But I eat healthy…so why am I still sick? Many people are under the misguided notion that the only important factor in sustaining health is to have a healthy diet. The first thing that must be considered is: by whose standard are you defining healthy eating…the Food Guide Pyramid? The RDA?Your doctor? Your child’s school lunch menu? Your friends? Mainstream medical and media would have you believe that if you just eat right and exercise that your health problems will all go away. So you take the advice of healthy eating books, eat your vegetables, only drink one cup of coffee a day, and you can’t understand why you are sick.
There are several contributing factors to achieving a balanced, healthy body. First, we must understand that we live in a fallen world. In my latest book, Food Isn’t What It Used to Be, I expound more on how we have become so disordered. We can eat what we think are the right foods, but we still have to contend with air pollution, contaminated soil and contaminated foods, even if labeled organic. As a Functional Medicine Practitioner, I have been trained to look over and under as many factors as I can with tests, assessments, and food intake journals to find root causes of disordered physiology. After ten years in business and reading hundreds of food intake journals, I have found that many people’s perception of healthy is greatly misinformed. There are countless factors to consider besides the biochemical and bioenergetic imbalances.
We also need to redefine our idea of what constitutes as healthy eating. Take breakfast for example. The media would have you believe that non-fat, low-fat, additive-laden oatmeal, milk and orange juice for breakfast are healthy. While oatmeal may be relatively healthy, if you are eating a genetically modified brand, it decidedly is not! Eating a prepackaged meal may look healthy with just the right amount of protein, carb, and fat content, but that food was already cooked once. So it is basically leftovers, and then it is microwaved to heat it up a second time, which leaves the nutrient value questionable at best. Additionally, all processed food is high in sodium.
Rather than fresh fruit, many people consume juice, mistakenly assuming this is a healthy start to a day. Juice is a concentrated source of sugar, loaded with empty calories, and can also be laced with hidden added flavors and colors.
Next, we must consider foods that act as allergens and cross-reactants. Any given food may be life-giving to one person and poison to another. Some people have an unrecognized food sensitivity to a relatively unsuspecting food. Some common food sensitivities are wheat, corn, dairy, soy, eggs, shellfish, chocolate, and nuts. Other foods that can cause health problems in people with sensitivities include unsuspecting vegetables and fruits such as broccoli, asparagus, tomatoes, tangerines, or spinach. You have to know if your body has specific intolerances which can lead to inflammation and bring on illness. Our center offers food sensitivity testing to find out your specific food sensitivities.
Even if you are eating foods that are healthy, the way they are prepared and heated will have a definite impact on their viability. If you are overheating vegetables for instance, it cooks the nutritional benefit right out of them. And don’t make the mistake of thinking that canned vegetable soup is just as nutritious as fresh, homemade vegetable soup. The food in the soup is highly processed and loaded with excess sodium.
Another mistake made is thinking that by eating lean cuts of meat, we are making a healthier choice. Unfortunately, the leanest cuts of meat may have the highest sodium levels. Since lean meats are less juicy, manufacturers enhance turkey, chicken and beef products by pumping them full of a liquid solution that contains water and salt leading to excess sodium intake. A better choice is to stick with grass-fed beef and organic free range chicken and turkey.
Most people have not given much thought to what they are doing with leftovers, and the impact that can have on health. If the nutrients were degraded by overcooking the food in the first place, reheating will only further deplete the nutrients. Leftovers can weaken digestion, promote toxic build up from nano-bacteria, and are also low in ‘life force’. If consumed regularly, these foods could contribute to a number of digestive diseases including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and the like.
Another area of concern is understanding and respecting the limits of food longevity. For instance, there seems to be a difference between what food scientists call spoilage bacteria and pathogens. Spoilage bacteria forms into slimy films on lunch meat, makes chicken smell bad, and creates soggy edges on vegetables, or melons. But the pathogens that actually make you sick are odorless, colorless and invisible. Since consumers can’t rely entirely on the look or smell of food to detect spoilage, consider the more reliable Rule of Four: keep food for no more than 4 days, at 40 degrees Fahrenheit, or 4 degrees centigrade. (Although I prefer to keep food for only one day and none after that.) You can instead freeze fresh food at zero degree Fahrenheit to keep it safe indefinitely.
Other food-handling factors that can increase risk for illness include:
- Double-dipping, which will make food go bad faster because it transfers saliva into the food, which promotes bacterial growth. One study even found that three to six double dips transferred about 10,000 bacteria from an eater’s mouth to the dip sample. This also applies to sharing eating utensils with someone else who may be infected with a pathogen.
- Putting leftovers away in a big clump may also promote food spoilage. This is because the food at the center of the mass will take longer to cool, which means bacteria will continue to grow even after it’s in the refrigerator.
- Being cautious when eating foods that contain vegetable oils, such as those in mayonnaise and salad dressing, which break down over time and turn rancid. Though you may not notice this change, the rancid oils can cause damage in your body.
- Keeping refrigerated foods cold, and not leaving them out for long. If you leave leftovers or any food out too long, it will speed spoilage. Two hours is generally the maximum they should be left out, though the sooner you refrigerate them the better. (When shopping, remember to factor in the time it takes to drive back from the grocery store, and the time it takes you to unpack your groceries.)
There are many diet trends promoted as healthy that aren’t necessarily so. One trend is eating 100% raw or vegan. It is a myth that this is an optimum diet. Dr. Weston A. Price, who has been called the “Isaac Newton of Nutrition” studied humans from all walks of life to determine what contributed to stellar health conditions. He discovered that beautiful straight teeth, which were free from decay, and healthy bodies, which were resistant to disease, were typical of primitives on their traditional diets, rich in essential food factors.
When Dr. Price analyzed the foods used by isolated primitive peoples he found that they provided at least four times the calcium and other minerals, and at least TEN times the fat-soluble vitamins from animal foods such as butter, fish, eggs, shellfish and organ meats. His research showed that Illness follows if you are missing valuable nutrients not found in 100% raw foods.
If you are trying to lose weight, you also have to be aware that calorie counting is not an effective method to do so. Pre-packed foods now come in pre-measured calorie packs, giving the false illusion that this is the most important aspect of using weight. You might think, “It’s only 50 calories, so it must be healthy.” Well, the food may only have 50 calories, but if it is packaged, or processed it is loaded with unhealthy sodium and preservatives. Many people are consuming too few calories these days for fear of gaining weight or in an attempt to lose weight. Usually the calories they are consuming are not nutritionally dense foods. The good news is you don’t need to count calories if you are eating real food.
Many people are also attracted to diets that promote a cheat day. So, in actuality, who are you really cheating? And what are you cheating with? Sugar?Coffee?Bread? If you are a sugar addict, and go all week without sugar and then load up on sugar on your “cheat” day, you are undoing what you’ve just done for five days, and it will take your body another two to three days to recover from your cheat day. How productive is that? It also just prolongs the addiction to that food item. I wouldn’t any more tell an alcoholic, “It’s okay. You’ve been a good guy all week; you can cheat on one day.” It may sound like a ridiculous comparison, but the theory behind it is not any different.
Lastly, it may not be what you are eating. The following are other common health destroyers to consider:
Cortisol imbalance – stress contributes to ill health no matter how well we eat Digestion and malabsorption issues from hidden microbials and pathogens Electro-pollution from cell phones, Wi-Fi, and fluorescent lights Interference fields from past surgeries or trauma Tap water- due to fluoride and other contaminants Indoor air pollution Hair dyes Pesticides Household cleaning products Decaying and dead teeth, silver fillings, toxic dental work, old root canals, and cavitation Toxic cookware– Many popular cookware promoted on the internet and media use PFTE or PFOA. Non-stick coating or Teflon contain these chemicals that begin to deteriorate after temperature of cookware reaches 392 degrees Fahrenheit, and decomposes above 660 degrees F. The degradation of the products out-gases toxic fumes into your healthy veggies or food that you are cooking and then eating. Cast iron is also popular, but has a dark side. You have to season it so that foods don’t stick to the iron, and to keep the cookware from getting rusted. The problem with this means that you are storing over heated, old, rancid trans-fats and bacteria on dirty pans that get released into your healthy foods every time you cook. Then there is aluminum cookware. Aluminum toxicity has been linked in Alzheimer’s and other central nervous system disorders.
In conclusion, health is not just about eating healthy. Eating organic, whole foods, non-microwaved, losing low heat settings, avoiding allergenic foods, and changing environmental factors can make a difference in your overall health. If you are in need of help, Center for Holistic Health and Nutrition offers support with customized meal plans, assessing environmental factors, and cleaning up your health imbalances.
Christine Andrew, CNC, CTT, FMP is a certified nutrition consultant, certified thermography technician, a functional medicine practitioner, and author of Food Isn’t What It Used To Be(Her second edition available in July). She operates Center for Holistic Health, Nutrition & Vacaville Thermography, Inc. at 97 Dobbins St., Suite C in Vacaville. She can be reached at www.individualizedwellness.net.