Friday, May 22, 2009

Vitamin D for Swine Flu

While it does seem the immediate danger has passed from swine flu, was the recent scare a sign of things to come? Stories abound of the 1918 flu pandemic that occurred in three distinct waves, and similarly began in the spring. The second wave of the 1918 flu happened in the fall and was far more deadly. So perhaps those of us interested in what-ifs should spend this summer reading and preparing ourselves, just in case the cooler fall weather brings more than bountiful harvests and giggling trick-or-treaters.

An article by Dr. John Cannell regarding his experience with a flu epidemic in the state mental hospital where he works is especially thought provoking. He describes how the flu struck and spread rapidly through the mental hospital, and how he searched for reasons to explain why the patients in one ward in particular seemed to avoid the illness. He found a correlation between Vitamin D supplementation in those patients and low incidence of flu and other respiratory infections. While this sample of patients was too small to be considered statistically relevant, it piqued his curiosity and he decided to look into the role of Vitamin D further. You can read the entire article here.

In the end, he collaborated with several renowned researchers to publish an article in the highly respected medical journal, Epidemiology and Infection. The conclusion was that Vitamin D may indeed be an important part of preventing millions of deaths from an imminent flu pandemic.

The authors distinguish between physiologic doses of Vitamin D, which are 5,000 units per day, useful in preventing colds and flu, and pharmocological doses of 2,000 units per kilogram of body weight per day for three days, which they say can be used to treat patients who already have the flu.

For anyone worried about the potential of swine flu to become more virulent over the summer and spread more rapidly come this fall and winter, I highly recommend this article as required reading material. (Click here) Vitamin D is synthesized by the body in repsonse to sunlight, and in the cooler weather when we're out in the sun so much less, most of us need a supplement. Now's the time to learn more and decide if you should have a quality Vitamin D supplement as part of your flu preparedness.

Friday, April 17, 2009

It's Fight Back Friday!

What is Fight Back Friday?

It’s your standard blog carnival, but it’s all about being Food Renegades. Who are the Food Renegades? Well, they’re the adventurous ones — the people who opt out of the industrialized food system, distrust standard nutritional advice, and embrace Real Food.

They’re the people who are fighting back against the dominant food culture — one forkful of food at a time.

Read my contribution to Fight Back Fridays, "Raw Almonds Aren't Raw Anymore" below, and click here to see a listing of the other blogger's Fight Back Friday articles.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Raw Almonds Aren't Raw Anymore

Did you know that it's illegal to buy or sell raw, unpasteurized almonds grown in the US? If you buy a package of raw almonds at your local store, even if they're organic, they've been pasteurized. But the term "pasteurization" brings images to mind of milk and cheese, which we've always been told require pasteurization to kill harmful bacteria and make the products safe for human consumption. Well, that's the same line we're now being fed about almonds. They just aren't safe to eat unless they've been pasteurized.....Or are they?

In researching how this all came about, one souce in particular stands out. Dan Hyman is an almond grower in California and has written a fascinating account of his thoughts on the origin of this pasteurization requirement. (Click here to read the entire document.) It seems that several people became ill with Salmonella, over roughly a two week period, after buying almonds from Costco. This was seen as an opportunity by the California Almond Board, crying for reforms and regulations to increase food safety. But their motives may not be completely altruistic.

Mr. Hyman describes three groups in this drama. The growers, who own almond orchards, and the consumers, who either eat the almonds directly or sell them in their stores, and the handlers, who connect and serve as middlemen between these two levels. There appears to be a move by the handlers (big companies like Blue Diamond, for example) to control more of the market share for almonds by running small producers out of business.

Thus the rhetoric about food safety and the push for pasteurization. Small operations can't afford the expenisve equipment needed to pasteruize their almonds, and are going out of business right and left. Before long, only the "Big Boys" will be left, making lots of money monopolizing the industry.

The following quote from Mr. Hyman explains this.

The take over attempt by the mega handlers is being sold to the popular press as a "food safety issue". It has nothing to do with food safety, it has everything to do with money. Why do I say that? because: If you, somehow, ate your way through the 4.8 Billion pounds of the Almond Crop over 4 years in which there were only 150 reported illnesses One pound at a time You are more likely to hit your State Lotto 5 times before you are likely to get sick from eating One pound of Almonds! Stated another way: You would have to eat 8 million pounds of Almonds each year for 4 years before you had any statistical probability of getting sick ! Does that sound like a 'Food Safety Issue' to You ? The Center for Disease Control states that the reported number of Salmonella cases in the US is fairly consistent at about 40,000 a year. Since 2004 the number of illnesses according to the CDC attributed to Almonds is less than 0.072 % . That is less than three quarters of a tenth of one percent, a statistically insignificant number.

But the plan is succeeding, because pasteurization of almonds is now law. There are legal challenges in the works, and you can read more about it here.

In the meantime, one of three forms of pasteruization is required and, here's the kicker - The treated nuts can still be labeled as raw almonds!

The first option is treatment with Propylene Oxide Gas (PPO). This is a carcinogenic gas that's been banned for use with food by the European Union, but still legal to use in the US. This substance is highly toxic and should be avoided at all costs!

The second option is heat pasteurization, which effectively cooks the nuts, and the almonds are not raw any longer, but cooked.

The third option uses a stream of steam to remove bacteria from the outer covering of the nut, but does not raise the temperature of the meat inside the nut. As such, this is widely considered the lesser of the three evils. Mr. Hyman's detailed description of this process can be found here.

I urge you to read more on this subject and be an informed consumer when it comes to pasteurized almonds.

You can sign a petition against the manadatory pasteurization of almonds.
Online petition - Mandatory Almond Pasteurization is WRONG!!!

If you'd like to learn more, try these links:
The Cornucopia Institute: The Authentic Almond Project
California Almonds - Tell me about pasteurization

Friday, April 3, 2009

Beautiful Breastfeeding

photo courtesy of The Ecologist

It's Fight Back Friday!

What is Fight Back Friday?

It’s your standard blog carnival, but it’s all about being Food Renegades. Who are the Food Renegades? Well, they’re the adventurous ones — the people who opt out of the industrialized food system, distrust standard nutritional advice, and embrace Real Food.

They’re the people who are fighting back against the dominant food culture — one forkful of food at a time.

Read my contribution to Fight Back Fridays, "Learn the Truth About Splenda", by clicking here.

Click here to check out the articles by other bloggers in this week's Fight Back Friday carnival!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Why do I need an organic mattress?

Regulations governing the fire retardant qualities of mattresses sold in the US were revised in 2007, resulting in even more toxic chemicals being added to mattresses, and supposedly for our own good. A blowtorch can be applied directly to the surface of one of these new & improved mattresses, without causing a fire! So what in the world, you ask, are we sleeping on?

Antimony, arsenic, and phosphorus are all added to mattresses, and all of these chemicals form gases that are absorbed into the body. Body heat, as well as microscopic mildew spores and dust mites, all contribute to this off-gasing, or transformation of these poisonous compounds into their gaseous forms.

Keep in mind that there is NO healthy level of antimony in the human body. There is also no mechanism for humans to deal with arsenic compounds, which are therefore quite dangerous. Phosphorus is a component of PVC plastic. The gaseous form of phosphorus, called phosphine gas, has properties resembling mustard gas and sarin nerve agent. Still skeptical?

The dangers of fire retardant compounds are particularly scary in crib mattresses. An extensive article was written by David Denton Davis, MD, titled "The Relationship Between Crib Mattresses and Crib Death", outlining the case that all babies should have a chemical-free mattress to avoid the normal mildew growth in their cribs triggering these poisonous gases and resultant crib death, or SIDS. He presents a fascinating, and frightening, argument for the relationship between SIDS death and the type of mattress a baby sleeps on. If parents cannot afford an organic mattress, he recommends a product called "Babe Safe", which is a polyethylene mattress cover, to protect the child from these gases. (Read more at

There's an excellent question and answer page here that explains more about why it is worth the added expense to purchase an organic crib mattress for your baby.

Of course, older children also absorb dangerous substances from their mattresses. It is estimated that a 5 year old child absorbs 63 times the EPA's safety limit of antimony each night! Adults also absorb poisons from their unhealthy mattresses, and data shows that some of these chemicals, called PBDE's, find their way into the organs of unborn fetuses and breastmilk.

I can personally recommend the Organic Grace website because I've purchased from them myself. In addition to the products they sell, there are many informative articles and information like the following quote. "In adults the nightly breathing in of these toxins may cause nausea, watering eyes, runny noses, headaches, respiratory problems, impaired learning and memory (ADHD?), birth defects, liver, kidney, brain and heart muscle damage. People with allergies, asthma, and other preexisting conditions are at even greater risk."

Boric acid is another flame retardant compound found in mattresses. It is also used in ant and roach killer. The average mattress can have up to 2 cups of flame retardant chemicals poured on or embedded into it, and we spent a third of our lives asleep, inhaling these toxic chemicals in our beds. Worse yet, manufacturers of mattresses claim these chemical cocktails as trade secrets and are not required to divulge their exact contents. So you really don't know what you're sleeping on!

Organic mattresses are made from natural materials like organic cotton, wool, and natural rubber. Buying an organic mattress is a very basic and simple way to eliminate a huge source of chemical exposure in your life, and very well worth the extra cost.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Learn the truth about Splenda

How can it not be a good thing? You know, sucralose (Splenda) being substituted for all of that bad, blood-sugar raising, teeth-rotting sugar? It turns out that this artificial sweetener is even worse for your health than real sugar.

Making Splenda involves adding three chlorine molecules to a molecule of sucrose. So Splenda's advertising claim that it is made from real sugar is true. However, the finished product contains a fair amount of chlorine, which is toxic to your body. The sucrose ends up being a chlorinated fructo-galactose molecule as the end product. The human body is unable to metabolize this substance, which is why you can consume it without it affecting your calorie intake. In it's final form, Splenda is closer to the chemical makeup of DDT than sugar! It is chlorinated sugar that your body can't process.

But just because Splenda is not metabolized by your body does not mean it passes through without harm. It is still absorbed by your body, and an average of 15% of it is not excreted. So you're building up a toxic supply of chlorinated fructo-galactose in your body, which is a molecule that doesn't even occur in nature.

It is also important to realize that no long term human studies on the effects of Splenda have been done, and there are no independent human studies on sucralose. (meaning studies funded by someone other than the manufacturer of Splenda) Research performed by the manufacturer prior to FDA approval for its use as a food additive shows numerous side effects from its consumption, but the manufacturer did not make this information public, instead only publishing the studies that show Splenda in a positive light. (See reference here.)

Splenda Side Effects Hotline Established

WASHINGTON, March 21, 2007 - Citizens for Health (CFH), the national grassroots advocacy organization committed to protecting and expanding natural health choices, has announced the establishment of 1-888-774-CALL (2255), a hotline for consumers who believe they are suffering side effects from the use of the artificial sweetener, Splenda. In light of the complaints they have already received, the group is also renewing their call for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to take action against McNeil Nutritionals, the manufacturer of Splenda.