Study Finds Artificial Sweetener Toxic To The Gut

Recently published in Molecules, a collaborative paper by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Israel and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore concluded several artificial sweeteners and supplements, approved by the FDA, were lethal to digestive gut microbes.

Found in an abundance of low-calorie and reduced-sugar food products, many individuals may not be aware they are imbibing these potentially harmful products. Additionally, artificial sweeteners are more often being found in water supplies making them an increasingly troublesome pollutant.

The relative toxicity of six artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, saccharine, neotame, advantame, and acesulfame potassium-k) and 10 artificial sweetener-containing sport supplements were specified in this study. Results showed that when microbes in the gastrointestinal tract were exposed to concentrations of only 1 mg/mL of the artificial sweeteners they became toxic.

“We modified bioluminescent E. coli bacteria, which luminesce when they detect toxicants and act as a sensing model representative of the complex microbial system,” explains Prof. Ariel Kushmaro, John A. Ungar Chair in Biotechnology in the Avram and Stella Goldstein-Goren Department of Biotechnology Engineering, and member of the Ilse Katz Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology and the National Institute for Biotechnology in the Negev.

According to Prof Kushmaro, one benefit of the tested bioluminescent bacterial panel is the possibility to test for artificial sweeteners in the environment. While more research is warranted, this study offers a constructive step in understanding the toxicity of artificial sweeteners to the gut microbiome.

Our thoughts? This research is interesting, however, it doesn’t mean that artificial sweeteners are toxic to humans. Firstly, the study was done in “modified” bacteria. Secondly, the “toxic” dose was found to be 1 mg/mL, which is much higher than what is typically observed in drinks and consumable products. This also doesn’t mean that there is no side-effects from consuming artificial sweeteners. We simply need more research and data. It is clear that these compounds impact the bacteria of the gut. But “How” is the question.

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Emerging Contaminant PFAS Discovered In Parchment, Michigan

PFAS Content In Textiles. Source:

A crisis in Michigan late last year was a catalyst for many states now reviewing standards for Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water. In August of 2018, The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) announced that high-levels of PFAS were discovered in the municipal water of Parchment, MI. Three wells that provide water to the municipality were found to have levels around or above the federal advisory level (70 ppt) with one well 26 times over the threshold currently recommend by the EPA.

PFAS are manufactured chemicals used in numerous industries and found in products such as textiles (see graph above), pizza boxes, cookware, and stain-repellents. Humans can gain exposure to PFAS through the usage of products containing them or through contaminated food and water sources. Exposure to these PFAS can build up in the human body, which cannot break them down, and has been linked to high cholesterol, cancer, low infant birth weights, as well as kidney and liver disease.

The state is currently investigating the source of the contamination, which may be related to the city’s industrial history. Parchment is known as “The Paper City” and currently houses a closed paper mill and landfill within its limits. These sites are a potential source of the contamination due to the common use of PFAS in paper production. Results from analysis of well water retrieved from near the landfill site are pending.

Immediately following the discovery, affected residents were supplied with clean bottled water for drinking. The state continues to look for a permanent solution and plans to link Parchment’s system to nearby Kalamazoo for the immediate future until the contamination is controlled.


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What Causes Déjà Vu? Science May Help Explain This Eerie Phenomenon


Déjà vu, meaning “already seen” in French, is a commonly experienced phenomenon. Deja vu occurs when an experience we objectively know to be unfamiliar feels instinctively familiar. It is often described as if one is re-living the same moment for a second time or remembering a premonition.

The cause of déjà vu has been widely speculated and scientists offer numerous explanations as to its etiology. However, studying déjà vu in an experimental setting can be problematic since experiences are hard to predict, subjective, and difficult to measure. Therefore, the exact cause remains a mystery but there are some leading theories among experts.

Neurological explanations support the idea that our brain is playing tricks on us. Spontaneous brain activity occurring in the area related to memory may cause a feeling of familiarity. Similarly, another hypothesis suggests a delay in the speed of information transmitted from one area of the brain to another could be responsible for producing incorrect memories of an experience.

Memory explanations suggest that you may have experienced a similar situation in the past but do not consciously remember the experience distinctively from the present moment. Single element familiarity is a hypothesis that déjà vu can be triggered by a single familiar element within an encounter, like seeing your neighbor in a foreign country.

Gestalt familiarity is a more easily tested hypothesis that suggests a familiar arrangement of objects within a scene can provoke a déjà vu experience. For example, walking into a room you have never seen before that has a similar layout to one you are familiar with may cause the feeling of déjà vu.

Whichever hypothesis is correct will require more research to determine; although each hypothesis discussed suggests a momentary glitch in cerebral function resulting in the false feeling of familiarity. For now, scientists need to design more studies to directly measure and examine the causes of déjà vu.


Mysterious Rise in Polio-Like Illnesses

via “Chase Kulakowski, now aged 3, developed acute flaccid myelitis in October 2016. Surgery and physical therapy has given Chase use of his arm again.”

Public health officials are concerned with the cause of a rare polio-like disease, acute flaccid myelitis (AFM). AFM effects the central nervous system producing weakness in one or more limbs. It principally affects children and may lead to paralysis – like polio. Dissimilar to polio, AFM does not have a vaccine, and there are no known proven effective therapies.

Cases of AFM spiked for the first time in 2014 with a record high of 124 confirmed cases. In 2018, an increase from 67 to 90 reported and 127 to 242 suspected cases have been seen over the last month announced the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on November 13.

While parents are desperate for answers, the CDC continues to investigate the etiology of AFM.  Tests of cerebral spinal fluid, the clear fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord, produced pathogens in only two of the confirmed cases this year.

Historically, since 2014, cases of AFM have rarely produced pathogens in tested cerebral spinal fluid samples. However, scientists do suspect a hidden viral infection to be the most likely culprit. The CDC continues to explore other potential causes including environmental toxins, genetic disorders and Guillain-Barré syndrome.

What is known from examining the confirmed cases is that AFM often presents as fever or respiratory symptoms three to ten days before limb weakness. At a recent news conference, Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases in Atlanta, stated “this time of year, many children have fever and respiratory symptoms [and] most of them do not go on to develop AFM. We’re trying to figure out what the triggers are that would cause someone to develop AFM later”.


The Best Sources of Omega-3’s


Omega-3s seem to be all over the place in the world of health-conscious people. They are known to benefit heart and brain health, help resolve inflammation, and even promote a healthy pregnancy. You will usually find them in stores as pure supplements, but they are also readily available in our diet.

Why are Omega-3s getting so much attention? Are there such things as “bad omega-3s”? Which foods are the highest sources of omega-3?

In this article, we give you the low-down on which foods are richest in Omega-3 fatty acids. First, however, we are going to review some of the basic information about Omega-3s, including what they are, where they come from, and how they benefit our health.

What are Omega-3s and Why Are They Important?

Omega-3s fatty acids (Omega-3s, for short) are a type of fat that is liquid at room temperature. These sorts of fats are called unsaturated fatty acids, and, more specifically, polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).

Omega-3s are usually called essential fatty acids, which means our body cannot easily make them. Instead, we must get them from the food we eat.

There are three main types of Omega-3s for human health: ALA, EPA, and DHA.

Out of the three Omega-3’s above, EPA and DHA are the most crucial, and the health benefits of Omega-3’s are attributed to the metabolism of EPA and DHA within the body. ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) is found mostly in plant-based oils, while both EPA and DHA are found in most abundance in seafood and grass-fed meats (as discussed shortly).

Omega-3’s are critical because both EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are used by the brain in consistent amounts, and thus we need a steady supply of it for normal neural function. Omega-3s are also important for cell structure, and they have key roles in keeping immune and hormone health.

The structures of EPA and DHA differ slightly; DHA has 22-carbon backbones and 6 double bonds at different positions, and EPA has a 20-carbon backbone and 5 double bonds and different positions.


If you don’t have a strong biochemistry background, it is likely that the differing structures won’t mean much. As with all chemical structures, the structure of the component determines its function. EPA and DHA are metabolized by the body with high efficiency. ALA is converted into EPA and DHA in the body, but this process is slow and inefficient. Thus, the easiest way to obtain the health benefits of Omega-3’s is to consume foods that contain EPA and DHA.

Essentially, since we cannot produce Omega-3s in the body we if we want to increase the Omega-3s in our body, we need to consume more foods that contain Omega-3s, and specifically, foods that contain EPA and DHA.

What are the Health Benefits of Omega-3s?

There are three main benefits of Omega-3s for our health: they promote brain and neural health, they can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, and they can reduce inflammation in the body. We will discuss each of them briefly below.

Brain Health and Cognition

Omega-3s are beneficial for brain development of the child during a woman’s pregnancy and lactation periods as well as for the maintenance of brain health throughout life.

In women who supplemented with Omega-3 during pregnancy and lactation, their children showed to have enhanced problem-solving skills and hand-eye coordination when compared to children whose mothers did not supplement with Omega-3 (especially DHA and EPA).

In adults, some research shows that supplementation with Omega-3 slowed cognitive decline in people with mild cognitive dysfunction associated with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Heart Health

Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and circulatory blockages. Consuming more EPA and DHA is linked to a decrease in gene expressions that are involved in heart-damaging pathways.

Another study showed that EPA and supplementation decreased the risk of experiencing a heart attack and other cardiovascular risk factors.


Inflammation is the cause of many chronic diseases. EPA and DHA are thought to have important roles in in reducing oxidative stress that leads to inflammation, thus improving cellular function and gene expression. Inflammatory markers, like C-reactive protein, are linked to an increased risk of chronic diseases, like cardiovascular disease. Studies have shown that supplementation with EPA and DHA significantly reduced some types of C-reactive protein.

Additionally, Omega-3s are metabolized into components called resolvins. Resolvins, in addition to being powerful anti-inflammatory elements, also have free radical-scavenging properties that may help to suppress tumor growth and cancer.

Best Sources of Omega-3 in the Diet

1. Fish


Certain types of fish have the most Omega-3s of any other food in our diets. Cold water fish, like salmon, albacore tuna, trout, sardines, and warm-water fish like snapper, are the highest in EPA an DHA. Here are the approximate amounts of EPA and DHA per 150g serving:

  • salmon (fresh Atlantic or Australian): more than 500 mg
  • canned sardines: 1,500 mg
  • trout (fresh rainbow): 300–400 mg
  • gemfish: more than 500 mg
  • canned tuna: 300–500 mg
  • rainbow trout: 300–400 mg
  • barramundi, snapper, John Dory: 200–300 mg

Additionally, fish is very low in saturated fat, making it a “lean meat”. The American Diabetes Association recommends that you choose lean meats over meats higher in saturated fat, like “red meats”. In fact, the ADA recommends everyone consume fish at least twice a week.


Because of the size and life-span of many of the types of fish highest in Omega-3, they also tend to be high in mercury. This is especially risky for pregnant women, since high levels of mercury exposure can lead to miscarriages and low birth weight.

2. Krill


Krill are very small organisms that resemble small shrimp, but are actually zooplankton. They eat phytoplankton. Because of their size, they don’t accumulate mercury like fish do. It is difficult to find krill as such to prepare in your food, but you can find krill oil in capsules.

About 30-65 percent of krill’s fatty acids are stored as phospholipids, whereas fish oil is stored as another type of fat called triglycerides. Our body may be able to absorb phospholipids more easily than triglycerides.


According to the study cited above, we may need more krill oil to get the same effect as taking fish oil or consuming fish.

3. Other Seafood


Omega-3s are also found in other non-fish seafood, but in lower quantities. Some of the seafood highest in Omega-3s include:

  • Squid: 200-500 mg
  • Lobster- 200-500 mg
  • Crab: 100-500 mg
  • Scallops: less than 200 mg
  • Shrimp: less than 200 mg


The foods mentioned above have a lower density of Omega-3s when compared to their fishy counterparts.

4. Grass-Fed Beef


When compared to grain-fed beef, grass-fed beef is lower in overall fat content. This is beneficial for those looking to reduce saturated fat intake. Grass-fed beef is also higher in vitamin A.

Regarding Omega-3s, studies show that grass-fed cattle have an increase in Omega-3 fats and generally achieve a more favorable Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio. However, cattle must be fed a pure grass diet to achieve these results.


Studies show that, while omega-3 profiles in some grass-fed beef may be slightly higher, in general, people who consume grass-fed or grain-fed food have similar intakes of both Omega-3.

5. Chia and Flaxseed


Chia and flaxseed and great options for vegetarians and vegans who aren’t getting Omega-3s from most of their foods in their diet. They are high in a type of Omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). In general, ALA provides some of the anti-inflammatory and benefits for heart health. To some extent, our bodies can convert ALA to EPA (about 8%).


While our bodies can convert some ALA to EPA through enzymatic reactions, our cells have a much harder time converting it into DHA (between 0-4%). DHA is the Omega-3 fatty acid to which we attribute most benefits for brain health.

It is important to note, however, that the cells of people who follow vegan diets are likely more efficient at converting ALA in DHA. Even so, there is no evidence that a lower intake of DHA in vegetarians or vegans results in adverse health or cognitive function, suggesting that their bodies may be more efficient at converting ALA into DHA.

6. Algae


Seaweed and algae are good sources of DHA that are comparable to fish sources. In fact, DHA from algal oil is accumulated more in the body than DHA from fish oil.

Algae and seaweed could be good alternatives for vegetarians and vegans to get enough DHA in their diet.


Scientists who research the marine food chain have found that algae and seaweed also contain mercury.

Summary of Omega-3 Content in Selected Food Groups

Here is an in-depth list of the ALA, EPA, and DHA content in selected foods (info provided by the USDA):


Supplement Sources for Omega-3

If you feel you aren’t eating enough omega-3 food sources, you can take high-quality supplements. Supplements are equally effective to increase Omega-3 content in the blood and provide all of the health benefits of dietary Omega-3.

Not all Omega 3 sources are the same.

Fish oil

Fish oil is the most common omega-3 supplement. It is a natural source of both DHA and EPA. However, unfiltered fish oil could have mercury.

Algae oil

Algae oil is a good alternative for vegans and non-vegans alike. It is one of the only natural sources of vegan DHA.

Krill oil

Krill oil has several benefits over fish oil. Krill does not contain mercury, it resists oxidation to make sure you get the full amount of Omega-3 found on the label it is environmentally sustainable. You may have to take more krill oil than fish oil to get the same results, but this is a small change that you can make for the benefits.


The most important element to notice in the Omega-3 supplement you choose is the source of the omega-3s the supplement contains. Make sure most of the omega-3 oils are from both DHA and EPA, as these are much harder to come by than ALA in our diet. Additionally, regardless of the source, check to see if you supplement is free of hexanes, dioxins (check the ingredient label), and are filtered for mercury.

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Image Credit: DHA and EPA structure by Tao Yi et al.

New Jersey Becomes The First State To Regulate PFNA In Drinking Water

Published Sept. 4 by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in the New Jersey Safe Drinking Water Act rules, New Jersey became the first state to set a maximum contaminant level (MCL) for perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) in drinking water. New Jersey’s new standard for PFNA in drinking water is 13 ppt. However, municipalities will be given anywhere from six to eighteen months, depending on their size, to reduce their PFNA exposure to comply with the new standard.

PFNA is a man-made chemical that falls under a class of synthetic compounds called Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These are chemicals used in food production and packaging, textiles, and many other forms of manufacturing. Persistence of PFAS in the body and environment has been linked to adverse health effects in humans. Build-up of PFAS exposure may be related to high cholesterol, cancer, kidney disease, impaired immune function, pregnancy complications, and liver damage.

This ground-breaking act comes in response to an ongoing issue with PFNA contamination along the Delaware River. This contamination is largely resulting from previous releases of PFNA from a specialty polymer plant. Currently, 37 public New Jersey Water Systems fall above the new standard.

Additionally, in the new act, New Jersey has adopted a MCL for 1,2,3-trichloroproprane of 30 ppt. 1,2,3-trichloroproprane is another potentially harmful chemical that is released into the environment as a result of manufacturing practices.

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U.S. Senate Meets For The First Time To Discuss PFAS Contamination in Water

The Senate held its first-ever subcommittee hearing on Sept 26th to discuss the presence of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water. Recent findings of toxic levels of these chemicals found in multiple sites across numerous states have led to this monumental hearing. Many community leaders feel decisive action must be taken by the Federal Government to ensure safe drinking water for our communities.

PFAS are synthetic chemicals manufactured and used in an abundance of industries across the world. PFAS have been used in the United States since the 1940’s and are found in products including food packaging machines and materials, water-repellent fabrics, teflon cookware, and chrome plating.

PFOA and PFOS, the most researched of these chemicals, have been found to persist in the environment and in the human body. Humans are exposed to PFAS in a variety of ways, most commonly from contaminated food and water sources. Unable to be break-down, they can build up over time. Evidence exists that the accumulation of PFAS can have many potential adverse human health effects, such as increased cholesterol, development of tumors, and liver or kidney damage.

Despite testimony from community representatives affected by contaminated water and eight senators, the US EPA is “not planning currently to update our drinking water and health advisories for PFOA and PFOS,” according to Peter Grevatt, on behalf of the Groundwater and Drinking Water division of the EPA.

Grevatt reports that the EPA is exploring designating PFAS as a hazardous substance, which would allow local governments to initiate clean-ups and reprimand polluters. However, this reclassification could take years to execute.

As for now, each state is left to take action on its own. Many have begun implementing different policies with Vermont making a statement by lowering its standard to 20 ppt for five PFAS compared to the EPA standard of 70 ppt.

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Safe Drinking Water: Contaminants and their Limits


Why is it Important to Monitor Drinking Water for Contaminants?

Drinking water is essential to life. In most part of the world, safety and accessibility of drinking water is a major concern, because it is vulnerable to contamination with what the World Health Organization categorizes as infectious agents, toxic chemicals, and radiological hazards. Thus, safe drinking water is defined as water lacking agents, chemicals, or hazards that are detrimental to our health.

In the United States, access to clean and safe drinking water is protected by the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), a federal law that ensures potable water is accessible throughout the country. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the government entity responsible for setting the standards for quality drinking water.

The EPA distinguishes between “primary regulations” and “secondary regulations”. National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (NPDWRs) include a list of 80+ contaminants that must be monitored constantly based on Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) to ensure drinking water sources are safe.

Additionally, the EPA has established secondary regulations, called National Secondary Drinking Water Regulations (NSDWRs). These measures are not mandatory, since they do not pose health risks, but they may have aesthetic effects, including odor, taste, and color, or may impact water tubing.

Common Drinking Water Contaminants

The Environmental Protection Agency has determined identified six different categories of contaminants: microorganisms, disinfectants, disinfection byproducts, inorganic chemicals, organic chemicals, and radionuclides. The complete EPA list contains almost 100 detectable primary and secondary water contaminants.

Below is a list of 14 of some of the most common or most troubling primary and secondary contaminants or analytes you can monitor to determine if water is safe to drink. For your ease of reference, we have organized the information in a table format, with the description of what is measured, the acceptable range, how the contaminant can get into your water, and potential health effects when the contaminant in drinking water is outside of the acceptable range.

Analyte or Contaminant Description Acceptable range Cause or Source Potential health effects when outside of the acceptable limit/range
Total alkalinity Alkalinity measures the ability of water to neutralize acids. Normal values are usually between 75% and 100% of the total hardness value. Alkalinity is usually directly associated with total hardness because calcium and magnesium (minerals that determine hardness in water) also determine alkalinity. There are no health issues associated with alkalinity.
pH pH measures the concentration of hydrogen ions in a solution or the acidity, neutrality, or alkalinity of your water. The lower the pH, the more acidic your water and, the more corrosive it will be. Typical pH levels are between 6.5-8.5. pH levels lower than 7 indicate that your water likely has higher levels of copper or lead, potentially from the household plumbing, and lower levels of minerals like calcium and magnesium. There is no health standard for pH, but water very low or very high pH levels typically will not taste very good.
Total Hardness Hardness is a measure of the amount of calcium and magnesium in your water. Values near 150 mg/L are generally ideal


Values less than 150 mg/L: soft water


Values greater than 200 mg/L: hard water

Hard water is caused by the ability of water to dissolve rocks that contain calcium magnesium over time. There are no health issues associated with hard water. In fact, both calcium and magnesium are important minerals for our diet. While our water usually doesn’t provide us with enough calcium and magnesium to meet our dietary needs, it is an issue in our drinking water because it can cause lime and soap scup buildup in your pipe system.
Bacteria – Coliform Coliform-type bacteria are bacteria (or micro-organisms) that are naturally found in surface of untreated water and in the soil. ABSENT. No coliform bacteria should be present for water to be acceptable for drinking. Presence of coliform bacteria might mean that there is a leak of untreated water or sewage into the water system due to a loose cap, casing issue, structural defects, or others. For well water, contamination with coliform bacteria is one of the greatest contaminant risks. Coliform bacteria do not usually cause illness, but they may indicate that other disease-causing bacteria are present. Water contaminated with bacteria, like E. coli, can cause serious gastrointestinal diseases.
Chlorine Chlorine is a disinfectant that is added to water to control levels of microorganisms. ≤4 mg/L The most common source of chlorine in drinking water is an additive used to control populations of microorganisms. Long-term exposure to drinking water high in chlorine can result in eye and nose irritation, stomach discomfort, and anemia.
Fluoride Fluoride is added to water intentionally in controlled amounts to promote strong teeth. ≤4 mg/L Fluoride can come from an additive intentionally added to water, erosion of natural fluoride deposits, or from discharge from fertilizer and aluminum factories. Controlled fluoride levels are important to promote strong teeth. Prolonged exposure to high fluoride levels in drinking water may result in bone disease, and mottled teeth in children.
Lead Lead typically enters potable water from pipes, e.g. when pipes that contain lead corrode, especially where the water has high acidity or low mineral content. ABSENT. Action must be taken if levels surpass 0.015 mg/L. Most lead in water comes from corrosion of household plumbing and corrosion of natural deposits. Infants and children exposed to high levels of lead in water and in the environment can experience delays in physical and mental development, learning disabilities and attention disorders.


Adults with prolonged exposure to lead can experience kidney problems and high blood pressure.

Copper Copper is a metal found in natural deposits in the earth. ≤1.3 mg/L Copper levels in drinking water may be due to corrosion of household plumbing systems, and erosion of natural copper deposits in the ground, soil, and rocks. Short-term exposure to copper may cause gastrointestinal issues. Long-term exposure to copper can cause liver or kidney damage. People with Wilson’s disease are particularly sensitive to copper levels.
Mercury (inorganic) Mercury is a liquid metal found in natural deposits. It is used in electrical products like dry-cell batteries, fluorescent light bulbs, and control equipment, among others. ≤0.002 mg/L Mercury in drinking water can come from erosion of natural deposits, discharge from refineries and factories, and runoff from agricultural land and landfills. Prolonged exposure or exposure in high amounts could lead to kidney damage.
Nitrate/Nitrite – Nitrogen Nitrate is a chemical commonly found in fertilizers and animal wastes. For Nitrate: ≤10 mg/L is accepted.

Less than 2 mg/L is preferred.

For Nitrite: ≤1 mg/L

High nitrate in water may mean that there is a leak of agricultural fertilizer, lawn fertilizer, manure, or other substances into the water source. Infants less than six months old who drink water with more than 10 mg/L of nitrate-nitrogen are at risk of being affected by the condition methemoglobinemia (also called blue baby disease) because nitrate can affect the ability of the body to transport oxygen. If not treated, this condition could be fatal. High nitrate water (over 10mg/L) may also be linked to birth defects and miscarriages.
Bromate  Bromate forms when the disinfectant, ozone, reacts with naturally-occurring bromide in the water.  ABSENT. 0 mg/L. Bromate can result from uncontrolled drinking water disinfection. Prolonged exposure or exposure in high quantities can result in an increased risk of cancer; liver, kidney, or central nervous system problems.
Cyanide (as free cyanide) Cyanide is a chemical unit composed of carbon-nitrogen and many organic and inorganic compounds. It is mainly used to make compounds, synthetic fibers, and resins. ≤0.2 mg/L Sources of cyanide in the water can include discharge from steel/metal, plastic, and fertilizer factories. Prolonged exposure or exposure in high quantities can result in nerve damage or thyroid problems.
Chromium Chromium is a metallic element found naturally in rocks, plants and soil. One form of chromium (Chromium-3) is essential in the human diet. ≤0.1 Chromium in water can come from discharge from steel and pulp mills, and/or erosion of natural deposits of chromium in the earth. Prolonged exposure or exposure in high quantities can result in allergic dermatitis.
Arsenic Arsenic is a toxic chemical found naturally in deposits the soil, rocks, and free minerals. Drinking water should not contain any arsenic, but a maximum of 0.010 mg/L is accepted. If there is arsenic present in water, potential sources could include: erosion of natural deposits of arsenic in the ground, runoff from fruit orchards and electronics production wastes. High-dose or prolonged exposure to arsenic could result in skin damage, problems with the circulatory system, and cancer.

Total dissolved solids (TDS)




TDS is the sum of all of the inorganic salts (e.g. sodium, calcium, and magnesium ions), both soluble and insoluble, and organic matter in a liquid.


≤500 mg/L (or ppm) TDS content in drinking water can come from natural and man-made sources. Man-made sources include urban run-off, sewage, industrial wastewater sources, water piping, and agricultural runoff. Natural sources include salt deposits, seawater intrusion, and carbonate deposits.



Increased levels of total dissolved concentration (TDS) are not typically a health hazard. But, high TDS levels may present nuisance and aesthetic problems (e.g. distaste).


Table information sources: UWSP and EPA

A comprehensive chart of all of the contaminants (both regulated and unregulated) can also be found here.

Who is Responsible for Monitoring Water Safety?

In the United States, the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) enforces your right to access safe drinking water at your home and in public safely and freely. The EPA is responsible for enforcing the contaminant limits by supporting local efforts and sources of water supply at wastewater treatment plants, which are either run by municipal governments or private entities.

Each year, the EPA provides funding and tools to states to ensure programs, like underground injection control and regulation compliance, are effectively carried out.

How Can I Monitor my Water at My Home or Business?

If you want to make sure that the drinking water that reaches your home or business is safe to drink, you can carry out your own monitoring activities. This could either be because you are wary of local compliance or worried about any contamination taking place in your home.

Here are two ways you can monitor water quality in your home:

Test Strips and Digital Meters

healthsnap-water-test-stripsTest strips are an easy and budget-friendly way to monitor water safety and get immediate results. At-home test strips, like our HealthSnap Test Strips, will test the levels of 10 contaminants and analytes, including fluoride, lead, copper, pH, Chlorine, Nitrite, and more. Digital meters, like our hand-held HealthSnap 3-in-1 TDS, EC, and Temperature meter, also present an economical and precise way to monitor water quality.

The advantage of test strips is that they are easy to use and understand. After either submerging the test strip in a water sample or dripping a sample of water to the strips with a dropper, the test strip will change color within 30 seconds. You can then compare the color result on the test strip to the color chart provided (on the box, bottle, and/or instructions that come with the test strips), so you can determine whether your tap water or pool water is within safe levels. Digital meters are also easy to use and there is a wide range of digital water quality meters available on the market (depending on the type of product, digital meters can measure either single or multiple parameters in water).

Third-Party Testing

If you are looking for high numerical accuracy, you can contract a third-party company to evaluate your water supply. You can contact private companies to take a sample of water on site, or you can send a sample of water to them to analyze. You can tell them exactly what you want them to analyze or request a comprehensive report. Costs are usually given per-analysis and can vary between $10.00-$40.00 per contaminant on the low end, and up to the hundreds (and even thousands) for high-quality in-depth lab analyses.

For analysis of your water by an EPA certified lab, simply browse the “Contact Information for Certification Programs and Certified Laboratories for Drinking Water” provided by the EPA.

Some contaminants are not regulated by the EPA. To have your water checked for these contaminants, you can view the EPA list of approved companies for testing unregulated contaminants.


Safe drinking water is essential for life, and access to it is your right. This article provides you with important information regarding the definition of safe drinking water, primary and secondary contaminants to monitor, and who is responsible for monitoring safe drinking water gets to your home and business.

However, contaminants may take place inside your home as well, or you might be wary of the effectiveness of local water treatment plants. That is why we also provide you with information on how to take control of monitoring your water so you can be confident that your water is safe and clean.

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What Causes Leaky Gut?


What Causes Leaky Gut?

Leaky gut syndrome has recently received significant attention in the health world. It has been a hot topic of debate among researchers, doctors, nutritionists and dieticians, regarding what it is, how to treat it, and whether it actually even exists.

Over the past ten years or so, most health practitioners have come to a consensus that leaky gut syndrome (known by different names) is, indeed a serious health problem that may be affecting hundreds of thousands of people. The problem is, however, that since they are still in the process of understanding how and why it occurs, there are still significant gaps of knowledge regarding the best ways to treat it.

To help you see through the confusion, in this article we will review the basics of leaky gut syndrome and what causes it. We will discuss how to prevent and treat leaky gut in separate articles.

An Introduction to “The Gut”


We often talk about “the gut” when we refer to what lies below the skin in the softer stomach area of the body. The official term is the gastrointestinal tract.  The gastrointestinal tract is a group of connected, hollow organs through which the foods we eat move and are digested. It is made up of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, and anus.

The gastrointestinal tract is part of the digestive system, which also includes other organs that produce juices that are important for digesting food. These include the liver, the gallbladder, the pancreas, and the appendix.

A very thin layer of cells that cover the surface of the intestine, called the epithelium, is responsible for absorbing nutrients into the body from the intestinal tract. It is also important for keeping the body protected from potentially harmful substances, or simply for keeping the body separate from the external environment.

A healthy epithelium is selective in what it lets through to the body. It absorbs nutrients, electrolytes and water through many pathways, and gets them to all of our cells and organs to keep them working in a healthy manner. At the same time, the epithelium acts as a barrier to keep out toxins, bacteria, and other elements that might cause infection or illness. It also keeps out fiber, but fiber feeds the healthy bacteria in our gut and forms part of the “bulk” in our stool, which will soon make its way out of the digestive system with other substances that can’t be absorbed.

Of course, if the health or structure of the epithelial barrier is compromised, it is possible that it can no longer be as selective to the entrance of different substances, making way for what is popularly known as a “leaky gut”.

What is Leaky Gut Syndrome?

Another name for leaky gut syndrome is increased intestinal permeability, and this is probably the best way to talk to your doctor about it. Over the past decade or so, researchers have recognized that the barrier function of the intestine can be disrupted by a range of factors, which we will discuss below. This can lead to inflammatory diseases and immune system disfunction, among other issues.

When intestinal cells, groups of cells, or bonds between the cells are damaged, microscopic holes are formed in the intestinal barrier. Here, potentially harmful substances can get through, like bacteria or bacterial fragments, incompletely digested proteins, toxic substances, or waste products. In a healthy intestine, all of these things would be removed from the body in our stool and urine, but when there are “leaks” in our gut, many of these things can get through.

If these pathogens get through our gut, our immune system responds immediately. Sometimes, however, if the leak is big enough or persistent enough, our immune cells are unable to take appropriate control of the situation, and this can cause large-scale inflammation.

What’s more is that undigested proteins and other molecules which penetrate through the “leaky” gut barrier can often closely resemble the proteins and compounds found in our very cells and tissues. However, these foreign proteins and molecules are just slightly different enough to cause our immune cells to recognize them and mark them for destruction. The problem with this is that now our immune cells are primed and ready to recognize and attack these foreign proteins and molecules, which also happen to closely resemble our own proteins and molecules. This leads to immune cell attack and antibody production against these foreign proteins and molecules. But since these are similar to our own proteins and molecules, this also then leads to an attack on our own proteins and molecules, thus paving the way for the development of autoimmune complications.

7 Causes of Leaky Gut

In some people, leaky gut develops quickly, and in others it develops over several years.

Most of the elements that cause leaky gut are lifestyle factors. In some cases, the relationships between lifestyle choices and leaky gut are not what you might imagine. Below are 7 potential causes of leaky gut syndrome.

1) Diet and Food

Certain dietary patterns are suspected to promote leaky gut syndrome. These include foods with gluten, like breads and wheat tortillas, grains like rice and spelty, soy, dairy, and refined sugar.  This means that, in order to preserve intestinal health, stay away from bread, especially white bread and processed foods, milk and yogurt, and others.

2) Stress

Light or intermittent stress is normal. As humans a reasonable amount of stress helps us stay focused and driven, while also helping us adapt to new situations. Health problems arise when the stress is no longer transient, and instead is here to stay. This sort of stress is known as chronic stress. While stress should only be “felt” in our mind, it connects to other parts of our body, like our gut, as well. The relationship between our gut and our brain has a name – known as the “gut-brain axis”.

What happens in our gut can affect our brain (think about how constipation can make us feel irritable), but what happens in our brain can also affect our gut. Chronic stress can affect the environment of our intestine, killing off “good” bacteria and promoting the growth of resistance “bad” bacteria. The change in environment together with the disbalance in bacteria can make the gut more permeable to potentially pathogenic elements.

3) Alcohol

Drinking copious amounts of alcohol on a regular basis can damage the intestine in a number of ways. It can damage the bonds between intestinal cells, which can create the holes in the intestinal lining that cause leaky gut syndrome. It can also promote the accumulation of substances that increase the permeability of the intestine.

4) No Sleep

Alterations in sleep patterns can also disrupt the gut microbiome (the population of bacteria in the intestine), thus, damaging the intestinal lining. Fragments of bacteria then pass through the barrier and attempt to enter the circulatory system. The immune system responds, causing inflammation and changes in metabolism, including insulin sensitivity.

5) Gut dysbiosis

As we’ve mentioned above, a disbalance in healthy bacteria in the intestine can also cause leaky gut. Healthy bacteria is important because it fights off pathogenic bacteria, and because it helps our bodies to digest certain substances, and in the production of some nutrients, like vitamin K.

Our healthy gut bacteria population can be altered by many of the previously mentioned causes, but also as a result of illness or of taking antibiotics. When the population of healthy bacteria in our intestine is no longer in balanced, it is known as “gut dysbiosis”.

6) Toxin overload

Toxins are elements that are damaging to our cells and organs. They either result of a biological process or they come from the environment (in this case, from the food we eat). Usually, our body tries to get rid of these toxins through excretion, but when there are too many, they can cause damage before our body can remove them.

Toxins can come from the “wrong” bacteria in the gut, from food additives, improper digestion, gut inflammation, infections, and others. If we already have leaky gut, it is more likely that we will have a greater toxin concentration in our gut, thus creating a vicious cycle.

Regularly eating processed foods that contain additives may also contribute to toxin overload.

7) Too much exercise

Regularly exercise in reasonable amounts has numerous benefits for your health. When we don’t exercise regularly for long periods of time, we are at risk of illness, stress, and chronic diseases. However, too much of a good thing also has health consequences. Too much intense physical activity can cause hormonal distress, immune suppression, and leaky gut.


For several centuries, the idea of having a “leaky gut” (though by different names) was only present in traditional medicine models. Modern medicine is now recognizing how lifestyle factors can damage the intestine, and, as a result, affect its ability to act as a barrier between the outside and inside of the body.

It is important to note that there are several factors that can increase your risk of leaky gut syndrome, usually it is not attributed to one specific factor, but rather several occurring at the same time. For example, if you aren’t getting enough sleep, it is likely that you are under a lot of stress and not eating very well. Each factor individually will not necessarily result in leaky gut, but all three factors occurring at the same time for several months or years can certainly influence your risk of experiencing leaky gut.

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Protein Intake for Strength Training


Protein Intake for Strength Training

An undeniable fact about strength training is that your muscles need protein to repair themselves and grow. It doesn’t matter whether you’re currently cutting weight, trying to bulk up, or cruising in maintenance mode; you’re still going to need adequate protein intake.

But just how much protein intake for strength training do you really need?

It seems like everywhere you turn for advice, you’ll get a different answer. So in order to simplify things for you, we’ve created this quick one-stop reference guide that you can consult to find out exactly how many grams of protein you should be aiming for on a daily basis.

The Importance of Protein

Most people think of muscle growth and repair when they think of protein. The truth is that protein is important for every single cell in your body. Not only does it help to build and repair muscle tissue, it also helps your body to make the hormones and enzymes it requires to function properly.

Unlike fats and carbohydrates, your body doesn’t store protein to draw from when it needs a new supply. What this means for strength training is that you need to be vigilant in ensuring that each and every day you are consuming enough protein to help you achieve your fitness goals.

Nutrient Timing

When involved with strength training, it’s particularly important to pay attention to your nutrient timing — especially when it comes to protein. Your biggest, and most protein-dense meal, should be consumed within a few hours of your workout.

With that being said, it’s a good idea to take some form of protein immediately post-workout, usually in the form of a protein drink. There are a couple of key reasons for this.

The first is that since muscle protein synthesis is already elevated from your workout, when combined with the consumption of amino acids found in protein, you’ll be able to encourage more muscle growth.

The second reason is to purposely spike your insulin levels in order to send the amino acids and glucose into your muscle tissue. Insulin will also help to prevent further muscle tissue breakdown and reduce exercise-induced stress. (1)

Aside from these two meals, the remainder of your meals should be spread evenly throughout the day when following a strength training program.

Calculate Your Protein Intake Based On Goals

Before we can dive into the nitty-gritty and provide exact recommendations concerning protein intake, you’re going to have to first figure out exactly what your strength training goals are.

I would imagine that the majority of our readers are currently either bulking up to gain mass or trying to cut weight to shed some fat. If you’re already completely satisfied with your physique and just going off maintenance — then you probably don’t need this guide to begin with!

Going with the base assumption that you’re either bulking or cutting, you’re obviously going to have different caloric requirements. From personal experience, I’d recommend sticking with either a caloric deficit or surplus of between 300-500 calories depending on your goals and/or your training intensity and frequency.

How Much You Need 

When it comes to strength training, a good general rule of thumb to follow for protein intake is for men to aim for 2g/kg while women should go for 1.2g/kg of body weight. For very intense strength training (e.g., on the Olympic level), it is recommended that you increase your protein intake to ~4g/kg of body weight.

If you are also trying to build mass and bulk, in addition to strength, one important thing to keep in mind is that it isn’t just about protein intake — you need to cover all of your macronutrient bases as well…

If you’re trying to gain weight, you’re going to need both protein and carbs to grow. A minimum of 40% of your total caloric intake should be coming from quality carb sources. (2) For your remaining macro split, I would recommend focusing on 25% coming from lean protein sources and the remaining 15% coming from a mixture of high-quality fats.

When it comes to cutting weight, it’s generally a good idea to lower the amount of carbs that you’re consuming while increasing the amount of protein and fat. In that case, I would recommend going with 40% of your daily calories as protein, with another 40% from quality fats, and the remaining 20% as carbs.

Guide to Protein Sources

The type of protein that you’re consuming definitely matters. That’s true even beyond avoiding the obvious unhealthy sources of protein like processed meats. Let’s take a quick look at some common protein sources to compare them.

Animal vs. Plant Protein

I generally prefer to opt for animal sources of protein over plant-based sources. The reason being is that plant proteins are considered to be ‘incomplete’, as they lack the amino acids that help to optimize muscle protein synthesis. There’s also the fact that soy protein can actually hinder your strength training goals, as it can actually lower testosterone and decrease muscle strength (due to its estrogenic nature).

Whey Protein

In general, liquid proteins are a better option than solid ones due to the fact they absorb quicker. Among liquid protein options, I would recommend either whey isolate or whey concentrate. The reason being is that whey contains branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) that make sure your insulin is maximally stimulated. There are also many other great health benefits to be gained from using whey, making it an ideal choice.

Bioavailability Index

Another reason why I prefer whey protein is because it ranks the highest on the bioavailability index. This ranks the amount of protein absorbed that can actually be used by your system. Whey isolate and whey concentrate each have a score over 100, while plant-based options all rank under 75. (3)


If you’re going to be participating in any kind of serious strength training program, then it’s essential that you provide your body with an adequate amount of protein to help your muscles recover and grow. However, it’s equally important to pay attention to your other macros as well! Don’t neglect your carbs and healthy fats either — success in the gym comes from both a well-structured routine and a well-balanced diet plan. However, also remember that individualization is key. Certain populations do better strength training and gaining mass when on a lower carb protocol (e.g. insulin resistant individuals).

If you aren’t experiencing the gains you desire, try altering your protein/carb ratio.



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