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.

Helpful Links & Resources

Here's a list of some useful places to go to learn more! I'll be adding more...

Dr. Mercola
The Whys and Hows of Sprouting
Citizens for Health - turning health education into action

Saturday, March 21, 2009

"The only safe vaccine is one that is never used." Dr. James R. Shannon, former director of the National Institute of Health

What does Dr. Shannon know about vaccines that has convinced him they're unsafe? Plenty! But wait a minute, you say, why would the government require schoolchildren to be vaccinated if it isn't safe? Why would respected researchers and physicians, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, for crying out loud, be pushing vaccinations on our kids if they aren't safe?

To understand the complexity of this issue, the first thing to do is open your mind. Throw away your preconceived notions and move that mental roadblock out of your path. Consider the unthinkable, just for a moment, that not everyone has your kid's best interests at heart.

Has that sunk in yet? If not, stop reading and think about that some more. What if...just what if the government, the schools, the pediatricians, and the drug companies have some other motivation for wanting your child to be vaccinated, other than because they want your kid to live a long and healthy life? What sorts of reasons could they have for wanting our nation's youngsters to get their shots?

Let's fill in the blanks. Big Pharma wants big profits, and vaccinations are profitable, particularly when they're government mandated. Our children are nothing more than faceless beings swimming in a sea of dollar signs to the drug companies who manufacture vaccines. So it's good business for them to conspire with the medical establishment to keep folks coming back for more and, oh yes, paying to be injected with this stuff!

To say this is a highly charged issue would be an understatement, so perhaps if you're new to this debate it would help for you to reserve judgement until after you've done some reading on your own.

Do away with that collective belief in our value system that people in authority (take doctors, for example, or the government) are unbiased and altruistic toward the rest of us. Entertain the possibility that people and institutions could be wrong.

Here are two excellent articles to read, but please let this be just a start.
James Howenstein, MD.
Russell L. Blaylock. MD.

As a mother who used to vaccinate her kids and STOPPED a few years ago, all I can say is that "I was blind, but now I see!" The information is all out there for the taking. Get started!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

High Fructose Corn Syrup Inhibits Weight Loss

There's really no worthwhile reason to consume HFCS, despite the pricey ad campaign by the Corn Refiners Association to convince you it's perfectly safe. Let's not mince words here: HFCS is dangerous! HFCS is metabolized differently by your body than regular table sugar. It raises triglyceride levels, for one thing, and this is a huge predictor for heart disease.

The other product of HFCS breakdown in the body is adipose tissue. A 2008 study published in Science Daily offers proof of this mechanism.

"Our study shows for the first time the surprising speed with which humans make body fat from fructose," Dr. Parks said. Fructose, glucose and sucrose, which is a mixture of fructose and glucose, are all forms of sugar but are metabolized differently.

"All three can be made into triglycerides, a form of body fat; however, once you start the process of fat synthesis from fructose, it's hard to slow it down," she said.

Read the article here

Much easier weight loss can be achieved by limiting HFCS, in addition to the more traditonal advice of counting calories and increasing exercise. Sweetened drinks are particularly worrisome in this regard because soda is the leading source of calories in the typical American's diet. HFCS has no doubt played a role in the ongoing obesity epidemic.

Anyone who still believes the hype about HFCS being the same as real sugar is simply in denial.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Conventional vs. Organic Produce: Big Differences in Nutritional Content

There was a recent article in Time Magazine that caught the attention of produce farmers and consumers alike. This attention-grabbing quote is from the February 18, 2009, issue.

If you're still not buying the whole "organic-is-better" argument, this study might convince you otherwise.

The article explains how produce grown today is larger than that of 50 years ago, but contains drastically fewer nutrients. This is because varieties have been bred for size, rapid maturity, and tolerance to pesticides, rather than nutritional content. If it looks good on the store shelves, people will buy it, not knowing it is nutritionally inferior.

Read the entire article here.

Organic foods are the exception to this trend. They contain higher amounts of minerals and vitamins than their conventionally grown counterparts. Heirloom varieties are even more intriguing because they haven’t been bred to look impressive to customers in a grocery store. Organic produce has also not been treated with chemicals and therefore doesn’t contain dangerous pesticide residues.

Fruits and vegetables used to be just that – fruits and vegetables. But consumers nowadays have so much more to consider than their parents’ generation did. The price is no longer an accurate gauge of how much time or effort went into growing the crops, but could just as easily reflect high transport costs for produce grown far away from your local store. Now we also see that how a piece of produce looks in the store is no longer enough information to make a good decision on how nourishing it is. And with GMO produce appearing in stores on a regular basis now, many consumers are fed up and rejecting the whole system. Organics aren’t just for hippies anymore!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Dangers of Soda, Part Two

You may have heard how soda is a source of “empty” calories, or in other words, it’s a bunch of sugar water with no nutritional value. But what’s important to understand is that soda is far more than empty calories. Many of the substances present in your favorite soft drink, even in small amounts, are downright harmful.

Take phosphorus, for example, which is found in many sodas. It weakens bones by depleting them of calcium. Phosphorus and calcium do not mix! The more soda you drink, the higher your risk for osteoporosis. The problem is even worse for the younger crowd, children and teens who are in the prime years for calcium deposition in their growing bones. For this same reason, there’s also a correlation between soda consumption and bone fractures in kids and young adults. Who would have thought a can of Pepsi could lower your bone density?

Better yet, I’ll bet you’d think I’m kidding if I told you that one of the most toxic and carcinogenic substances on the planet is present in soda. Think again – this is no joke. Soft drinks use benzoate salt as a preservative, and this combines with ascorbic acid (vitamin C) in the drinks to form benzene. Years ago, when this problem became apparent, many manufacturers reformulated their products to avoid this chemical reaction. However, the FDA decided to let the industry regulate itself and correct the problem, so guess what happened next? No regulations whatsoever exist to prevent the combination of these two substances in soft drinks.

Nowadays, folks here and there have caught on that soda is awfully bad for you, and to combat this negativity, some manufacturers are trying to make the stuff appear healthy by adding vitamins. The issue of benzene was in the news a few years ago but the fuss has largely died down. With no regulation on the matter, manufacturers are free to tout their “healthy” soft drinks, loaded with stuff that can kill you, but fortified with vitamins and minerals. The reaction of benzoic acid and vitamin C is once again a problem, as benzene is back in a friendly soft drink near you.

Read this excerpt and pay attention to the word “only” in the first sentence.

ScienceDaily (Jan. 9, 2008)Only nine percent of 199 beverage samples had benzene levels above the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limit of 5 parts per billion (ppb) for benzene in drinking water, according to a study by EPA and U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) scientists.

(Read the entire article here.)

This is a prime example of a factual statement carefully crafted to try and overcome it’s own inherent negativity. In other words, USE YOUR BRAIN and read this study for what it is, not what the writer wants you to hear. If they omitted the word “only”, this statement would sound too alarmist, so “only” is used to tone it down a bit. Bottom line is that benzene was found in 9 percent of the samples tested, and an astute reader will see that’s 9 percent too much!

So to sum up, when you enjoy a frosty cold soft drink, you're consuming much more than empty calories. This toxic brew is loaded with High Fructose Corn Syrup, mercury, Genetically-Modified organisms (GMO), phosphorus, and quite possibly benzene. Bottoms up!

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Dangers of Soda, Part One

It's amazing how dependent our culture is on soda. The stuff is everywhere. And besides restaurants and supermarket shelves, it's sold at movie theaters, sporting events, and in vending machines hidden in every nook and cranny of our existence. You just can't get away from it. More significantly, a recent study has shown that soda is the most common source of calories in the typical American's diet. Ouch.

I'll be doing a series of posts on the ingredients of soda, and why you don't want any! (Repeat after me...I will not drink any more soda....I will not drink any more soda....) Today I'll start by talking about High Fructose Corn Syrup.

We've all heard about sugar rotting our teeth. Would you be surprised to hear there's no sugar in soda? These days it's all HFCS, and despite the current multi-million dollar ad campaign from the Corn Refiners Association to convince you otherwise, HFCS is bad news.

This sweetener isn't even made from sugar; it's made from corn, the vast majority of which has been genetically modified. The long term effects of a diet containing GMO foods are unknown because they've only been around since the 1990s. However, studies in animals conclusively show ill effects.

Animals fed a GMO diet have significantly decreased fertility rates, and the problem appears to worsen in successive generations. I'm not just talking about lab studies on mice or rats, but farmers have reported decreased fertility in farm animals given feed containing GMO corn and soy. With the human life span being so much longer, the lifelong effects on people can't yet be measured.

Intuitively, one wonders how the effects on people could be so different that the FDA has approved the use of GMO foods for human consumption. While certainly not the only consequence, decreased fertility is one of the biggest immediate concerns from the use of GMO foods. There's some great information about genetically modified foods here if you'd like to learn more.

In addition, the process by which HFCS is produced involves the use of mercury, and small amounts of mercury can remain in the finished product. Mercury is a heavy metal and is toxic even in miniscule amounts. There is NO safe level of Mercury consumption. Ingestion of mercury leads to nervous system damage. (This is the same stuff to be wary of when eating certain types of fish, and the same substance accused of contributing to autism in children who receive it in their vaccines. Beware!)

But soda isn't the only thing that contains HFCS. This awful stuff is present in approximately 7 out of 10 products on your grocery store's shelves. Time to start reading labels, especially if you have kids. Here's a recent quote from David Wallinga, MD, of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), a co-author of two of the most significant studies on this subject.

“Mercury is toxic in all its forms. Given how much high fructose corn syrup is consumed by children, it could be a significant additional source of mercury never before considered. We are calling for immediate changes by industry and the FDA to help stop this avoidable mercury contamination of the food supply.”

Hmm....Have I opened your eyes yet? The most important thing here is that you need to be aware of what you're eating. Don't trust the government or the mega-corporations peddling their version of food to do this work for you. They won't.