Is it OK to eat that?!

Lately it seems that we keep hearing about produce or meat recalls due to one of the many types of bacterial contamination.  Or that lead, antimony or mercury is found in unsafe quantities in our kid’s juice. Our ocean’s are polluted and the fish aren’t safe to eat. Tap water is not a viable option for the most part due to chlorine, flouride, and numerous other contaminates that leach into the supply. You know, growing your own garden, raising farm animals and digging a well is about your best option these days…unless you live in a populated city like Los Angeles. 

We live is such an area and I’m constantly having to research what foods are not only healthy for our bodies, but which ones to look out for that are not. I recently saw another article on this subject by Prevention Magazine and it summed up some of the most important foods to eat “clean” or avoid altogether. Here is a summary of their article that lists seven foods to avoid:

  1. Canned tomatoes. The lining of the cans they come packaged in contain bisphenol-A (BPA) and the acidity of the tomatoes cause it to leach into the food. BPA is a synthetic hormone that wreaks havoc in the human body. Can’t live without your canned tomatoes? Suggestion: buy them in glass containers or grow your own.
  2. Corn-fed beef. Not sure if you know this or not, but cattle evolved from eating grass, not grains. They don’t graze on corn fields or soybean plants. It’s grass…green, unfertilized, grass. Grass fed beef is richer in the good omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins E, A and minerals. Corn-fed beef is high in omega-6 which is pro-inflammatory and proven to increase cancer, diabetes, and heart disease risks. Suggestion: buy grass fed beef and if it’s too costly, eliminate it from your diet. You’ll do just fine without it.
  3. Microwave popcorn. This should be a no-brainer, but it’s not for a lot of people. We have really gotten lazy and dependent on instant gratification. At least that’s what packaged food manufacturers think of us. Chemicals line the bag (shocker!) vaporize and migrate into the popcorn as it heats and pops. These chemicals stay in your body and accumulate there. Another factor that contributes to cancer risks. Suggestion: pop your own on the stove top in a pot, the old fashioned way. Or buy an air popper. It’s infinitely less expensive and you can control how much salt and butter to put on it.
  4. Non-organic potatoes. Root vegetables absorb pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides that are in the soil. Potatoes are treated with fungicides while growing then sprayed with herbicides after harvested. If potato farmers won’t eat conventionally grown potatoes they grow and sell themselves, then you know it’s bad. Suggestion: buy organic. Don’t compromise on this one. Washing the potato does not remove the chemicals that absorb into the flesh.
  5. Farmed salmon. Atlantic salmon is farmed in crammed pens and fed soy, antibiotics, hormones and dye to make it’s sick flesh pink. There are high levels of antibiotics, pesticides and other contaminates in the fish that outweigh the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. Suggestion: buy wild, fresh, Alaskan salmon when in season. When it’s not, buy canned salmon that is from wild Alaskan salmon.
  6. Milk produced with artificial hormones. Avoid all dairy, not just milk that is made from cattle treated with the recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST). These hormones increase milk production in cattle, are passed on into the milk and leads to higher levels of a hormone called insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) in milk. In humans, high levels of IGF-1 increases risks of breast, colon, and prostate cancers. It’s pro-inflammatory, and cell inflamation feeds cancer growth. Suggestion: buy milk and dairy with the label rBGH/rBST free or organic milk. A lot of dairy farmers produce milk without these hormones, so it’s easy to find.
  7. Conventional apples. Yes, that means any apple that is not organically grown. It’s one of the “dirtiest” fruits grown. The high level of pesticides are sprayed on them due to their inability to develop a resistance to pests. Recent studies have shown that higher level of pesticides in children contributes to ADHD and Parkinson’s disease as adults. Suggestion: buy only organic apples and applesauce. The phrase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” was coined long before we grew pesticide laden fruit.

We need to take care of our health by first feeding our bodies good, healthy foods that aren’t artificially produced or poisoned with chemicals. Today’s consumer need to be aware of the dangers in certain food supplies and stay educated in making good food choices. We can’t leave our health and well-being up to the food manufactures and FDA. They are not looking out for our best interest. Only you can do that for you and your family.

To read the extended article referenced above, click on this link:

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2011/12/01/7-foods-should-never-eat/?intcmp=obinsite

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The Truth About Nitrites (For my bacon and hot dog lovin’ friends)

I’ve been on the “no nitrates/nitrites in my house” bandwagon for a few years now. Then a friend told me that she heard the celery juice/powder used in organic, uncured hot dogs was the same as the sodium nitrites they add chemically.  So I had to research this and find out the truth about nitrites.

Nitrates vs. Nitrites

I always thought they were one and the same, besides being bad for you.  Not so.  Nitrites are related to but not the same as nitrates. Nitrates are present in many vegetables.

Vegetables high in nitrates are beets, lettuce, spinach, and most green, leafy vegetables.  When we eat nitrates, a small percentage of the nitrates is converted by the body into nitrites. A higher pH level in gastric juices results in more conversion of nitrates to nitrites. Although vegetables constitute a fair amount our nitrite intake (after conversion), vegetables contain antioxidants that reduce the formation of nitrosamines, the real risk of nitrites.

So here is how dietary nitrates (in vegetables) are good for you. They help to increase the amount of nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide (NO) helps blood vessels relax, lowering blood pressure. Nitric oxide (NO) has anti-inflammatory activity as well inhibits blood clot formation somewhat.

For example, when you drink beet juice, the bacteria on your tongue changes the nitrates in the beet juice into nitrite. In your stomach, nitrite turns into nitric oxide. Then it gets into your bloodstream as nitrites.  Your blood pressure goes down when the nitrites in your bloodstream are highest.

So Why Is Sodium Nitrite Used to Cure Meats?

The primary reason is that it inhibits the growth of Clostridium Botulinum, the bacterium which causes botulism. It is also gives cured meats that nice pink color and depth of flavor.  The USDA has imposed limits on the amount of sodium nitrite that can be used for processing purposes. Nitrites/Nitrates cannot exceed 200 ppm (parts per million).

Nitrosamines

So how are nitrites bad for you?  Well, it’s pretty much due to nitrosamines. Cured meats can contain nitrosamines because they contain amines and sodium nitrate. When meat containing nitrites is heated (particularly at high temperatures), nitrosamines are produced. They are compounds that have been linked, but not proven, with health issues such as cancer and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

Around 1970 it was discovered that ascorbic acid (vitamin C) inhibits nitrosamines formation. Consequently, the addition of 550 ppm of ascorbic acid is now required in the manufacture of cured meats in the U.S. Another antioxidant, alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E), is added to some cured meats to inhibit nitrosamines formation. As a result of adding these antioxidants, there are now significantly lower levels of nitrosamines in fried bacon and other cured meats than there were years ago.

Organic Uncured Meats

Celery juice powder is now used as an organic replacement for sodium nitrite. Remember, certain vegetables, including celery, have naturally occurring nitrates in them that our body converts to nitrites. Several organic meat farmers use celery juice and salt in place of sodium nitrite. I purchase my favorite uncured bacon at Trader Joe’s and it’s from Niman Ranch. Below is the statement found on their company website on how they “cure” their meats.

Despite USDA regulations, it’s probably more accurate to say that
our uncured products are naturally cured. Instead of adding nitrate or
nitrite chemicals, we use celery juice, a source of naturally occurring
sodium nitrate. During processing, the nitrate in celery juice is
consumed by lacto bacteria, anaerobic organisms similar to the friendly
bacteria in yogurt that like a salty environment. As the natural curing
process occurs, the nitrate in celery juice is consumed by the lacto
bacteria and converted, first to nitrite, then to nitrous oxide,
dissipating into the atmosphere. As a result, only minute amounts of
nitrate remains in the meat. But the nitrate has done its job: inhibiting
bacteria, helping meat to retain its pink color, and adding depth of
flavor.

So do nitrites cause cancer? Not sure. Are they bad for you? Not if you eat them in the form of fresh, organic vegetables (nitrates). As for eating them in “cured” meats, well, in moderation is wise. Also, make sure you eat foods rich in vitamins C (tomatoes, kiwi, peppers, mangoes, papayas, oranges) and E (most nuts, tomatoes, olive oil) with that bacon or hot dog.  The antioxidants from these vitamins will reduce the formation of nitrosamines, and makes eating nitrites a negligible health risk.


The Food Revolution

 

Jamie Oliver

Jamie Oliver has started a food revolution.  I’m excited someone with media clout made some noise about American’s poor eating habits. He’s not just talking about how to change it, but actually doing something about it. I signed his petition to save cooking skills and improve school food.  My hope is that more Americans will follow.

Jamie’s message is simple,

This food revolution is about saving America’s health by changing the way you eat. It’s not just a TV show, it’s a movement for you, your family and your community. If you care about your kids and their future take this revolution and make it your own. Educate yourself about food and cooking. Find out what your child is eating at school. Make only a few small changes and magical things will happen. Switching from processed to fresh food will not only make you feel better but it will add years to your life.

America needs this revolution. Our kids need it and future generations will definitely need it. Saving cooking skills may seem a bit old-fashioned, but think about how much processed food is in the average American diet. Does anyone cook from scratch anymore? How many times does a family dinner consist of prepackaged ravioli with a jar of pasta sauce, or lasagna in a box?  Let alone the fast food drive thru window. Families are so busy, they’ve put cooking fresh meals last on their list of priorities.  Unfortunately at the cost of their health.

Our bodies need whole food to sustain, grow, and function properly. Whole food is a food in its most natural state. Our body thrives on whole foods because it is more easily recognized by the digestive system. A diet that consists of primarily whole foods will help your body control weight or even lose it, depending on the amount eaten. Processed food on the other hand has been modified and striped of its nutrients so that it doesn’t go rancid on the supermarket shelf.  Additives extend the shelf life and further separates the whole food from it original state. This refining process results in a reduction of taste so sugars, flavors and other artificial additives are added to make it taste good.  The nutritional value is lost in this process and is so far down on the list that it’s questionable what value processed foods have in our diet.

We really do need to get back to the basics. Parents need to learn how to cook whole foods from scratch if they don’t already know. We need to teach our children how to cook and place an emphasis on the importance of eating healthy.  Teach your child how to read ingredient labels so they can see the additives in processed food. Our kids are smart, but they won’t stay that way if they are fed a diet filled with sugar, artificial colors, hydrogenated vegetable oils, MSG and high fructose corn syrup. Their body and brain need good, whole foods to thrive and grow the way it was designed.

Jamie Oliver is one cool dude in my book. Join the revolution! Live a healthy life.

 

Red Gatorade, Blue Jello, Purple Yogurt. What the __?

What is the consumer packaged goods industry doing to our children?  Better yet, do parents know what makes that yogurt neon purple, the Gatorade fire engine red, or the Jello bright blue? Do you know what is in your child’s junk, er, I mean snack food? I’m not even sure they should qualify as a food item.  Junk food is an oxymoron; junk is not a food.  Our bodies don’t require red dye #40 to function properly. Nor does it need high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) for energy.

What ever happened to giving our children water when they are thirsty?  Kids on the soccer field are panting, drenched in sweat, thirsty and refueling their bodies with Gatorade that contains red dye #40, blue #1, or yellow #5.  Not to mention the HFCS, citric acid (aka MSG), and artificial flavors.  I’ve heard it before,  “my kid won’t drink water”.  Well, it is boring and unflavored. But does everything a child consumes need to have a color and flavor added?

My kids, given the choice, would choose a sugary drink like Capri Sun or a juice box over water (most of the time) when they want a drink.  But when they open the refrigerator door at home, their only option is water. Juice is there, in a jug. But my seven-year-old said juice is only for breakfast. Today, he chose to drink water over juice with his eggs at breakfast. Sounds strange, I know. But our children don’t always make the right, healthy choice for themselves. So it is up to us parents to help them.

And it’s increasingly hard to do that with all the unhealthy, popular options the consumer packaged food industry provides.  So what is a parent to do? Well first off, try to shop alone, without your kids who have been bombarded with t.v. commercials touting the latest and greatest snack food. Here’s what I have done, and it works for us in our home.

  1. Thirsty? Only bring water in BPA free bottles. Kids will drink it, if they are thirsty enough. And once they get used to it, their thirst will only be quenched by water. Their body will crave it.
  2. Soda? Not in our house. Our “special treat” drink for my eleven-year-old is the Virgil’s Root Beer sold at Trader Joe’s. It uses natural spices and cane sugar. Another option is Izze Sparkling Juice drinks. They contain no refined sugars, caffeine, preservatives, artificial colors or flavors.  These drinks are only bought as a special treat, once in a while. Not stocked in our fridge on a regular basis.
  3. Pop tarts? For those of you not on a GF/CF diet, and your kids can’t live without a Kellogg’s Pop Tart, try Nature’s Path Organic Toaster Pastries sold at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and your local grocer.  Free of artificial colors and flavors!
  4. Snack chips? Well, no Doritos or Cheetos at our house. Too much MSG, artificial colors, flavors and preservatives.  We buy Lay’s Potato chips. Plain, no added flavor (or colors).  Trader Joe’s sells an alternative to Cheetos, called Cheese Puffs (not gf/cf).  Sun Chips (also not gf/cf) original flavor are the only ones without artificial colors, flavors, preservatives and MSG.
  5. Yogurt? Please read the ingredient listing on any yogurt you buy in the grocery store. You’ll find numerous colors, artificial flavors and tons of (hidden) MSG. The worse offender is Trix yogurt with the artificial colors and flavors, but Dannon’s Danimals have a lot of hidden MSG.  Better options are available at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.
  6. Chocolate syrup?  Well, Hershey’s is made from high fructose corn syrup and has artificial flavor and preservatives. Nesquik Chocolate syrup has HFCS, artificial flavors, preservatives and colors. Trader Joe’s sells Midnight Moo that doesn’t contain HFCS or artificial ingredients. Whole Foods sells one that is gf/cf.  Better yet, make your own with your own natural ingredients.
  7. Ketchup? Heinz contains HFCS and natural flavoring (where MSG hides).  We use Trader Joe’s Organic Ketchup.
  8. Fruit Roll Ups?  Try Stretch Island Fruit Co. fruit leathers, Florida Natural’s Fruit Juice Strings/Nuggets or Clif Kid Twisted Fruit Ropes.
  9. Breakfast Cereal?  There are so many unhealthy brands in the grocery store. They are chock full of sugar, artificial colors, flavor and preservatives and hidden MSG. Our alternatives are Kellogg’s Crispix, EnviroKids Gorilla Munch (found at Trader Joe’s/Whole Foods) and Trader Joe’s Honey Nut O’s.
  10. Cookies?  Bake my own with natural ingredients. We also will purchase Trader Joe’s All Natural Joe Joe’s. Just like Oreos, but without the artificial ingredients and HFCS.

I know it may be less expensive, convenient and popular to buy the packaged foods available in our local grocery store. But what are you sacrificing to save that money, time and whining from your kids?  Our children need us to play food cop and teach them the right choices so they can avoid obesity, diabetes, cancer and unnecessary hyperactivity. Ideally they are eating fresh fruits and vegetables, and good sources of protein. Right now, I’d settle to just see our generation of children eat better packaged food choices. And less of them.


Related blogs:

https://healingautismandadhd.wordpress.com/2010/02/12/artificial-food-coloring-is-evil/

https://healingautismandadhd.wordpress.com/2010/02/17/just-say-no-to-high-fructose-corn-syrup/

https://healingautismandadhd.wordpress.com/2010/03/04/get-extra-msg/

Probiotics: The Immunity Idol

(Blog 1 of 2 on probiotics)

I may not be stranded on a deserted island and vying for immunity so as not to get voted off; but sometimes my life feels like Survivor.  I’m trying my level best to keep my sons’ and my own immune system strong to fight off the assaults from nature and mankind. Flu viruses, pesticides, toxins, cancer, you name it, our immune system is our front line of defense. It really needs all the help it can get.  And my first choice to boost my family’s immune system is a good probiotic.

Probiotics are bacteria that are beneficial to a person’s health, either through protecting the body against pathogenic bacteria or assisting in recovery from an illness.  Did you know that about 70% of our immune system lies within the intestinal tract and digestive organs (aka: the gut)? That makes our gut the largest immune system within our body. If your gut isn’t healthy, then your immune system may be compromised.  And you know what that can mean…illness, disease, and a overall feeling of “blah”.

Just as most everything in nature is balanced, our gut needs to maintain a healthy balance to keep it functioning properly. We have good bacteria in the lining of the gut to help keep the bad bacteria in check.

Think of it as the Heroes vs. the Villains on the TV show, Survivor.  The Heroes are probiotics (good bacteria) and battle to win immunity over the Villains (bad bacteria).  If the Heroes get wiped out by say, the “antibiotic challenge”, well then the Villains will now be able to set up their camp where the Heroes once lived, and overtake the entire island (gut).  This scenario not only leaves your immune system vulnerable in defending your body against all sorts of pathogens;  it also creates digestive problems, diarrhea or constipation.

Simply taking a daily probiotic can help improve your gut health while keeping your immune system strong.  I think of probiotics as the hidden immunity idol.  It’s our secret weapon that helps us avoid “tribal council” of the gut.  Survivors ready? I believe we are.

Everyday Autism Miracles Biomed Mom Question Feb. 12

Shannon Penrod, host of Everyday Autism Miracles on the internet has asked me, as her “biomed mom” her biomed question on today’s show. Unfortunately, she ran short on time, but I am answering the question here.

Shannon:  A caller that was just starting biomedical intervention has their first DAN! doctor appointment scheduled within a month.  She wanted to know what can she do for her child in the meantime before the appointment?

Joanne:  The first thing I’d do is “clean up my child’s diet”.  What that means is remove all artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, MSG, and  nitrates.  I’d also make sure all my fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy were organic. Next, I’d put my child on the gf/cf diet (gluten free/casein free).  Most DAN! doctors want you to do these dietary changes before your first appointment.  And if you’ve done both of these already, great!  Then I’d start my child on a children’s multi-vitamin that is formulated for kids on the spectrum.  There are several good brands available like Brainchild Nutritionals, Kirkman Labs, Klaire Labs., Lee Silsby to name a few. If your child doesn’t swallow capsules, there are liquid and powder formulations available.

Biomedical interventions 101

By Joanne Allor

I am not a professor, nor an educator. I am a mother of a child with autism, self-educated in the field of biomedical treatments for children with autism and ADHD.  You may find yourself, like I did,  in one of three autism camps out there. One, you just figured out or received your child’s autism diagnosis and don’t know where to begin or what to do to help him/her. Two, you’ve been dealing with autism for a while now and are certain there is something more you can do in addition to behavior intervention. Or three, you’ve heard of the biomedical treatment of autism and don’t get it. What is it?

Biomedical interventions for autism and ADHD heal the body, which in turn, heals the mind.  By addressing underlying health problems, you will see an improvement in your child’s behaviors and the behavioral therapies (like ABA) will take hold. Developmental growth will follow.

Most autistic behaviors are symptoms of the body’s distress, such as pain, frustration, fear and a biochemical disruption.  While treating symptoms can ease distress, we still need to get to the core issues causing it. For example, your child might be experiencing gut pain with bloating, diarrhea or constipation every time he eats wheat or dairy. This may cause aggression, disturbed sleep, repetitive behaviors, etc. Removing these possible allergens and following a gf/cf diet, may ease the distress and bloating, correct bowel function, and eliminate some of the behaviors.  But the core issue still needs to be addressed in order to completely heal the gut and eliminate all the behaviors associated with its dysfunction.  Is there an in-balance of the gut flora due to yeast or bacteria? Are there viruses or heavy metals disturbing the gut? Is it a leaky gut that doesn’t allow for proper absorption of nutrients?

Once I started down the path of “what can I do to help my child” outside of pharmaceuticals, I learned of the Feingold and gf/cf diets.  Then my research led me to The Autism Research Institute (www.autism.com) and their DAN! project. DAN! stands for Defeat Autism Now!  The ARI trains physicians with research they have gathered on the biomedical treatment of autism. Their guiding principle is simply stated: “remove what is causing harm, and add what is missing.”

So I began with cleaning up my sons’ diet by removing all artificial ingredients (including sweeteners), colors, flavors and preservatives, MSG, high fructose corn syrup/corn syrup, and nitrites/nitrates.  Suddenly, both my children became calmer, quieter and less impulsive.  Then I added in a children’s multi-vitamin with high doses of B6 and magnesium called Super Nu Thera, by Kirkman Labs.  My son with autism was 4 years old and still wasn’t potty trained. One week on Super Nu Thera, and he developed “the pee pee dance”.  He was potty trained within a few months with behavior therapy. This was unattainable until then. Believe me, I tried EVERYTHING to potty train him. I was onto something! I found a DAN! doctor on the ARI website and our son’s biomedical journey began.

To help you with your child’s biomedical journey out of autism, see the links below:

http://www.autism.com/treatable/index.htm

http://www.autism-society.org/site/DocServer/Pages_47-50EH.pdf?docID=10452

http://www.tacanow.org/medical/parents-role.htm

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