Are You Being Preserved?

ホットドック

In my previous article on the advantages of organic food, I focused on the health risks involved with pesticides.  In order to be organic, foods must also be free of chemical preservatives.

Many foods are prepackaged and need to be able to sit on the grocery store shelf for long periods of time.  This has led to manufacturers using preservatives to keep the food from going off before the consumer buys the product.  Some natural preservatives include sugar, salt, vinegar, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), freezing and pasteurizing (heat treating).  Others are not so natural and may be detrimental to your health.

Wiejski st z kiebas i szynk

The recent health trend to help reduce cardiovascular disease (CVD) has been to cut down on eating saturated fats and cholesterol by decreasing the intake of red meat.  This has led people to increase their intake of ‘low fat’ processed meats.  A study published in 2013 in the journal BMC Medicine found that there was no link between unprocessed red meat and CVD.  Eating processed meats on the other hand increases your risk of CVD by 30% and increases your risk of cancer, in particular colon cancer.  This includes bacon, devon, ham, bologna, salami, lunch meats, hot dogs and sausages.  This increased risk is due to the high sodium and preservative content.

A study from the US published in 2013 found that kids who drank more soft drinks were more likely to have asthma regardless of their weight.  They only looked at kids who drank regular soft drink so they were not consuming artificial sweeteners.  The authors speculate this is most likely due to the preservatives. So just because you exercise and burn off the calories, soft drinks still have detrimental effects on your health.

Preservative 211 Sodium Benzoate

Certain preservatives have been found to have a wide range of side effects.  Sodium sulfite (221) and sorbic acid (200) suppress immune cells.  Sodium nitrate (251) and sodium benzoate (211) alter DNA, which is how many cancers begin.  Sodium sulfite and sodium benzoate decrease the hormone leptin. Leptin levels falling are a trigger for us to eat. Consumption of these preservatives can lead to overeating which leads to weight gain. Sodium benzoate and artificial food colourings are linked to hyperactivity in children.  Sodium benzoate and potassium benzoate (212) when combined with ascorbic acid (found in juice) creates benzene, which is a known carcinogen.  Benzoates are slowly being phased out but they are still in circulation so you need to watch out for them.

Sodium metabisulphite (223) has become more popular as a preservative because it actually kills food contaminants as opposed to the others, which just inhibit the growth.  It is used to sterilize equipment for wine and beer brewing.  It is used during processing and is present at levels lethal to bacteria when we consume the products that contain it.  As I have mentioned in previous articles, having healthy gut bacteria is important to our overall health status. Consuming foods that contain lethal levels of preservatives is going to put your gut bacteria out of balance potentially causing illness.

In Australia, as in many other countries, if an ingredient is at a concentration of less than 10 parts per million (ppm) it does not have to be declared on the label. This is in spite of the fact that 10ppm is an effective level for killing bacteria. This has led some companies to advertise their products as ‘preservative free’ despite containing preservatives. Also, artificial colours and flavours are loaded with preservatives. If you see these on a label you know the product contains some sort of preservative.

good food, health and life

Although it is important to keep microbes off our food, the best thing is to eat it fresh so you don’t need to eat any chemicals. If you do eat preserved food, make sure you check the labels carefully.  If you have any questions, talk to your local naturopath.

Advertisements

Is Eating Organic Worth It?

Laughing kids eating apple

There is an ongoing debate about whether organic foods are really better for you than conventionally grown foods.  As it is more expensive, it is important to know whether it is worth the money or not.

For a product to become certified organic it must pass several criteria including being free from synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, antibiotics and food additives.   These products are then labeled with the logo of the certifying body.  These organizations include the USDA, Australian Certified Organic, Canada Organic, or EU Organic Farming.  Some products aim to deceive by putting the word organic in their name, but this does not necessarily mean it is organic.  In Australia, several ‘organic water’ bottlers have been forced to remove the word organic from their name.  Water cannot be organic or otherwise.  Also, organic does not necessarily mean it is free from genetic modification, but these often go together.

Pesticides are made to kill bugs on plants. Although they are allowed in low amounts on food, it only makes sense that if they can kill big bugs, that they could kill the small bugs in your gut.  Dr. Mark Donohoe is a GP in Sydney who previously thought there was no reason to eat organic, has recently discovered that pesticides can have a big effect on your normal gut bacteria. Good gut bacteria are needed to keep the bad bacteria at bay.  An overgrowth of bad gut bacteria has been connected to everything from IBS and headaches, to arthritis and weight gain.  With almost every health complaint, I start by making sure a patient’s gut is functioning properly.  To learn more about the importance of your gut bacteria, read my article 10% Human.

8703067 - bees collecting nectar from flower

It is still unknown the extent of the health problems that could be caused by pesticides but it is hard to believe they can kill bugs without affecting us.  The use of neonicotinoid insecticides has been banned in the EU due to its effects on bee health.  Beekeepers in Australia are calling for a ban on them too.

A study published in 2013 found that fruit flies fed organic produce had greater fertility and lived longer. These flies were also more active and showed more resistance to stress.  Another study published in 2015 found that tomatoes that were grown organically were subjected to more stress. This stress caused them to be smaller, but higher in vitamin C and phenols.  Phenols can act as antioxidants that may help lower cholesterol.

69669648 - farmer spraying toxic pesticides or insecticides in fruit orchard

Several studies have shown the effects pesticides can have on our health. Organophosphates have been banned in Europe and restricted in the US but are still widely used in Australia. These pesticides are linked to reduced IQ, weight gain, Type II diabetes, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Children under 7 years old do not have the enzyme required to excrete these chemicals from their little bodies so it just builds up. It impairs the development of the prefrontal cortex in the brain decreasing cognitive skills and short term memory.  Children with higher levels of metabolites in their urine are more likely to develop ADHD as well as asthma.

A mother’s exposure to dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE), a breakdown product of DDT, during pregnancy is associated with a higher risk of asthma and wheezing in young children. Children with higher levels in their blood are also more likely to have asthma. Exposure to permethrin, an insecticide commonly used to kills lice and often used on cotton, corn, wheat and alfalfa, is also associated with a higher risk of wheezing and asthma.

A 2012 study found a higher risk of being exposed to antibiotic resistant bacteria after eating conventional chicken or pork as well as higher concentrations of pesticides in the urine of children eating conventionally grown foods.

25487575 - small baby feet on the green grass.

Lowering your pesticide concentration isn’t hard.  It can take as little as 2 weeks of eating organic food to lower the levels of many of these chemicals in your body.  Check out this video about a family who ate only organic food for 2 weeks.

To keep the cost of buying organic down, you can pick and choose some foods to buy organic and other conventional. Pesticides bioaccumulate in animals so eating organic meat and dairy is the most important first step. In Australia the foods with the highest pesticide residues are, in order, apples, wheat, strawberries, pears, grapes, lettuce, nectarines and peaches.  If you eat apples every day, but only have pears once in awhile, then you want to buy organic apples but could let the pears slide.  The foods with the lowest pesticide residues are onions, sweet corn, pineapple, asparagus, sweet peas, mango, eggplant, kiwi and cabbage. These foods are safer to eat conventional. Buying seasonal, local food is also cheaper.  When you do buy conventional produce, make sure that you wash it well.  Studies have found that washing with baking soda gets off the most pesticide residue but you can also use a 10% salt solution.  Here are some instructions for washing your fruits and vegetables. Remember though, just because it is organic, doesn’t mean it is good for you. Organic sugar is still sugar!

If you have any questions about organic produce, talk to your local naturopath.  Next week I’ll talk about the preservatives found in many processed foods and why you need to avoid them for your health.

 

Are Your Cleaning Products Affecting Your Health?

12893675 - attention baby wants to play with cleaner

There are so many cleaning products on the market these days it is hard to know what is best for your health and what will clean your home. Although some products may clean well, they can have harmful effects on the health of you, your family and the environment. If you have a cupboard that the kids can’t go into, then you need to read this article.

Many households have a bottle of bleach in the laundry. This is the first thing that needs to leave your home. Bleach has been well known to irritate people who already have existing asthma, but in 2012, The Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics declared bleach an asthmagen. This means that bleach actually causes asthma in previously healthy individuals. Given the prevalence of asthma, and the sensitivity of respiratory tracts in young people, bleach should not be used in the home or at day care centres. Instead, most areas in the home can be cleaned with soap, a vinegar and water solution and a bit of elbow grease. For really messy areas such as the oven or the toilet, mix vinegar with baking soda.

In Australia, we can find many hand soaps that state they are antibacterial. These soaps have been found to be no better than regular soap at cleaning hands and specifically no better at decreasing the incidence of childhood pneumonia and diarrhoea. They have been found though, to increase the incidence of drug-resistant bacteria or super-bugs. If you get infected with a drug-resistant bacterium, we do not have medication that can help you. These antibacterial chemicals also negatively impact organisms, such as algae, in our waterways and may disrupt hormone signalling in mammals. In 2013, the FDA in America banned 19 antibacterial substances from over the counter soaps. These same chemicals are still allowed in Australia. Studies have found that the time spent washing your hands is the most important factor in getting them clean so just use regular soap and take your time.

Love the smell of freshly cleaned and scented laundry? This smell may be affecting your health. Your favourite scented laundry soap, dryer sheets and fabric softener might contain chemicals that disrupt hormones and cause asthma. Unfortunately these products are not required to have their entire ingredient list on the package, so it is difficult to know what you are buying. Buy unscented products and put your clothes out on the line for that fresh smell.

11004207 - yellow chrysanthemum.jpg

Air fresheners are another way that people can unknowingly be putting chemicals into their bodies. The ingredients of these products are largely unregulated and many of them contain phthalates, which are hormone disruptors, and benzenes, which are known carcinogens. If you feel like your home needs freshening, buy some pot plants that are known to clean the air. Chrysanthemums remove ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde and xylene from the air. Spider plants and Boston ferns remove formaldehyde and xylene.

Tea tree oil is another great substitute for chemical cleansers as it can disinfect without causing asthma or antibiotic resistance. You can also just squeeze a lemon. Lemon juice can kill most of the bacteria in your home, while still being safe for the family.

Natural cleaning products

Everyday, research is coming out that discovers the effects of chemicals on our bodies. Keep your household cleaning products natural and keep you and your family healthy. Talk to your local naturopath if you have any questions about natural cleaning products.