Archive for Toxin Alert!

Reading Labels in the Store – Don’t be Fooled by Marketing Lingo!

When you go to the store, are you overwhelmed and confused by what you read on the packages of the foods you buy? If so, you are not alone. Deciphering information on nutritional labels and information on packages can be a real challenge.

Many big corporations and agribusiness conglomerates have learned that people are spurred on by the terms “organic”, “all-natural”, and many others. Most people will just read the label and buy it because it says so. It’s become a marketing tactic that works to persuade the consumer to buy the product.

Recently, the FDA was reported to be cracking down on misleading or deceptive food labels. But traditional and whole food supporters know they haven’t been strict enough. The most recent whistle-blowing that occurred was with the “Smart Choices” (which is laughable, at best) sticker featured on various products – the most infamous one, perhaps, though, was the healthy properties of cereals like Fruit Loops and Cocoa Puffs. Come on, did people really believe this garbage? Well, the New York Times wasn’t convinced.

So if you are wondering about what’s on the label and whether it’s really true, read through this list of common terms used in the grocery store and find out why labels don’t always mean what they say:

All natural – this term is an attempt on the part of the manufacturer to get the consumer to take their word for it that this product you are holding in your hand is natural. A closer look at the ingredients will reveal a number of things you cannot pronounce or don’t recognize. This should always be a red flag.

No additives or preservatives – another ploy by the manufacturer to keep you from actually reading the the ingredients. Again, if you read the ingredients, you will be surprised.

Organic – just because the label reads “organic” does not mean it is healthy. Many processed foods are labeled “organic” but are unhealthy to consume. Some examples include boxed cereals, crackers, cookies, breads, many dairy products, soy products, and dairy products, and meats. A good example is extruded cereal products such as EnviroKidz Organic (don’t you just love the misspelling) Penguin Puffs.

Many companies appeal to a parent’s sense of what is healthy by making cereals that would otherwise be complete junk with organic ingredients. The ingredients may be organic, and are therefore slightly less toxic, but its still junk. I’m just as guilty as many others because I actually used to buy cereals like this for our family. Naturally, my son gobbled them down. I’m really glad I came to my senses.

Look for the USDA green and white symbol on the package and “certified organic” to ensure the product you are buying is truly what it reads on the label.

Realize, too, that some “organic” meat, poultry, and eggs are often from environments that are similar to the classical factory-farm setting. In other words, the food may come from animals in confinement that aren’t afforded the opportunity to roam around in a pasture, and are still likely to be eating the wrong types of  feed.

So even if the food is  “organic” and there are no GMOs being used, the animals may still be in confinement and eating grains, corn, silage, or soy, which alters the nutritional value considerably. Also, the feeding of grains, corn, and soy often causes the animals to become ill – as their bodies are not designed to digest these substances – and this is the whole reason why farmers started administering antibiotics to their livestock and poultry in the first place.

Vegetables and fruits can sometimes even cause problems – such as when you read in the news that so-called “organic” produce has been contaminated with E. coli or salmonella. The most likely reason for this to occur is that true organic standards are not being met. In many instances, these items have been exposed to fertilizer and runoff water sourced from factory farms. This is yet one more example of agribusiness using terminology to sell product but not maintaining the practice of high standards of true organic farming.

Something else some people don’t realize is that just because something is organic doesn’t mean it is a locally-produced product. Many organic foods are shipped all over the country and the world. The carbon footprint of an organic product that has been shipped more than a hundred miles or so is something to consider.

At minimum, organic foods are supposed to be free of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, hormones, and antibiotics. But keep in mind that it doesn’t mean all other important checkpoints are included.

If you must pick and choose about which produce to buy organic, refer to the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen of most important fruits and vegetables to buy organic.

Visit the Organic Food Database for a wealth of information about organic foods and products, farms and merchants, CSAs, and restaurants.

The Organic Consumer’s Association is another great resource for information and updates in organic food and laws, as well as news about organics in our food system.

To keep up to date on natural and organic foods and product labeling, consumer reports, and to make sure your dollars are paying for what you want, visit GreenerChoices – a subsidiary of Consumer Reports.

Find out why true organic food is healthier for us to eat. Visit the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, the oldest and largest state organic organization in the country.

Hormone and antibiotic-free – this can mean that the meat, dairy, or eggs contain no hormones, but it does not mean the animals were grass-fed or chemicals, gmo’s, or other toxins were not present in their environment. If you do not see this wording on a package, it is almost guaranteed that geneticially-modified ingredients are used.

No GMO’s, no genetically-modified ingredients – when you see this wording on packages, no genetically-modified components are used. If you do not see this wording on a package, it is almost guaranteed that genetically-modified ingredients are used.

Interested in real milk with no hormones? Read this article about why the consumption of most milk can be harmful to your health.

Grass-fed – this term is very tricky because currently no standards exist regulating the use of the term “grass-fed”. Grass fed could mean the animals were on pasture for only part of the time, and were fed grains, corn, soy, or silage during some point in their lives. This of course, lowers the nutritional value of the meat.

The only way you are assured 100 percent clean, grass-fed meat is to ask the butcher in the store who deals with someone from the farm. If the butcher doesn’t know, contact the farm to find out all the details. The best way to find out if what you are eating is really grass-fed is to do your own research and contact the farmers themselves. If you would like to learn more about real meat, read this article.

Corn-fed or grain-fed – as mentioned above, this is not a healthy attribute for meat. If you see this on a menu or in the grocery store, reconsider your choice. Find grass-fed meats that are truly grass-fed or pasture-raised for health. For an explanation about why corn-fed meat is unhealthy to eat, read Corn-fed Equals Corn Bred.

Cage free – this might only mean the hens from where the eggs come are in a large, covered barn or facility. Many ‘cage-free’ eggs come from chickens in environments like this where they cannot roam in a pasture, receive sunlight, nor eat and forage for a natural diet. If you have ever watched the film Food, Inc., you can see a perfect example of chicken farms where the birds are ‘cage free’ but are crammed into an enormous building together and never go outside. No, they are not in cages, but they are in a completely unnatural environment.

Free range – this is similar in meaning to “cage free”. Again, these terms can mean the animal or bird spends a majority of its time in a restricted area, and only receives, at most, a few minutes a day away from confinement.

Humanely-raised – again, check with the butcher or farm. This term can also be a marketing gimmick.

Pasture-raised – this should be an assurance that you will have meat, poultry, dairy, or eggs coming from a clean environment – but even sometimes this is just a marketing gimmick. You should still ask the butcher or contact the farm if you want to be absolutely certain.

Whole grains – this one is extremely misleading because a majority of products claiming to contain whole grains do not actually contain the whole grain – it’s usually some type of flour. One of the main reasons many people have trouble with products containing grains – and wheat usually gets most of the blame for this – is because their bodies are rejecting the flour. It’s not the grain itself that’s bad, but the way it is processed. When grains are ground into flour, much of the nutrients are destroyed.

What’s more, grain ground into flour goes rancid quickly. Then add to these issues the fact that many of these products are cooked and extruded, which causes more problems in the nutritional value of the food. For best nutritional value from whole grains, try sprouted and soaked grains.

Gluten-free – this is one of the newest buzz words to hit the market, and it is incredibly misleading. It’s important to understand that just because something is gluten-free does not make it healthy or safe to eat. Some, although not all, gluten free products are still made with flour.

Anything that has been ground into flour – whether it be amaranth, buckwheat, spelt, kamut, almonds, hazelnuts, rice, soy, or sorghum – will go rancid fairly quick. That being said, most if not all of the flour products you buy are already rancid on the shelf when purchased.  Read this article about the gluten-free mania that is sweeping the market, and how it’s not as healthy as people think it is.

The best bet for anyone having trouble with grains is to try soaking and sprouting. Many people who have wheat allergies or even celiac disease have found they can actually eat grains again after a period of detoxification, digestive tract healing (through eating healing foods), and preparing grains properly in this way.

No trans fats – if a label says no trans fat in it, but it’s any type of a processed food, it is very likely that it still contains trans fats anyway. A trans fat is any fat that has been altered from its original state – such as hydrogenation. Hydrogenated oils are unhealthy to consume. And even if the label claims no hydrogenated oils or trans fats, but the ingredients show that it contains an oil that has been heated to a high temperature, or is any type of the following oils – canola, soybean, cottonseed and sometimes sunflower or safflower oils (basically, any vegetable oil), it’s a trans fat.

Non-fat, low-fat, fat-free, or skim – this does not mean a product is healthy – in fact, it usually means quite the opposite. If a food has had its natural fat content removed or altered, you can bet it’s not going to contain the nutritional content of the equivalent food with its full fat.

Eating fat does not make you fat; in fact, fat and cholesterol are essential to a variety of bodily functions, including maintaining a normal weight. Avoid low-fat and non-fat foods like the plague. Always eat foods containing real, full-content fat.

Lean or extra lean – this is often an indicator of meat than has been raised or grown in such a manner that it’s natural fats and proteins are altered. Most factory-farm meats fat and protein compositions are artificially altered by the very methods used to raise the animals. Ironically, factory-farm meats are obese meats, and they create an unhealthy balance in the body when they are eaten because their composition has been altered from what is naturally occurring in nature.

Low calories – This should go without saying, but the only types of foods labeled with remarks about calories are the processed, unhealthy ones. If you are eating real, whole foods, you will never have to count calories. Nature provides the correct amount of calories in all real foods for your body to be healthy.

As an example, if you are a Diabetic and you are counting calories and carbohydrates to keep your blood sugar down, you will probably continue to have problems your entire life. Throw out the processed foods and stop counting calories. You need real, wholesome foods with full fat and calories to balance out your blood sugar and keep your insulin levels in check.

Cholesterol free – this should be suspect. If the food naturally has cholesterol in it, but it has been removed or altered, it would be very unhealthy to consume. Cholesterol is good for you!

Dairy or egg-free – if you see this on a label, there is likely some fake fat or industrially-produced soy product lurking in the “food” to give it some type of semblance of “substance”. And whatever that fake substance is, it’s definitely not good for you. There is nothing wrong with dairy and eggs if it is organic and pasture-raised.

Sugar-free – another misleading label as having no sugar can mean any number of alarming things – the most notable ones being that it might still contain some amount of processed carbohydrates, which translate into sugar in the bloodstream, or that it contains some other substance such as a toxic, artificial sweetener like saccharin, aspartame, sucralose (otherwise known as Splenda), or any other sweetener ending in an -ose.

“Good source of” – is almost always an indicator of some synthetic nutrient added back in or “fortified”. These types of foods are processed, processed, processed and never deliver the nutrition they promise. In addition to being nutritionally-bankrupt, consuming these foods can actually deplete your body of existing nutrients – not unlike a lot of the aforementioned kinds of products.

Vegan – I can’t believe I’m including this one because it should go without saying…but I feel it’s necessary to explain why this term, which is used more and more, is confused with healthy eating. Vegan diets are grossly lacking in nutrition, and almost always contain artificial & fake ingredients. Unless it’s a raw food item, and many vegan foods are not, it’s probably not real food and is likely packed with industrially-produced soy or rancid oils. The same can often apply to foods labeled “vegetarian”.

Because so many agribusiness giants are now cashing in on the organic and natural contingent in food market sales, and it is therefore very difficult to really know how food is grown from products that come from far away, your best bet is to consistently attempt to purchase food locally and from growers you know or trust. Farmers markets are great places to establish these arrangements and relationships. You can talk with farmers and food growers to learn where and how your food is produced.

This is probably not an exhaustive list of all marketing terms used to sell products consumers, and I’m certain I’ve forgotten some. Does anyone have any others they’d like to share?

Want more information about real food? Read this article about knowing your foods and how to understand what you are eating.

Learn about how your toxic load affects your health – from the foods you eat to chemicals used in your home, and elsewhere.

This article is part of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays Carnival. Please visit Kristen’s site and read all the other real food posts there.

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Want to Lose Weight? DETOX!

Are you constantly trying to manage your weight and feel as though you can never get rid of excess pounds? The battle you are fighting might just have more to do with toxins in your body than being “fat” or the amount of exercise you are getting.  It’s time to take a good look at the chemical load you are placing on your body each and every day, and its impact on your weight.

Everything in our environment plays a critical role on our weight, believe it or not – and not just the food we eat and the amount of exercise we get – the air we breathe, the products we use in our homes and places of business, the water we drink, the water we use for washing and bathing, and everything in our environment can affect our weight. Something has to convince our population that our collective weight problem is not because of saturated fat and lack of enough exercise – it’s from all the toxins we continually dump into our bodies and all the toxins around us in the environment. What we are eating is mostly garbage – from our meat and dairy supply to our fruits and vegetables – full of chemicals and toxins. Our food isn’t food anymore!

What about saturated fat?

If the problem were as a result of eating too much saturated fat – there would be an abundance of evidence – but everywhere you look medical and health professionals advise people to eat less saturated fat and cholesterol, eat low-fat foods, load up on “healthy” polyunsaturated fats – and the products available in the stores are marketed to that end, and people are buying them. So let’s ask a very important question – if saturated fat is the enemy, and we’re all avoiding it as we’ve been told, why do we have the epic obesity problem we do? Our real problem lies in what  foods we are eating – industrially-produced, food-like substances that contain no real nutrients or minerals, fat, protein, or calories. The reality is, saturated fat from healthy sources is and always will be an essential building block of health. We cannot live (very well) without it!

Getting enough fiber?

We have other problems too, such as that we are receiving far less fiber than we need and are consuming massive amounts of sugar in our daily diets in the form of various sweeteners, grain products, refined flours, and the saturated fat and protein foods we are eating are the wrong kinds (from pollluted, factory farms) – and of course the portions are staggeringly large. If people ate healthy, saturated fats and proteins, their bodies would feel full at appropriate levels. But with factory farm food, your body never feels full (big surprise, because it’s not real food!) so you keep eating and eating.

Then there’s the fact that we are told to eat low-carbohydrate foods – so we do this, and it puts a tremendous strain on our digestive tract – liver, colon, gallbladder, and pancreas. Even though you may come across people who claim to have lost weight on low-carb plans, in the long run, the repercussions of such diets on health are extremely harmful at best.

What’s the solution?

Ann Louise Gittleman, author of The Fast Track Detox Diet, believes the connection between weight and toxicity is critical – “The more toxic your body becomes, the more difficulty you’ll have losing weight.” We pollute ourselves everyday with all the things around us – and that these substances are stored as fat in our cells. In her book, Gittleman goes in-depth about all the different toxins in our world and how they affect our health and our weight – from the foods we eat to the water we drink to the products we use in our homes and places of business.

Many people who are considered obese or overweight are not really suffering from simply being fat – they are suffering from toxin overload in their cells. More than sixty different diseases are tied to being overweight. The United States has some of the highest obesity rates in the world. Over 60 percent are overweight and at least 30 percent of adults are obese. Nearly 20 million children are also in that category.

A well-known author and one of the country’s most respected nutritionists, Gittleman offers a treatment of detoxification that is thorough and easy to understand. Using whole, traditional foods, she will expertly guide you through a straight-forward detoxification that includes a healthy diet designed to support your nutritional and health needs before, during, and after the detox. The plan she has created involves an 11-day regimen where only one of those days requires fasting. Fasting is an ancient and timeless practice used by peoples all around the planet as a means to encourage the body to purge unwanted substances and return to a state of health. The remaining days include a diet replete with real, whole foods to boost your metabolism and continue the process of removing dangerous toxins from your body that are ruining your health.

How does detoxing work?

One of the basic premises of detoxing is giving up certain foods and beverages in your diet in order to allow your body to purge the unhealthy substances it is holding onto – and with the intent  that you will not just abandon these foods for the detox, but that you will embrace this new way of eating, a lifestyle we will call it, for the remainder of your earthly days. After all, leaving these foods behind only for the purposes of detoxing defeats the purpose of the important work you will do for your body. It would only undermine your efforts and cause you to have to start over. What a waste of time, money, and health! Instead of the unhealthy choices, then, you replace (hopefully for good) the food you’ve been eating with nutrient dense, organic, whole, traditional foods.

What foods do you have to give up? Processed,  industrially-produced, nutritionally-empty foods including, but not limited to:

  • processed grain products like pasta, crackers, most breads, packaged cereals
  • food bars
  • bottled dressings and sauces
  • sugary beverages (including juice)
  • processed dairy including milk, cheese, butter, sour cream, cottage cheese, and yogurt
  • industrially-produced factory meats, fish, poultry, and eggs
  • conventionally-grown produce (fruits and vegetables)
  • any other food that is processed or contains chemicals or toxins (read labels and avoid foods in packages, cans, or boxes)

If this sounds difficult to do, consider the alternative which is living a life filled with health issues and disease. Which would you choose?

Colon health support is important

Make sure you are getting enough fiber Fiber supports the function your colon was intended to doThere are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble.

Insoluble fiber carries out toxins with it (fecal matter) when it goes. Here are some good insoluble fiber sources: whole grains, vegetables, seeds, lignans, cellulose, and bran.

Soluble fiber is softer and can be dissolved in water. This type of fiber boosts our supply of friendly bacteria in the digestive tract, helping our system maintain proper digestion and immune function. Good sources for soluble fiber include: fruits, legumes and oats (soaked overnight in purified water and whey, kefir, apple cider vinegar, or lemon juice), and some raw nuts and seeds (soaked and dehydrated). Fiber is important because it helps the body to slow down our metabolization of food which in turn balances our blood sugar. Fiber also insures the food goes through our digestive tract at a rate fast enough to prevent  food from rotting and building up toxins. If you have ever doubted, do not now – adequate fiber prevents heart disease, colon cancer, diabetes, and many other health problems.

If you believe the health of your colon doesn’t affect your overall health, consider the rising number of incidences of digestive diseases such as IBS, celiac disorder, Crohn’s, and irritable bowel, not to mention colon cancer. Colon cancer in people under 50 is actually on the increase – despite the recommendation by physicians for patients to receive colon screenings and tests. And remember that when doctors do find cancer in colon screenings, the solution offered is usually drugs or surgery. Drugs and surgery are not going to solve the inherent problem that is causing the cancer – they will only temporarily diffuse those issues, and in most cases, make problems worse by destroying the immune system.

Rarely is much emphasis placed on a truly healthy diet and lifestyle. It should be obvious that if you have a blocked colon (and most people in developed countries do), your health cannot function optimally. As a result, if you do not take care in what you eat, you will suffer from these illnesses.

Liver support is critical too

Your liver is the largest organ in your body, and must conduct an enormous amount of filtering of toxins to keep your body healthy. If you have a clogged colon, your liver will have to deal with more toxins that are absorbed into your bloodstream because your colon cannot adequately perform its own function. This is when the liver becomes overloaded and health issues take over.  And this is also where weight gain can occur.

What types of foods support liver function? Cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and broccoli sprouts. Then there’s the green leafies like chard, kale, parsley, beet greens, collard greens, escarole, dandelion and mustard greens. Citrus fruits are important too – lemons, oranges, and limes. You also need foods containing sulfur such as onions, raw garlic, daikon radish, and eggs. Finally, you need to include other foods like artichoke, celery, asparagus, beets, whey, dandelion root tea, and nutritional yeast flakes.

So how do you lose toxins, maintain health, and also lose weight?

  • You must be willing to detox yourself and rid your body of the harmful chemicals that are keeping you from health and your optimal weight.
  • You must be willing to give up processed foods, and learn about and eat healthier choices – grass-fed meats and pasture-raised poultry, organically produced fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds, unpasteurized raw dairy products from a safe source, and naturally fermented foods with probiotics like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and lacto-fermented vegetables.
  • You must be willing to look at getting healthy as a holistic activity – that everything you do affects your body and your weight. If you are only willing to cut out a couple of things and keep everything else the same, your chances of success will be low.
  • You must be willing to commit yourself to a lifestyle change after detox. The detox is just the beginning, not a one-time activity you engage in and then return to old habits. For most people, one detox is not going to do the trick, either. A lifetime of poor eating habits and bad nutrition pollute our bodies to such an extent that we need a great deal of detoxing. Health maintenance and support relies on your promise to your body and yourself to make permanent changes necessary to maintain health that will bring about wellness you never realized could be possible.

This is why in any lifestyle change plan, your goal should not be to lose weight – it should be to remove toxins and become healthier. As a result of doing this, you will lose weight if your body needs to do so – and it will be a natural by-product of elminating all the toxic chemicals residing in your tissues and cells causing you illness, disease, and yes, inability to maintain your natural weight. If you continue to engage in fad diets to lose weight, you will constantly be battling health problems and you will never be able to really lose the weight you want.

For more information on toxins and chemical loads in the body and our environment, read Your Toxic Load: How Does it Affect Your Health?

For more information on cleansing and detoxification, read How Cleansing Positively Affects Your Health

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Big Corporations and Big Pharma – Dictating What’s Acceptable to Eat

Has anyone noticed how the law is on the side of agribusiness, big pharma, and profit, but fails to protect the interests of small farmers/food producers, or whole foods? These corporations have spent billions of dollars making sure entities such as the Food Pyramid tell consumers to purchase and eat the most processed and chemically-filled foods available. Just look at which foods are on the top – grains. The most pervasive grains in our food supply are processed, genetically-engineered, and full of chemicals. If anyone eats that much processed grain foods per day, health problems are sure to follow. Not enough supporting information in mainstream sectors exists to drive home the fact that these food-like substances are one of the primary causes of degenerative disease.

On the Food Pyramid, fruits and vegetables are ranked below grains with meats, fish, eggs, and dairy near the bottom, just above fats and sweets. What about meat and eggs – are they naturally raised or industrially-produced? Corporations have also successfully convinced the entire health industry – scientists & researchers, medical doctors, college professors, teachers, dietitians, personal trainers, health coaches, and fitness clubs – to teach this rhetoric of eating processed foods to patients, clients, students, and consumers.

Just ask the authors of Our Stolen Future, written by Theo Colburn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers, who have conducted extensive research into the fact that manufacturers frequently withhold information about the ingredients contained in their products. Instead of disclosure, companies declare their contents are proprietary ingredients or trade secrets. And they are supported by laws and regulatory upholdings which continue to allow them to sell whatever product they develop to the public.  The government is oblivious to and disregarding of repeated scientific studies and research revealing that these substances are questionable at best and proven to be carcinogenic to human health.

Corporations have made it politically incorrect and too expensive to eat real food not only because of profits at stake, but because the demand for fake food exceeds the public’s level of awareness about it. One reason real food is too expensive to purchase for many people is because big corporations sell products at lower cost and tout their health benefits – which are swallowed hook, line and sinker by consumers – driving the cost of real food up as the demand for industrial food continues to skyrocket. Agribusiness and bloated corporations work in tandem with Big Pharma – you eat the food you are told is good for you from the corporations, and then when your immune system becomes weakened from consuming the food and you become sick, you are shuffled over to the doctor’s office where Big Pharma takes over – emptying out your bank account a second time as you fork over your hard-earned money to pay for drugs that won’t make your health problems go away. Then you go home and eat industrial, processed food for dinner. Repeat.

It is certainly true that technologies such as heart bypass procedures, pacemakers, kidney dialysis devices, respirators, and other developments have played an undeniable role in extending life. But on the other end of that realm of technology, drug companies have been more than happy to take credit for the fact that the average human life span has extended beyond anything in recorded history. Anthony Cortese, a former U.S. public health service official, confirms otherwise. “Ninety percent of the reduction in the death rate occurred before the introduction of antibiotics or vaccines.” He goes on to explain that longer life spans were actually attributed to improvements in food, water, and sanitation of milk, a reduction in physical crowding, the inception of central heating, plumbing, and refrigeration, and the migration from toxic coal and wood burning to lower-toxicity natural gas and oil. But it certainly cannot be attributed to any success for health on behalf of the drugs company’s doing; it’s all about the almighty dollar.

As discussed in Randall Fitzgerald’s The Hundred Year Lie: How to Protect Yourself from the Chemicals That Are Destroying Your Health, “The United States spends more than twice as much on health care than any other industrialized nation in the world- $6,100 per year for every man, woman, and child. Fifteen percent of the economy is now devoted to medical care, up from 10 percent in 1987. Yet, the United States ranks forty-sixth in life expectancy and forty-second in infant mortality among the nations of the world.”

This attitude of promoting the consumption of processed foods filters down through many levels. A good example of this system at work is the school lunch program. Food for children is offered at a lower cost per meal than you would be able to find almost anywhere else – making real, local, and organic foods unappealing due to their cost, not to mention the fact that big corporations pay for research telling us that organic food is no better for us nutritionally than the conventionally-produced variety.

Another example is health clubs pushing physical fitness while their food philosophy dictates eating low-fat foods and selling unhealthy snacks and meals to members. The health club where I work recently decided to cut out the weekly healthy snack class I taught because the local food bank is going to bring in daily free lunches and snacks. And what do you suppose you’ll find in these meals and snacks? “Popcorn chicken”, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cheese sticks and bagels, potato or tortilla chips, and low-fat or skim hormone-filled chocolate milk. They are offering vegetables two to three times per week, and some fruit. But the rest is completely processed and devoid of nutrition. But because it’s free, the health club has decided to take it over the raw, unprocessed, organic food I provided to the children each week. For a list of ingredients in popcorn chicken, read this article about school lunches.

My husband commented that it’s a liability for the health club to allow real food to be served because the law says processed food is fine to consume (i.e., The Food Pyramid), but it’s “unlawful” to promote or serve organic, real, whole foods because there is not enough valid “research” backing up claims to its superiority and health benefits. This seems impossible to believe, but it is unfortunately true.

I spent nearly two years trying to convince my employer that a nutritionally-based program should be designed for their members. What I asked for was education and awareness about organic, whole, and traditional foods and their impact on health. What I heard from the management was that the concepts I requested for inclusion were not backed up by research nor substantiated by government or university studies.

Even when I produced valid research, there was no response or acknowledgment. It is maddening to have an entity such as a non-profit organization purporting to stand for health and wellness ignore data such as this – especially when those in authority claim to be educated and informed.

The fact remains the food allowed to be served by the club to the members is clearly below standards for good health and is a main culprit for the persistence of health problems – both the food donated by the foodbank and that which is served in the health club snack bar on a daily basis. In order to “save money” on real foods to serve as snacks for their members to eat (i.e., the foods I was serving once a week), they have opted to accept free food which is synthetic and full of chemicals. It should be noted that the children LOVED the food I served, and the parents frequently thanked me for serving healthy snacks and commented on how much they liked the nutrition activity. There was never a complaint or problem the entire time I served these weekly snacks for over 10 months.

The reality is, if you want to be able to eat real, organic foods, you can expect to receive attitude, opposition, and great difficulty obtaining it – no matter where you find yourself. The important questions are: why have we deemed it acceptable to put profit in front of health, and why has it become unacceptable to sell, serve, and eat real food? Have you encountered issues when trying to eat the way you want, or been in a situation where you wanted to have healthy food at some type of function or event and were thwarted in some fashion?

Update! Read this great article at the Journal of Natural Food and Healing –Big Pharma Wants to Make You Sicker

I’d love to hear your comments, stories, and frustrations about these situations, and what you might have done to remedy the problem.

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Hot Issue Wednesday: Your Toxic Load – How Does it Affect Your Health?

From cleaning products, to pollution in the air, to the water we drink, to contamination in our food supply from industrial and processed foods, to the clothes we wear, to the houses in which we reside, to the sheets and pillows we sleep on, we are all exposed to tremendous amounts of toxins each and every day of our lives. Estimates by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report that approximately 500,000 chemicals are currently in use, and with each passing year more than 5,000 new chemicals are added. It may seem overwhelming to consider just how much our bodies contend with on a regular basis and attempt to eliminate in order to keep us healthy. With so much exposure, it seems a wonder that any of us could live past the age of one, much less be born. But our bodies are amazing vessels, and they are designed to handle a lot of input, bacteria, toxins, and viruses.

Sometimes, however, we find that our bodies are unable to handle this load. When the body finally gives up and problems start to occur, this phenomena is known as toxic overload. Toxic overload can occur at any time and can have a variety of symptoms including headaches, asthma, allergies, coughing, wheezing, digestive disorders, sore throat, hoarseness, lethargy, mood disorders, itching, eczema, psoriasis, heart problems, osteoporosis, arthritis, chronic fatigue-like symptoms, MS, lupus, diabetes, and many other conditions – especially auto-immune disorders.

According to “The 100 Year-Lie: How to Protect Yourself from the Chemicals that are Destroying Your Health“:

  • The average American carries a “body burden” of 700 synthetic chemcials
  • Chemicals in tap water can cause reproductive abnormalities and hermaphroditic birth
  • A 2005 study of lactating women in 18 U.S. States found perchlorate (a toxic component of rocket fuel) in practically every mother’s breast milk

Randall Fitzgerald reveals how we are deceived by the marketing, advertising, household, food, pharmaceutical, and chemical industries. Labels cleverly try to convince consumers that products are safe by rewording or omitting information about hazardous chemicals in toxins contained in foods we eat, beverages we drink, household products we use, and many other items we rely on to accomplish daily tasks. He also discusses how pretty much everywhere we go – whether it be to the store, a gas station, school, out to eat, the office, a recreational facility, wherever – there are toxic chemicals in those environments continually off-gassing, and exposing us yet to more harmful substances.

Here is an excerpt from the book:

The only “truth” in labeling today is the fact that there is widespread secrecy. Of forty common consumer products tested by the National Environmental Trust in Washington, D.C., during 2004, more than half contained toxic chemicals not listed on the product labels. Two examples cited were Lysol All Purpose Cleaner, containing unlisted glycol ethers (a neurotoxin), and Revlon Moondrops Lipsticks, containing unlabeled phthalates that are neurotoxins and reproductive toxins. Food additives may be labeled simply “flavorings” or “natural” while chemcials in personal-care products might fall under “fragrances” or “unscented” and pesticide ingredients hide under the term “inert”. Genetically modified foods aren’t labeled either, though we can be sure the GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) are now in just about every processed food product we encounter.

Let’s break down these terms to see what they really mean. Fragrances are chemicals used to either add a pleasing aroma to cosmetics or other products, or to mask a hideous odor from other chemicals in the product. Even products labeled “unscented” or “fragrance-free” may contain these masking ingredients. This practice certainly sounds deceptive to me, as does the tendency of food processors to hide synthetic chemicals under the “natural flavor” language. “The individual components that make up the fragrance portion do not have to be listed on the label,” according to a 2002 issue of Flavor and Fragrance Journal, a chemical science publication. “Only the word ‘fragrance’ must appear. The fragrance portion of the product may contain over one-hundred different materials…Secrecy is often required to protect the formula.”

How are we to protect ourselves from deceptions given to us by those in whose authority we are told to trust? The government requires no testing of chemicals before they are used in products. It also takes a herculean effort in order to get anything removed from a product being sold on the market. Here are just a few startling facts about the agencies that govern the inclusion of toxic chemicals in common products used by millions of people daily:

  • The AMA, EPA, and Consumer Product Safety Commission acknowledge adverse health effects of toxic chemicals. Their guide titled “Indoor Air Pollution” shows a clear connection between common Environmental Toxins to wheezing, worsening asthma, and lung disease.
  • The Congressional Office of Technology Assessment states “…causes of brain-related disorders are… pesticides, food additives… and cosmetic ingredients”
  • The Department of Health and Human Services annual report “Priority List of Hazardous Substances” shows 6 of the chemicals in the top 10 are found in household items such as packaged meats, baby bottles, and drinking water.
  • The European Union has banned toxic chemicals such as phthalates and pesticides that are known as hazardous. The United States has failed to do the same.
  • Bisphenol A, found in plastics, was found to leach into liquids from containers like baby bottles. Canada promptly banned Bisphenol A – the US has failed to take it off the market after 2 Congressional Hearings, but has finally begun the process of requiring its removal from products
  • The newly created class of chemicals called nanoparticles are being added to thousands of everyday products despite FDA warnings that they may be extraordinarily harmful to humans and the environment.

The author urges individuals to trust their own intuition, personal experience, and powers of observation when deciding whether to permit exposure to chemicals. We are also encouraged to take steps to eliminate excess and unnecessary toxins from our environment and bodies by detoxification, avoiding synthetic toxins and chemicals whenever possible, and to receive testing for toxic chemicals to determine the load on your individual body. Here’s a good rule of thumb – as with food – if your grandmother would wonder what it is or hasn’t heard of it, don’t use it!

Throughout my life I have heard people say things like, “what we don’t know about won’t hurt us”, or, “I’ve been exposed to X and it hasn’t hurt me yet”. But the human body can only withstand so much toxic load before it gives up and gives out. Pretending as though toxic chemicals don’t affect our health has caused an extreme weakening of our immune systems and our bodies’ abilities to defend themselves against foreign invaders that make us sick and can kill us. We’ve become susceptible to deadly pathogens and bombarded with such a vast amount of chemical toxins that at some point, our bodies cannot continue to fight off all the substances in our environments. Some people have already become sick and begun to notice the  deadly affects of toxic overload — and some individuals cannot carry on life as they once knew it because their health condition has reached such a state that their health is compromised – sometimes irrevocably, because toxin load is so high and cannot be undone or simply because the individual lacks the information or desire to actually do something useful about his or her condition.

Fitzgerald also tackles the topics of weight-gain, hyperactivity, learning disorders, and other food-additive related problems as a result of developed nations citizens’ addictions to processed, toxified foods. This is such an important subject because the health industry has people obsessed about counting calories and fat grams, but not paying the least bit of attention to whether the food they are eating is actually real food. Toxins in foods have a tremendous effect on all of these types of health issues. When toxins become stored in the body it can cause weight gain, fatigue, mood disorders, inability to focus, headaches, digestive disorders, insomnia, eczema and skin irritation, memory loss, candidasis, and much more. Continued use of these substances can lead to degenerative disease like brain dysfunction, high blood pressure, MS, cardiovascular disease, blood clots, stroke, and even cancer.

I urge everyone to read this book, an important expose on all the hidden and unknown substances we deal with in our everyday living environments that affect our health adversely. The book includes a toxic load survey, a time-line history of chemical substances within our environments, a thorough treatment of how sustainable/organic/natural foods are some of our best defenses against these deadly toxins, and the systematic debunking of various myths we harbor in our belief systems about chemical toxins because authority figures have assured us they are true, including:

  • “we get all the vitamins we need [from the food we eat]
  • “fluoridated water is healthy for us”
  • “the government insures that drugs are safe”

and my two favorites –

  • “food additives are harmless”    and
  • “artificial sweeteners are safe”

It’s pretty obvious that many harmful toxins lurk in the products we use and the food we eat.  Become toxin free! Release yourself from artificial flavors, colors, emulsifiers, preservatives, thickening agents, caking agents, excitotoxins, fragrances, parabens, petroleum-by products, sulfates, and many others.

Some steps you can take to go toxin-free:

  1. Educate yourself by doing the research and reading labels. Then you will be armed with important knowledge that will help you to live a more toxin-free existence (don’t worry, your health and your pocketbook will thank you!).
  2. Stop purchasing processed and packaged foods, personal care products, cleaners, detergents, air fresheners, soaps, hand sanitizers, and other products as much as possible.
  3. Look for suitable alternatives for the things you remove from your life – or learn to live without them. For instance, if you discard a plastic cutting board from your kitchen, you can replace it with glass or bamboo cutting surfaces – both safe, non-toxic alternatives. If you throw out polyester rug in your living room, replace it with bamboo, organic wool, or organic cotton. Hand sanitizer can be eliminated. All you need is good, old-fashioned soap.
  4. If you cannot or do not want to spend money on expensive, organic, non-toxic products, consider making your own. You can make cleaners, shampoos, toothpastes, detergents, and many other items from things you have in your cupboard – food grade hydrogen peroxide, aluminum-free baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice, borax, salt, epsom salts, and essential oils.

Want to know more? Then check out these articles:

What Are Excitotoxins?

Children and pesticides

Chemicals in granite counter-tops

Chemical exposure and its affects on health

Cosmetics Database – resource for ingredients in personal care products

Dr. Grisanti – food toxins

This article is linked to in Real Food Wednesdays from Cheeseslave. Please visit the other great posts there.

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What are Excitotoxins?

If you knew that the consumption of many store products could cause brain damage and other related disorders, would it have an influence on your buying habits? An increasing number of scientists and clinicians who have conducted research are releasing information claiming excitotoxins are a major culprit in the growth of prevalent neurological disorders including seizures and migranes, autism, allergies, particular disorders of the endocrine system, certain types of obesity, infections, and abnormal development in the nervous system.

These toxins are also linked to having an effect on the development of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS, and Huntington’s Disease. Many of these types of substances are found in processed, packaged foods found in your grocery store.

What are some products containing excitotoxins? Here is a list that is not exhaustive: soda pops, “juice” drinks, crackers, rice cakes, bagels, breads, cereals, “energy drinks”, cereals, food “bars”, salad dressings, pasta mixes, soups, candy, desserts, “fruit” snacks, sugar-free gums, cocoa mixes, prescription and over-the-counter drugs, shake and topping mixes, sauces, vitamin and herbal supplements, and many others.

Pioneering research on excitotoxins

According to Dr. Russell L. Blaylock, M.D., pioneering neurosurgeon and medical expert on the subject, “Excitotoxins are biochemical substances (usually amino acids, amino acid analogs, or amino acid derivatives) that can react with specialized neuronal receptors – glutamate receptors – in the brain or spinal cord that can be responsible for causing death or injury to a wide array of neurons.”

Glutamate neurons make up an extensive network throughout the cortex, hippocampus, striatum, thalamus, hypothalamus, cerebellum, and visual/auditory system. As a consequence, glutamate neurotransmission is essential for cognition, memory, movement, and sensation (especially taste, sight, and hearing).

“Glutamate and its biochemical “cousin” aspartic acid or aspartate, are the two most plentiful amino acids in the brain. Aspartate is also a major excitatory transmitter and aspartate can activate neurons in place of glutamate”, as reported by Dr. Blaylock.

Although glutamic acid (also called “glutamate”) is the naturally occurring, primary excitatory neurotransmitter in the brains of humans and animals, these substances are found to occur only in minute amounts. Since 1948, the amount of MSG added to foods has doubled each decade. By 1972, over 200 thousand metric tons were reported as added to foods. Since first approval, over 800 million pounds of aspertame have been consumed from billions and billions of products.

The FDA is amiss in acknowledging these findings, and has continued to allow certain substances on the food market such as aspartame (found in NutraSweet and Equal), MSG, and hyrdrolyzed vegetable protein. You can find these substances in nearly all processed foods – particularly in those labeled low and non-fat and also can be found in a vast amount of vegan and vegetarian foods.

If you are in doubt about something, read the label. Label reading is one of the only ways to familiarize yourself with ingredients in products. The more you can avoid purchasing processed products, the better your chances are of avoiding these dangerous toxins.

Short-term effects of these substances are subtle. It is important to note that repeated exposure over long periods of time (or cumulative) is generally when the most damage occurs to health. But occasionally, certain individuals are especially sensitive to the effects of excitotoxins, and can develop severe symptoms quite suddenly such as allergic reactions that range from irritability to cardiac irregularity to sudden death.

So why are these substances being added to foods? Many additives in foods are intended for their preservative qualities. Excitotoxins don’t actually preserve foods – they only make them taste better. The bottom line is, adding these toxins to food is really only for the purpose of “improving ” the flavor. And some people question whether these foods actually do taste better or not.

Use caution when purchasing anything in a package, can, or container as it may contain excitotoxins without consumer awareness. Any ingredient listed as the following can contain a dangerous excitotoxin: spices, natural flavoring, yeast extract, textured protein, soy protein extract, hydrolyzed vegetable protein. In other words, excitotoxins are amino acids which react with specialized receptors in the brain. When excitotoxins encounter these receptors, the result is destruction of certain brain cell types.

One of the most commonly found excitotoxins is MSG (monosodium glutamate). When located in the brain, this excitotoxin is considered a normal neurotransmitter. It is the most commonly used neurotransmitter, in fact, by the human brain. Then why are excitotoxins considered so dangerous? When naturally occurring monosodium glutamate is found in the brain, it is in very minute amounts. Any amount larger than concentrations of 8 to 12 ug is considered toxic and can cause erratic movement in neurons and abnormal firing behavior.

Clearly, rethinking what we are putting into our bodies is very important. With so many processed foods on the market, it’s easy to become overwhelmed, confused, and mislead about whether or not these products are safe for consumption. Read the facts before you buy.

For additional information about these dangerous substances, check out the following resources:

Offshore Pharmacy

Let’s Be Well Clinic

Natural News

Complete Wellness Center

Recommended reading on this subject:

Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills by Dr. Russell L. Blaylock, M.D.

Living Dangerously: Are Everyday Toxins Making You Sick? Pat Thomas

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