Category Archives: Bad Chemicals

Don’t Ignore A Food Intolerance!


One of the biggest differences between food allergies and food intolerances is that allergies usually cause more severe symptoms that cannot be ignored while intolerances tend to cause milder symptoms.  Because these milder symptoms seem to not cause any significant harm, people can make the grave mistake of ignoring them.

If it’s not causing your throat to close up it can’t really hurt you right?

WRONG!

One of the biggest risks of untreated food intolerances is chronic inflammation.  If you are regularly consuming something that your body can’t digest properly, your immune system will create a state of chronic, low level inflammation.  Chronic inflammation has been linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s, autoimmune disorders, heart disease, behavioural problems in children, depression, and many more health problems.  Undiagnosed food intolerances are one of the causes of chronic inflammation.  Some causes are unavoidable (stress, pollution, etc) but a food intolerance is definitely something you can treat in order to reduce the amount of chronic inflammation you have in your body.  You just need willpower.

Ask yourself: is the regular enjoyment of a particular food worth a chronic, crippling disease in the long run? Is it worth aging faster than you need to? Is your child’s need to enjoy a particular food greater than her need for lifelong health?

Another major problem with undiagnosed food intolerances is insufficient absorption of nutrients.  If your digestive system can’t break a food down properly, then your body can’t absorb all of the nutrients from that food.  Malnutrition has an even longer list of health problems than chronic inflammation.  You could eat all the healthy food you want but if you’re not able to digest it then what’s the point?

Now for all of you paranoid hypochondriacs out there, there is no need to go and eliminate gluten, dairy, and eggs for no reason.  Make sure that you actually have a food intolerance before eliminating an entire food group from your diet.  Get tested if you can, keep a food journal along with a symptom journal, and/or try an elimination diet.  And don’t forget to consider any nutritional “holes” you may be creating in your diet by removing a certain food.  Make sure you are able to get any lost nutrients from other food sources or consider supplementation as a last resort.  Seek help from a nutritionist if you find it difficult to figure out what you should and should not eat.

Lastly, find other foods that you enjoy equally as much as the one you had to eliminate, because being miserable isn’t good for your health either!

References
 1. Blasko, I., Stampfer-Kountchev, M., Robatscher, P., Veerhuis, R., Eikelenboom, P. and Grubeck-Loebenstein, B. (2004), How chronic inflammation can affect the brain and support the development of Alzheimer’s disease in old age: the role of microglia and astrocytes. Aging Cell, 3: 169–176. doi: 10.1111/j.1474-9728.2004.00101.x
2.  Leonard, Brian E. Inflammation, Depression and Dementia: Are they Connected? Neurochemical Research, 2007, Volume 32, Number 10, Page 1749
3.  W. Herbert Haught MDMichael Mansour MDRobert Rothlein Takashi K. Kishimoto Elizabeth A. Mainolfi BSJames B. Hendricks Claudia Hendricks MSJawahar L. Mehta MD. Alterations in circulating intercellular adhesion molecule-1 and L-selectin: Further evidence for chronic inflammation in ischemic heart disease. American Heart Journal.,July 1996, Vol.132(1):1–8, doi:10.1016/S0002-8703(96)90383-X
4.  Shacter E , Weitzman SA.  Laboratory of Immunology, Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, Food and Drug Administration, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-4555, USA. shacter@cber.fda.gov.  Oncology (Williston Park, N.Y.) [2002, 16(2):217-26, 229; discussion 230-2]

Eat Everything In Moderation: Truth, or Excuse? 

  

One of the most frustrating arguments that I hear from friends and family whom I try to persuade to eat healthier is that “everything in moderation is perfectly fine”.  But is it? 

The first problem with this reasoning is that everyone’s definition of moderation is different.  Eating a doughnut on Monday, a drive-through burger and fries on Tuesday, greasy pizza on Wednesday, a full size chocolate bar on Thursday, and fried chicken on Friday is NOT moderation. Eating a pastry with sugary, cream-topped coffee at breakfast plus a bag of chips in the afternoon and a few unhealthy cookies after dinner all in one day is DEFINITELY NOT moderation (I actually know a few people who argue that it is, you know who you are 😉). Eating healthy meals every day drowned in unhealthy sauces (ketchup is NOT healthy!) is also not moderation.  

Yet so many people don’t realize that what they think is moderation actually isn’t when they tally up all of the different foods that they claim to eat only occasionally.  One common mistake that I see people make is to look at each type of junk food they eat individually instead of looking at all the junk food they eat in a day or week collectively.  Sure, one doughnut a week is moderation, as is one bag of chips or one chocolate bar or one pizza etc.; but when you add all of these things up its simply too much.  

The second problem is that a lot of what you hear and read is promoted by companies who stand to lose a lot of money if everybody were to eat healthy.  Just like the tobacco industry had doctors and researchers on its payroll for decades to convince people that smoking didn’t cause lung cancer, the junk food industry has people out there promoting the idea that a little junk food isn’t all that bad.  And just like smokers who couldn’t fathom the thought of quitting supported and perpetuated the tobacco industry’s denials of a link to lung cancer, junk food addicts also support the junk food industry’s motto “everything in moderation is safe”. 

 If this were true, smoking crack in moderation would be safe too.  

Every time a new study comes out confirming the ill-effects of a certain unhealthy food or additive, junk food addicts are quick to argue “well it’s still ok in moderation” 😒.  Just like addicts of any other substance, they will ignore reason and logic and look for any excuse to continue eating the crap that they think they can’t live without.  And taking the moderation angle is the perfect excuse. 

The third problem is that because we are exposed to an increasing amount of harmful stuff that we cannot control (pollution, radiation, etc), we must do everything in our power to avoid exposure to the toxins that are in our control.  And that includes food.  Yes, our bodies can handle a small level of toxic substances without any ill-effects; but when you add the cumulative effect of pollution, stress, radiation, and decreased nutrient content of food, there really isn’t any room left for “moderate” consumption of processed junk food.  Eating mostly healthy food is not a license to eat whatever extra junk you want.  

I dont believe in quitting all processed food cold turkey, as that is likely to be short lived. The transition to a clean diet and lifestyle should be gradual and taken one step at a time.  The best way to start your road to healthy eating is to slowly eliminate unhealthy foods that you know you can live without first, then work your way up to foods that are harder to part with.  Pick a few select “junk foods” that you absolutely love and use those as your occasional (not daily) treats.  For everything else, find a healthy alternative. 

 This may seem difficult but it’s not; a simple Google search will show you that for any type of food you can think of, there is someone out there who has come up with a healthy version of it.  If you love French fries, learn to make your own healthy baked version, or ask for your fries to be baked at restaurants (more and more restaurants are accommodating this request).  If you love sweets, try making a big batch of naturally sweetened baked goods at the beginning of the week that you can eat when you get a craving.  If you can’t survive without coffee every day then cut the sugar and cream and find healthier ways of flavouring it.  If you fall off the healthy eating wagon a few (or several🙄) times, don’t beat yourself up about it and don’t give up.  Just get back into it the next day.  The further you go on your clean eating journey, the less those relapses will happen because you will simply lose the desire to eat or drink things that you once thought you could never give up.  

If you are pregnant or have kids, it is even more important for you to understand that everything is not safe in moderation.  Babies and kids are developing so fast that exposure to toxins can have a negative impact on not only their growth and brain development, but also on their future health (more on that in a future post).  The field of epigenetics is discovering exactly how early exposures to the right or wrong chemicals can have lifelong consequences.  So stop including that mini chocolate bar in your child’s lunchbox every day as a treat for eating their vegetables.  You’re basically just negating the positive effect of the healthy foods that they eat.  

Ginger-Ale or Sugar-Ale?

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/db5/63410078/files/2014/12/img_4965.jpg
When I was a kid my mom would give me ginger-ale every time I had a stomach ache. Even in my teens and early 20’s I would drink ginger-ale every time I had an upset stomach. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I noticed a particular brand (Canada Dry) had “made with real ginger” written on the front label. It made me think: “aren’t all store-bought ginger-ales made with real ginger?”

Apparently not.

If you actually read the ingredients, they’re mostly made of carbonated water and sugar with both natural and artificial colours and flavours thrown in.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/db5/63410078/files/2014/12/img_4980.jpgThe only brand that I’ve seen that makes the claim “made with real ginger” on the label is Canada Dry, but if you read the ingredient list it’s still mostly sugar and additives.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/db5/63410078/files/2014/12/img_4967.jpg
A pregnant friend of mine recently told me that she drinks ginger-ale sometimes for her morning sickness, because she thought it contained ginger which is a proven remedy for nausea. It made me wonder how many pregnant women out there are unknowingly consuming sugar and harmful artificial additives under the false impression that they are drinking a “healthy” beverage to help with their morning sickness. It also got me thinking about all the parents who probably still give it to their kids for tummy troubles.

If you look at the ingredient list for soda, it’s not much different.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/db5/63410078/files/2014/12/img_4979-1.jpgMost pregnant women wouldn’t drink 7-up to cure morning sickness, nor would most parents give their children sugar filled soda to cure an upset stomach. But store bought ginger-ale is basically the same thing.

As a better option, try boiling some ginger in water and then add a natural sweetener like honey. You’ll get the benefits of ginger without any added sugar, colors or flavors. If you or your kids prefer fizzy drinks, add a little plain carbonated water and you’ve got yourself some homemade ginger-ale.

The Importance Of Using A Water Filter

IMG_4710.JPG
I’ve noticed something odd with a lot of people that I know: they drink filtered water yet cook with regular tap water.

Some people are under the impression that boiling water gets rid of heavy metals and other harmful chemicals. Others don’t even realize that there are harmful chemicals in their tap water in the first place. They think that the sole purpose of a water filter is to remove bacteria and other microorganisms.

Yes, boiling your water will kill microorganisms that can make you sick. But you cannot kill heavy metals or other toxic chemicals with heat. If anything, heating chemicals only makes them more reactive which increases the chances of turning them into a more harmful compound. Boiling water also releases those chemicals into your home by vaporizing them, which you then inhale. The only way to remove toxic chemicals from your tap water is with a filter or distillation system.

In an ideal world, the only chemical compound in your tap water would be H2O. But unfortunately tap water is treated with chlorine to kill illness-causing microorganisms and can also be contaminated with pesticides, lead and copper (in older homes that still have lead and copper pipes). Chlorine can react with organic matter in water to form disinfection by-products (DBP’s) such as trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids, which have been linked to cancer2 It is not the chlorine itself that is the problem, but the DBP’s.

I’m not saying that municipalities shouldn’t chlorinate water. I am grateful to be living in a developed country where I do not have to worry about access to safe drinking water. If it comes down to a choice between having chlorine in my water or E. Coli, I’ll take the chlorine. However, with today’s technology we can have water with neither. With the variety of water filters in the market today we can easily remove chlorine and other chemical contaminants to ensure we are drinking the purest water possible. DBP’s may not pose an immediate risk to our health in the same way illness-causing microorganisms do, but the damage caused by long-term low level exposure should not be ignored.

This is especially important when mixing baby formula with water and making baby food. Babies are more susceptible to the harmful effects of toxic chemicals in water due to their small body size and the fact that they are growing and developing so rapidly. Pregnant women should only drink filtered water since exposure to certain DBP’s during pregnancy has been found to be correlated with genomic damage which in turn raises cancer risk3.

Chemical contaminants in your water can cause reproductive problems and cancer over time 4. If you don’t have an under-the-sink filtration system, a filter jug or countertop filter
will work just fine. It is definitely more tedious to keep refilling a filter jug in order to get enough water to fill a pot for cooking; but wouldn’t you rather put in the extra effort than eat food that has absorbed chlorine and it’s carcinogenic by-products during cooking?

If you really want to limit your long-term exposure to chlorine and DBP’s, consider investing in a shower filter. People absorb more trihalomethanes (a DBP) through showering than other methods of exposure1. The vaporized chemicals also disperse throughout the rest of your home, contributing to indoor air pollution.

Remember that although the risk of getting cancer from your tap water is small, it is still a risk and combined with all of the other “small” risks in your daily life it can add up to a much bigger risk. The cumulative effect of all of these small risks is the bigger concern. And as always, the toxic effects are worse in children because their bodies and brains are still developing. That’s why it is so important to protect yourselves and your children by minimizing as many of these seemingly small risks as possible.

References:

1. Backer LC1, Ashley DL, Bonin MA, Cardinali FL, Kieszak SM, Wooten JV. Household exposures to drinking water disinfection by-products: whole blood trihalomethane levels. J Expo Anal Environ Epidemiol. 2000 Jul-Aug;10(4):321-6.

2. “Chlorinated Water”. Canadian Cancer Society. Web. 1 Dec. 2014.

3. Stayner, Leslie Thomas; Pedersen, Marie; Patelarou, Evridiki; Decordier, Ilse; Vande Loock, Kim; Chatzi, Leda; Espinosa, Ana; Fthenou, Eleni; Nieuwenhuijsen, Mark J.; Gracia-Lavedan, Esther; Stephanou, Euripides G.; Kirsch-Volders, Micheline; Kogevinas, Manolis. Exposure to Brominated Trihalomethanes in Water During Pregnancy and Micronuclei Frequency in Maternal and Cord Blood Lymphocytes. Environmental Health Perspectives. Jan2014, Vol. 122 Issue 1, p100-106. 7p. 3 Charts. DOI: 10.1289/ehp.1206434

4. “The Water We Drink AN INTERNATIONAL COMPARISON OF DRINKING W ATER QUALITY STANDARDS AND GUIDELINES.” David Suzuki Foundation. 1 Nov. 2006. Web.

Give your kids a good start: feed them healthy food now and it will pay off later

IMG_4429.JPG
I am a textbook parent. I read all the parenting books I can get my hands on and follow all of the rules. I made homemade baby food from scratch and refused to give my child ANYTHING with added sugar or salt during her first year of life (not even a small lick of icing or ice cream). I refused to let any processed food touch her lips until she was well over a year old, and even now at 2 years old it is still a rare occurrence. To some, this may sound extreme. But to me, it just makes sense.

Prenatal and early childhood nutrition can have long-term effects that do not manifest until later in life. Exposure to toxic chemicals early in life can cause epigenetic changes in developing babies and children which may lead to diseases in adulthood5. Food additives as well as chemicals in food packaging that leach into the food may be toxic and so they should be avoided, especially by children3. This is probably why some adults who eat healthy and exercise still end up with some sort of non-inherited disease despite their best efforts. They may be healthy eaters now, but who knows what their parents fed them as children.

I practically lived off of Pizza Pockets and Pepsi during my teenage years. I hope I have good genes 😳.

It is not just the infancy and early childhood years that are crucial for long term health. The teenage years are also an important period of growth and maturation. A diet high in animal protein and low in vegetable protein and isoflavones is correlated with early puberty, which has been linked to metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease and breast cancer as well as other hormone-related cancers1. This is just another reason why feeding your kids McDonald’s regularly is bad for them. Today’s “fast food” diet is high in meat and low in vegetables which is a recipe for disease.

If you give your kids “junk” calories that means there is less room for nutritious calories. That unhealthy cookie you let your kid have as a snack every day (and most kids don’t stop at just one) could be replaced by a serving of fresh fruit. Children who consume more antioxidant-rich foods and whose mothers had an antioxidant-rich diet during pregnancy are less likely to have allergies later in life6. Since babies and children are growing, their brains, bodies and immune systems are still developing which is why they need all the nutrition they can get.

Children’s food preferences are determined by both genetics and familiarity2. So even though kids already have predetermined preferences for certain tastes and textures, they can also learn to prefer healthy foods simply by trying them frequently and watching the people around them eat the same foods as well7. These learned preferences carry on into adulthood; if you teach your kids to eat healthy at a young age they are more likely to continue eating healthy later on in life7.

I see other parents give their babies and young children junk food on a regular basis and it makes me cringe. Some of those kids have chronic rashes, allergies, and/or constant stomach upsets, probably due to their diets.
Unfortunately, those are just minor symptoms compared to the long-term damage that a bad diet early in life can lead to.

Some parents are simply unaware or uneducated about the implications of junk food on their kids. Some are perfectly aware but feel bad when their kids ask for the same food that they are eating and give in (which is exactly why parents should model healthy eating themselves). When kids ask to eat the same “junk food” as their peers it makes it that much harder to say no. Others simply don’t want to put in the extra effort required to prepare healthy food for their children as it is much easier to just open a wrapper or box when their kids are hungry.

Feeding kids healthy food is not easy. It takes more time and effort to prepare, not to mention the extra time actually feeding it to them if they are fussy eaters. But no one said being a parent was easy. And the reward of seeing your kids grow up to be happy and healthy adults is worth it.

IMG_4438.JPG

References

1. Cheng, Guo; Buyken, Anette E; Shi, Lijie; Karaolis-Danckert, Nadina; Kroke, Anja; Wudy, Stefan A; Degen, Gisela H; Remer, Thomas. Beyond overweight: nutrition as an important lifestyle factor influencing timing of puberty. Nutrition Reviews. Mar2012, Vol. 70 Issue 3, p133-152. 21p. 1 Diagram, 3 Charts, 3 Graphs. DOI: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.00461

2. COOKE, L. The importance of exposure for healthy eating in childhood: a review. Journal of Human Nutrition & Dietetics. 20, 4, 294-301, Aug. 2007. ISSN: 09523871.

3. El-Wahab, Hanan Mohamed Fathy Abd; Moram, Gehan Salah El-Deen. Toxic effects of some synthetic food colorants and/or flavor additives on male rats. Toxicology & Industrial Health. Mar2013, Vol. 29 Issue 2, p224-232. 9p. 6 Charts. DOI: 10.1177/0748233711433935.

4. Hörnell, Agneta; Lagström, Hanna; Lande, Britt; Thorsdottir, Inga. Breastfeeding, introduction of other foods and effects on health: a systematic literature review for the 5th Nordic Nutrition Recommendations. Food & Nutrition Research. 2013, Vol. 57, p1-27. 27p. DOI: 10.3402/fnr.v57i0.20823

5. Lahiri, D. K.; Maloney, B.; Zawia, N. H. The LEARn model: an epigenetic explanation for idiopathic neurobiological diseases. Molecular Psychiatry. Nov2009, Vol. 14 Issue 11, p992-1003. 12p. 3 Diagrams, 1 Chart, 2 Graphs. DOI: 10.1038/mp.2009.82.

6. Patelarou, Evridiki; Giourgouli, Gianna; Lykeridou, Aikaterini; Vrioni, Evagelia; Fotos, Nikolaos; Siamaga, Eleni; Vivilaki, Victoria; Brokalaki, Hero. Association between biomarker-quantified antioxidant status during pregnancy and infancy and allergic disease during early childhood: A systematic review. Nutrition Reviews. Nov2011, Vol. 69 Issue 11, p627-641. 15p. 2 Diagrams, 3 Charts. DOI: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.00445.

7. Venter, C.; Harris, G. The development of childhood dietary preferences and their implications for later adult health. Nutrition Bulletin. Dec2009, Vol. 34 Issue 4, p391-394. 4p. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-3010.2009.01784

Say NO To Drugs!

IMG_4197.JPGTaking pharmaceutical drugs for extended periods of time can lead to severe long-term consequences, but there is no real risk associated with taking the natural remedies listed above for short or long periods of time.

Research has shown ginger powder to be just as effective as the prescription drug sumatriptan in treating migraines but with far fewer side effects 3.

Although gravol is marketed as a drug for nausea it is actually an antihistamine. Antihistamines have been associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes in women with severe morning sickness (hyperemesis gravidarum)2. Despite these findings, gravol is still commonly recommended by doctors for pregnant women dealing with morning sickness.

Tylenol is considered generally safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women in the medical community, but so was Aspirin until 1986 when it was found to be the culprit behind increased cases of Reye’s syndrome in children. A recent review of the research of acetaminophen safety during pregnancy discovered that it may not be as safe as previously thought, and may increase the risk of asthma for children, as well as put them at risk for liver problems4.

If your child has a high fever, by all means go ahead and grab that bottle of children’s acetaminophen to bring the fever down (untreated high fevers in children can cause fever-induced seizures). But for other symptoms, you might want to think twice before reaching for that bottle of pills.

It seems that as a society we have become a bunch of wimps. We reach for a magic pill at the first inkling of an ache or pain, but that habit could prove to cause us more aches and pains later on in life if we are not cautious. More troublesome is the long term effects these drugs could possibly have on babies and children.

Pharmaceutical drugs are never 100% safe, and should only be used sparingly when absolutely necessary. With all of the available over the counter pills these days it’s far too easy to over-use medicine. If you are in excruciating pain or unbearably uncomfortable with your symptoms, first try a safe natural remedy and if that doesn’t work – go ahead and take a pill. If you have a minor headache or a mild throbbing in your back – suck it up people.

IMG_4210.JPG
References

1. Drugs.com. Accessed October 15, 2014: http://www.drugs.com

2. Fejzo MS, Magtira A, Schoenberg FP, MacGibbon K, Mullin P, Romero R, Tabsh K. Antihistamines and other prognostic factors for adverse outcome in hyperemesis gravidarum.
Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2013 Sep;170(1):71-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ejogrb.2013.04.017. Epub 2013 Jun 7.

3. Maghbooli M, Golipour F, Moghimi EA, Yousefi M. Comparison between the efficacy of ginger and sumatriptan in the ablative treatment of migraine headaches. Phytother Res. 2014 Mar;28(3):412-5. doi: 10.1002/ptr.4996. Mar;97(1):128-39. doi: 10.1016/j.jri.2012.10.014.

Food for thought: What is a healthy diet?

IMG_3974-0.JPG

Healthy diets have been proven to aid everything from weight loss to cancer treatment, while unhealthy diets have been linked to everything from ADHD to diabetes.

What most people think of when they hear the term “healthy diet” is low fat and low sugar. The new train of thought making its way into the mainstream is “simple ingredients, real food”. It has become the norm to look at nutrition labels to check the calories, fat, and sugar content of food; but we also need to check the ingredient list for artificial ingredients. If an item has a gazillion ingredients, half of which you can’t pronounce, IT’S NOT REAL FOOD! Granted, you may not be able to pronounce half the chemicals that make up a pear either, but pears are real food – “pear flavour” is not.

IMG_4012.JPG

Everything that you eat or drink either nourishes your body or harms it. Now that doesn’t mean that if you eat a doughnut you’re going to die. If you’re otherwise healthy, and you eat healthy most of the time, an occasional treat here or there won’t be the end of the world. The “good chemicals” in the abundant healthy food you eat will counteract the few “bad chemicals” you consume.

However, a lot of people don’t seem to understand the meaning of occasional.

A slice of cake once a week is occasional. A couple of cookies and an unhealthy muffin every single day is NOT occasional.

A drive-through meal once a month or so is occasional. A Big Mac combo meal a couple of times a week is NOT occasional.

A good tip for eating a healthy diet is not keeping unhealthy food in your house. When you’re really hungry and need a quick fix, you are more likely to grab something unhealthy if it is available. So simply don’t make it available at home. This will also force your kids to eat healthy snacks instead of junk food every day. Make sure you have lots of cut-up fruits and veggies in your fridge so the whole family can munch on something healthy in between meals.

Also, don’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach, otherwise you’ll have an even harder time resisting all the convenient junk food on the shelves. I know when I’m really hungry I want to eat whatever is in sight, so I do my grocery shopping after having a meal or snack.

If you have a sweet tooth (✋☺️) and just can’t resist eating sweets, bake your own instead of eating store-bought pastries. That way there are no artificial flavours, colors or preservatives, and you can make “healthy” sweets by substituting all purpose flour with whole wheat or spelt, and replacing refined sugar with other sweeteners like honey or maple syrup.

The next time you eat something processed ask yourself, “is this real food?”