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Disclaimer: The information below is for informational/educational purposes only. Any statements suggesting a course of action are my opinions only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice.
(I have to say something like that to cover my ass. Largely because the government says various agencies like the FDA are -in theory- supposeed to protect the public from quacks selling snake-oil. In reality, the FDA exists mostly to protect the profits of corporations - that means telling the public that corporate lies are truth and that anyone saying anything against them are liars. I'm not worried, because I'm just writing a few articles... But, people involved with alternative medicine who are actually trying to improve the lives of their fellow citizens do have to worry that the government will shut them down. Welcome to America! It's one of the better places to live, but that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement.)
Gluten | Lactose Intolerance | Monosodium Glutamate
In recent years, people have begun to wake up to the harmful effects of this compound... About 1% to 3% of people are so intolerant of gluten that it can cause severe, even life-threatening problems... But even for those of us who don't seem affected, it may have long term health effects... It is possible, that ancient, traditional bread-making methods -such as long fermentation- could allow people with gluten sensitivities to eat bread safely. The enormous rise in children diagnosed with celiac disease(total gluten intolerance) has been linked to the introduction of Genetically Modified crops.
Humans, and indeed most mammals, are naturally lactose intolerant as adults... Some humans, mostly those from northern Europe, continue to be able to digest this sugar throughout their lives, however. The level of lactose intolerance can change as you get older... Likewise, you may experience only minor symptoms, or you may have extreme health effects... Technically, I suppose it isn't an allergy - maybe I should rename this section.
Here are a few facts to consider...
Lactaid and similar products can allow you to consume dairy ... but, if you plan to drink lactose-free milk, you should be aware of how it's made... Lactose-free milk is made by taking regular milk and adding an enzyme to it, which essentially pre-digests the lactose for you... This means that the lactose will be changed into glucose - a sugar which you can digest. However, the result is that the milk will taste much sweeter than ordinary milk.
Fat contains more calories than sugar or any other food. This is one reason we like the idea of reduced fat or fat free foods - they are often much lower in calories. However, dairy products that have artificially lowered fat content generally have a slightly higher lactose content.
Goat's milk and sheep's milk are often marketed as easier to digest... Unprocessed goat, sheep & cow's milk all have roughly the same lactose content. According to various proponents of more natural diets, raw cow's milk is easier to digest than processed milk... Which makes sense, as raw cow's milk has a higher fat content. However, I personally had trouble handling the super-creamy raw milk. I haven't had sheep's milk, but goat's milk has a slightly odd taste - not bad, just different... I prefer regular milk, probably because I've had it my whole life... In an effort to be slightly more health conscious, I decided to try organic... Unfortunately, most organic milk is ultra pasteurized - which means it is 'cooked' at a very high temperature. Sadly, this gives it -in my opinion- an unpleasant taste... Fortunately, I found that the local grocery store's own store brand organic milk is pasteurized & homogenized instead of ultra pasteurized.
Update: more recently, I had a very good experience with Raw cow's milk... Apparently, my previous experience was a one-off thing, I guess that batch was extra creamy or something... It's also important to 'shake before using' - because raw milk is not homogenized, the cream will separate and float to the top after the jug has been opened... Shaking vigorously will put the creamy back into suspension long enough for you to drink it.
Butter has much lower lactose levels than milk... Lactose is also reduced in cultured products like yogurt, as the bacteria produces its own enzymes. Fermentation and ageing of cheese also reduces lactose levels. Though I only seem to have a very mild reaction to lactose, I do seem to have more trouble lately than I did years ago... I love cheese. And raw milk cheese has very little lactose, though it is expensive... Aged raw cheese has virtually no lactose... Commercial cheeses generally have higher lactose content. Traditionally, sour cream also has low levels of lactose. Unfortunately, most modern commercially produced dairy products contain added 'milk solids' which raises their lactose levels.
Update: an important thing to remember with regards to food... If you stop eating something, your body stops making the enzymes needed to digest that food... If you start eating it again, you may find the food doesn't agree with you. It is a mistake to believe this means you shouldn't eat that food ever again because you are allergic to it. If you continue to eat it, your body will start adapting to digest it again... Especially when it comes to food, exposure is often the way to avoid allergies - it was once suggested that pregnant women should not eat peanut butter, because it would cause peanut allergies in their child. Now, it is understood that avoiding foods during pregnancy is what causes allergies to those foods!
There are numerous plant-based milks which can be used in place of cow's milk. As far as flavor goes, I'd say soy is best... Most others -almond, oat, etc.- have either little flavor or bad flavor... Chocolate soy milk is, in my opinion, very good... Of course, soy beans are mostly genetically modified in the US, so make sure your soy milk is certified Non-GMO. Silk, perhaps the most popular brand, is Non-GMO. However, according to some, soy -whether GMO or not- is not very healthy for humans... So, if you consume lots of milk, I'd recommend either animal milk(of some sort), or perhaps coconut milk... Unsweeted coconut milk is kind of nasty, but add enough sugar and it's like liquid coconut candy. =)
Monosodium Glutamate or MSG, is a so-called 'flavor enhancer'... Because it is a food additive, it will be discussed in detail in the 'Diet' section of this page. However, I felt it warranted a mention here because, while it may not be an allergy as such, it does seem to affect some people more than others.
Grains | Vegetables | GMOs | Fruit | Meat | Dairy | Fats | Sugars | Excitotoxins | MSG | Salt
USDA Food Guidelines
Historically, governmental guides to nutrition have recommended 6-11 servings of grains, 3-5 of veggies, 2-4 of fruits, 2-3 of dairy, 2-3 of meat ... and advises using fats, oils & sweets sparingly. More recently, the USDA has recommended 30% grains, 30% veggies, 20% fruits, 20% protein per 'plate', with a cup of dairy to accompany it. Many people disagree with these guides - both current and historical. Below, I'll discuss some of the information I've come across regarding some of these different views. While I won't necessarily recommend you follow any of the ideas on this page, I will share what I've read, and my personal feelings on the subject.
Back in the days of the Food Pyramid, the 'foundation' of the entire structure was grains. But why? Well, on the one hand you could be a bit cynical and simply say it's due to corruption and the fact that big food corporations want to sell this cheap & easy to mass produce foodstuff... But, let's leave that for the moment, and instead focus on the so-called healthfulness of eating grains...
Why are we told to eat grains, and specifically, these days, whole grains? The typical reasons given are: fiber for digestive health, providing essential vitamins & minerals, lowering cholesterol thus preventing heart disease. So, are these good reasons? They sound like good reasons. But, we should take a closer look...
Okay, fiber... Fiber is generally considered to be a good way to 'keep things moving' and prevent constipation ... though, it should be noted that some people have suggested that high fiber diets can actually cause constipation. Of course, they also recommend decreasing your water intake to prevent constipation as well ... considering that most Americans are chronically dehydrated, I'd therefore take their advice with a grain(no pun intended) of salt. Having said that, there is also the suggestion that the fiber of grains is harsher than other fibers and may damage your intestinal walls... At any rate, the real question is; do you need grains as a source of fiber? The answer, very simply, is no. You can get all the fiber you need from fruits and vegetables.
So, what about all the vitamins & minerals? Well, first off, fruits and vegetables are also a better source of these nutrients... But, regardless, grains actually aren't a source of vitamins & minerals. Why not? ... The whole idea behind eating 'whole' grain, is that ever since we started having refined flour, we've been missing out on the nutrient rich parts of the grain which are either thrown away or else derstroyed by the refining process... The real kicker here, however, is we haven't really been missing out on anything... You see, these valuable nutrients in grains are locked inside chemical structures which our digestive systems can't break down. Since we can't break open these chemical 'containers', the nutrients remain inaccessible to us, making grains an essentially useless food for us to consume in the first place.
But, wait! It gets worse... Grains also contain chemicals known as 'anti-nutrients' - so called, because they block our bodies from absorbing nutrients from other foods that we eat! So, not only do you not get any real nutritional benefit from eating grains themselves, you're actually decreasing your effective nutrient intake from other food souces as well! Historically, people have eaten grains without suffering too much because of it... However, they managed this by lengthy soaking and/or fermentation methods which are never used in our modern commercially produced foodstuffs. So, if you want grains that are safe you'll have to process them yourself - personally, I don't think it's worth the trouble. Ironically, those refined flours are actually the safer alternative if you still want bread & pasta... Being heavily refined, they don't have many of the anti-nutrients left in them. But, remember - they are still a very nutrient-poor food, and every ounce of them you eat is an ounce of nutrient-rich food you don't eat.
Which brings us to the final point... Cholesterol. Cholesterol has become a word that tends to strike fear in the hearts of those who hear it... The reason for this is largely because the medical establishment in America has basically become nothing more than a bunch of over-paid prescription drug pushers... Big Pharma makes tons of money off things like cholesterol-lowering medication... Which, like so much of what goes on these days, is just a kind of palliative... Actually, it's not even that. Modern medicine is generally not interested in the cause of anyone's health problems, only in making money off of treating the percieved symptoms. So, yes, eating whole grains does seem to reduce cholesterol. The real question is whether it matters.
Here are a few quick facts for you to consider: Your body produces far more cholesterol than you ever eat - in fact, cholesterol is essential for the proper functioning of the body. Doctors always talk like high cholesterol is super dangerous; but young & middle-aged men with levels just under 350 are at no greater risk of heart attack than those with very low levels and those with levels over 350 are only slightly more at risk ... while in elderly men & women of all ages, high cholesterol is actually associated with longer lifespans! We are also led to believe that cholesterol and saturated fats are what clog up our arteries, the truth is that arterial plaque mostly consists of calcium, with some fatty acids - most of which are unsaturated.
So, do I eat grains? Yes. I like bread, and pasta, and rice, and corn... It's damn hard to find or even invent recipes without using grains. That being said, I recognize that they are not particularly healthful... And, while I very much doubt I'll ever eliminate them from my diet, I do hope to limit the amount of grains I consume in the future... Dr. Atkins did have it right on this point - modern breads are pretty much empty carbs.
GMOs, or Genetically Modified Organisms, are various crop species that have been altered in some fashion - generally to make them more resistant to herbicides and insects... They are also, to put it bluntly, the single greatest danger to our health in modern times. The leader in this field of biotechnology is the chemical company Monsanto. Before we even talk about the problems with GM crops, just ask yourself this; why would anyone trust the people who brought us Agent Orange & DDT with engineering our food supply?!
The list of problems and potential problems with GM crops are almost too many to count... Tests done on animals show that feeding them GM foods can result in various symptoms including infertility and accelerated ageing... Chronic diseases have risen dramatically since the introduction of GM crops in the mid-nineties... There are correlations between GMO production and the incidence of numerous health problems including various forms of cancer, kidney issues, reproductive disorders, autism, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, GI tract issues and others... Growing numbers of doctors now advise their patients to avoid GMO foods, believing them to cause allergies, digestive issues and autoimmune diseases among other things... Livestock taken off GM feed has shown decreased disease, improved fertility and behavioral improvements... Symptoms in lab animals, livestock and humans all show similar issues in the same areas of concern - gastrointestinal, immune and reproductive problems...
One of the key problems behind genetic engineering, is that it quite literally isn't an exact science. For every intended alteration, the process of gene-modding can create dozens or even hundreds of unintended changes in a plant's DNA. All kinds of bad things can result, including higher levels of allergens, toxins, carcinogens(cancer-causing agents), and anti-nutrients. Monsanto claims its Bt corn -which produces its own insecticide- is perfectly safe, because Bt-toxin is a natural insecticide which farmers have used for decades... First off, it isn't safe - there have been many incidents of people having adverse reactions. And second, their unnatural Bt-toxin is up to 5,000 times more concentrated, doesn't wash off, doesn't biodegrade and is more toxic than the natural version! This toxin kills pests by making the walls of their digestive tracts 'leaky' - and despite what the chemical companies say, doctors warn it can do the same to us!
Another danger, is that since GM crops are resistant to herbicides, farmers can and do spray more herbicides on them without having to worry about losing their crop - this means much higher residue on our produce! GM crops may be 'Roundup Ready', but the human body is not.
Perhaps the scariest issue of all is that the 'transgenes' that have been stuck into GM crops can transfer to the bacteria living in the human digestive tract! Among other things, this means eating GM foods runs the risk of creating superbacteria that can't be killed by antibiotics and/or turning your own intestines into a pesticide factory!
Why, in the name of God, would the government allow something so dangerous to enter our food supply? The same fucking reason the bastards continue to this day to say that GM foods are safe! Massive corruption! Monsanto and the US government have a sort of revolving door policy... Monsanto employees go to work for the government, then go back to work for Monsanto, then back to the government... Every administration, from George H. W. Bush to Obama has been compromised... The FDA and EPA function as little more than corporate shills...
There is hope, however... One of the benefits of a capitalistic, consumer-driven economy is that when the consumer doesn't like something and votes with their dollars, that thing eventually goes away. Public rejection lost GM crops their foothold in Europe, and momentum is still building to achieve the same thing here in America. So, vote with your dollars! Say no to GMOs!
You are already eating GMOs, unless you've gone out of your way to avoid them. Many GM crops exist, but the top offenders are corn, soybeans, rapeseed(Canola oil) and cotton(cottonseed oil). There are only two ways to be sure you aren't eating GM foods - your foodstuffs must either be certified organic or verified Non-GMO... Read all the details about the dangers here. Learn more about going Non-GMO.
OTC Pain Killers | Statin Drugs
Over-The-Counter Pain Killers
Big Pharma really likes these for their cash-cow qualities. Doctors who enjoy kick-backs from Big Pharma also like to prescribe them. But they aren't good for you. Why not? Well, among other things, they interfere with the production of Co-Q10 - which your muscles need to function. This can lead to heart failure. Ironically, what the medical establishment claims the drugs are for is protecting your heart. Additionally, use of these drugs can cause both cancer and a number of neurological problems.
'But', I hear you say, 'how do I lower my cholesterol levels without them?' Don't worry about it. You shouldn't be trying to lower your cholesterol levels in the first place! High cholesterol doesn't make you more prone to heart attacks. Cholesterol & saturated fat don't clog arteries. While people have cut back on saturated fat & cholesterol, rates of heart disease have actually increased.
Cholesterol is vital to the proper functioning of your body, even the so called 'bad' cholesterol actually helps fight infection! Nutritional deficiencies, artificial substances like trans fatty acids, and stress are the real causes of heart disease. As with most other things in life, you'll find that the natural approach is best. Stick with what God and/or evolution intended. Read all about cholesterol, the myths & the truths, here.