Monday, March 5, 2012

What's In Your Food Matters

Many of us eat our food without giving a lot of thought to what it's actually made of.  Some of us encounter a life situation which leads us to start asking the question, "what am I eating?" It's then that we may realize that such a simple question is often quite difficult to answer.  

When my son exhibited speech difficulties at 18 mos. he began to receive speech therapy.  It also was the beginning of our journey.  As he grew older other learning and social delays emerged; and no clear answers could be found.  There are many parents who can relate to this.  He even spent a year undergoing a wide variety of genetic testing, including a skin biopsy.  When they wanted a bone biopsy I didn't return the phone call. At that point he was around 6 years old and off the charts for height and weight.  His feet were approaching my size.  He could not focus in school or on educational tasks.  He would have dramatic mood swings.  He was positively tested for ADHD.  However, no ADHD medication helped him and doctors/specialists were of little help. It was around this time that I decided to do some research on my own, since we had tried so many different "regular" medical avenues.  

When I began researching what our everyday food was actually made of - what went into the majority of the items we are offered in most grocery stores, I was shocked.  I was also shocked when I read study after study (many of which were done starting in the 1970's) of how this food affected children ranging in age between 2 to 15 years of age.  It was so glaringly obvious that artificial ingredients (artificial preservatives, colors and flavors) had a negative affect on many children - causing hyperactivity, inability to focus, learning and social delays and many other difficulties.  [See study links below]  

I decided it was worth a shot to place my son on an all-natural diet.  This was not an easy task in 2008.  Even over the past 5 years the all-natural, organic food industry has grown tremendously and the acceptance of these preferences has also grown.  However, I found his teachers to be very willing to help.  My son's change in diet did not "fix" all of his issues.  It did, however, lessen them.  

We continue working with varying specialist; and my son has actually been re-diagnosed as not having ADHD.  They aren't sure what his learning disability is.  What is clear is that the better quality the food is that my son, my husband and I eat the healthier we will all be.

The difficulty is - how do I figure out which food is healthy??  For around 3 years we were drinking Silk Soy milk. I discovered this year that it is loaded with sugar (even the light version) - over 20 gms of sugar per serving.  It also contains soy from GMO (genetically modified organism / ) soy beans.  My husband developed an allergy to soy over the past few years and now whenever he has any soy he gets an itchy throat.  He already had an almond allergy.  Food containing GMOs is so incredibly prevalent that it's nearly impossible to avoid.  There's a debate about what percent of food in the average grocery store contains GMO foods and meat but it ranges anywhere between 65% - 90%.  Either way, you and I wouldn't know because manufacturers are not required to list GMOs on their labels. 

I can't afford to eat all organic. I would love to but I can't afford $4 for a dozen organic eggs when we eat around 2 dozen eggs/week.  I try to purchase meat that has not been treated with antibiotics but it costs nearly double.  The organic produce is usually twice as much.  I have already been buying all-natural foods and other products for the past 4 years and am an avid couponer which helps off-set much of the cost.  It's important to remember that just because something is labeled "All-natural" does not mean it is "organic".  There is a difference.  I can afford all-natural.  Organic, which is really a better solution, is what is financially more difficult for many Americans.

The government subsidizes many areas of GMO farming - especially corn and soy.  Why do they not support organic farmers to assist in production and lowering cost?  Why are government funds going to produce unhealthy food when they could go to produce healthy food?  For me and my family this is not a political issue - it's about our health.  However, the core of this issue, whether I like it or not, is political.  The driving, bottom line is money.  

If you really want to know where most of our food comes from find out about Monsanto a/k/a "Food's Big Brother" [].  They are bigger than Wal-Mart and control most of our food. They created Agent Orange and PCBs...and GMOs.  And they own and supply so many food manufacturers it would blow you away.  A sample list: Quaker, Pepsi, Post cereals, Hershey, Peppridge Farms, Kraft/Phillip Morris, Proctor & Gamble, Minute Made, Prego, Ragu, Unilever, PowerBar, KidCuisine, CocaCola, Ocean Spray, V-8, Green Giant, and on and on.

Right now there is a battle going on about labeling food - whether we have the right to know if our food contains GMOs.  Monsanto says "No."  So far courts, lobbyists and politicians have been agreeing with Monsanto.  The only ones disagreeing with them have been consumers and organic farmers.  There is a movement going on.  Of course, there is also a battle about whether or not GMOs have ill affects on us.  The US is the largest grower of GMO crops while Europe has the strongest regulations and limitations on GMO use for food/meat production. Australia and New Zealand also have strict guidelines and limit use.  Some studies have indicated that it is the alteration of the seed itself, the composition of the seed, that causes ill-effects.  The food becomes more difficult to digest and has been shown to increase food allergies. [Tell them to label your food:]

Then there is the "Terminator" seed that Monsanto has created. This to me, epitomizes the essence of Monsanto.  The GMO Terminator seed grows a crop that bears no seed.  Therefore, the farmer must every year purchase seed again - guaranteed.  When inspectors and government officials began to investigate this, Monsanto said they would stop their creation of Terminator but they did not.  They have successfully created and have manufactured the Terminator seed.

So what are we to do? Should we just give up and accept this as our fate?  After all, I'm just one person and you're just one person.  I say absolutely not.  I may not be able to purchase my food perfectly the way I really want to but I sure can try my best to avoid what I don't want. I can use local farms and farmer's markets when I possible.  Imagine if each of us did that.  Then we each told someone about it and they started doing it too?  There would be less and less Captain Crunch and Wonder Bread sold and more Rudi's [] and Chobani [] sold.  And if no one is buying the bad food, they won't make it.

In the end, we can't blame anyone but ourselves for what we choose to eat.  We need to go beyond reading the labels that are provided.  They are only 1/2 the story.  We need to demand to get the entire picture so we can make educated decisions - not only for ourselves but for our children....and their children.

 Feingold BF (1977) Behavioral disturbances linked to the ingestion of food additives. Delaware Medical Journal Feb;49(2):89-94,1977.
 National Institutes of Health (1982) Defined Diets and Childhood Hyperactivity. Consensus Development Conference Summary, Volume 4, Number 3 Available online
 Bateman B, Warner JO, Hutchinson E, Dean T, Rowlandson P, Gant C, Grundy J, Fitzgerald C and Stevenson J (2004) The effects of a double blind, placebo controlled, artificial food colourings and benzoate preservative challenge on hyperactivity in a general population sample of preschool children Archives of Disease in Childhood 89: 506-511
 McCann D, Barrett A, Cooper A, Crumpler D, Dalen L, Grimshaw K, Kitchin E, Lok K, Porteous L, Prince E, Sonuga-Barke E, Warner JO, Stevenson J. (2007) Food additives and hyperactive behaviour in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the community: a randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial. The Lancet 370(9598):1560-7.


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