“Ah-Choo” What to do? Seasonal Allergies (Extended Version)

Allergies. Those who suffer from them know the anguish and misery they cause. For individuals with food allergies, it may mean that you may never get to taste a peanut or a shrimp. Otherwise, you run the risk of anaphylactic shock, or even worse- death. If you are allergic to pet fur and dander it may mean that you may never have the chance to have Fido be your best friend.  For those with pollen or grass allergies, it may mean you may be blowing your nose from February until August depending on where you live. I belong to the last group. As I mentioned in previous blogs, I am highly sensitive to a plethora of things. Pollen and grass are included in that group. From the time I could remember, I was always the kid that could be found blowing his nose. It seemed like I had a cold year round, because I was always congested, coughing, and full of mucus. At times, my allergies were so bad that it even affected my ability to sleep. Not until I became an adult, was I able to treat my allergies with a natural remedy that I will discuss a little later.

What is an allergy?

An allergy is your body’s immune response to an antigen or foreign substance that does not cause disease.  As you may already know your immune system’s primary function is to protect your body from pathogens, which are disease-causing antigens or organisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi etc. Your body is able to carry out this function because your cells (which are the building blocks of your body) have something called marker proteins, which help your body to identify its own cells. For example, my body has Andre marker proteins, which help my immune system identify cells that belong to my body. This is important because when a pathogen such as a cold virus enters my body, my immune system knows to only attack the cold virus (which has different marker proteins) and not Andre cells. When my immune system detects that the cold virus is in my body, it releases chemicals called histamines, which trigger the production of extra mucus, tears and coughing to help trap and expel the virus or pathogen from your body. This is why you may get a runny nose, teary eyes or start coughing when you are sick. In the case of an allergy, the immune system detects the foreign substance which in this case may be pollen, grass etc., and releases histamines which trigger the series of reactions we discussed previously. But unlike pathogens, pollen and grass do not cause diseases. However, since the immune system of allergy sufferers, cannot distinguish between disease-causing antigens (pathogens) and non-disease causing antigens, it produces the same response for all antigens. This results in the ill effects allergies have on those who endure them. In a sense, it is your body “overreacting” to something you are exposed to in the environment.

How can I treat my seasonal allergy?

In years past, during spring time or my allergy season, I would try virtually all products on the market, to try to get some relief, since this time of year was particularly debilitating to me. Some products would work for a couple of days, but after a while, they would eventually stop working, and my allergies would come back with a vengeance. Other products would work, but would make me extremely drowsy, which affected my productivity on the days I would take them. No matter what I tried, my allergies would always return. I had virtually given up hope until I learned about this natural remedy which I will discuss next.

Natural treatments for allergies

One day, I was speaking to a colleague of mine about my allergies. She recommended that I try a natural remedy that worked for her, that consisted of mixing a teaspoon of local wild honey and a teaspoon of Turmeric powder. I decided to give it a shot, and that decision has changed my life for the better.

Turmeric powder is a yellow powder widely used in Indian cuisine, including the popular curry dishes you may have heard about or even tasted. In India, turmeric is also used medicinally because of its anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric contains a substance called curcumin (the active ingredient in Turmeric powder), which is known for its ability to suppress inflammation. Turmeric is often used in India to treat arthritis and other chronic conditions related to inflammation. Curcumin is also an antioxidant which helps fight free radicals which are chemicals that accelerate the aging process. Furthermore, studies have shown that curcumin is an effective antidepressant, and may even stop the growth of cancer cells. Honey, as I have discussed in a previous article, has anti-inflammatory properties.[i] Additionally, by consuming local wild honey, that has not been commercially filtered, it may contain the antigens your body is allergic to. This allows your body to build up an immunity to these antigens when exposed to them, which suppresses your allergic response.

Overall, Turmeric is safe to use for most individuals but may cause the following side effects in certain people: diarrhea, indigestion, and nausea. Additionally, if you are taking a blood thinner or any other similar medication, you should consult your doctor about the possibilities of an adverse reaction when using these medications along with Turmeric. Pregnant women should also consult their doctor before using turmeric, as it may have a stimulating effect on the uterus.

When I first started using Turmeric, the only effect I noticed (besides it unusual taste) was that it made me go to the bathroom within minutes of ingestion[ii]  However, let me warn you. This is not a quick fix remedy. You have to consume this mixture every day to achieve your desired allergy relief. One time, I got cocky and decided that since my allergies were no longer present (because this natural treatment was so effective) I would stop using this treatment.  The first day after I stopped using the treatment I did not observe any changes, but on the third day, my allergies came back.  My nose started to drip like a faucet, my throat became sore, and my eyes were tearing. I coughed all night and could not sleep well as a result. Needless to say, I immediately started back my honey and turmeric treatment and within a few days, my suffering ceased.

In addition to the aforementioned treatment for allergies some other natural treatments include:

1 Using quercetin which is a chemical found in plants (apples green tea, onions, and berries to name a few) which have been found to have anti-inflammatory properties, and can be taken as a dietary supplement.

2 Stinging nettle which is a type of plant that has been found to have an allergy suppressing effect. Stinging Nettle is available as a powder, tea, or in capsule form. Some individuals grow the plant for their own personal use but it must be handled carefully or it may inflict pain (hence the name stinging nettle.)

3 Saline solutions are also widely used as an allergy treatment and can be purchased at your local pharmacy.[iii]

4 Vitamin C which is found in citrus fruits, and other fruits and vegetables may also help with allergies as it may act as an antihistamine. It can be found as a dietary supplement, or some individuals opt to go to health professionals to have vitamin C administered intravenously.[iv]

I have only used the turmeric and wild honey treatment for my allergies, so I cannot personally attest to the efficacy of the other natural treatments I listed. However, based on my research, these are some of the other natural options available, and they may be worth trying if you cannot tolerate the taste and consistency of the honey and turmeric treatment.[v]

Always Remember– Foods are like friends. Choose them wisely!

[i] https://healthquickies.com/2017/06/04/is-sugar-free-right-for-mepart-2-natural-sweeteners/

[ii] You may want to try this remedy on a day where you are not in a rush to leave your home as it can stimulate bowel movements

[iii] You flush out your nasal cavity or nose using the saline solution to provide allergy relief.

[iv] Make sure you go to a qualified doctor and health professional before having vitamin c or any other chemical given to intravenously as having substances injected into your bloodstream can have a drastic impact on your health.

[v] The honey and turmeric natural remedy have an unusual taste and texture which some individuals may find offensive.

Sources of information for the article are below:

1 van Drimmelen, Meghan. “Natural Treatments for Seasonal Allergies.” Alive: Canada’s Natural Health & Wellness Magazine, no. 402, Apr. 2016, pp. 55-59.

2 Biali, Susan. “Spring Allergies.” Alive: Canada’s Natural Health & Wellness Magazine, no. 331, May 2010, pp. 42-45

3 Marcel, C, BS. “Turmeric.” CINAHL Nursing Guide, 08 Apr. 2016

4 Thalheimer, Judith. “Turmeric Buzz.” Environmental Nutrition, vol. 40, no. 1, Jan. 2017, p. 4.

5 Tweed, Vera. “Today’s Top Herb.” Better Nutrition, vol. 77, no. 2, Feb. 2015, pp. 22-23.

 

“Ah-Choo” What to do? Seasonal Allergies (On the go version)

What is an allergy?

An allergy is your body’s immune response to an antigen or foreign substance that does not cause disease such as pollen, weeds, pet dander, fur etc. When your immune system detects the foreign substance, which in this case may be pollen, grass etc., it releases chemicals called histamines, which trigger the production of extra mucus, tears and coughing to help trap and expel the foreign substance from your body. This is why you may get a runny nose, teary eyes or start coughing when you suffer from allergies. This immune response is usually only reserved for pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, fungi etc. However, since the immune system of allergy sufferers, cannot distinguish between disease-causing antigens (pathogens) and non-disease causing antigens, it produces the same response for all antigens. In a sense, it is your body “overreacting” to something you are exposed to in the environment.

How can I treat my seasonal allergy?

Being an allergy sufferer myself I know the discomfort and misery allergies can cause. In years past, I would try virtually all products on the market, to try to get some relief, since this time of year was particularly debilitating to me. Some products would work for a couple of days, but after a while, they would eventually stop working, and my allergies would come back with a vengeance. Other products would work, but would make me extremely drowsy, which affected my productivity on the days I would take them. No matter what I tried, my allergies would always return. I had virtually given up hope until I learned about this natural remedy which I will discuss next.

Natural treatments for allergies

One day, I was speaking to a colleague of mine about my allergies. She recommended that I try a natural remedy that worked for her, that consisted of mixing a teaspoon of local wild honey and a teaspoon of Turmeric powder. I decided to give it a shot, and that decision has changed my life for the better. Turmeric powder is a yellow powder widely used in Indian cuisine, including the popular curry dishes you may have heard about or even tasted. In India, turmeric is also used medicinally because of its anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric contains a substance called curcumin (the active ingredient in Turmeric powder), which is known for its ability to suppress inflammation. Turmeric is often used in India to treat arthritis and other chronic conditions related to inflammation. Honey, as I have discussed in a previous article, has anti-inflammatory properties.[i] Additionally, by consuming local wild honey, that has not been commercially filtered, it may contain the antigens your body is allergic to. This allows your body to build up an immunity to these antigens when exposed to them, which suppresses your allergic response. Overall, Turmeric is safe to use for most individuals but may cause the following side effects in certain people: diarrhea, indigestion, and nausea. Additionally, if you are taking a blood thinner or any other similar medication, you should consult your doctor about the possibilities of an adverse reaction when using these medications along with Turmeric. Pregnant women should also consult their doctor before using turmeric, as it may have a stimulating effect on the uterus. However, let me warn you. This is not a quick fix remedy. You have to consume this mixture every day to achieve your desired allergy relief. If you stop taking this remedy your allergies will return fast and furious.

In addition to the aforementioned treatment for allergies some other natural treatments include:

1 Using quercetin which is a chemical found in plants (apples green tea, onions, and berries to name a few) which have been found to have anti-inflammatory properties, and can be taken as a dietary supplement.

2 Stinging nettle which is a type of plant that has been found to have an allergy suppressing effect. Stinging Nettle is available as a powder, tea, or in capsule form. Some individuals grow the plant for their own personal use but it must be handled carefully or it may inflict pain (hence the name stinging nettle.)

3 Saline solutions are also widely used as an allergy treatment and can be purchased at your local pharmacy.[ii]

4 Vitamin C which is found in citrus fruits, and other fruits and vegetables may also help with allergies as it may act as an antihistamine. It can be found as a dietary supplement, or some individuals opt to go to health professionals to have vitamin C administered intravenously.[iii]

I have only used the turmeric and wild honey treatment for my allergies, so I cannot personally attest to the efficacy of the other natural treatments I listed. However, based on my research, these are some of the other natural options available, and they may be worth trying if you cannot tolerate the taste and consistency of the honey and turmeric treatment.

Always Remember- Foods are like friends. Choose them wisely!

[i]   https://healthquickies.com/2017/06/04/is-sugar-free-right-for-mepart-2-natural-sweeteners/

[ii] You flush out your nasal cavity or nose using the saline solution to provide allergy relief.

[iii] Make sure you go to a qualified doctor and health professional before having vitamin c or any other chemical given to intravenously as having substances injected into your bloodstream can have a drastic impact on your health.

 

Sources of information for article are below:

1 van Drimmelen, Meghan. “Natural Treatments for Seasonal Allergies.” Alive: Canada’s Natural Health & Wellness Magazine, no. 402, Apr. 2016, pp. 55-59.

2 Biali, Susan. “Spring Allergies.” Alive: Canada’s Natural Health & Wellness Magazine, no. 331, May 2010, pp. 42-45

3 Marcel, C, BS. “Turmeric.” CINAHL Nursing Guide, 08 Apr. 2016

4 Thalheimer, Judith. “Turmeric Buzz.” Environmental Nutrition, vol. 40, no. 1, Jan. 2017, p. 4.

5 Tweed, Vera. “Today’s Top Herb.” Better Nutrition, vol. 77, no. 2, Feb. 2015, pp. 22-23.

 

Is Sugar-free right for Me?(Part 2) Natural Sweeteners

What is wrong with sugar?

As we discussed in the previous article, sugar has been associated with a variety of major health problems including obesity, cancer, and heart disease among others.[i] The food industry’s solution to these problems was to manufacture artificial sweeteners which were supposed to satisfy society’s craving for sweetness, without all the associated negative health conditions. Artificial sweeteners solved the calorie problems associated with sugar (as many have zero or very few calories when compared to sugar) but came with unintended health consequences including: cancer, mental and behavioral disorders, metabolic syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease and much more. Additionally, the public’s perception of scientifically created products has changed, with many people favoring natural or organic products over artificially made ones. This created the need for natural alternatives to sugar, that provide the taste people love without the negative side effects. The food industry has tried to fulfill this need, but are these natural alternatives any better?

Honey

Honey has been used for centuries as a natural sweetener and is produced by bees.

Besides it sweetening properties, honey provides the following health benefits:

1 Is rich in antioxidants which help decrease inflammation linked with chronic illness

2 Is an antiseptic that can be used to treat cuts or wounds (due to its antiviral, anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties.

3 Has been shown to possess the ability to shrink tumors

The downsides of honey usage include:

1 Higher costs than sugar or other natural sweeteners

2 Has more calories per serving than sugar

3 Has a moderate to high glycemic value depending on the type (which can impact diabetics and people watching their weight)[ii]

Verdict-Honey is a great natural alternative to sugar. However, be mindful of the amount you consume due to the number of calories per serving.

Agave Syrup

Agave syrup is a sweetener derived from the nectar of an agave plant. There are conflicting opinions in health circles as to whether this sweetener should be classified as natural or artificial. The reason for this is because, in order to change the nectar of the Agave plant into the product that is sold in stores, it has to undergo a series of chemical, and manufacturing processes that alter the natural composition of the nectar.[iii]

The benefits of using Agave syrup include:

1 Has a low glycemic value making it a good choice for diabetics

The downside of using Agave syrup include:

1 Agave syrup has a much higher level of fructose than its original nectar (even higher than high fructose corn syrup) which may lead to health problems, including obesity and fatty liver disease

Verdict- I personally used this product in the past, but in light of information that I recently learned, I will no longer being using Agave syrup, unless I find a product that is similar to the original Agave nectar.

Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is made from tree sap collected from maple trees, which is then filtered, and boiled, to make syrup.

The benefits of using Maple syrup include:

1 Containing fewer calories, and higher amounts of manganese and zinc than honey

2 Contains antioxidants

3 Has a low glycemic value

The downside of using maple syrup include:

1 If you buy artificially flavored maple syrup it may contain unhealthy ingredients including high fructose corn syrup, sugar etc.

Verdict- When purchasing this product, make sure you read the labels carefully, to ensure that you are buying real maple syrup not maple flavored syrup. Labels for real maple syrup should only list maple syrup as the ingredient.

Blackstrap molasses

Blackstrap molasses is the liquid left over from the boiling and removal of sugar crystals from sugarcane.

The benefits of using Blackstrap molasses include:

1 It is nutrient dense and has a wide array of minerals including iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, and potassium.

2 Has a low glycemic value

3 Can be used to treat conditions such as anemia, and osteoporosis, due to its high iron and calcium content.

The downside of using Blackstrap molasses includes:

1 Having a slightly bitter taste. It is not as sweet as conventional sugar, which limits its use in certain recipes.

Verdict- Blackstrap molasses is a great substitute for sugar but due to taste has limited use in recipes.

Monk fruit

Siraitia grosvenorii aka Monk fruit is a green melon looking fruit that comes from China.

Its benefits include:

1 Low in calories while still being 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar

2 Being rich in antioxidants

3 Is used in Eastern medicine to treat respiratory illnesses

4 May have cancer preventing properties

Verdict -The only downside I found for Monk fruit is the cost, but based on my research Monk fruit, has a tremendous upside due to it nutrient profile.

Stevia

Stevia is a sweetener obtained from the leaves of the Stevia plant.

The benefits of Stevia include:

1 It contains virtually no calories(Less than 4 calories per serving) and is much sweeter than sugar.

The downsides of Stevia Include:

1 Some of the commercial varieties of Stevia use a chemical extraction process to obtain Stevia, which according to some food purists, adulterates the naturalness of the Stevia extract.

2 Stevia has been known to have a bitter aftertaste, which some individuals might find offensive.

Verdict- Stevia is a great substitute for sugar if you buy the organic or the minimally processed type.

Xylitol

Xylitol is obtained from sugars found in wood, and from certain fruits and vegetables.  Among health professionals, there is a debate on whether or not Xylitol should still be considered natural since the xylitol used in many products is commercially created, and processed from plant extracts.

The benefits of Xylitol include:

1 Have fewer calories than traditional sugar and a lower glycemic value

2 Preventing or eliminating cavities

3 Can be used for treating ear infections in children

The downsides of Xylitol:

1 When consumed in large amounts, it can trigger stomach pain or even diarrhea in some individuals.

2 Many brands of xylitol are commercially processed (which could possibly lead to other harmful additives being used in this product)

Verdict- Should you use Xylitol? The answer is as I am still currently investigating the Xylitol manufacturing process so I cannot give a definitive answer. I personally have used products with added Xylitol, such as gum and mouthwash, without any negative effects (and in fact, my mouth felt cleaner than normal.) As I learn more information about this product I will share it with you, but for now, I recommend using xylitol products that are minimally processed.

Always Remember- Foods are like friends. Choose them wisely.

[i] White sugar and brown sugar have both been implicated in the previously mentioned conditions, and are sources of empty calories, despite the wide held belief that brown sugar is much healthier than white sugar. Brown sugar does contain molasses, which contains some minerals, but in such negligible amounts, that it does not justify its preferential consumption in lieu of white sugar.

[ii] Glycemic value measures the rate at which the body converts carbohydrates contained in foods into sugar in the bloodstream which impact insulin (hormone that regulates blood sugar levels) production.

[iii] In 2000 The FDA shut down one of the leading manufacturers of Agave Syrup because they were mixing Agave syrup with High fructose corn syrup to increase their profits and to decrease their manufacturing costs; this while labeling their product certified organic. Some health professionals believe that this fraudulent activity could be still occurring among some Agave manufacturing companies today (due to the lack of regulation and oversight by the FDA in recent times)

Sources of information for article are below

1”What’s the Harm?” Consumer Reports on Health, vol. 11, no. 5, May 1999, p. 1

2 Nagel, Rami. “Agave Nectar.” Townsend Letter, no. 310, May 2009, pp. 69-73

3 Blatner, Dawn Jackson. “Ask a Nutritionist.” Vegetarian Times, no. 414, Sept. 2014, p. 46

4 NEACŞU, N. A. and A. MADAR. “Artificial Sweeteners Versus Natural Sweeteners.” Bulletin of the Transilvania University of Brasov. Series V: Economic Sciences, vol. 7, no. 1, Jan. 2014, pp. 59-64.

5 Angels, Gayle and Josef Brinckmann. “Luo Han Guo (Monk Fruit).” Herbalgram, no. 103, Aug/Oct2014, p. 1.

6 Sego, Sherril. “Monk Fruit.” Clinical Advisor, vol. 17, no. 4, Apr. 2014, pp. 104-105

7 Arfmann, Barbara. “Sweet Relief for Beverages.” Beverage Industry, Mar. 2016, p. 68

8 Wepman, Warren. “How Sweet It Is! Part 2.” Macrobiotics Today, vol. 51, no. 3, May/Jun2011, pp. 11-15.

9 Martin, Robert C. “Xylitol: Sweet Revenge against Tooth Decay, Obesity and Insulin Spikes.” Nutritional Perspectives: Journal of the Council on Nutrition, vol. 37, no. 2, Apr. 2014, pp. 15-16.

10 Janakiram, Chandrashekar, et al. “Xylitol in Preventing Dental Caries: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analyses.” Journal of Natural Science, Biology & Medicine, vol. 8, no. 1, Jan-Jun 2017, pp. 16-21

Is Sugar free Good for me? (Part 1) Artificial Sweeteners

What’s wrong with sugar?

Sugar. Once revered and loved by all (sugar was once so valuable that it was used as a form of currency throughout parts of the world), sugar has now become the pariah of the nutrients we consume. Sugar, a member of the group of essential nutrients known as carbohydrates, is used by the body for energy to carry out various functions. The problem is that with the modern, highly processed diet, many people now follow, too much sugar is being consumed on a daily basis. This has been associated with the following health problems: obesity, heart disease, gum disease, tooth decay, diabetes, and cancer just to mention a few.  This change in the public’s perception of sugar, left food industry professionals scrambling for sugar substitutes, to maintain the flavor of their products. But are sugar substitutes any better?

Aspartame

Aspartame is an artificial sweetener found in many sugarless products ranging from NutraSweet and Equal to ice tea. It is created by combining the amino acids phenylalanine and aspartic acid, with methanol, which is a type of alcohol (that is considered toxic to humans). Aspartame has virtually few calories (4 calories per gram) and is much sweeter than sugar (meaning you need less of it to sweeten a drink). However, studies have found that aspartame (which contains the toxic chemical methanol)[i] has been linked with the following: brain lesions (aspartame in lab rats was found to cause holes or sores in their brains), insomnia, headaches, neurological, behavioral and mental disorders, cognitive impairment, brain tumors and cancer just to name some of the associated diseases/conditions.

Saccharin

Saccharin is an artificial sweetener derived from the chemical toluenesulfonamide which is found in coal/tar. It is found in Sweet’ N Low, sugarless beverages and many other food and drink products. Saccharin has been linked to metabolic syndrome, as it may impair the hormones responsible for satiety, which is the feeling of fullness you get, after eating a meal, or drinking a large amount of a beverage. Additionally, saccharin has been found in studies, to increase incidences of cancer of the bladder, uterus, ovaries, skin and other organs. In fact, because of the aforementioned studies, the FDA mandated that saccharin products carry a special warning label, about its possible negative health effects, which was later removed in 2000.[ii]

Acesulfame potassium

Acesulfame potassium is an artificial sweetener that is created from a potassium salt. It is used in over 4000 products, ranging from baby foods, to protein drinks. Similar to the other artificial sweeteners previously mentioned, this ingredient has been linked to cancer, metabolic syndrome, and allergies.

Sucralose

Sucralose is a sugar substitute, created by chemically altering sugar, by adding chlorine. It is found in products such as Splenda, and low calories desserts. In studies, Sucralose has been linked to damage to the kidneys, reproductive organs, and the thymus gland (responsible for your immune response), as well as migraine headaches, and inflammatory bowel disease (as it may affect bacteria found in your stomach.)

The FDA has ruled that artificial sweeteners are safe for human consumption, but with all the conflicting information about these chemicals, I would err on the side of caution and avoid these ingredients whenever possible.

Always Remember- Foods are like friends. Choose them wisely!

[i] Methanol can be changed by the body to formaldehyde- the chemical used to embalm the deceased

[ii] The FDA found that there was not enough scientific evidence of negative health consequences to mandate that saccharin products carry a warning label.

Sources of information for article are below:

1 Humphries, P, et al. “Direct and Indirect Cellular Effects of Aspartame on the Brain.” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 62, no. 4, Apr. 2008, pp. 451-462

2 Abdel-Salam, O M E, et al. “Studies on the Effects of Aspartame on Memory and Oxidative Stress in Brain of Mice.” European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences, vol. 16, no. 15, Dec. 2012, pp. 2092-2101.

3 Schardt, D. “Sweet Nothings: Not All Sweeteners Are Equal.” Nutrition Action Health Letter, vol. 31, no. 4, May 2004, pp. 8-11.

4 Katsue, Hiromi, et al. “Allergic Reaction Caused by Acesulfame Potassium in Foods.” Contact Dermatitis, vol. 71, no. 4, Oct. 2014, pp. 251-25

5 Cong, Wei-na, et al. “Long-Term Artificial Sweetener Acesulfame Potassium Treatment Alters Neurometabolic Functions in C57BL/6J Mice.” Plos ONE, vol. 8, no. 8, Aug. 2013, pp. 1-18.

6 Hull, Janet Starr. “The Dangers of Artificial Sweeteners.” Total Health, vol. 27, no. 1, Feb/Mar2005, p. 30

7 Shankar, Padmini, et al. “Review: Non-Nutritive Sweeteners: Review and Update.” Nutrition, vol. 29, 01 Nov. 2013, pp

Are pretty colored foods pretty good for you?

Why do companies use food coloring?

From beverages such as Gatorade, to foods such as salmon, companies have been using synthetic food coloring and dyes for years? But why you may ask? The answer is simple. Aesthetics. That’s right- beauty.  Food and beverage companies have conducted extensive research, and have found that people prefer to buy pretty colored foods and beverages, over their dull, bland colored counterparts. This is because our senses are attracted to bright vibrant colors. But is eating and drinking, artificially colored food and beverages, good for your health?

Why pretty colored foods are pretty bad for you?

Although artificially colored foods look visually appealing, they are not good for you. Numerous studies have found that artificial food colorings such as FD&C Blue No.1, and FD&C red #40 have been associated with numerous health problems including:

1 Triggering food allergies in people who are sensitive to these chemicals, which may cause rashes, asthma, inflammation, and other reactions, including immune system reactions (which may impair immune system function, making individuals more vulnerable to infections and disease).

2 Lowering sperm count and fertility in males. (No further explanation needed.)

3 Contributing to the development of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in children, which affects their behavior and performance in school.

4 Identification as a potential cause of cancer (based on studies conducted on animals).

Due to the variety of health problems linked to the use of synthetic dyes, many countries in Europe have banned their use in food products( in particular those geared toward children). Additionally, products that do contain synthetic dyes, must carry special warning labels, advising of the potential health consequences, associated with their consumption. You may be asking yourself, why hasn’t the United States followed their European counterparts in this endeavor? The answer is simple. Money!!!  Artificially colored foods and drinks, generate billions of dollars for the companies that sell these products. Hence, to ban these products would be to potentially lose billions of dollars from the economy.  Why can’t these companies use natural coloring from plants? Once again the answer is money. Natural food coloring is more expensive (which would cut into the profits of these companies), and are limited, in regards to the range of colors that could be achieved, since they come from nature.

How can I avoid synthetic dyes in my food and drinks?

Read the labels on the products you buy. If you see scientific words/letters, followed by a color, (FD&C Blue No.1) that is an indication that the product you are buying contains artificial colors. Additionally, whenever possible, avoid buying overly processed foods, as they are more likely to contain synthetic colors (e.g.neon orange potato chips). Also use your senses. If a drink or beverage, has an unusual color, more than likely it contains a synthetic dye. Purchase foods and drinks, that have their natural color (i.e. orange juice should be orange not blue).  This will take some effort, but your health is worth it.

Always Remember- Foods are like friends. Choose them wisely!

Sources of information for article are below:

1 Nascimento Teles, Julia and Maria Lúcia Teixeira Polônio. “Knowledge of Nursing and Nutrition Graduate Students on the Consumption of Food Colorings and Their Adverse Health Effects. Revista De Pesquisa: Cuidado E Fundamental, vol. 8, no. 4, out-dez2016, pp. 5045-5053.

2 Cook, Doug. “Food Dyes and Hyperactivity.” Alive: Canada’s Natural Health & Wellness Magazine, no. 347, Sept. 2011, pp. 31-35.

3 Mosko, Sarah ‘Steve’. “Fooled by Food Dyes: From Cereal Bars to Salad Dressings, Artificial Food Dyes Are Everywhere. E, no. 2, 2012, p. 36.

4 Vojdani, Aristo and Charlene Vojdani. “Immune Reactivity to Food Coloring.” Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine, vol. 21, no. S1, 2015 Supplement 1, pp. 52-62.

5 Hersey, Jane. “Diet and Children’s Behavior: Are Food Dyes the Missing Link?.” Townsend Letter, no. 364, Nov. 2013, p. 27.

6 Lok, K.Y.W., et al. “Synthetic Colorings of some Snack Foods Consumed by Primary School Children Aged 8–9 Years in Hong Kong.” Food Additives & Contaminants: Part B: Surveillance Communications, vol. 4, no. 3, Sept. 2011, p. 162.

7 “Consumers, Activists Pushing Natural.” Candy Industry, vol. 179, no. 6, June 2014, pp. 40-41.

 

Why you can’t eat just one chip? Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

What is Monosodium Glutamate?

Monosodium glutamate is a chemical salt added to improve the flavor of food. Glutamate, which is MSG’s naturally occurring cousin, is found in the human body as an amino acid (especially in the brain, where it is found in high concentrations) and serves as a neurotransmitter, which is a chemical that either allows (which is the case with glutamate) or prevents nerve impulses from being sent from one neuron( a nerve cell) to another. Glutamate has been found to have a function in memory, and learning in humans.

What foods contain MSG?

MSG is widely used in Asian foods, to add a meaty savory flavor, that appeals to your 5th sense of taste( the other four are salty, sweet, sour and bitter) known as “Umami” which is Japanese for delicious. Foods such as Ramen noodles, and other Asian dishes, usually contain MSG. MSG is also used in the United States, in various seasoning products, such as “Accent” to impart flavor to foods. MSG is also commonly used in all types of processed or” junk” foods, ranging from potato chips to hot dogs. If you go down the junk food aisle of your local store and read labels, the majority of those products contain MSG.

Why you can’t just eat one chip?

According to research, MSG can affect your body’s natural biochemistry, causing you to overeat. It may stimulate production of  the hormone Ghrelin, which is responsible for  feelings of hunger, and your appetite. Hence, once you eat chips that contains this chemical, your body craves more (which is also due to the delicious flavor that hits your Umami taste buds). This in some instances leads to you eating an entire bag of chips in one sitting.

Why MSG is considered harmful?

Well as mentioned previously, MSG is commonly added to “junk “or processed food. Hence, continual over consumption of this type of food, can lead to obesity and all of its associated problems, including heart disease, atherosclerosis (hardening of blood vessels) diabetes, metabolic disorders, and more.

MSG has also been linked to:

1 Chronic headaches in individuals who may have an increased vulnerability to this chemical.

2 Elevated blood pressure which can lead to hypertension, strokes or heart attacks.

3 Kidney problems in individuals sensitive to this chemical.

4 Brain issues, including memory loss, and decreased cognitive function (because in high amounts MSG can be a neurotoxin.)

5 Liver issues, as the liver is tasked with the removal of this substance from the body.

Since glutamate is naturally occurring in meats and plants, I recommend that you avoid consuming extra amounts of this chemical in its artificial form,which can also be disguised as glutamate, glutamic acid and hydrolyzed protein on food labels. This may require some extra work on your part when it comes to grocery shopping, but it is well worth the effort.

Always Remember- Foods are like friends. Choose them wisely!

Sources of information for article are below:

1-Amudha, R. Christy and C. D. Lethi. “Protective Potential of Pterocarpus Marsupium on Brain in Msg Induced Obese Diabetic Mouse, Mus Musculus.” International Journal of Pharmacology & Biological Sciences, vol. 8, no. 1, Apr. 2014, pp. 9-17.

2“International Symposium on Glutamate. Proceedings of a Symposium Held October 12-14, 1998 in Bergamo, Italy.” The Journal of Nutrition, vol. 130, no. 4S Suppl, Apr. 2000, pp. 891S-1079S.

3-Obayashi, Yoko and Yoichi Nagamura. “Does Monosodium Glutamate Really Cause Headache? : a Systematic Review of Human Studies.” The Journal of Headache and Pain, vol. 17, 2016, p. 54.

4-Shimada, Akiko, et al. “Headache and Mechanical Sensitization of Human Pericranial Muscles After Repeated Intake of Monosodium Glutamate (MSG).” The Journal of Headache and Pain, vol. 14, 24 Jan. 2013, p. 2.

5-Sharma, Amod. “Monosodium Glutamate-Induced Oxidative Kidney Damage and Possible Mechanisms: A Mini-Review.” Journal of Biomedical Science, vol. 22, 22 Oct. 2015, p. 93.

6-Rogers, Michael D. “Further Studies Are Necessary in Order to Conclude a Causal Association between the Consumption of Monosodium L-Glutamate (MSG) and the Prevalence of Metabolic Syndrome in the Rural Thai Population…Insawang T, Selmi C, Cha’on U, Et Al: Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) Intake Is Associated with the Prevalence of Metabolic Syndrome in a Rural Thai Population. Nutr Metab 2012, 9:50.” Nutrition & Metabolism, vol. 10, no. 1, Jan. 2013, pp. 14-16.

7 http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/its-the-umami-stupid-why-the-truth-about-msg-is-so-easy-to-swallow-180947626/

Preservatives that don’t preserve your Health- Sodium Nitrates/ Nitrites

What are preservatives?

Preservatives are chemicals added to food to prevent them from spoiling. In years past, salting and dehydration were used by our ancestors to preserve food. However, with advances in food sciences, chemicals were created, that greatly extended the shelf-life of food. This gave rise to the processed, and preserved foods that currently dominate the American, and western world diet.

What is sodium nitrate/nitrite?

Sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite are salts that are added to meats such as bacon, hot dogs, salami and other deli or cured meats to inhibit bacterial growth (which can cause serious illnesses like botulism.) These preservatives enable meat to last for days, or weeks longer, when compared to meats, that do not contain these preservatives. Additionally, sodium nitrates/nitrites are used, because they give meat that pretty red color people find appealing, and add that “salty goodness,” people associate with bacon and deli meats.

Why should we avoid sodium nitrate/nitrite?

Although these preservatives are designed to make meat last longer, they have been found to have the opposite effect on human health.  Consumption of sodium nitrates/ nitrites have been linked to:

1 Cancer (in particular colorectal cancer) as the body converts these substances into carcinogens or cancer causing chemicals (especially when processed meats are fried or barbecued.)

2 Elevated risk of heart disease as these preservatives may cause hardening of the blood vessels or atherosclerosis.

3 Increased chances of developing diabetes as these preservatives affect the way your body processes sugar.

4 “Blue baby” syndrome (methemoglobinemia) in children who consume diets high in processed meats, as these preservatives affect the ability of the blood to carry oxygen, resulting in lower levels of oxygen, causing the bluish appearance of the skin, associated with this condition. This can result in a coma, or death, if not treated.

In order to safeguard the health of you and your family:

1 Avoid consuming processed meats whenever possible.  The less you consume, the better it is for your health.

2 If you do buy bacon or deli meats, buy organic, and nitrite/nitrate free products.[i]

The days of eating mystery meat are over. Make sure you know what you are eating, what it contains, and how it affect your health. What you don’t know can potentially hurt you and your health.

Always Remember- Foods are like friends. Choose them wisely! 

[i] (The nitrate/nitrite free products often times may have high salt levels, which is used as a preservative instead of the nitrites/nitrates. This can affect those with hypertension or heart disease.)

Sources of information for article are below:

1 Ibrahim, Saima. “Preserved Food Hazardous.” Economic Review (05318955) 41.3 (2010): 7-10. Military & Government Collection. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.

2 Gilbère, G. “Casualties Of Progress: Highly Toxic, Disease-Promoting Ingredients That Are Legal In Our Food Supply.” Total Health 30.3 (2008): 42-43. CINAHL Complete. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.

3 Palmer, Sharon. “Safety Of Preservatives Explored.” Environmental Nutrition 36.9 (2013): 1-6. Academic Search Alumni Edition. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.

4 Erkekoglu, Pinar, and Terken Baydar. “Evaluation Of The Protective Effect Of Ascorbic Acid On Nitrite- And Nitrosamine-Induced Cytotoxicity And Genotoxicity In Human Hepatoma Line.” Toxicology Mechanisms And Methods 20.2 (2010): 45-52. MEDLINE Complete. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.

5 Erkekoglu, Pinar, and Terken Baydar. “Evaluation Of Nitrite Contamination In Baby Foods And Infant Formulas Marketed In Turkey.” International Journal Of Food Sciences And Nutrition 60.3 (2009): 206-209. MEDLINE Complete. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.

6 Asero, R. “Nitrate Intolerance.” Allergy 55.7 (2000): 680. Academic Search Alumni Edition. Web. 21 Feb. 2017