Tag Archives: organic

Estrogen Dominance and Xenoestrogens

estrogenEstrogen dominance and xenoestrogens are words smart women are learning about to keep their bodies healthy and strong in our plasticized world.

Signs of excess estrogen in your body include painful or unpredictable periods, PMS, cervical dysplasia, depression, anxiety, worry, decreased libido, fatigue, weight gain in the hips and stomach, possibly cold hands and feet, and fibrocystic breasts or cancer. Estrogen dominance is partly caused from foods, cosmetics, and other products that carry xenoestrogens (fake estrogens) into the body.

Some chemicals found in plants act like the female sex hormone estradiol, our primary estrogen. Synthetic forms of this chemical are found in plastic, pesticides, dioxins, PCBs, and in drugs given to livestock and poultry to prevent miscarriage and promote growth.

To lower the chances for these xenoestrogens to enter your body and behave like estrogen, reduce or eliminate foods that come in plastic wrap and plastic packaging. This includes water you buy in plastic bottles, since chemicals in the plastic leach into food and water.

In a study at Tufts University published in Environmental Health Perspectives in 1991, Drs. Ana Soto and Carlos Sonnenschein observed that breast cancer cells placed in plastic dishes would grow quickly. Knowing these cells need estrogen to reproduce, they were curious about what contributed to the rapid cell growth. They discovered that the chemical nonylphenol, which prevents plastic from cracking, caused the growth of the breast cancer cells. Apparently nonylphenol had leached out of the plastic dishes and behaved like estrogen with the cells. Researchers then experimented with other commonly used plastics, detergents, and pesticides. They witnessed rapid growth when the breast cancer cells were exposed to these products. (See my post Breast Health through Liver Health for numerous ways to help your body clear these toxins.)

Conventionally-raised beef and dairy cows are given growth hormones. Their feed is treated with pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. When you consume conventional milk, cheese, ice cream, cottage cheese, yogurt, chocolate, and processed foods with beef, milk, or milk products in them, you risk overloading your body with xenoestrogens. (Not to mention what the GMOs are doing.) Read more about this in Milk: Does it Do a Body Good?

Organic, grass-fed beef and dairy are the better choice. If you can’t find them or if they are too costly, look for hormone and pesticide-free products. Eat organic chicken and eggs when you can find them, organic grains, and produce that is free from toxic sprays. Note that chemicals used to kill bugs and fungi on the food supply penetrate the surface of whatever they land on, including the soil. Even washing these foods well before you eat them won’t take away the chemicals they have absorbed.

Sometimes you will be in situations where poor quality food and water is all there is. I find this happens most when I travel or attend public events. Until the “food consciousness” raises in this country and truly healthful choices are accessible, we can make the best of it based on what is available. Bless your food and water then return to your organic, food-from-nature, plastic-free diet when you return home.

Choose Butter from Grass-fed Cows ( & Never Margarine)

butterRemember when margarine replaced butter as a healthier alternative? Butter was bad and margarine was good. Even people who had heart attacks were told to avoid butter and use margarine instead. But we now know otherwise. That was simply poor advice.

This holiday season, refuse to use margarine and instead replace it with organic butter from grass-fed cows. It’s not only made a comeback, once again we’re seeing that food from the most natural sources found in nature has the most health benefits. You can set it out on the table proudly after tossing out the plastic margarine tub.

In her article “The Top 5 Best and Worst Foods of All Time,” my friend and fellow author Gina Renee says this about margarine: “Margarine is a non-food; a hydrogenated concoction of junk oils from genetically engineered soy, canola, and cottonseed mixed with artificial colors and flavors (to get it to look and taste like butter), stabilizers like propylene glycol to hold it together and make it spreadable, and preservatives so it can stay on the shelf or in your fridge a long, long, time. It’s a worthless so-called ‘food.’ Look at the ingredient label sometime–not too appetizing. Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils increase cholesterol and rates of coronary heart disease, diabetes, cancer. And, they make us FAT–actually causing alterations in our fat cell size and number. Throw out the margarine and switch to organic, grass-fed, raw butter.”

margarineAbout 10 years ago I began to change my thinking about margarine. All my life I had avoided the dreaded butter, opting instead for margarine, which I believed was better, and which many people still believe is better. It isn’t! I can’t remember at this point why I believed margarine was better, but I can only assume it was the result of a savvy marketing campaign.

Many of our ancestors ate butter regularly without experiencing the rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity that are now common. Real butter from grass-fed cows contains trace minerals, lecithin, healthy cholesterol, and an important cancer preventing component called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Organic butter from grass-fed cows provides this CLA, but when cows are fed grains or processed feed the CLA disappears.

It’s important to keep in mind that GMO soy and corn drenched in pesticides are used to feed conventionally-raised cattle. This is NOT their natural diet. Grass is their natural diet. Soy and corn cause the cows digestive disturbance and much more. So if you buy butter and it’s from a large factory farm, you won’t get all the positive benefits but you will get the pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides poured onto their GMO feed, plus the antibiotics and other drugs given to the cows to try to get them well from their horrific living conditions.

Please learn the truth about the serious debacle that GMOs are causing in our world (and in your own body) by reading a recent post by physician and guest blogger Dr. Randy Baker called Why Eat Organic Food? The time has come for us to take our power back.

The World’s Healthiest Cranberry Sauce (Encore)

cranberriesThere was something oddly comforting about that jellied cranberry sauce slurping out of its can onto a plate, where it was cut into even slices. Although it never seemed like “sauce” to me, it was tradition, served at every Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner during my childhood.

Nowadays, I eat many more fresh foods, avoiding canned items whenever possible. So I was thrilled when my friend Gina Renee gave me this recipe several years ago. It’s printed out from an email she sent me and kept in a special box.

When you make this cranberry sauce you’ll know why it’s special. I’m particular about food, and this one’s a keeper. It goes perfect with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, or whatever else you might be cooking up this Thanksgiving. You can make it a day or two in advance, which means you’re not rushing around at the last minute putting it together. And here it is…

The World’s Healthiest Cranberry Sauce

12-14 oz fresh, organic cranberries

1 cup fresh squeezed organic orange juice

1 tsp fresh minced ginger

1 tsp orange zest (zest the organic orange first, before squeezing it for the juice)

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup crushed pineapple

1/2 cup raw honey

Bring orange juice, ginger, orange zest, and cinnamon to a boil on high heat. Rinse cranberries and add them when the orange juice mixture is boiling. Reduce heat to medium and cook uncovered for about 10 minutes or until cranberries are soft and the mixture thickens. Add crushed pineapple and honey. Remove from heat and cool.

You’re going to love it!

Why Eat Organic Food?

Today we have an important guest post by Randy Baker, MD, a holistic physician who integrates western medicine with nutrition, herbal medicine, mind/body medicine, & homeopathy. The post is thorough, complete with studies and research, and will answer most, if not all, of your questions about organic food.

organic marketA common concern regarding diet is the importance of choosing organic food. While I am a strong supporter of organic food, it is significantly more expensive than conventional food. Also, if one eats at restaurants many of them do not have organic food (or only some of their food is organic). So a common question is, “Is organic food really worth the extra expense? What is the risk of eating non-organic foods?” And, like everything related to the complex realm of diet and health, the answers are not black and white.

Many people question whether there are even any benefits to eating organic foods. Indeed, in September 2012, the media was awash with reports of a major study at Stanford University that claimed that organic food was not substantially different than factory-farm foods in terms of its nutritional content. These results are actually highly questionable (see below) but even if true, totally ignore the main reason most people originally have chosen organic foods, which is to minimize exposure to pesticides. These days, however, I feel there is a much more important reason to eat mostly organic foods, which is to avoid genetically modified (GMO) foods.

While natural substances like sulphur were used as pesticides since about 2500 BC, pretty much all food grown would have met modern organic standards until after World War II, when DDT use became widespread. In the 1960′s DDT was found to cause environmental havoc as it spread through the food chain and its use in the US was curtailed, but by then many other pesticides had come into widespread use.

Over 600 registered pesticides are in use in the US currently. In 2007, 877 million pounds of pesticides were used in the US. Also, 150 million pounds of the toxic herbicide Round-Up are used annually in the US. Significant amounts of pesticide and herbicide residues are found in many non-organic foods.

organic certifiedThose who choose organic generally believe that organic foods contain no pesticides, except, perhaps, trace amounts that might have drifted from adjacent fields being sprayed. However, as my favorite nutrition blogger Denise Minger writes in her post “The Lowdown on Organic Food,” unknown to most, organic farmers can and do often use pesticides – it is just that the pesticides they use are natural “organic” pesticides like pyrethrum and rotenone. Just because something is natural does not mean it is non-toxic – consider mercury, cyanide and death-cap mushrooms as natural substances that are harmful. Some of the natural pesticides used in growing organic foods can be more hazardous than many of the synthetic pesticides used, some of which break down rapidly and are gone by the time you eat the food!

Despite the findings of the “Stanford Study” “Are Organic Foods Safer or Healthier Than Conventional Alternatives?: A Systematic Review”, that purported to find no significant difference in the nutritional content of organic vs. conventional foods, a similar large-scale review of the literature, “Agroecosystem management and nutritional quality of plant foods: The case of organic fruits and vegetables” by Kirsten Brandt et. al. published in Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences 4/29/11 found a significantly higher level of beneficial nutrients such as flavanols.

Quoting from Lynne Peeples’s article “Stanford Organics Study: Have Faulty Methods, Political Motivations Threatened Kids’ Health?” “Brandt wondered how the Stanford team, led by faculty from the School of Medicine and Center for Health Policy, could have found no difference in total flavanols between organic and conventional foods when her own results showed organics carried far more of the heart-healthy nutrient. Upon further inspection, she noticed that the team had actually calculated the difference in total flavonols, a different nutrient, and reported the result with the swap of an “o” for an “a.”

Many of the other nutrients Brandt analyzed and found to be greater in organics were also missing altogether from the new review, she noted. “The choices they made don’t seem to make sense — they seemed to include ones where the difference was smallest to begin with,” said Brandt. “I’d like to know why they chose these and not others that were just as well-described in the same papers they included.”

Quoting Ms. Peeples more, “Further obscured in the review are organics’ more important selling points. Organic farming methods encourage soil and water conservation and reduce contamination of air, water, food and human bodies by avoiding antibiotics, hormones, synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Genetic engineering, under increased scrutiny by health experts, is also prohibited for organics.”

While the researchers didn’t address many of these health concerns, they did note lower levels of pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria in organic compared to conventional foods. But critics suggest that these points were glossed over or manipulated. For example, the authors reported that organic produce had a 30 percent lower risk of pesticide contamination compared to conventional fruits and vegetables. Not included in the publicly-available abstract or press release was the fact that pesticide residues were found in 7 percent of organics and 38 percent of conventional foods. In relative terms, that’s a more impressive 81 percent difference.

“Come on, that’s simple math”

For more critiques of the Stanford Study: see http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/02/that-flawed-stanford-study/ and http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/09/five-ways-stanford-study-underestimates-organic-food. Another fascinating though completely unrelated study, done as a 10th grade science project, gives strong evidence that an organic diet increases longevity: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/17/is-organic-better-ask-a-fruit-fly.

The bottom line is that Organic Foods are more nutritious and have an 81% lower chance of having measurable pesticide residues and even when such residues are present are likely to have much fewer pesticides. Organic meats are less likely to harbor antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Organic farming is also, of course, much better for our environment and for the health of farmworkers.

Not all foods are equally prone to pesticide contamination. The Environmental Working Group has compiled a list of the “Dirty Dozen” foods with the highest level of pesticide contamination, as well as the “Clean Fifteen” that tend to have few if any residues. The worst of the Dirty Dozen are Apples, Strawberries, Grapes, Celery, Peaches & Spinach. The best are Onions, Pineapple, Avocado and Cabbage. For those who can not afford to eat exclusively organic (or for when one is eating at restaurants) this list can be a helpful guide.

An excellent recent article on the science of how even tiny amounts of pesticide residues well below the levels considered “safe” by the EPA may still cause very serious health problems is “Stealth Attack” in the 10/12 issue of Psychology Today and also here: http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201208/stealth-attack.

organicWhile I believe it is optimal to eat organically to avoid pesticide exposures both personally and for our planet, these days a far more compelling reason to choose organic produce is to avoid Genetically-Modified Foods, also known as GMO’s. GMO foods have permeated the American food supply. Over 80% of processed foods contain GMO’s. The most common GMO foods are corn, soy, sugar beets, canola & papaya. See http://www.nongmoproject.org/learn-more/what-is-gmo.

Most processed foods contain GMO corn, soy or canola oil – the corn and soy is often present as vegetable oil, high fructose corn syrup, corn starch, dextrose, soy sauce, lecithin, etc. – even “natural flavoring.” Of great concern to me is that most animal-derived foods – meats, dairy and eggs, come from animals fed GMO corn and soy. I don’t want to eat cheese from cows fed GMO corn or eggs from chickens fed GMO soy. I don’t care if a chicken is “All-Natural Free-Range Hormone & Antibiotic Free.” If it is not certified organic it has almost certainly been raised on a diet of GMO corn and/or soy! There is an old saying, “You are what you eat.” In the case of dairy, eggs and meats, you are also the food that what you eat eats! I don’t believe that an animal fed GMO corn and soy can possibly be healthy and I certainly don’t want to eat it (or its products like eggs and dairy).

Unfortunately, most restaurant food is cooked with GMO oils. Thus, the only way to avoid GMO’s is to choose processed foods that are organic or labelled as GMO-free and, besides wild fish, to only have meats, dairy & eggs that are certified organic.

So, given how much an effort it takes to avoid GMO’s, why should we make the effort? Let’s examine the most commonly eaten GMO food, corn. In his superb book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan discusses evidence that most of the carbon in our bodies ultimately comes from corn, either from eating corn directly, high fructose corn syrup, corn oil, or from eating dairy, eggs & meats fed on corn. The way corn is genetically modified is by inserting a gene from soil bacteria called Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) that produces a chemical called Bt-toxin. Bt-toxin is a pesticide; when certain insects eat them it breaks open their stomachs and kills them.

Think about this: normally pesticides are sprayed onto plants. If we are lucky only traces of it remain and perhaps some of the residues can be washed off, but not in this case. Each ear of corn has been turned into a pesticide factory. Pesticides permeate the entire plant; there is no removing them. Thus, it would be nice if there was evidence that Bt toxin was safe for human consumption. Such evidence does not exist. Monsanto claimed that the Bt toxin would be completely destroyed by the human digestive system. However, research in 2011 found that Bt toxin can be found in the blood of 93% of pregnant women and in the umbilical cord blood of 80% of their babies.

Incredibly, there have not been any safety studies done on this powerful toxin that now permeates our food supply, but animal studies show it can trigger allergies and autoimmune disease. See http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/10/06/dangerous-toxins-from-gmo-foods.aspx for a more thorough discussion. A recent study found that Bt toxin may cause anemia and be a cause of leukemia. See http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/new-study-links-gmo-food-leukemia.

The other main food source of GMO’s is soy, which has been modified to be “Roundup Ready.” Roundup is a powerful herbicide manufactured by Monsanto. GMO soy is modified so that huge amounts of Roundup, which would otherwise kill the plant, won’t affect it. However, the resultant crop contains large residues of Roundup. The “active ingredient” in Roundup, Glyphosate, has been shown to cause DNA damage, endocrine disruption and cell death at levels that are legal in our food (see http://www.motherearthnews.com/Sustainable-Farming/Roundup-Weed-Killer-Toxicity.aspx#axzz2REHtZpu6). Recent research shows that one of the “inactive ingredients,” POE-15, may be much more toxic than Glyphosate. See New Study: Roundup more toxic than officially declared.

No GMOsThere are NO research studies demonstrating that GMO foods are safe for humans to eat. ZERO. NONE AT ALL.

However, there are many quality studies on the effects of GMO foods on the health of animals that consume them. Quoting http://www.globalresearch.ca/potential-health-hazards-of-genetically-engineered-foods/8148, “independent studies showed stunted growth, impaired immune systems, bleeding stomachs, abnormal and potentially precancerous cell growth in the intestines, impaired blood cell development, misshaped cell structures in the liver, pancreas and testicles, altered gene expression and cell metabolism, liver and kidney lesions, partially atrophied livers, inflamed kidneys, less developed organs, reduced digestive enzymes, higher blood sugar, inflamed lung tissue, increased death rates and higher offspring mortality as well.”

Here is another well-written article on the hazards of GMO foods: “Why genetically engineered food is dangerous: New report by genetic engineers.”

61 countries including the European Union, Russia, China, Brazil and Australia require the labeling of GM foods. (See http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/issues/976/ge-food-labeling/international-labeling-laws). In a March 2013 survey, 82% of the American public think GMO foods should be labeled while only 9% say they should not (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/04/gmo-poll_n_2807595.html). It would seem that in a democracy this wish would be honored, but Monsanto has an undue influence on government agencies through lobbying and having many of their former executives now put in charge of regulating Monsanto! See http://openyoureyessheeple.wordpress.com/2011/01/28/monsantos-government-ties.

Given how unlikely it is that our leaders will respond to the public’s desire for GMO labeling, the best hope is the action of individual states. However, in the November 2012 election, California State Proposition 37 to label GMO foods was narrowly defeated after Monsanto and companies that produce GMO-containing foods outspent proponents five to one with a very deceptive advertising campaign. Prior to the campaign, 91% of Californians said they supported GMO labeling! There is hope such a similar proposition will be passed in Washington State this fall.

However, for now, the only way to avoid GMO exposure is to eat mostly organic!!!

To learn more about Dr. Randy Baker’s integrative approach to health and wellness, follow his Facebook page.

To Meat or Not to Meat? That is the Question.

real foodNone of us has escaped the controversy over whether to eat meat or not. I’m frequently asked what I think, and I wish I could tell people to never touch it. Protect the animals and save yourselves. But I can’t. Not yet anyway. Here’s why.

I believe quality protein is necessary to help the body heal. This includes grass-fed hormone-free beef and lamb, chicken, organic chicken liver, eggs, salmon or any clean fish you can find, including sardines. This doesn’t include any conventionally-raised meats or eggs, those that come from filthy factory farms, including farm-raised fish.

I don’t think tofu or other soy-based foods are quality protein. Though they’re quite popular, they simply don’t have the oomph necessary to make a body strong. I’ve not once met a long-term vegetarian who was robust, healthy, energetic, mentally and emotionally balanced, with great skin and hair. ‘Tis true… I’m sorry.

Nonetheless, some of you will be interested in a macrobiotic diet, while others will try vegetarianism or all raw food. John Robbins is an eloquent advocate of vegetarianism and author of Diet for a New America. He makes me want to be vegetarian. (Indeed, I’ve given it a try but became dizzy and anemic with roller coaster blood sugar levels.) Robbins tells us that meat, dairy, and egg consumption raise cancer rates. As I researched this, I felt that additional studies are needed with a focus on organic, grass-fed and pastured animals, free from hormones and antibiotics. There are many pollutants and additives in meats that don’t belong in your body, and I believe they can raise rates of cancer. Excess hormones, toxins, and chemicals in meat and dairy products can contribute to cancer, so I completely avoid conventionally raised meats, dairy products, and eggs. This supports health and also humane practices (which is so important in this day of mass cruelty to animals raised for food).

If you are a vegetarian or are thinking about becoming one, be sure to eat what is found in nature. Avoid pasta, processed “health” foods, sugary snacks, and soy products such as soy cheese, soy milk, soy ice cream, and tofurkey style “meat.” Soy is safe in fermented form such as miso and tempeh. It’s been marketed heavily as a health food but soy phytoestrogens can disrupt endocrine function, increase your need for Vitamin D and B12, and it’s likely GMO unless it’s organic.