Monday, September 22, 2008

Every Little Change...

I recently read an interesting excerpt from Caroline Myss' 1997 book, Why People Don't Heal and How They Can, which read in part, "Healing is a "present time" challenge. Many people begin their healing process by researching every possible form of treatment available. While they are doing this research, however, they are not actually doing anything about their condition. They are assuming that the knowledge they are pouring into their heads is, in itself, a healing force. People often comment to me that they are simply unsure of which treatment is best for them, and until they can figure that out, they feel "safer" not doing anything. I take that to mean they are not ready to make the necessary changes in their lives. Postponing the decision to shift gears is more than unwise; it is dangerous. It is much wiser, and safer, to start anywhere than to do nothing. Every positive choice is a good one and activates a new current of energy in your life. A new step or change does not have to be big to be effective."

Myss' words, written more than a decade ago, ring true more than ever today. People set appointments with complimentary and alternative health experts all over the world, they read, research, and listen to the "experts" on how to reclaim their health. They dissect and disseminate every single book, radio show and Oprah guest that has something to say about for example the dangers of Genetically Engineered food or the harmful effects of preservatives or the importance of exercise, and they file that information away to either a) learn more about it, or b) start tomorrow. Ooooooh yeah, and many will stop at McDonald's, or something equally non-food like, on their way home from work to grab dinner for themselves or their children.

The thing is this - these experts - writers, speakers, practitioners, you name it - are all doing their work, and providing you the tools you need to discern, chart your path and make healthy changes in your life. Some may ring true for you while others may not. That is the beauty of it, there is such a wealth of information covering everything, literally, all aspects of your health, that finding the right fit for you is just a matter of you doing the work, finding a modality or path that resonates with you.

That's the kicker for many however, doing the work. We live in an antibiotic society, people want to take a little purple pill for 10 days and then be better again. When they do no more than take that little purple pill, they want to berate their physician or complimentary or alternative health practitioner for the fact they are still no better. But when asked, they oftentimes will admit that no, they didn't make the recommended dietary changes yet but they will, and no they didn't integrate exercise, yoga because they are so busy, on and on it goes, you name it - but damnit they took their purple pill/digestive enzyme/magnesium supplement AS DIRECTED. So what is the problem?

Get real - because results take work. Period. There is not one expert out sharing tools today that can make you better unless you work with what he or she recommends to actually get better. There is no expert that is willing or able to do the work for you. Period. And that's it takes, work. But remember, the best things in life are those that are worth fighting for, and always always know that any little change you make today will have definite positive results tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tell Kellogg’s Where to Put Their Snap, Their Crackle and Their Pop

GENETICALLY ENGINEERED SUGAR TO HIT STORES IN 2008 and it starts with American Crystal, a large Wyoming-based sugar company, who recently launched an "organic" line of their sugar. Several other leading U.S. sugar providers have announced they will be joining American Crystal in the endeavor and source their sugar from genetically engineered (GE) sugar beets. Like GE corn and GE soy, products containing GE sugar will not be labeled as such. Since half of the granulated sugar in the U.S. comes from sugar beets, a move towards biotech beets marks a dramatic alteration of the U.S. food supply. These sugars, along with GE corn and soy, are found in many conventional food products, so consumers will be exposed to genetically engineered ingredients in just about every non-organic multiple-ingredient product they purchase. To make a bad situation even worse, GE sugar beets are designed to withstand strong doses of Monsanto's controversial broad spectrum Roundup herbicide. Studies indicate farmers planting "Roundup Ready" corn and soy spray large amounts of the herbicide, contaminating both soil and water.

The Organic Consumers Association recently took issue with this move and along with their allies, sent a letter to Kellogg’s on June 12, requesting that they NOT use sugar from genetically engineered sugar beets, and if they did choose to use the sugar beets, that they should be prepared for a consumer boycott.

It appears as if though Kellogg’s could care less.

In a response to Mr. Ronnie Cummins, National Director of the Organic Consumers Association, David Mackay, President/CEO of Kellogg’s said, “Being a global organization, our focus has always been on meeting the needs of our consumers worldwide and being responsive to a variety of consumer preferences. Our decisions on whether or not to use biotech ingredients are made on a market-by-market basis and depend on a variety of factors specific to each market.

Mackay went on to discuss how, “concerns about biotech ingredients in food production are low” in the US, whereas, “public acceptance of biotechnology in Europe is lower than in the United States and as a result, all Kellogg products sold in Europe are free of any ingredients derived from biotech sources.”

Hello! WTF!! How in the WORLD can we allow this to happen! In Europe, where news of the dangers of GE food consumption is common knowledge, they don’t put biotech ingredients in their products?? But here, in the US where apparently concerns are low, they will poison us???

Give ME A BREAK! Put your money where your health is and refuse to purchase products that could contain GE ingredients. Put your money where your children’s health is and buy local, buy organic and say ENOUGH.

And write your congressman, your senator and your elected officials; tell them to pick up the stump speeches Senator John Edwards, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, and Senator Chris Dodd, spoke so passionately about last October. Each one of them stood in Iowa and promised they would push for mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods if elected. Make this a priority, tell your friends and let us stand up like our European neighbors and say, not in our food supply!!!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Art of Sandwich

Well it’s back to school time, which for many parents means, back to trying to figure out how to provide their child with a healthy lunch and snacks. As a mother of two myself, I can say that when mine were young, the thoughts of the lunch line and institutional fare was never too appealing to me, thankfully, my kids would rather not eat than take part in pigs-in-a-blanket or mystery meat day.

But that leads to the question, what to send. Well, a sandwich may be the easiest choice, but it isn’t always the best choice. Let me restate that, your basic white bread and lunch meat sandwich is not the best choice, but sandwiches are still a viable option.

As some of you may know, I am currently working on a book and during some of my research, I have uncovered information that has made me rethink the way I look at a sandwich. First of all, a serious health risk can be found in the one staple all sandwiches share – bread. If you are living in the United States, your typical grocery store white bread could very well contain an ingredient that is dangerous…so dangerous it has been banned throughout the world for food use, including Europe, the United Kingdom (1990), Canada (1994), Sri Lanka (2001), Nigeria, and China (2005).But for me, it is as close as the corner market.

What is this insidious additive, in two words – potassium bromate. It is typically used as a flour improver, and when cooked under the right conditions, will be completely used up in the process of baking the bread. However, if too much is added or the bread is not cooked long enough or at a high enough temperature, a residual amount will remain, which is harmful if consumed. Not just harmful, it it actually is a known carcinogenic. As a matter of fact, Bromate is considered a category 2B (possibly carcinogenic to humans) carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Potassium bromate is available in the US, with the exception of the state of California. If it is used there, a cancer warning would be required on the label under the guidelines of Proposition 65. Rather than label their baked goods as being carcinogenic, most California bakers have switched to bromate-free flour.

Outside of California though, your diligence is required, beware and look closely for this additive, because believe it or not, it's still widely available. Just to prove it, if only to myself, I went to the grocery store, part of a regional chain, and started reading that teeny tiny little list of Ingredients. Guess what. Numerous loaves of white bread contained potassium bromate – a known CARCINOGEN! Generally, it was the off brands, lower cost loaves, which means that those on a budget or looking for a bargain are picking these loaves up, three for $2.00 and taking them home to feed their children.

How can something that is a known carcinogen be put in baked goods and sold to an unsuspecting public. Why can entire countries ban this product, and the state of California make it something nobody wants to use, but here in Missouri I can take my pick of tainted loaves?

The answer lies with the FDA. Potassium bromate was sanctioned by the FDA before the Delaney Clause of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act went into effect in 1958 – which bans carcinogenic substances – so now, it is more difficult for it to be banned. Instead, since 1991 the FDA has simply urged bakers to voluntarily stop using it. Apparently, not too many bakers listened.

Next time you need some bread, read the label, and if it has potassium bromate, in addition to all of the other lovely additives, put it down and run out of the store screaming.

And now on to the filler, the oh-so-easy, every time convenient option – lunch meat. Now lunch meat or a processed deli meat would not be the healthy choice. Why? Because most lunch meats share one common ingredient that can have devastating effects on your health – sodium nitrite/nitrate.

As a food additive, sodium nitrite (also beware of sodium nitrate) serves a dual purpose since it both alters the color of preserved fish and meats and also prevents the growth of Clostridium botulinum, the bacteria which causes botulism. Sodium nitrite can turn your meats and fish the bright red color that you generally associate with freshness, when in fact the product can be anything but.

While sodium nitrite will prevent the growth of bacteria, it is also toxic for mammals. Recent studies have found a link between high processed meat consumption and colon cancer, possibly due to preservatives such as sodium nitrite. The evidence doesn't stop there, a recent study shows a 67% increase in pancreatic cancer for people consuming moderate amounts of processed meat on a frequent basis.

Sodium nitrite can be highly carcinogenic once it enters the digestive system because once there it forms a variety of nitrosamine compounds that enter the bloodstream and wreak havoc on a number of internal organs, particularly the liver and pancreas.

Being a toxic ingredient is not a new label for sodium nitrite, the USDA actually tried to ban it's use as an additive in the 1970's but the move was vetoed by food manufacturers who complained they had no alternative for preserving packaged meat products.

Dr. William Lijinsky, an internationally recognized authority on nitrites and cancer, told a US Senate agricultural committee that there is evidence to show that nitrites in meat are the most dangerous food additives today and that they are major contributors to cancer. Yet here we are, sodium nitrite can befound in every packaged meat product you can imagine, bacon, sausage, beef jerky, pepperoni, lunch meat, ham, hot dogs, and even meat products found in canned soups.

Whenever you think of sodium nitrite just think to yourself, reason number 10,585 to buy only fresh, organic, free-range meats.....and never, ever eat a hot dog again.

So what’s a busy parent to do? Well, in my case, I got creative. I purchased either the higher end natural breads in the grocery store (after reading the labels of course), or I run to the health food store and pick up an organic/sprouted grain variety. By making the trip to the health food store to buy my bread, I am not only removing the risk of the insidious potassium bromate, I am also removing about 35 other ingredients I have not yet researched, and I am sure that removing those ingredients is only helping me – and my kids.

With the bread down, the remaining question is what to put inside. Well, for starters make sure your meats are of the organic/grass fed variety. Maybe a little leftover chicken from last night’s dinner could turn into a healthy chicken salad sandwich, or roast beef, or really any meat that you buy fresh and cook at home. Other alternatives include organic or raw cheese with veggies, peanut butter or almond butter and a fresh fruit jelly. The sky is the limit when it comes to sandwich building, really you can make it out of anything that you know would be good for you in a sandwich or wrap form.

And as far as the remainder of the lunch goes – remember to avoid juices and sodas that are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup (more on this next issue), stick with organic fruits and veggies to avoid pesticides, natural chips or crackers and read your labels to finish it off with clean, healthy snacks and treats.

While it may be oh-so tempting to buy the pre-packaged lunches, deli meats, processed cheeses and crackers, taking a few extra steps when it comes to preparing your child’s lunch will pay off in more ways than you can imagine.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Gratitude of Thanksgiving

Well here we are, in the United States anyway, with another major Holiday in the rear view and heading full tilt into the Christmas Season. Thanksgiving Day, a day to stop, reflect, and give thanks for all of the abundance around us, to be grateful for our homes, our families.....basically everything that is “good” in our lives.

How very American, to schedule a Holiday to give thanks....when in all actuality, giving thanks should be an every minute of every day occurrence. I know, I know, Thanksgiving is historical in nature, a meal between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans whose land they were just beginning to plunder....a benchmark in the development of our country, yada, yada, yada....but historical aspects aside, let's just take a minute to look at the gratitude of Thanksgiving.

Since Thanksgiving is about togetherness, I think it would be safe to assume that first and foremost, Thanksgiving is about the people. Now those “people” don't have to be family members, and in many instances, you are better off if they aren't, but for me, it is a duality, friends and family.

Family. Yep, I'm grateful for that....but whether it is a late night snack with my teenage son or a meal on the go with my daughter, I am grateful. A nice quiet evening with Gary, or a family birthday or celebration that brings everyone together....I am grateful.

Friends. Well, in most aspects, my friends are my family. They are the ones I turn to when I need to laugh, cry, share and grow. My friends bring me joy, tears, laughter and good times, we dish, bitch, you name it....and for the wonderful, beautiful people in my life that I have the honor to call my friends....I am grateful.

Work. My work is another something something I am grateful for. To have the opportunity to wake up each and every day and get paid to do what I love, what a blessing. Whether it is a day working with words or caught up in research and communication...what a cool thing to be fortunate enough to make a living doing the things I am passionate about. For my work, each and every day....I am grateful.

And Stuff. We are supposed to be grateful for stuff too, right? Well, my home is nice, safe, warm, and a great place to both live and work out of and for that, I am grateful. My car, runs, is comfortable and safe and for that, I am grateful. But possessions can be a tricky thing. A great teacher, Rev. John F. Schulte, once told me that, “Everything in your experience, you share energy with. If it does not serve a purpose or it does not bring you joy – let it go.”

I think that oftentimes, people get caught up in the acquisition of “stuff” and that can blur the gratitude of any day, especially Thanksgiving. Now I'm not sitting here pointing fingers, because the acquisition of “stuff” is something I can be guilty of too. Wishing I had a new house, new rug, new this or new that. But those feelings and drive towards acquiring more “stuff” didn't bring me joy – it made me focus on what I did not have, and in turn I was not grateful for the beauty that was already surrounding me. So what if my couch was old or my end tables didn't match, why did I spend the energy focusing on that rather than the fact I have always had a safe, warm home to raise my children in. Always remember, at the end of the day, if it does not serve a purpose or it does not bring you joy – let it go.

It is the people in your life that truly make a difference, whether friends, family, a neighbor, coworker, or even a kind stranger in the supermarket....look for the good things, the smiles, the thank yous, the things to be grateful for. If you have a warm bed to sleep in, be grateful. If you have a job that meets your needs financially and emotionally, be grateful. If you have good health, be grateful. I could go on and on with this, but the important thing is to find at least five things to be grateful for each and every day. Write them down, refer back to them, and remember, gratitude...always.

Thanksgiving is a state of mind, and the more things that you can reach for and for which you can be truly grateful, the more peace you will have in your life. And as we head towards the frantic pace of the Christmas Season, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Peace one of the themes?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Organic Really Is Better

Well I've been saying it, and while some people agree, other's think that I am a food snob, a person who truly enjoys flaunting my snobbery by paying two or three times more for an organic product than I would for a conventional. Now how paying 5 dollars for a loaf of bread over 2 dollars can be considered a good time is beyond me, but guess what, my buying habits aren't snobbery, organic food really is better.

Jon UnGoed-Thomas recently reported in the Times Online that the biggest study into organic food has found that it is more nutritious than ordinary produce and may help to lengthen people's lives. Funded by the European Union, the four-year study found that organic fruits and vegetables contained as much as 40% more antioxidants, in addition to higher levels of beneficial minerals such as iron and zinc.

Professor Carlo Leifert, the coordinator of the study, said the differences were so marked that organic produce would help to increase the nutrient intake of people. And while the English Food Standards Agency is reviewing the evidence of the study before deciding whether or not to change it's current stance, “no significant differences between organic and ordinary produce,” Leifert contends that there is enough evidence now to prove that the level of good things is indeed higher in organics.

Imagine that, food grown in healthy soil, lacking all of the pesticides and chemicals from seed to harvest, can actually be healthier for you.....boggles the mind, doesn't it. Taking it ten steps further, organic foods generally (but not always) lack many of the harmful effects of genetic engineering and the thousands of “additives and preservatives” that can make food not so, well food like.

But a word of caution here, not all organic foods are created equally. With the rising popularity of organic products, organic foods have become big business, and we all know what business means to our food supply - some organic standards have been compromised.

Try and buy local when possible, as Dr. Mercola states, “If you want to get the freshest, most nutrient-rich foods available, you simply must seek out real sources close to your home. When I say “real sources” I’m referring to farmers, food coops, farmers’ markets, and community supported agriculture programs. These are the people who are growing your food, and only by speaking with them and establishing a rapport will you truly know if your food is being raised with integrity and health in mind.”

When you do have to hit the supermarket or the local health food store, start with the organic label and know that now when you go through the checkout line, the organic foods in your cart truly will “feed” your family better than anything else in the store.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Target Is Right On Target Phasing Out PVC

I have a thing for comfort, and nothing says relaxing more than a good book and a great, comfy chair. Now that chair cannot be some sort of beat up reject, no, been there done that when my kids were small. If I am going to go out and search for a new comfy chair I want it to look good.

Well about six months ago I found a great chair….it was comfy and definitely looked good. I grabbed Gary to go and see it before I made the purchase and upon closer inspection I realized the beautiful red leather chair that had caught my eye seemed well…shiny. Like really shiny…more like the vinyl naugahyde of my youth than the sexy red leather available today.

The more I looked at the chair, the more I became concerned that it wasn’t leather like the tag said, so I called the salesman over. Enthusiastically he explained that the chair was indeed leather, blended with high quality PVC.


Needless to say, I did not buy that chair.

PVC is not something to sit on, actually it is something to avoid when you can. According to a report I received this morning from the Environmental News Service, Dr. Peter Orris, professor and chief of service at the University of Illinois Medical Center in Chicago states, “Study after study have found that chemicals in vinyl can cause health problems in children and adults. While using PVC products, people may be exposed to toxic additives like phthalates and lead and when incinerated, PVC is a major contributor to dioxin.”

Among the health effects of phthalates, plastic softeners found in many PVC products, are premature birth delivery, early puberty in girls, impaired sperm quality and sperm damage in men, genital defects and reduced testosterone production in boys…for starters.

The report further states that the hazards of PVC are not limited to its use by consumers, it creates toxic pollution during its manufacturing. When discarded, toxic additives like lead and phthalates can leach into the ground and drinking water. When burned, PVC produces dioxins and furans, chemicals that can cause cancer and are considered to be among the most toxic environmental contaminants.

Target, the fifth largest US retailer, has agreed to reduce its sale of products containing PVC. Joining a group of companies including Wal-Mart, Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Nike, and Apple that are eliminating or reducing PVC in their products and packaging.

Target has pledged to eliminate PVC from a number of infant products and toys, and already, Target’s children’s eating utensils and lunchboxes are PVC-free; baby bibs will be PVC-free by January 2008; 88% of its shower curtains will be PVC-free by Spring 2008; phthalates in baby changing tables are on their way out and by the fall of 2008, Target will phase out phthalates in most of their toys.

So as we approach the Holidays, do NOT buy any “shiny” leather chairs for that special someone and if spending is part of your Holiday tradition, do your research and put your money in the companies that are working to make a difference.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Bill Maher Anti-Pharma Rant

Well if you frequent the Zen Health blog or subscribe to Zen News, it is not a stretch for you to see that we are pretty much anti pharmaceutical...against the latest and greatest little purple bill bound to make all of your troubles disappear.

I feel like what has happened in our society is people put their power in this little basket and carry it around looking to give it away to someone in the hopes that someone has the power to fix them. That is where the pharmaceutical industry comes in...I mean, think about the last commercial you saw on TV that was pharmaceutical in nature – the fix is just a doctor's visit away!

With those feelings in mind, when I stumbled across the below video I knew I had to share. Bill Maher has done it again, and summed it up in four minutes!