Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Vaccine Questions

May 16, 2018

I recently learned that since over 10 years had elapsed, I was due for a Tetanus shot. Initially, I did not plan to update the Tetanus, but in an Oh Well Moment, I made the appointment to have a “Tetanus toxoid vaccine” booster.

At the appointment, I learned that Tetanus toxoid vaccine is no longer given as a stand-alone vaccine for adults. It is paired with either Diphtheria (Td) or Diphtheria and Pertussis (Tdap). This seemed odd but I was advised that diphtheria was on the rise among older people in developing countries, and was given the Td shot.

Early morning the day after the Td vaccine was given, my throat signaled it was dealing with an intruder. A few days later, despite regular hot salt water gargles, I was clearly dealing with an upper respiratory infection. This one clearly meant business as it coated my bronchial tree with a thick yellowish coat that my body used a persistent hacking cough to rip off in painful chunks for the next week and a half, along with copious sinus drainage. Because I exercise regularly and include minimal refined sugar in my diet, I was able to fight off this infection. Otherwise, I would probably have ended up in the hospital.

Curious, I checked the incidence of Tetanus and Diphtheria in the US. I learned that five people died of Diphtheria in the US in the last 10 years.  And since 1947, the incidence of Tetanus has decreased 99%.  Why is the CDC messing with the adult Tetanus vaccine, throwing more so-called immunizations at us for non-existent problems?

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) website says we have all the vaccines to thank for the decreased incidence of Diptheria and Tetanus. Other research claims that increased sanitation and wound care improvements during the same timeframe gave us the respite. Susanne Humphries, MD, a nephrologist, sums up the findings of researchers who question the widespread use of vaccines in her Youtube Lecture on Vaccines and Health.

We each have to decide where our confidence lies. I simply urge you to review both websites for yourselves to make an informed decision.

Whatever we choose, when respiratory illness strikes, fresh fruits (especially melons and citrus) and vegetables (especially greens) are easiest for our bodies to digest, along with plenty of water to keep everything moving OUT while we regain our health and strength, and gear up for a great summer. Now is a great time to get out and exercise, gardening, walking, hiking, biking, kayaking, swimming, playing tennis, badminton and anything else that keeps everything moveable moving!


Funding Effects of Sugar Research

February 10, 2018

A reader, who states he is a professional in the food industry, questioned my competence to speak forthrightly about sugar in my most recent column, ‘Shape Up and Beat the Flu!’

My credentials began to accrue as a child when my farm-raised mother announced, “Our family cannot afford to be sick!” Therefore, we had to eat what was put in front of us and clean our plates. At the first sign of a sore throat we were to up our consumption of water and gargle with warm salt water. If we needed a day or two in bed, we were plied with plenty of vegetable soup. I raise my 3 children with the same philosophy. Soda was something we had on picnics.

I am a retired psychiatric nurse practitioner with additional graduate studies in Eastern Philosophy which included the Ayurvedic Medical System. Ayurveda considers the digestive tract the root of health or illness, depending on what we eat.

There have been studies on the effect of sugar consumption on our health. The earliest one I read was John Rudkins 1972 book, Pure, White, and Deadly. Rudkins was a British Medical Doctor and Nutritional Scientist. The food industry trashed his book, but the book has survived. A 1973 study at Loma Linda University looked at why simple sugars but not complex carbohydrates (found in fruits and vegetables) adversely affected the immune system.

Marion Nestle, NYU professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, and Cristin Kearns, assistant professor UCSF School of Dentistry both have documented research on the subject.

Anyone can Google, ‘Funding Effects of Sugar Research’ and read the sad history of researchers paid by the sugar industry to suppress bona fide research and blame fats for the rise in cardiac disease and to promote sugar consumption.

The reason more research has not been published to warn the general public is that traditionally, Land Grant universities funded such research. Currently, food and chemical companies fund university research with the stipulation that they review and reject studies adverse to their industry. Only recently have other sources stepped forward to fund needed research, with no strings attached to the outcomes.

There is something to that farm-raised fresh food that we yearn for today as we look for farm stands to reopen this year.

Climatic Migration is happening. Are we ready?

February 25, 2016

Anthropologist, Brian Fagan paints a sobering world picture for us in his book, The Attacking Ocean. We in NH are far enough inland and upland that unless we have past experiences of living near the ocean and can go back and experience the then and now, it is difficult to accept the reality of rising sea levels and loss of habitable land.

Fagan takes us through the natural events he considers our greatest threat: earthquakes, tsunamis, and tropical storms “which spread water horizontally over low-lying coastal landscapes and river deltas, some of the most densely inhabited environments on earth.”

Our challenge internationally is to figure out how we can cooperate to absorb the migrations that have already begun. In the US, inland migration has begun. How do we plan to share our space, food and water? Earth is prepared to nourish us if we are willing to cooperate and look at the big picture.

We already know that GMO monoculture plowed crops are destroying the life of the earth’s soil, despite the slick rhetoric advertised. The reality is that the fantastic network of soil mycorrhizal fungi which absorb and redistribute carbon and other nutrients through roots, and help to set in motion the release of oxygen we need, is being destroyed by plowing, chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.

Courtney White traveled all over the world to observe innovative farmers and he takes us along through his book, Grass, Soil, Hope: A journey through Carbon Country. The good news is that permaculture farming, developed by two Australians: Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the 1970s, is spreading all over the world. Also called no-till farming, permaculture farming avoids the use of plows, pesticides and herbicides. Instead, Prehistoric and Native American practices of no till (permaculture) farming not only enriches our soil, it stores abundant carbon as well.

Permculture farming assures erosion control by not disturbing the network of soil microbes, beneficial bacteria, fungi, nematodes (tiny worms). Mulching, cover cropping, and companion planting of diverse crops encourage a strong network. By not plowing up this network, these practices are reclaiming and protecting the soil, producing greater harvests of robust, healthy foods, free of harmful chemicals.

When Hurricane Irene hit Dorn Cox’s permaculture farm in Lee, NH, he noted “lots of rain but no damage”. Farmers who plowed had no underground network to protect their crops from hurricane energy.

White, a New Mexico farmer himself, takes us to visit ranchers out west who fence off their grassland into paddocks. By rotating herds through the paddocks, they avoid overgrazing and assure good pasture. Some of them grazed sheep and cattle together; the cattle kept sheep predators at bay. Herds, by eating, walking and defecating, also stimulated native grasses to grow, proliferate and outcompete the weeds. To top it off, the quality of grass fed meat gradually increased income and ability to increase herd size.

At a tenuous time when it seems as though every aspect of survival is up in the air, we could literally ground ourselves by reconnecting with Earth’s network as the snow recedes around our homes. How might we encourage the underground internet to flourish?

Sleuthing Food Labels for Health

July 16, 2015

News that Whole Foods overcharged customers by mislabeling product weights brought groans from folks who thought they could shop with confidence at Whole Foods Markets. Over 20 years ago, I had a brief stint working the cash register at a Bread and Circus recently converted to a Whole Foods Market. Even then, I found that I was better off shopping the perimeter. Foods in the center aisles of the store: cereals, soups, salad dressings, canned goods, frozen foods, etc. all contained multiple forms of sugar, guaranteed to stimulate an appetite for more food, bigger servings, and insatiable appetites. Such foods reliably create health problems when consumed regularly.

When health food stores first opened, they offered mostly whole foods stored in bins. Produce came from local sources. Co-ops weekly sent a truck to the nearest bulk supplier. As demand rose for quality foods, suppliers began to deliver directly to health food stores and co-ops. At the same time, boxed, bottled and canned foods made their entrance with over 30 different forms of sugar added.

As a cashier, I noticed that many people came through with a cart full of junk food, sometimes not one whole food, just lots of boxes, cans and bottles. Invariably they would beam gratitude that they could shop at such a wonderful place for their family, even though they had to struggle financially to do it. Everything on the shelves at Whole Foods was the best food money could buy. I was in no position to advise them otherwise.

Today, wherever we shop, we must check labels. This week, I realized that the delicious peanut butter I have trustingly bought at natural food stores and snacked on by the spoonful for years, contains sugar. Sleuthing, I found only one brand that is just made of ground peanuts.

Food guru, Michael Pollan, cautions us to avoid packaged foods with more than 5 ingredients listed on their labels. Chances are, anything more will include extra sugars and chemicals we don’t need. This year, supermarkets rearranged their shelves to sandwich organic foods in with everything else. This means that people must slowly shop over the whole store and may, on impulse, buy foods they normally avoid. Stores try to market eye level products more heavily. Better choices are on top and bottom shelves.

The good news is that Farmers Markets and farm stands are in full swing. We now have many opportunities to enjoy the flavor of fresh berries, a mess o’ peas, and a choice array of vegetables and home grown produce free of additives. Best of all, the farmer will be there to field our questions.

High Fructose Corn Syrup vs. Sugar

February 26, 2015

For years, High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) producers have tried to classify HFCS as Sugar without success. Here’s why: HFCS molecules and Sugar molecules are not the same chemical structure at all and they are absorbed by our bodies at different rates with different effects.

Regular cane or beet sugar molecules consist of 50 percent glucose and 50 percent fructose in a tight chemical bond. They need to be gradually broken down to small enough particles by our body’s enzymes before they can be absorbed through the wall of the small intestine. We absorb sugar slowly, like a time-released capsule.

High Fructose Corn Syrup molecules consist of 45 percent glucose and 55 percent fructose and they are unbound. Fructose is also much sweeter than glucose. Because HFCS is chemically unbound, the fructose and glucose are rapidly absorbed with no need of enzymes. They go straight to the liver where fructose produces fats like triglycerides and cholesterol that set in motion the condition called fatty liver. The liver then sends out fatty deposits to line our arteries. At the same time, rapid absorption of glucose increases spikes of insulin.

When sugar is absorbed, it stimulates the production of leptin, a neurotransmitter that signals when we are full. HFCS does not stimulate leptin production and can lead to overeating.

Corn syrup is cheap due to heavy subsidies we all pay for. This is a classic example of how we in the US have been led astray. This is why sodas and other HCFS sweetened drinks are sold cheaply and in gargantuan containers. They are not cheap when we consider the health dues we then pay for conditions they stimulate: Cardiovascular Disease, Liver Disease, Cancer, Arthritis, Diabetes and more. It’s not the fructose itself that is the cause, it is the massive doses.

Short of a mass organized protest of this blatant misuse of our taxes, what can we do as individuals right now to take control of our health?
1. Check labels and avoid products sweetened with HFCS.
2. Eat whole fruit, not fruit juice that lacks pulp nutrients and may be sweetened with HCFS.
3. Buy fresh produce and learn to cook it.

Change rarely happens overnight, but it usually begins with the first step.

What’s all this about Gluten-Free?

October 15, 2014

During WWII, when there was a bread shortage in Europe, Willem-Karel Dicke, a Dutch physician, noticed that celiac (abdominal) disorders lessened, only to recur when Sweden dropped bread into the Netherlands from relief planes. Today, one in 133 people have celiac disease in the US.

So, what is it about wheat that louses us up? Physician William Davis, in his book, Wheat Belly, traces the development of wheat from Paleolithic times to today. It seems the original wheat had 14 chromosomes in its genetic structure. Today’s wheat, after centuries of hybridization, has 42 chromosomes, and a much higher gluten and carbohydrate content.

In early times, wheat represented a small part of the diet. Today, wheat is present at every meal, and in most snacks, and, like sugar, we’ve gone overboard devouring it. The average American eats 135 lbs. of wheat per year and most of us shudder at the thought of limiting our bread, crackers, muffins, cakes, cereals, pies, pizza, pasta, waffles, and much more.

Today, Gluten-Free seems to be the magic label that sells. That label continues to threaten our health with obesity as much as the Fat-Free label did. Without fat, to supply energy and provide essential nutrients to our bodies, and to carry the fat-soluble vitamins A,D,E, and K, we found that removing fat also removed those vitamins. People craved energy so much that they loaded up on carbohydrates to such excess that bodies automatically converted and stored the excess sugar as fat.

Just as we had ludicrous fat-free fruit and vegetables, now we have gluten-free water and gluten-free corn chips! (There is no gluten in corn.) Yet, the gluten-free label can have trace elements of gluten legally. Many products labeled gluten-free do have some gluten in them. The FDA requires the label to have less than 20 parts per million and labeling is voluntary.

People who are truly gluten-intolerant must monitor their diets carefully without relying on labels. Most of us are not in that category; we simply eat too much wheat. We may have cereal and toast for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and pasta with garlic bread for supper. For a snack, we may have a high-energy bar loaded with wheat gluten to boost the protein content.

The easiest way to avoid excess wheat consumption is to think about adding more whole foods that are sweet, satisfying, and energizing, like yams, winter squash, apples, nuts, leafy greens, carrots and avocado, beans, eggs, fish, meat and poultry. Fall is a time to add more ginger root to keep warm. We may end up concocting creative potlucks out of the tremendous variety of wholesome foods in our fall harvest that energize us with a full charge, but without unwanted fat. For most of us, wheat can then serve as an accompaniment, not the main thread.

Grass, Soil, Hope: Yes!

August 6, 2014

Here’s GOOD NEWS of simple practices that remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere while benefitting the earth’s web of life. In his book, Grass, Soil, Hope, Courtney White takes us on a trip around the world with courageous people who have figured out ingenious ways to sequester carbon in the soil.

He cited research which found that “globally, soils contain 3x the amount of carbon that is stored in vegetation, and 2x the amount stored in the atmosphere. Since two-thirds of the earth’s land mass is grassland, better management practices, even on a small scale, could have a huge impact.”

Because 2 billion of the earth’s people depend on livestock, New Mexico was a great place to see where better soil management would take us. Actually, we all live in Carbon Country. There’s something here that can benefit all of us as we think about cover crops like white clover and winter rye and other nitrogen fixers, and upgrade our gardening skills.

Native Americans long practiced no till farming, where roots are disturbed as little as possible to allow for new plant growth while keeping the nematodes (soil microbes) happy, and atmospheric CO2 stored in the soil. Today, the no-till method is helping farmers to reduce or eliminate the use of herbicides and chemical fertilizers.

He cites ranchers who divided their property up into paddocks based on grass quality and soil type. By rotating their herds through the paddocks, they prevented overgrazing and assured good pasture. Some of them grazed sheep and cattle together, and the cattle kept sheep predators at bay. Herds, by eating, walking and defecating, also stimulated native grasses to grow, proliferate, and outcompete the weeds. To top it off, the quality of grass fed meat gradually increased income and ability to increase herd size.

He also cited the work of French agricultural scientist, Christian Dupraz. Dupraz came up with the idea of an agrovoltaic system where solar panels were constructed 12 feet above ground. This enabled farm machinery to move easily beneath them. In addition, the panels were constructed to provide the right amount of shade and reduced the amount of water needed, and to protect crops from hail and rainstorms related to climate change. All the while using solar energy to make electricity!

Courtney White’s book is guaranteed to stimulate all kinds of innovation and a sense that if we tune in to alternatives, we just may resolve the carbon riddle and experience the fringe benefit of keeping each other well.

What We Don’t Know Can Harm Us….

February 27, 2014

 When considering the cost of food/groceries, we really have to add in the cost of medical treatment for conditions caused by our food choices. Food raised or produced in environmentally friendly conditions is, in my experience, safer and more economical in the long run.

Today, it is difficult to know what is in the food, much less what is known to be harmful to human health. Food industry whistle blowers get the same treatment that is laid on political whistle blowers. Here is a current example in the news.

 Tyron Hayes, Professor of Integrated Biology at UCBerkeley, was hired by the pharmaceutical company, Syngenta, to research the effect of the herbicide/pesticide Atrazine on frogs. Hayes is a reputable researcher who has been studying frogs for many years. Hayes found that Atrazine caused sexual abnormalities in frogs: males started developing ovaries and laying eggs. Other researchers continued to expand his research and found that human babies exposed to Atrazine do not develop normally sexually. Atrazine causes the body to make too much estrogen, which promotes breast cancer. Syngenta also makes a chemical that blocks estrogen production and is used to prevent cancer.  This is obviously a nice arrangement for Syngenta.

 Syngenta did not like Hayes’s findings and asked him to do a repeat study and manipulate the data. Hayes refused and resigned from the project.Then, Syngenta tried to purchase the original data so that it would not be published. Hayes published the data in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Nature, and Environmental Health Perspectives (a NIH publication). Next, Syngenta hired scientists to refute Hayes’s data and discredit him as a scientist.Syngenta reps passed out discrediting flyers at his lectures, and whispered threats in Hayes’s ear that he could be lynched or his wife and daughter could be sexually abused.

 If we want to keep each other well, we need to be alert to what threatens our health. Given the details of consequences to whistleblowers like Hayes, Silkwood, Asange, Snowdon, Manning, and Greenwald, these scare tactics are designed to let corporations reign at the expense of the rest of us. Significantly, while some universities, anxious to obtain research money, actually fire whistle blowers, UCBerkeley is made of finer stuff and gives us hope that the tide may be turning.

 If we want to be proactive about aquiring safe food, it’s time to be thinking about creating our own gardens, creating our own compost by recycling kitchen scraps, contacting our local farmers at farmstands we frequent in summer, freezing or preserving our own food, community garden sharing, or signing up for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) membership. Supermarkets are slowly expanding their organic produce offerings based on how much we buy on a regular basis and what we request.

 There are fringe benefits to cultivating a garden, starting small and seeing what works. Gardens allow us to stay connected to the fresh life within the soil and all the worms, frogs, bees, butterflies and other life forms, ourselves included. Together we can promote and claim healthy gardens of foods and flowers that nourish.

What’s all this about Wheat?

January 31, 2014

A reader asked about natural sugar substitutes. Most often listed are honey, organic maple syrup, molasses, date sugar, brown rice syrup, stevia and truvia. That said, we have to ask: what is driving our craving for sweets? We can abuse any of the above as much as the chemical concoctions that lace our prepared food and beverages do.

 During WWII, sugar was rationed and we simply ate less of it. We ate smaller portions of dessert and icing on cakes was minimal. Studies both here and in Europe showed less tooth decay and increased physical health amongst the general population. After the war, we gradually resumed and surpassed our previous sugar consumption. The one inch frostings on cakes never returned but sugar was gradually added to everything we bought in cans, bottles, and boxes. No surprise, tooth decay returned, general health declined, and sickness insurance became a hot item. Insurance continues to be on center stage in everyday news and governmental debates.

 Also, during WWII, when there was a bread shortage in Europe, Willem-Karel Dicke, a Dutch physician, noticed that celiac (abdominal) disorders lessened, only to recur when Sweden dropped bread into the Netherlands from relief planes. Today one in 133 people have celiac disease (or 2 million people in the US.)

 So, what is it about wheat that louses us up? Physician William Davis, in his book, Wheat Belly, traces the development of wheat from Paleolithic times to today. It seems the original wheat had 14 chromosomes in its genetic structure. Today’s wheat, after centuries of hybridization, has 42 chromosomes, and a much higher gluten and carbohydrate content.

 In early times, wheat represented a small part of the diet. Today, wheat is present at every meal, and in most snacks, and, like sugar, we’ve gone overboard devouring it.  The average American eats 133 lbs. of wheat per year and most of us shudder at the thought of limiting our bread, crackers, muffins, cakes, cereals, pies, pizza, waffles, and much more.

So we have sugar and wheat riding in tandem and making health a challenge for us mainly because we’ve gone overboard in our consumption. Sugar and wheat might be termed national allergies that are eroding our health. Usually, when we find we are allergic to something, we eliminate the offender.

 Whether we choose to eliminate one or both of the culprits, it’s helpful to think about adding more whole foods that are both sweet and satisfying, like yams, winter squash, apples, nuts, leafy greens, carrots, and guacamole. We can try out almond or coconut flour, quinoa, and ginger root. We may end up concocting creative potlucks on the sweetest adventure ever!

Corporations vs. Health

January 16, 2014

Obamacare seems to be a variation on the general theme of corporations mobilizing to control our lives at the expense of our health. How many examples do we need to experience before we wake up?  Stress brought about by corporate greed can lead to or exacerbate just about any health problem we have.

 Despite the fact that single payer health care has been found to be more economical and reliable elsewhere, it seems incredulous that the US can’t wise up and get with the program instead of feeding ever more corporate excess.

Locally, we can see corporate power at work in the attempts to make big bucks off an above ground energy transmission line that would claim destruction of forest lands, the threat of which has already created a hornet’s nest of family conflicts over property values. All this for corporate coffers when an economical underground line down existing state rights of way would make the state the recipient for the rent money and save the environment. Australia reduced its line maintenance by 80 percent by undergrounding. That is something to keep in mind when we have power outages due to downed lines during wind and snow storms and hurricanes.

 Corporations are also attacking water. The presence of bottled water at common meetings lets us know corporations have ‘massaged’ people into buying what they don’t need through their advertising. Coca Cola’s latest scam is to discourage restaurants from providing free water so that people will spend more money to have ANY liquids with a meal. The change has nothing to do with safety or digestion.

 Contaminated water from chemical and oil spills is daily reported in the US.  Citizens are being advised to accept changes in taste and odor, which in turn ratchets up the sale of bottled water by corporations.

 Everything is connected. More trees mean more holding tanks that purify natural water, more places for people to relax and coexist with other life forms, more chances to see the stars at night, and breathe in fresh oxygen. Less overhead wire means fewer accidents and ailments.

 Corporations are blocking food labeling that gives us the right to know what we are eating. These same corporations have already polluted our land with toxic pesticides and contaminated our heirloom seeds with GMO cross pollination. Big Ag corporations want to deny us the ability to choose what we eat. The White House sports an organic garden but supports Big Ag GMO foods for the rest of us.

 Significantly, Carl Gibson of Reader Supported News (1-4-14) reported that Monsanto, grower of GM crops, and Pfizer, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, have an insidious relationship “invested in growing food that makes people sick when they eat it, and selling sick people the drugs to treat those conditions.”

 Even more damaging is the potential of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) to affect our health. We’ve seen the destruction NAFTA (North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement) has wrought on vanishing jobs outsourced to foreign countries now housing US companies. The TPP is even more powerful, takes precedence over our government and threatens to send us spiraling down further.

 People are using less electricity, conserving more, and tapping into renewable energy, in spite of corporate ‘massages’. These are positive steps. However, we also need to take it to the next level and stop the TransPacificPartnership (TPP), which gives corporations even more power worldwide.  We need to contact our US Representatives ( and Senators ( and ask them to vote NO on presidential fast tracking and the TPP.