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Food for Thought

Posted in All, Health, Science with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 12, 2010 by marushiadark

“It would be nice if the Food and Drug Administration stopped issuing warnings about toxic substances and just gave me the names of one or two things still safe to eat.” ~ Robert Fuoss

In this day and age, there seems to be a great deal of emphasis on diet.  Eat this, don’t eat that.  Eat more protein, eat less protein, eat more carbs, eat less carbs, eat no carbs, eat only certain carbs.  Join Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Slim Fast, South Beach, and so forth.  In a world where one of the leading causes of death is starvation and malnutrition, in America we have the highest obesity rates we’ve ever had; and that’s in spite of having more weight-loss programs, dietary drugs, stomach pumps, and liposuction than ever.  We blame genetics and viruses for our poor health and spend countless billions in pursuit of treatments (not even cures) along those lines with no assurances that that’s even the right path to be going down.

It can’t possibly be as hard as we’re making it, can it?  Clearly, something is very wrong, since we didn’t have this problem a hundred years ago.

“We are all dietetic sinners; only a small percent of what we eat nourishes us; the balance goes to waste and loss of energy.” ~ William Osler, physician

Human beings are made of three parts: a body, a mind, and a soul.  The soul is the conscious observer that has the experiences.  The mind is like analytical software that helps us to figure out problems and order our world.  And the body is the physical machinery, the vehicle, the avatar that we use to interact with the world around us and have those experiences.

While I don’t claim to be an expert on cars, I have noticed a great deal of similarities between the way in which vehicles operate and the way in which our bodies seem to operate.  They’re both mechanical devices that work best when the proper substances are flowing through them and when all the moving parts are maintained and kept clear.  Maybe you’ve seen that commercial on TV where they talk about engine sludge and a guy gets doused in the stuff.  You wouldn’t intentionally put sludge in your car.  It simply wouldn’t work right if you did.  Yet that’s exactly what we do with our own bodies.  We put harmful chemicals and toxins into our bodies, often willingly, and then wonder why we have such terrible health complications like we do.

Though the human body is a complex piece of machinery, it is fundamentally simple to maintain if we keep in mind one simple rule: we are what we eat.  Garbage in, garbage out.  Whatever you put in the engine is what the engine is going to process and it’s up to you how efficient you want that engine to be.  After all, it’s a lot cheaper and easier in the long run to change the oil than to change the engine.

There are certain things the body needs and certain things it doesn’t need and even certain things that can cause it a great deal of damage.  It’s vitally important to keep in mind that, whatever you put in your body, it will either be used by your body or it won’t.  Your body doesn’t care about how you feel in regards to the taste of the foods that you eat.  It’s only concerned in maintaining and executing its basic functions, which depend upon the presence of certain ingredients and the absence of others.

Human beings are a part of nature and so our food should ideally come from nature: water, plants, animals, vitamins, minerals, proteins, etc.  Such a diet would constitute a natural, organic diet.  Organic basically means that there is no crap in it.  No chemicals, preservatives, pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, etc.  Also, the way in which the plant or animal is raised is a factor (such as free-roam chickens or grass-fed cattle).

When you consume food, beneficial bacteria in the digestive system (stomach, colon, etc.) breaks down that food, decomposing it into more basic and usable components that can be easily absorbed by the body.  This is similar to bacteria breaking down the materials in a compost pile.

Preservatives prevent this from happening and stop the process of decomposition by the bacteria.  Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs were embalmed thousands of years ago and much of their flesh remains intact as a result.  Now imagine what such preservatives could do to the food that you eat.  If the food isn’t broken down, it just passes through undigested and the nutrients aren’t absorbed by the body, which can lead to loss of energy and weakening of the immune system, thereby making you more susceptible to disease.  Most processed foods are packed with preservatives in an effort to extend their shelf life, which has side effects of being beneficial to bottom lines (but not your bottom line).

Ever wonder why doctors are always telling us to limit our sodium intake?  It’s because sodium is a preservative.  For thousands of years, before the invention of refrigeration, salt was used to cure meats and keep them from spoiling.  However, unlike most other preservatives, the components of table salt (sodium chloride) are actually necessary to some degree for biological functions.  Sodium and potassium work together to provide cells with electrical energy.  So salt is ok in moderation.  If you’re worried about your salt intake, look for products whose ingredients list doesn’t contain any added salt.  Alternatively, you can also increase your intake of potassium and definitely drink more water.  Health is all about maintaining homeostasis (balance).

Chlorine is also needed by the body, but too much of it can be a bad thing as well.  For one thing, chlorinated water can lead to scarring of the arteries, known as arteriosclerosis, which can cause cholesterol problems when the cholesterol lodges inside the scars.  This can lead to heart attack and stroke.  If you’ve ever been in a public pool and your skin felt nasty afterwards, it was probably a result of the chlorine.  You’d wanna go home and take a shower, but chances are, your shower water is chlorinated as well.  Some people say that your skin protects you from this, but think about the chlorine: if your skin is impenetrable, why use topical lotions?  Wouldn’t they be ineffective?  Your skin has pores and just as sweat and odors can come out, so too can stuff get in.  Your skin is the largest organ in the body with tremendous surface area.  And if that wasn’t bad enough, when you shower, the water vaporizes and so does the chlorine in the water.  You then inhale the noxious chlorine gas.  I’ve been in showers where the chlorine level was so bad, you could actually smell it when showering.  That’s why I use a filter on my shower that removes the chlorine and why I use Brita pitchers for drinking and cooking water.  If you have a pool, try using an ozone filter or similar instead of chlorine chemicals.

Just like preservatives, pesticides and herbicides are also used to extend the life of crops by killing off life forms that would harm them.  Those chemicals then get into the food and eventually into us.  You may think you’re washing them off when you run your produce under the sink, but that’s only getting rid of the stuff on the surface.  Moreover, you’re probably also contaminating it with chlorine from the tap in the process.  So you’re really just adding fuel to the fire.

All of these things, and a whole lot more problems, could be solved if we just help food producers to higher standards and demanded that all our food be completely organic.  The resulting health benefits from increased nutrient intake and decreased levels of toxic substances would be a tremendous pay-off, one that ought to be self-evident.  I’ve often said that if companies like McDonalds could make their products completely organic while still maintaining their current prices, they would have my unwaivering support and I’d probably eat there all the time.  However, through the power of corporate lobbying, coupled with our indifference, such dangerous practices are allowed to continue with our consent.

I understand that, for many of us, we can’t always afford to go organic and so we buy less than healthy products.  But in the end, you’re only belaying your costs temporarily.  Instead of paying more for food, you wind up paying to patch your health problems later on, which could have been prevented.  If you can’t go organic, then at least start with the big things and go from there.  Read the ingredients lists, not just the nutrition facts, and educate yourself as to what the ingredients actually are.  Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.