erectile dysfunction.

Reduced Intake of Meat and Fried Foods

Some of the worst foods for your heart include meat and fried foods. Foods high in animal fat, sodium, and unhealthy oils pose serious risk to your heart and can also worsen your blood circulation, a necessary aspect of getting an erection in the first place.

As it turns out, erectile dysfunction could signify underlying heart problems, so eating “heart healthy” foods is a necessary component of good sexual health as well. Try swapping the animal protein for some plant-based protein, cutting the dairy, and ditching the fast food!

Essential Oils

There are a number of essential oils that can be used to reduce stress, increase sex drive/libido, and lower blood pressure, all of which could potentially affect erectile function. Ylang ylang, rose, and lavender essential oils are all really great at reducing stress and in some cases lowering blood pressure, too.

Spicier scents like cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove can aid in increasing sex drive and improving sexual function, and nutmeg can also improve blood circulation, an important part of getting an erection.

Final Thoughts

As with many other pharmaceuticals, taking Viagra clearly has its advantages and disadvantages. Sure, it might improve your sex life in the short term, but at what cost? Maybe you’ll take Viagra and never experience any negative side effects, but at the end of the day, there’s no guarantee of that.

Any ailment or disease that manifests in the body is always a sign of sickness or stress, and this includes erectile dysfunction; if everything is operating well in your body, then you will not run into any operational issues.

This applies for many health issues, and I encourage you to continue on your journey in searching for the root cause of all of your health problems!

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Scientists Share Facts About Vaccines At World Health Organization Conference For Vaccine Safety

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Many scientists presented facts about vaccines and vaccine safety at the recent Global Health Vaccine Safety summit hosted by the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland.

  • Reflect On:

    Why are so many people fighting against each other? Why are there "pro-vax" and "anti-vax" groups? Are these terms not useless? Do they prevent us from having discussions that need to be had and moving forward appropriately?

According to organizations like the American Medical Association as well as the World Health Organization, vaccine hesitancy among people, parents, and, as mentioned by scientists at the World Health Organization’s recent Global Vaccine Safety Summit, health professionals and scientists continues to increase. This is no secret, as vaccines have become a very popular topic over the past few years alone. In fact, the World Health Organization has listed vaccine hesitancy as one of the biggest threats to global health security.

The issue of vaccine hesitancy is no secret, for example, one study (of many) published in the journal EbioMedicine outlines this point, stating in the introduction:

Over the past two decades several vaccine controversies have emerged in various countries, including France, inducing worries about severe adverse effects and eroding confidence in health authorities, experts, and science (Larson et al., 2011). These two dimensions are at the core of the vaccine hesitancy (VH) observed in the general population. VH is defined as delay in acceptance of vaccination, or refusal, or even acceptance with doubts about its safety and benefits, with all these behaviors and attitudes varying according to context, vaccine, and personal profile, despite the availability of vaccine services (Group, 2014,Larson et al., 2014Dubé et al., 2013). VH presents a challenge to physicians who must address their patients’ concerns about vaccines and ensure satisfactory vaccination coverage.

At the conference, this fact was emphasized by Professor Heidi Larson, a Professor of Anthropology and the Risk and Decision Scientist Director at the Vaccine Confidence Project. She is referenced, as you can see, by the authors in the study above. At the conference, she emphasized that safety concerns among people and health professionals seem to be the biggest issue regarding vaccine hesitancy.

She also stated,

The other thing that’s a trend, and an issue, is not just confidence in providers but confidence of health care providers, we have a very wobbly health professional frontline that is starting to question vaccines and the safety of vaccines. That’s a huge problem, because to this day any study I’ve seen… still, the most trusted person on any study I’ve seen globally is the health care provider, and if we lose that, we’re in trouble.

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She also brought up her belief that safety studies are incomplete, and that to continue to refer people to the same old science on safety is not adequately addressing their new concerns because better studies need to be done. Furthermore, she recommended that doctors and professionals forego name-calling with ‘hostile language’ such as “anti-vax”. She recommended encouraging people to ask questions about vaccine safety. After all, it makes sense–in order to make our vaccines safer and more effective, you would think everybody would be on board with constant questioning and examination. After all, that’s just good science, and it’s in everyone’s best interest.

Another interesting point that caught my attention was brought up by Dr. Martin Howell Friede, Coordinator of Initiative For Vaccine Research at the World Health Organization. He brought up the topic of vaccine adjuvants like thimerosal or aluminum, for example. In certain vaccines, without these adjuvants the vaccine simply doesn’t work. Dr. Friede mentioned that there are clinical studies that blame adjuvants for adverse events seen as a result of administering vaccines, and how people in general often blame adverse reactions to vaccines being the result of the vaccine adjuvant. He mentioned aluminum specifically.

He showed concern given the fact that “without adjuvants, we are not going to have the next generation of vaccines.”

He also stated that,

When we add an adjuvant, it’s because it is essential. We do not add adjuvants to vaccines because we want to do so, but when we add them it adds to the complexity. And I give courses every year on ‘how do you develop vaccines’ and ‘how do you make vaccines’ and the first lesson is, while you are making your vaccine, if you can avoid using an adjuvant, please do so. Lesson two is, if you’re going to use an adjuvant, use one that has a history of safety, and lesson three is, if you’re not going to do that, think very carefully.

Furthermore, he criticized the assumption that if an adjuvant like aluminum appears to be safe for one vaccine, that it should be not be presumed to be safe for other vaccines. Dr. Friede said that current safety surveillance is quite effective at determining immediate effects (such as immediate injury to the arm at the injection site), but not as effective in identifying “systemic” long term adverse events.

When I heard him mention lesson two, that “if you’re going to use an adjuvant, use one that has a history of safety,” it instantly reminded me of aluminum because it’s an adjuvant used in multiple vaccines like the HPV vaccine, for example, but has no history of safety.

A study published as far back as 2011 in Current Medical Chemistry makes this quite clear, emphasizing that,

Aluminum is an experimentally demonstrated neurotoxin and the most commonly used vaccine adjuvant. Despite almost 90 years of widespread use of aluminum adjuvants, medical science’s understanding about their mechanisms of action is still remarkably poor. There is also a concerning scarcity of data on toxicology and pharmacokinetics of these compounds. In spite of this, the notion that aluminum in vaccines is safe appears to be widely accepted. Experimental research, however, clearly shows that aluminum adjuvants have a potential to induce serious immunological disorders in humans. (source)

The key sentence here is that “their mechanisms of action is still remarkably poor.” Based on what Dr. Friede said at the conference, it really makes you think.

A study published in BMC Med in 2015 found that “Evidence that aluminum-coated particles phagocytozed in the injected muscle and its draining lymph nodes can disseminate within phagocytes throughout the body and slowly accumulate in the brain further suggests that alum safety should be evaluated in the long term.”

This brings me to another point made at the conference by many scientists in attendance, which was that according to some of them, vaccines seem to lack the appropriate safety testing. This is another big reason why people are so confused and have voiced their concerns about safety, as mentioned above by Professor Larson.

Marion Gruber, PhD and Director of the FDA Office of Vaccines Research and Review, questioned the scope of vaccine safety surveillance and monitoring during pre-licensing vaccine trials as well during the conference.

One source of confusion might be that ‘high-ranking’ health authorities sometimes making conflicting statements. For example, Soumya Swaminathan, MD and Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization, stated at the conference,

I don’t think we can overemphasize the fact that we really don’t have very good safety monitoring systems in many countries and this adds to the miscommunication and the misapprehensions because we’re not able to give clear cut answers when people ask questions about deaths that have occurred due to particular vaccines… One should be able to give a very factual account of what exactly is happening, what the cause of deaths are, but in most cases there’s some obfuscation at that level and therefore there’s less and less trust then in the system.

Prior to this statement, in a promotional video released just days before the conference began, she stated that “we have vaccine safety systems, robust vaccine safety systems.”

She completely contradicted herself.

If you’d like access to the entire conference, you can do so at the World Health Organization’s website.

The Takeaway

The scientific community should never stop questioning, especially when it comes to medication. Based on the information that’s come out at this conference, it’s quite clear that there is a lot of room for improvement when it comes to the development of vaccines and vaccine safety overall. Discussion is always encouraging, as long as it’s peaceful and facts are presented like they were at this conference. It’s better to understand the reasons why a lot of people are hesitant about vaccination and appropriately respond, instead of simply using ridicule and hatred because that’s never effective and both parties cannot move forward that way. At the end of the day, scientists should never cease to question.

Holographic 2020 Lunar Calendar

An art piece and lunar calendar all in one. This calendar features moon phases for every day of the month for the entirety of 2020.

Hologrpahic foil set on a dark 11" x 11" poster makes the moon's phases shimmer as light strikes them in this unique art piece.

Buy yours here!
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