Sunday, November 18, 2007

Avoiding Harmful Chemicals in Food and Environment

We are constantly exposed to a bewildering horde of artificial and natural poisons and toxins in our food and environment. The human body can properly handle small amounts of most natural poisons and toxins, but there are many new artificial chemicals for which the human body has not had time to evolve effective means of detoxification. All of these harmful chemicals can cause a wide variety of unpleasant symptoms and if exposure levels are high enough, serious complications like cancer or even death can result. The harm level of these chemicals can vary widely among individuals, influenced by health status, genes, and cumulative exposure effects. Most of these chemicals will cause serious harm in everyone at high enough concentrations. Some of these chemicals are actually nutrients that the body needs at low concentrations but become harmful if the intake is too high. The biggest problem, however, is the pervasiveness of these chemicals, such that individually they might not be a problem, but collectively, they can be overwhelming to our body.

So what can we do? It's nearly impossible to eliminate exposure to all potentially harmful chemicals. The best we can do is to learn where significant sources lie in our food and environment and try to avoid them. Also, if you can detect cause and effect relationships between symptoms and sources, you can avoid things that bother you.

There are a variety of actions you can take to lessen the toxic burden. Eat organic vegetables and fruits and fully pastured or wild animal foods for starters. Minimize sweets and foods high in omega-6 fats. Minimize highly processed commercial foods that are often full of artificial additives such as artificial preservatives, artificial colors, artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners, and artificial trans-fats. Don't eat spoiled food or any food that does not taste good. Minimize consumption of large fish, like albacore tuna or swordfish, which often have high levels of mercury. Avoid processed meats preserved with nitrites (including those with added "celery juice" that have hidden nitrites). If your water supply has added chlorine or fluoride, get water filters that remove these and other contaminants. Use only plastics with recycle numbers 2 HDPE, 4 LDPE, or 5 PP. Don't use teflon or aluminum cookware. Be very careful in choosing skin, hair, and mouth care products (EWG has excellent helpful information). Don't get "silver" amalgam dental fillings and properly remove any that you may already have. Avoid vaccines and long-term use of medications. Don't use commercial pesticides or herbicides.

For those of you who may do all these things and still have sensitivity issues, an elimination diet may be helpful for determining problematic foods. Some seemingly healthful foods can have salicylates, amines, or other natural food chemicals that cause unpleasant symptoms in sensitive individuals.

Below is a partial list of some of the more common poisons and toxins with links to more information.

Antibiotics - a double edged sword
Pesticides - in produce


Food Additives
Artificial Colors
. annatto - yellow food color
Artificial flavors
. MSG (free glutamate) - flavor enhancer
. ribonucleotides - flavor enhancers
Artificial Trans-Fats
Dough Conditioners (mono and diglycerides)
High Omega-6 Vegetable Oils
Sugar-free sweeteners
. aspartame (nutrasweet)
. sucralose (splenda)
. saccharin
. cyclamate
Sugar alcohols
. mannitol
. sorbitol
Sugars - how sugars can ruin your health
. sucrose (table sugar)
. dextrose
. HFCS - health hazard
. proprionates
. nitrites
. sulfites

. botulinum
. aflatoxin
. alcohol

Natural Plant Chemicals

Biogenic Amines


aluminum - vaccines, anti-clumping agents
arsenic - pesticides, antibiotics
copper - also a nutrient
lead - glazed pottery, old paint
mercury - hazards, dental fillings, vaccines, large fish
nickel - some stainless steel cookware
selenium - also a nutrient
zinc - also a nutrient

bromine - flour, antacids
chlorine - water
fluorine - water, toothpaste, pesticides, tea
iodine - kelp, also a nutrient

propylene glycol
. bisphenol A (BPA)
. polycarbonate (#7 PC)
. polystyrene (#6 PS)
. polyvinyl chloride (#3 PVC)
. pthalates

Other Chemicals
acrylamide - baked and fried starchy/sugary foods
asbestos - insulation and flooring in some older homes
carageenan - thickening agent in foods and skin care products
dioxins - a case for vegetarianism?
formaldehyde - vaccines, plywood, carpets
perchlorates - rocket fuel, fireworks, chlorinated water
polybrominated biphenyls (PBB) - fire retardant
polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) - fire retardant
polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB)
polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) - combustion product
teflon - cookware

Comprehensive Harmful Chemical Listing from EWG

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Enduring Health Wisdom from a Remarkable Dentist

In the early 1900's this dentist noticed progressively worse dental problems in his patients over a couple of decades - not just dental caries, but also crowded teeth. He also noticed that these dental problems often mirrored the health of his patients. Poor dental health usually meant poor health in general. He theorized that the cause of this dental and health decline might be from the rapid dietary changes taking place at the time, as people began eating more and more of the "foods of commerce" - white flour, sugar, polished rice, and canned goods - and less of the whole foods that our ancestors ate.

In the 1920's he decided to risk life and limb to find and study remote peoples still eating their native diets to determine which foods provided the best dental and thus overall health. He made arduous trips to far reaching locations across the globe, including North and South America, Europe, Africa, Australia, and Pacific Islands. He documented the dental health of thousands of people, including thousands of photographs.

He found many remote "primitive" groups eating their native diet who had little evidence of dental problems. He also found that when peoples of these same groups abandoned their native diets in favor of the modern foods of commerce they very quickly developed dental problems and these problems were worse in succeeding generations. He was unable to find any healthy native groups eating an exclusively vegetarian diet. The healthiest groups included animal seafoods or organ meats or dairy or a combination of these foods in their diets, along with a wide variety of plant foods. He brought food samples back to his laboratory for analyses and found that the foods eaten by the healthiest groups were much higher in many key nutrients than typical foods from the civilized world.

His friends encouraged him to write a book about his findings. The book was first published in 1939 and can be read online: "Nutrition and Physical Degeneration". The book is also available in hard copy from the Price-Pottenger Foundation. Oh ... and the dentist's name was Weston A. Price. He was a renowned dentist of his time, but unfortunately he has been largely forgotten.

Today, Price's "foods of commerce" have turned into modern foods of convenience - highly processed, chemical laced, nutrient poor fake foods that are cheap and fill the stomach but leave the body with insufficient nutrition and added toxic loads that lead to declining health over time. Add to this dubious vaccines, over-used antibiotics, and grossly over-rated medicines that all have serious side effects and you have a recipe for major health problems. We need to return to the traditional foods that nurtured our ancestors and kept them healthy.

Here is Price's recommendation for dental and overall health:
"A first requisite for the control of tooth decay is to have provided an adequate intake of the body-building and repairing factors by the time the hunger appeal for energy has been satisfied. A sufficient variety of foods must be used to supply the body's demand for those elements which it needs in large quantities, that is, calcium and phosphorus, and the other elements which it needs in smaller quantities, though just as imperatively. One of the serious human deficiencies is the inability to synthesize certain of the activators which include the known vitamins. This makes necessary the reinforcement of the nutrition with definite amounts of special foods to supply these organic catalysts, especially the fat-soluble activators, including the known vitamins, which are particularly difficult to provide in adequate quantities. I have shown that the primitive races studied were dependent upon one of three sources for some of these fat-soluble factors, namely, sea foods, organs of animals or dairy products. These are all of animal origin. I have indicated in Chapter 16 the nutritional programs that have proved in clinical testing adequate for providing the body with nutrition that will not only prevent tooth decay, but check it when it is active. The stress periods of life, namely, active growth in children and motherhood, do not constitute overloads among most of the primitive races because the factor of safety provided by them in the selection of foods is sufficiently high to protect them against all stresses. I have indicated the type of nutrition that is especially needed for these stress periods in our modern civilization. Also, that it is not necessary to adopt the foods of any particular racial stock, but only to make our nutrition adequate in all its nutritive factors to the primitive nutritions. Tooth decay is not only unnecessary, but an indication of our divergence from Nature's fundamental laws of life and health."

As a final footnote on the work of Weston Price, be sure to read Interpreting the Work of Weston Price which discusses his findings and what they mean for health.